Chapter 1: Space Evaders
Thundering across metal plains her boots galloped, her stride as long as her legs could reach and as strong as their muscles could take. Strength was needed to escape, and that's all that was on her mind at the moment. As it had been for most of the past few years of her life. And she wasn't that old either. Only two decades of age in her and she had spent much of that running. Running from them. The pain was too much if you didn't run. Far more than the throbbing in her thighs and cracking in her calves.
So, on she ran. She ran because that's all you could do. Running from an enemy she couldn't defeat, and couldn't hide from. Not when it could sense her mere presence. She had to get as far from it as possible, and for the moment the hectic rhythm of her legs was her only hope. It was their only hope.
He was still behind her right?
She checked, flicking her head back over her shoulder for a brief moment. Good, he was there. Not far behind her, though noticeably more so than the last time she checked, running as fast as he could as well. But then, she'd always been a faster runner. She was more athletic. Knowing he was fine, at least for the moment, she turned her gaze forwards again. There was no time to stop now. Not when that looming shadow and horrid glow was still there, as she had noted during the verification.
It was annoying that nobody was around. The place was deserted, and for good reason. Temperature. Between the sky and the ground was a massive dome of octagonal shapes, woven like a dark spider web that had ice sheets between its silk joinings or like a football with clear panels. Those panels weren't solid, but instead energy planes to keep unwanted things, be they living or not, away from the city beneath. The air was crisp and mild, but with a tinge of bite to it, like a late autumn evening just before the sun was about to go down. The sky beyond seemed to borrow its palette from the very same season, with vast fluffy clouds of golden yellows and browns belonging to leaves about to fall. It was sunset, and like a light bulb at the peak of a power surge, a bright sphere known as a sun blasted through a gap in the sepia clouds to turn the silver surroundings into gold. But once that gold disappeared, so would all heat. It would become a deathly blue, as would anybody foolish enough to stay around.
But wait! What was that in front...
Her mind told her to go for it, a large building ahead. It looked like a hangar or a warehouse or some kind, but since the enormous metal door was closed, whatever was within was shrouded in shadow. Well, it was ninety percent closed anyway...
"Follow me!" she called back to her fellow escaper, in a firm voice that was fairly young, but still sounded like it belonged to somebody several years older. Perhaps not older as such, but more mature, with a commanding and no-nonsense nature to it. It was the voice of a woman who had dealt with things far beyond her years, for years. It was a hardened voice.
He nodded back as he followed. He was young too, and his eyes looked tired and a bit vacant. Large and round, but with grey arcs beneath them. His ridged, largish nose sat upon a slim face, dotted with stubble that made him appear a bit older yet again. His hair was a light brown, fairly long, slicked back and pointy. All his clothes appeared well worn, with baggy jeans, rough sneakers, and a black leather jacket, unzipped to reveal a faded blue t-shirt beneath. He was of medium height, but kind of thin and lanky. It wasn't long before they reached the structure. A dive. A roll. A mirrored action from her follower, followed swiftly by a firm yank. And then, a slam.
The thick roller door was down behind them fully, rattling back and forth with a metal clatter, while they were inside, crouching in the darkness. The reverberating rattle gradually faded, until the only sounds heard was the heavy breathing of those within. The question now wasn't whether they had escaped, it knew they were in there. The question was whether that which sought them would still pursue or not.
That was their answer, the sudden returning rale of the metal door being slammed against. There were two gasps, and soon after a sudden concentrated beam of light accompanied by a click. It shone on her face, then moved, only covering a small area as it scanned around the walls. The place appeared mostly empty, but had some benches around the edges and various tools hanging upon the walls neatly.
Another tackle from the outside, the bright beam jumping a little as it did, yet the scanning continued. It chanced upon an ordinary looking door, pausing upon the object. Then, it flicked back to her face. She nodded into the light quietly, and it returned to the means of exit. Slowly they got closer, walking as quietly as they could as more clattering thuds echoed from behind them. Then, the light went off, just before a hand reached towards the door's handle.
It was turned, and there was natural light upon their faces yet again. They were again outside, but secluded in a narrow alleyway. The shadows from the surrounding buildings gave them a chilling taste of what post-sunset upon the city would be, so they clenched their teeth to stop any chattering. The thumps were muffled and seemed distant now. It was a small consolation.
A flick of her head told her colleague which way to go, and she trotted off, swiftly, but quietly, down the alleyway to the left. He followed. It met another at an intersection to the right, so that's where she went. It seemed like an age before the end of it came, one that led back to another main street. She stopped, hugging her back against the right wall, peering to the left side, then over her shoulder to the right. But then her heart skipped a beat. Something out the corner of her eye...
She gasped and turned back to the left, expecting the worst. She closed her eyes and a sigh left her lips. One of relief.
'Just a street lamp coming on,' her mind consoled itself.
More lights joined it, like a row of falling dominoes, they flicked to life into the distance. Eyes open again, she did another check. Left. Right. Up for good measure. After all, that's where they dwelled. Attackers from the sky they were. Her ears checked too, despite the lack of sound they made. She could hear her own heart. It raced when just one was nearby. When there was more, it would darn near burst through her chest. She hoped it wouldn't hear it too, but then, they didn't use ears to sense. Nor eyes. And for a moment, for some reason, she forgot that.
Her ears betrayed her, telling her that no sound was good. The silence should have told her instead that their enemies were no longer battering a now empty shed. She cursed herself less than ten seconds after she signalled the okay to move, darting out to make a mad dash across the wide street to whatever was there. She felt a strange presence and saw a brief flash, just before hearing a scream of pain from behind her.
She swore her heart stopped entirely as she spun around, seeing her accomplice upon the floor, screaming out his lungs. And there above him it was, the source of his pain. Most people would probably find sky blue to be a pleasant and enchanting colour, but when it represented her greatest fears and horrors, she loathed it. For that was the colour by which they glowed. These huge, ugly, bumpy pink monsters. And that glow extended into a snake of azure energy that connected to and engulfed her friend's head. Just seeing that almost made her own brain wrench inside, as if it was transmitting straight to her as well. She had felt that before, too many times. Each time worse than the last. It was a sensation that she wouldn't wish upon her worst enemy. It haunted her constantly, and it was a curse that she feared would never leave her. That's why she shed tears. That's why she clenched her teeth like a vice. That's why her eyes were filled with hatred and contempt for the being doing that. She wanted to destroy it, but worst of all, she knew she couldn't.
Her eyes, once upon the monster, now shifted to its victim. Through his pained look of agony, he managed to speak to her. She looked surprised and shocked as he did.
"Run!" he repeated. "Get away from here, Athena!"
She just shook her head wildly. He looked at her desperately.
"Run! You can't--" a grimace, "you can't stop it! Run NOW!"
Against her instincts, she listened to him and turned around, sprinting away from the scene and trying not to think about it. She knew she couldn't fight it. Not now. She had no weapons strong enough. Perhaps she could find some and then go back to help him later? If it wasn't too late then. He would probably pass out in less than a minute from the anguish, and then they would take him.
'Bastards!' her mind told her as she dashed on, blinking to get rid of the tears.
Her assumption was correct though, as her captured companion passed out from the sensation soon. The beam around his head disengaged, and the glowing pink assailant made a pursuit towards her. She sensed it, turning her head and gasping, then putting even more effort into the run. She dashed between two more buildings, then turned right into another alleyway. Unfortunately, it didn't appear to lead anywhere. Just building walls on either side, and a tall wire fence at the other end. It reminded her of one of those obstacle courses that took all your effort to get though, then ended with a wall to climb, only to be so utterly knackered that the chances of getting over the first time were miniscule. This time she would have to get over that first time, because it was right behind her. She could sense it.
Wasting no further time, she leapt up against it. It swayed and rattled, the top half having rusted away from the edges of the building that now barely held it up. Over the other side was a strange beam of light about two metres wide, stretching as far as she could see. But it was not all she could see, as something flashed in the corner of her eye to the right. Swinging back again, she flicked her head over her shoulder and glared at the slowly approaching enemy.
"You're not taking me!" she hissed.
As the fence swayed forward again, she pulled herself up to the tip edge, then vanished over the edge. There was a streak of white beyond the metal links, and then nothing. The bumpy, coral mass made a sound of confusion, glowing vividly at the edges as it did. It rose higher, then drifted over the still waving barrier. In the distance a space train zoomed off into the distance, too fast for it to follow.
"No matter," it said to itself. "We already have the other one. She will surely come back to rescue him. The human species is funny that way."
Meanwhile, the escapee was having a tough time holding onto the roof of the space train, gradually slipping as the wind buffeted her. And to make matters worse, she could see up ahead that it was going to exit the dome and go into the space, where it would travel almost the speed of light. That and there'd be no air for her to breath.
She let herself go into a controlled slide, turning over onto her back with her feet pointing in her travelling direction. After breaking a bit, she managed to slip off the back edge quite neatly, landing on a platform between the carriage she was on and the one behind it. And just in time too, for as soon as she landed and stood back up, the atmospheric pressure tube from the coach behind slid around her and connected to the forward one, stopping anything further from getting in or out. After breathing a sigh of relief, she opened the rear door and walked inside.
The coach looked empty. Good. She wanted to be alone right now. It was a simple passenger carriage, a centre aisle with seats on either side in rows. There'd be a seat for two facing back, then a table, and then another dual seat facing forwards, and so forth all the way down. They were made of a dark red, velvety looking material, appearing rather comfy, while the tables were a shiny copper colour. She zipped up her old brown leather jacket then tucked her hands under her arms and hugged her body closely for warmth. Taking the second set of seats on her left, turning around to face the door she had come through, she sat carefully and nestled into the soft chair near the window. God, her face was freezing now! She almost couldn't feel it at all, what with the high speed winds blasting into it from being on the roof. Her teeth chattered against each other, and she permitted herself a shiver as she turned to her right. Gazing out through the glass, she saw the train departing the dome, leaving the city behind. As well as that horrid creature. As well as her comrade.
She sighed and just stared out at the stars, until she heard a noise from the door ahead of her. Something approached, squeaking down the aisle. A mindlessly happy grin that
wouldn't change, it turned to face her. It travelled on tracks that sounded like
they needed oil, a copper tinted body that was well polished, fairly bulky with two
thin arms attached to either side. In its chest area was a gaping hole, rectangular
in shape and fairly deep, its height twice that of its width.
"Coffee, ma'am?" a friendly and robotic voice chirped from the fixed mouth,
yellow flashes joining each syllable. He sounded like he himself had had a fair
amount of the stuff, though did caffeine even effect robots? She stared at it for a
while and was slow to answer, but eventually did. Her voice seemed quiet and
reserved, and it lost the edge it had to it before to the point of almost being
"Yes, please. Plain. White. Two sugars."
"Coming up," answered the robot's cheery voice. A paper cup pocked into his chest
cavity from somewhere within, then dark hot liquid dribbled neatly into it with a
hiss and a cloud of steam. It gurgled for about five seconds, then some clean white
liquid followed, and finally two equally white cubes the size of dice plopped in. A
plastic white cap was pressed firmly upon it, and it slid out from the torso recess
on a shelf.
"There you go, ma'am," the robot said happily. "Enjoy!"
Another stare from her followed for a few seconds, but she eventually sat up a
little straighter, slipping her hands out from under her armpits to take
the cup into her hands tentatively.
"Thank you," she uttered, and the robot gave a nod, then turned and continued his
way down the aisle.
The cup was hot in her hands, just a little too hot to be comfortable. She
brought it up to her lips, then titled it back to let the warm beverage exit the
hole of the lid and into her mouth. She almost felt better instantly, swallowing the
drink carefully in case it burnt her throat, but it warmed her up. It was actually a
fairly common sustenance for her. Hell, she had practically lived on the stuff
sometimes. She needed it to keep awake during those times when sleep could mean
Them finding her. Those times were too often. Right now, that coffee was the
closest thing she got to something that was warm and sweet and even life-giving.
As she sat there and sipped away, sinking back into the corner of the seat, the
door ahead that lead to the next car opened. She gave a casual glance to the
newcomer, a short, kind of chubby aqua-skinned creature with light green eyes, fin
things where ears would be, and dangling facial things on his upper lip. He looked
like some sort of catfish person or something, wearing a plain brown suit and a neat
matching hat. And, yes, typical... he sat right across from her in the opposite
seat, didn't he? She just cursed on the inside then looked out the window.
Watching the stars flit by, she emitted a muffled sigh into the plastic lid of
her coffee. She didn't even know where she was going or what she was going to do.
And to make things worse, They had him now and her leaving him made her feel
like a coward. He had told her to run when she wanted to fight, and she had listened
to him. Listened because she knew fighting would do no good. She knew they'd torture
him, it had happened before to both of them many times. He wouldn't die, since they
wouldn't kill him. They couldn't. But then she wondered whether death would be such
a hard option as opposed to torture. It hurt so much when they targeted their minds
like that, more than anything. But it was only pain and it could never actually harm
them. Not physically. No matter how many times it happened, they never got used to
it. This time was different though, because she was on her own. Perhaps she would
have to find some weapons and then get him back? But that was stupid, since all it
would take was one of the bastards to touch her and she'd be screaming on the ground
like he had been. She hated the pain, but she hated the fact that she knew he was
likely going through it even more.
She shifted her eyes from the window and tried to calm her thoughts. She was near
the last of her drink now, and it was sweeter where the sugar had pooled at the
bottom. Thankfully she didn't have to stare at her carriage-mate any longer, his
face hidden by the large newspaper he was reading. She looked at the front cover
that faced her. 'Milky Way Weekly' it was titled, and there was a large story on the
front cover about a war victory over some kids from a Cabbage Patch home world or
something, accompanied by the picture of a smiling blonde-haired man in a crimson
But what was that?!
She jolted forward, eyes as wide as could be as she grasped the lower right corner of the front page. There was an ad, an animated one that looped over and over like many of the newspaper ads did. What she was looking for had passed, so she waited again, while the owner of the paper folded down one corner to glance at her.
"Do you mind?" he asked, a croaky and dull voice. It sounded almost like a frog.
She paid no attention to him though, her focus solely on the ad at her fingertips. Watching and waiting. There was a rocket, a golden shimmer and the words 'Planet Express' encircling it. A one-eyed cyclops with purple hair... no. A silver robot with a grumpy expression... no. Aha! There it was! There he was. Large eyes, pointed orange hair and a friendly grin.
She knew his face. She knew it and it filled her with more contrasting emotions than she could handle. She whimpered something as she let go of the paper, sliding out of her seat with haste and running to the door. There, just to the left of the exit, was a chart on the wall. It featured a long white streak, and a red blinking light that slowly moved along from right to left. On the right side was a rough picture of the cloud city she had come from, while on the left the white line hit a triangle shape and then split into seven paths, each one a different colour. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. She checked the colour key in a rushed manner. It wasn't red she wanted, that was the Omicronian galaxy. Nor orange, it was the Amphibios galaxy. Yellow was the Osiris one. Yes! Green! Green was the Milky Way!
She gasped, checking the carriage for some means of identification. There was a blue plaque above the door that said 'Trisol' on it. Green must be further up the line.
'Philip J. Fry,' her mind told her. 'I'm coming to find you.'
And with that thought, she opened the door and left.
25th January, 3004, 1:35pm NNYC Time. Planet Express Employee Lounge. Six Days Later
"Good news, everyone!"
Three heads turned towards the source of the rickety announcement, two from the couch and one from table in the corner. The former two were Fry and Bender, lazily watching another episode of robot soap All My Circuits, while Hermes was the latter, surrounded by piles of paperwork and stationery products. As soon as the old Professor noticed he had their attention, he continued on.
"I've just checked our finances, and thanks to those animated newspaper ads we put in over the summer holiday period, our profits are up three-hundred percent! Weeee-eeeee!"
Bender and Fry both leapt up and cheered, giving each other a high-five. Hermes frowned.
"I already knew dat!" the Jamaican accountant said. "And I told de rest of de crew five meetings ago during our morning employee meeting. In fact... I'm de one dat calculated de figures!"
"Well, Bender and Fry don't seem to have known," the Professor said, indicating the now dancing crew members.
"That's because we don't listen to Hermes during those meetings," Bender quipped as he and his human friend stopped their boogieing.
"Yeah," nodded Fry. "I probably really did hear subconsciously, but I stored it in the part of my brain where I put the stuff I always forget or will never use again. I forget what that part's called, since it's stored in there too."
"Well, in either case," the Professor said. "Because of your efforts, I'm going to give you all a vacation."
The three employees cheered.
"About time!" said Fry happily. "We worked through Xmas, and New Years, and that holiday where if you're caught working, the Earth government will fire you out of a cannon into the sun..."
"You mean Sun-Day?" Bender asked.
"That's the one," said Fry, snapping his fingers and pointing at Bender. "Finally, we get a break!"
"So when is it?" Bender asked.
"I was thinking about making it today," the Professor smiled.
"But... today's past half over," Fry noted.
"I know," Farnsworth said. "But we haven't had a delivery today, so you've already had the morning off. And if one comes, we'll just do it tomorrow instead."
Bender and Fry both groaned in disapproval.
"Awww man!" Fry snorted. "If I had known that I would have made plans today instead of coming in for work!"
"Like what?" asked Bender.
"Like... watching TV all day long on the couch over there."
"But that's what you've done today so far anyway," Bender noted.
"Yeah, but I could do it naked if it was a day off."
"Doesn't stop me," said a gruff voice from an armchair behind them, a rather unclothed Scruffy leaning forward to address them.
The door that the Professor had come through earlier slid open, and in walked Leela wearing a thick mauve jacket with the hood pulled up over her head, as well as some red mittens. She shivered.
"Brr-rr-rr-rr! It's freezing out there!" she said, pulling her hood off to free her long, violet hair. "I knew I should have packed a lunch today instead of going to Subway for lunch. Sorry I'm late, by the way..."
"That's okay, you haven't missed anything," said the Professor simply. "Except that you have a day off."
"Ooooh?!" said Leela with interest as she removed her mittens. "When?"
"Today!" Bender answered with a grunt.
"That's stupid!" said Leela. "He's kidding, right Professor?"
"No, actually... as I said, there's been no deliveries today, so this can be your day off."
"I wish I had known," Leela said, removing her jacket to hang it up on a hook near the door. "I could have made plans."
"Like what?" asked Bender.
"I don't know..." she shrugged. "Like, go on a date with some guy."
"You still can," winked Fry.
"Too cold," she said quickly.
"Awww, come on Leela," Fry whined. "Just one date?"
"Tell you what, just give me a year or two to decide, and I'll get back to you."
"Fair's fair," he shrugged, Bender walking back to the TV and taking a seat.
"Oooh! It's the last minute of the show!" the robot said excitedly. "That's when there's always a shocking twist and a cliff-hanger than ends on a freeze of Calculon's shocked face! Even when he isn't even the one involved in the shocking twist!"
Fry took a seat beside his robotic pal, while Leela perched on the arm of the couch near Fry. They watched as Calculon spoke to Monique on a couch shaped like a large heart. The whole interior design of the room the two soap-bots were in was that of pink and red.
"I can't believe we're finally alone to sit together on a heart-shaped couch!" Calculon told her. "Nothing could disturb this moment for us now!"
"Oh! Calculon!" the purple fembot said with elation, and the two leaned in to kiss.
Their heads turned with shocked glances as the red door to their room broke down, a golden coloured robot standing upon it.
"Egad!" Calculon gasped. "Who are you?!"
"Calculon. I am your..." and the camera zoomed in on the robot's face dramatically, "brother!"
There was a close-up of Calculon's face, and melodramatic music played as the main star's eyes widened in shock. Then, the closing credits began to scroll by.
"Wow!" said Bender. "That sure was a good one! That's like Calculon's what... fifteenth brother now?"
"Yeah," chuckled Fry. "Kind of silly really. I mean... how can you not know that you have a relative like that?"
The sound came from the main doors.
"I'll get it," said Leela in a casual fashion, sliding off the arm of the couch and wandering out the room and towards the main doors. The cool day had meant the glass was still fogged up, so whoever was on the other side was just a blur to her until she opened the door. Upon doing so, Leela looked the person on the other side up and down briefly before speaking.
"Can I help you?"
The visitor was a woman. Young, but hard to gauge since she looked a bit rattled or something. Somewhere between eighteen and twenty five from Leela's guess. She was just shorter than Leela in height, about at the level of her eyeball, with her arms crossed over her chest in a gesture that said she was combating the elements. Her lips bore no smile, her nose was small and round, and she appeared to have no make-up on her face at all, yet kept some natural good looks. Her forehead was covered by a fringe which separated into two angled points, one above each eye. The hair was dark burgundy, like the colour of a deep red wine, and tied into a small ponytail. It was her eyes though seemed weird, as if they didn't belong. It was like somebody had clipped somebody else's out of a magazine photo and put them on a picture of her. There seemed a depth and maturity to them, like the eyes of a young man come back from a great war. In a sense, it wasn't a far stretch.
She looked at Leela and managed a smile, then spoke. She looked somewhat familiar for some reason, but Leela was sure she'd never met her before.
"H-Hello," it came, and the stutter was more from cold than nervousness. "I'm looking for a Philip J. Fry. Is he here?"
Leela was taken aback a little by her voice. Another mismatch to the rest of her, save those eyes of course. Leela suddenly became sceptical now, just because this young woman was looking for Fry. She always seemed to be hastier judging other women when they showed some kind of interest in the delivery boy, even before she knew what their motives were. She had seen Fry with enough female problems as it was. This is why she frowned, almost as an instinct, as soon as the query had been asked.
"Yes," the cyclops answered, trying to sound polite. "Who should I say is looking for him?"
"Well..." the woman said, her voice seeming to revert to a younger one as she trailed off. "Actually, I'm..."
"I'm his daughter."