Futurama

Fan Fiction

Futurama: Universe of Malice, Part 5
By Kenneth White

Chapter 5 - Golden Plunder

Silence. Not a single sound could be heard through the dark rooms of the museum. The only illumination was the pale moonlight that gleamed through the large windows, leaving hundreds of lucent squares across the rooms. The silence was broken, however, by a metallic rattle from the ceiling in one of the larger rooms. It was the sound of an air conditioning grate being removed.

Then, out of the hole which the grate covered, the shadowy outline of a head popped down. A long ponytail hung down from the back of the figure's head as it turned and looked around, scanning the area. Then, the shadow of an arm also appeared. The hand on the end of the arm held what was shaped like a torch. But it wasn't an ordinary torch. Upon being flicked on, the object radiated a dark red beam of light. Upon scanning around the room, thin cerise laser beams could be seen almost everywhere in the building. After a thorough inspection, the torch was flicked again, whereupon this time a pale-yellow beam was expelled around the room. Searching along the top edges of the rooms, several security cameras could be picked out.

Another arm whipped down out of the ceiling, holding what looked like a gun, and with a quiet whish, a tiny little object was shot out of it and hit the nearest camera, attaching itself to the side of it. The figure disappeared into the roof again.

"Okay!" said Leela in the darkness to Fry and Bender. "I've hit one of the cameras. Once it's disabled, Fry and I will go down to get the item, carefully trying to avoid the lasers. Bender, you'll stay here and lower us down carefully."

Bender and Fry nodded. Leela pulled out a small device and switched it on, then pressed the button. The small device on the camera flashed for a second when this happened.

"Good. Now the cameras will be frozen, so they only see what they saw when the button was pressed. To any security guards, it'll look like an empty room. Let's go, Fry."

Fry nodded in response, and Leela poked her head and arms through the hole again. She switched on the torch to its red setting and scanned the area below them. Several bright red beams could be seen around the general area, but luckily the space of air just below them was relatively laser free. Leela gently pushed herself out of the space above and made her way down to the glass case below. Inside was the object that they had to acquire for Baron Steinmann.

Then, everything went fuzzy and began to turn. Leela shook her head to combat the dizziness. She was still feeling a little strange after the stun ray that had hit her. It had only been about an hour since she had woke up, and the Baron had made her, Fry and Bender undertake the task of stealing the cane of HAL Capone from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fry followed her carefully, carrying an object in each hand. When Leela was about a metre away from the top of the case, she stopped and looked up at Fry. She nodded, and Fry passed her the device in his right hand. Leela took it with her right hand, still holding the torch device in her left. Aiming carefully, she turned on the object and a bright-red laser shot down onto the top of the case. Leela carefully cut a circle in the thick glass. Before she could finish it, Fry used the other device to shoot the circle in the centre. A small suction device attached to a thin, but strong, flexible wire hit the glass. As soon as Leela's cut was complete, Fry slowly reeled the circle of glass back up. Leela took a third device from her belt, a mechanism that looked like a metallic rod with a claw attached. Aiming with the claw facing down, the claw extended down through the freshly cut hole below and then grabbed onto the object inside.

Wriggling the object to make sure the claw's grasp was sufficient, Leela brought the metal talon and the item it grasped back up, through the hole and into her awaiting hand. She examined the long object and looked at it with a puzzled expression. What she held was a cane with a large, golden question mark on the top. That's what it was. A heavy question mark forged out of gold. Before she could even think much about the object, she was even more dumbfounded by what she saw next.

First she heard a sound, getting closer and closer, echoing around the museum. Then across the room, without warning and for no apparent reason, a happy looking pig appeared, trotting in from one of the other areas. As its hooves trotted across the ground, still sending echoes around the room, Leela gave Fry the signal to return back up into the ceiling. However, upon looking up behind her, she noticed Fry wasn't there.

Leela began to panic, and she gasped as the pig got closer. Then, from above her, she heard a familiar sound. Looking up, she saw her little pet Nibbler staring down at her, making his familiar grunts and snuffles. Leela's mind immediately thought of the whole situation.

"The pig!!" she gasped.

No sooner had she spoke, when Nibbler jumped out of the vent, lunging towards the pig. Leela stretched out and grabbed him by his cape, leaving him hanging there with her, snarling and struggling to get to the porker below. Unfortunately, by grabbing Nibbler, she had dropped the torch that was in her left hand. The device rattled as it hit the ground, shutting off. Leela breathed a sigh of relief that no alarms had been activated. However, it was at that moment when Nibbler's cape decided to rip.

All Leela could do was hang there and watch, with the cane in one hand and a piece of torn red material in the other as Nibbler bounded down towards the pig. The alarm bells rang as Nibbler must have passed through several lasers, but the pig remained unmoved. As the little creature dived for its meal, it found itself hitting the floor with a yelp. The pig had disappeared completely just before Nibbler could reach it. Leela decided it was time to pull herself back up, so she uprighted herself and called Nibbler back. As the little pet began to turn towards its owner, the alarms switched off and it froze as new sounds entered the room.

Bursting through the entrance that the pig came from, three large robots walked in. They were heavily built and even more heavily armed, with red glowing optics. Simultaneously, they all aimed their large arm-mounted guns towards Nibbler.

Leela stared in shock, then cried out, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

Half of her screams were overwhelmed by the sounds of multiple shots. Although Nibbler tried to run, he didn't get far before his back legs were lacerated and shattered by the thin red laser shots. The front half of his body was sent hurtling into the air and into one of the windows, leaving an amorphous shaped streak of crimson red across the glass as he squelched into it before hitting the floor. Leela just hung there, her jaw open and streaks of clear liquid running from her eye down her face. She had never seen such horror.

Little Nibbler squealed in pain, trying to pull itself towards the speechless Leela. Leaving a smear of dark red fluid trailing behind him, his entrails dragged behind him, occasionally leaving an internal organ in the scarlet stream. He didn't make much more than a metre in distance before he collapsed, unmoving and creating a growing puddle of blood.

Leela's bottom lip wobbled and she just stared at the sight. After a few seconds, her expression changed from sorrow to that of anger. She growled at the robotic murderers, which caused them to acknowledge her existence also, and sliced the rope she dangled from.

Landing on her feet and breathing heavily, she spoke with malevolence at the three security bots, "You BASTARDS!!! You BASTARDS killed Nibbler!!! Now you'll pay!!!"

Before the robots could even train their weapons at her, Leela activated the laser glasscutter with the flick of her thumb. The narrow shaft of heat hit the nearest robot in the centre of the head, exploding with impact. As another robot lifted its weapon, Leela swung her arm in a horizontal motion, sending the ray across it's mid-section. The robot's top half fell backwards onto the floor. Leela growled as she took out the final machine with a vertical slash from the tool, which had now become a weapon, sending the left and right halves of the mechanical beast falling in two. There she stood, breathing and snorting heavily, rage evident in her eye.

Click!

Leela whirled her head around to her right to see another robot just a few feet away, its gun raised towards her. Staring into the barrel, Leela knew it was over. The last thing she saw was a bright red flash.


"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGHHHH!!!!"

Leela sat forward, in shock after the scream. Her eye was wide in fear, her breaths quick bursts, and her face was beaded with sweat. Her pupil darted around in every direction, trying to take in where she was. She was sitting up on a bed, and Fry was kneeling beside her. He gently placed his hand on her shoulder.

"Calm down, Leela. Everything is fine."

As Fry tried to calm her, she looked at him. Her breathing began to ease up a bit.

"Fry?" she whispered in question. "Wha... what's happening? Where am I?"

"It's alright, Leela. You're just in a little bit of shock from the shot you took."

Leela thought.

"The shot?" she repeated. "You mean..... I survived?"

"Yeah," replied Fry, "the weapon was set to stun."

Leela put a hand up to her head, wiping some of the sweat off her brow. "I may be okay, but....," she sniffed, "Nibbler's gone."

Fry smiled. "Relax. He was beaten up a little, but he's okay. Dr. Zoidberg's fixing him up right now, see?"

Fry directed Leela to one of the beds behind her. There Dr. Zoidberg was wrapping a bandage around Nibbler's back. Bandages could also been seen on his head, back left leg and around the stalk on his head. Zoidberg cut the bandage he was applying and Amy put a safety pin to hold it in place. Zoidberg picked up Nibbler, holding him up and smiling.

"There we go, my little friend. You'll be good as new in no time!"

Leela just looked bewildered.

Fry turned back to her and smiled. "See, everything is all.... Hey, wait a minute! How did you know about Nibbler getting hurt?"

Leela looked at Fry. Her speech was still a little shaky. "What do you mean, how did I know? I was there when he was shot?!"

Fry gave her a funny look. "What?! Nibbler wasn't shot? YOU were shot. Nibbler was just hit around a bit."

"But in the museum..... with the robots and...... and that pig... and....."

Everybody just looked at Leela as if she was insane, with the exception of Scruffy who simply read through his magazine. Leela started to realise what happened.

"Oh!" she said, flopping back down on the bed. "It was all just a bad dream."

"Not all of it was," said Amy. "We still have to steal that cane soon."

Leela groaned, holding her head. She was still a bit dizzy.

"What time is it?"

Fry looked at his watch. "It's eight forty-five pm. You've been lying there for about one and half hours."

"But we're in London now," Zoidberg interrupted, giving Nibbler to Leela. "Which means that it's really one forty-five in the morning the next day."

Leela looked around the room. "Where's Bender?"

"Planning with the others," Amy answered. "I'm not sure why. Perhaps they liked his attitude?"

"Or perhaps they knew that a bending unit could help us escape?" replied Leela.

Fry finished resetting his watch to London time just as the door opened. Bender walked in with Andrew. The robot spoke, "Listen guys, this thing ain't going down until another three hours, so the Baron suggests that you all get some shut-eye until then, so that you'll be at your best when it comes to grabbing the cane."

"Well, that's awfully nice of him," said Fry.

"He's only giving you the courtesy because he doesn't want any screw ups!" said Andrew simply. "You're to be fully awake and in tip top shape. Because if you mess anything up, you'll be disposed of in a very, very nasty manner."

The two left, locking the door behind them.

Fry looked around the room. "Well, there's five of us, but only four beds."

He looked towards Leela, raising an eyebrow and talking suggestively, "Looks like two of us will have to share one."

Leela snorted. "Forget it, Fry!"

"Please, friends!" said Zoidberg stepping forward. "I think it's best if the two females share a bed in case of accidental impregnation."

Fry looked at Amy and then back at Leela. "Amy and Leela in a bed together, huh? I've got nothing against that."

Fry's following chuckle was silenced as the back of Leela's hand hit his cheek.

"Ow!"

"I think we all know the best answer is to make Zoidberg sleep on the floor," said Leela. "All those in favour?"

Leela, Amy and Scruffy raised their arms. Fry crossed his.

"I'd still rather see you and Amy together," he muttered.

"Fry!!"

"Alright, alright!"

Fry raised his arm reluctantly.

Leela continued, "And against?"

Zoidberg raised a claw.

"Sorry, Zoidberg," said Leela.

Zoidberg groaned and curled on the floor in a ball. Fry and Amy chose the remaining two beds and curled up on them, as they and the others closed their eyes and went to sleep


The door slid open with a whoosh as Hermes Conrad stumbled through, his left arm behind his back, rubbing the area where he was hit. Professor Farnsworth whirled around from sitting at his computer, the light from the screen being the only illumination for an otherwise dark room.

"What are you doing up, Hermes?! You're supposed to be resting."

Hermes dismissed the Professor's objection with the wave of an arm.

"Pfft! What would Zoidberg know?! Speaking of which, where is da filthy crab?"

"He and the others were abducted by those nasty men who shot you. Who knows where they are?"

"What?!"

The Jamaican bureaucrat looked shocked.

The Professor nodded. "Yes, awful shame that. Replacing a delivery crew is one thing, but getting another ship is damn expensive. And I don't want to have to part with one of my doomsday devices to pay for the damn thing!"

"What are you doing?" asked Hermes, sighing with relief as he took a seat.

"I was just talking to Prime Minister Lomu about the whole situation," replied the Professor. "It seems he knew nothing about it. And nobody signed for the delivery."

He indicated the clipboard that lay nearby. Hermes looked at it.

"That's strange. Leela has never missed getting a package signed off before."

"Yes, that's what I thought. She's always so good with things like that. Maybe she screwed up?"

As Hermes examined the paper, something caught his eye. He smiled. "Or maybe she was tricked?"

The Professor looked blankly at him. "Ah-hwuh?"

Hermes took the piece of paper and put it into a nearby device. He then turned the machine and a nearby monitor lit up. He talked, directing his voice at it., "Computer, give me a list of de materials present in scan device one."

The computer beeped and a list of various substances appeared in front of them. When it was done, Hermes motioned the Professor over.

"Okay, Professor. Are dere any items on dis list dat shouldn't be on a delivery form?"

The Professor scanned the list.

"Well, there are a few things like dirt and skin fragments, but those can easily be accounted for. The strangest one would be the Phenolphthalein. I don't know how that would get there?"

"What is it?"

"It's an element that's most commonly found in laxatives. And the reason I know is purely scientific!"

"Could this substance be used to write something?"

"If mixed with water, yes, I suppose so."

The Professor gasped.

"But it would disappear as soon as it dried!"

"Exactly!" replied Hermes. "I think our signer used disappearing ink."

"Yes, that would make sense. And all disappearing inks can be brought back to view with some simple chemistry. But even then we can't guarantee that he used his real name."

"We might as well try. Any idea how we could get de writing to show up again?"

Farnsworth tapped around on the keyboard.

"According to this, we need to mix four tablespoons of hot water with four of ammonia. We would need to set the paper in some water and then carefully pour the water ammonia solution on top of the area where the writing is. The writing should appear in a dark pink."

"Perfect, mon!"

"Either that, or we get the computer to change the colour of the Phenolphthalein, thus showing us what is written."

"Even better."

The Professor nodded, then directed his voice at the machine, "Computer, enhance visibility of element Phenolphthalein. Red two five five."

The computer bleeped again, and as the two watched the screen, writing began to appear in the area above the signature line in a bright red.

Hermes smiled. "Looks like we got it, mon."

"Indeed so. Now what does it say?"

Hermes squinted. "Looks like Dave somebody. Dave Pearson."

The Professor made a thoughtful sound.

"Let's try to find more about this Dave Pearson. Computer, give me search matches for a man named Dave Pearson."

The computer bleeped. Hermes examined the screen. "Seven hundred and fourteen matches found."

The Professor rubbed his chin. "We'll have to narrow it down. Computer, narrow results to those from the country New Zealand."

Hermes read the screen again. "Two matches found."

"Interesting. Computer, narrow results to those involved in political affairs."

"Zero matches found," said Hermes, a hint of surprise in his voice.

"Well, we now know that he's not a politician. Assuming he used his real name."

The Professor began to think.

Hermes interjected, "Computer, backtrack and narrow results to those with criminal records."

The computer displayed the new result.

The Professor smiled. "One match found. Good work, Hermes. No let's see if this is our man."

Professor Farnsworth entered the search result and read what he saw. The information provided listed the offences that Dave Pearson had committed.

"Murder, extortion, burglary, its all here. But nothing that links him to this whole situation. Wait a minute. Currently under suspicion for the murder of billionaire lawyer, John Cruz. This is dated today."

"Perhaps we should look up this John Cruz guy and find out more about him?" suggested Hermes.

Farnsworth selected Cruz's name and read his information. Not much was given more than a brief profile. However, something in the profile caught Hermes' eye. "Hold it for a second, what's this? Known for purchasing rare and valuable items from various museums for his own personal collection, including the Mona Lisa, the skeleton of the original Space Pope and The Trident of Atlantis."

Hermes gasped.

"Professor! Select the trident."

Farnsworth did, and the two found themselves gaping at the screen with their jaws open.

"Sweet Jah! That's it!" uttered Hermes in awe. "De same trident that dey were carrying!"

"It appears so, yes. But why did they have it, and what does it all have to do with this?"

All Hermes could do was shake his head. He took a seat again, noticeably wincing in pain. Just then the door opened again. Cubert walked in.

"So that's where you are, Professor! I've been looking for you everywhere.The Quetzalcoatl obviously needs a larger power cell. It's impossible to run it on the one we've got. We could get one now, it's stopped raining."

Hermes and the Professor listened. All that could be heard was the whirr of the computer and the sound of passing cars. As Cubert had stated, the rain had indeed stopped.

"Actually," the Professor replied, "I think that's enough for tonight. Tomorrow morning, we can try to figure out how to sort out this mess." He turned to Hermes. "I'll call a space taxi for you."

"Thanks, mon," smiled the Jamaican. "LaBarbara and Dwight must be worried about me."

"Yes, I'm sure she is. I'm more worried about what that horrible Baron person is doing! He'd better bring my ship back in one piece!"

As Hermes and the Professor left, Cubert trotted behind.

"Uh, what are you talking about? What happened to the ship? And where is everybody else?"

The Professor sighed. "It's a long story, so I can't be stuffed to tell you. Now off to bed you go."

"Aw, man!" Cubert slumped his shoulders, and plodded off to his room.

The Professor looked up into the sky again through the skylight above, sighing again.


Darkness was all that could be seen. The feeling of movement on a cold surface was apparent also. Then falling. Falling and falling. The longer the fall, the warmer it got. Then hot. Then burning.

Baldur opened his eyes and stopped in mid-air. Staring down, he saw that his nose was just inches from some bubbling hot liquid. It looked like boiling acid. Still feeling a little weak from being hit, Baldur decided that now was the time to leave before all his strength gave out and he fell into the stuff. He flew out the way into the air and took in what was all around him.

Below was a pool of acid, but it was huge. Baldur could only just make out the edges of the several miles long round container that held it. From above, various objects were being dropped into the acid via a conveyor belt. These mostly consisted of things created by beings, rather than natural objects like trees or rocks. Baldur came to the conclusion that that's what he must have been on before he was dropped.

Feeling low on energy, Baldur quickly flew up to a nearby metal platform and rested on it. Breathing heavily with exhaustion, he looked around him. He must have been inside the beast. The area was fairly opened up and as wide as he could see in all horizontal directions, while a metallic ceiling could be seen above and a floor lay under the gigantic acid bowl. Several different sized holes lay all over the walls that could be seen, and there was some sort of passageway behind him. The place wasn't meant for anybody to be in, that was for sure, but it looked like there were pathways everywhere. Pathways to what, he wasn't sure.

Baldur collapsed on his back and lay on the cold, hard metal. If it wasn't for the fact he was an extremely tough species, he would have surely died. He felt half dead as it was. He needed to get something to return his strength if he wanted to escape. But what, and where would he find it?

Struggling, Baldur sat up and looked around again. All he could see was metal and acid. He looked up at the conveyor belt. Perhaps following that back to it's entrance would prove fruitful in at least finding a way out. The only problem was, he didn't have enough strength to fly over there. Or did he?

Using one last burst of power, Baldur threw himself into the air. The action ended up being more like a leap than flying, as he tumbled out of control, landing on a flat platform of metal beside the conveyor belt. He slid across the slick floor upon impact, careening into a wall with a thud. After taking a few breaths, he managed to push himself up a little so that he could sit upright, leaning against the surface that he just hit.

Looking around, he noticed some smaller bits and pieces on the floor around him. Most of them were just junk that had probably fallen off broken objects, but one thing in particular caught Baldur's eye. It was a small blue box that was battered and crushed, but still in remarkably good condition. Grabbing a long, thin rod of metal that lay nearby, Baldur used it to pull the box closer to him. After a bit of fumbling, he managed to move the box into his reach.

Picking up the object, Baldur flicked open the lid and peered in. Inside was a small black cube. Or at least what used to be one. Part of it was crushed and broken off. Taking a piece of the broken substance, Baldur sniffed it. His eyed widened. He could sense something from the strange substance. He carefully tasted it.

The surge of energy was incredible. Baldur stood up instantly and roared as a wind built up around him. After a few seconds, he jogged on the spot and punched the air quickly in a series of blurry thrusts of his fists. He stopped and flexed his arm muscles, looking at them in awe.

"Incredible!" he announced to nobody but himself. "My energy is fully restored. And then some! Now I can get out of this place!"

Baldur stared up at the metal ceiling above, an almost sneer on his face. Then, he quickly whipped his left arm into the air and sent a blast of energy from his palm. The energy exploded on contact, but did no damage at all.

Baldur growled.

Widening his stance, this time the warrior drew both arms beside him with both wrists touching together. As he growled in his throat, a ball of energy burst into life near where his wrists met, then grew. Once about the size of a basketball, the energy was thrust forward as Baldur let out a yell. The glowing orb sped into the air, leaving a trail of light behind it. It made contact with the same place as the previous one, but once again, after the explosion had ceased, there was no sign of any change in the metal.

Baldur snorted.

"Perhaps it just needs a good old fashioned punch?!"

The fighter launched himself into the air towards the place where his energy blasts had failed before. Drawing his right fist back, he began to growl again. When in range, he launched his fist into the metal with all his strength.

CLANG!

The fist made contact. Baldur just paused, his fist still touching the metallic surface. No damage was evident, or at least none on the ceiling.

"YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGGHH!!!!!"

Baldur yelled at the top of his lungs and held his throbbing fist with his left hand. He growled at the surface that had hurt him, "BASTARD!!! What the HELL are you forged from?!!"

He looked closely at where his fist had hit.

"Not even a dent! What is this stuff?!"

He flew back down beside the conveyor and looked around.

"Well, if I can't get out of here by brute force, I might as well try to find a way out. Following this conveyor to its source is probably a good start."

He snorted.

"And who the hell am I talking to?!"

Shaking his head, the short warrior walked confidently through a hole in a nearby wall, going in the direction that the conveyor came from. He didn't know how long it would take him or what he would find, but it was the best chance he had of escape as far as he was concerned.


2 hours, 27 minutes later

Nibbler perked his little head up as any animal would do if it heard something. Crawling out of a sleeping Leela's arms, he jumped to the floor and listened near the door. Turning, he started jabbering once again, looking in Leela's direction. This woke Leela, Zoidberg and Amy, who all sat partially up and looked in Nibbler's direction, squinting slightly. The little creature could be seen in the hazy darkness indicating the door, gabbling away. Without warning, the door clunked and swung inwards rapidly. The thick metal device hit Nibbler and sent him flying into the left wall.

"Nibbler!" Leela called, sitting up more.

Then, the light flicked on to reveal Bender and Andrew standing in the doorway, the latter holding a laser pistol again. Leela and Amy put their hands up to shield their eyes from the bright light, and Zoidberg did the same with his claw. Scruffy simply opened his eyes and looked in their direction, while Fry stirred and suddenly recoiled at the sudden change in illumination. Bender spoke.

"Everybody up! It's four-thirty in the morning, London time, and the Baron is ready to start doing this thing before it gets light again, so everybody into the cockpit."

The group reluctantly rose and followed the robot and the thug into the cockpit where Marc and Baron Steinmann waited, a large blueprint spread before them across a table.

The Baron stood up and smiled. "Ah, so now we're all here," he stated. "Excellent."

Marc smiled and picked up the large plan, pinning it up on the sparse notice board that adorned a nearby wall. The thin spectacled man spoke: "Take a seat and watch carefully, because we're only going to run through this thing once."

Each member of the crew sat down, as did the Baron and Andrew.

Marc indicated the chart and began to explain: "Okay. The best way to get to the cane without being detected is via the ceiling ducts, and the best way to enter the ducts is via the roof. We have a map of the ducts here for you to find your way to the proper room. Once inside, you'll use these tools."

He holds up a device that looked like a torch and another small device. Leela's heart jumped a little. The objects looked almost identical to the ones from her dream.

Marc indicated the torch-like device. "This is an infrared laser torch. It emits a beam that will allow you to see any security laser beams that will be around." He held up the other device. "And this is a security camera-freeze device. You'll get 10 of these. They must be mounted to the roof and then the beam must hit the cameras in the room. When they are like this, the cameras will freeze their picture. Make sure the cameras are facing away from you, or the devices or the image frozen will be you. We think there are only four cameras, but just in case, we have more."

Leela began to shake a little. The devices and plan so far weren't identical, but it was close enough to make her worried. Fry looked across at her, an expression of worry and concern evident on his face. Leela forced herself to smile so that he wouldn't worry. He looked away, but wasn't convinced.

Marc continued, showing another device, "And this is the laser glass cutter. It has a centre suction device to hold onto the glass, while the laser turns around the device in order to cut a perfect circle. Once the cut is complete, you can lift out the glass disc. Then, remove the laser suction piece..." He did so. "And you'll find a retractable metallic claw. This can be used to grab the item and pull it out the hole. Exit the same way that you came in, and everything should be fine."

He picked up some pieces of paper from the table and handed them to Leela. She was looking a little pale, and she startled a little then the paper was held out to her.

"Here. This is the map for the air ducts, the locations of the cameras we know about, a map of the lasers and the patrol times of the security bots."

Leela took the papers, jumping a little at the words 'security bots' quite noticeably.

Andrew went around and gave everybody some folded black material.

"Here are some of those sneaky black spy clothes they wear in the movies, with extra tight ones for the females."

"Is there any other kind?" Fry asked with a satisfied smile.

"Yes," stated the Baron simply. "But it's far more expensive. Besides, this makes it more entertaining for the readers."

"Readers?" Amy asked, cocking her head to one side.

"Yes, I'm planning to write an autobiography about this whole event once it's all over."

"Ah," she replied, understanding.

2 minutes later

Leela, Fry, Bender, Zoidberg and Amy all walked down the steps on the forward landing gear, then carefully and quickly scuttled over to a nearby bush, where they all crouched. Watching from a window of the ship sat Scruffy, with Nibbler on his knee. Leela had asked him to stay behind and look after Nibbler, and the Baron only wanted five people for the job. Including Bender, they all wore black clothes and hats, with Amy and Leela's being as figure hugging as Andrew had said.

Fry took a light slap to the face from Leela. "Stop looking at my breasts and pay attention, Fry!"

"Sorry."

Leela spread out the plan on the grass in front of everybody. She looked more determined now, perhaps not as scared because she knew Nibbler was with Scruffy in the ship.

"Okay," she stated. "Zoidberg will stay here at the base of the building, while Fry, Bender, Amy and I climb up. When we're at the top, Amy will stay guard, while the rest of us crawl into the vent. Once we've found the right place, I'll go down and get the cane, while Bender takes care of the rope that is suspending me and Fry hands me the tools and scans for lasers. Is everybody clear on what we're doing?"

Everybody nodded silently.

"Good. Let's go."

Looking around carefully, Leela lead the group to the edge of the building. Taking a grapple gun from her belt, she shot it into the air. The grapple soared onto the roof of the museum, carrying a rope behind it. Upon landing, the metal claw scuttled over to a thick pole nearby, then tugged the rope twice quickly with a stray leg. Leela, Fry, Bender and Amy all began to climb while Zoidberg waited below, looking around alertly. Making it to the top, slowly but surely, the group were hidden by the darkness. Leela finally reached the summit and pulled herself over, then turned and helped up Fry, then Bender, then Amy.

Bender wandered over to the nearby air duct entrance and ripped off the grill. Leela and Fry entered, crawling on their knees while Amy stood guard outside, watching anything in the surrounding area. Bender followed the other two into the hole and disappeared.

After much crawling, turning and more crawling, Leela and the others came to the right place. Carefully, the female cyclops removed the metal grate and placed it down inside the duct. She popped her head down and looked around.

The room was only lit by the pale moonlight that beamed through the windows and there were many objects around, all in glass cases. Leela couldn't help but shudder, just a little. The room was almost identical to the one in her dream. Shaking her head to get rid of such thoughts, she turned on the torch and scanned the room. Just as she suspected, various laser beams appeared wherever the dull red torch illumination struck. In this case, they weren't as random as in the vision, and were mostly situated around the glass cases and entrances.

Leela also found the four security cameras, just as they were on the chart. Once she was sure there were no extra ones, she carefully set up the camera-freeze devices. Then, she lowered herself to the case on her rope, with Fry close behind holding the other tools. This revealed something that was quite different. One of the laser beams was situated directly above the centre of the case that held the cane. This made things slightly trickier as far as getting the object out. Trickier, but not impossible.

Leela looked back at Fry, and he handed her the glasscutter. She carefully began to cut a circle in the top of the case, just to the left of the security beam. That part was easy, but it made lifting out the cane just that little bit harder. Removing the glass, Leela used the retractable claw to grab the top of the cane. She heard a noise from Fry and looked up.

Fry tapped his watch quickly and whispered, "Ten seconds, and a security droid will pass by!"

Leela nodded and turned back to the task at hand. She quickly, but cautiously lifted the cane up, grasping it in her other hand. Fry looked up into the hole above, and Bender began to reel the other two in. Just before she disappeared into the hole, Leela smiled at the cane. This one had a gold ball on the end, not a gold question mark. As the grate was replaced, a small robot entered through one of the entrances, just short enough to slip under the shorted laser. Wheeling around the room, its tiny red optics scanned the area in a 360 degree turn of it's head, and then it rolled away into another room.

Scuttling through the ducts, the escaping thieves burst through the grate located on the roof, causing the waiting Amy to slip over in shock.

"Let's go!" ordered Leela.

Amy stood up quickly and joined the others who had already begun to slide back down to the ground. They startled a sleeping Zoidberg upon landing, before rushing to the ship. Zoidberg stood up and reclaimed the grapple before also running to the sanctuary of the ship. Entering the cockpit, the group stood their panting. Leela held out the cane to the Baron, who was quietly reading a book in the captain's chair, while Andrew and Marc played holo-chess nearby.

"Here's your cane," Leela stated bluntly, before tossing it to him. Steinmann caught it with a single hand.

"Excellent," he stated, examining it. "We shall waste no time in delivering it."

He stood up and indicated the captain's seat he was just in to Leela.

"You have the controls, Captain Leela. Set course for Fronty's Meat Market, New New York."

Leela's eye half-closed in a glower. "Yes, sir," she said with a bitter tone, before taking her seat.

The Baron knelt beside her with a smirk. "Let's see if we can make this trip without getting shot, shall we?" Leela growled, causing the Baron to chuckle.

He turned towards the others. "The rest of you can go back to your quarters. Andrew! Take them there and stand guard."

Andrew nodded and led the remaining crew away.

 

Less than 30 minutes passed, and the crew found themselves landing. The door opened and Andrew stepped in, holding the laser pistol once again.

"We're here. Come on."

Andrew led them outside the ship, where they found Leela, the Baron and Marc waiting. They were in New New York again, outside a small building called Fronty's meat market. Fry looked at his watch, which he had changed back again. The time read 0:42am.

The Baron motioned for the group to follow him around the back of the meat store. Bender was familiar with the place, so it was no surprise to him when they went into the back entrance and ended up in a meat freezer. There, waiting at the end of the freezer in his chair, was the Don-bot. On his left stood Joey Mousepad, and on his right, Clamps. The humans all began to shiver from the cold of the freezer, and the Baron approached the Don-bot.

The Mafia authority stood up and spoke: "Welcome, Baron Steinmann. You honour us with your presence."

The Baron smiled with a slight bow.

"Thank you, Don-bot. But it is I who is honoured."

The Don-bot laughed.

"You don't need to kiss my ass, yet you do. I like that. Please, take a seat."

The Baron nodded and sat down in a conveniently placed seat, situated just in front of the Don-bot's. The Don-bot took his seat once more.

"The convenience of the chair is no coincidence. We were, how should I say..... expecting you? I see that you are in possession of the artefact which I am looking for."

"Yes," replied the Baron. "But where is the artefact that YOU possess that I am looking for?"

The Don-bot took a cigar from a box, which Joey Mousepad was holding, then placed it between his metal teeth and lit it, then inhaled some of the cigar smoke and then blew it out again.

"You are very observant, Baron. But I have come into the possession of some new information that I think you would like to discuss before we begin the transaction."

The Baron cocked an eyebrow as he took a cigar for himself from Joey Mousepad.

"Go on," he urged, before lighting the Zuban panatela.

"Well," started the Don-bot, "I was doing a little research into this gem that you so want to possess, and I found out that I know somebody who may be able to help you out with finding the others."

"How so?" questioned Steinmann.

"Well, I have this Mafia contact, and he does a lot of smuggling and the like of fine jewels. He may know where one, or even all, of the other gems are, if you're lucky."

"That's great!" exclaimed the Baron.

"However! The location and name of this contact is going to cost you extra."

"I see," the Baron said simply, a hint of disappointment in his voice. "What did you have in mind?"

"Oh don't worry," said the Don-bot with a chuckle. "I'm not going to get you to steal something for me again. I am a fair dealer, and the fact that this contact may not be able to help at all alone makes the price go down. It just so happens that some friends of mine are looking for human slaves. I see you have quite a collection of followers there behind you. I'm sure you'd be willing to part with a couple of them?"

The Baron looked back and the Planet Express crew, then turned back to the Don-bot.

"One of them," he stated, clearly not in the bargaining mood.

The Don-bot leaned to his left to see past the Baron and looked at the crew, rubbing his chin in thought.

"Okay then. They look pretty healthy. I'll take the one-eyed girl."

"NO!"

The voice came from the back of the room as Fry stepped forward.

Clamps leapt forward "Hey! Don't make me CLAMP you!!!"

The Don-bot held a hand in front of his eager goon.

"Whoa! Easy there, Clamps!"

"Sirs!" called out Fry. "Forgive my butting in, but Leela is the pilot of the ship, and can't be lost. So I'm asking that you take me instead. I am but a lowly delivery boy, while the rest of the people on this ship can serve some kind of purpose."

There was genuine honesty in Fry's plead. He obviously didn't want to go, but he also didn't want to lose one of his friends, especially Leela, to a slave driver. The Don-bot thought again.

Bender whispered aside to the others, "That Fry's a coward! He's trying to get out of this and leave you guys here!"

"No he's not!" snapped Leela. "Fry's trying to help us by sacrificing himself! He may be out of doing the Baron's dirty work, but being a slave in some far off galaxy isn't exactly a walk in the park!"

The Don-bot finally spoke.

"Okay, I'll take the rough looking kid. If that's okay with you, Baron?"

The Baron looked back at Fry.

"Yeah. That's fine."

"Excellent!" chirped the Don-bot, before turning to his goons. "Joey, take the kid away. Clamps, get the Baron his jewel."

The thugs nodded. Clamps disappeared out the back, while Joey Mousepad grabbed Fry and began dragging him away.

"Goodbye, friends!" the delivery boy called back. "Don't worry about me, I'll manage."

Clamps returned with a large orange jewel, just as Joey Mousepad took Fry out of sight through the same doorway. Clamps walked over to the Baron and held out the glittering, gamboge jewel between his right clamps.

The Baron took it, a look of awe evident on his face. He smiled at the object. "Excellent! Finally, I have the first legendary jewel of power!!!"

"Yes," nodded the Don-bot. "And here is the information on that contact. His name is Don Pardini. He lives on the Planet Maradona, in a large mansion located in the city of Aconcagua. Tell him that the Don-bot sent you, and you shouldn't have any trouble."

The Baron gave the Mafia head the cane and shook his hand.

"Thank you, Don-bot. It was a pleasure doing business with you."

The Don-bot smiled back, examining his newly aquired cane.

"Believe me, Baron, the pleasure was mine."


Meanwhile, in deep space, the monster planet eater drifted on, en route to its next target. But, it wasn't the only thing in the area. A small ship appeared, following the gigantic orb. It was at a fair distance from it. Close enough to see it, but far enough to be undetected by it. The sleek little craft had a main region in the centre that was attached to two engines on either side via two thin arms. The arms pointed downwards from the body of the craft at gradual angle, meaning that they were below the primary section. Blue flames flickered out the back of each engine, and the ship was coloured a shiny black itself, making it almost blend in with the space it occupied.

Inside the cockpit, a lone figure sat, shadowed away from any light. The only illumination was the dull glow from a single monitor and a few lit buttons on the control panel. The dark silhouette made a low-pitched growl in its throat as it examined the object.

Then, it whispered to itself with an emotionless, unfriendly voice, "So, this is where you are."

The words were to the point, and more of a statement than a question. After this, the ship made a starboard turn, and blasted off out of view, heading somewhere into deep space.

Buddies