Futurama

Fan Fiction

Futurama: Universe of Malice, Part 19
By Kenneth White

Chapter 19 - Once More Into the Beast

Kif looked up at the white ceiling tile as he let out another sigh, then continued to speak.

"It was just so... demeaning! Do you know what it's like to have to get up at six in the morning every day to dress a man twice your height?"

"Luckily I don't," Councillor D'Anna Troy answered from her seat beside Kif. There she sat with an electronic note-taking device and pen in her counselling quarters, while Kif lay across a therapy couch, staring up at the ceiling.

The green lieutenant commander groaned again. "I know he's gone and all, but... I can't understand how everybody was so blind as to what kind of man he really was!" Kif continued. "He got rewarded or commended several times for sending men to their deaths...guh... mmmmmmgeh... Why?!"

"Perhaps people just care about the results he achieved and not the costs incurred to get those results?" D'Anna suggested. "But this has little to do with your friend's death."

Kif looked across at her woefully. He was supposed to be showing his feelings because of the death of friend Bill Raker, but as usual, the whole thing ended up coming back to Zapp.

"I'm sorry," Kif sighed. "I just keep bringing up the old wounds instead of focussing on the new ones."

D'Anna was about to respond when a triple beep rang through the room.

"Lieutenant Commander Kroker, please report to the bridge now," Captain Ditte's voice rang from the speaker.

Kif sat up on the couch. "I'd better get going," he smiled, then stood up.

"Yes, but I'd like to continue our sessions still, Mister Kroker," D'Anna said frankly. "There's still some problems we need to iron out... particularly regarding the late Captain Brannigan."

"I'll come back and talk with you again once I return, Miss Troy," he nodded as the doors slid across to grant him leave.

"Just remember, Kif," D'Anna added as some final parting words, "Zapp is gone. You have a new Captain now."

Kif smiled as the doors slid behind him, then made his way to the bridge. Upon arriving, he found Captain Ditte standing up and looking at the view screen. There lay a large, completely blue planet, save for some wisps of cloud above its surface. Ditte smiled as Kif walked over to him.

"Good to see you, Kif," he said. "There's Hydros now. We're going to take a shuttlecraft down to the floating city of Nebulus to meet with a being that may be able to help us."

The Captain looked around the bridge and called out names: "Fitzgerald! Trotter! Sheana! McGinley! You're all coming too, and... eh... Where's Lieutenant Sheana?!"

He looked around, as did all the others.

"She's probably playing pinball again," Trotter said, almost snorting.

Ditte pressed a button on his armrest and spoke.

"Lieutenant Sheana, please report to the bridge now... if you don't mind," he ordered, it sounding more like a suggestion.

Within a few seconds a female voice responded. "Can't it wait, sir?" the voice replied. "I'm playing The Who Pinball. Four more Petes and I'll reach Quadrophenia!"

"I'm afraid it is rather important, yes," sighed Ditte. "We're leaving now, so if you don't mind..."

"Yes! I crushed Boris The Spider for ten million points! Now I truly am a pinball wizard!"

"Lieutenant... please!"

"All right, sir... I'll come," the voice whined.




A few minutes later, a small shuttlecraft whizzed down to the surface from the Nimbus. While Ensign McGinley piloted, inside it Captain Ditte, Kif, Ensign Teral, and Lieutenants Fitzgerald and Sheana sat, the latter female being the same one that sat behind the podium during Raker's funeral. The planet's surface looked to be completely water, as the small craft sailed above the large waves that stretched as far as the eye could see. Something glinted in the distance though.

"That's Nebulus coming up," announced Ditte. "One of hundreds of floating cities on this otherwise waterlogged planet."

As the city got closer, it became clear how large it was. The whole structure sat upon the ocean, but due to its immense size, stayed completely still. Its shape almost resembled a giant upside-down strawberry, sitting upon an even larger round ring. The ring was made of a shiny, bluish metal with many holes and docking areas around the side, as well as large glassy areas along the top of the curved floating piece. The upside down strawberry-shaped piece was attached to it via four thick and short, tubular metal pieces. The base of it was metal first, then a large area of transparent, almost domed glass that showed a massive city inside, consisting of many tall, sandy-green buildings, randomly draped and covered in areas of lush, tropical vegetation. In the centre of this city was a funnel-shaped metal structure, which grew in size as it reached up higher, spreading out to the edges where the glass finished at the pinnacle of the city. This metal continued up the structure about the same height as the city below, covered in tiny windows and decreasing its width the higher it got. The whole structure was finally capped with a large glass dome, immense in size, but small in comparison to the visible city beneath it. Inside this was a much smaller area of civilisation, one that looked very elegant and had a lot more areas of green vegetation and water. The powerful sun beamed across the titanic structure, reflecting off the shiny blue metal areas and glinting through the glass ones. Around the structure were many different vehicles, mostly watercraft, but there was the odd air ship as well. These ranged from tiny boats to massive ships.

"Sir, we're getting some automatic landing coordinate codes now," said McGinley. "Shall I input them?"

"Do so, Ensign," Ditte answered. "If that's not too much trouble..."

The pilot gave a nod and did so, and within moments the shuttle made its way towards the centre of the floating city, heading towards the metallic area. A door slid away granting them access inside, and the vessel landed in a small bay. The tiny ship's door flipped open with a click, the five officers aside from the pilot stepping out to be greeted by a strange looking creature in a plain, metallic room.

"Welcome!" came a bubbly reply, sounding as if he was talking underwater.

He must have been only four feet tall, with a flattish, spade-like head and two bulbous, amphibious eyes. His mouth was wide, and his reptilian skin was a light bluish silver, almost white in fact. Two long holes above his mouth served as nostrils on his frog-like face, while something not unlike a sea anemone adorned the top of his crown like a strange variant of hair. His body was strange to make sense of, none of the group figuring out whether it was robotic or just a strange, thick armour. The fact that it was coloured exactly like the skin on his face suggested it may have even been his natural body, but scientific logic and a very mechanical look suggested otherwise. Captain Ditte didn't stop to think about it, outstretching a hand in greeting.

"Good to meet you in human," bubbled the creature as he accepted the gesture in kind. "You must be Captain Ditte? I am Hewson."

"A pleasure, Hewson," the Captain smiled. "We have been eager to meet you."

"I'll bet you are," Hewson smiled. "But let's not waste time here... Follow me to my office. We can speak there."

The group followed Hewson through a set of doors into a plain-looking, squarish metal corridor. It wasn't long before they were led into another room, one also consisting mostly of metal. This one had a window, some chairs, a desk and a few other items though. The squat little native took a seat at the desk, while Ditte and Kif sat on the two seats on the other side. The other three officers stood.

"So," Hewson said simply, "what is it you want to know?"

"We're after a rare and valuable blue jewel," said Ditte simply. "It's known as the Sapphire of Utopia, though probably goes under a different name here. It'd be very good if you could tell us where it is, perhaps?"

"It should also... um... What was it?" Kif added, trying to remember something Raker told him. "Oh, yes... it should also generate heat, for no apparent reason."

Hewson's eyes bulged a little more than normal.

"Yes, I know of the gem you speak of," he said bluntly. "I suppose you want to take it away?"

"Yes," smiled Ditte. "If that's all right with the people of Hydros, of course?"

"I'm afraid it won't be," Hewson stated. "That object arrived on this planet just over two thousand years ago in an asteroid. One that melted the polar ice caps of Hydros and made it the deluge it is now. The jewel is now used as a special universal power generator at a special floating power plant on this planet. The suns rays are magnified into it, letting it create more heat than normal. allowing it to easily boil water used to create steam for spinning the turbines that power our cities."

"So it's like nuclear power without the nuclear part?" Fitzgerald asked simply. Hewson nodded.

"Yes, there's no danger whatsoever, it doesn't use any power to run it, and it saves the setting up of hundreds of thousands of other means of power collection that would otherwise be needed. We can power the entire population from one source, simply using the power of that gem."

"I'm terribly sorry, Mister Hewson," said Ditte, "but we need that jewel in order to save the entire universe."

"It is not yours to take, Captain," Hewson answered. "The people of Hydros would simply not survive without it."

"How so?" Ditte queried. "Surely you can live without power?"

"Not at night," answered Hewson. "The temperatures reach below minus one hundred degrees Celsius once the sun goes down. Only the heat from the power we have keeps up alive."

"There is an ancient evil that can only be destroyed with the help of this gem," Ditte stated. "It has already destroyed other planets so far, and the sooner you help us, the sooner we can stop it."

"Hydros can not be put into jeopardy over this," Hewson said firmly. "The gem stays!"

"But, sir!" Kif said to Hewson, standing up. "If you don't give us the gem, there won't be a Hydros! I've seen this thing rip a planet to shreds in no time. It roams the universe, devouring everything in its path. It will drill Hydros right though, then reduce the whole planet to dust. It has a single purpose... to eliminate the entire universe from organic life."

Hewson paused and looked at Kif.

"No way!" he said slowly.

Fitzgerald stepped forward. "Then we'll just have to take it by force!" he growled at Hewson.

"No!" Kif said, spinning his head around. "We can't violate the DOOP non-interference rule!"

Every one of the other DOOP officers cracked into uncontrolled laughter, including Captain Ditte. Kif sighed, rolling his eyes back. Ditte finally stopped, wiping a tear away.

"Yes," he chuckled sarcastically. "DOOP has certainly stuck to that rule consistently..."

"Look, Hewson," Fitzgerald said firmly. "There's somebody else looking for this gem too. He will find this place soon, and he will just take the gem without axing. At least with us you have a choice."

"I do?" Hewson asked.

"Well... not really," admitted Fitzgerald. "But we at least axed first."

"Stand down, Fitzgerald," Ditte said firmly. "If you don't mind that is?"

Fitzgerald turned away and stood back with Sheana and Trotter. Ditte sighed and turned back to Hewson.

"Look... we need to find a solution to this," he stated simply. "So we'll go up to our ship again to talk with our superiors about it first. Once we've made a decision up there, we will return."

The DOOP officers turned towards the door and began walking out. Hewson stopped Ditte with words as the captain was about to leave, the others all gone now, save for Kif.

"Captain," he said simply, "do you how many beings live here on Hydros?"

The Captain paused and looked back at Hewson. He didn't say anything.

"About twenty million," Hewson answered simply in a sad, bubbly voice. "Do you really think it's worth the loss of twenty million lives in order to save the universe?"

There was a pause from Ditte. He looked at Kif, then back at Hewson.

"I think the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few," he stated simply.

"Few?" Hewson said. "An entire planet... is few?!"

"It is when weighed up against the entire universe," Ditte answered.

Hewson growled, "And how many is not few, Captain?! Two planets? Five? An entire galaxy?!"

The following silence was awkward and colder than Hydros in the dead of night.

"We will find a solution," Ditte said. And he walked out the door. Kif watched as Hewson sighed. The small green Lieutenant Commander had a feeling this wasn't going to end with both sides winning.


The first thing to escape from Tucker's gaping mouth was a gasp, a gasp as if he'd was staring death in the face. In some ways, that was true, as the pilot glared out at the metal planetoid in the distance. Then, he uttered two words, causing all the others behind him to look out of the ship's large window.

"Holy momma!"

The small cockpit of the space vehicle was filled with four more simultaneous gasps, as eyes almost bulged out of their sockets and touched the glass.

"By the great Epimetheus!" Chris exclaimed as she gazed upon the ever-nearing titan sphere. "It stretches across the very width of the universe itself, a vile globe that seems to be the very contemporary exemplar to the box of Pandora!"

She received four strange glances from her comrades.

"Uh, I mean... that thing is friggin huge, It'll no doubt cause one hell of a mess!"

"Yes, I think you're right," Dawson stated, his eyes still fixed on the target. It continued to cow them all, the closer it got, the greater the realisation of how immense this thing really was.

"Holy split! That motherfather is HUGE, man!" gawped Tucker as they neared. "It's SOOOOO huge, that all the 'Your momma so fat jokes' I dis Boris with apply to it instead!"

"Take us in faster, Tucker," Dawson growled simply. "We want to be on that thing before it detects us."

"Aww, it wouldn't worry about us," scoffed the pilot with a chuckle. "We're just a little speck of insignificance."

"Then explain why it has stopped moving forward, and is slowly starting to turn towards us," Dawson said simply. Tucker looked, and he could see Dawson was right.

"Yeah, okay, man," nodded Tucker, who was looking a little scared now. "Anywhere in particular?"

"I think the very top of the beast would be good," Madcap suggested with a manic grin, his goggles flashing.

"Fine with me," shrugged Dawson before turning to Chris. "Prep the weapons, Chris."

"Sure," she said, her voice sounding as if her mind was a million miles away. Her eyes seemed to tear away from the beast ahead suddenly after an initial reluctance, and she disappeared through a door at the back of the cockpit. Madcap examined some small metal objects that sat in one of the many little silver boxes that adorned his belt. He pulled one out and examined it carefully.

"Think that thing uses Phillips screwdrivers?" he chuckled. Boris finished a swig from his canteen and let out a bellowing chuckle himself.

"Bring them all," Dawson said humourlessly as he hoisted a large pack from a hook on the wall near the back door. "You never know."

Madcap placed it carefully back in its place, then flicked the lid closed, still grinning wildly. It seemed to be painted on his face. Chris returned from out back.

"Guns ready," he stated simply. She immediately followed up the sentence by whipping the two large pistols dangling from her hips into her hands, spinning them so the stocks faced Dawson and Madcap during the process. They both took the offered weapons, and clipped them to their own belts. Chris then reached behind her back to produce a third pistol, which she handed to Boris. The large man took it in one of his paws, returning a grunt and nod of thanks towards her.

"Where's your gun?" Dawson asked. Chris smirked, reaching behind her back again and generating a long, thick-barrelled plasma rifle with a grenade/rocket combo built into it. The dark green, bulky gun looked like any normal person would struggle to hold it in both arms. Chris held it with one.

"My favourite," she added. Dawson smirked back.

"I should have known," he quipped. There was a noise behind him from Tucker.

"We's almost there, guys. We'll be touching down in less than a minute."

"Packs people!" Dawson said, tossing one to Chris. She caught it with her free hand.

"Have we got enough dynamite y'think, Dawson?" she asked him.

"How much do we have again?" he asked her as he chucked another pack to Madcap.

"Enough to destroy all of Europe."

"Hmmmmm... better take a few more sticks," Dawson answered. Chris smiled and disappeared back out the door behind her. Boris slung his newly acquired pack over his shoulder and stood up.

"Let's do dis," he grunted. He wandered out the door, having to both duck and sidle through it. The whole ship jolted a bit and Tucker turned to Dawson.

"We're here."

Moments later, a large door flipped up at the back of their craft, a ramp sliding out from inside to touch the surface of the metal planetoid. Chris was the first to step onto the surface, now dressed in a spacesuit with helmet, still holding her gun. She looked around, her eyes and mouth wide, taking in everything surrounding her.

"Eternal silver stretches into the depths of forever, as heavens waft upon this traverser of hell!" she exclaimed softly.

The sight was indeed something to take in. From here the object just seemed completely flat, and endless plain of flawlessly smooth metal that stretched in all directions. The sky and air around it was dotted randomly with thin, transparent clouds of different ethereal colours, all of them slowly moving with the direction the monster travelled in. It was as if the place had its own unique atmosphere, and when that size, it was easy to see why.

"What was that, Chris?" Dawson asked, joining her on the surface in a suit as well. "I didn't catch it..."

"I said, 'It just keeps going, and there are freaky cloud things in the sky,'" she growled in response.

Madcap knelt, a gloved hand gliding across the surface and a noise of thought in the depth of his throat.

"I see no way of entry," he stated. "We will have to wander until we find some means of getting inside. Judging from the size of this thing, it could take months!"

"Then we'd better get started," Dawson said, slamming his hand against a large red button on the ship to close the door on it. "We'll head south."

He began walking, the others following. None of them had any idea if they'd even see anything besides the wisps of cloud and a cloister of flat metal floor with no horizon. But when money spoke, few cared.


THUD!

"No! I refuse!"

A black and crimson streak whisked around, as Captain Ditte turned his back to the floating monitor he was speaking to. A laboured sigh came from the green-skinned figure upon it.

"I'm not trying to be cruel, Captain... but we're running out of time and options!" Glab said. She looked weary, signs of the probable cause visible in the loud noises, yelling and rushing people around her. She wasn't in her usual office, but standing in a docking bay at the Earth DOOP Orbital Base. Ditte had been transferred to her by Admiral Winfield upon contacting the base. Emergencies required her to be there.

"They won't accept it," Ditte said simply, flicking his head over his shoulder. "You know they won't."

Glab sighed again.

"Accept it or not, you have your orders, Captain," she answered. "Use force if necessary."

"I won't," stated Ditte, spinning back to face her fully again. "I won't do this, you can't make me do this!"

"Captain," she stated simply. "We don't even think this little crusade started by Raker will amount to anything. We never did. A few days ago, we wouldn't care. But a few days we weren't out of options. We have no option any more, your mission has gone from a likely wild goose chase for the simple reason of exploring all possibilities, into priority one. You will get that jewel, Captain."

"But, ma'am--"

"But nothing!" she barked back, somewhat uncharacteristically. But then the pressure had got to her. "Do you need me to show you what this beast has done?"

Ditte just looked at her in silence. She turned her screen, showing Ditte a scene that made his stomach devour his heart, and then churn violently. The entire DOOP Orbital Base docking ports were filled with various aliens and other beings, none of which looked that happy. Some were on stretchers, wailing in pain. Some were being supported by DOOP officers. Others could be seen to be near death, with gruelling injuries and vital internal fluids seeping or shooting out of them. The entire base was in a rush, more ships arriving with more victims, casualties and bodies. He could see the fear in their actions, the pain in their faces.

"These aren't even from the planets attacked," he could hear Glab's off-screen voice say. "These are innocent victims from planets nearby, planets going through horrible climatic changes simply because their neighbours were destroyed. We just brought in most of these people from a ship of fleeing inhabitants of Xeron."

Ditte's glance couldn't help but focus on two individuals in particular: an alien mother and her small child, both being lead somewhere by two DOOP ensigns. The mother was wrapped in a dusty blanket, limping along with a look of fear and stress evident on her face. Her child, a small alien girl, followed her, grasping onto the bottom of her cloak.

"Mommy!" the little girl wined, clearly scared and confused. "Where's Loppy?"

No answer came from the mother. The girl whimpered.

"Where's Loppy, mommy?!" she moaned again. "Where is she?"

Again, no answer.

"Where's Loppy? Mommy? Mommy?"

Then, the mother seemed to snap like a twig. Her expression shifted from fear to anger like a light switch being flicked, and she whirled around and looked down at her child. The frightened wince from her daughter didn't stop her tirade.

"LOPPY'S DEAD, DAMMIT!" she screamed down at her. "OKAY?! LOPPY IS GOD... DAMNED... DEAD!!!"

The child fell over backwards, whimpering and shaking with terror and bafflement. Tears welled up in her eyes before she ripped her arm from the grasp of the ensign escorting her and ran off, dropping something on the ground. As the ensign yelled and began to make chase, the object bounced gradually along the floor, stopping at the panting-with-rage mother's feet. She looked down at it, then began to cry herself, falling to her knees. It was a small pink ball.

"As you can see," Glab said, pulling the screen back to reveal her face again. "The havoc this monster has unleashed is far from pretty."

Ditte just stared back at her for a while, his eyes narrowed and lips quivering.

"Hypocrisy," he stated simply.

"What?" Glab asked.

"Hypocrisy!" Ditte repeated, louder than before. "Don't you realise that our actions here on Hydros will effect the people here in almost the same way?!"

"That risk must be taken."

"You said yourself, you don't even think this legend is real."

"Yes, but I also said we're out of options. And we won't know if it's real or not until we try. And to try, we need that gem!"

Ditte slumped his shoulders in defeat. He couldn't win against authority. Opinions and moral crusades were no longer and option. Only basic logic could sway her now.

"But we don't even have the resources. The Nimbus can't handle something like this."

"Ships are already on their way to you, Captain," Glab answered. "They'll be there in a few days... enough time for you to convince the residents of Hydros."

Ditte gritted his teeth. He sighed as if he were being crushed by a boulder, only to finally let it win.

"Fine! I'll do it!" he growled. "But you even hint that this is heroic and the right thing to do, and so help me God...!"

Glab answered with a simple nod, and her screen was dead. Ditte growled and punched the floating blank object, causing it to spin rapidly on an invisible pivot with a repeating squeak, then left the room. Marching determinedly down the corridors of the Nimbus, and turning a few heads along the way, the Captain stormed towards the bridge. As the doors granted him access, he spoke firmly and quickly.

"Kif! Sheana! Fitzgerald! Trotter! McGinley! To the shuttle immediately, please!"

And he disappeared before he had even arrived, leaving a bridge full of confused and concerned personnel. The four officers he requested didn't hesitate to carry out their orders. Four because Kif wasn't there. Fitzgerald ran ahead to catch up with the Captain.

"Sir, Kif is with Councillor Troy again," he told him.

"Get him quickly then, please!" the Captain grunted, not even looking at the head of security. "And hurry!"


Several moments later, the shuttle returned to the city of Nebulus, docking again in the same port. The journey was awkward and quiet all the way there. Captain Ditte lead the way towards Hewson's office, tapping on the metal door when he had got there.

"Enter," came a bubbly response.

An angry Ditte swung the door open and stepped into the office. But as Hewson stared up at him with clear confusion, Ditte's expression softened into a sadder one and he sighed. Clearing his throat, he made his announcement. One that was as new to his crew as it was to the amphibious native.

"Hewson. The Democratic Order of Planets has weighed up the situation at hand and came to the conclusion that acquiring the jewel is paramount. We do not wish to disturb the inhabitants of Hydros, but we have no choice. By the authority given to me by the General Secretary of the DOOP, I order a global planetary evacuation of Hydros, to be carried out within the allotted time of fifty six hours."

There were gasps from the officers behind him, and from the local in front. Hewson gave Captain Ditte a scowl.

"The DOOP have no authority here, Captain! We shall not leave!"

Ditte sighed and continued, very reluctantly at that, "If the inhabitants of Hydros are not off the planet when this time limit has passed, the object in question will be taken under any circumstances, by force if required. The Democratic Order of Planets will..." Ditte stopped with a growl, his teeth clenched as anger returned. He almost had to beat the last words out of himself to get them out, his voice quivering with disgust as he said the final piece. "... will not be held responsible for any consequences or disasters as a result of this action!"

Ditte exhaled loudly, feeling so dirty that he had to say that. His mouth felt like poison, he wanted to spit out the venom and scream profanities at his superiors. But he didn't. Hewson eventually spoke, his face wrinkled in a frown.

"Your federation is just a heartless, power hungry mob of cruel bureaucrats!" he snapped. "But..."

He paused and looked at Ditte.

"But I see you oppose this decision yourself, Captain."

"Yes, I oppose it," Ditte growled. "But I will still follow my orders. DOOP ships are already en route to Hydros to remove its inhabitants."

"We shall not leave," Hewson answered. He seemed unmovable.

"I may not agree with our actions," said Ditte, "but at least evacuation will ensure your survival."

"It's surely better than dying?" added Kif.

"No, we would rather die!" Hewson argued.

"How can you speak for an entire planet?" Ditte asked. "Others may choose to leave."

"Perhaps so. But I won't leave... my family won't leave, and I know others who won't leave. And if you take that thing while even just one of us is on this planet... you're a murderer!"

"The DOOP will return the gem once we're done with it," Kif said.

"Is that a guarantee?" Hewson asked.

"Yes," said Kif.

"No!" said Ditte quickly. He looked back at Kif for a second, then gazed back toward Hewson.

"We've treated the people of Hydros roughly enough already... we're not going to lie to them, too."

"So you can't even ensure its return then?" Hewson asked him bitterly.

"No we can't. We don't know if it would definitely be returned. It could be months upon months before we even returned it anyway!"

Silence filled the room for a while. Ditte made a final statement.

"The decision has been made, Hewson. As much as I hate this whole mess, we're not backing away. It's up to you now. Are you with us, or are you going down with the ship? You have two days to decide."

It was Hewson's turn to sigh in defeat this time. He knew there was no changing things now.

"I've already told you my decision," he said. "But I will tell the people of Hydros what is happening. Those who choose to leave may do so, but those who choose to stay, and die for the honour of their planet, may also do so."

"I pray their numbers are few," sighed Ditte. "However many deaths I cause through this action will haunt my dreams tenfold."


The golden sun slowly crept from the watery horizon near the seaside city of Marquis, sparkling across the crystal ocean to join a cool coastal breeze in welcoming one of Laplace's main centres to the morning. A sleeping Fry stirred inside one of the Sheridan Hotel's many rooms, as the new day's light hit his face. Opening his eyes, he looked at the opened balcony door where the sun streamed in and the light ocean breeze ruffled the curtains. Then he turned his head the other way, and looked at the peaceful figure beside him.

"Alesia."

He didn't know why he whispered her name, gazing down at the angelic figure. Quite a contrast to how she was the previous night. Now she was just snuggled against him under the covers, her left arm draped across his bare chest and her head on his shoulder. Her warm breathing tickled the skin just below his neck. It reminded him of the mornings when they were lost, both physically and mentally, on Verrone Five, and he'd wake up to find her snuggled against him. But this was different, and not just because they were both naked under the sheets this time. Last night was strange at first, when initially Alesia was so forceful with her intentions. But then after he had finally succumbed to her seduction, everything seemed to gentle and affectionate. So loving. He had slept with a lot of women through the years, but for the first time, Fry could say that he had 'made love'.

"Mmmmm..."

A noise of waking came from her lips, and two large eyes slowly opened. Fry smiled down at her.

"Good morning," he said. She smiled back at him.

"Morning," she answered, before leaning over and kissing his lips gently. "Sleep well?"

"You bet I did," Fry answered simply, his voice as if it were sailing on a distant dream. Alesia smiled and snuggled against him again. Fry put his right arm behind his head lazily, his left absent-mindedly stroking Alesia's hair as he stared out the opened doors again and listened to the calls of sea birds.

"This is so nice," she said. "I love being here with you... just relaxing." She sighed with relaxed content. "I'll bet this is something Leela wouldn't do."

Fry looked at Alesia sceptically. Something about those words didn't feel right. Maybe he should ask her to repeat them?

"What was that?"

"I said that this was something I don't think Leela would do," she answered simply. It didn't feel any better the second time. In fact, worse if anything. Fry sat up more, startling Alesia a bit.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked her.

"I just meant that Leela doesn't love you like I do, so she wouldn't appreciate it as much," Alesia answered, sitting up herself, her hands holding the covers up to her chest. Fry looked at her sideways.

"You didn't just seduce me last night just because of Leela, did you?"

"No," Alesia answered. She didn't sound very convincing though. Fry continued to give her a sceptical stare and she sighed.

"Well... maybe a little."

"So this was just a jealousy thing then?" Fry asked, seeming a little annoyed. "You were just trying to claim me or something..."

"No, I love you!" she argued back, grasping his arm as if she were afraid he'd fade away. "I wanted to make love with you!"

"I don't deny that you did," Fry said simply. "But I think there were other motives behind your actions. And I think they have something to do with Leela."

Alesia sighed. She couldn't deny it any longer. Yes, she had seduced Fry because she loved him and wanted to be with him, but she had also done it because she wanted to make him hers and push Leela out of the picture. She wanted to make Fry's decision for him instead of letting him decide himself. Leela was her competition, and she was determined to beat that competition.

"I'm sorry, Fry," she sighed. "You're right. I partly... in fact, mostly did it to basically make you choose me. I wanted to treat you the way Leela never did, and show you the real love I have for you."

Fry hugged her closely.

"I know you love me Alesia, and I admit that I really, really enjoyed last night... but you can't just take away the love I have for Leela."

She pulled away from the embrace and looked at him.

"And what about her? Could she take away the love you have of me?"

Fry sighed, but then smiled. "I don't think so somehow."

"Then how will you choose. You can't love us both at the same time... not forever?"

Fry's mind wandered at that suggestion for a moment. A dreamy, goofy smile formed on his face and he giggled, drooling a little bit.

"Fry?" Alesia said. It snapped Fry out of it and came to reality and sense. He sighed again.

"You're right. I guess it'll just take time."

"Just remember which of us actually loves you back," Alesia told him. "Or is at least willing to show it."

Fry smiled again, but suddenly gasped as he looked past her towards the bedside dresser, and the digital clock that sat upon it. He screamed.

"Crap! It's eight twenty-six!" he yelled. "We'd better get ready for--"

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Three heavy knocks banged on the door, and a familiar and impatient sounding voice sounded from behind it.

"I hope you're up in there?!" Leela yelled. "We have to go in a few minutes!"

Fry screamed again, then called out to the door, despite some quiet signals from Alesia for him to be quiet.

"I'll be up in a minute!"

"What?!" Leela's voice said. "I'm coming in!"

Fry screamed again quietly, and he pushed at Alesia gently, whispering to her.

"Get down! We can't let Leela see you!"

"But..." she protested. Fry cut her off.

"Hurry!"

He managed to push her out of sight a she eventually gave up. Leela opened the door roughly and stepped in, an angry look on her face. She was dressed in a new pair of pants and a new tank top now. Fry waved at her, a huge grin on his face as he sat up in bed.

"Good morning, Leela," he smiled. "What seems to be the problem?"

"Oh, nothing," she said, sounding rather annoyed. "I was wondering where Alesia was! You haven't seen her have you?!"

Her voice sounded accusing. Fry chuckled.

"Nope... not since we left the restaurant last night."

"Really?!" Leela grunted, her hands on her hips. "I don't believe you!"

"Wh-why not?"

"Well... there's two major problems with your story, Fry," she answered. "The first one is this!"

She stooped down and retrieved something from the ground, then held it up. It was the silky purple night-dress Alesia briefly wore the night before. Fry smiled nervously.

"I-I-I c-can explain that..." he started.

"Perhaps!" Leela nodded, dropping the dress. "But explain problem number two!"

"What is it?"

"This is Alesia's room!!"

"Eep!" came Fry's reply, a guilty look on his sunken face. Leela's eye gazed to the bed itself.

"I bet you're under those covers, so I'd suggest coming out now!"

Alesia's head slid out of the covers and she sat up, holding the covers across her chest again. It was hard to tell whether she was sad, angry or just disappointed as she stared at Leela.

"I should have know you'd pull something like this after what you said last night," Leela growled.

"What?" said Fry to Alesia in surprise. "What did you say to Leela?"

"I went and saw her before we ate," Alesia explained. "I confronted her about whether she loved you or not. I wanted to see her side before I went ahead with the plan, to see whether she loved you or not."

"Wouldn't have mattered," Leela snorted. "You would have done it no matter what I had said!"

"Maybe I would have," Alesia admitted. "In either case, you've had long enough to show Fry the love he deserves."

Leela sneered, Alesia looked at her intently.

"You do love him though," she said simply. "Somewhere in there, you have feelings for him."

"What the hell do you know?!" Leela growled. "You know nothing about me!"

Alesia wrapped the top sheet around her to form a makeshift dress, tearing it from the bed and causing Fry to fall out the other side with a thud. She then stood up and approached her adversary.

"I know because you wouldn't be so angry and hate me so much if you didn't," she said to the angry eye. It narrowed to an even nastier glare.

"I told you before!" Leela rumbled between clenched teeth. "I don't like you because I don't trust you! And I don't trust your intentions towards Fry!"

"Why not?" Alesia challenged back right into Leela's face.

Leela answered with a growl. Fry's head emerged from over the other side of the bed. He looked like he was trying to put something on while he spoke.

"Would you two stop fighting?" he groaned. "You two do nothing but hate each other."

"I don't hate Leela," said Alesia simply. "I just pity her."

Leela was so close to just punching her now. Fry stood up and came around to join them, wearing just his underpants.

"That doesn't mean you have to be at each other's throats all the time," he said. "I think you should both just apologise and let things be."

He put a hand on each of their shoulders. Something came to his mind and he smiled cheesily.

"Go on... kiss and make up," he suggested.

"Shut up, Fry!" Leela said.

Fry groaned.

"Fine then!" he shrugged, his voice raised, but not angry. "If you really want to fight, let's do it properly and hire out one of those mud pits for you to duke it out in!"

He shot them both a wink. Leela looked angry

"Get your mind out of the gutter for once, for God sakes!" she barked.

"Sorry," said Fry with a chuckle, "but mutants aren't allowed on the surface world."

He chuckled again, quite pleased at the quip. Alesia glowered at Leela.

"Why do you have to put him down all the time?" she accused. "Strange way of showing your love to somebody."

Leela roared. Alesia had finally got to her, but she wasn't going to throttle Alesia like she wanted to. For Fry's sake if nobody else's.

"Fine!" she yelled. "You two can have each other!"

She pushed Alesia roughly into Fry's arms and began to storm off, turning to say one last thing before leaving.

"I don't care! Why the hell should I?! It's none of my business what you guys do!"

She opened the door and her voice calmed slightly. Only just.

"Just make sure you're both changed and in the lobby within ten minutes," she added. Then she walked through, slamming the door closed behind her. They didn't get to see the small tear trickling from her eye.

Fry fell to the bed with an exhausted sigh.

"I'm glad that's over with!" he grumbled.

"Despite what she said, this is far from over," Alesia stated. "Leela was angry, she didn't mean what she said. I can tell. This whole thing has less to do with myself and Leela than appearances seem to dictate." She turned to Fry. "The outcome, whatever it is, all comes down to you."


"Eureka!" celled Madcap. "I've found a way in!"

The others joined him at looking at the possible entry. It was a large hole, about five or six metres in diameter that lead down into darkness. Madcap's claw retracted into his metal arm and he pulled a small device from his belt and slotted it into the hole where the claw previously popped out of. With a whirr and a click, the device was attached to it. Madcap held his arm out into the hole, and a strong light beam shone from the new attachment. He searched the hole, moving his arm around, but only deeper darkness could be seen.

"Like the exterior of this elephantine entity, it stretches into the halls of infinity," Chris stated.

Dawson, Madcap and Boris gave her strange looks.

"I mean... It's damn deep," she corrected.

"We'll have to go down by rope then," Dawson stated. "Let's set up some supports attached up here."

"I wonder what it's for?" mused Chris as Dawson removed his pack to get the karabiners out. Madcap removed the torch attachment from his mechanical appendage, swapping it for a different one on his belt.

"Perhaps it's where the septic tank is emptied?" he speculated with a mad chuckle. Chris screwed up her nose.

Whirrrrrrrrrr!

Madcap spun the large drill piece he had just attached to test it. He applied it to the metal near the top edge of the hole.

Whirrrrrududududududdddd!

The drill resisted and slipped off the edge of the surface, not even scratching it. For once Madcap's grin disappeared.

"Tough metal, da?" stated Boris simply. Madcap grunted and tried again, pushing down even harder.

Crack!

The drill piece broke off and flew into the face of Chris' helmet, ricocheting off of it and into space. It left nothing more than a thin scratch across the visor, and Chris didn't even flinch.

"Da," she agreed simply, raising an eyebrow. Madcap growled.

"What is this beast forged from?! No wonder the DOOP had such difficulty in destroying it!"

"Relax, we'll just use the magnetic karabiners instead," said Dawson calmly, replacing the old ones back in his pack and producing some new ones. He walked over and held the karabiner near the metal where Madcap tried to drill earlier, then pressed a button on the side. The object snapped onto the metal surface effortlessly.

"You're lucky it was a magnetic metal," Chris smirked.

"Get your ropes ready people," Dawson announced, clipping his rope to the karabiner firmly. "We're going in."


9:53

Leela looked away from the clock in the hotel lobby, her gaze returning to the stairs as she tapped her boot impatiently. The only one with her was Doctor Zoidberg.

"You seem tense, Leela," Zoidberg said with concern. "I recommend--"

"Alesia and Fry had sex last night, okay?!!" she blurted out to him before he could even finish, attracting the attention of several employees and hotel partons. It made her realise how tense she was, so she calmed down a little. Admittedly, saying that out loud was a little relieving by itself.

"I think I had that last night too," said Zoidberg, rather calmly. "Were they the small pink things wrapped in those thin leaves with that minty sauce on the side? In either case, I don't know why you're so outraged because they had a certain kind of food."

"Uh... Zoidberg... What I meant is that they spent the night together."

Zoidberg gasped.

"They mated?!"

"Yes," Leela sighed.

"Does that mean there are going to be lots of little Fry's and Alesia's?" he beamed suddenly.

"Zoidberg..."

"Yes?"

"Shut up."

Zoidberg groaned. Leela heard footsteps coming down the stairs and looked towards them. Amy emerged, wearing yet another different top, and causing Leela to roll her eye. This one was a short, red shirt that exposed her midriff and had no arms. Baring her shoulders also, it was held on by a loop around her neck. She smiled as she saw her friends.

"Okay, let's get going th... Wait! Where are Fry and Alesia?"

"Having sex," said Leela calmly, then she snapped back to reality. "I-I mean, they're still on their way!"

"Okay," Amy smiled. "It's just that I'm usually the last one t-" Amy cut herself off and cocked her head to one side. "Wait... Why did you say--"

"Fry and Alesia mated last night," Zoidberg butted in. Amy gasped, then a huge smile came to her face.

"Really?!" she giggled. "That's so..."

She saw Leela's angry grimace.

"... wrong!" Amy finished with a fake frown. Leela snorted.

"Not that I care. I just want them down here so we can go to Professor Smatt's."

Fry and Alesia emerged from the staircase. Fry smiled at the group.

"Sorry we're late."

"It's about time!" Leela said angrily. "Let's just go, we're probably late as it is!"

Leela rushed the group to the ship, entering the cockpit to find Nibbler sitting on her seat. She smiled at him and he jabbered incoherently at her.

"Nibbler... I'll bet you're hungry, aren't you?"

He responded with frantic nodding and more noise. She picked him up and looked sadly at him.

"Awwwww... I haven't fed you for days, have I? Well, I promise I'll get you some Kibbles and Snouts soon, but right now I need to do something else."

She placed him down on the floor nearby as everybody else took his or her seats too. He whimpered a disappointed groan.

"I promise, you'll be eating within a couple of hours," she consoled as she activated the ship. "If I don't, just eat Zoidberg or something."

Nibbler perked up and looked at the crustacean doctor, licking his lips. Zoidberg squealed and recoiled slightly.

The ship lifted off into the air. Normally Leela wouldn't fuss over Nibbler quite so much during an important mission like this, but his cute little face helped take her mind of recent unpleasantness. Within a minute, the ship landed outside Smatt's house and the crew approached his door.

"Aren't the pirates going to see the ship there, Leela?" Fry asked his captain.

"We'll be gone before then," she answered simply. "Let's just hope this works."

The door to the house opened, Smatt appearing in its entrance. He smiled wearily.

"Come in my friends, I have some news for you. Plus a surprise!"

They wandered into his office. Smatt took a seat at his desk.

"So what's the surprise?" Fry asked.

His answer came in the form of two cold, hard hands covering his eyes from behind, a quirky voice speaking to him as they did.

"Guess who, Fry!"

"Uhhhhhhh.... Hermes?"

"No!" said an annoyed voice as the hands let go and spun Fry around. "It's your best pal!"

Fry gasped with joy at the sight of the fully restored Bender in his old bending unit body. Everybody else looked happy as well.

"My God! Bender! Look at you! You look better than new!"

"Yeah," Bender admitted. "The Professor even scraped off the red paint from my chassis and polished me up! My ass is even shinier than ever!"

"That's great!" said Fry. He was ecstatic. It even put a smile on Leela's face to see him again.

"It's good to have you back, Bender," she said sweetly.

"Yeah, we missed the old Bender," Amy added.

"Hooray!" came Zoidberg's cry. "I feel like hugging you!"

"I feel like hugging you, too," said Bender happily. His tone changed to anger quickly. "Hugging your throat with my hands for making fun of me when I was in that stupid little body that is!!!"

He approached Zoidberg with his hands outstretched. The doctor squealed and hid behind Leela for safety. She put a hand out to stop Bender.

"You can strangle Zoidberg later," she said simply. "But there are more important matters at hand."

"Indeed there are," nodded Professor Smatt. "You have the fake gem I assume?"

"Right here," said Leela, taking out from down her top and handing it to the professor. He examined it.

"Do you keep everything in there?" asked Fry.

"No, just the things I don't want you to touch," Leela answered simply.

"Ooooh! Buuuurn!" said Bender. The Professor smiled.

"Yes, as long as they don't look at it too carefully, this should suffice nicely."

"Good," nodded Leela. "Now what did you find out for us?"

"Two things actually," he smiled. "Two locations to be precise. Well, possible locations anyway. The red jewel is possibly on the planet Graz, in the care of an individual named Lord Suikkanen. The other location isn't really a location of one of the jewels at all, but rather, the second half of the staff. The piece that holds the ruby, emerald and sapphire."

"Great!" smiled Leela. "Where is that?"

"On a small, icy world called Glaciatus in the possession of some small creatures called Iffles. They apparently use it for a sacred altar as a holy candelabrum. They believed when it arrived on their world, it was a gift from their three gods to allow them to place burning candles in the object for worship. One flame for each of the deities"

"Thank you, Professor Smatt," Leela said. "We'll use this info well. What are you going to tell the pirates?"

"After I 'break' the gem, I'll tell them the real one can be found on the planet Ghak, which sits near the other end of the universe."

"Good," Leela smiled.

Alesia suddenly spoke: "Wait. Did you say the planet with the piece of staff was Glaciatus?"

"Yes."

Alesia sighed heavily.

"What's wrong?" Fry asked.

"Nothing really," she answered. "It's just that Glaciatus is in the Avanzino galaxy... if we knew we could have easily got it ages ago. It's not far from Verrone Five."

"Do you know much about it?" Fry asked. She shook her head.

"No. I just know my star maps well," she answered.

"We'll go to Graz first," said Leela. "Then once we have the ruby, we'll go to Glaciatus. But first we need to go and wait for the pirates to come, drop our prize, and go."


"Finally!" said Chris with a huff as her feet touched the ground. "I thought we'd never reach the bottom!"

Dawson landed beside her, then Madcap and Boris arrived too. They stood in what looked like the inside of a fairly large and long pipe, the same diameter as the hole they had just descended through. It stretched both in front and behind them, and, like everything else about the beast so far, it seemed endless.

"Which way do we go then?" Madcap asked. Dawson looked behind them and pointed.

"This way seems good enough," he said determinedly, choosing that way for no apparent reason.

The group began to follow him into the unknown. They only got about a dozen metres or so when Dawson stopped. He then stooped, touching his gloved finger to something on the ground.

"What is it?" asked Chris.

"It looks like water," he answered simply upon examination. Then, in the distance, a rumble.

"What's that?!" asked Madcap, clearly a tad nervous from the noise coming from in front of them.

"Sounds like water," Dawson stated calmly.

All eyes looked at their leader, then looked back at the empty void where the sound was building up from. Then, they saw it in the distant darkness: a gush off flowing water. They turned to Dawson.

"Okay," he said sedately. "Here's what I want you all to do..."

He finished off his sentence more desperately.

"... RUN!"

Simultaneously, the four of them turned away from the approaching torrent and sprinted as fast as their legs and suits would let them. Four pairs of legs pumped rapidly, tearing across the long metal tube at surprising speed. But it was nothing compared to the velocity of the flood behind them. They passed beneath the hole that granted them entry, and Madcap gasped as he saw racing liquid out the back corner of his eye. Boris, the slowest of them, suddenly felt something hit his feet violently.

CLANG!!!

The burly Russian was sent flying forwards through the air, over the heads of Dawson and Chris before hitting the ground and beginning to slide. The other three turned around as they ran, then gasped and began to slow. After his skid was brought to a halt, Boris turned around and looked back.

"Great Stalin's Ghost!" he exclaimed. The other three just stood there, completely safe, and staring at a huge metal wall blocking where they had just come from. The rumble of water could be heard on the other side, and there was nothing but a small pool of moving water on the ground.

"It must have slid up out of the ground to stop the water," Dawson said. "Looks like it was diverting it out of the hole we came through."

"Why does this stupid thing have water inside it?!" growled Chris.

"I don't know," said Boris in his deep Russian accent. "But there's apparently air in here now."

"So you mean..." started Dawson.

"Yes. We're in a Class M monster."

"Well then... Suits off people," he announced. "We won't need them after all."

The group removed their packs and then took off their suits.

"Where will we store them?" Chris asked as she stepped out of her space boots and pulled her pack back on. "More water could come through this place."

She picked up her gun and checked it. Dawson grabbed his suit and held it up to the wall.

"The electro magnets for the packs on the back of them are pretty strong," he stated. He pressed a button and the suit snapped against the wall effortlessly. "I'd say they could stand up to water."

The other three followed suit, then followed Dawson through the rest of the large, tubular passageway.

"So where are we headed exactly?" Madcap asked.

"Down," came Dawson's response, his eyes fixed on the darkness ahead as he strode confidently. "We want to get to the heart of this thing if we can."

Everybody gasped.

"But... that has to be over twenty-five thousand kilometres away!" Chris objected. "It would take months upon months on foot!"

"Then we'd better not waste any time," he smirked simply.

"Time is not a statue for those exterior to this Cronus of aerospace," she whispered to herself.

"You say something?"

"Uh... I just said that the longer we take, the more planets will be attacked."


"Ding dong, ding dong! Ding dong, ding dong!"

Professor Smatt pivoted around swiftly on his desk chair towards the large grandfather clock near the office door.

10:00

That's what the digital panel on it displayed. Then, like clockwork, a knock at the door. Smatt sighed, removing a nervous hand from his jacket pocket and the glass jewel within, as he walked towards the door. Sure enough, upon opening the object, Captain Peck stood there with a sneer on her face and two pirates at her side, Commander Sebastian and Lieutenant Tommassello. Her face switched to an almost-sweet smile. Bittersweet would be an apt description.

"Thank you for leaving the gates open for us, Professor," she said, about as nice as her voice got. "Most kind of you."

"I knew you were coming," he sighed. "Please, come in..."

The three pirates walked past him and straight into his office. Captain Peck took the liberty of sitting in the Professor's chair as he entered. She took out the Emerald of Utopia from her own pocket, placing it on the table upright so that the sharp bottom point touched the surface slightly.

"You look tired, Professor," she stated simply, that bittersweet tone returning. She twisted her hand to set the jewel twirling on the desk like a spinning top. It reeled there in one spot perfectly upright.

"I was up all night finding your information," Smatt said simply. Peck smiled, an eyebrow cocking up from beneath the patch that hid it.

"Yes, I'm sure you were," she stated simply, crossing her legs comfortably and watching the jewel whirling. Smatt felt nervous, especially with those other two pirates just staring at him. One with two hooks, the other with a long sword.

"So..." Peck said after a long silent period, "what do you have for me then?"

She placed her left index finger softly down on the top centre of the gem, halting it in a flash and leaving it sitting upright beneath the digit. Her visible eye flicked to Smatt, the action making the Professor swear a poisoned dart had been shot at him in the process. He composed himself.

"I still think your gem is fake," he stated.

Peck looked angry and stood up, grasping her jewel as she did. "Don't start this crap again, Professor!" she growled. "Your lies won't work on us!"

"But research indicates that the real Emerald of Utopia is found on a planet called Ghak," Smatt argued. "Please... just a few more tests to make sure!"

Captain Peck chuckled loudly. It soon morphed into a cackle, before ceasing abruptly.

"I don't think so!" she hissed, her words as cold and venomous as her lips were red. She sauntered over towards Smatt and reached into his jacket pocket.

"Is this a fake gem in your pocket, Professor..." she started beguilingly, removing the item from its hiding place and holding up to his fear-filled eyes. "Or are you just trying to DECEIVE ME?!!!"

She threw the item across the room, it shattering upon contact with the back wall, then whipped around and grabbed the Professor violently by the collar, holding him up just millimetres from her angry face. He shuddered and squirmed in her grasp.

"H-H-How did you know?!" he stuttered. She managed to smile, though it was a smile Lucifer would envy.

"You don't honestly think we were just going to trust you, did you?!" she hissed. "You must think I am a FOOL?!!"

She reached over to the Professor's desk and put her hand under the outer rim. The hand produced a small device, which she showed to Smatt carefully. He gulped as he realised what it was.

"A tiny microphone," he whimpered. "You bugged me!"

Her grin changed into clenched teeth.

"You're pathetic!!" she hissed, then spat into his eyes. Before he had hardly flinched, he was swung back and launched through the air. His back slammed into the grandfather clock near the door, smashing through the glass window and into the pendulum within the lower casing. His tiny torso fell to the ground with a groan of pain. Captain Peck stepped towards him again, but only made it one step before she heard a familiar voice.

"That's enough, Peck!" it said. "Hold it right there!"

Leela leapt out from behind a tall bookcase at the back of the room, a laser pistol in her hand. Peck and the other pirates jumped with shock, glaring at her.

"Drop those swords!" Leela ordered. "Now!"

The Captain and Lieutenant reluctantly complied. Peck sneered at her adversary.

"How come we didn't pick up on your ambush?!" she growled. "The place was bugged, we could hear everything!"

"Because!" said another voice from the office doorway. "We never actually discussed it with the Professor."

Fry emerged from the passage into the room, also holding a pistol. Alesia and Amy, who also held guns, joined him. Fry pointed his at the Captain, while Amy covered Tommassello, and Alesia trained hers on Sebastian. She was shaking a little bit as she did, and something in the commander's eye seemed to glint at this insecurity. Nobody noticed it.

"We wanted to check on things in case something went wrong," said Leela. "But we didn't want the Professor to know either."

"Using a fake pizza delivery call to distract him about fifteen minutes ago," added Fry, "we snuck inside his house and hid in various places."

"So now if you'll kindly hand over our gem," said Bender as he wandered in cheerfully and approached the Captain. "We'll leave you be."

Captain Peck reluctantly gave the object to the robot, as Doctor Zoidberg wandered in an examined the Professor over. Commander Sebastian looked at the shaking Alesia. He grinned.

"Hey, girl..." he said quietly.

"Y-Yes?" she asked timidly.

"BOO!!" he yelled into her face. Alesia screamed and dropped the gun. Before any others could react, Sebastian had wrapped his arms around the girl with a hook to her throat. While the others gasped, Leela just cursed into her chest.

"Drop your guns!!" the Commander ordered. "Or we'll play a game of tick-tack-toe on her neck! And she won't be the winner!!"

"ALESIA!!" called Fry.

"Stay back, boy!" snarled Sebastian. "Before I make you choose to be X's or O's!"

"Don't be a hero, Fry!" Zoidberg warned. "You already used up all the hero-related injuries your health insurance covers this year! You don't want to do into debt!"

"Yes, Fry," the Commander growled, the delivery boy's name said with utter contempt. "Else I mark out the grid right now!"

"What's the point if she's already dead?" Leela called back.

"Huh?!" Sebastian said with confusion.

Leela answered by shooting her gun directly at Alesia. The blast hit the girl in the chest, her body going limp. Sebastian dropped her to the ground in a heap, a look of surprise on his face, as well as the faces of everybody else. Fry was so shocked, he was a statue. His eyes looked like they were made of glass and his tongue flopped out of his mouth. Leela smiled wickedly before any more words could be said..

"And now for the rest of you!"

She shot Sebastian first, making him stumble backwards and crash through the window behind him. Tommassello was next, dropping to the ground. Peck looked at Leela with shock after seeing her officers fall.

"You're mad!!" she accused.

"Damn right I am, bitch!" Leela growled. Then, pirate captain was dropped too. Leela breathed a heavy sigh of relief, then looked around. Everybody else's eyes were on her, wide with shock, confusion and awe.

"What?" she asked them with a shrug. Fry ran to Alesia, tears welling up in his eyes. Amy frowned at her captain.

"How the hell could you do that?!" she said, a mix of anger and sadness in her voice. "I know you disliked Alesia, but..."

Leela looked shocked herself now.

"What? You actually thought I..."

Her voice trailed off as she saw angry eyes glance back at her. She saw Fry cradling Alesia in his arms.

"Oh, for God sakes!" Leela said, throwing her arms up. "The gun was only set to stun! I can't believe you actually thought I'd really shoot her!"

Everybody sighed with relief. Fry looked across as Leela, still rather shaken.

"Y-Y-You mean..."

"Yes, she'll be fine in a few minutes," Leela answered firmly. Fry sighed with relief and wiped a tear away.

"Oh, thank God!" he exclaimed. "Thank God!"

Leela looked around, her expression becoming submissive as something hit her.

"Wait... you all honestly did think I..." she started. This was followed by a gasp.

"My God! Have I really come off as that... mean towards her?"

Simultaneous nods came from Amy, Zoidberg and Bender. Fry was still just hugging Alesia and repeating his thanks that she was alive quietly. Leela's heart sank.

"Oh, Fry... I'm so sorry," she said with genuine honesty. "I didn't know I was being such a monster."

Fry stopped rocking Alesia and looked back at Leela.

"That's okay," he said simply, though his eyes didn't really look that forgiving. "I guess she just brings out the worst in you. Especially after we had sex."

"What?!" blurted Bender, whirling his head around. "When did that happen?!"

Bender's question was ignored, as Amy approached Leela sternly, to the surprise of the cyclops.

"Still... you enjoyed that, didn't you?" she accused. Leela was taken aback, Amy continued.

"I saw it in your eye when you fired, even if it was just a spun blast... I saw the spite and pleasure you took from shooting her."

"What?!" Leela answered. "That's just..."

She trailed off as her eye glanced over to Fry. He was looking at her with pained eyes. She exhaled in a shuddering breath.

"Okay... I won't lie to you," Leela said. "I took pleasure in shooting her. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was just venting some pent up rage though... that's all. I would never really cause her any harm..."

She looked down at Fry.

"If only for your sake, Fry," she added.

After a period of quiet in the room, Leela turned to Zoidberg and the exhausted looking Smatt. "How's the Professor going?"

"He'll be fine," Zoidberg answered. "Just a few glass cuts, some bruising and a nasty knock to the back of the head. Nothing a few days of rest won't fix up."

"Good," Leela nodded. Fry picked up Alesia in his arms and approached Leela. She was quite a bit heavier than she looked.

"What are we going to do with the pirates?" he asked her simply. Leela's eye saddened at his words, not because of what he said, but because of how he said it. His voice seemed so empty. Devoid of any respect, emotion or kindness. It wasn't even bitter, in fact, it was worse than bitter. It was as if Fry had thrown away all feelings of anything positive about her. Like his heart had just ripped out all feelings of pleasantness between them. She eventually answered as she stared at his equally empty eyes.

"They're stunned too, so we'd better tie them up or something before they wake up."

She noticed her wrist computer on Captain Peck's arm, so bent down and took it. There was a noise of objection from the Professor.

"You can't leave them here!" groaned Smatt from the floor. "They'll finish me off!"

"No they won't," said Leela firmly, clipping the retrieved item to her wrist. "We'll take you somewhere to rest up, so by the time they come too, you won't be around. Besides, they won't care enough about you to come after you. They'll just want to find us."

"Where are you going to take me?" the Professor wheezed. Leela whipped a piece of paper from her pants pocket.

"To the Sheridan Hotel," she smiled as we waved her ticket around. "This alone will get you another six nights of rest and relaxation there."

"So I suppose after we drop him off it's back to the ship and off to Graz, huh?" Bender queried.

"That's right," Leela nodded. "Let's tie up these losers and get going."


"Hurry up!" Baldur yelled. "You're taking too long!"

Zapp groaned, slumping along the ground behind Baldur. They were again walking through a long, wide and tall passageway of metal.

"Please, have mercy!" the Captain wheezed. "I need rest!"

"You always need rest!" Baldur growled.

"Yeah, because you never let me have any!" Zapp argued with a tired breath.

"I've stopped and let you have plenty of rest! We rested only half an hour ago!"

"That wasn't a rest... that was a short break..."

Baldur snorted.

"Plus," added Zapp. "I'm hungry!"

"How about I rip out your lungs and feed them to you then?!" Baldur suggested loudly.

"No, I'm fine!" Zapp answered nervously.

"Then shut up!"

"Wait?" asked Zapp sceptically. "Why am I taking orders from you? After all, I am the captain! And as captain, I declare Captain Law!"

"Captain Law?!" Baldur asked. "What the hell is that?!"

"It's like Martial Law, but because I'm a captain and not a marshall... it's called Captain Law."

"You're an idiot!! Do you even know what Martial Law is?!"

"I don't need to... this is Captain's Law, not Martial Law," Zapp said proudly.

"GRRRRRRRR!!!"

"Now," Zapp continued, ignoring Baldur's angry gaze. "My first order under the law of the captain is for you to give a foot rub to the captain... Me."

Baldur continued to stare at Zapp angrily, snorting and going red in the face with rage. Zapp continued to ignore this and removed one boot.

"You might as well start with this foot, since it's my favourite," the captain said arrogantly. "Also, these boots are kind of sweaty, so you may want to find some kind of boot spray before I put them back on. Either that or baby powder."

"MASSAGE THIS!!!" Baldur yelled, and he grabbed Zapp and threw him angrily into the dark distance ahead. The captain's scream disappeared into the distance, finally ending as a hard metallic clang sounded far away. Baldur stooped and picked up the boot Zapp had dropped.

"AND HERE'S YOUR STUPID BOOT, TOO!!!" he screamed, then launched it in the same direction. There was a thunk in the distance, followed by a far away "Ow!" from the captain. Baldur calmed down and little and began to march off towards where he hard hurled Zapp. It made him feel better, but he still wanted to just blast the annoyance. Unfortunately, Baldur mused that he may still be useful.

"I wonder how far I threw him?" Baldur said to himself. "The further the better as far as I'm concerned!"

It was a good two minutes of walking before Baldur saw something. The sight was strange though, for sure.

"What the hell?" Baldur exclaimed quietly.

In front of him was a wall that ended the passageway, as well as Zapp standing there. The strange thing was though, that Zapp was actually standing on the wall, completely horizontal. The passageway seemed to continue above the small warrior at a right angle. Zapp looked up, or at least up for him, and saw Baldur.

"About time you got here," he said. "And what are you doing walking on the wall up there? Who are you trying to be... the Green Lantern?"

"I'm not standing on the wall you fool!" Baldur stated. "YOU are!"

"That's stupid!" Zapp said. "Though come to think of it, you did throw me straight across the passageway, and I did hit this floor straight on and stayed here, without falling down to the wall..."

Baldur stepped forward a few steps and things felt strange. He took another step and then felt a tug towards the wall ahead. Another step and gravity had suddenly changed ninety degrees, with what was previously horizontal becoming vertical and visa versa. He landed on his feet beside Zapp and looked up towards the passageway he had just come from.

"Gravity has a nexus point right above our heads," he stated plainly. "Perspective has now been altered for us."

"So where do we go now then?" shrugged Zapp.

"Clearly we go where up was before which has now become across, because we came from where across was before which has now become up."

Zapp just stared at him blankly for a moment.

"Wha...?"

"This way, idiot!" he said, pushing Zapp aside roughly and marching ahead. "I don't know where we're going now, but it's straight up from where we were going before."


The Planet Express ship sailed away from the planet of Laplace, en route to the planet of Graz. Inside, Leela sat at the controls, looking a little uneasy as she did. Zoidberg played a now fully awake Alesia in a game of chess, while Fry watched them. Amy sat and examined the emerald carefully, and Bender was gone. He had disappeared into the kitchen a few minutes ago chanting something about long due beer and how great he was. Fry looked across at Leela and stood up, approaching her. His face looked determined and annoyed about something.

"Leela," he stated firmly. "We need to talk."

Alesia's head turned towards them, one hand dangling a knight about a chequered square. Leela turned to Fry.

"Okay then... talk."

"I meant alone."

"But I'm piloting the ship at the moment," she objected simply.

Fry turned and gave a hard glance to the three others behind him. They got the idea, standing up and making their way towards the door. Alesia flicked her head behind her to dispense one final worried glance as the door closed, leaving the delivery boy and his captain alone.

"Okay then," Leela's no-nonsense voice said. "What is it?"

"Oh, it's quite simple," said Fry, crossing his arms. "Basically just WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!"

"With Alesia I assume?"

"Damn right, with Alesia!" Fry yelled back. "You've been nothing but nasty to her since you met, and I don't get why! You were never this way around my other girlfriends in the past. Morgan... Michelle... Umbriel... The Amazonians... Even Amy! What's so different about Alesia?!"

"I told you before! I don't trust her!"

"Why not?!"

"I just don't!"

"That's not good enough!" Fry yelled in frustration. "I need a reason, dammit!!"

"You want a reason?!" Leela growled. "Fine! I don't trust her because I don't think she treats you right! I think she's using you! I don't even think really she loves you... She's just clinging to you because you're the only thing she has in this world! That's sad for her, I admit, but face it, Fry... you're just the object of desire from a stupid little crush from an amnesia-stricken mind that didn't let you go when she should have!"

Fry sneered at her for a few seconds.

"You're wrong!" he hissed. "And even if you were right, I know that she loves me ten times more than you ever will!"

Leela didn't answer, she didn't know what to say. She just stared back at him, then found something she could tell him.

"I'm just looking out for a friend, Fry," she said, trying to sound as kind as possible. "That's why I'm concerned about all this."

"Friend, huh?" Fry snorted. "Well this friend has had just about enough of your 'help' as far as he's concerned! And you know what... I just don't care any more!"

"What do you mean by that?" Leela asked him.

"I love Alesia," Fry stated simply. "And she's shown that she loves me... for who I am. And I am so God-damned sick of putting up with years of crap and rejection from you!"

Leela's eye twisted with a tinge of sadness. Fry breathed heavily and continued.

"Do you know much it has really hurt me over these years?! Every time I get shot down... every time you push me away! It's like you are stabbing me in the heart with a blunt spoon, it aching away over the next few hours or days as the spoon keeps poking away at it! Well I GIVE UP!!!"

Fry banged his first down on the table. For some reason the whole ship seemed to rattle. Leela felt a nasty turn in her stomach.

"What are you saying?" she asked, trying not to sound too bothered by it all. "You're going to stop hitting on me and trying to get me to go out with you?"

"Not just that, Leela... You're a good co-worker, and a good friend. But I don't even..."

He looked in her eye as he trailed off, looking deep inside himself to find the courage to continue.

"I don't even think I love you anymore."

Leela felt the ice in his frost-coated words. She didn't say a word, and just watched as he gave her a final cold stare and slowly walked away.

"I'm just going to grab a snack from the kitchen," she heard his emotionless voice say behind her as she stared ahead and tried to take it all in. "I'll be back in a minute."

As the kitchen door closed behind her with a painful echo, Leela let out a sad sigh. Her thoughts raced away, faster and further than the stars that streaked by outside. They were so far that she didn't even notice a shadow that was lurking in the corner behind was now approaching her slowly.

Buddies