Fan Fiction

Futurama: Universe of Malice, Part 7
By Kenneth White

Chapter 7 - Prodigious Resolutions

It all happened about eighty-two million years ago on a planet far away from Earth. It was a peaceful, lush jungle world, with a large land mass covered almost completely in vegetation. With no dominant intelligent species thus far, there were no settlements anywhere.

It was then that a small meteorite entered the planet's atmosphere, burning up completely, save for a small object that managed to withstand entry. Rocketing to the surface below, it shot itself through some vegetation before finally imbedding itself high up in a thick tree trunk.

Millions of years passed, the tree eventually fell, leaving behind only the alien object after decades of rotting and decay. It didn't take long for an evolved creature of some intelligence to find the foreign object: a green jewel that was more beautiful that anything it had ever seen before. Little did it know that, eventually, this fascinating object would lead to a wave of cruelty and corruption in years to come.

Fry stopped staring through the thin energy window at the stars flitting past the craft to regard Alesia for a moment. There was something about her that he couldn't stop thinking about. She didn't seem very happy. Most of the time her face was very impassive, and he couldn't help but feel that there was something behind that. She hardly smiled at all, and then even the rare times she had smiled, they came across as a little forced, and her eyes showed a lonely sadness. Even now, as she glanced ahead at the stars silently, she seemed more like a doll than a living creature. Why was she so insentient?

Alesia noticed Fry's glance from the corner of her eye, but as she turned her head towards him, he turned his away quickly. She blinked, looked down at nothing for a few seconds, then returned her focus ahead once again.

Was she lonely? Did she lose somebody? Is she afraid of something? All these questions raced through Fry's mind. Or was it all of these things?

Fry knew he wasn't the brightest of people, but if there's one thing he could read, it was how people felt. He had often noticed Leela feeling sad now and then. He didn't always know the reasons for a person's emotions, but he could see the results. And something about Alesia wasn't right. She hadn't said anything much since they had left the asteroid about ten minutes ago. Perhaps that's why he couldn't bring himself to make a move on her. Normally when he saw a beautiful girl, he couldn't help but try something, but Alesia seemed so different from all the other girls he had met. So fragile and timid. Still, he might as well at least talk to her.

"You live alone back there?"

Alesia's head turned towards Fry. She regarded him for a moment, and after a long silence, replied, "Yes. I do."

"It must get lonely for you then?"

There was another long moment of quiet.

"Yes. It does, sometimes."

Fry thought to himself. Perhaps it was her loneliness that was behind it. Then he remembered something.

"You mentioned that you had a father. Is he still..... alive?"

Alesia turned her head back towards the stars ahead. She took even longer to respond this time.

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

Fry wondered if he had hit a nerve there. He decided not to ask anything else regarding that matter.

"So, have you ever been to Earth? I'm assuming you're human?"

Alesia shook her head.

"I am a human, yes, but I've never been to Earth. I was born in the Vangar System and haven't been anywhere outside this galaxy."

She managed a small smile as her head turned back to Fry.

"I'd love to visit the place of my ancestors, though."

Fry smiled back.

"Well, you'd certainly be welcome to come visit us," he said.

"That's very kind," Alesia replied, "but I'm afraid I don't usually have the time to visit other places."

"That's a shame," Fry frowned.

"So, what's Earth like then?" Alesia asked with an impassive expression.

Fry looked up in thought, clearly bemused a little.

"Well... I guess it's a lot rounder than your world, because it's a planet and not a cluster of asteroids joined together by metal ducts. It's mostly water, with a bunch of countries, islands and continents. Its slogan isn't 'The Original Class M' for nothing."

"It sounds nice," Alesia said, her expression staying the same. "I don't suppose you have a group of delusional, power hungry beings that try to tell you how to live?"

"Yep," Fry nodded. "We call them vegans."

Admiral French, Bill Raker and Kif Kroker stepped through the opening door, leaving the Corona behind them as they walked into the docking bay of DOOP Orbital Base OR01. They were greeted by a DOOP ensign.

"Welcome to Earth Orbital Base, Admiral. Lieutenant Commanders," he said saluting. "Admiral Gordon and the rest of the council are waiting for you. Please, follow me."

As the Ensign lead the way, the three officers found themselves being lead through a large corridor until they came to two large doors. Here the Ensign stopped.

"The council are through these doors," he stated, turning back to face them. "If you'll excuse me."

With that, he walked away. Admiral French opened the doors by pushing a large green button to the left of them. There on the other side was a large room occupied by a single circular table. The height of the room was larger than most, and the high table was almost a complete ring, save for a small chunk cut out of it that faced the entrance. At it sat many different people, some of them DOOP officers, while in the centre of the floor, a large blue carpet sat with the famous DOOP insignia on it. Admiral Gordon, who sat at the table almost directly opposite where the three newcomers had entered, spoke up. To his left, sitting in the direct centre of the table, was Glab.

"We've been expecting you three. Please, sit down."

He indicated three empty chairs to his right. French, Raker and Kif approached and sat in them.

Gordon continued, "I wanted you three to be here for what is no doubt the largest universal conference ever held in these headquarters. You no doubt know what we're about to talk about, but before we introduce the subject of this meeting, I think some introductions are in order."

Admiral Gordon looked at Glab, who nodded back to him.

"Thank you, Admiral Gordon. Distinguished guests, welcome to Earth DOOP Headquarters. We welcome you all here and thank you for agreeing to discuss the matter at hand. Let us begin with some formal introductions."

She indicated to the far right of the table, moving down the table as she went.

"First of all, representing Omicron Persei 8, Lrrr. Next, from Wormulon, Ambassador Glermo; Thog from Amazonia; Ambassador Smith from the Neutral Homeworld; Decapodian ambassador Zork; Earth President, the head of Al Gore; former Earth President Richard Nixon's head, who is filling in for the head of George Bush Junior."

"He's too busy playing hide and seek with the head of Saddam Hussein," answered Nixon.

"Without my permission at that," stated Gore's head.

"This coming from a man who still has a 'Re-elect Gore in 3004' bumper sticker stuck to his jar," growled Nixon.

"You're just jealous because I beat you!"

"Gentlemen!" said Glab, clearly irate.

"Sorry," both heads said simultaneously, looking at Glab.

"Moron," whispered Gore quickly in Nixon's direction. Nixon growled, but was shushed by Glab.

She continued, "Then we have Owner of Mom-Corp, Mom; DOOP Lieutenant Commanders Bill Raker and Kif Kroker; DOOP Admiral French; DOOP Admiral Gordon; myself; DOOP Admiral Zederick; DOOP Admiral Winfield; DOOP Commodore Grace; Leo and Inez Wong, representing Mars; representing Nylar 4, King Threadgar; from the Globetrotter Homeworld, Captain Ethan "Bubblegum" Tate"; Emperor Murg of Trisol; for Chapek 9, Elder Jimmy; scientist Doctor Ogden Wernstrom; Mayor Poopenmeyer of New New York; and from Neptune, Santa Claus."

After a mumble of simultaneous greetings, Glab stood up from her seat and banged her gavel on the desk.

"Now, the reason why we have gathered you all here. I know some of you were reluctant to come, but this is a very important matter."

"This is not some foolish ploy for the Earth notion known as 'peace', is it?!" asked Lrrr angrily.

"Not really. Although it IS a call for an immediate alliance against a common foe. A threat that puts the whole universe in danger."

"It had BETTER be as dangerous as you say it is!" piped in Robot Santa. "It goes against my programming to actually SAVE lives!"

"Get to the point, green squishy woman!" interjected Leo Wong as soon as the robot stopped talking. "Our buggalo won' round demselves up!"

"Order!" Glab ordered, bringing the small mallet down upon the mahogany surface again several times. The room lulled.

"My friends, the reason this threat is bigger than anything any of us has faced so far is simple: it is actually LITERALLY bigger than any force we've encountered before. To put it simply, it is a planet that devours planets. A humungous metallic being with no conscience or purpose other than to roam the universe and feed on everything in it's way, and it absolutely will not stop until everything in existence is destroyed."

There was an awkward silence.

"You've gotta be pulling our legs?!" said Bubblegum.

"I'm afraid not," said Glab shaking her head.

"Well, is this bastard planet thing alive?!" asked Mom angrily.

"Unknown," said Glab simply. "What is known about it is known by Doctor Wernstrom. Doctor?"

Wernstrom stood up and cleared his throat.

"The monster is approximately fifty-five thousand kilometres in diameter and made of an unknown metal. We don't know what's in it, or how it manages to travel so fast. The propulsion method is unknown to us, but we do know it gets its energy from what it eats. We also know its approximate position and heading."

"Is it going to attack Earth, Doctor?" asked Al Gore.

"Typical humans!" Lrrr grunted. "Only care about their own pathetic planet!"

"Duuuuuuuh..... that's for sure," added Jimmy.

"It depends," Wernstrom stated, clearly ignoring the comments from the Omicronian and Robot Elder. "If the machine holds current course, then no. If he changes course, then maybe."

"Whoa whoa! Hold the ball right there, doc!" said Bubblegum. "IF it changes course? I thought you said that you KNEW the path of this wang dang planetoid?"

"We know its CURRENT path," stated Wernstrom. "But this machine has been known to be able to turn, so it very well COULD change course."

"If it attacks Earth, will New New York be a target?!" inquired Mayor Poopenmeyer in a panicky tone.

"Wh... why of course it will!" said an annoyed Wernstrom, clearly frustrated by the stupidity of the question. "ALL of Earth will feel its wrath! It'll EAT the whole damn planet!"

"That's a relief," sighed Poopenmeyer with alleviation. "I don't want this thing to ruin New New York's reputation as the most attacked city in the Universe."

"Idiot bastard!" mumbled Mom under her breath.

"Now," said Glab loudly. "The reason we've called you all here is because we need ideas on how to stop the creature. Suggestions?"

Raker stood up immediately.

"Forgive my impertinence, but there is only ONE way to stop this being!"

All attention fell on the Lieutenant Commander. It was Glab who asked the inevitable question.

"And how is that?"

"We must find and collect the rest of the legendary jewels of power, and the staff that holds them."

There was a long and awkward silence.

"The what?" scoffed the dark-skinned Admiral Winfield.

Raker replied by simply taking the red gem he owned out of his pocket and sliding it across the table to him. Winfield examined it, as did Admiral Zederick and Commodore Grace on either side of him.

"A beautiful gem," said the Commodore, her voice clearly impressed by the stone's beauty but not much else.

"Would you kindly fill us in on this legend, mister Raker?" said Glab.

Raker nodded and told them what he knew. It was clear from the look on the faces of most of those in attendance that the story wasn't taken overly seriously. Kif was about the only one who didn't look unconvinced.

Wernstrom spoke up, "I've heard of this legend myself. I know it sounds silly, but so far everything fits, so I wouldn't completely discount the option. In fact, I suggest that Raker and his green friend both search for these artefacts."

"It would be a waste of time!" said Zederick banging his fist down. "Even talking about it is a waste of time!"

"Doesn't worry me," quipped Murg. "The longer we take, the longer I stay unassassinated. Hey!"

He slapped away the straw Bubblegum Tate was about to drink him with.

"Sorry, my watery brother!" said Bubblegum in defence. "It's just mighty dry in here, and I've got me a killer thirst that needed quenching!"

"I think that we might as well send them off," Admiral Gordon stated. "Lieutenant Commander Kroker will no doubt want to have a ship to serve on once again."

Kif was a little startled.

"A ship?" he asked.

"That's right. And we have a new Captain for you to be the first mate to as well."

Gordon pressed a button on the desk and spoke towards it.

"Send him in now."

With that the doors opened and in stepped a DOOP officer. Wearing the same styled uniform as Kif, Raker and Admiral French, the four pips on his collar showed that he was indeed a Captain. With neat black hair and thin, serious face, he wasn't an overly tall man, but he did glow of confidence. He saluted.

"Captain Ditte, reporting for duty."

"Welcome, Captain Ditte. You now have a new assignment," Glab stated. She turned towards Kif and Raker. "I assume you have some idea where these objects are and that this isn't a wild goose chase?"

Raker rubbed his beard in thought.

"Well, not exactly. But I DO know where we may be able to find out."

Glab nodded. "Very well then. You and Lieutenant Commander Kroker may undertake the task of searching for these objects, under the command of Captain Ditte. You may take the new ship that he and Kroker are now assigned to."

She turned to face Captain Ditte again.

"Take them to the ship at once, Captain. Your mission begins immediately. We shall stay here and debate on what to do until the objects have been found."

"Yes, ma'am," Ditte nodded. "Follow me, Lieutenant Commanders."

Kif and Raker stood up from their seats and followed Captain Ditte out the door. When it slid closed behind them, Glab spoke up once again.

"I think we all know that we can't just sit back and wait for them to get back. In fact, the chance that this so-called legend is even true is highly suspect. Action must be taken against this monster, and the sooner the better."

"Agreed," piped in Wernstrom. "The creature will devour its next planet within twenty-four hours. Luckily it is an uninhabited one, but that doesn't mean it won't affect the galaxy again. As Admiral French has seen, the destruction of the three planets thus far have already created a disturbance regarding other planets in the galaxy."

"Then we need to act fast," said Glab. "Any suggestions?"

A long silence gripped the room.

Nixon was the first to speak. "I say we give the machine all we've got! Get a couple of those planet-destroying guns that they use for amusement and take a whole fleet of ships there. We'll blow that spherical hippie out of the sky!"

"Yeah!" agreed Mom slamming her fist down. "Blow that bastard into smithereens!"

"For once, there is wisdom within these pathetic humans' words!" said Lrrr, who had a strange ball of pink string in his mouth.

"Don't eat King Threadgar!" ordered Glab angrily.

"I am NOT eating the stringy yarn person!" bellowed Lrrr, taking out the pink King from his mouth and throwing him down on the table. "He just makes satisfactory floss for removing meaty chunks from between my teeth. Those Neutrals are chunky and require much chewing."

"You ate Neutral Ambassador Smith?!" Glab asked, clearly shocked.

"I was malnourished!" Lrrr growled in defence. "This meeting is not satisfactorily catered to Omicronian standards!"

"I can't believe none of us noticed you eating him," stated Commodore Grace in awe.

"You were distracted by the entry of the thin human Captain," stated Lrrr. "Plus, he didn't put up much of a fight."

"That's the problem with the Neutrals," said Admiral Zederick, shaking his head. "I'm surprised they've survived this long."

"We have more pressing details to deal with," stated Glab. "The idea of a strike force sounds risky. But it also appears to be one of our only alternatives."

"Hold on there!" said Bubblegum. "We've hardly even thrashed out about this bigass honky of a planet eater. Surely there are other options we can peruse over?"

"Why not?" said Wernstrom. "There's no way we'd be able to assemble a fleet of ships fast enough to save that planet. We might as well talk about it some more."

"Agreed then," said Glab. "How long have we got until the next victim, Doctor?"

Wernstrom took a calculator from his pocket and pressed some buttons.

"Approximately two days," he stated.

"You needed a calculator to determine that?" Commodore Grace asked.

"No," stated Wernstrom. "I just happened to figure out another word that can be written on a calculator when held upside down."

He held out the calculator to reveal the number 58008 on it's display, which when turned upside down like he was holding it appeared to spell the word 'BOOBS' on it. He smiled.

"I'm currently working on a dictionary for all the words that can be expressed on a calculator," he stated.

"I KNEW you were looking at my breasts earlier," said Commodore Grace with a convicting scowl. Wernstrom's eyes looked back and forward nervously. As she turned away he quickly pointed the calculator in her direction with '7754206' on the display.

"In that case," said Glab, ignoring the awkward situation as best she could. "We have twenty-four hours to come to a resolution. If we fail to develop a new solution, then the strike force will be voted on and go ahead if the motion carries."

She banged her gavel.

"Meeting adjourned. We will reconvene in exactly one hour and resume talks."

In the meantime, Kif and Raker were still following Captain Ditte through the many corridors of the orbital base. Kif walked a little faster so that he strode beside the Captain.

"Captain," he said nervously. "What is this new ship that was mentioned? Won't we be serving on your ship, the Cumulus?"

"Nope," stated Ditte simply. "That ship is now under the command of my former first officer, Captain A. Merry Khan. I was promoted to replace your late Captain, Zapp Brannigan."

He stopped at the next set of doors.

"And the new ship is right through here," he said, pressing the large button beside the door to reveal a tubular glass elevator. As soon as the three had entered it, Ditte closed it and set the lift travelling down. Kif's jaw almost dropped as the elevator descended down to view one of the large docking bays and the ship that was there.

The ship was quite large, definitely longer than the Nimbus Kif had served on with Zapp. It was in the typical DOOP star ship style, but slightly sleeker. The large bulky tail that normally adorned the ships was replaced with two shark-like dorsal fins and the engines had also been altered. Written on the side of the ship and tail fins was the ship's identification code, BP-1729-A, and it's name adorned the side of the ship near the front also.

"The Nimbus," Kif said in a gasp.

"That's right," said Captain Ditte. "It was due to be replaced soon anyway, along with a lot of the DOOP fleet. When the original Nimbus was destroyed, Admiral Gordon decided to get this ship ready for service sooner."

"Wow!" said Kif, his face almost pressed against the glass now as the elevator began to slow to a halt. The doors opened behind them and they stepped out into another room filled with working DOOP ensigns. The docking tube that lead to the ship could be seen in the distance, and people could be seen going in and out of it. A Lieutenant inspecting a crate of weapons put down a laser pistol upon seeing the entry of the three superiors and walked over to them.

"Welcome Captain Ditte," he said saluting. "And welcomes to you, Lieutenant Commanders. I am Lieutenant Fitzgerald, assigned Security Officer on the Nimbus."

"Very good," said Ditte after returning a quick salute. "When will this ship be ready to depart? We have orders to leave ASAP."

"We should be ready to leave within half-an-hour, sir," Fitzgerald replied. "We just need to do some final checks, load some more cargo and we're done. You can go to the bridge now if you like."

"Excellent," said the Captain. "Report to me there when you're finished."

Ditte, Raker and Kif boarded the ship, leaving Fitzgerald to take care of the weapons once again, not knowing that their superiors are already planning to deal with the threat without them.

Leela put her hand up to her mouth and yawned loudly. She felt like she'd been piloting the ship for days. Her eye was half closed and she was slouching in her captain's seat slightly. After wiping some yawn-induced tears from her eye, the door opened behind her and in stepped Bender. He trotted over to her, a large smile on his face.

"Man! You look beat!" he stated.

"How very observant of you," said Leela sarcastically. "We've been flying for hours."

"Aw, cheer up, Meatbagette," said Bender cheerfully. "What you need is a pick-me-up. Just give me a minute, and I'll whip up something that'll keep you on your boots."

And with that, Bender trotted out through door again. 'Oh no,' thought Leela to herself. 'Not Bender's cooking! Well.... at least it WILL keep me awake.'

In a few minutes, Bender returned with his apron and chef hat on. In his metal hands was a bowl full of a dark brown, almost black stew-like substance and a spoon.

"Here you go," he said handing it to her. "Sorry I took so long, but I was missing a few ingredients and had to improvise."

Leela grimaced and poked the substance with the spoon. There were chunks of different things in it, but what they were was anybody's guess.

"What is it?" she asked, clearly a little disgusted by the look of it.

"It's a secret Neptunian stew of some kind. I stole the recipe from Elzar during an incident at his restaurant."

Leela tentatively took a spoonful and ate it. Her eye widened.

"My God! This is actually very good, Bender!" she said in bewilderment.

"Of course it's good! After all, I invented the recipe."

"But you just said you stole it."

"True. But it was ME who improvised the ingredients and made it even better."

Leela scooped up her fourth spoonful only to scream and drop the spoon back in the bowl.

"What's wrong?" asked Bender.

"This is what's wrong!" said Leela angrily, indicating something in the stew. There, as if staring up at them was a single eye-ball.

"There's an eyeball in my stew, you bastard!" Leela stated. "Is this some kind of sick cyclops-related joke?!"

"I'm sorry!" said Bender in a panicky defence. "You've got it all wrong! There wasn't supposed to be an eyeball in there!"

"There wasn't?" said Leela, calming a bit.

"No," said Bender. "There should be two more in there. Give me that."

He snatched the bowl from a shocked Leela's hands and poked at it with the spoon.

"Here we go." he said holding it out to her. "See, there's two more in here. I wouldn't play a cyclops joke on you, Leela. That'd just me mean."

Leela swatted it away making a disgusted sound.

"Yuck, Bender! What the hell did you PUT in that?!"

"Let's see...." said the robot rubbing his metal chin. "There was water, some carrots, a few cloves..... Oh, some coffee to help keep you awake. Uh.... oh, and that little thing that runs around the place making annoying little sounds that eats everything."

There was an odd silence as Leela just stood there with her jaw open.

"You... you mean, N-n-n.. Ni-Nibbler?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah, that's the thing!" said Bender with a smile of realisation.

There was another long silence from Leela.

"What?" asked Bender innocently.

Leela's expression changed to an angry one.

"Tell me you're joking!!" she said through clenched teeth.

"Nope," said Bender cheerfully.

Leela growled, teeth gritted, fists clenched and eye filled with teary rage.

"Then I'm going to have to kick your SHINY METAL ASS!!!"

Without much else warning, Leela dealt a 360 degree spin kick to the side of Bender's head, sending the robot flying into the wall on the starboard side of the cockpit. Bender stood up, a large dent in the side of his head.

"So! It's come to this!" he said in retort. "Two can play that game!"

With that Bender charged Leela, head butting her midriff and sending her sliding across the floor. Leela quickly leapt to her feet and then dodged two kicks from Bender. Flipping into the air, she then dealt a spear kick to the robot's chest, denting his front door. Bender however managed to wrap an arm around her left leg and trip her. He then rose his right hand and swung it down across her face violently.

"OWW!" Leela said, holding the side of her cheek. Another slap came to the opposite cheek.

"Wake up!" said a voice. Leela opened her eyes again, jumping to see Andrew's face right in front of her. She shook her head.

"What the....."

"You were sleeping at the controls," said a familiar voice from behind her. She turned to see the Baron sitting there, a laser pistol in his hand and a smirk on his face.

Leela groaned and pushed Andrew's head aside.

"Luckily the autopilot took care of most of the journey for you. The only reason we woke you is because we'll need you to land the ship."

"We're here already?" Leela asked, startled.

"Yes," stated Steinmann rolling his eyes. "Just look out the window."

Leela did, and there it was. Planet Maradona. A small world whose surface was completely ice. The inhabitants had created several hexagonal settlements in the surface at just the right distances, connected by tube lines, giving the effect that when seen from space, the whole planet looks like a giant soccer ball. Leela took the controls and guided the ship down into the planet's atmosphere.

"Remember," stated the Baron. "He's located in a mansion in a city called Aconcagua."

"Yeah, I remember!" Leela snapped coldly.

The mutant captain levelled the ship out and flew to the largest settlement on the planet. Sure enough, that was the city they were looking for. Flying past a large flying billboard that labelled the city, the Planet Express ship slowed and began to circle above the city like a vulture circling it's prey.

"That could be it," said Marc, pointing down at a large white building located near the edge of the city.

"Very well," Steinmann replied, then turned to Leela. "Set the ship near there. You and your friends can then investigate and determine whether it really IS Don Pardini's place."

Leela obeyed, setting the ship down on the large lawn that adorned the back of the mansion. Andrew then lead Bender, Zoidberg and Amy out of the crew's quarters, and the Baron spoke to Leela.

"If this is Pardini's place, try to convince him to talk with us, then come and get us."

"Why don't you just come and ask him yourself?" said Leela.

"Because, I don't want to find myself in any dangerous situations. That's why I hired you people."

Leela mumbled something about being hired as she and the others left the ship via the landing gear steps and snuck around the front of the building. Situated there was a large veranda, and on that veranda was a tall, one-eyed creature. It was a slimy green colour, with a single, large yellow eye, sharp teeth, a slobbery mouth and several green tentacles. The creature basically comprised of a bunch of tentacles with a large head, the latter of which was encased in a glass, helmet-like dome. It was perched in a large chair with two humanoid lackeys on either side. Some steps lead up to the creature's throne, and kneeling before the creature on the steps was a fem-bot. Quickly hiding amongst some bushes, the crew watched and waited to see what happened.

"Please grant me mercy, Don Pardini!" the Fem-bot pleaded. "The threats were empty, I promise you!!!"

The large monster leant back and laughed, before responding in a deep, threatening voice.

"Sorry, Psychogirl 4000, but you had your chance a long time ago. Nobody threatens Don Pardini more than zero times."

Then, without hesitation, Don Pardini whipped out a large bazooka from under his throne and blasted Psychogirl 4000 with a direct hit in the torso. The explosion sent shards of metal scattering everywhere, ricocheting off various surrounding objects. Once the smoke and flames cleared, all that was left were various scattered parts and a burnt patch on the floor. Don Pardini placed the weapon back under his chair again and spoke to the scorch mark and shards of robot.

"You threaten me again, and I'll rebuild you and do it again!"

"He doesn't seem very nice," said Leela to the others. "We'd better be careful or he could do that to us!"

"Naw," said Bender confidently. "That fem-bot threatened the guy. He was understandably mad."

Then, a bald human walked over to Don Pardini.

"Tell me human!" the slithering alien sneered. "How many lights do you see?!"

The man looks up at a source of bright illumination above him.

"There are four lights!" he said confidently.

"Wrong!!" Pardini snapped. "There are five!!

Pardini pulled out a laser gun from behind him and instantly vaporised the man.

"Then again," said Bender, sounding a little unsure now, "Maybe you're right."

The lackey standing to Pardini's right approached him, unsurely.

"Uh... sir," he said nervously. "There WERE only four lights. The bulb blew on one of them."

They look up. Sure enough, only four lights were shining. The fifth bulb was unlit.

"Oh.... I see," said Pardini. "Well, not much I can do about that now, is there?"

"What are we going to do?!" Amy asked nervously.

"I don't know," said Leela with a sigh. "I guess we COULD just try to go up to him."

"What about our good friend, Fry?" asked Zoidberg.

"We can worry about Fry later," said Leela decisively. "What's important is the task at hand."

"Maybe it would help if I looked like a rich business bot looking to get into some illegal business?" asked Bender.

"You mean it might help if you just looked rich?" asked Amy.

"Yes," said Bender with a sneer, his eyes narrowing. "Check this out!"

He opened his door and took out a monocle and a top hat, followed by a magnetic bow tie and a modest pile of dollar bills.

"Pretty neat, huh?" he said.

"This just might work," said Leela rubbing her chin. "But where'd you get that money from?"

"I didn't not get it from your wallets earlier, that's definitely where I didn't not get it from," he stated with a robotic smirk.

"Well, that's a relief!" said Zoidberg.

"Okay!" said Leela confidently. "Let's try this thing."

She turned to Zoidberg.

"You stay here, Zoidberg. You'll just make us all look crummy."

Zoidberg hung his head with a groan.

"No offence," Leela added with a weak smile.

"None taken," said Zoidberg calmly. "It's not as if all these negative vibes against me from everybody are building up inside me into a large ball of hate, and that one day I'll just snap and kill you all!"

Leela just stared at Zoidberg now, being that his voice had become more and more hostile with every word he had just said and that the Decapodian's face looked insanely mad. Zoidberg lowered his claws and looked calm again.

"No," he stated simply. "Zoidberg is a cool customer."

Leela smiled weakly and left with the others, leaving Zoidberg in the bushes alone.

Bender lead the procession towards Don Pardini. Immediately the two lackeys on either side reacted by training their guns on the newcomers.

"Halt!" said one. "Who goes there?"

"Yes!" said Pardini loudly. "Who dares disturb Don Pardini without an appointment?!"

"I am King Rodriguez the third," declared Bender in a fake British accent. "Ruler of Golem Seven. I have a friend who is interested in your knowledge regarding rare stones."

"How do you know about me?!" said Don Pardini loudly. "Explain!!"

"Upon purchasing these two slaves," said Bender indicating Amy and Leela. "I purchased them via a dealer of mine from Earth known as the Don-bot. The friend in question was there, purchasing a rare gem from the Don-bot and asked me if I'd go fifty-fifty with him in the buy. For a little extra cash, he told us your whereabouts."

"The Don-bot, you say..." said Pardini rubbing the glass dome just in front of his chin. "What exactly do you and your friend want from me?"

"Information," said Bender. "I'll go get him if you want. He'll tell you exactly what we're looking for."

"Very well," said Pardini. "But return quickly."

With that, Bender trotted off. Don Pardini then directed his attention to the girls.

"So," he stated, "Human slave girls, huh?"

"That's right," said Amy with a forced smile.

Pardini took careful note of Leela.

"Interesting. You only have one eye. Just like me. Are you human?"

"Kinda," said Leela with a shrug. "I'm a mutant."

"Really?" said Pardini with a gasp. "Me too. I used to be a human as well, but years of pollution from when I was on Earth turned me into this."

"You were from Earth?!" said Amy in awe.

"Yes, everybody on this planet was. We're all Argentinians. The country was sold in 2264 by Argentinian politicians."

He sighed.

"Now it's just a wasteland receiving junk that doesn't fit in New Jersey."

"Wow!" said Leela. "So you came here and named it Planet Maradona?"

"Say what!?" Don Pardini said, his face suddenly filling with anger. He immediately grabbed a bazooka and pointed it at Leela's eye. "Don't mention that name in my presence, girl slave! NEVER! If you were my slave, I'd kill you right now! I HATE FOOTBALL, you got that?!"

"Sorry," said Leela in defence, recoiling.

"Ugh!" said Pardini, dropping the bazooka. "I need to hurry up with my planetary connections. This planet should have been renamed a long time ago!"

"Um, excuse me, mister", said Amy softly, scared, "just what has Football got to do with this?"

"Shut up, slave!" Don Pardini grabbed the bazooka again. "My, King Rodriguez should glue your mouths shut!" He calmed a little. "See, birdbrain, 95% of Argentinians just plain adore football. Maradona is a 'football star' from a thousand years ago. You should see his disembodied head in a jar. It's fortunate he has no body! He was so fat and stoned by the time he died, we would need another planet just for him!"

Bender returned with the Baron and an armed Marc. The Baron approached Don Pardini and knelt down before him.

"Greetings, Don Pardini. I am Baron Steinmann."

"Welcome, Baron," smiled Pardini, delighted of being shown some respect. He looked at the bazooka on his tentacles and quickly put it aside. "How can I help you?"

"I need some information on some jewels that are very similar to this one."

The Baron held out the orange crystal he possessed. Pardini took it in one of his tentacles and examined it carefully.

"There are another three like it somewhere," continued Steinmann. "A red one, a blue one and a green one. Exactly the same size and shape. I was hoping you might know the whereabouts of one of more of them?"

Pardini threw the gem back, the Baron catching it with both hands.

"You're missing the fact that these gems have powerful properties," Pardini said. "For example, this is the Topaz of Utopia. You seek the Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald of Utopia."

"Then you know of what I speak?"

"I do," said Pardini with a nod. "But I only know the whereabouts of one of them. And even then it's not a sure thing. The Emerald of Utopia, or as it's known where it's located, the Emerald of Light. Named so because it never stops glowing."

"That's good enough," said the Baron excitedly. "Where can it be found?"

Don Pardini grinned, showing his large yellow fangs.

"Well, I'm not going to just GIVE you the location," he said. "First, you have to do something for me."

The Baron sighed.

"Okay then. What do you want us to do?"

Don Pardini's grin grew to inhuman proportions, something logical as he was not human... anymore.


"Oh great!" said Bender crossing his arms and losing his accent. "Not ANOTHER smash and grab!"

"Since when did YOU hate smash and grabs?" asked Leela.

"Since I don't get anything out of them, that's when!" answered Bender, kicking a tall stone pillar.

"Oh, don't worry!" said Pardini. "This won't be that hard. Maradona's head will be in a parade this evening. You should be able to grab him then, while I'm showing myself somewhere else. With him gone and me unlinked to his disappearance, I'd be free to push my political connections more and rename this lousy planet 'Malos Aires', as it should have been from the beginning!"

"Well," said Leela in thought. "If his head is in a partially metal container, we should be able to swoop in a grab it with the ship's cargo magnet."

"Agreed then," said the Baron, shaking one of Pardini's tentacles in agreement. "We'll deliver the head, and you give us the location."

Fry opened his eyes after feeling a gentle shake. He looked over to see Alesia looking at him, her hand placed softly on his right arm.

"Wake up," she said, staring down at him with her large, friendly, blue eyes.

'Man, her eyes are pretty,' Fry thought to himself. 'They would suit her better if she smiled more though.'

He sat up to see a large, metallic donut just hanging there. Small lights could be seen coming from and going to it that must have been ships. The whole thing turned perfectly on its axis to resemble a wheel turning.

"Wow!" said Fry. "That thing is huge. Does it just drift randomly through space or something?"

"No," answered Alesia. "It's actually specially designed so that it stays in the same place constantly. That's why it only turns in two dimensions like that."

"Wow, neat! Well, let's land there then."

"You're amazed by so much," said Alesia taking controls of the ship again. "It's like you're from another world."

"Well, I am sorta," said Fry with a shrug. "I've only been here about six years now. I'm from the Twentieth Century."

Alesia looked startled.

"You mean, you're from over a thousand years ago?!"

Fry simply nodded.

"Yep. I was cryogenically frozen and when I woke up, it was two-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine."

"Well, that explains the constant questions and amazement from you."

The Personal Transport Vehicle zoomed in and levelled out, so that it was at a 90-degree angle to the tyre-shaped space station. Upon getting closer and closer, Fry noticed that the Ellipse World wasn't as dead flat as it looked from space. Instead, there were many buildings situated around the area. Alesia guided the PTV down and landed it in a clear area near the outer edge on the inner surface of the Ellipse World's hole. As she reached to turn off the energy screen, Fry grasped her arm.

"Wait a minute! Is the air outside this vehicle fit for human breathing?!"

"I would assume so," she replied, stone-faced as ever.

"What?! How do you know we won't suffocate as soon as you turn off the energy windscreen doodle? We're on a big circle of metal that's just sitting in space, and you're assuming there will be air!!"

Alesia didn't reply and just hit the button. Fry gasped and panicked instantly. He quickly grabbed a plastic shopping bag that was in his jacket pocket and put it over his head. Inside the bag, Fry breathed in short bursts.

Alesia gasped. "What are you doing?! You'll suffocate yourself!!"

As she reached to grab the bag off his head, Fry gasped again. This caused the bag to go inside his mouth, slipping off his head and turning inside out. Fry stumbled out of the PTV gagging on it. Alesia quickly ran over to him and pulled on one of the bag handles that were hanging out of Fry's mouth. Tugging it quickly, she forced the bag out of his gullet and threw it on the metallic ground. Fry fell to his knees, breathing hard, but breathing nonetheless.

"Are you okay?" Alesia asked.

Fry's breathing slowed and he stood up again.

"Yeah," he stated. "I'm fine."

"Good," said Alesia. "Now follow me. We need to find an intergalactic taxi service that will take you to Verrone Five."

Alesia pressed a button on her wrist pad, activating the PTV's security shield. Fry followed her to a small gateway embedded in a huge metal wall. Flickering white bolts of energy and a white shimmer showed that people couldn't just walk through it. Alesia handed a strange looking creature some small metals tokens and the white energy tinge disappeared. Alesia walked through, so Fry followed. He walked up beside her.

"Sorry, I saw you pay for that. I'll pay you back."

He reached into his pockets and pulled out some objects.

"I don't know what that cost you, but I've got a dollar, a piece of gum, and a few other things."

"No thank you," Alesia said. "It didn't cost much, and I don't mind."

"Geez, I feel bad," said Fry. "There must be SOMETHING I can do for you in return?"

Alesia didn't answer.

Fry decided to ignore her silence and look at his surroundings. The cityscape of the Ellipse World appeared to be seething with life. Hover vehicles flitted past along a stressed-laminate carriageway that curved into the distance. Various forms of monorail ran overhead and flashing displays and signal lights winked on and off of the face of alien tower blocks. The tall, surrounding buildings were steel blue, creating a stifled, claustrophobic atmosphere, even though they were walking along an open area.

"Wow!" said Fry. "It looks just like Cybertron from the Transformers cartoon! Man, that was a cool show. They were all like 'Zap zap zap!' and 'Pow pow pow' and 'Chit chat cho cho choo!'

Fry stopped making wacky hand gestures when he noticed Alesia wasn't really paying attention. Fry stopped her.

"Hey! If you could transform into ANY object, what would it be?"

Alesia just stared at him for a moment.

"Can't you take things more seriously?" she asked, her question simple and to the point, with no hint of anger or any other emotion evident in it.

Fry stood there silently for a moment, then stepped aside and they continued walking.

"Man, you're starting to get as boring as Leela!" he mumbled under his breath.

Alesia looked at him and he instantly felt guilty.

"Oh man, I'm so sorry!" he said, putting his hands on her shoulders and looking directly into her eyes, clearly disappointed in his recent comment. "I shouldn't have said that, it was uncalled for. Especially after all the help you've given me."

Alesia didn't react at all for a few seconds. Fry sighed and hit his forehead with his palm.

"Man, I'm an idiot!" he said to himself.

"Who's Leela?" asked Alesia, completely ignoring Fry's 'boring' comment.

"Huh?" said Fry, clearly surprised that Alesia didn't dwell on what he had said. "Oh, she's just my captain and my friend."

"I see," said Alesia. Her eyes drifted away in a short instant of thought. Then, she started walking again.

"Come on," she said, face forward, and she strolled ahead. A surprised Fry shrugged off her actions and followed her. She led him around the corner of a building to a seedy looking area, lit only by the garish glow of neon signs and advertisement screens. High overhead them, the patchwork cityscape of the inner Ellipse World surface could be seen forming a vast arch across the sky. Its edge bristling with docking ports and spaceship terminals.

"How do you even know where we're going?" asked a clearly confused Fry. "I didn't know you'd been here before?"

"I haven't," replied Alesia in her usual vapid tone. "But I'm following the directions of the signs."

"Well, at least ONE of us can read them," Fry replied.

Turning down a street, they were met by even more advertising displays flashing around them and busy arcades full of local inhabitants: humanoids, aliens and robots of varying degrees of unpleasantness. It was here that Alesia pointed at a small booth, behind which stood a skinny, lizard-like creature wearing a rusty old helmet. Fry approached it.

"Excuse me," he said.

The creature looked startled as he talked to it, its head spinning towards him and sending the two loose straps attached to the helmet flailing around.

"What do you want...... want?!" it said in an unfriendly, high-pitched voice, trailing off to repeat the last word in a quiet echo.

"I would like to buy passage to Verrone 5, please," Fry said.

"Verrone 5!" the creature blurted out in shock before ducking down out of sight. "That's a evil and dangerous place, that is..... is!"

"So, can you get me there?" Fry asked, unconcerned by the creature's words.

"I refuse.... fuse!" the creature replied. "But, perhaps.... haps...." He then scanned a piece of paper stuck to the wall in his tiny stall. "Go to 72 Haaland Street.... street. There you should meet a robot named Hannibal Vector..... tor. He takes ships to the Avanzino galaxy on a regular basis.... basis."

"Where is Haaland Street?" Fry queried.

"Just look at the map..... map," it answered, pointing at a billboard across the street. "It will tell you everything.... thing."

"Thank you," replied Fry, and he and Alesia walked over to the billboard the creature had indicated, while an arrogant looking human strolled over to the stall.

"What do you want....... want?! the creature asked him in a similar manner as it asked Fry earlier.

"Yes, I'd like passage to the Fluffy Kitten World," the man replied.

"Fluffy Kitten World!" the creature blurted out in shock before ducking down out of sight, again. "That's a evil and dangerous place, that is..... is!"

Fry and Alesia were now on their way to see Hannibal Vector. Luckily the street was only a few blocks away. The house was easy to find, and upon ringing the doorbell, the door was answered by a strange looking robot. His dark orange eyes were half-closed, and his face resembled the look of a person with a lower-face hockey mask.

"Hello there," the robot said with a calm, but slightly gravely, voice, a yellow glow emitting from between gaps in the mask-like casing over his face. "How may I help you?"

"I would like to travel somewhere on one of your ships," stated Fry.

"Ah, really?" said Vector, "Well then come inside and we can discuss business."

Vector opened the door and motioned Fry and Alesia to enter. They did and he led them to a large dining room. Fry and Alesia sat down at the long table where Vector asked them to while he disappeared into a room out the back, only to return seconds later with a bottle, three glasses and a bowl.

"It's been a while since anybody has come and asked me to take them anywhere." he said opening the bottle. "There have been some unfortunate rumours about me you see. Would you like some oil?"

Fry and Alesia both refused.

"Okay then. Some nuts perhaps?"

He held out the bowl, which was filled with nuts. Not the natural kind, but rather the metal variety that goes with bolts and screws. Fry and Alesia politely declined again.

"Sorry," said Fry. "But those aren't actually fit for human consumption."

"Oh yes," said Vector calmly. "I forget about that sometimes. So, where is it that you want to go?"

"Verrone 5," Fry answered.

Hannibal Vector withdrew the glass of oil he was about to consume and looked surprised.

"Verrone 5!" he stated, clearly shocked but not overly excited. "Are you testing me? A Census-bot once tried to test me. I ate his server with some Java screens and a nice command-key."

"No," said Fry. "I really DO need to go to Verrone 5. And the sooner the better."

"I'm afraid I can't help you then," Vector said, taking a sip of oil. "You see, a large area of the Avanzino Galaxy is currently populated by some very nasty space pirates, lead by an individual named Captain Peck. I daren't go into such a danger zone. I suspect that's why my good friend Iguanatius passed on my location to you. I'm afraid you'll have to find an alternate way to get to Verrone 5, and judging from the pirate threat, I doubt you would find anybody willing to offer you passage there. If you had enough cash, you COULD hire a ship from somebody perhaps."

Fry sighed and stood up. "Well, thank you, anyway."

"Sorry I couldn't be of more help," replied Vector. "I do wish we could chat longer, but I'm having a girlfriend for dinner."

Fry and Alesia both made their way back outside, while Vector wheeled in a computer on a tray. A sticker on the front of the case read 'Amiga' and he placed it as if it was sitting at the table. Back outside, Fry closed the door behind him, sat on the doorsteps and sighed heavily.

"I'm never going to find a way to get there. Too bad we don't know the location of any other places my friends could be? Maybe I should just head back to Earth?"

Fry stood up and took one of Alesia's hands in his.

"Thank you for helping me, I've really appreciated your kindness. You've done more than enough for me, so I might as well say thanks and goodbye."

Alesia managed a small smile.

"That's okay," she said. "But..... if you like... I could just take you to Verrone 5 myself."

"Aw, you don't have to do that," Fry said. "In fact, I insist that you don't. It's not that I don't appreciate it, but you've gone out of your way enough already."

"I really don't mind," she replied.

"No! No! NO!" yelled Fry, standing up. "You're not taking me! I won't let you!"

"But I WANT to take you," she said.

"What?" Fry exclaimed calmly. "Wh... why?"

There was a moment of silence. Alesia looked at the ground, then shrugged a little. "I don't know. I just..... do."

Fry slumped down on the steps again with a sigh.

"Thanks," he said with a reluctant smile. "But what about your home? What about people seeking refuge there?"

Alesia sighed slightly and sat on the steps beside him.

"The truth is," she said reluctantly. "You were the first person that had come to me for many months. It was getting harder and harder for people who were unwillingly brought to the Vangar System to escape captivity. And most of those that did were captured. How you escaped and managed to reach me is beyond me."

"I escaped from some guy named Losth. The bars in the cell that be put me in were easy to remove because the rock was so soft. Then I basically ran from his droids and found my way to you. I didn't see anybody apart from the droids and one angry housekeeper."

"I wonder how?" Alesia pondered. "There are rare occasions when the guards are all summoned. Usually for a special occasion, or to hunt down a fugitive. In either case, you are here and you need to get to Verrone 5."

Fry smiled. "Yeah, I guess so. But even then we're just assuming it's the right place and that my friends will even go there. It's a pretty big 'if' and if there are space pirates around, it could be very risky."

"We'll have to be careful then. Besides, what would a small craft like the PTV hold that pirates would even want?"

"I guess," Fry shrugged.

"Good. Let's go then," Alesia said, standing up and beginning to walk back to where they had left the craft. Fry got to his feet and followed.

"There he is," said Leela from the cockpit of the Planet Express ship. "Maradona's Head."

"Excellent," said the Baron with an evil smile. "Take it. Now."

With that command, Leela lifted the ship from the icy cliff it was perched on and cruised towards their target. Inside the ship's cargo hold, Bender held the controls to the crate magnet. As the ship swooped towards its target, currently, and conveniently, being perched up high on a parade float, Bender pressed the button that sent the magnet down out of the ship.

A man at the back of the crowd was the first to notice the ship. He yelled something in Spanish and everybody turned. Leela slowed the ship so that she could aim the magnet, but then spontaneously found the window being bombarded by soccer balls.

"God damn it!" she stated angrily. "Those balls are making things tricky."

"It don't care!" hollered the Baron. "I WANT that head!"

Bender called back to Leela to tell guide her where to steer the ship. Just as it was getting close though, a ricocheting soccer ball bounced off the ship and knocked Maradona's head off the float. The jar plummeted to the street below, but luckily the soft snow stopped it from breaking.

"¿¡Qué pasa?!" Maradona yelled in panic. Bender groaned and turned to Amy.

"Quick! Tie my feet to something!"

Amy looked around in panic, then found a rope. She quickly tied it around Bender's ankles.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"Bungee to grab that head," he stated. "Bon voyage!"

With that, Bender leapt over the edge, ignoring Amy's cries for him to stop. "I didn't tie the other end of the rope to anything!" she called.

Sure enough, Bender hit the ground with the rope trailing behind him, making a Bender-shaped imprint in the snow.

"¡Estúpida! ¡Mogólica! ¡Tarada!" Bender yelled up at Amy. He quickly ran around the other side of the float, ignoring the soccer balls that were pelting him. He found Maradona's head and opened the door on his chest.

"¿Quién carajo sos vos?" Maradona asked.

"¡Besame mi metálico culo!" Bender replied before stuffing him inside and closing the door. He then stretched his arms and legs in order to reach the ship and hauled himself up. Amy helped him in and yelled back towards the cockpit.

"We got him! Go! Go! Go!"

"Roger," Leela replied and she turned the ship and blasted away from the scene. Bender and Amy joined the others in the cockpit.

"Where is the head?" asked Steinmann.

"Right here," Bender answered opening his chest door.

Maradona looked around. "Menos mal que no tengo cuerpo porque estoy todo cagado," he said.

"Shut up!" yelled the Baron at him. He turned to Leela. "Take us to Don Pardini's!"

"We're already here," said Leela. "He's only a few blocks away and we're in a star ship. We've been landed in his back yard for almost a minute now."

"Oh....." said the Baron. "Then we'll disembark and deliver the cargo."

Steinmann, Leela, Amy and Bender all exited the ship and made their way to Don Pardini's again. On the way they came across Zoidberg.

"Hooray!" he said. "You came back for me!" He sniffed and wiped a tear away with a claw. "And I thought you didn't care."

"We're not here for you," said Leela. "We came to deliver something to Don Pardini."

"Awwwwwwww...." Zoidberg exclaimed in a long groan.

They wandered on, leaving Zoidberg behind. He slumped back towards the ship sadly.

Don Pardini smiled upon their arrival. "Excellent! Excellent!" he beamed. "You've returned! I assume you have the head?"

"Right here!" said Bender, taking Maradona from his chest cavity and handing him to the slimy creature.

"Yes, this is him alright!" said Pardini. "Many thanks. And now, for my part of the bargain. The gem you seek is located on the planet named Verrone 5, located in the Avanzino galaxy. You chances of getting it are slim, considering who actually owns it. But you're welcome to try."

"Much thanks, Don Pardini," said the Baron, bowing slightly. "We shall now bid you farewell, and good luck."

"Yes," said Pardini, unscrewing the silver top from Maradona's jar and taking the head out of it. "Goodbye."

As the others made their way back to the ship, Pardini glowered at Maradona.

"So! You like soccer, eh?" he asked the head.

"S-Sí," he answered, confused.

"Well then," smiled Pardini. "Let's see how you like THIS version of the game!"

The two lackeys pulled two red curtains aside to reveal a soccer goal in the near distance. Except this goal was weaved out of barbed wire. Maradona gasped.

"You see," sneered Pardini. "We've got a penalty to kick, and we need you to be the ball. It's a one-shot win."

"¡Ayúdenme, por Dios!!" the head yelled as Pardini placed it several metres from the goal.

Outside the mansion the sound of a kick and a scream were heard, followed by the deafening roar of the Planet Express ship engines as the ship shot into the air. Then, all was silent bar the maniacal laughter of Don Pardini.


Baldur sent a beaten up looking space craft flying off the conveyor belt and rolling across the metal ground with a punch. It rolled off the edge of the surface in the distance.

"Blasted planet of metal!" he yelled. "How friggin large are you?!"

He punched another piece of mangled machinery that was passing by, sending it flying.

"I've been walking forever, and nothing has changed! It could take me MONTHS to get to an exit!!!"

He walked a few more steps and punched some more conveyor contents.

"Well, I may not be able to destroy you, but I can at LEAST stop you from feeding."

He was about to lay into the next travelling item when he noticed that it was widening up ahead. With a smirk on his face, Baldur ran over there, but was then both shocked and awed at what he say.

He had been travelling along what appeared to be a long tube for the conveyor system, but he had just stepped out of it into a large open area. For as far as he could see, there were hundreds of identical conveyor belts, all going into similar tubes and all carrying different contents. In the opposite direction to where he had come, he could see them all disappearing into the darkness. The height of the ceiling had changed now, so much so that it couldn't be seen. Baldur decided to fly up into the now empty air and survey the area, but he was only even more shocked to see that all he could see was more and more conveyors. He lowered himself back to the surface below in defeat.

"Bastard!" he grumbled. " I can't even stop you feeding!"

He turned around and instantly punched a piece of wreckage that actually had the word 'Nimbus' printed on it. The item flew across towards some of the other conveyor belts, knocking a large battered mining drill off the belt next door. The force caused the hatch on the drill to open and out tumbled a humanoid figure wearing a helmet. Furthermore, the humanoid sat up with a groan, putting a gloved had up to a dent in its helmet.

"Ow! My head," a muffled voice said.

Baldur walked over to the newcomer, arms crossed and a scowl on his face.

"Who the hell are you?!" he bellowed.

The person jumped and then flicked the dark visor on the helmet to reveal his face.

"Brannigan," he said, his arrogant smile still behind a second, transparent visor. "Captain Zapp Brannigan."