Pratt unstopped a jug of wine and poured a mug out each for Levar and Fry. The two men were sitting at the Captain’s table in his cabin, trying not to glower at each other. It was still dark, but after escaping death by “the seat of their pants,” as Fry put it, no one was in the mood for sleeping.
Pratt raised his mug and smiled sardonically at the two men. “Well, isn’t it just nice, all of us here, eh?” He took a long drink.
Fry raised his cup and drank some of the wine. Well, I’m no wine expert, but this stuff’s not exactly French vintage. He took another quaff to be sure. Still lousy. Better than watered rum, though. He took a third long drink. I really miss having a cold beer! He gulped a fourth drink.
Pratt spoke up. “I reckon I should let you both in on my plan. Levar, you know some of it, but its time you learned the rest. Fry – I’m putting trust in you. I think I can trust you.” Pratt put a hand on Fry’s shoulder. “Can I?”
“Cap’n, this softie can’t be trusted! He’s not one of us!”
Pratt slammed his mug on the rough oak table. “Curse it, Levar! This ‘softie’ saved our hides back there from that devil. Both you and I’d be strapped to an experiments table having our guts removed piece by squishy piece right now if it weren’t for Fry!” Pratt spat to the side, and looked at Levar and Fry with cold fury in his eye. “If anything happens to me it falls to you two to carry out my plans, by the sea god, so listen now and listen well!”
Frozen in place, neither Fry nor Levar dared say anything. Pratt got control of himself, and drained his mug. When he put it down, the pirate captain was smiling with sinister good humor. “Look, you two have got to work together. Now, where was I?”
Pouring the three of them more wine, Pratt said, “Levar, remember when the Pirate Council sent us to Yala Island last season?”
Levar furrowed his brow. “Aye, Captain, to buy one hundred barrels of black powder for the cannons.”
“There were other things, as well. One was that communications jammer that you used tonight; the other was something that trusty shopkeeper Hammon got for me from very, very far away. Something that we’re going to sneak right under those bastard devils’ noses at Prime Island.”
Pratt stood up and began pacing. “By nine bells tomorrow morning we’ll be at the main harbor at Prime Island, just beyond the Great Castle of those metal devils. A whole flotilla of pirate ships will meet us, all disguised like us as honest merchantmen. We’ll slip into the harbor by stealth or force, and then deliver our surprise.” He seemed to come to a decision, and added, “Follow me.”
Levar and Fry looked at each other, both equally puzzled, and followed their pirate captain out of his cabin, across the deck and into the holds of the ship. With all of the excitement, the crew was up and carousing even as it was two bells in the morning, but no one seemed to pay them particular notice.
Pratt led them deep into the holds of the ship, to the reinforced compartment used to store powder for cannon and flintlocks. Inside, he – carefully – took a shielded lantern and took Fry and Levar to the center of the hold, where a long blocky object lay under an oilskin tarp.
Pratt said, “This is one of our little purchases from beyond the stars, me loyal crew.” With a flourish, he pulled off the tarp. The long, blocky oval on the wooden pallet was dark camo green, with a DOOP roundel emblazoned on it side in blue and red.
“My God!” Fry exclaimed. “That’s from Earth!”
“I don’t know where it comes from,” Pratt said, “but I know what it does.” He flipped up a panel on the casing, revealing a set of controls. “When I blow this thing, it’ll send out some sort of signal that will burn out every single mechanical device in the entire world – including our beloved Masters.”
Fry crouched down next to the device. “Explosively Pumped Flux Compression Generator – ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE BOMB – PLANET SCALE,” he read from the stenciling on the side. A memory flashed through his head. Ow! What was that? Where did I hear that electromag stuff before?
He gasped. The Galapagos! Nixon and Wernstrom were going to destroy all the robots with an electromag thingy pulse like this. Fry stood up and turned to Pratt. “This will seriously damage them – maybe even destroy them.”
Pratt nodded. “Set off right by the Great Castle, where their mind core is – it’ll wipe out the lot of ‘em. We’ll finally be free – and they’ll all be dead.” Pratt seemed to be more excited at the latter than the former.
“Wow,” was all Fry could say. Levar seemed equally stunned.
Pratt pulled the tarp back over the bomb and turned to consider the other two men. “So there it is. If something happens to me before we get in position, get down here and turn on the damn thing. Oh, you’ll have about five minutes to run like hell – I understand it’s gonna be a pretty big boom!” He laughed wickedly. “Well, we all gotta go sometime.”
Pratt headed for the hatch out of the hold. “Come one, let’s finish off that wine.”
“Enough!” the cyborg leader commanded. “No more about your bathroom needs, or the time the neighbor’s cat entered into your laboratorium!”
“Oh,” the Professor said, “was I talking about that again?”
Leela sighed and stepped forward. “Please, do not judge us by Professor Farnsworth,” she implored. “We believe we have a way to save this planet from the oncoming gamma ray burst, but we would need your help.”
The silence in the hall extended. Then, one of the other cyborgs – a male with shoulder length red hair – said, “We have considered several plans and have not found one that can keep this planet from becoming sterilized. What would you have that we do not?”
“The tenth allotrope of carbon,” the Professor announced, “that’s what! My creation – a super-hard, radiation resistant material I call diamondium. I don’t suppose you have that, do you? Hmm?” he sneered.
A human group would have burst into a buzz of discussion. The cyborgs sat impassively, communicating silently amongst themselves.
“Such a material would be…unknown to us,” the red-headed cyborg ultimately said. “Why should we believe you? And why should you try to help us?”
“There are millions of people living on this planet,” Leela said. “Why wouldn’t we try to help them?”
“Our relations with normal humans have never been…smooth,” the red-headed cyborg said.
“Much has happened between our people - ” Leela admitted.
“Mostly you enslaving us,” the Professor muttered.
“ – but we have to put that aside in these troubled times,” Leela finished, restraining the urge to smack the Professor.
“But how could you, simple humans, develop an unknown allotrope of carbon? A new material, harder than anything we have and with radiation-resistant qualities unknown to us?”
“Well, the Professor is a genius,” Amy pointed out
“Mad genius,” the Professor muttered again under his breath.
“Shut it, ya dink,” Hermes hissed back.
“Regardless, we have the specifications and we would be willing to share it with you if you use it to shield the planet,” Leela finished, ignoring the others. She had gotten good at that over the years.
“How do we know that you do not come in aid of the pirates?” the red-headed cyborg axed.
“The who?” Amy axed.
“Rebel normals who plague the seas and shores of this world. Humans…like you,” the cyborg leader said. “Recently there have been…rumors of their possession of advanced weaponry. How do we know you did not bring it, and this plan is not in furtherance of their schemes?”
“What would we gain from such scheming?” Hermes posited. “Dere’s nothing in it for us.”
“Then you know nothing of an EMP bomb?” another cyborg asked sharply.
The Planet Express crew looked around at each other, baffled. Finally, Leela said, “We do not know what you’re talking about.” She shrugged. “We just want to offer our help.”
“We must consider this offer,” the red-headed cyborg said.
“Nonsense,” said the cyborg leader patiently. “No mere organic singleton brain could match our enhanced cerebellums, or our gestalt mind-linkage.”
“Oh, are you still doing that?” the Professor said dismissively.
“What?” the cyborg leader asked. His machine-like equilibrium was starting to crack.
“The joining of your individual minds. It turned out to be a disaster, you know.”
“The gestalt of all of us is the greatest tool we have!” the red-headed cyborg said.
“Actually,” Amy said, “the Professor’s right. Such a mental joining was demonstrated in 2306 to seriously inhibit creative thought. It’s an offshoot of the halting problem…” Amy trailed off as she realized all of the cyborgs were staring at her. She tried again. “You know, related to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem – ”
“You dare!” The cyborg leader’s impassivity was completely gone. “You dare use the Great Devil’s name!” The guards suddenly appeared and slapped hand restraints on the Planet Express crew.
The leader said nothing verbally, but “take them to the dungeon” seemed the closest equivalent. They were sealed in a small room with an attached, basic bathroom and a forcefield supplementing the hull-metal door.
Amy was sputtering apologies to the others. “How was I supposed to know that math is such a sore point here?” Kif tried to soothe her, but the others glared at her pointedly. Bender said something about “bimbos from Mars.”
Leela sank down onto a metal frame cot welded to the wall, more tired than she had felt in a long time. Putting her head in her hands, she leaned forward, elbows on knees, and said, “That didn’t go so well. What a surprise.”
Fry tried to relax as he clutched a rope in the crow’s nest, but his nerves were strung tight. The fight with the cyborg, Pratt’s revelations…all of it had his mind revving.
The fate of every human on this planet rests in Pratt’s hands right now, Fry thought. And maybe mine. The fate of every cyborg, too. Fry shook his head. Can I help with killing *all* of them? Every man, woman and…well, I guess they don’t have children. My God, is it really us or them? Pratt’s okay with it, but I think he’s a little…unhinged.
To be honest, the whole explosion part bothered him. Whoever is near that thing is in for a shock, he thought. Don’t know how big it’s going to be, but I’m not sure five minutes will be enough to get away. Do I want to sacrifice Chan and the others? Do I want to sacrifice *myself* for these people?
As Fry wrestled with his thoughts, the morning mists parted. Stunned with the view, he drew a sharp breath.
The Matei Pavel crashed through the waves a mere five hundred feet from the entrance to Prime Island’s harbor. Within the natural shelter of the lagoon, Fry could see the white and gray sails of dozens of sailing ships maneuvering in the water and tied to docks. The city spread out before Fry’s perch atop the mainmast, looking like a toy metropolis from childhood memories. The city itself crowded the foot of a massive fortress of black and green, lit with lights and with a variety of flying ships darting and hovering about it. Fry felt a feeling in his heart similar to the first time he had seen the Earth rise from the Moon – and the first time he saw the starlight glint in Turanga Leela’s eye, on the deck of the long-lost Titanic.
Millions of light-years from home, a thousand years from when I was born, perched on a sailing ship’s mast, and I get to see sights like this, Fry thought. If only my brother could see me now! I suppose I could die happy.
His smile turned sour. But I’d really rather not.
Levar called him down, and Fry scrambled down the ropes to the deck of the merchantman. “What up?” he said to the sailor.
Levar gave him a look, and said, “Cap’n wants to see you at the prow.”
Fry nodded, and set off for the bow of the ship. The crew moved about, barely contained tension thrumming the air. Pratt had gathered them together at five bells and told them that a great battle would take place today, and they would all get their reward at the end. He had scattered a chest of metal trading ingots amongst the crew, exciting them and inflaming their greed. They would fight eagerly today, looking for payback – both spiritual and monetary – against the Masters.
Pratt was standing at the prow, hands on the hilts of his swords and eyes forward, when Fry came up to him. “Levar said you wanted to see me, sir?”
“We’re almost there,” Pratt said without turning around.
“The harbor, you mean?”
“In a little while we’ll be through the mouth into the harbor, Fry, without a single challenge.” Pratt rubbed his forehead with one hand. “In the harbor are thirty pirate ships, all disguised and ready to fight if we need them to. This is it.”
The pirate captain turned to Fry. “Are you ready?”
Fry gulped. “I suppose so.”
The corner of Pratt’s mouth turned up. “You’ll know for sure when the shot starts flying.” At that point, the Matei Pavel swept passed the rocky points marking the lagoon, and was within the harbor of Prime Island.
He clapped Fry on the shoulder. “Get to your station, boy. The fun starts now.”
Fry nodded once, and headed back toward the rear of the ship. He ran into Chan, who was perched on a crate, coiling a rope and looking around nervously.
“Fry!” the man called out. Fry stopped and greeted his friend. Chan leaned in towards him and said, “What’s going on? Will there be a battle?”
“I don’t know, Chan.” Fry lowered his voice. “But whatever happens, it’s important. I think what happens today may be remembered forever.”
Chan shook his head. “I don’t want to be important, Fry! I want to live in a little shack by the water’s edge and get a girl and a bunch of kids and never, ever be remembered!” His voice got a little loud at the end, and some other pirates looked at him. Sheepish, Chan lowered his voice. “You get remembered because you died in some loud, spectacular way.”
“Being important isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Fry agreed. He looked at his worried friend with sympathy, and came to a decision. “Chan, I can’t tell you what’s going on. But I would suggest this,” he whispered. “Shore is only a few hundred feet away. You might want to jump for it when things get hectic and get as far from this harbor as you can.”
Chan looked at him with amazement. “You have to come with me, Fry! It’s too dangerous here.”
“I can’t abandon Pratt now, Chan. It’s…I just can’t,” Fry said, lamely. He couldn’t really explain it.
Chan studied him for a moment, and then nodded. “I always did think you were important, Fry.” He turned back to his work.
Fry walked away. Chan hadn’t said it like a compliment.
There was a sudden boom in the distance. A geyser of water shot up on the starboard side of the Matei Pavel. Fry looked up and saw smoke from cannon shot wisping away before a ship approaching them, full sails up. It flew the gear, lightning bolt and sword flag of the duke of Prime Island.
“Looks like the Masters’ lapdogs are onto us, boys!” Pratt bellowed from the prow back at his crew. “Let’s show ‘em what free men can do!”
A loud cheer rose up from the crew. It doubled in volume as the duke’s ship suddenly exploded in a hail of fire and splinters, its magazine hit. Fry followed the shot back and saw a tubby fishing boat turn towards the Matei Pavel, crewmen scurrying around reloading a cannon that looked out of place amongst the nets. With roars of approval from the Pavel’s crew, the fishing boat hoisted the skull-and-crossbones, and its crew saluted the Matei Pavel.
All around the harbor, the duke’s patrol ships were hoisting sail and moving to converge on the Matei Pavel. Equally numerous, dozens of otherwise innocuous boats and ships were sprouting cannon and raising the pirate flag. Cannon shot began booming, and on shore Fry could see people standing, gaping in shock at a pirate attack right in Prime Island’s harbor.
The battle had truly begun.