Fan Fiction

Futurama: Universe of Malice, Part 24
By Kenneth White

Chapter 24 - Final Odyssey

Not for billions of years had these azoic objects been together. Ruby, sapphire, emerald and topaz. Each was now set neatly into their appropriate claws, surrounded by domes of clear glass. These four jewels in turn were attached together via an elegant golden staff, just over a metre in length. Alone the bright orange gem perched at one end glowing radiantly, while the other three sat upon the other, a metal antennae in the middle. Upon the handle near the centre was a button, behind which sat a pin.

"Well, that's it," Professor Farnsworth announced as he, Elod, Zoidberg, Cubert, Hermes and Robot 1-X just stared at it sitting on the table. "The Ancient Staff of Power is complete. We can leave as soon as Leela and the others arrive."

"Hooray!" yelled Zoidberg, his claws raised victoriously into the air. "I'm going on another trip with friends!"

"Oh no," Farnsworth said. "You're staying here with Robot 1-X, Zoidberg."

"What?!" the doctor squealed. "Why?!"

"Because if we're all killed... and by 'if' I mean 'when,' I don't want you waiting there in hell too!"

As Zoidberg groaned mournfully, the main entrance doors opened and Leela stepped in wearing her lime jacket, looking bothered about something and carrying Bender's head. A cold blast of air swirled into the building from outside, and before the doors slipped shut again, those inside could see incipient snowflakes blowing around.

"You're two minutes and fifty five seconds late!" Hermes declared.

"They were actually two minutes and fifty three seconds late upon arrival, Mister Conrad," corrected Robot 1-X. "You wasted two seconds turning around to acknowledge them."

"I feel so ashamed," Hermes sighed, slumping his shoulders.

"Hi guys," Leela said quietly, acting strangely reserved. "Amy should be here soon. And so should Fry..."

She paused, her solitary pupil drifting away for a moment.

"I hope," she added.

The Professor walked over, looking a bit annoyed. "Why are you just holding Bender's head?!"

"I found him in the street on the way here," she answered simply, before glaring at the head and abruptly sounding angry. "It's a good thing too, because I'd kick his shiny metal ass if I had found it!"

"Look, I said I'm sorry!" Bender answered in defence. "I didn't know Fry was that bad, okay?!"

"What happened?" Farnsworth asked.

Leela sighed. "Bender was keeping an eye on Fry, but almost as soon as he left, Fry tried to commit suicide."

Hermes, the Professor, Zoidberg and Cubert all gasped.

"I managed to rush to Fry's apartment just in time to save him," Leela finished to ease their minds. "He's a bit better now..."

Again, her gaze diverted away for a second. "I think..."

"Where's the rest of you then?" the Professor asked Bender's head.

"At the moment, it's being slightly dirtier than my mind," Bender answered with a chuckle. Everybody recoiled with sounds of disgust, Leela herself almost dropping him.

"Well, tell it to get here soon!" Farnsworth ordered. "We need to get going as soon as we can!"

"Fine!" Bender snorted. "He should be here within a few minutes, but he won't be happy! He barely got his fifty bucks worth!"

The entrance doors slid open again and Amy walked in, looking a bit pale and sad about something.

"Ah, Amy's here!" the Professor smiled. "Now we just have to wait for Fry and the amorous robot's body."

"Are you okay, Amy?" Leela asked the Chinese Martian girl as she approached.

"I'm fine," she said with a forced smile after a petite sniffle. "Never better."

Amy's rather confident voice was betrayed by the look in her eyes, making Leela feel bad. Something was bothering Amy for sure, and as far as Leela was concerned, she already had enough friends with emotional problems as it was. She looked away, her gaze moving to the table.

"Oh. So that's it, huh?" she asked. "The staff is completely assembled?"

"Yes," smiled Farnsworth, turning and picking up the object proudly. "Isn't it beautiful?"

"It sure is," nodded Leela, walking closer. "Who'd have thought something so pretty is also so destructive?"

"Yeah," said the head in her arms with an agreeing sigh. "It must be a female."

"Shut up, Bender!"

"For extra safety precaution I even added this little pin," Farnsworth said, indicating the object. "You can't press the button without pulling it out first. Observe..."

Farnsworth held up the staff, but as he did the pin slipped out and tinkled onto the floor. His thumb rose above the button and everybody screamed "Professor!" simultaneously. Leela grabbed his hand and stopping him quickly, and as he looked at her with confusion, Elod retrieved the pin from the floor and showed it to him with a dry, irritated look.

"Whoops!" the elderly scientist exclaimed. "That would have been unpleasant for all concerned. And by that I mean the entire universe!"

"I'll go and find a thicker pin," said Leela, placing Bender's head on the table and walking away. Farnsworth nodded and put the staff back down, while Elod spoke to him.

"May I suggest we remove the topaz as an extra safeguard?"

"Yes, you may suggest that," Farnsworth nodded. "But whether I'll do it is another matter."

"Will you?"

"I don't know... It kind of reduces the danger of the mission..."

"I'll do it myself then," Elod answered impatiently, then he took off the glass orb around the orange gem, removed the item in question, and replaced the dome. There was a short silent moment, then Farnsworth turned to him.

"You're boring!"

Just as Farnsworth's claim had finished, the main doors slid aside to let a rather dejected looking Fry inside. No jacket he wore, noticeably shivering from the chilly weather, but not seeming that concerned about it.

"Good morning, Fry," Hermes said pleasantly. "Sleep well?"

Leela returned with a larger pin as Hermes asked the question, just in time to receive a subtly bitter glance that only she would pick up from him. She stopped in her tracks, regarding him and wondering what he was going to respond with to Hermes' question.

"Fine," came his eventual answer, in a rather straightforward manner. "Surprisingly good in fact," he added.

He gave Leela another quick glance, which made her heart jump.

"But then morning came and I woke up with some severe heartburn," he mumbled to finish.

Leela didn't say anything, instead just handing the Professor the new pin.

"So where are we going and when?" Fry queried his elderly nephew.

"After meeting with the DOOP, we're off to a planet called Ulpius," Farnsworth smiled as he put in the new pin. "And we're leaving as soon as Bender's body arrives. In fact, since there's no time to lose, everybody get into the ship now. That way we're ready when he does."

"He's only a couple of blocks away anyway," Bender said. "And he's got a purse and two wallets with him he collected on the way."

"Everybody in then!" the Professor rushed. "Hurry!"

Everybody except for Robot 1-X climbed aboard the ship, but Zoidberg soon flew back out, bouncing down the steps of the landing gear with squeals of pain and landing in a lump at the bottom with a groan. Before he could even stand, a headless metal body ran over top of him and up the stairs.

"I told you to stay behind, Zoidberg!" the Professor yelled down at him.

"As much as I don't like sticking up for him, Professor," Leela stated firmly. "We might need a doctor on the trip."

"Oh, all right!" Farnsworth groaned. "But you have to feed him and clean up his mess! Now let's go already!"

Zoidberg quickly stood up and whooped up the steps again as the ship began to move, rising into the air. A small gasp sounded from one of the many open doors inside the Planet Express office, and Nibbler found himself having to sprint at top speed and perform a great leap so that he could grasp onto the tip of the forward landing gear. It retracted into the ship, and Nibbler crawled in with it.

"Hang on people!" Farnsworth said. "For this may be our last journey! Second last if you count the trip to DOOP Orbital Base a separate trip though..."

The ship sailed vertically out of the Planet Express building, then gracefully turned its nose toward the heavens and shot into the clouds, undaunted by the flurry of thick snowflakes. Within moments, the large DOOP space station appeared in front of them, half lit on its right side by the distant sun, while contrarily in complete shadow on the left. Though there were a few ships around it, one ship in particular was very familiar to them, docked on the outside of the massive orbiting terminal like a bee on its hive. Slowing the Planet Express ship, Leela opened communications with the Nimbus, trying to sound and act as normal as she could, despite what was on her mind.

"Captain Ditte. This is Captain Leela of the Planet Express ship. The staff has now been rebuilt and we're ready to go to Ulpius when you are."

Ditte's face soon appeared on the crew's small monitor, wearing a serious facial expression.

"Acknowledged, Captain," he nodded. "Time is of the essence, so I suggest you dock with us and that we leave immediately."

"Agreed," Leela said. "Prepare to be docked."

The small green vessel sailed into the larger grey ship's docking port, just like it had above the atmosphere of Glaciatus. In less than a minute, the crew stepped down onto the floor of the docking bay, greeted by Captain Ditte, Kif and Admiral Gordon. Upon seeing her boyfriend, Amy immediately locked into an embrace with Kif. The others noticed how melancholic the act was, especially Leela who still wondered what it was about. Before she could query, the other two officers stepped closer.

"Welcome back to the Nimbus, Captain Leela," Ditte smiled with a short bow. "May I introduce to you Admiral Graham Gordon, who will be overseeing the mission to make sure everything goes according to plan."

"Admiral," Leela replied diplomatically, giving a salute of respect to him along with a nod. He returned the salute.

"Captain," came his answer. "I've heard about you actually. Zapp Brannigan described you as being the only star ship pilot he feared more than me, his commanding officer."

"He did, did he?"

"Yes. Amongst other things I shall not repeat here, else I be labelled a sexist pig."

"I get the idea," Leela snorted.

"And you must be Professor Hubert Farnsworth, am I right?" said Gordon as he turned to the Professor.

"That's Professor Hubert Farnsworth to you!" the elderly scientist snapped.

"Uhh... He did address you as Professor, Professor," Leela said.

"Good!" Farnsworth said firmly "Because I won't take disrespect from a mere..." he leaned in and examined Gordon's collar, "... Admiral! Oh my!"

"And this must be the legendary staff I've heard so much about?" Admiral Gordon said, examining the artefact. Farnsworth pulled it away quickly as the Admiral reached towards it.

"Don't touch it, you military moron!" he said sharply. "The slightest sudden contact could set this off, and destroy the entire universe!!"

"Really?" asked Zoidberg.

"Yes, dammit!" Farnsworth yelled, and he swiftly bonked Zoidberg on the head with the item in question, making the Decapodian yelp, and the admiral jump.

"Of course, luckily we removed the orange gem and added a safety pin for transport purposes," the Professor smiled as everybody stared nervously at him.

"Captain. If you don't mind, could we please get underway?" Leela said with haste as she turned to Ditte again.

"We're already on our way," he smiled in response. "We began as soon as you docked. No time shall be wasted. In the meantime, you and your crew are welcome to do as you wish around the Nimbus. I'll organise quarters for you all."

"Don't bother about any quarters for Zoidberg," Hermes chirped in.

"Awwww... Why not?" Zoidberg asked. Hermes just shrugged, but Zoidberg looked angry.

"Excuse me a moment," he said calmly, then wander over to Hermes. Quick as a flash, the normally calm Decapodian smacked Hermes in the jaw with the back of his right claw, flooring the bureaucrat and getting shocked looks from everybody, save for Elod. Hermes got to his knees and looked up at Zoidberg with awed anger.

"Why'd ya do that, ya crazy crab?!!" he yelled. Zoidberg just shrugged in response.

"Guess I've just had enough of being treated like a univalve shellfish... I'm a cephalopod, dammit!!"

"I knew he'd snap one day," Bender commented. "It was bound to happen. All you guys are always far too mean to poor Doctor Zoidberg, I've always said you're too mean to him!"

"Fine! Give Zoidberg a room somewhere then!" Farnsworth huffed.

"Do you have one with a large aquarium in it?" Zoidberg asked Ditte.


"With living fish in it?"

"Yes, we do."

"Perfect! I'll take it!"

"Uhhh... okay then," Ditte said unsurely. "I'll organise quarters for you all soon. But first, here's some recon photos we've managed to receive of the beast."

Ditte wandered over to a large screen nearby, and after a few taps on a console some images appeared on the screen. Running through like a sideshow, they showed various different shots of The Machine, and all eyes were glued to the screen. A few gasps were heard as some of the later images showed it actually devouring a planet from a distance, moments that saw Amy clinging to Kif even tighter than before.

"It's more horrible than I imagined!" admitted Leela in honest awe.

"Yes," nodded Ditte. "And we're all going to have to see it first hand. Something Admiral Gordon and Kif here have sadly experienced."

Leela suddenly noticed the staff in the Professor's hand and frowned, her gaze flicking back to the screen again as she spoke authoratively.

"Hold the phone! If the staff is made out of the same materials as the planet-eater like Elod said, how come it's gold and the monster is silver?"

Every head in the room turned. Their direction: Elod.

"That's simple," he stated. "We Rabbish wanted to distinguish our staff from the technology of the enemy it was to be used against. We decided to coat the staff in a Metak-gold alloy to do that. That's all really. We were admittedly a rather simple race in our day, but what little technology we did have metal wise was coloured gold, while the Merak were silver."

"Makes sense I suppose," shrugged Leela.

"What are 'Metak' and 'Merak' exactly?" asked Ditte.

"Metak is the metal the monster is formed from, while Merak are the enemies we fought against who first created the metal."

"I see. Well, I guess I'd better assign you all your quarters now," Ditte said. "Follow me."

The Captain led the group towards the main doors, while from inside the stationary ship nearby, Nibbler watched out the crew's quarters' window. When his friends had disappeared, he leapt down off the bed he was standing upon and scurried to the locker. He sprung up the shelves to the top one, removed the panel at the rear, and retrieved his communications device.

"This is Earth Ambassador Lord Nibbler," he spoke into it. "Do you copy, Eternium?"

For a few seconds the only response was a static hiss. Then a crackle broke through, followed by a deep voice.

"We do copy, Lord Nibbler," it said. "Your contact has been expected."

"I have expected that you have expected my contact," Nibbler answered in dead seriousness. "Did you receive my transmissions from Earth?"

"How many were there?"


"We have received two of them, and are currently in the process of receiving the third. Distance is far between the two planets, and such primitive Earth technology means slow transmission."

"As long as they get through," Nibbler said. "Though admittedly time is running short. We are already on course for The Machine, or at least a planet it is designated to reach soon. The planet Ulpius."

"We shall hopefully have enough time to finish the research, assuming you have given us all the information."

"I have sent you all I can," Nibbler said. "I pray that it shall be enough."

"As do we. The hope of the universe depends on it, Lord Nibbler. The Lone One is still allied with your comrades I trust?"

"Indeed he is," Nibbler answered. "I have been endeavouring to keep an eye on him. Though sadly, The Mighty One still seems troubled, and I sense the rift between him and The Other is still present. My time is running out."

"Do not expose yourself unless completely necessary. But remember, that option is still there as a last resort."

"Of course. I shall still persist to find other means though. He must know that it is up to him to destroy this thing."

"Yes. Prophecy has dictated it."

Nibbler was about to speak, but a subtle 'click' sound from outside the locker made him pause. Somebody had entered the room, so Nibbler quickly put the panel behind him back, then curled up in a fake sleeping pose, his communicator underneath him and out of sight. Footsteps got closer, and Nibbler felt the presence of somebody standing before him. This only lasted a few seconds, and after hearing a scraping sound above him, whoever it was left. Nibbler knew exactly who it had been, and would have even if he hadn't secretly sniffed the individual's scent. When he was sure he was alone again, he opened his eyes and sat up, letting go of the thick red button on the right side of his communicator.

"Do you acknowledge, Lord Nibbler?" said the deep voice from the other end, sounding a bit worried. Nibbler pressed the button in again and responded.

"I'm fine, Ken. Just had to lay low for a moment. But I'd better go all the same. Contact me once you have all the transmissions fully received."

"I shall. Farewell, and good luck."

Intercommunications ceased as Nibbler switched off his device and swiftly stowed it away again. Then, as stealthily as he could, he clambered down the locker shelves to the floor. The Nibblonian furtively scurried across the floor and out the open door, sniffing as he went. His nose led him to the cargo bay, but he didn't go in there, instead choosing to only to take a peek inside.

There at a desk near his shiny, ebony craft sat Elod. He was carefully poking and prodding away at that belt thing of his again. Nibbler tried to observe what Elod was doing, in fact he had before, only to have Leela arrive and drive Elod away. Whether Elod, The Lone One, could be trusted was unknown. Nibbler's people knew little of him other than what he had already told the crew. There was no denying who or what he was, but what his intentions were is another matter. Billions of years can change a being, and few physical beings in the universe knew more about things than he. As an ally, he's an invaluable resource. As an enemy, blinking within a mile of him could be deadly. And that belt... Ken had told Nibbler what it was after he described it to the Nibblonian Elder, and now he was unsure whether he should let the Rabbish survivor complete its repairs. On one hand, it could mean extreme danger for the crew. On the other, it could bring answers to several important que! stions forward. For the moment, he would just watch and wait.

A resonant scream echoed around the broad metal surfaces, Baldur once again hurting his hand due to a frustrated punch. The sound was not new to the halls of dark silver, as Baldur stood at a four-way crossroads looking at each of the large, round passageways he could take. As far as he was concerned, it was hell, a labyrinth and the sewers all mixed into one.

"Damn these confusing tunnels!!" he growled. "Everything looks the same! This place is worse to find a way out of than finding the juice aisle at a new supermarket! And I can't even knock down all the other barriers here like I can in the store!"

He turned around again, looked back and forth, then crunched his face into an even angrier scrunch of annoyance.

"And now I don't even know where I just came from!! I'd do anything to get out of this place!"

Baldur just stood there for a moment, shoulder's shutting off all his arm strength as if they had a switch, causing the appendages to flop at the warrior's side. But then, for no apparent reason, a light and tepid breeze blew against him, ruffling his tall spikes of hair.


Baldur looked around as the wind blew across him. Something didn't seem right about it, and he realised just as it began to grow slightly stronger. It wasn't a wind blowing into him at all, it was a suction pulling against him.

"No you don't, bastard!" he growled, levitating into the air and moving against it. "Not again!"

He managed to easily best the wind, flying forwards into the tunnel against it.

"If you're trying to pull me back in, this must be the way out!" he sneered. "And I'm talking to myself I know... I don't give a fudge!"

While Baldur battled against unnatural elements, billions of miles away a group of four mercenaries and a velour-clad captain lay sleeping on a ledge. High above the area they had originally climbed up from, there they lay peacefully, resting relatively safe. And out of sight from the giant robot they were attempting to get to the summit of, thanks to a thick metal pillar between them and it. They had stayed behind it all the way up, and had decided it a good time to rest and get some energy back for a few hours. However, a slight rumble began to sound from somewhere below them, and their slumber began to stir.

"Yeah, that's right... pose like that you sexy thing," Zapp muttered in his sleep as he turned over, a goofy and disturbing smile on his face. "And you, third from the right. Show me that naughty look again..."

The grumbling became more intense, and the others all sat up and looked around, leaving Zapp still asleep.

"What's going on?!" Madcap asked. "We only got a couple of hours of sleep, dammit!"

The others adjusted for balance as another slight shake rustled around, while Zapp just turned onto his back with a mumble, still sleeping.

"I doubt I've seen anybody sexier than you lot," he uttered cluelessly. "Never have I been in a room filled with so many lookers..."

"Wake up, Led Zapplin!" Chris grunted, kicking the officer in the shoulder roughly. "This place is rocking again!"

Zapp startled awake with a snort, then looked up at her with a frown.

"Awww... I was just in the middle of one of my favourite recurring dreams!" he whined.

"Let me guess," she huffed. "You as a supermodel photographer?! Or perhaps just a cheap pimp, hmmmm?!"

"No," Zapp yawned as he sat up. "Me at Luna Park in the Hall of Mirrors..."

"Waugh!" she responded. "Sounds like a recurring nightmare to me!"

"What's with the quaking?" Zapp asked, getting steadily to his feet. "And I'm not referring to Deathmatch gaming."

"No idea," shrugged Dawson. "It hasn't detected us yet, and it's not opening up to devour another planet or even changing course. Your guess is as good as mine."

"Perhaps he's making sexy female robot clones?" Zapp pondered. Dawson just stared at him for a while.

"Okay, perhaps your guesses aren't quite as good as mine after all," he stated laconically. "Let's just hold on until it stops."

"Roger!" Zapp saluted, then he immediately wrapped his arms around Chris and held on to her. She stomped onto his foot and the captain let go, then she smacked him in the face, knocking him down and almost off the edge with just one punch.

"Jerk!" she growled. "I've killed for less before!!"

"You're right, I'm sorry," Zapp said rubbing his swollen face. "Feel free to spank me as punishment."

"GRRRRR!!!" she howled. "You better thank your sweet ass that you're worth a lot of money to the DOOP!!"

"Oh, so you think my ass is 'sweet' then, do you?" Zapp asked suggestively, making a circle with one finger against the metal floor.

"Okay, screw the money! Whatever it is, it's not WORTH IT!!!"

Chris lunged towards Zapp, unfortunately picking a very bad moment to do so, for it was then that there was a violent jolt. The female ex-marine lost her footing, sending herself tumbling off the ledge. As her comrades called out her name in worried shock, Zapp quickly swung his right arm down and grasped hold of hers. She swung into the wall below and then looked up at him with a sneer.

"Isn't this just typical?!"

"Look, how about we strike a deal?" Zapp asked her. "I'll pull you back up if you promise not to kill me."

"That depends what you do and say from now on," she answered.

"Fine. Then how about I'll pull you back up if you don't kill me for what I said before this moment?"

She thought about it.

"Alright then..."

"Good," Zapp smiled. He made a struggling sound and screwed up his face, then turned back to the other three Renegades.

"Could you guys help me haul her up? I think I dislocated my shoulder when I grabbed her..."

The others all groaned, but Boris just leant down and grabbed Chris' left arm with one of his large paws, hoisting her up to the platform again.

"Thanks," she breathed. "I need a drink!"

Boris slid his flask from out of his pocket and held it out to her. She grabbed it without hesitation and drank. Dawson continued to stare out the large window in the distance.

"What are you doing?" he whispered to himself. "You're up to something... I can smell your evil, and at the moment, it's ripe..."

Chris stopped guzzling the vodka and handed the canteen back to Boris. She walked over to Dawson with a stern look on her face, stepping on Zapp's neck on the way without looking. Boris shook his flask beside his ear, then tipped it upside down. Not a single drip came out.

"I hate to ax obvious questions, but now what are we going to do?" Chris asked Dawson.

Boris made a disappointed grunting sound behind them and slipped the drink container back onto his pocket again. As Dawson answered, his gaze remained fixed on the distance.

"For now we'll wait. When the shaking stops, we'll likely continue the climb. It depends on what happens then."

Dawson kept waiting and watching, unaware that billions of miles away, a short warrior had lost a battle against the growing winds, and was now being drawn closer to them once again.

Two sets of footsteps clopped across one of the main passageways in the Nimbus, as Captains Ditte and Leela strode through the ship.

"You sure you don't mind everybody just going where they please?" Leela asked him. "Especially the likes of annoying Cubert, the senile Professor, and our crazy crustacean of a doctor, Zoidberg."

Ditte chuckled.

"No problem," he smiled.

"We weren't originally going to bring Zoidberg, but I thought we'd need a doctor along the way."

"Fortunately we have two doctors already," Ditte said. "I'll introduce you to them on the way."

It was only another two corridors down when Ditte stopped before a set of double doors on their left. He pressed a button and they slide away.

"May I introduce our surgeons, iHawk and Bk Hunninut," he said.

There in the room stood two thin robots with medical eyepieces on their foreheads, each with a patient they were operating on. One was purple with a martini glass built into his left hand and a medical cap and mask, while the other was a brown, almost golden colour, with a metal handlebar moustache and a larger, rounder head. The purple one had 'iHawk' written on his chest while 'Bk Hunninut' adorned the other bot's chassis, and they both talked between themselves.

"So he said to me, 'What's is your major malfunction, Hunninut?!' to which I replied, 'That's exactly it! Major Malfunction is driving me nuts!'"

"I couldn't agree more," nodded iHawk, his voice with a smug sarcastic tone to it, but really completely serious. "Major Malfunction is the greatest piece of anti-war campaigning since 'Medic!: The Video Game.'"

"Why are you two treating patients now?" Leela asked them.

"They needed extra doctors to tend to the injured affected by the damage the planet eater has done," explained Ditte. "They're flat out at the orbital base, so we took on some here."

"There are more out back, but we're treating the more serious patients first," noted Hunninut.

"Yeah," nodded iHawk. "Because the serious patients don't crack distracting and inappropriate jokes all the time."

He cracked up laughing for a few seconds, then flicked a switch on his side from 'Irreverent' to 'Maudlin' and suddenly looked serious.

"When will the universe learn to live in peace instead of in pieces?"

A door across the room opened, somebody stepping through with a large crate in his arm. Leela frowned when she saw who it was.

"Zoidberg! What are you doing?!"

"I'm just grabbing some much needed medical supplies for the ship, that's all," he answered calmly. "We're short on a few things is all..."

He went along some shelves along the back wall, picking up jars and bottles of things and reading them out.

"Morphine... need more of that," he stated, placing it in the crate. "Insta-Blood... out of that too. Depression pills? For temporarily curing depression... definitely need those!"

He cracked open the lid of the white plastic container, then poured all of the pills down his throat.

"Zoidberg!" Leela said angrily.

"Gee, Zoidberg!" snorted iHawk. "There are people in this surgery that actually need those pills. Like Hunninut here..."

"Maybe we should go to the bridge now?" suggested Ditte quickly.

They left and strode towards the large doors at the end of the corridor they were in.

"Captain on the bridge!"

The officer who made the call stood up from the Captain's seat, stepping side and saluting towards the approaching captains. He had two gold pins on his collar and was fairly tall, with scruffy umber hair that seemed to point in all directions. His face was extremely clean-shaven, making him appear younger than he probably was considering his rank.

"As you were, Lieutenant Stevens," Ditte said. The Lieutenant disengaged the salute and then took a post at another console, sending the ensign standing at it away politely.

Looking around, Leela recognised most of the officers present from her last trip, such as Ensign Elcoat and the two other lieutenants, but quite a few were new too. Fitzgerald sat at the console down front on the right, shining a large gun with a cloth. With a rugged looking build and a stubbled face, he had short black hair and an expression best described as somebody who had glued their teeth together and was angry from the result. To the console at Fitzgerald's left sat Sheana, a tall woman with a slightly stocky build, small oval glasses and longish brown hair, save for some streaks of blonde at the front. Ditte walked to his position and motioned for Leela to sit beside him in the first officer's chair.

"Thanks," she said unsurely. "Isn't this Lieutenant Kroker's seat?"

"Lieutenant Commander Kroker you mean," corrected Ditte.

"Oh, that's right... Sorry. I have to still get used to that."

"No problem. And to answer your question, he's busy at the moment with something."

"I see," Leela said dully.

For a while all that could be heard was the soft, quiet hum of the ship's engines and the odd click and beep from computers. Ditte cleared his throat and turned to Leela, his cheeks a little red.

"It's going to be a long trip to Ulpius, and with the stressful mission ahead, it might be a good idea to relax sometimes. Have you ever been in one of our Holo-Sheds?"

"No," Leela said. "Though I know of them. The holograms came to life on one occasion when I was on board the old Nimbus."

"Oh... yes, that would have been... unpleasant, I'd say," Ditte said nervously.

"Yeah, but it could have been worse."


"Yeah. The holograms could have been Zapp Brannigan clones!"

Ditte laughed, and Leela managed a small smile. It didn't last long though, and she frowned again. Ditte noticed, looking sad himself.

"Anyway, what I was going to say was, I was wondering whether you would mind joining me in one of the Holo-Sheds tonight? Say, 8pm GMT?"

Leela looked at him, making a sceptical noise.

"I don't know... maybe..."

"Just for a meal that is," Ditte added quickly. "We can literally eat anywhere you want."

Leela thought some more, then looked at his hopeful face. How could she say "no" to him without sounding mean?

"Alright then," she answered. "Sorry if I sound insincere, but I've got something on my mind at the moment."

She sighed.

"In fact, will you excuse me? I need to go do something."

She stood up and left quickly, leaving Ditte feeling very alone, despite being on a bridge filled with personnel. Some of them exchanged strange glances in relation to the situation, but said nothing.

"Maintain course and speed," Ditte said after a sigh.

"Aye, Captain," Sheana responded.

The order seemed completely pointless, but he just had to say something to clear his mind.

Not far away, a pair of doors slipped aside before Leela, granting her access to the ship's local bar and restaurant. A pleasant room with dark wooden walls, dim lighting and the odd pot plant, it was filled with tables and chairs and had a bar counter at one end. There were only a few DOOP officers there, three of them eating food at random tables, but there was somebody sitting at the bar itself that Leela recognised.

"Amy?" she questioned to herself.

She slowly approached, her friend just leaning on the counter with a fancy looking drink in her right hand, and her chin resting upon the left. Leela noticed a fairly tall woman behind the bar cleaning a glass as she neared. With shoulder-length hair of stippled blonde, brown, black and red, the bartender had large round glasses with a slight tint of aqua to them, resting upon a Greco-Roman style nose. Unlike the rest of the crimson-black uniforms everybody else donned, she wore a short-sleeved pink shirt with a white apron over top. A silver feminist double-axe insignia necklet dangled around her neck, and a gold badge clipped to the apron had the name 'Daniela' on it. Leela took a seat beside Amy at the bar, turning to Daniela before even speaking to Amy.

"Could I have something strong please," she asked. "Anything'll do, as long as it's got some bite."

"Sure thing," Daniela answered as she looked over, then she suddenly smiled. "Hey! I know you!"

"You do?"

"Yeah... Captain Brannigan of the original Nimbus had a Holo-Shed simulation with you in it."

"That rat!" Leela growled, Amy in the meantime not even reacting to the fact Leela was beside her. "Well at least its been destroyed now!"

"Actually, he had backups that got copied into the database of this ship too," she answered. Leela growled again.

"Thanks for telling me. I'll have to go and delete them later. How did you know, by the way?"

Daniela suddenly blushed.

"Uhh... I was just... told about them," she answered. "I'll just go and get your drink..."

Leela made a sceptical noise as Daniela turned around, then swivelled around towards Amy.

"Amy," she said. "Is something bothering you?"

She didn't respond. Leela rocked her shoulder slightly, and Amy suddenly jumped, almost falling off her stool and making Leela recoil suddenly as well.

"Sorry!" said Leela quickly. "I didn't mean to scare you!"

"Oh, it's okay," Amy smiled wearily. "My mind was just away with the fairies and Huggy Bears."

Daniela put Leela's drink in front of her: a very dark liquid in a large, fat glass. A small pink umbrella sat in it too.

"Thanks," Leela said, then she took out the umbrella, flung her head back and gulped it down in three quick swallows. The other two women's eyes bugged out as Leela slammed the glass down on the bench and ordered "Another!"

"Spleesh!" Amy remarked, as Daniela took the empty glass and turned away silently. "You're drinking as if you're trying to forget sleeping with guy you regretted!!"

She turned to Amy, her hard look suddenly softening.

"Well, actually..."

Amy gasped as Leela's speech vanished into the distance. Daniela placed another drink down for Leela, this time without the umbrella.

"My God! You mean you and Captain Ditte?!"

"No," Leela said with a sigh. "It was..." another sigh, "... It was Fry."

Amy made no sound, but her jaw dropped. Leela screwed up her face, grasping her forehead in one hand and picking up her drink with the other.

"I know! It was really stupid of me!"

"Wha... what happened?" Amy asked after a pause.

"I had had a little too much to drink, and I rushed to Fry's apartment to check on him and found him jumping out his window. He got caught on a flagpole and I managed to talk him out of killing himself. We got talking about his problems, and for that moment... all his negative attributes weren't there. I wanted to save him... bring him out of his moping and loathing, and part of me said that sleeping with him might just do it."

"But it didn't work, did it?" Amy asked. Leela finished a mouthful of drink.

"No. It did for a while. Until I told Fry what happened was a mistake. He agreed strangely... saying that sex without love does more damage than good. And he was right. Oh, how he was right. God, I was an idiot!!"

"Hey. We all do stupid things now and then," Amy consoled. "Before I got together with Kif, I made loads of mistakes with guys myself."

Amy suddenly hung her head and looked sad.

"Poor Kiffy..." she whispered. And without much warning, she wrapped her arms around Leela and began crying loudly. Leela was taken aback, sitting there frozen with an unsure look on her face, but eventually patting Amy's back sympathetically.

"What's wrong?!"

After a few more sobs, Amy calmed a bit and let go, sitting back and wiping some tears away.

"I suppose I'd better tell you," she sniffed. "Seeing as how it involves you too. Kif's home planet, Amphibios Nine, was destroyed by the planet eater recently."

"My God!" gasped Leela, covering her mouth with one hand in a reflex. "But... but that means..."

"Yep," Amy sniffed. "Kif's babies were down there. All our babies were down there."

"Oh Amy, I'm so sorry!" Leela said, returning a friendly hug and patting her on the back again. "Sounds like we've both got problems to deal with..."

"Man! I'll say!" a familiar voice said behind them. Both girls let go and turned their heads to see Bender standing there, with Hermes just behind him.

"Damn it, guys!" Leela yelled. "How long were you two standing there?!"

"I believe the term used by humans in this situation is 'Long enough,'" Bender answered, standing between them and putting his arms around their shoulders. "But don't worry, I'm not going to hassle you two..."

He turned to Amy and patted her on the back.

"I'm sorry about your loss, Amy," he said sympathetically.

"Thanks, Bender," Amy smiled weakly with a sniff.

"In fact, I feel so bad, I'm going to buy you a drink. What'll it be?"

"Another Triple Diet Fortified Water," Amy requested from Daniela. Bender pulled out a pink purse from his chest and got some money out of it.

"Hey! That's my purse!" Amy sniffled angrily.

"Yeah," admitted Bender softly. "But I feel so sympathetic, I'm going to give it back to you. Right after I buy us all some drinks that is."

The robot spun his head forward ninety degrees.

"Bartenderess. Get whatever these chumps and chumpettes want."

"Sounds good to me," smiled Hermes taking a seat at the bar as well, Daniela turning and walking over simultaneously.

"Sure," she smiled. "What do you want, good looking?"

"I'll have a margaritajuana," the Jamaican smiled. Daniela chuckled with a blush.

"Uhh... I was actually axing her," she said, indicating Leela. "But okay then."

She jotted the note down on a pad and gave Leela a wink as the cyclops put her head up.

"Ummm... nothing for me, thanks" Leela answered, clearly off her guard. "I think I'll take a nap after I finish this one actually."

"And a double Fuzzy Navel for me," Bender added, swinging his head back forwards again. Daniela nodded and proceeded to get the drinks.

"So you and Fry finally ended up doing it, huh?" Bender said to Leela. She just nodded.

"Sweet Eland of New Zealand!" Hermes commented. "What were ya tinking, woman?!"

"I wasn't thinking!" she answered. "That was the problem!"

"You shouldn't have done it, Leela," Bender said. "You should have waited until at least another two months."

"What?! Why?!"

"Because, I had a bet with Fry that you guys would never do it before the end of three-thousand five! I was so close to winning too, but thanks to your stupid actions, I owe him a hundred bucks!"

"Stop being so selfish, Bendah!" Hermes said.

"We're probably all going to die in a few days anyway," huffed Amy. "What does it matter..."

"Hey! Good point, Amy!" Bender said. "If we're all dead, I won't have to pay Fry!"

He leant back with a satisfied grin.

"The system works!"

Leela gulped down the rest of her drink then stood up.

"I think I'll go now and check on Fry," she groaned. "I'll see you later."

"Aren't ya going to have any breakfast?" asked Hermes as she walked away, her hands in the pockets of her jacket.

"No, I'm not hungry," she answered, walking on.

"Well, make sure you're up for lunch, 'cause I'm goin' ti make me famous mashed pot-tatoes," Hermes smiled. "Wid jerked wieners on de side. Everybody loves dose."

"Especially Fry," noted Bender with a chuckle.

"I'll keep that in mind," Leela answered, and she disappeared out the door. She headed off towards the nearest turbo lift doors, talking to herself quietly on the way.

"Man, why are people hitting on me all the time today?" she mumbled. "First Ditte, then the bartender. I don't need this when I've still got Fry to sort out. Who's going to be next?!"

"Leela! My close, personal friend!!"

Leela cringed at the all too familiar voice from behind her.

"Hi Zoidberg," she huffed with a roll of her eye, not even turning around. She heard him shuffling closer, a wooden and glass rattling, thunking and tinkering sound as he approached.

"Leela. Have I ever told you that I love you?" he said as soon as he reached her. He was carrying the same crate of medical supplies she saw him with before. She shuddered at his comment.

"Promise never to say it ever again, and I'll do what you want," she answered, sounding like she had just eaten some of Bender's cooking.

"Wonderful!" he smiled. "You're heading to the ship, are you not?"

"Yeah. I was going to check on Fry."

"Good, you can take these medical supplies and put them in the morgue."

"The morgue?"

"I mean the sick bay," Zoidberg corrected, handing her the large container. "Just put it on the death bed... I mean, my operating table."

"Sure," she said with an annoyed, dull tone, pushing the crate up with her left knee to get a better hold of it. "Where are you off to in such a hurry then?"

"Nowhere special," he answered innocently. "Certainly nothing to do with a tip-off as to when the aquarium fish are fed."

His eyes darted back and forth thrice, then he suddenly smiled and waved with one claw.


And in a few whoops and a lumbering scuttle, he was gone.

Leela was at the ship in just under a minute, but her boarding of the stationary vessel was not gone unnoticed. Inside, Elod flipped his head up with a gasp in a flash of green hair. He was still working on the strange belt, two small tools poised above it.

"Somebody's coming," he whispered to himself, pausing for a while to listen some more. "Leela again."

The tools were placed neatly on the table and the object of repair was carefully lifted and put neatly into his jacket pocket, as if it were an expensive diamond necklace or something. Elod just stayed at the desk after that, listening and waiting intently. Nibbler also waited, still perched near the door just outside. Inside Zoidberg's sickbay, Leela dumped the crate on the main bench, then turned to leave. She stopped for a moment though, looking back at the supplies. She grabbed a white plastic container and looked at it.

"Sad to the Bone Depression Pills," she read. "For the relief of exogenous and endogenous depression. Will dissolve in water. If depression persists, consult nearest suicide booth."

She made a thoughtful sound.

"These are what Zoidberg took," she noted. "I wonder..."

She opened the lid and shook two pills into her hand, then placed the container back in the crate. She wandered into the kitchen, walked to the fridge, and took out a can of frosty cold Slurm. Closing the fridge again, she quickly left, and headed for the crew quarters.

"Nibbler? What are you doing down there, schnookums?"

'Uh oh!' Nibbler thought as Leela approached him. She stooped down to scratch under his chin.

"How's my baby going, huh?" she asked, her voice sounding rather emotionless. "Did I neglect you last night and leave you at work?"

She was trying to sound friendly and cute, but it just wasn't coming out. Even when she had used the term 'schnookums' in her initial reaction, it came out as drab as a week-old soggy lettuce leaf. Leela noticed the light peeking through from between the door and its frame, so stood up and slowly opened it, stepping in.

"Elod?! What are you doing here?"

The primordial Rabbish was leaning into the cockpit of his ship, just how Leela had found him the last time. And as he looked at her, she suddenly felt a strange depth to his eyes. While before they seemed just like anybody else's, now they came across as almost sinister and inimical, with a chilling profundity. This not only worried her, but also made her suddenly sceptical of him. No doubt that hint of distrust was always there, but apart from the initial stabbing of introduction he had kept his word and been an enormous help. Still, there was something about him that made Leela uneasy. The bodies of the Baron and his henchmen were one, the stories from the others about the Seilarch had had slain was another. And now those eyes were making her even more dubious about the ancient ally.

"I'm just working on my ship," he answered, his eyes seeming to calm.

"Just like last time, huh?" Leela responded. The tone wasn't aggressive, but Elod could sense the hint of dubiety to it. He narrowed his eyes a little.

"Yes. It needs some work still."

"Fair enough," Leela answered. Her eye shifted for a moment to the table nearby, the tools and objects that were on it, and the lit lamp. She noticed how the concentration of light was focussed down upon the surface of the desk.

"You know, the light would be more effective if you tilted the diffuser up higher," she commented.

"I was working on some small components at the table actually," Elod stated.

"Ah. Like what?"

Elod paused for a while. He had dealt with enough beings in his long life to know a suspicious grilling.

"Just little, internal ship parts. That's all."

"From the cockpit?"

Leela's comment sounded almost condescending. Elod sighed.

"No, from inside other parts of the ship that were damaged," he answered. "I'm just about to test some of them now via the ship's console."

"I'll leave you to it then," Leela nodded, suddenly like a satisfied evaluation officer of some kind. "Carry on then."

She about faced and walked out the door again, leaving the Rabbish again by himself.

"You just better not dig too deep, Captain" he whispered to the spot he last saw her. "Or you may just come across an abyss you can't climb out of. And find in it a truth you're not meant to know."

Leela didn't hear this, already halfway to her next destination, Slurm can in hand. Nibbler, still sitting outside, did though. And being of an ancient, wise and powerful race himself didn't mean he knew what it meant.

"Fry," Leela said timidly after giving a light rap on the door. "Are you in there?"

On the other side of the door Fry jumped a bit. He was sitting at the lone table in the room, a pen in hand and some paper before him. He quickly grabbed the paper, and the fawn manila envelope it sat on, then hid it in the top drawer of the desk.

"Yeah," he answered loudly, an impatient chafed tone in his voice. "What is it?"

Leela opened the door a crack and peered in, a friendly and submissive smile.

"Hi, Fry," she said, trying to sound as amicable as she could. "Can I come in?"

"I dunno," Fry said with a huff. "Is my answer going to affect whether you do or not?"

Leela stepped in without answering the counter-question, noticing that Fry didn't seem as devoid of life as before, but was still clearly hurt and angry.

"I brought you a drink," she said, raising the can a little. "I thought you might be thirsty."

"I'm not," he answered, crossing his arms and leaning back a bit on his chair.

"Being angry at me isn't a reason not to eat and drink, Fry," she told him, opening the can with her right hand. She craftily dropped the pills into the top as she did, then placed it down on the desk before him. He looked at it, then back at her. His expression clearly said "Nope" to her.

"Fry. We need to talk," she put forth seriously.

"Talk, huh? Just like we talked last night you mean?" he answered sarcastically. "Okay, sure... why not? Shall I start taking off my clothes now, or should I wait until two minutes time when we have pointless sex again? That's the way it works, right?"

Fry leant back and threw his arms into the air, only to find himself spinning them around rapidly as gravity took hold. After some wobbling, he and his chair finally fell backwards with a thud.

"Oh, there we go," he commented with little change in demeanour. "I'm on my back, so you might as well just crawl on top and do me right now!"

"Please, Fry, hear me out," Leela sighed. "You were right about what happened last night. It was wrong of me to do that to you. It shouldn't have happened. I thought I was helping, but I wasn't. I'm sorry."

Fry still just lay there, staring at the ceiling.

"You done now?" he eventually said. Leela exhaled sadly.

"Are you ever going to forgive me for hurting you?" she asked genuinely. Fry sat up, staring at her angrily.

"That depends. Are you ever going to actually stop hurting me?"

She didn't expect that, though in some ways, it seemed a fitting counter. She blinked to try and dismiss a tear.

"I... I don't mean to hurt you. It just... happens, I guess."

"Look, there are only so many times you can say 'sorry' and still have an impact," Fry snorted. "And I'm sick of hearing apologies, I'm sick of never finding mushrooms when I hit my head on bricks, and I'm sick of you!"

He leant back again against the floor, sitting as if normally despite being horizontal. If it weren't for the situation, Leela would have thought it looked fairly humorous. Instead, she was in tears.

"I thought you said you could never stop loving me?" she queried. "And the fact is, I was trying to help you last night, Fry. I really was. In fact, I'm quite often always trying to help you. But, I guess sometimes good intentions can be the wrong intentions. I guess what I'm saying is, even though I hurt you, I was actually trying to help you at the time. Doesn't that count for something?"

"Not really..."

Leela's bottom lip shuddered, but then she frowned out of submission and into outrage.

"Fine then!" she snapped. "Then I'll just stop helping you then! You keep telling me to leave you alone, so I will, because it's obvious every time I get involved in trying to help you out, I end up making things worse. The thing I'm probably guilty the most of is caring too much, so I'm going to stop!"

She turned around and marched out the door, slamming it behind her. Fry just lay there in his chair, looking skyward still for a while. Then, he picked himself up and fixed up his chair.

"Man, how do chicks do that?" he asked himself. "How do they take what starts off as them apologising to you, and turn it into being your fault?!"

He sighed, sitting himself at the desk again. He looked across as the can of Slurm, still sitting there, and after some thought, he picked it up and took a drink. He made a slight face.

"Man! This tastes like Slurm Max or something! It's disgusting!"

He just shrugged and took another mouthful, opening the desk drawer again to retrieve the contents within.

Leela had stormed out the ship, still angry on the outside, but feeling rather uneasy inside. She couldn't deny that she felt bad about what she just told Fry, but maybe it needed to be said. Within moments, she was back at the bar, plonking herself down on the stool she sat on before roughly.

"Leela?!" asked Amy, now sounding a little groggy. "What are you doing back here?"

"Yeah, and why the flushed cheeks?" Bender added. "You and Fry just do it again?"

"No!" she growled quickly, causing the robot to recoil. "I just tried to apologise to Fry, but he kept on being a jerk! I'm so sick of him!"

"So... you're sick of men, huh?" Daniela asked expectantly from behind the bar, stroking some strands of her hair behind one ear.

"No, just sick of Fry!" Leela huffed, too aggravated to notice the connotations.

"Awww..." the bartender responded with disappointment.

"I mean, what I did was wrong, I admit," Leela continued. "But he doesn't even acknowledge my intentions, and that I'm doing it because I care about him. He's just wound up in that I always seems to hurt him."

"So what happened in the end?" asked Bender, no empathy evident in his voice. "You kill 'im?"

"No. I just told him I'd stop helping him if that's what keeps resulting in problems."

"Maybe you should get dat sleep you were talkin' about?" Hermes suggested. Leela exhaled in submission.

"You're right, I'm just tired I guess. I'll see you guys later."

"Wait!" said Bender as Leela swivelled on her stool to leave. "There's something on television!"

The television screen above the bar itself showed a logo featuring Earth being eaten by a giant yellow Pac Man, with writing beneath saying 'Special Report' in bold letters. Dramatic news report music played as it did.

"I admire your efficiency in switchin' de sound back on so quickly," Hermes said to Daniela. The television had been on all the time, but only now had it been unsilenced.

"Thanks," she said. "But this is a special TV set powered by Google. It switches on the television, appropriate channel or sound if there's anything related to the ship's mission being broadcasted."

Morbo appeared sitting at his news desk, the words 'Planet Eating Crisis' with the same logo as before above him, and the words 'Breaking News' superimposed at the bottom.

"Greetings, pathetic Earthlings!" the news monster roared. "We interrupt the ancient Bible tale of 'Metamorph-Moses' with some breaking news from the Democratic Order of Planets in regards to the ongoing planet eating crisis. We now cross live to the Earth DOOP Orbital Base."

The scene switched to show Glab standing at a podium, a large blue flag bearing the DOOP insignia behind her.

"People of Earth," she began. "We at the DOOP have spent the last couple of weeks trying to find a way to stop this monstrosity, but to no avail. Planets have been destroyed, lives have been lost and the entire universe has been changed, and our attempts have done nothing but lose us more lives and cause us more damage. Until now. Early this morning, an ancient super weapon created to destroy this beast was finally assembled after days upon days of seeking it out. Just moments ago, the DOOP ship Nimbus left this very base with the weapon. Its destination is the planet of Ulpius, where the beast shall arrive in approximately two days time. Using the planet as a strike base, the final stand of the entire universe will take place at this location. We are confident that this will stop the random destruction of the monster, but bear in mind that if it doesn't... nothing will. We shall keep you informed."

The transmission ended there and returned to Morbo.

"Note now viewers!" he yelled "The opinions expressed by the DOOP on 'random destruction' and the death of inferior races do not necessarily coincide with that of certain news presenters."

"I can't help but notice that we didn't get mentioned at all," Leela noted with an acid tone.

"How much are we getting paid for this, by the way?" Bender asked.


"We're saving the entire universe, and you're telling me we get nothing for that?! I make more money than that stealing purses and wallets!"

"Well, you will get recognised as being a hero I guess," Leela shrugged.

"A hero, huh?" Bender repeated, rubbing his metal chin. "I dunno. I mean, I like being popular and all, but... a hero? It kind of goes against my good name in having a bad reputation."

"Earth President Al Gore will address the planet in an hour," Morbo continued on the television. "Followed by a special performance by Cylon and Garfunkel of 'The Sound of Cylons' soon after. But now we cross to Linda at the Temple of Robotology, where she talks with Reverend Lionel Preacherbot."

"Thank you, Morbo!" Linda said as the she was seen standing next to the robotic reverend. "What words of wisdom can you give to the people of Earth during this hectic period, Reverend?"

"All I can say, is that everybody should pray-ah!" he answered, raising his arms and spinning his dual claws. "Pray for God speed and good luck to the brave crew of the good ship Nimbus. For they are fighting for the salvation of the universe-ah!"

"Any free advice you can give them?" Linda followed up with.

"Yes I do, Linda," he said solemnly. "My free advice is for you to all consult and read the Good Book five point o-ah! Only thirty-four ninety-five from our church bookstore. Also, don't forget to attend our special religious gathering at noon today, where we welcome all who come as equals. Hookerbots will be shot with magnetic rays on sight, and bearers of the Robotology symbol will receive twenty percent discount on all religious literature."

Linda chuckled at the comment, then turned back to the camera.

"Back to you, Morbo!"

"I've heard enough," Leela mumbled after a yawn. "Now I really am off to sleep."

"Good idea," nodded Hermes as Leela gave a wave and turned away. "I was up all night wid dat phoney baloney staff. I think I'll just limbo into de sack."

"Me too," Amy said wearily. "I'm so tired, I certainly won't need to count sheep."

"I personally find countin' sheep a stupid method," noted Hermes. "It's just too damn fun! I'd neva get ta sleep if counted 'em!"

So the three all walked out the bar to go to their respective rooms, leaving Bender at the bar with just Daniela and a few DOOP patrons, more of which were coming in for breakfast. The New New York labelled clock above the bar read 7:34, while the GMT one read 12:34. The ETA for arrival was apparently 9:30am the next day, from what Ditte had told them after they disembarked. That was only just under a day away now.

For hours they had waited, while the area shook below them. They couldn't even rest or sleep with the noise and movement, even if the latter had reduced from when it had started and was fairly constant. Madcap had expressed concern that their cerebro shells would run out before they got to the top, but Dawson had insisted they wait. And then it finally stopped. The sound died away, and the vibrating around them ceased. And as the others sighed with impatient relief, Dawson noticed something small appear in the far distance. Beyond the energy window, like a fly trapped on the other side it floated there. Dawson whirled around, his red cape whipping the air with a snap.

"Madcap! I need your eyes!"

"Awwww... but I use them myself!" his comrade groaned.

"Then use them now, and tell me what that is out there!" Dawson ordered, his right arm flicking horizontally to elicit an act of pointing. The index finger at the end of it was trained on a distant black speck.

"Very well," Madcap grinned, strolling casually beside him and directing his gaze in the same direction. His natural hand came up to the side of his goggles, and as he fiddled with some buttons near his temple, the thick lenses zoomed out of their artificial sockets. The bald lunatic suddenly smirked, a quiet chuckle sounding from deep in his throat.

"What is it?" Dawson asked.

"None other than Captain Brannigan's old acquaintance," Madcap answered. "Seems he didn't escape after all. Or if he did, he was brought right back here."

"I don't like this," Dawson said. "Something is very wrong."

The warrior himself wasn't too happy either, floating there to survey the large area he had been brought to from a hole somewhere above, via a suction even he couldn't battle. Behind him was the now closed opening of the beast's mouth, while below him was the large shovel-shaped floor and before him was a shimmering energy window that stretched for miles in both directions. But unlike those from the inside, Baldur could not see through the energy pane. To him it was just a silvery white mass in the distance. Between it and the floor was a gargantuan hole with violent red glowing out of it that eventually disappeared into darkness, a searing heat burning from that direction. It was a red Baldur remembering seeing as the beast had devoured his planet, while pretty much everywhere else was the dark greyish surfaces and protrusions he had seen throughout his time there.

"What's going on?!!" he yelled, whirling around in every direction and in a stance that dictated he was ready to fight. "Why have I been brought here?!!"

Baldur waited, listening and watching carefully. There was no answer, but after a few seconds he noticed the large silvery rectangle in the distance begin to dim and slowly become transparent.

"What the...?" he whispered.

"The shield is disappearing!" whispered Dawson, sounding as if he was musing the whole situation over in his head.

Zapp and the Renegades found themselves rapidly almost jumping out of their skin, as an ear wrenching creak of metal parts roared beside them. The robot had been very still during their ascent, only the occasional distant creak from behind the pillar causing Zapp to jump from time to time. But this time the noise was horrific, and they could see why. They were approximately halfway up the height they had to travel, and that meant the proximity of the metal golem's right arm was extremely close. As they all crouched with clenched teeth and covered ears, the astronomical appendage swung outwards until almost dead horizontal, at full length not far from the still disappearing sheet of energy. The way the metal palm of its mechanical hand flattened out made it appear to be signalling from somebody to stop, but it was quite the contrary. As Baldur looked on with shock, the final remnants of the pane of shielded energy vanishing, he was snatched out of the air by another strong and unseen force. It was like the suction gusts before, but far more concentrated, and drawing him straight towards the hand of the robot titan he had glanced upon for only a few seconds.


Baldur was strong, but he was still no match for this force. In mere moments he was at where the window once was, just before the hand. And that's where he stopped.

"Get down!" whispered Dawson to the others. "Let's stay out of sight if possible!"

Everybody obeyed, hugging the ground and peering over the ledge and just around the pillar to observe what was happening. Baldur, sensing he had stopped a little late, finally opened his eyes. There was nothing but darkness in front of him, but that changed as he heard a tinny scraping sound, and several large metal plates appeared before him. Flying back slowly, just a little bit, he witnessed as a gaping dour hole in the palm of the immense hand before him closed up. The hand withdrew with its arm, another deafening screech echoing around the area as it did. Baldur made a face if annoyance and covered his ears with both hands. When the arm's motion has ceased, returning to the monster's side, Baldur uncovered his ears and spoke. Or rather, yelled.


There came no answer, and Baldur gazed upwards to where a face would normally be on most living, or semi-living, things. He grunted to himself, and ascended upwards into the darkness, and now out of sight of Zapp and the Renegades below.

"Damn!" cursed Dawson quietly.

"I wish I could fly," sighed Zapp. "That way I wouldn't have to waste all this time and effort with climbing! Plus, I could hover above chicks and look down their blouses."


Zapp was once again nursing a swollen face with one hand while Chris sneered at him with clenched fist.

"You know, your problem is that you're prejudiced against sexist men!" he commented.


Up above them, Baldur finally reached the top of his summoner, and he looked very surprised at what he saw at that.

"Sweet squeezed orange!"

There it was, resting upon the flat surface that was the torso's very peak: the head of the robot. It was humongous, yet compared to the rest of the body it looked small. Elegant, but hideous and vile looking, its very shape resembled that of a venomous snake's head of some kind. No visible mouth did it have, just a long, round metal snout and a smooth curved head. Two bright red glowing rectangles were inset into it, obviously some form of eyes that had an angle to them that personified anger or malevolence. These stared straight at him, and the whole head creaked to one side in regard.

"What are you?!" Baldur asked simply. "SAY SOMETHING!!"

There was no response for a few seconds, and just as Baldur was about to speak again, the eyes flared up and a voice boomed at him.


The warrior was momentarily stunned, as the response he finally got was very loud and sounded to come from multiple locations at once. It was hard to describe the nature of it, other than sounding very unpleasant. Very robotic in one sense, and very reptilian, sinister and cold in another. It was also fairly slow, and there seemed to be a resonance to it, though whether it was a hiss, a constant echo or just muffled distortion was hard to tell. Far below, all the others could do was look up and exchange concerned glances.

"You... You know my name?!" Baldur answered upon recovering.


"What are you?!!"


"What do you want?!!"


"What?!!" Baldur yelled in surprise. "Why?!!"


"Get to the point!!!"


"So what?!!"


Baldur snorted, then laughed out loud.

"Your hopes are even bigger than your magnitude if you think that I'm going to help you!"

His smirk was replaced by a bitter sneer.

"Not after what you did to my planet and my family! I'll die before I serve you!"


An image flickered before Baldur that made his heart nearly stop. It was his wife, Achaia, and in her arms was his baby son. Achaia smiled at Baldur.

"Everything is fine, honey," she said to him. Baldur's eyes narrowed and he growled in anger.

"What kind of fool do you take me for?!!" he yelled. "That's merely a hologram you conjured!! The real Achaia would never be so nice natured!! I already told you... I refuse to do it!"




"I am the best!"


Baldur paused and regarded the metal face for a moment.

"It would have to be the ultimate ultimate power!" Baldur countered. "Or no sale!"


"So I'll be even stronger than you?" Baldur asked.


"And all I have to do is bring you this... thing capable of destroying you?"


Baldur closed his eyes, arms crossed in a firm, floating stance. Concentration was etched on his face for a good ten seconds, and then he opened his eyes and spoke again.

"What is this object, and how and where can I find it?"

Another image appeared before him, this time of a golden staff. Three gems at one end, and one at the other.


"Why don't you just destroy it yourself?" Baldur asked as the image vanished.


"Very well then," said Baldur firmly. "And how exactly do I find it?"


In an even more thunderous dissonance than before, both arms creaked with movement as he raised them and brought them together in an action that could easily be confused for trying to squash Baldur in a clapping action. Baldur himself was nervous about it, but the hands stopped a good distance apart from each other. There was a crackling sound from both of them for a while, and Baldur saw sparks flashing randomly from both of them like fireworks. Then, a bright flash.

"What the hell?" Dawson uttered from far below as he and the others heard a loud crackle and saw the vivid flare for an instant. "What's happening now?"

"You heard what that mechanical murderer said to him didn't you?!" Chris hissed. "He's struck a deal with that little hothead to get that staff Nixon told us about!"

"What staff?" Zapp asked.

Nobody answered him, instead just staring as they saw dull bolts of horizontal light high in the air. Baldur was in the middle of it all, as the thick streams of white energy moving between both hands flickered around and even through him. The force was too powerful for him to even move, paralysing him into a rigid board of a creature. It was just under twenty seconds when the process finished, and ears were shielded once again as the mammoth limbs returned to their owner's side. Baldur opened his eyes in a flash, random arc-shaped strings of electricity flaring over and around him. His hair was even more spiky than normal, and he seemed to have a slight glow around him. He looked at his right arm, flexing it and scrunching his hand into a tight fist.

"I... I can feel the power within me!" he uttered. "It's incredible!!"


"I shall," Baldur nodded. "The staff shall be a good as yours! And soon after, pure perfection will be as good as mine!"

With a galvanic explosion around him, Baldur shot into the distance, leaving a stream of light behind as he disappeared into a hole high above. As the energy window flickered back into life, Chris, Madcap, Boris and Zapp all just stared at Dawson.

"It senses the staff," the mercenary leader stated. "So it must be reforged and ready."

"Do you seriously believe that legend?!" Madcap asked in disbelief.

"After what I've seen in here," Dawson stated. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"So all this is in vain?!" Chris growled. "We came in here for nothing?! And if it is all true, and Baldur brings that staff to that thing, we might as well kiss each other's asses goodbye!"

"When that time comes, I'll kiss yours," Zapp said to her from the ground with a suggestive wink. Chris stomped down on Zapp's nearest hand, making him yelp.

Madcap spoke, "I'd hate to think what would happen if the mouth of this thing were open when the shield was dropped! Even if we weren't sucked out, the air would be!"

"No problem for me," Zapp said proudly. "I can hold my breath for ten minutes. Though, my doctor warned me that the oxygen deprivation from doing so has caused me minor brain damage..."

"What about the intense pressure?" Madcap asked him.

"What about it?" Zapp replied unsurely.

"Well, we all took pressure pills in case there were areas of extreme pressure here."

"Oh," Zapp said. "Got any left?"

"Yes," said Chris, opening her pack to produce two boxes. "We have two varieties: Professor Farnsworth's Good News Pressure Pills, or Doctor Wernstrom's Ass Discs."

"Uhhh... maybe I'll use one later," Zapp said, then he suddenly looked suggestively at her. "Unless..."

"No! I won't!" Chris growled angrily before he could say any more.

"Look," said Dawson, "we may not be able to destroy this thing, but we may be able to stop it getting the staff?"

"How?!" said Chris, a tone of clear defeat in her voice. "Face it! We're as good as dead!"

"We'll find a way," Dawson said calmly and confidentially. "And we'll have plenty of time to think about it while we continue upwards."

He walked past them and retrieved his magnetic climbing gear, which had been clamped onto the floor of the ledge.

"Come on, people! Let's get going before Baldur can return. And before these cerebro shell things run out of juice."

"We have incoming, Captain!" Lieutenant Sheana yelled quickly with desperation. "I'll try to deflect the offensive shot, but it's coming in fast!"


"Shot diverted," she sighed with relief. "But they will likely counter my return fire!"

"Stop playing table hockey and get back to your post, Lieutenant," Ditte said from behind her. She whirled her head around in shock.

"Captain?!" she exclaimed.


An obnoxious laugh sounded from across the gaming table and Sheana looked in dismay down to see the puck wedged in her goal slot. The distraction had put her off guard.

"You're ten minutes late, Lieutenant," Ditte told her, pointing to the clocks above the bar across the room. "You can come back and play when your shift is over."

"Sorry, Captain," she said, cheeks red with embarrassment. "I guess time caught up on me. I'll go straight to the bridge..."

She looked at the GMT clock, which read 5:11pm, then took the puck out of the goal and threw it roughly on the table, sneering across at her opponent.

"And that shot didn't count! I'll show you who's the queen of games in five hours time!"

"Yes, we'll shall see indeed," said a smug Cubert. Sheana gave him a venomous sneer, waived it to give her Captain a nod of respect, and then left the room. Ditte took a seat at a table and Cubert wandered over to him.

"Hello, Captain," he greeted. "Aren't you supposed to be on the bridge?"

Ditte chuckled a bit, ignoring the kid's lack of respect.

"Even captains need their time away from duty," he answered simply. "You're the Professor's son, aren't you?"

"Clone would be more accurate," came Cubert's reply. "Which means I inherit his genius, rather than just have to learn it. For example, reciting pi as follows. Three point one four one five nine two six five three five eight nine seven nine three two three eight four six..."

Ditte's uninterested expression perked up as he saw Leela enter from across the room. She was no longer wearing the green jacket from before, and was looking around the room as if to search for somebody.

"If you'll excuse me," he said to Cubert, his gaze not leaving Leela as he stood up and left the table, and left Cubert to recite the numbers to thin air.

"Hi Captain," she smiled as she caught sight of him. The smile seemed weak, but genuine.

"Hello Captain," he responded with a grin Leela considered cheesy but rather suave at the same time. "Sleep well?"

"Unfortunately no," she exhaled heavily. "I've had a lot on my mind."

"I'm sorry," Ditte sympathised. "Are we still on for tonight, because we can cancel if--"

"Don't worry, it's still a date," Leela cut in quickly. "Unless something else comes up that is. Have you seen any of the others from my crew?"

"Only Cubert there," he answered, thumbing over his shoulder. "The rest must all be sleeping still. Or elsewhere."

"Perhaps you can help me then?"


"It's about Elod," she whispered.

"The Rabbish?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "There's something about him I don't trust. Especially the fact he seems to spend an awful lot of time," Leela made quote-mark gestures with her fingers, "working on his ship."

She finished the gesture, lowered her hands and darted her eye back and forth.

"Anyway, I was wondering if somebody could distract him for a while, so that I might have a chance to check out his ship and see if I can find something out. Do you think you could do that somehow?"

Ditte's face became incised in thought.

"Well, since he is the proven killer of a DOOP Lieutenant Commander, we could have him locked away. But that's too extreme and wouldn't do us any good..."

"I want him to go back and think nothing has happened if possible," Leela added.

"Well, maybe I could just talk to him about the matter, but not actually arrest or charge him with anything?" Ditte asked. "Just say that the DOOP is aware and concerned about the issue, even thought in truth it doesn't know about it, just for a while..."

"That'd be perfect!" Leela smiled, nodding quickly and clasping her hands in a ball before her chest. "Can you do that, please?"

"Sure. When do you want me to do it?"

"Before we arrive would be good. In fact, as soon as you can if possible. Depending on what I find there, it may just ease my mind a bit."

"Now's good, "Ditte shrugged. "I've got a few hours away from the bridge unless there's an emergency Kif thinks I'm needed for."

"Good," Leela smiled. "I'll just go to him now, and tell him to meet you in your office then, if that's okay?"

"Sure, I'll head there now. Though, does he suspect that you suspect him?"

"Hmmm... I have a suspicion that he suspects I suspect him," Leela admitted. "Maybe I should send somebody in my place? But everybody else is asleep still."

"Not everybody," smiled Ditte, flicking his head behind him. Leela put a hand her forehead when she saw whom he meant.

"Oh God..."

Cubert entered the Planet Express ship cautiously, looking around the seemingly empty interior. Walking straight to the cargo bay door, the young clone opened the door a crack and peer in. There was nobody there at all, just the ship and a switched on lamp on the nearby work desk. But on the desk say something that interested Cubert.

"What have we here?" he whispered to himself, walking over and carefully picking up the item. It was Elod's special belt, left there unguarded, and free for Cubert to examine. Or was it?

"PUT THAT DOWN!!" a deep voice hissed from behind the nosey inquirer.

Cubert dropped the item, whirled around and screamed, as a large robotic figure walked towards him, its hands reaching out towards him. It was humanoid in appearance, and with the exception of its elbow joints, knee caps, and feet, which were all a metallic red tinge, it was pretty much completely silver. Below the knees it had fairly bulky, but smooth, metal, while above them the thighs were actually shaped like that of a human's. The pelvis was fairly thick, and then there was a thinner area with a flexible joint at the stomach-region of the torso. Also fairly rounded, the chest was thick and had several random protrusions on it, particularly on its right side, where two large round pieces jutted forward. They had holes in them, seeming to resemble a jet engine's exhaust pipes or the ends of a laser gun barrel. Two arms were joint to this main torso, thick and half-shaped like a muscular human's upper arm until the elbow joint, the other half comprising of more strange ! metal protrusions that looked like moulded on engines. The forearms weren't as humanoid, being blockier in shape with curved protrusions sloping back from the elbows, finishing off with the metallic hands at the other end. Finally, a head sat upon it, also roundish and fluently curved. But as it leaned down to Cubert closer, the light shining across face vanished, revealing to the frightened clone that it was not a robot at all. Behind a slightly tinted glass panel was an angry face. Angry, but familiar.

"E-E-Elod?!" Cubert stuttered. "I-Is that you?!"

Two metallic hands grabbed onto the bottom edge of the metal face, then slid it upwards. There Elod's face appeared instead, his look of vexation remaining and his green spikes of hair springing up into their usual explosion, as if they had never been compacted under a heavy metal helmet at all.

"Whoa!" Cubert remarked, managing a smile. "That suit is awesome! When I grow up, I so want one! But... what are you doing in it?"

"I was testing it to make sure it's ready for when we take on the machine," he answered simply, still glowering. "But the real question is what are you doing here?!"

"Captain Ditte sent me to get you," Cubert answered, overdoing it on the emissary role with a rather snooty demeanour and accent. "He wants to speak with you immediately about something to do with one of his officers getting killed on Graz..."

"I see," answered the Rabbish, placing the helmet on the bench nearby. "And why were you sent rather than somebody else? Like the one-eyed captain, for a random example."

"Because I am the only one known to be awake at the moment," Cubert replied. "Everybody else is sleeping after the all nighter to get this stupid staff together. Don't you sleep?"

"My race can go for long periods without sleep," Elod answered gruffly. "And over billions upon billions of years, I have mastered that. I save my sleep for when I know things are safe and eyes aren't watching me. And to be honest, I am not used to allying with others, so forgive me if I choose to be a bit wary."

He flicked a panel open on his left forearm, then pressed a series of buttons on the keypad within. Cubert jumped a bit as the whole metal suit began to whirr, whiz and clunk, as the whole thing from the knees up suddenly seemed to pull apart from itself. The chest area flipped down, while the panels on the arms and upper legs retracted outwards, unclamping from its grip around Elod's body. The Rabbish slipped his arms out from the suit, then used them to hoist the rest of him out. He pressed the buttons on the suit's wrist again, and it snapped back together as before, standing there like a headless robot.

"So... you coming?" Cubert asked hopefully. For a while all he got was a strange stare from Elod, until the Rabbish reached past him and grabbed his mysterious belt and shoved it into his jacket pocket.

"Alright then," Elod said. "Let's go."

Cubert led the way, walking out of the ship and into the docking area. There were quite a few DOOP personnel there, but Elod looked around the area to see if he could spot or sense Leela or anybody else who might want to lead him away from the cargo bay. He knew Fry had been in the ship, but he couldn't sense him there when they had passed by. He was wishing now, as the left the docking bay, that he had tuned his mind more to Leela. Detecting life forms was easy, but detecting specific ones meant that Elod had to tune in to that particular life form for a while. As soon as the green-haired individual had left, a purple-haired one emerged with a smile from behind another docked ship.

"Perfect!" she whispered to herself with a sly simper.

Believing there was no time to lose, she scurried into the ship as fast as she could, and was standing before Elod's vessel in no time. Her eye flicked around the room quickly, trying to see if she could spot anything unusual. The helmet and robotic suit was the first thing she saw of note, but after a quick examination of it, she kept looking elsewhere. His sword leant against the wall nearby also, but it was the little sleek craft of Elod's itself that became the primary focus, the hatch still open as usual.

"Okay, Mister I've-Lived-For-Forever," she said to herself. "Let's see what you've got to hide..."

She jumped into the cockpit, landing neatly on the comfortably snug seat, but as she looked, around she couldn't see any buttons that were even remotely recognisable. Only the small joystick at the centre gave away its purpose, the rest either not labelled or labelled with symbols Leela didn't recognise.

"Crud!" she groaned. "He sure doesn't make this easy! Now what can I do?"

Leela heard something outside, then got a huge fright as something leapt up as she was about to peek over the side.

"Aaargh! Nibbler!" she growled, seeing whom it was that had jumped onto the edge of the ship. "You keep scaring me all the time!"

Nibbler responded with some complicated gibberish, then looked at the controls before Leela.

"I'm trying to find something that can tell me something about Elod," she told him, roughly throwing herself against the back of the seat with a heavy whuff of frustration. "But how can I when I don't understand these symbols?"

Nibbler responded again with more incomprehensible noises, then leapt across the keypad, stepping on several buttons as he did. Leela gasped.

"Nibbler, no! If you damage anything, he'll know somebody was here!"

She was about to grab him, but a noise sounded and something appeared on the main screen. She still couldn't read it though.

"Well, you've got something to appear, Nibbler," she said in partial awe. "But who knows what?!"

She looked at Nibbler.

"Do you think this thing has Bluetooth?"

Nibbler shrugged and so did she.

"Might as well try it," she said, pressing some buttons on her wrist device. "Though whether it can translate from whatever this language is, is another thing..."

She spoke towards her wrist, "Translate," then held it above the ship's central monitor. As she did, not only did her wrist device activate, but a voice sounded from the console before her.

"Language?" it seemed to say.

"Uhhh... English?" she responded, ignoring her wrist computer completely.

"American, Anglo-Saxon, Engrish, L33t, Oxford, UK?" the voice asked next

"American," Leela answered.

"Babelfish translation or good translation?"

"Good translation!" Leela said loudly and clearly.

Then, as if by magic, the text before her was suddenly readable, both on the screen and the keypad. Not only that, but it appeared to be the entries of a log of some kind.

"My God!" Leela exclaimed. "It's as if you knew which buttons to step on, Nibbler!"

Nibbler's eyes shifted back and forth quickly, but Leela was too engrossed in the screen to notice. Scanning things, a lot of the early stuff was of little interest. But then she came to an entry that seemed intriguing, soon after one that talked about him arriving at another planet for colonisation.

I experienced the most terrifying storm of my life on the 75th cycle since my arrival. It was no normal storm, more like a wrath from deep space that tore across the entire planet. I only survived because I was on the far side of the planet in an underground laboratory, later learning the direction the blast came from. It was from deep space somewhere, a massive explosion that seemed to rip across the entire universe. Luckily the planet was strong, and although all colonization efforts were decimated, I thank that I was not on one of the many worlds that were no doubt destroyed.

Leela continued to flick through, until something else caught her eye.

I returned home to discover it no longer there, and nothing in its place but a massive void. My thoughts go back to the big bang that occurred earlier, and I come to the conclusion that it must have been destroyed. It wasn't until I did further study that I learnt that my planet was actually the very source of the disturbance. And then it hit me... that it had finally happened. Our civil war against the Merak had ended, and the all-powerful staff had been set off, only to destroy everything. Many scientists had thought its power was too great to wield, and it looks like they were right. I suppose victory against the Merak and their robots had been achieved, but at great cost. After much deliberation, I have decided to try to find which colonies have survived the blast, in order to see if any others of my kind survived from afar.

Leela scanned on, quickly probing over the notes so catch glimpses of anything important in the form of keys words and sentences.

While this was going on, Elod stood before Captain Ditte getting rather impatient and suspicious. The conversation didn't really seem that serious considering the topic, and while Ditte did seem genuinely sad at the mention of Bill Raker's death, his speak of what the plans were with regard to Elod being the killer seemed weak and dubious. Elod was getting to a point where his mind was beginning to wander, thinking more about the current situation as a whole, rather than the deeds of the past Ditte was yammering on about. He decided to go through things from the start, when Cubert confronted him. Something didn't seem right, almost as if there was a piece missing to the puzzle. His mind kept focussing on Leela being behind things, but those thoughts suddenly diverted away, and he flinched with realisation as to exactly what he had missed before. Funnily enough, he was on completely the wrong track regarding what was really happening. He really should have been suspecting Leela, but that wasn't what made him excuse himself from Cubert and Ditte and rush out the door, for sometimes false suspicions can lead you to the real ones. As soon as he left, Cubert spoke into his small wrist device quickly and worriedly.

"Captain Leela! He's on his way back right now!"

Elod was past halfway there by this point, sprinting down the corridor at an incredible speed.

'Idiot!' he thought to himself. 'You passed by that door not sensing that Fry kid! But then of course you wouldn't have. You never could sense him in the first place!'

As a blue streak he entered the docking bay, turning a few DOOP heads as he shot into the Planet Express ship, straight for its cargo bay. There was nobody there, not by sight, nor by sense. As Elod looked carefully around, a purple-haired figure outside the ship darted out of the bay area from behind some crates through a set of doors. Elod was about to give up on the idea, but his eye suddenly caught something: the keyboard of his ship's console.

"That bastard!" me muttered, then swiftly stormed down the main ship passageway and into the crew quarters, expecting to find Fry, but discovering nobody there at all. He growled again, stomping to his ship again and leaping into it.

"Computer! Show last twenty records accessed!"

The ship bleeped in response, displaying something on its screen. He looked worried, but then calmed after a while.

"So... trying to find out my past, are we?" he whispered to himself. "Whoever you were, let's just say you're lucky you didn't get to delve too far."

Back in Captain Ditte's office, Leela spoke with the Captain and Cubert.

"I didn't read everything of course," she said. "But what I did read made him seem pretty damn honest. Not only that, but now I feel sorry for the guy."

"So he hid nothing?" Ditte asked.

Leela shook her head. "Not that I could see. Well, at least nothing sinister."

"Well, I have something that seemed very strange," said Cubert, sounding like a proud playground kid who had a damaging secret about a teacher. "Apart from his neat suit, there was something he was apparently very concerned about me touching. He put it in his pocket before he left, so you wouldn't have seen it."

"What is it?" Leela queried.

"It looked like a belt, or something. It had a thick grey strap and a metal box on it in the middle. There was circuitry inside it too."

"That sound like anything you know about?" Leela asked Ditte. He just shook his head.

"Wait!" Leela said suddenly, turning to Cubert. "Where did you find it?"

"On the main work bench beside his ship."

"I thought so!" Leela smiled, her voice accusing but satisfied. "What's the time in GMT?"

"Five thirty eight," responded Cubert.

"Perfect," Leela smiled, turning to Ditte. "I've got about two hours then. Is it okay if we use one of the bridge computers to do some research, Captain?"


"Good. Cubert, you're coming with me. We have a date on the Internet."

"We're going on a date?!" Cubert asked hopefully as she dragged him along by the arm.

"No!" she frowned. "It was an expression! I just want to check up on this belt, and since you saw what it looked like, you can help me."

"Oh, sorry," he said with a sigh. "I'm just at that age, y'know? Girls are interesting, especially attractive ones. And you have such a nice pair of--"

"Cubert!" Leela snapped, cutting him off. "If you want to get a date, that's not something you tell a girl! Unless they're thin as a rake, with an abnormally large chest, clothes that would be considered revealing on a gnat, and have only one name that's either a flower, gemstone, or dessert..."

"But those are the kind of girls I'm after," whined Cubert.

Leela sighed and rolled her eye. "Men. More than two-hundred and fifty thousand years old, and their brain still hasn't evolved."

Fry's brain in the meantime was miles away, as he stared into the effervescing, translucent liquid that sat in his glass. He sat at Daniela's bar with it, leaning on the bench rather like Amy had just a few hours earlier. He just continued to stare at it intently, not even noticing Daniela approach him. Or not reacting to it if he did.

"Something wrong?" she asked him sympathetically, leaning on her side of the bar herself. Fry just continued to stare at his drink, and just as Daniela was about to speak again to make sure he had heard, he spoke.

"It's contained, but there's more beyond the boundaries of its container."

"Huh?" she asked.

"The drink," he answered. "It's contained within the glass, sort of like its own little universe, but there's more beyond it. Like this room. And then, there's more beyond that, which is the ship. And then there's more beyond the ship too, with the galaxy it's in."

"Yes, I suppose you're right," she said unsurely. "Is there a point you're trying to get to?"

"I'm just wondering... how can it end?"

"I suppose it has to sometime," Daniela shrugged.

"Does it?" Fry queried back. "Or does it have to be endless?"

Daniela have him a strange look, so he just smiled and shrugged.

"Ah, never mind. I was just thinking about this dream I had. About several dreams I've had actually."

"Maybe you should be talking to the Counsellor instead of me then," Daniela suggested. "I help people see strange things, not help explain them."

"No, that's alright," Fry replied before taking another drink. He wiped his sleeve across his mouth when he finished and sighed with satisfaction.

"Are you sure something isn't wrong?" Daniela asked him again. "You're acting pretty strange."

"I don't know," Fry shrugged. "I feel depressed sort of, but then sorta not at the same time. It's like my mind is frustrated but it doesn't want to be or something?"

"What about?"

"Oh, just this girl I guess," Fry sighed. "That and these dreams I have."

"This girl wouldn't happen to be a voluptuous violet-haired cyclops, would she?"

"That's the one," Fry groaned. "Every time something bad happens, she comes along and makes things worse."

"So I've heard," Daniela nodded. "But I also heard she's been trying to make you feel better."

"But she just keeps making things worse!"

"Why do you think that is?" Daniela posed.

Fry thought for a while then shrugged. "I dunno... I think she just doesn't understand or something..."

Then, a voice called from across the room.

"Hey, Fry!!"

Fry turned to see Bender trotting over towards him happily. He gave a weak smile to his mechanical friend.

"Hey, Bender," he answered casually before raising the edge of the glass to his mouth again.

"Good to see you've stopped moping around, pal!" Bender answered, taking a seat beside him. "Decided to accept getting lucky for what it is, huh?"

"Not really," Fry shrugged. "But for some reason unknown to me, I don't feel quite as down as before, even though I'm still angry."

"Sounds like one of those illogical things humans get now and then," Bender shrugged. "Anyway, d'ya want to play a few games of cards with me and the others in a while? Y'know... just to while the last few hours of the night away?"

"I dunno..."

"Awww... Come on, Fry," Bender pleaded. "I've got All My Circuits Uno..."

"Will Leela be there?" Fry asked, saying her name with spite.

"Naw! She'll be busy on her date with Captain Ditte."

Fry's eyes flared up with anger, and he rose out of his seat.

"On her what?!" he growled.

Bender suddenly looked submissive. "Uhhh... did I say date?" he answered nervously. "I meant... platonic meeting at... unromantic location for... uh... purely business-related discussions."

Fry growled and thumped the date, causing the glasses upon it to rattle upon the surface and making Bender jump. He turned a nasty glare towards the robot, making it clear the anger wasn't directed at his friend but was present nonetheless.

"And when and where is this 'platonic meeting' then?"

"At eight tonight GMT in one of the Holo-Sheds as far as I know," Bender answered. "Apparently they're going to have a meal in it."

"Not if I can help it!" Fry growled.

"Why would you want to help it?" Bender asked. "I thought you'd want to stop it?"

"I'll play your game, Bender," Fry nodded. "At least until about half-past eight tonight."

"But it starts at eight."

"I know. I don't want to stop it from happening, I just want to barge in on it."

"Okay," Bender chuckled. "Why though?"

"You'll see..."

"I will?"

"Well... no, you probably won't. But you'll hear about it no doubt. In the meantime, I'll just wait."

Back in the Planet Express Ship, Nibbler was alerted by a familiar beeping sound. He leapt into the locker again from his spot curled up on one of the beds, then retrieved his communicator from behind the panel and spoke into it.

"Ambassador Nibbler of Earth speaking."

"Greetings Lord Nibbler," said Ken's rich voice from the other end. "I have called to acknowledge that we have now received all of your transmissions."

"Acknowledgement acknowledged," Nibbler answered.

"We have already begun research, and will inform you of any major developments as they are found."

"Excellent," Nibbler said. "And while we are speaking, I must inform you of some interesting news."

"Do tell, Lord Nibbler..."

"Accurate sources seem to have confirmed that The Mighty One and The Other performed the human reproductive act one night previous, despite the rift between them. In fact, the act itself appears to have been a partial cause of the rift."

"That is indeed good news!" Ken replied excitedly. "There is hope yet."

"Yes. But I am still concerned about the Rabbish," Nibbler said wearily. "He speaks of things not even I understand."

"Be patient, Lord Nibbler. "His intentions shall be revealed eventually. Until then, remain cautious, but do not interfere."

Nibbler then heard another voice from his communicator, sounding more distant than Ken's.

"Excuse me, sir!" it said urgently. "But there's something you should see immediately!"

"Can't it wait?" Ken's voice answered.

"No, I don't think that it can."

A sigh was heard from Ken and he spoke again to Nibbler.


"Acknowledged," said Nibbler.

As soon as he had responded, he sensed something behind him, and turned around with a gasp.

"You know too much!" a sharp voice said, and a blue hand grasped the small rodent-like creature by the throat and pulled him away. Meanwhile, the hooded and robed Ken followed his summoner into a dark room, lit only by the dim haze from a bank of monitors. He who led him was also a rather generic looking Nibblonian, though he wore a little blue spacesuit instead of a robe.

"Now!" said Ken impatiently. "What did you drag me here for?"

"Take a look for yourself," the other Nibblonian responded worriedly, pointing at one of the screens. Ken stepped up to it and gasped loudly.

"By the fabric of time and space!!" he answered in shock. "I must inform Lord Nibbler immediately!!"

He scurried away out the door, and within a few seconds, his voice was heard again through Nibbler's communicator. But the device was without owner, lying abandoned on the top locker shelf.

"Lord Nibbler! I have some important news!"

There was no reply.

"Lord Nibbler?!"

A blue hand grasped the device, and a gruff voice spoke.

"Nibbler shall speak no more!" it hissed. "Your communications have now ceased!"

All Ken got after that through his own communicator was a sharp crackle as the hand clenched and crushed Nibbler's one. Ken cursed something in Nibblonian and emitted a huge sigh, as he stood in a small round room with nothing in it but a single hanging light and an ajar door behind him. In it stood his comrade.

"Something wrong, sir?" he said. Ken turned to him with a distressed look beneath his hood.

"Prepare my ship for transport," he ordered. "And hurry!

Two hours and twenty seven-minutes later

"Morbo will now discuss this impending threat with our next guest," the menacing news monster growled from the television set in Daniela's bar. "The head of George W. Bush."

"Thank you, Morbo," nodded a grey-haired head in a jar as the camera changed.

"George," Morbo started frankly. "What are your thoughts on the ever-closing doom this piteous planet faces?"

"Well, I definitely think we can't misunderestimate this threat to our freedom," Bush's head answered. "And while I think that most external alien threats come from outside extraterrestrial sources, I can't help but feel this is the work of Al-Qaeda."

As Morbo's interview with the former presidential head went on, Fry sat at a table in the bar, a collection of multicoloured All My Circuits cards in one hand and his chin in the other. Also around the table sat Zoidberg to his left, then clockwise Bender, Amy and finally Hermes. A pile of cards sat before them, the one on the top a green seven with a picture of Human Friend on it. It was Bender's turn and he threw down another green card with Human Friend's image and the words 'Draw Two' on it.

"Pick up two, Amy!" he laughed.

"Nuh uh!" Amy snickered chucking down a blue card of the same type with Monique on it. "I'll make Hermes have to pick up four!"

"Sweet Wildebeest of de Middle East!" Hermes commented. "Because Fry will have to pick up six!"

He threw down a red card with Boxy on it, then sneered at Fry. Fry just threw down another green 'Draw Two' card with Human Friend on it and looked at Zoidberg. The doctor groaned.

"Awwwww... Why does it always happen?! I keeps getting switched and Zoidberg has to pick up the most cards!"

"Pick up eight, Zoidberg!" Hermes said with glee. Zoidberg suddenly smirked.

"However, today is an exception," he grinned, throwing down a yellow 'Draw Two' Calculon card. Bender groaned loudly.

"Pick up ten, robot!" Zoidberg chuckled with glee. The image of Calculon on the card suddenly moved, looking shocked and moving its hands up to its face.

"What an ironic twist!" the card overdramatically said with Calculon's voice.

"Ahh, shut up!" Bender yelled to it as he picked up his cards. Fry looked up and the clocks above the bar and suddenly rose from his chair.

"I've got to go!" he said. "See you all later."

Amy made an unsure sound as Fry threw his cards down and rushed away.

"Does Fry seem to be acting strange to you?" she asked, playing a yellow card with a three on it down. Hermes shrugged.

"Who knows wid Fry?" he uttered, chucking down a yellow reverse card. "He has more mood swings dan Zoidberg half de time."

"That's true," admitted Amy. "But now he seems... I dunno? Better, but not at the same time."

She threw down a yellow 'Draw Two' card.

"Auggh! Dammit!!!" Bender yelled, picking up another two cards. The Calculon face on Amy's card moved in the same fashion the previous one did.

"Another ironic twist!!"

Elsewhere in the ship, Leela and Captain Ditte sat at a small table for two at what appeared to be outside a fancy European restaurant overlooking the ocean during sunset. Ditte wore his beige dress uniform while Leela had a dark indigo dress, some pearls around her neck and dangling gold earrings. They both had red wine and a meal that looked to consist of mostly salad.

"So you found nothing at all?" Ditte asked her as he jabbed his knife into a red wedge of tomato, causing the seeds in it to separate and ooze over the lettuce leaf they sat on. Leela shook her head.

"Nope. Two hours of searching, and not a single hint as to what that belt was!" she said with amazement. "Cubert couldn't see a thing that even looked remotely like it!"

"Maybe he'll show us what it is?" Ditte shrugged.

"Yeah, but first hand? I don't think that's a good idea. And while we could ax him, he'd probably just lie."

Leela spiked a disc of cucumber with her fork and twirled it around.

"I don't know... I feel like he's still hiding something. No matter how honest those logs seem."

She crunched down on the circular slice roughly, getting a surprised look from Ditte as she munched it with a scowl, her gaze towards the ocean.

"Do I sense something else troubling you?" he asked. She looked at him, keeping the scowl for a while before noticing the sympathetic and kind expression he wore, where upon it was abandoned along with a heavy breath.

"Yeah, you're right as usual," she admitted. "It's just my friend. Y'know... Fry? There are, how should I say... issues, in regards to him."

"Want to talk about it?"

"Not really," she admitted. "I've already told enough people already. I don't need you worrying about it either."

She exhaled again, stabbing a lettuce leaf wearily, and failing to snag it properly.

"I'm just glad he doesn't know about this dinner date."

Just outside, Fry looked down the hallway to see some double doors with 'HOLO-SHED' written above it in large purple letters. A light blue sign hung on the doors with the word 'OCCUPADO' on it, while two DOOP ensigns stood on either side of the entrance, one a human and one a robot. A control pad was inset into the wall to the left of the doors.

"Bingo!" Fry said to himself, and he walked towards it. The human ensign walked up to him.

"Sorry pal, but you can't go in here!" he stated. "Orders from Captain Ditte himself."

"Yeah!" said the robot one. "Can't you read the sign?"

"I can't read Canadian," Fry answered, then he suddenly jumped and narrowed his eyes. "Hey, I know you two You guys are NNYPD! What are you doing here with The Skirts?"

"We joined up when we heard the DOOP was short on men after fighting the planet eater," shrugged Smitty.

"Yeah!" added URL smoothly. "We wanted to help blast that thing's giant ass to hell and back! Awwww yeah!"

"So do I," said Fry. "So can you let me past?"

"Why should we?" Smitty asked.

"Yeah!" agreed URL, activating his sabre-baton. "Give us a reason why we shouldn't kick your ass with our laser boots?"

"Yeah!" said Smitty. "These laser boots were made for walkin'! A-And kickin' too!"

"Uh... Because I... I'm an ambassador," Fry said.

"Ambassador?" Smitty asked.

"That's right," said Fry confidently. "You can't hurt me, I have diplomatic mutiny!"

"I don't believe you!" Smitty growled.

Fry sighed and slumped his shoulders. "Fine, I'll go then..."

He turned around and took a couple of steps, then suddenly pointed down an adjacent corridor looking excited about something.

"Hey look! Somebody's trying to distract you guys!" he yelled. The two former cops gasped and ran over.

"What?! Where?!!" said Smitty.

"Who'd wanna mess with us?!" added URL.

As they both looked down the corridor Fry quickly darted to the unguarded doors and pressed a large button on the control panel. The doors slid aside and he slipped in, while the two guards kept looking.

"I don't see anybody, do you?" Smitty asked his partner.

"Nope. Null!"

They turned back and groaned.

"Awww, he got away!" commented URL. "We shouldn't have got distracted!"

"But it's part of our job description as door guards," Smitty shrugged.

Inside the simulation, Ditte stopped eating abruptly as he saw Fry come across them from through the restaurant entrance. Leela was about to ask about it when she heard a voice behind her.

"Ah hah!" Fry yelled. "Caught you!"

"Fry!" she said whirling around in surprise. "What are you doing here?!"

"And how did you get past the guards?" asked Ditte sternly. "Were they hugging again?"

"No, they're just slightly dimmer than me, which is all I needed!"

"What do you want, Fry?" Leela posed in a rather annoyed tone.

"I want to know what you're game is?!" he answered. "One night you're seducing me into bed, the next you're on a date with this guy!"

Ditte gasped and looked at Leela, making her blush and go into defensive mode.

"I didn't... I mean I did, but... I wasn't..."

"Planning to get him into bed before we get to Ulpius too, huh?" Fry snorted.

"No!!" she said, more in sad shock and disbelief than anger.

"You sicken me!" snorted Fry. "What is it with you and toying with guy's emotions?!"

"Fry, stop it!" she said, almost to tears. "You're being irrational! It's not like that at all!"

"Isn't it?!" he growled before shifting his glance towards Ditte. "Here's some advice from the Twentieth Century, Captain: Things may have changed a lot since I was frozen. Since then, man may have contacted hundreds of alien races, created robots that can think for themselves, and managed to travel faster than the speed of sound. But lots of things haven't changed. Everybody still loves chocolate, Nixon is still a jerk, there hasn't been anything officially greater than sliced bread, and, most of all, man's greatest enemy is still woman!"

There was a long period of silence. Leela managed to compose herself, finally speaking in a straightforward tone.

"Captain. Would you mind leaving us alone for a while?"

"Sure," he answered simply, looking back and forth between them before leaving the area via the restaurant entrance. Leela sighed as soon as he disappeared, taking a seat and looking up at Fry dolefully. He just stayed standing with crossed arms.

"Why did you just do that?" she asked. "Why did burst in and say those horrible things?"

"Because I had to!" he snorted.

"Why though? Was it because I hurt you, you decided to hurt me back? Even though I wasn't trying to hurt you in the first place?"

"No!" Fry said with frustration, turning away from her swiftly.

"Then why?" she pleaded. "Why do you hate me?"

"Hate you?" he repeated, turning his head over his shoulder and actually showing some sympathy on his face. "You think I hate you?"

"Yes," she answered woefully along with a simple nod and closed eye. Fry closed his own pair and dropped his head.

"Oh, Leela," he groaned sadly. "No matter what you do, I couldn't..."

She looked up at him and he faced her again, tears revealed as his eyelids opened.

"Sometimes I hate the things you do, and things you say, and things you do and say to me, but I could never actually hate you. I could never hate somebody I love so much. I just couldn't."

"Then why do you hurt me back saying nasty things like that, Fry?" she asked. "Do you think two wrongs make a right or something? Look, I admit that I was wrong and I apologised for it. What more do you want from me? Realistically?"

"I can't really say. Just open your eye, and look at things for what they really are," he sighed. "Perhaps you'll see for yourself."

He turned away and began walking towards the restaurant entrance.

"Where are you going?" she called.

"I'm not feeling well," Fry responded. "I'm going to have an early night."

His disappeared into darkness, appearing on the other side of the Holo-Shed to be grabbed by Smitty and URL.

"Got ya!" URL growled. "You're under arrest for breaking DOOP law code number 4ACV11!"

"Distracting an officer in order to get out of a place, into a place, or to steal his food, drink or saucy wench!" Smitty explained.

"Let him go," said Ditte simply. "He's done nothing wrong."

They shrugged and obeyed, and Fry unruffled his sleeves and gave Ditte a deadpan look.

"Thanks," he imparted, and then walked away. Ditte sighed and wandered back into the opened Holo-Shed, almost bumping into Leela as he emerged out of the restaurant doors she was about to go into.

"Sorry," he said. "You're leaving?"

"Yeah," she nodded, her arms stretched down across her front and folded at the wrists. "I'm sorry about it but... I think that we should stop any non-professional contact from now on. At least until this whole thing is sorted out."

Ditte's normally rigid shoulders sank and his eyes drifted down at his feet, making him seem even smaller than he already was.

"I see..."

"I'm sorry," Leela said genuinely, reaching up to her left ear with both hands. "I had a wonderful time, really I did. There are just still some things with Fry I need to sort out."

"I understand," Ditte said sadly as Leela unclipped the left earring. She moved her hands to her right ear.

"It's complicated and confusing. but maybe once we've got this stupid planet-eater out the way, who knows?"

"Yeah," he answered as she removed the other earring and gave him a small smile.

"You're a very nice man, Captain," she said. "But now's just not the time."

She leant forward and down a little to place a small kiss on his cheek, then walked past him and left the area. Ditte sighed, then spoke out loud.

"Computer. End simulation."

The whole area flickered and vanished, until it was just Ditte standing there in a small black room covered with a grid of squares with fluorescent blue lines. A single arc doorway and control panel was situated behind him where the restaurant once was, as his world literally faded away.