Futurama: Universe of Malice, Part 15
By Kenneth White
Chapter 15 - World of Rock, Heart of Stone
He nodded his head in approval, standing there in the darkness with a small device to the side of his head.
"Affirmative!" Nibbler said into it. "The Mighty One has returned. But unfortunately, we are now missing The Other."
He listened to some jabbering come through the communications device.
"Yes, we are en route to retrieving her. Unfortunately, that will cause delay on the main objectives. And there is more delay. A strange creature that moves like the shadow of a Wogglesnuff has taken the two items we possessed earlier. He locked me in one of the glove compartments and left with the items."
More jabbering through the talking appliance.
"So you know about that too," Nibbler sighed in frustration. "I really wish I was informed about things like this, Ken."
The voice on the other end began to speak, but Nibbler heard a noise and quickly
put his hand over the speaker. He whispered into it quickly, "Somebody's here!
I shall talk to you later!"
He nervously switched it off and placed it back in the hole in the wall, finally replacing the panel so as to hide the secret place. Then, he slowly opened the locker door a crack, and peered through. There, sitting in the darkness on the edge of one of the beds, was Alesia. She looked a bit down, so Nibbler opened the locker door fully. The creak the hinges made startled Alesia, but she smiled with relief when she saw Nibbler just sitting there on the shelf of the locker.
"Hello, little fella," she said. Nibbler smiled and crawled down to the ground,
then hopped up onto her lap. She patted his head.
"So you belong to Leela, huh?" she asked with a sigh. "I'm sorry that I don't get along well with your master."
Nibbler cocked his head to one side and made an unsure noise.
"Yeah," she said. "It's because of Fry."
Alesia was then alerted by a source of light coming from her left. She glanced over to see the object of her affection standing there in the doorway, all cleaned up and free of the 'H' on his forehead.
"So this is where you are..." Fry said, walking towards her. She gave him a weak smile as he sat beside her.
"Hi," she responded. "I was just in here thinking about some things... needed to get away from the noise."
"Ah," Fry nodded. "I've been thinking too lately... well, as much as I can!"
He chuckled to himself, then his face saddened as his mirth evolved into a sigh.
"I just hope Leela's alright?"
"I'm sure she'll be fine," Alesia replied, rather forcibly on her part. Fry managed a smile, though his eyes were still ridden with concern.
"You're right," he said. "Leela's a tough girl... I mean, she had to be to get through life."
Alesia's stomach suddenly felt a nasty jab from the inside, which was followed by a dull, constant pain afterwards.
"Wha... what do you mean?" she asked reluctantly.
"Oh, of course, you don't know, do you?!" Fry stammered. "Leela was an orphan left by herself as a baby at an orphanarium, when she was just a baby. She grew up without any parents for years. Because she was a cyclops, everybody shunned her as a freak, so she was picked on and didn't have any friends. She also believed she was an alien, the only member of her race on Earth. She searched for years to find another member of her species. I don't think she was ever truly happy until she joined Planet Express. She eventually found out she was really a mutant and met her parents just a few years ago."
Fry smiled warmly, gazing out into nothingness.
"I was so happy when she did. It was like she'd finally found her place in
life. But she was always so strong, even when things were down. She was a fighter
and she never gave up. I've always admired and loved that about her."
Alesia's stomach was now in knots of guilt. With every word Fry had spoken since the word 'orphan' she had been feeling more and more shameful and malign. It was too much for her now.
"Stop it!" she said. "I've heard enough!"
"Hey... I know it's a sad story," Fry said, shocked at her reactions. "But there's no need to get angry at me!"
Alesia frowned submissively.
"No! I'm not angry with you... I'm angry with me! I... I've done something horrible!"
"Horrible?!" Fry stammered in disbelief. "What have you done that could be considered horrible?"
She sighed heavily.
"It's more what I almost didn't do! Back then, when I told you about the Delphinians
and where they probably took Leela... I-I was battling with my conscience to do
"What?!" Fry exclaimed. "Wha... what do you mean by that?"
She sighed again.
"What I mean is... I didn't want to tell you... An-and I almost didn't."
Fry leapt up from the edge of the bed, pointing accusingly at Alesia with a look of anger on his face. She flinched with fear as he did, suddenly feeling like he had created a huge chasm between them. Nibbler suddenly decided this was a good moment to scurry away.
"WHAT?!!" he yelled down at her. "How... I mean, how could you be so cruel?!! Why didn't you want to help us help Leela?!!"
"Because!" she whimpered. "She doesn't like me... And... on top of that... I don't want her to take you away from me!"
Alesia's puppy-dog eyes of sadness didn't even penetrate Fry. It was as if he had put up a force field or wall between them to prevent any sympathies getting to him. He growled loudly.
"How could you be so selfish?!!" he hollered. "Especially after your previous crusades for helping and against violence! You helped that freakin' Seilarch back there, but you want Leela to be taken into slavery just because of some petty jealousy?!! Who KNOWS what those Delphiniums are doing to her?!!"
"I know!" Alesia wept loudly, her head drooped down in remorse. "I'm sorry!" she added, gazing up at him with pained eyes.
"Sorry isn't going to help Leela!" Fry barked back. "You'd just better hope to God that she's alright when we get there, because if she isn't...!!!
Alesia feared the worst to come. Her heart was preparing to be shattered, or as prepared as it could be. Fry didn't finish his sentence, he just turned towards the doorway, and as he was about to step through, he narrowed his eyes and glared at her.
"If you want me to choose you over Leela regarding my decision... you've certainly unhelped your case!"
He slammed the door behind him, leaving Alesia sitting in the darkness by herself. She sniffed.
"I just wanted you to myself..." she whispered to where she last saw him. She squeezed her eyes tightly, realising how right Fry was. She had been selfish and had sacrificed her own principles and dignity in the process. She just hoped that Fry could forgive her. But first, she would have to forgive herself.
Leela groaned loudly, slowly opening her eye. She had no idea where she was or how long she had been out. Luckily she was somewhere relatively dark, so brightness wasn't a factor regarding her eye. All she could see was a dark, blurry grey. She could tell she was lying down on her back by the cold, hard feeling against it.
"So," a deep voice said from nearby. "Finally woken up, have we?"
Leela slowly sat up and began to crawl backwards, trying to find a secure surface to lean against. She finally did, and as her vision cleared, she could make out a dark skinned man sitting across from her on the ground with bushy hair and a friendly grin.
"Hello," he said. "What happened to you, huh?"
"What?" Leela said, holding her head. "Oh, I... I'm not really sure. The last thing I remember is seeing a blue bolt come towards me..."
She groaned again. Her head was thumping... just like the last time she copped a stun-setting laser blast.
"Wh... where am I?" she asked.
"Why, you're in one the Delphinian's dungeons," he said.
Sure enough, she was sitting in what appeared to be a dark, damp cavern, with
some metal bars between her and a source of light that came from above some stone
steps to her left.
"My name's Dunk Master D, but you can just call me Duncan," her friendly cellmate continued.
"Dunk Master D?" she questioned. She suddenly took in the ragged clothes that Duncan was wearing. Red and white striped shorts, a dark blue top with a white star on it, and stylish looking shoes.
"You're one of the Harlem Globetrotters, aren't you?" she asked.
"I was up until about ten months ago. That's when I was captured by those jive-ass Delphinian turkeys and brought here."
"Boy, you've been here a while!" Leela remarked.
"Hehehehe... Not as long as Herman over there," Duncan chuckled, pointing to an old man sitting in the corner. He looked human, though it was hard to tell with his mass of dirty, scraggly beard and his raggedy clothes. He had two hand puppets, one on each hand. He played around with them mindlessly, which made Leela cringe.
"Boy, I hope I'm not here THAT long!" she said. "How long has be been here?"
"Almost two years," smiled Duncan.
"Huh?!" Leela stammered. Duncan chuckled.
"I'm guessing he was already three quarters of loony old fool before he even came here."
Leela suddenly jumped at the sound, then looked to her right to see a funny looking hairy creature only a few feet tall with large two-toed feet, no facial features, assuming it even had a face, and two long, thin antennae with pink, fluffy balls that resembled pompoms on them.
"What's your problem?" Leela said dryly.
Duncan laughed. "Oh, don't mind him. That's just Squee."
"What is it?" she asked.
The former Globetrotter shrugged. "I have no idea. Dunno how he got here, what
he is, or where he's from. All he says is 'Squee!' So that's what we called him."
Leela jumped again. Herman suddenly scuttled over with his puppets, smiling strangely behind the beard.
"Hello, I'm Herman!" he said. Leela waved her hand in front of her nose. His breath smelt awful.
"Uh... Hi..." she said. "Duncan already told me who you are. I'm Leela."
"Hello Leela," he said. "Do you like my friends?"
He waved his hand puppets in front of her face. She smiled nervously.
"Uh... yeah... they're kind of cute..."
"Do you want one?" he asked.
"Uh... no thanks... You keep them."
"Awww... go on.... You know you want one."
"Come on... take one..."
"Fine!" Leela sighed, finally giving in. "I'll take the one holding the little stick."
"Stick?!!" Herman exclaimed. "That's not a stick, it's a Blernsball bat!"
"No," Leela stated matter-of-factly. "It's a stick."
"Blernsball bat!!" he argued back.
"Enough of this!" Leela yelled, standing up and walking over to the bars. "I need to get out of here right now!!"
"Good luck, sister!" Duncan scoffed. "The only way out of here is when you do mining. Believe me, this place is heaven compared to working. You should be thankful you're in here."
Leela groaned loudly.
"But I'm hungry, I need a clean tank top and my boots need to be sprayed or I'll get a nasty boot rash...! Again...."
Duncan shook his head.
"No way, girl. Besides, even if you did manage to escape, there's nowhere to go. This place is just a barren, rocky wasteland. There's nothing but rock, rock and more rock. And where there is other stuff, you don't want to be there. Trust me. Deadly slugs, horrible water beasts, dragons and other monsters you wouldn't even want to observe on a television screen, let alone see first hand. No ships come to this place that don't belong to the Delphinians, and the same goes for going out."
"No!" she said defiantly. "There has to be a way off this place! I refuse to accept that there isn't!"
"Believe it, because there ain't."
Leela growled in frustration, turning away from him and crossing her arms.
"Hey, just thank your stars that you ain't in one of the dungeons with any guys who would try anything," Duncan consoled.
"They could try!" Leela said. "I'd just kick their butts!"
Duncan chuckled. "Yep, I suspect you would too."
"So what do they mine here anyway?" she asked huffily.
"Rock," came Duncan's reply.
"What?!! That's pretty stupid, isn't it?! Don't they have enough of the stuff from what I can gather?"
"They do. Other planets don't."
"Jeez, what is it with this universe and mining things?" Leela said, rolling her eye.
As Duncan responded with a shrug, Leela heard footsteps behind her, so turned
to see two large Delphinians come down the steps with small guns in their hands.
Duncan spoke, "Well, you're going to find out first hand now."
"Are we there yet?" sighed Zapp Brannigan.
"How the hell should I know?!!" Baldur snorted in retort. "Where the hell is 'there' anyway?!!"
"I 'unno," Zapp shrugged. "The place where we escape from this monstrosity. Preferably a place with air, water, food and hot alien babes'ah."
"And what are the chances of that happening?!!" Baldur growled.
"You should know," Zapp said arrogantly. "After all, you ARE my entourage."
"Shut up, fool!!" Baldur snapped, trying as best to ignore that Zapp had mispronounced 'entourage' as 'enter-rage.'
"Boy, you certainly are a lot more hostile than Kif was!" Zapp said in surprise. "I can imagine that when in a relationship with a chick, you'd be the one doing the nagging."
"I SAID SHUT UP!!!" Baldur screamed. Zapp complied as Baldur snorted and marched ahead angrily.
"The sooner I get out of here, the sooner I can get away from you!!" he grumbled loudly.
"And how exactly do you propose we do that?" Zapp questioned. "We can't just get out. We need to find a place to go, and we need oxygen to breathe and so forth, and such and such..."
"For once you bring up some useful points," Baldur growled.
"If only one of us could fix a spacecraft up? Then we could grab one of the beaten up junk heaps on the conveyors back there and repair it, then sail out of here."
"I'm not sure if it can be done... but it's probably my only chance...?"
"Don't you mean our only chance?" asked Zapp.
"Yeah... sure... whatever..." Baldur snorted. "Now let's keep going!"
"But the conveyors are back there!" Zapp noted.
"Yes, but this is the direction they came from, and the closer we get to the way they came in, the closer we get to where we can get out!"
"Okay then," Zapp sighed. "But can you carry me? My feet are really starting to smart!"
"CARRY you?!!" Baldur mimicked in shock. "That's just absurd!!"
"Kif would!" Zapp whined back.
"Who the hell is this 'Kif' person anyway?! Apart from a squishy green wuss?!"
"He was my most loyal and trusted officer and my second in command," Zapp replied. "Always there to take the blame and carry out my orders. Plus, he was the only guy I know who got pregnant."
"Pregnant?!! And he's a male?!! What, is his species asexual or something?!"
"No, he's not into that kind of sick stuff," Zapp said. "He's involved with a human female... quite the looker actually too, come to think about it. I never got around to giving her the Captain's test drive."
Baldur made a noise of disgust.
"You really are a major sleaze!"
"I used to be," smiled Zapp. "Now I'm a captain sleaze!"
He laughed out loud at his own weak joke. Baldur rolled his eyes.
"No wonder why you don't have a woman of your own and you're just constantly scraping for them!" Baldur groaned.
"Who said I didn't?" Zapp smirked. "I have this woman back on Earth... probably crying her eyes out because of my apparent death with her single eye, actually?"
"Uh-huh..." said Baldur, sounding as if he either didn't believe or didn't care about Zapp's story. "And what exactly is this woman like?"
"She's a cyclops, and a Captain too... like me," Zapp smiled. "She has this soft, pink skin... beautiful, long purple hair. And... most importantly... firm, erotic boobies and a fine ass."
Zapp sighed with satisfaction.
"She'll be missing me alright. She loves me that much."
"Well, it's certainly better than spending an evening with Zapp Brannigan."
Those were Leela's first words as she surveyed the mining area that she, Duncan, Herman and Squee had been led to by two Delphinian guards. It was high and wide, a series of rocky passageways inside a mountain or giant rock. There was not much light, only a few torches and the aqua glows emitted from the laser whips that the supervising Delphinians carried. There were many other slaves chipping away at the rocks with pickaxes, a few of which were other Delphinians, and there were a few railroad tracks travelling along the tunnels, on which some rock-filled rail carts sat. Those that weren't mining were carrying rocks or pushing carts.
"Ces sao, haruska!" one guard yelled, poking Leela in the back with the small, black pistol he held.
"Ow!" she exclaimed. "What did he say?!"
"He told you to move," Duncan explained. "They don't speak any other language other than their own. I'm not fluent in it, but I've heard that phrase enough to figure it out. Though I've never heard the word 'haruska' before... that's a new one."
Leela did as she was told. The group was led through one of the tunnels to an area with less people. Here they stopped. Duncan and Herman picked up some pickaxes, so Leela took one as well. She and the others were then attached by the leg to a chain running through the tunnel.
"Dink!" yelled a nearby Seilarch with an energy whip. The ones that had led them there began to walk away.
"What does that mean?" Leela whispered aside to Duncan.
"Simple," Duncan said. "It means 'dig' like hell!"
Duncan and Herman began to chip away at the rock beside them, so Leela, once again, followed suit. The rock was hard, and all that could be heard was the grunts and groans from bellow diggers, the sound of metal wheels on metal rails in the distance, and the repetitious clinking of picks on stone. Leela looked around after hearing a buzzing slash and a yell to her left. A Delphinian had just whipped a thin, human slave nearby who was wearing an old fedora.
"Crikey!" the man said in a thick, Australian accent. "Those bleedin' whips aren't half sore on the chazzwazzers!!"
Leela continued to chip away for a while, then leant over towards Duncan.
"I'm going to find a way out of here... you'll see!"
"You're dreaming, sister," he replied. "Like I said... escape is near impossible. And there ain't no where to go once you get out."
"Yes. Escape is near impossible. But not totally impossible."
"Look, I probably shouldn't be telling you this, it's just going to end up giving you a lotta false hope, but... there are rumours of a clan of surviving escapees."
"Yes," he nodded. "There's talk that some of those who have managed to escape have formed a group of rebels against the Delphinians and hidden nearby, with plans to free the slaves here. However, as I said... they're rumours. Probably nothin' more."
"Well I'm going to find out!" Leela said with determination. "But first of all... one question: Why is Squee even here? He has no hands! He can't even use a pick and just stands there attached to the chain!"
Duncan chuckled quietly.
"Yeah... well the Delphinians can't really help that, so they force him to at least just stand around with the rest of us."
"Fair enough," shrugged Leela.
"Dink!!" yelled a Delphinian with a whip nearby. Leela continued to slam her pick into the rocky walls. She eyed off the pistol on the slavedriver's belt as he walked past.
"If only there was some way to get that gun," she whispered.
"First you need to get off the chain gang," said Duncan.
"I'll just shoot it off once I get the gun," she answered.
"You'd better be a damn good shot then!" Duncan said. "Because those guns are funky powerful. I've seen one bolt from those fry an escaping slave like a roast turkey. And that's on the low setting!"
"Look," Leela stated firmly. "I've had to put up with being a slave or servant to cruel jerks for the past three days, and I've had just about enough of it! I'm going to get away from these bastards if it's the last thing I do!"
"Well, that's your choice," Duncan said. "But I'm afraid that I don't want any part of it. I'm not going to risk my neck on some foolish escape plan."
"Wouldn't even death be better than living a life as a slave?" Leela asked.
"I don't know... perhaps... but I'm not going to take unnecessary risks to find out. I may decide to escape some day myself. But I'll do so when conditions are a little more favourable."
"Well... that's your choice then. I think my chances would be pretty good. As long as I can just get a gun..."
Duncan watched as a mining cart rolled to a halt behind them, then groaned.
"Look, I've got an idea. But it'll be dangerous."
"I'm up for it," Leela said. "But I don't want to put you or the other slaves at risk."
"Don't worry," Duncan smiled. "It won't. It'll only put you in danger."
"That's fine," Leela nodded. "I'm willing to take the chance."
"Plus you'll have to kill one of the guards..."
"Kill one?" Leela said, her eye showing concern. She wasn't sure about this. She had done more enough killing in the tournament on Verrone 5 as far as she was concerned. Then again, these were nasty slavedrivers, like the Seilarch were. And she would sure like to take a shot at one of those malevolent monsters. Her stomach felt strange with mixed feelings.
"Are you sure I'll need to take one out?" she queried.
"Yes," said Duncan simply. "If you want to avoid as many guards as possible you will. He needs to be silenced so as not to alert any others. But we'll have to wait until there's only one in sight. I'll tell you the plan as we mine some more. We'll need to have this cart half full with rock, plus more to spare, before we can begin."
Alesia cautiously peered out from behind the door into the cockpit. Amy sat at the table, tinkering around inside the broken communications monitor with various tools. The autopilot flew the ship, while Zoidberg sat playing chess with Bender. Amy had cleaned herself up again, while Zoidberg had not. She couldn't help but notice the absence of Fry. Bender, sitting on two think manuals on top of the seat so as to reach the board, awkwardly moved one of his knights. As he clumsily let go of the piece, he groaned disapproval instantly and Zoidberg cheered.
"Hooray! Foolish robot!" he said with a friendly jeer. "Now my bishop can dispense of your knight with no repercussions!"
"It's these stupid arms! They're not putting the pieces where I want them!!" Bender whined.
"Bah! Tough prawns, robot!" Zoidberg said, knocking the knight aside as his bishop took its square. Alesia stepped carefully into the room from behind the door, and everybody turned to her. Amy and Zoidberg looked angry.
"Well, look who decided to show her Leela-hating, probably-thinks-she's-cuter-than-me-but-really-isn't, face!" Amy huffed.
"You mean Fry--"
"Told us what you did?" said Zoidberg disappointedly, cutting Alesia off to finish off her sentence. "That's right, sister!"
Alesia sighed heavily.
"It's pretty obvious you all don't want me around," she said submissively. "So... I'll just leave you all alone."
She turned to go back, but stopped when Fry stepped into the room from the kitchen entrance.
"Hey, guys!" he said happily. "I've found some..."
He stopped speaking when he saw Alesia standing there, his expression and voice turning bitter.
"So... decided to show yourself again, huh?"
"Please, Fry!" she pleaded sadly, walking over to him. "I know what I did was wrong! Please... please don't treat me this way. I'm sorry... I mean it. I was being selfish... an-and cruel, and I didn't think about Leela's or your feelings at all. I only thought of mine, and that was wrong."
There was a moment of long, uncomfortable silence.
"But..." she continued. "But if you really don't like me any more, and don't want me around anymore... I'll just leave you all alone for the rest of the journey. I just wish there was some way I could make amends?"
Fry sighed, his face and tone losing all aggressiveness.
"Look, I'm sorry too, Alesia," he said. "I'm not saying what you did was right, but... I did kind of overreact and blow my stack at you. I don't hate you for what you did... I was just shocked and disappointed in you. But if you really want to prove you love me, taking Leela away from me isn't the answer. You have to prove your love of me... not your hate of her."
He smiled and extended his hand.
She smiled back, but instead of taking his hand, she just embraced him.
"Thank you," she smiled, breaking the embrace after a good five seconds or so.
"That's cool. Besides, I do know of a way you can make up for it."
"How?" she asked.
"By telling us what you know about these Delphiniums on the way there."
"Delphinians," she corrected.
"Whatever," Fry said. "But before that, I'm going to make us all something to eat."
"Hey!" Bender yelled. "The cooking is MY job, meat sack!!"
"You can't cook in that state!" Fry almost laughed.
"I didn't know you could cook anything?!" Amy stammered. "What are you going to make?"
"The very thing my dad used to make when Mom was away," Fry smiled proudly. "Though he thought cooking was women's work in the home, he knew a guy couldn't starve when there were no women around."
"Well what is it already?" asked Zoidberg impatiently.
"What we called 'Fried Fry French Toast' of course," Fry announced.
"Spluh?!" exclaimed Amy. "What's French Toast?! Cooked bread that nobody likes?"
"Oh, man!" Fry chuckled. "You guys from the future sure missed out! It's one of the greatest things. Sliced bread, dipped in egg and butter, then fried. And when it's done, you top it off with sugar, syrup and more melted butter."
Fry smacked his lips, while Zoidberg started to drool like a leaky faucet.
"Such a heavenly dish!!" the lobster said dreamily.
"Sounds fattening!" noted Amy. "Why is it called French Toast anyway?"
"Probably because the melted butter runs away!" joked Bender sarcastically. "Hehehehehe!"
Fry chuckled. "Come to think of it, it is kind of a stupid name. It sounds more like one of those typically, overly-fattening-to-the-max style American food ideas. They should call it 'Typically, Overly-Fattening-To-The-Max American Toast' instead."
Fry shook his head to get out of that tangent.
"Anyway, how many does everybody want?"
"I'll take eight!" Zoidberg said quickly.
"I'll pass and just have a Diet Slurm," Amy smiled.
"Just one," Alesia said quietly.
"Beer!" said Bender quickly.
"I already told you!" Fry said. "No beer!"
Fry turned back to the kitchen and Alesia spoke.
"Can I help you with anything?" she asked.
"Sure," Fry smiled. "You can break the eggs for me. I always screw it up and end up having shell bits in with it, and then they get stuck in my teeth."
"Why don't you pick out the shell pieces?" she asked, following him.
"Oh, I do. I don't get them stuck in my teeth when I'm eating it, only when I'm breaking the eggs."
"What?" she asked. "Don't tell me you actually break the eggs with your mouth?!"
"Sure... Why, is there a better way?"
Leela waited, carefully chipping at the rocky wall with her pick. She heard a 'Psst!' noise from Duncan and turned to face him. He nodded towards her, and she returned the gesture. Duncan raised his pick high, holding it there and looking beyond Leela. She could sense something moving towards her. Something large. But she kept her eye on Duncan, and he kept his eyes looking past her, as she raised her tool too.
"Yaaaargh!" the former Globetrotter suddenly yelled, ramming the head of the pick into the rock. That was the signal.
"Heeeee-Yyaaaa!!!" Leela yelled with her trademark battle cry, swinging the
pick down, but then pulling it into a horizontal swing behind her. The point of
the pick may have been worn from use, but the weight of the steel head on it and
the power of Leela's swing gave it the force it needed to stab though the stomach
of the Delphinian guard that was there. Leela let go of the handle as the burly
creature stumbled back with a groan, dark purple liquid seeping out of the wound.
Leela knew the plan, but her determined expression transformed into one of remorse
as she gazed upon her victim, and she was frozen with bloodguilt.
Duncan noticed she wasn't acting fast enough. "The gun!" he yelled, trying
to keep his voice down, yet still get through to her.
Leela was still in her stunned state. Duncan's words sounded muffled, as dozens
of thoughts swam through her head. She didn't know that the tournament would have
affected her this much.
Duncan yelled again, "Get the gun, Leela!"
But then it was too late. The injured Delphinian yelled out at the top of his lungs in a deafening roar. Duncan knew it would bring more of them soon.
"For the love of Shaq!!" he yelled, grabbing the gun from the stunned guard and quickly shooting both his and her chains. He then forced it into Leela's hand, bringing her part way back to the real world. Duncan roughly lifted her and dumped her in the cart, which then fully roused her mind into reality. He roughly pushed the cart along the rails with her in it, trying to get up as much speed as he could.
"Sorry!" she said, worried now that she had got Duncan into her mess fully.
"Damn it, woman!" he replied. "Why'd you have to go freeze like that?!!"
"I was--!" Leela started, cutting herself off as a thin red beam hit the rocky wall just behind them, causing a small rockslide and forcing some slaves to dive out the way. She could see two Delphinians making chase with guns behind them.
"Up ahead!!" Duncan yelled. The cart had a fair momentum now, and Leela turned to see a whip-wielding guard up ahead. "Shoot 'im!"
Leela looked at the gun in her hand. She was shaking, which wasn't like her at all. The effects from the Black Tournament and killing that guard had really messed with her mind and composure. However, she managed to lift the gun and aim it precariously towards her target. She still hesitated though.
"Shoot, DAMN YOU!!!" Duncan yelled.
Leela closed her eye and squeezed the trigger. The gun jolted with a zap, sending a thin crimson beam towards the Delphinian. It missed him though, but hit the rocky wall above him and to his right, causing a large pile of rocks to bury him, as well as some of the tracks.
"Hold on!" Duncan yelled. He pushed the cart faster as two more bolts hit the walls behind him, causing more rock avalanches. Leela ducked, covering her head as rock chips and dust bounced and swirled around her. The cart's front right wheel hit a large rock, sending the transport up onto both of its left ones. Duncan tried to pull it down, and Leela leant all her weight to the right. The cart slammed into the rail again with a thudding creak, and continued on its way. Leela noticed that things were getting wider and there were no longer any slaves around.
"Where are we going?!" Leela yelled over the rusty squeaking of the wheels and the sound of rock crumbling behind them.
"We're not going anywhere!" Duncan yelled back, his hair and face covered with ashy dust. "You're heading towards the stone quarry pit, where all the rock is dumped! After the caves, it travels across two miles of rocky wasteland before it gets there! You can get out anywhere along there! You won't be caught, as there's a steep drop right after the cave exit, so you'll have enough momentum to get away!"
"You can't stay behind!" Leela yelled. "You'll be killed! You're coming too!"
"Sorry, missy! You're on your own!"
"No! You're part of this too dammit!"
She offered a hand, and after a while, he reluctantly took it and began to climb into the cart. Leela smiled as she helped him up, but gasped with shock soon afterwards.
"Look out!!" she yelled.
Duncan turned to see a Delphinian guard step out from a passageway and fire towards him. Leela jumped back with a yell as Duncan was hit in the back by the shot.
The stricken Globetrotter's skin and clothes instantly turned to a blackish grey, and Leela could only stare in horror as Duncan's features rapidly decayed away, becoming an ashy powder stream as he eroded all the way down to his charred bones.
"Nooo...!" Leela whimpered as the final piece of tissue was blown away, leaving a black skeleton clattering behind the train, holding on only by its fingers as its feet dragged along. Leela just glared with sad dread at the lifeless skull, before the dead frame finally let go and was left in a heap in the ground, disappearing into the distance.
Leela sat back against the cart, her mouth open and dry. She whispered to herself, eye bloodshot and watery, hugging her legs to her chest and rocking slightly.
"Nooo... he's dead... they killed him..."
Her visage became an angry glower, and she stopped rocking. Her voice was bitter as she whispered to herself.
"They killed him!"
As much as she hated to admit it, Duncan's tragic death was the very thing that snapped her out of submissive guilt, and back into her strong confident self. There was nothing but rage and vengeance on her mind as she took the gun from the bottom of the cart, and stood up in it, facing towards Duncan's killer who was still lumbering after the cart.
"YOU BASTARDS!!!" she yelled. "YOU KILLED HIM!!!"
With skill and self-confidence, she coldly fired a bolt straight into the chest of her pursuer, turning him to an ashy skeleton just like Duncan. As the standing frame collapsed into a heap, she made out the other two in the distance still making chase.
"DIE YOU BASTARDS!!!" she screamed, her ponytail whipping across her tear soaked
face as she fired off two more quick bolts at them. Both shots took them out,
killing them instantly and leaving another two bulky bone piles. Leela roared
into the air loudly with a primitive scream, standing as high as she could and
stretching up. It echoed through the hollow rock chambers. It was a roar of frustration,
hate, sorrow and victory all at the same time. And yet, she didn't know how to
feel. The Delphinians may have been the actual slayers of Duncan, but she was
more than partly responsible herself. It basically boiled down to one simple fact:
life is cruel. And you've got to be strong to survive.
Breathing heavily, Leela finally sat down with exhaustion. She turned, noticing a bright light behind her. She shifted around in a cart, smiling wearily at the sight of, literally, the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I made it..." she sighed to herself.
The cart left the cave, beginning to drop steeply. Leela hung on tight as it built up speed, looking around her to finally see what this planet was, apart from rocky caves. The cart was whipping down the edge of a very tall mountain, which seemed to be made entirely of the hard, light grey rock she had been mining inside. There appeared to be very little vegetation on the mountainside too she noticed. The sky was a light blue, with the odd long, thin wisp of white cloud here and there, and about the only thing that wasn't a dull shade of grey or brown. There were many tall cliffs, mountains and tors around. The area below looked like a barren stretch of either rock or dust plains, with no signs of plant life or water anywhere, with the odd chasm and canyon around. It reminded her of the scenes from some of those 'Western Movies' that Fry would sometimes watch, but it as if somebody had taken away the colour palette and left only dull tints. She could see what must have be!
en the rock pit in the far distance, and high in the sky was the silhouette of some large flying creature. It was fairly cool, though the wind whipping across her skin from the speed of the cart probably caused a lot of that. The cart and terrain levelled out, and she was now at a very fast speed. Wanting to stop before she got to the rock quarry, Leela gentle pulled on the brake handle on the left side of the car. The wheels sparked as her transport slowly began to decrease in speed. After what was almost a minute of constant, gradual pressure, it finally came to a complete stop, and she crawled out. The ground was hard and, sure enough, rock as well... just like everything else. She looked around.
"I don't even know where to go," she sighed to herself. "What am I even doing here?"
She looked back. She must have travelled over half a mile from the base of the mountain. And there was nothing but flat stone plains and the odd mountain or tor in sight. Her eyes suddenly caught something in the distance, from the mountain she had come from.
"What's that...?" she asked herself, her eye focussing carefully. She then realised what it was, or rather, what they were. Another two carts, each with a Delphinian in them, were coming down the mountainside.
"Dammit!" she cursed. "I don't even have anywhere to run to!"
Scanning the immediate area, she decided her best chance was the nearest rocky structure, which was a very tall and wide tor to the left of the tracks, which appeared to be about half a mile away. She didn't waste any time in running towards it. As she did, dozens of thoughts and questions ran though her mind.
'Where am I going to go? How will I get off this place? How will I find the others? How much more death can I take? Is there any food or water around? What dangers does this world hold?'
Those were just a few of them...
As she got closer, she could make out something in the side of the cliff's base. It looked like a hole, about three metres in height and two wide. It also looked like there was a drop just past the cliff, so although she wasn't sure whether it was a good idea, she ran inside the hole. There were some stairs carved into the passageway, so she carefully went up them, taking quiet steps with her gun ready. She got to a T-junction and carefully peeked around the corner. The passageways along here seemed more like the inside of an old building than a cliff. The walls were flawlessly smooth, as was the ceiling and floor. There were perfectly rectangular openings along the wall, like doorways, but with no doors.
'One of these has to lead to a place I can lay low for a while in...?' she thought to herself.
She listened, checked both ways, and then quickly scurried towards the nearest opening. She peered in, but just found a small, mostly empty room. All it had was a strange chamber at the other end with what looked like a glowing, blue electricity wall on the other side. There was a resonant hum coming from it.
'Nope,' she thought. 'Nothing here...'
She turned, only to instantly bump into something large and soft. Or at least softer than the rock surfaces she had been coming into contact with otherwise. She had bumped into a tall Delphinian. It looked at her with an angry glance, but then suddenly looked surprised.
"Haruska?!!" it said deeply. It sounded like a question of shock. Leela took this moment to attempt to get past it, but as she began to flee, she was hit by a strong backhand from the beast, which dispatched her skyward. Her gun dropped to the ground, while she hit the hard ground with a nasty thud. There, she lay still.
"Haruska?!" the Delphinian repeated. It slowly walked over towards her static form.
"Haruska?!" it repeated a third time, just as it got to her. It stooped down and grasped onto one of her arms, holding her up in front of it. She dangled there in his grasp like a carcass from a meat hook. As the Delphinian leaned in close, he could see a trickle of blood running out of Leela's nose. He once again uttered the same word again.
Leela's eye darted open, causing her carrier to flinch with surprise.
"Haruska this!!!" she shouted, drawing her boot back to swing it with full force into the creature's groin. It growled in pain, its voice going slightly higher pitched, and dropped Leela. As soon as her feet reached the ground, she instantly sprinted for her gun, then did a diving roll to claim it, up righting herself to face her assailant. As he drew his own gun, she fired, reducing the beast to ash and osteal with a nasty cracking sound.
"So, I notice that you guys are guys," she quipped with a smirk to nobody. However, two Delphinians appeared at the end of the corridor in front of her quickly enough. She made a dash into the nearest opening as two red beams flashed past where she was standing earlier. This room luckily lead to another staircase, a spiral one, so she kept on running.
"Don't these guys ever give up?!" she panted as she scurried up the steps.
Up and up she went, she didn't really care where, she just wanted to get away from them. And the stairs just kept going, for what seemed like miles. Finally, she saw a light above her, and ascended to the top. The very top. She was standing at the peak of the rocky structure.
"Oh no!" she exclaimed looking around. "There's nothing here!"
It was almost completely flat on the top, with no visible means of escape. A cool wind whistled around her, blowing her ponytail around. It was somewhat refreshing after all that running, but it was also a breeze of defeat to her. Leela whirled around at the sound of footsteps behind her, and aimed her gun towards them. But there was nothing.
"Come on..." she whispered. She could smell the blood in her nose, which tickled, so sniffed to stop the irritation.
Leela yelled, turned, and quickly dove as a huge boulder flew out of the stairwell towards her. She fell roughly onto the ground, pelted with small bits of rock as the boulder smashed into the ground behind her. Her gun slid across to the edge of the cliff.
"Crud!" she exclaimed, and began to scurry towards it. She heard a click and deep laugh behind her, so froze with a gasp. There stood a Delphinian guard with his pistol trained on her.
"Sao, gor kra!" it said menacingly.
As Leela turned to emit another gasp, the Delphinian standing beside the one with the gun gasped too, then quickly pulled his friend's arm up, letting the shot fire harmlessly into the air. Leela was clearly confused, and resumed slowly crawling backwards towards her gun as they argued.
"Blunta!" yelled the attempted shooter. "H'uh gor few?!"
"Crau, gor blunta!" the other yelled, pointing in Leela's direction but still looking at his fellow Delphinian. "Aha haruska!"
There was that word again: 'haruska.' It was the word Leela had heard the most since she got here. She was wondering what it meant. However, other things soon became a higher priority to her mind as they both looked at her again. She stood up, but continued to slowly back away from them. They gradually stepped closer, their guns trained on her. But Leela somehow sensed that they wouldn't shoot her.
'I must be getting close to the gun now?' she thought.
She was more right than she knew, as the next step back she took, her heel hit something light, moving it. However, when she looked down and behind her, she saw the object falling off the edge of the cliff. She cursed in her head and rolled her eye.
'Way to go, idiot!' her brain told itself.
Leela looked back at the Delphinians. They were getting closer, one motioning for her to step away from the edge. But she wasn't going to. She had had enough of them, and going with them was the last thing she was going to do. She still had another option left, thanks to the simple fact that at the bottom of the cliff was a large pool of water. One that had been hidden from her view when she was on the ground before, as it was beyond and below the edge of the drop. Because of this, it was another dozen or so metres extra vertical distance to fall. It wasn't a massive body of water, and could never be considered a lake, but Leela was confident that she could land in it. What she wasn't confident about was the height and the fact that the water looked very dark from up there. Assuming it was water. In either case, she had already made her choice.
"So long, jerk wads!" she yelled. Then, a backwards somersault sent her off the edge of the cliff, and down towards the unknown liquid body below.
Everything was dark below the water, and for a while Leela couldn't figure out which way was up. She began to swim in random directions, but every one just lead to more water. The sky wasn't bright enough to give a clear indication, and it was like swimming in ink. Leela was in disorientated panic, but finally calmed down and just let herself go still. This allowed her to naturally float to the surface.
Leela gasped for air as he head and shoulders popped up out of the murky water, and she quickly began to swim for the shore nearby. She just hoped now she had finally got rid of those horrible Delphinians. She had had enough of strong, mean, slave-driving creatures for quite a while. But she still had no idea where to go from here.
She made it to the edge of the pool, but as she pulled herself out, she suddenly felt a tug. She looked down to see a thick black tentacle wrapped around her right leg. She shook it.
"Let go! Let go, dammit!!"
As she resisted, the tentacle suddenly pulled hard, dragging her partially back into the water again.
"NOOO!!" she screamed desperately, clawing at the ground in panic as it began to try and take her under the water. "LET GO!!!"
She then saw her gun, lying about a two metres from the edge of the bank on the dry land. She reached out for it, but only found herself getting further away. She whined with fear and despair, skinning her fingers as she manically tried to claw her way back to the land.
"NOOOO!!!" she screamed. She really thought she was going to die. She could feel herself getting slowly hauled towards the dark depths. But then she saw the gun again, and her mind suddenly refused to give up. Not after all she'd been though.
"YEEEAAAAARRRRGHHH!!!" Leela yelled, pulling herself forward with all her might. The tentacle lost some grip, her leg sliding partially through it as she made it halfway to the gun. Another yell, and some great strain on her leg, and she grabbed the pistol. She let it pull her closer to the edge a bit more, then fired rapidly down into the water below, careful not to hit her own legs or feet. The tentacle soon let go, and she scampered onto to dry land in case it came back for more or there was simply more of them. Crawling hurriedly over to the edge of another tall cliff face, Leela leant against it, dripping wet and breathing heavily. As she sat there, she dropped the gun and began running her sopping ponytail through her hands quickly with nervousness. Then, she began to weep. There was nobody to see her, she was all by herself, so she just let it out.
"I hate this place..." she whimpered. She suddenly became angry.
"I HATE THIS PLAAAACCE!!!" she yelled into the air. It echoed around the cliffs, making Leela realise how lonely she was. It was strange. She had been alone for so many years, with nobody except herself. In some ways, she had become used to it. But this was one of those times she really felt she was alone, and wanted the support of her friends to keep her spirits up. She simply wished that they were here with her. Or even better, she was there with them. She picked up the gun, wiped her eye and stood up. The time to feel sorry for herself had been and gone, and it was time to keep fighting for her survival.
Her right leg really hurt to walk on. That battle with the water monster must have really pulled some muscles in it. As she began to limp and she just hoped that she wouldn't need to run from anything soon. Thanks to the monster lurking in the depths, she couldn't even take a drink of water. She looked around as she hobbled, taking in her surroundings. There were just tall cliffs to her right, and, apart from the pool, a steep drop on the left, though more flat and rocky structures could be seen beyond the crevice. She nervously ambled under a rocky overhang, travelling in the only direction that made any sense. The flat surface was about three metres wide, and with the tor she had dived off earlier towering up behind her, it seemed like the only logical pathway. The wind whistling through the area made her shiver a little as it touched her cold, damp skin. Though the sky was clear, Leela noticed that there weren't any visible suns around. Perhaps any were too far away to!
be seen, or were simply weak. Judging from the arid surroundings, you would think the sun would be quite intense here, but apparently not.
Leela's throat was dry, so she reluctantly stopped and squeezed her soaked, violet forelock, dripping the water onto her tongue to gain some moisture. She sighed with satisfaction, even if it was a bit gritty from the dust through her hair. She continued on her way through the half-tunnel-like pathway. She looked at her right arm and sighed.
"If only I had by wrist computer. Then I could send a signal out to the ship. Not that that Baron jerk would even care..."
She hadn't worn it for ages. Baron Steinmann had ordered her to remove it before they arrived at Verrone 5. She felt a little naked without it.
"I hope the others are okay?" she said to herself, rubbing her clammy arms for warmth. She really hadn't thought about what could be happening to them until now. For all she knew, they could have been shot too. They could have even been here.
"Oh my God!" Leela suddenly blurted out. "They could be here! Just because I wasn't with them when I woke up, doesn't mean they weren't put in another cell!"
She began to speed up, deciding that she had to get back up to the mines to see if they were there. Her leg still hurt, but she put the pain aside and forced her limp into submission.
'I just wish there was some way of finding out for sure whether they were taken hostage or not,' she thought. 'I don't want to go back there if they're not. But it looks like I might have to.'
She turned a corner, which led to a wide, flat area. The chasm to her left continued to lead around, but the cliffs on her right finished here. She could see some tall rocky hills up ahead that appeared to lead up and didn't look too steep, which looked like a good way of getting back up to the level where the railroad tracks were. She smiled and began to jog at a casual pace towards them. However, as she got closer, she could see that the chasm curved around in front of it. She stopped at the edge and looked across and down.
"Awww... crud!" she remarked. There was a long and sheer drop down onto some sharp looking rocks and the gap was quite wide. She'd need a good run up to make it, especially with her sore leg.
"I can make it!" she told herself determinedly.
Thump... thump... thump... thump...
There was a strange, heavy sounding noise behind her.
Thump... thump... thump... thump...
There it was again, though it sounded like it was getting closer. Leela turned and jumped with fright.
Standing there, only a few metres away, was a massive black beast. It was the size and bulk of a bear, but looked, and sounded, more like a giant cat. It had small black ears, a large mouth with long, pointy fangs bared, and beady red eyes. It looked muscular, with thick forelimbs, a high, wide back, and short, but thick, hind legs. As it stepped forward towards her again, she could feel the thump of its foot hitting the ground. It certainly looked tough, mean, and intimidating. But Leela wasn't going to fear it too much when she still had a weapon.
"So you want to attack me, huh?!" she yelled at it.
A growl came as a response.
"Fine then!" Leela yelled at the creature. "You want some of this?!"
She aimed her gun between its eyes, then squeezed the trigger.
Nothing. She tried again.
"Oh no!" Leela gulped. "It's out of juice!"
The monster roared and her again. Looking at the sheer drop behind her, she got an idea.
"Come on!" she coaxed the beast, slipping the pistol into the top of her trousers. "Take your best pounce!"
The monster growled and lowered itself to the ground in preparation.
'This is going to work!' Leela thought to herself. The creature launched itself into the air towards her, its claws and teeth bared. Simultaneously, Leela rolled towards and under it. As the creature hit the rocky ground, Leela flipped onto her feet and spun around, preparing to see it tumble off the edge of the cliff. She was instead shocked to see it turn around after landing, kicking up a huge puff of grey dust and hardly sliding at all, stopping more than a metre away from the crevice edge. When the dust had cleared, Leela could see the beast's claws dug firmly into the ground. It retracted them and roared again, its red eyes flaring up. Leela thought this was a good time to run, and it was no surprise to her that it made chase. Leela's mind began to work away as fast as she sprinted.
'I need to jump over than cliff, which I can do if I can just get past this beast!'
She glanced back. It was slowly gaining on her.
'I've got to do this now,' she mused. 'Let's see how smart this thing really is?'
Leela about faced, sliding to a halt and ducking to the ground. It howled at her as it moved in for the kill. Leela remained low to the ground, crouching with readiness.
"Now to find out if you learnt from last time?" she whispered to herself.
As the beast made a dive towards her, Leela sprang towards it, somersaulting high into the air. Leela's prediction was right: the creature had learned from last time, diving low to the ground instead of high. What it hadn't learnt was that Leela was no one-trick-pony, as she had chosen this time to go over it, rather than under it. As Leela descended from her first somersault, her boots landed right on the beast's back, and she flipped again quickly to land onto the ground behind it, as it slid across the rough terrain. Leela didn't stop this time either, she kept running. She needed the distance to make the leap, and the monster had soon recovered to pursue her again. She was just praying that it wouldn't risk the jump, or if it did, wouldn't make the distance. She was also praying that she could.
'You can make it!' she told her mind. 'Just keep going, it's just a few feet away now...'
With all her remaining strength, Leela leapt from the edge as much as she could. She sailed through the air, trying not to look down at the jagged rocks below. Everything moved in slow motion to her, and at first she thought she was going to land safely on the other side. But as gravity took hold, she realised she was short.
"Noooo!" she cried, desperately reaching out with her arms. Her hands managed to just grasp onto the edge of the other side, and her body slammed into the rocky face of the cliff from the airborne inertia. Leela sighed with relief, but heard a demonic roar behind her. She quickly glanced over her shoulder to see a glimpse of the black beast launching itself towards her. She yelled, closing her eyes and hugging the cliff as much as she could.
As Leela hung there, the monster was diving towards her. However, its enormous bulk meant that gravity worked against it, pulling it and erasing any chance of it reaching the other side. However, that didn't mean it couldn't reach Leela. Outstretching its front legs as far as it could, the beast managed to at least get one of them to make contact with her.
Leela's scream of anguish echoed around the tall rocky structures around her, as she felt a searing pain down her back and a violent tug that almost dislocated both of her arms. The thin material of her tank top wasn't much defence against the razor sharp claws that tore through it and her flesh, all the way down her back. The claws dug in deep enough to almost pull her from the cliff's edge, but she had a firm grip, so her arms took all the strain. The piercing objects finally left her body at the lower small of her back, leaving behind four long, bright red vertical slashes. The beast tumbled ungainly and noisily to the rocks below, finally being silenced as it impaled itself on a pointy stalagmite.
Leela whimpered in agony as she hung there, new pain induced tears forming in her bloodshot eye. She attempted to move, only to get a jolt of fire stream across her back, causing her to yell again. She couldn't even pull herself up, her arms were almost completely numb, with only a dull, throbbing sting telling her they were even there. She attempted to use her feet to push herself upwards, but as she bent her back in the process, it burned across it once again. As she looked up, her vision began to blur. She felt dizzy and her strength draining away. There was nothing she could do as the pain became too much for her body to handle, causing her to lose consciousness. And also lose her grasp of the stony outcrop.
The large doors swung aside with an echoing creak, as the head of Richard M. Nixon was carried into the large room.
"You better have a good reason for calling us all here, Nixon," said Glab from the centre of the large, arc-shaped table. Around it sat a few important members of the DOOP, such as Admiral Gordon, Admiral Zederick and Admiral Winfield. Unfortunately there were less than before, such as the absence of Commodore Grace, due to the horrific battle they had suffered. Glab wasn't really in the mood for discussing matters regarding the metal menace after that.
"Oh, I do!" he growled back. "I have a plan to take out that planet eater once and for all! And... it won't put any of your men in danger whatsoever."
Glab and the other DOOP officials all looked at each other, then glanced back at Nixon.
"How?" Glab asked.
"Well, we know that it can't be destroyed by any means. But that doesn't mean it can't be dismantled!"
The intergalactic diplomats were dumfounded. Admiral Zederick scratched the scar on his left cheek absentmindedly as he asked the inevitable question.
"And how do we do that, exactly?"
"Why, that's the beauty of it!" Nixon beamed. "You don't have to do anything. We leave all the dirty work to a band of rough, tough mercenaries that I... uh... happened to... eh... arrest a few years ago..."
"Mercenaries?" Admiral Gordon repeated, his voice giving away his doubt about the situation.
"That's right," Nixon said. "Presenting, the Chaos Renegades!"
The doors burst open again, as five roughly dressed individuals entered the room and stood before the DOOP members. They were lead in by a man with a hardened expression and a stone-cold glare, who wore a hoodless cloak knotted around his wide shoulders. He had wavy, dark grey hair that was fairly long, coloured more so from hardship and experience than from age. He wore thick brown boots, rough baggy pants and had a small silver pistol hanging from his belt. His rough, khaki green sleeveless shirt revealed muscular arms, which like his face, had the odd battle scar. His skin was a dark tan, and he had a strong, confident stance that indicated that he was in charge of this group.
To his left stood an odd looking man wearing a long, black trench coat with a large, upturned collar. His face wore a grin of insane glee, while his eyes were obscured from view by a pair of thick, dark, protruding goggles set below a smooth, bald head. His had an ammunition belt around his body beneath his unbuttoned coat, wore baggy brown pants, and also had thick, worn boots with steel toecaps. Attached to his belt were many small, lidded silver boxes, and his right hand held a small pistol, while his left didn't exist and consisted of a metal claw.
On the other side of the man who led them in was a female holding a very large gun in her right hand. She had short, light blond hair and penetrating grey eyes of candid intelligence, while her mouth was but an expressionless line. She wore large, black boots, baggy camouflaged pants with a belt holding grenades plus two more guns. Her upper body was clothed in a thick, camouflage-patterned jacket with no sleeves, and was unfastened at the front to reveal a green, short-sleeved army shirt worn underneath. The shirt was buttoned fairly high, but some dog tags could be seen around her neck, and the short sleeves had insignia of a sergeant stitched on them. She had an athletic figure, definitely not a weakling, as proven by her strong arms and the fact she could hold such a large gun in only one of them with no evident problems.
Behind and between her and the leader was a thin, dark-skinned man with a goofy grin that seemed to show all of his teeth and gums, but determined eyes. He had a small black beard and short black hair, a small red bandana wrapped around his head. He had a large, round helmet tucked under his right arm, wearing a thick, navy blue jacket that looked heavily padded and made him less thin that he was. His blue pants looked thick too, as did his boots. His eyes darted around the room quickly, as if to take everything in simultaneously. He also wore gloves and, like the others, had a small gun on his belt.
Finally, to the smiling dark-skinned guy's left was a tall, burly looking man with a slight hunch resembling that of a gorilla. He had neat grey hair parted in the middle, below which appeared to dark folds in which his eyes were probably hidden. Below his wide nose was a bushy grey moustache and a solid chin. His arms were as thick as tree trunks, as were his legs. He wore what looked like an old, iron blue uniform with its sleeves rolled up, and shiny black boots with rusty metal buckles on them. He had the bulk and muscle of a large bear, and at the end of his gargantuan, hairy arms were two massive hands. One held a reasonably large gun, while the other had a silver flask in it. With a deep groan he swilled whatever was in the flask, then wiped his arm across his mouth.
The DOOP all looked at them with expressions of uncertainty. Nixon spoke again, aware of this.
"I'll introduce and tell you a little about them, just to ease your mind. First of all, Dawson. He used to be a criminal bounty hunter, but he gave that up, and now he leads this motley crew."
The longhaired, cloak-wearing man who led them in nodded.
"Welcome, Captain Dawson," Glab said.
"Don't call me Captain!" he growled back at her. He said it with enough resolve to get the point across, yet not be insulting or disrespectful to Glab. "I don't have a title... I'm just called Dawson! A rank or position isn't necessary. All of us in the Chaos Renegades know my role already, why milk it?!"
She nodded simply, understanding. "Very well then... Dawson."
"Next," continued Nixon. "Is Madcap. He's a scientist... a damn good one at that too! He used to be somewhat of a mad villain, but not any more."
The bald, trench coat wearing grin with the thick goggles nodded and smiled even more dementedly.
"May I axe you about your hand?" inquired Admiral Zederick.
"Sure!" Madcap cackled with a high-pitched snigger. "I've had this since I was born. Been quite handy actually!"
He held up his right hand and laughed loudly.
"Uhh... I actually meant your left one said Zederick flatly. "The one with the claw replacement..."
"Oh, this old thing?!" Madcap chuckled. "I lost it during one of my experiments a long time ago. But now I think it's an improvement."
Zederick chuckled and stood up, then walked towards them, a strange, mechanical sound coming from below the desk as he approached. When he came into view, it could be seen that his whole left leg and a small part of his right were made of metal.
"I'm partially in the same boat," he said. "But this one was caused by a nasty battle."
"Moving on," said Nixon. "Next we have Christina, who--"
"It's 'Chris' you torso-less moron!" she barked at him quickly, cutting him off. "The name is 'Chris' okay?! Nobody calls me 'Christina!'"
She suddenly looked up at an elegant chandelier handing above.
"By great Phoebus!" she exclaimed with awe. "That exquisite lighting fixture shines with the divine glow of a celestial sunbeam, beamed through a thousand crystal chalices!"
The others all gave her strange glances. She suddenly took on a hard expression and rough tone.
"Uhh... nice light you have there," she said simply.
"What's your story then?" Glab asked her.
"Ex-military, ma'am," she said, her voice showing much respect for Glab's authority. "Weapons specialist. I used to be part of the Earth forces, but I was kicked out in 3001."
She sounded bitter when she said that.
"Why were you kicked out?" asked Admiral Gordon. "Misconduct? Court martialled?"
"No!" she snapped back. "When all females were kicked out that year because some unnamed General who stopped women from serving because he sexually harassed them! I adored the military, but now I see what it really is when it punishes the victims and not the attacker!"
"Well, at least I don't have to wear those degrading, low-cut fatigues any more! I mean, what point is an army shirt for females where the top button is at your navel?!"
She tugged on her shirt's collar.
"This is actually one of the original shirts, but I had to add six more buttons to it!"
"Next, we have their pilot, Tucker," Nixon said to move things along quickly.
"Hey, what's up, guys!" the thin, dark-skinned man said with a quirky salute. "Man, those uniforms are bright, man! They SOOOOO bright, that the sun says 'Get a-way from me, man! You're gonna blind my ass!'"
The DOOP officials all looked at each other, then back at Tucker.
"But, seriously... they look good on you all!" Tucker said. "They really do!"
He pointed at Admiral Gordon and laughed.
"But look at that haircut there, man! Man that's a flat haircut! That haircut is SOOOOO flat, that you got pancakes going green with envy! And speaking of green..."
He pointed at Glab.
"Man, you're green, girl! Seriously! You are SOOOOO green, that Zapp Brannigan himself is saying... 'I ain't sleeping with her, she's too damn green!!'"
"Zapp Brannigan is dead," Glab stated simply, not letting Tucker's insulting jokes get to her.
"Oh," said Tucker simply. "I'm sorry, ma'am. I don't mean to insult or disrespect people."
"Finally..." sighed Nixon. "We have Boris. An ex-illegal wrestler from Russia."
The large behemoth grunted and took another swig of his canteen.
"He doesn't say much," added Dawson. "But he's large, strong and reliable. And despite drinking ten litres of vodka a day, he's always sober."
"Well... what do you think?" Nixon asked Glab.
Glab turned to the other DOOP officials and they whispered something amongst themselves for a good twenty seconds.
"I assume this isn't exactly a complimentary offer?" Glab asked, directing her question towards Dawson.
"You assume right," Dawson responded. "Twenty million dollars."
The entire DOOP were taken aback.
"You have got to be kidding?!!" Admiral Winfield said. Dawson shook his head.
"Not at all. Twenty million is a small price to pay for the survival of the entire universe."
There were more whispers amongst the DOOP.
"Very well," sighed Glab. "We'll accept your terms."
"Excellent," Dawson smirked. "Give us half now and half on completion of the mission."
"Absolutely not!" said Glab adamantly.
"Listen, I'm not axing! I'm telling!" said Dawson firmly. "That's the deal. No money... no deal!"
Glab sighed again. Turning to Admiral Gordon. "Admiral, could you please get
them the cash they want?"
Gordon nodded and rose from the table.
"This better be worth it, Dawson?" Glab said.
"It will be," Dawson said confidently. "We'll destroy that menace piece-by-piece if we have to!"
Leela could hear that word again. That strange word she had heard so much.
There it was again. But all was dark. Did she dare try to see where she was?
Leela slowly opened her eye. She had to.
Leela screamed as she saw a Delphinian right in front of her. She was sitting on a seat in a dark area, lit only by a tiny hanging light above her. The only other visible thing other than the stone seat she was one was the Delphinian.
"You monster!" she yelled at it. "Leave me ALONE!!!"
She tried to lunge at it, but suddenly felt no feeling whatsoever in her body. She tried again... and once again, nothing.
Leela yelled with fright as she saw everything from her neck down had turned to stone. She began to sweat, gasping in short bursts. It was hard to breath when your stomach was rock.
"What have you DONE to me?!!" she screamed at the Delphinian.
The tall beast just stepped backwards slowly, staring at her. It disappeared into the shadows, leaving Leela alone.
"What's going on?!!" she whimpered. "WHERE AM I?!!!!"
"Settle down, honey!" a familiar and friendly voice said from her right. "You're going to be fine."
"Dad?!!" Leela said with exhausted relief as she whirled her head around. "Is that you?!!"
Her father and mother then stepped out of the shadows and walked over to her.
"It's all right, dear," her mother consoled, stroking her hair. "We'll get you back home where it's safe and warm."
"What are you two doing here?!" Leela asked back with surprise.
"Never mind that!" her father said quickly. "We need to get you back before they return!"
"Listen to your father, Leela," Turanga Munda said soothingly. "They could be back any--"
Leela's mother was abruptly cut off as a red beam from the darkness hit her, coming somewhere from Leela's left.
"MOM!!!" Leela cried out desperately, her voice a scream of despair and heartbreak.
Her mother's form went completely black almost instantly, then began to slowly crumble away onto the floor into a fine pile of dusty ash. Leela's heart was shattered and her whole world destroyed as she watched her own mother being reduced to nothing more than a charcoal skeleton. Leela broke down into tears, closing her poisoned eye as she cried loudly.
"Munda!!" she heard her father yell, and she opened her eye again to see his tear-blurred form kneeling in front of the pile of ash as he cried too. Although her throat was dry and she didn't feel like doing anything except grieving, Leela managed to speak.
"Dad!" she croaked. "Get out of here!"
Her father faced her, his eye bloodshot and full of pain.
"GO DAD!!!" Leela yelled. "HURRY!!"
Her father stood up, but then Leela heard a sound that froze her blood.
"No!" She wept, her voice choked with anger and sadness. "NOOOOOO!!!"
Both her and Morris jumped as the fearsome beast that Leela had faced earlier at the cliff's edge leapt out of the darkness and landed a few feet away from him. He backed away slowly as the beast eyed him off, then glanced at Leela with dismay.
"Help me, Leela!!" he pleaded as the beast took a step towards him. Leela struggled.
"I CAN'T!!!" she shrieked, overwhelmed with helplessness and anguish. "I CAN'T MOVE!!!"
She struggled again frantically, screaming in fits of frustration and desperation and her inability to do anything.
"DAD, NO!!!" she screamed, watching as the beast lowered itself in preparation to attack. "NOOOOO!!!!!"
The beast sprung at him, and Leela turned her face away and tried to block out the horrible screaming, hacking and tearing sounds that invaded her ears and envenomed her heart. She just wanted it all to end, but it seemed to go on forever. When the noises finally ceased, Leela heard another growl and then heavy footsteps approaching her. She soon felt a warm blast against her face and smelt the scent of blood. She reluctantly opened her eye again to see the monster right in front of her. Its eyes glowed a hellish red, as thick crimson liquid dripped from around its mouth onto her rock form. It released a loud growl into her face, and just as Leela thought she was done for, the beast was suddenly jerked back. Leela heard a high-pitched gobbling sound, and the beast quickly disappeared and revealed none other than Nibbler sitting on the floor in front of her. He had eaten the beast, and burped with satisfaction.
"N... N... Nibbler..." she managed to say. "Please help me, Nibbler!"
Her little pet jabbered something randomly and hopped onto her lap. Leela was about to smile weakly, but a red flash from straight ahead caught her eye.
The little guy was hit, turned instantly into grey ash and bones, and clattered to the floor. Leela was beyond sad now... she was angry as well.
"Stop it! STOP IT!! STOP IT!!!" she screamed. "STOP KILLING EVERYBODY I HOLD DEAR, AND SHOW YOURSELF YOU CRUEL BASTARD!!!!"
Leela sat there, breathing heavily after that outburst of emotion. At first all that was heard was her own inhaling and exhaling, but then came the sound of footsteps from straight ahead of her. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the figure that walked into the light.
"A... A... Alesia?!!" she stammered in a shudder of grief and disbelief.
The longhaired girl stood there and nodded, a Delphinian pistol in her hand.
"That's right," she said simply.
"How... how COULD you do that?!!" Leela screamed in a voice fighting between grief and rage.
"Fry," she said simply, almost in monotone.
"F-F-Fry?!!" Leela repeated. "You did this just because of Fry?!! You cruel bitch!!! I'LL KILL YOU!!!"
"Don't worry about Fry," said Alesia approaching Leela slowly, then squatting to look her straight in the eye. "I think I've worked out this little love triangle."
"How?!!" Leela huffed in a cold grunt.
"Simple," Alesia said with a wink. "We just need to complete the triangle."
Leela didn't like the sound of that.
"Complete the triangle?!!" she stammered as Alesia walked to her left and behind her. "What the HELL do you mean by that, you sick bitch?!!"
Alesia wandered back, coming from Leela's left. She chuckled and bent down to look in her eye again.
"Easy," she said intentionally softly. "I like Fry... You like Fry. Fry likes both of us..."
She leaned in closer and looked at Leela with suggestive eyes.
"All we have to do... is like each other..."
Leela's eye widened with fright.
"NO WAY!!!" she yelled. "Not in a million years!!! Especially after you m-m-murdered my parents and Nibbler!!! GO TO HELL!!!"
Alesia just laughed.
"I know you enjoyed that kiss I gave you when we first met. Don't deny it..."
As Alesia leaned in towards her, Leela pulled her head back and closed her eye tight. Then, something moist touched her lips.
Leela screamed and jolted forwards like a rocket, her eye blasting open.
"Damn it!" she heard an unfamiliar voice say.
As her eye adjusted to the dim light, she saw the face staring at her that looked somewhat familiar, yet not. Green skin, and yellow, bulbous eyes.
"K... Kif...?" she asked doubtfully.
"Huh?" the face said. "What are you talking about? Do you speak English?"
As Leela examined the person a while more, she realised it wasn't Lieutenant Kroker at all, but a teenage member of his species. He was sitting beside her on a chair and wearing strange, black clothing.
"What...?" Leela replied, holding her head. "Oh... yeah... sorry. I... I speak English..."
She suddenly noticed she was lying down on something with a strange, black blanket over her. It looked to be made out of the same stuff as the green youth's clothes were. There was also an overturned cup on her lap and some kind of spilt liquid. Before she could look at much more, she heard a sound and looked to a nearby opening on a rocky wall to her left. An adult female version of Kif's species entered with a worried look on her face.
"Are you okay, Newton?!" she asked with concern. "I heard a scream!"
"I'm fine," the teenager said with a smile. "She just woke up then when I was trying to give her some water to drink, that's all. I think she had a nightmare or something...?"
He turned back to Leela and began to try and soak up the spilled water with a small piece of cloth. She gave a weak smile.
"Saying it was a nightmare would be an understatement," she uttered with a shuddering breath. She looked around some more. "Where am I? How did I get here?"
"You're in a place we call The Caverns of Sanctuary," the female said calmly. "And you got here when my son found you falling off a cliff."
"Yeah. I only just managed to grab hold of you after you let go of the edge. You were lucky that these caverns were nearby and I managed to pull you up and get you to safety."
Leela leant back against the pillow behind her, suddenly getting feelings of pain across her back again. A cruel reminder of the last thing she could really remember. Her arms and legs also hurt like hell. She then realised that all she was wearing above her hips was a thick covering of bandages wrapped around her, all the way from her armpits down to her waist. She could see her boots standing up on a chair nearby and her black trousers draped over the backrest. They looked like they were cleaned. She looked at Newton nervously, crossing her arms across her chest.
"You'd didn't happen to be the one that..."
His mother chuckled lightly as Leela trailed off.
"Oh, don't worry. Newton brought you to me and I cleaned you up, tended to your wounds, bandaged you, and put you to bed. He was just keeping an eye on you while I was looking to find you something new to wear. Your top was torn to pieces and hanging on my a thread when he found you."
"I didn't look at anything," Newton said defensively. "Honest!"
Leela smiled sweetly.
"I believe you. Thanks for saving my life" she said.
"I'll get you some more water to drink," he said, picking up the cup and walking across the room towards a table with a large jug of water on it.
"Thanks," Leela said, then she looked up at his mother. "And thanks for fixing me up."
"No problem," the mother smiled back. "You've got four nasty gashes down your back from that monster. But you're safe here now. You're one of us now."
"Here you go," said Newton, handing out the refilled cup.
"One of you?" Leela said, taking the water in her hands carefully. "Wait! You aren't that group of rumoured escapees, hiding and planning against the Delphinians to try and get others away from them?"
"That's right," she nodded. "We've been living here for quite a few years now, and--"
Leela was about to take a drink, when she almost spilled it again in surprise.
"Where is she?!!" a loud, male voice boomed from the direction of the opening. Newton and his mother turned towards it as somebody entered. It was a fairly tall human, who looked like he was in his late forties or early fifties, with dark brown hair and a beard that was starting to go grey in patches. He had a determined look on his face and wore a long black robe, made out of the same material as her bedspread and the clothes of Newton and his mother. Leela then realised that she'd seen it before: they were all made of the same skin as the beast that attacked her. Upon looking at Leela, his eyes widened with shock and he gasped, freezing in his steps.
"What's wrong, Grand Elder Willow" Newton asked.
The man didn't even look at the kid, but just stared at Leela for a while.
"So it's true..." Willow said. "The cyclops is here..."
A beeping sound emitted from a console behind Amy, causing her to make an impressed sound as she saw the display on the console's screen.
"We'll be at Delphine in less than five minutes now, Fry!" Amy chirped as she stopped trying to repair the monitor and spoke in Fry's direction. "And I should have this monitor fixed soon too. Although we still need a glass screen for it."
"Excellent!" Fry said, looking at Leela's wrist computer that was sitting on a seat nearby. "We're coming to save you, Leela!"
"Approaching planet Graz now, Captain," an ensign said from his post.
"Excellent!" Captain Ditte smiled from his chair. "When we're in orbit, try to communicate with them."
"Aye aye, sir," the ensign nodded.
"I hope you won't object to me leading this expedition, Lieutenant Commander," Ditte said to Raker. Raker smiled back.
"Not at all. Though it may be wise to let me do the talking... since I know exactly what we're dealing with. With your permission of course, sir?"
"You axe the questions when they need to be axed," said Ditte firmly. "The rest of the time, I'm in charge."
"Of course, sir," nodded Raker.
"Sir, I've got Lord Suikkannen from the Graz Mining Facility" the ensign informed.
"On screen," prompted Ditte.
On the screen appeared Lord Suikkannen, a strange looking fellow with a long, pink nose.
"With whom am I speaking?" he said.
"This is Captain Ditte of the DOOP ship, Nimbus. We wish permission to come down to your mining facility so that we can talk to you?"
"Permission granted," nodded the K'Targ lord. "I look forward to your arrival."
And with that, he disappeared. Ditte turned to Raker.
"Go get Lieutenant Commander Kroker, please," he ordered. "We'll need him as part of the landing party."
"Sir!" an ensign said urgently.
"Yes?" said Ditte.
"No... no, sorry, sir," said the ensign apologetically. "I thought I had a ship on the radar, but there's nothing there. Probably just a small, passing asteroid or something... don't worry about it, sir."
Willow closed his eyes and growled in frustration. He looked at Newton, then knelt down and but his hands on the boy's shoulders. He shook him slightly has he spoke.
"Why did you bring her here, boy?!" he said with a mix of anger and sad disappointment. "You've doomed us all!"
"Leave my son alone!" Newton's mother piped in angrily. "Why are you telling him this?! What has he done wrong?!"
The Grand Elder sighed. and looked at the boy again.
"You're right, and I'm sorry," he said honestly. "It wasn't the boy's fault. He didn't know any better."
"Know what?" asked Newton nervously. Willow sighed.
"About the cyclops," he replied, looking at Leela. "I'm afraid you've brought us grave danger by bringing her here. I just hope that you didn't leave too much evidence while bringing her here that may lead the Delphinians to us."
He looked at Leela again after a pregnant pause.
"After all," he added with a deep sigh. "They'll want her back, no matter the cost. They'll want... Haruska."