Fan Fiction

The Silver Blade's Sweep: Prologue: Impulsive … ?
By Jarmatus

November 4, 3008
Yokohama, Japan

This life has its perks, the young Asian technician reflected. For a basic router bug stemming from Computing Science 103, I'm getting … he mentally totted it up … four thou? For a laptop and eighteen router bugs … to an anonymous plebe. Who wants to use it to eavesdrop on his friends, or something equally utterly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Well, well. 'Not madness, Sparta,' I suppose.

Sharply he jerked the soldering iron away from the 18th instance, celebrating silently as his work was finally completed. He had big plans for the $4,000 the client owed him, although the way the system seemed to work the client would probably be regaining that four thousand dollars in government tax.

And now I can probably buy a new t-shirt, he reflected. The slogan on this one is getting crazily worn-out – and so it was. A picture of the Spartan warrior-lord Leonidas kicking some uptight Persian emissary into a deep pit, captioned by 'Madness? This is SPARTA!' He still couldn't believe he was wearing a t-shirt that espoused an internet meme over one thousand years old, and it was cold comfort that, in general, tel a ete hacker culture, or so he had been led to believe.

Now, perhaps, he could finally update his style instead of barely making enough to eat and pay the rates each week.

With another flourish, he turned back to the work bench, almost dancing to an imagined tune, and delicately picked up each of the tiny router bugs, dropping them into the flashy white-and-green box he'd randomly gone out and bought for the occasion, then snatching a biro from the bench and scribbling the proxy pickup address on the appropriate lines, adding the receiver's name as “BatmanOnDrugs” and once again reflecting what a dicky name it was. Can't let the client know that, though. Oh, and …

He dropped the little note into the box, too, proud of himself for having remembered. Now to freight the thing out to America and he'd finally be rid of the project – footloose and fancy-free.

November 12, 3008
New New York, North America

A knock at the cubicle's door and a quiet, “Mr. Hermes? Box for you,” and thirtieth-grade bureaucrat Hermes Conrad was up and frantically scrabbling from his chair to address the issue. The blonde British courier at the door tipped her patrol cap at him and gave him a clipboard to sign, commenting all the while about how bloody heavy the box was.

As far as Hermes was concerned, it was none of her business why the box was so bloody heavy, and it took a while to persuade her to stop 'subtly' asking about it. God damn it, mon, I just want to get on with my patently illegal activities. Once she was gone, he pulled the box from its protective privacy packing, and there it sat, proudly multicoloured; the Jamaican looked up warily to make sure there was nothing watching him from the beams spanning the vast, dark roof, and punched open the box. Gently, of course.

Inside lay: eighteen polished silver ovoids, each with a tiny, stubby grey plastic antenna poking from one end; a metal-cased laptop computer; and a tiny note written on yellow paper in the provider's characteristic sharp, angular script – which he hadn't bothered to disguise, presumably because he didn't know Hermes knew exactly who he was. Once the bureaucrat had finished profiting from his ridiculously highly illegal activities, he planned to turn the hacker in to the police, as befitted his own curiously warped sense of right and wrong.

The note read:

Greetings, BatmanOnDrugs. Been a while.

Enclosed are your tools of perversion. They're elegant weapons for a more civilised age, so use them wisely.



P.S.: Japan – producing seventy-eight percent of the world's weird crap since 1938. Have fun!

Hermes smiled a little sadistically at the note and dropped it into the shredder, letting the thing grind away at the tiny bit of paper while he himself dropped the router bugs into his capacious pockets, locked the box with laptop in the equally illegal safe under his desk that nobody spoke of in polite conversation, and headed out the door.

If I position these right, I should be a very, very rich man within a scant few weeks.

December 6, 3008
Same place

Hermes couldn't help but frown – hard – at the material on his screen. First, I never set up the filters to pick up DOOP navy traffic; second, this will probably earn me a nice sentence of capital punishment if anyone ever finds out about it – except one person.

Regretting having to turn to her for guidance again, he added a few notes and a couple thousand bits worth of encryption, and clicked send, putting the long message on its inexorable way and hoping desperately the DOOP military clique wouldn't pick it up at some point along that way, as the message jumped from machine to machine in search of its final recipient.

December 6, 3008
Totally different place – Earth orbit

Miraculously, the famously efficient Earth intelligence services missed a trick, and so it was that both Thirtieth Bureaucrat Hermes Conrad and Captain Turanga Leela remained without dismemberment, and that the latter could have peace and calm in which to frown quizzically at the strange message.

Subject: Interesting traffic through CENTBUR routers
From: "Conrad, Hermes" <hconr172@centbur.gov>
To: "Leela, Turanga" <leela-t@planetexpress.biz>
Date: December 6, 3008 17:06 (NNY)

Hello L,
Some interesting traffic through CENTBUR routers. Tracing yields sentfrom DOOP prowler Pyrocumulus sentto yet-unknown special admiralty panel (SAP). They found something interesting. Do we want in? Any text outside of quotes is mine, in-quotes is theirs.

"Unidentified trace popped at system Diyuji-Diyu, interplanetary asteroid ring. Fifteen seconds after initial scan, interloper disappeared through anomaly, presumably manifestation of faster-than-light transport.

"Interloper approximately 715 metres long, 45 wide, 90 tall; human heavy cruiser equivalent. Silhouette was rectangular and abandoned sharp edges in favour of thin chamfers, yielding 'octagonal' shape. Subluminal propulsion trace equates to antimatter engines (not Order design); superluminal propulsion trace unknown.

"Interloper was well-armed; weaponry predominantly four-barrelled turret cannon (spotted sixteen instances total arrayed equidistant along ventral and dorsal surfaces); payload unknown."

A little digging tells me this was the log for the science officer on the Pyrocumulus. He sent it to the Captain - Gabriel J Cruz; at least we know his name - who forwarded it as part of an authority request to the DOOP special admiralty panel. Check this out; it's everything Cruz said that wasn't part of the log.

"Estimate interloper, tag I-6954, presents moderate threat: was well-armed, but did not fire on Pyrocumulus>. Request authority to investigate with escort."

And so the plot thickens. Cruz is known to be a man of much verbal economy; he gets even more economical when he's interested in something. DOOP SAP came back with this.

"Granted. Escort to be DOOP 33 SQN, Kif Kroker commanding."

If this is the squishy green dude, his promotion was kept pretty well under wraps (after all, DOOP never, EVER misses out on the minutiae of procedure, so Kif would have to be at least a commodore ... don't tell Amy, and if you must forward this on to her, cut out this comment, else we'll never hear the end of it). Point is, if we want in, he can intermediate for us; keep in mind too that 33 SQN is seven cannon frigates, which should do a pretty bang up job at keeping the Planet Express relatively safe. Anyway, Cruz, being economical and all, sent this back.

"Thank you, DOOP SAP. Will be celebrating Xmas on journey, which begins Dec 23. Thinking of you. Send us a present; I'm sure our more inventive courier services can reach that far ... rather nice Xmas present would be a restraining order on Commander Brannigan. Don't need him ballsing up the operation."

Say what you may, mon, that's practically an invitation. imo we need in on this. Oh, and check this out, from DOOP SAP:

"Why wait till Xmas? Restraining order granted. Zapp will be watching this from very far away."


Leela couldn't help but be intrigued and a bit tempted by the odd missive, although equally she couldn't help but wonder what the hell Hermes had been getting up to with the router bugs; he'd been foolish enough to let a mention slip in casual conversation, and ever since she'd been hounding him to get rid of the damn things lest he be executed for his greed. Speaking of people who are risking execution …

But another part of her psyche, marginalised but growing stronger, cried out: hell, what can it hurt to be impulsive? Just once in a while? What are the DOOP going to do? We do know Kif, after all, and it can't hurt too badly to get away from the office-slash-daily-grind once in a while. There were several obvious answers to each of her questions, but she chose to ignore them, carrying on with what she liked to call foolhardy bravery. Yes, I do believe I'll give this one the green light. Should annoy Zapp, too … and I haven't done anything on no more rationale than 'what the hell, why not' in a while.

With some undue haste, she tapped out a reply, eschewing capital letters as always.

Subject: re traffic
From: "Leela, Turanga" <leela-t@planetexpress.biz>
To: "Conrad, Hermes" <hconr172@centbur.gov>
Date: December 7, 3008 10:55 (NNY)

you know, i think it befalls me to ask you what kind of hilarity ensues if anyone finds out you've been tapping doop mail. which they will if we get in on this.

at any rate, i feel like sticking a large, painful pin in the doop's collective ego. onwards! whatever cometh for you, i have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever.

- tl

A bit of re-encryption later, and it was sent. She hoped for both their sakes that the Earth intelligence services would keep missing tricks, since she really didn't want to be on the receiving end of whatever they might choose to bring on.

This is going to take a bit of work, Hermes knew. Still, my brilliance at referencing case numbers should get me through; such is the life of a bureaucrat. To take his mind off his simultaneously egotistical and frightened thoughts, he took a look at the screen in front of him, ostensibly to check that everything was in order. As expected, it was – account signed in, proper interface language, broadband connection established.

He looked at Amy, who was anxiously dialing a number on her latest tiny cellphone, using the end of one fingernail to do so. Finally, after what seemed an interminable few seconds and a fair few expletives in Cantonese and Martian, she had the number dialed and nodded 'go' at him; flipping the headphones on, he keyed in his own number and clicked the green 'dial' button, twitching a little as the connection queue quickly dropped away. Over in her little corner of the room, Amy was chatting away animatedly and giving him strange looks.

Finally he was connected to the Navy front office, and a pleasant female voice, likely simulated, answered him. “Hello there. This is Shelley at reception, Mr Conrad. How can we help you today?” Given that he was alt-tabbing at the time, Hermes' response was slightly delayed, and when it came it was just that tiny bit hesitant as he psyched himself up.

“Ah … yes. Yes, I'd like to speak to an authorised representative on case file,” he read out, “pyrocumulus zero eight one two zero five.” Over on the other side of the room, Amy was brightly saying, “Um, Kiffy, I don't suppose you'd be able to help me? Just a little bit?” All Hermes could hear over his own white noise and the other end's disc activity was a hectic crackle – then the computerised voice came back, distinctly colder.

Error. That file is classified. Please provide your DOOP military employee number.”

Stuck in a catch-22, Hermes decided to go the obvious way. “I don't have a military employee number, y' networked ninny!” He could vaguely hear Amy's voice getting a bit tense, although still retaining its slightly forced brightness. “… um, it's getting a bit anxious out here, we might need that order pretty soon …”

Please remain in your current location and wait for a DOOP detachment to arrive. Please remain in your current location and wait for a DOOP detachment to arrive …” Hermes wanted to drop his head into his hands and cry sweet, sweet tears of despair, but that would have required moisture he hadn't already sweated out. As a matter of fact, the air's starting to get a bit close …

Meanwhile, the voice was stuck in a loop, and Hermes couldn't be damned to do anything but shout at it. “Yes! We know a DOOP detachment's on the--”

Suddenly, Amy smiled, and at almost exactly the same time the voice changed, warming back up and saying something that, to Hermes, seemed much more friendly. “Access to file …” a buzz, “pyrocumulus zero eight one two zero five, by order of …” another buzz, “Commodore Kif Kroker, DOOP Command. Welcome to the DOOP military network. Loading user interface.”

Amy flipped shut her phone and whooped jubilantly, if quietly, but Hermes was the first to put it in words. “That was mad, do you realise, mi'lady? Absolutely mad. We could have been intercepted by a DOOP detachment, or been gamma-lasered from orbit, or had any of a million other things happen to us.”

She flashed him a grin. “Madness? You know, there's a reason this district of Riverside New New York is nicknamed 'Sparta'.”

Hermes grinned back, suddenly feeling quite good about the world.

Subject: Re: re traffic
From: "Conrad, Hermes" <hconr172@centbur.gov>
To: "Leela, Turanga" <leela-t@planetexpress.biz>
Date: December 8, 3008 11:05 (NNY)

Jeez, that was a close one.

Called them up. Answered by a botshard identing as Shelley. Got a DOOP detachment summoned on me until squishy green boy intervened thanks to Amy. We're cleared to look through the files, and I'm reasonably sure this is a tacit admission that they just can't stand not to see us.

You know, what with us being trustworthy and professional and all. :smirk:

- Hermes

Leela couldn't help but let a slightly twisted grin tweak the very edges of her lips. This was looking to be a more and more fun 'special assignment' with every minute that passed, and Hermes' frenetic updates were only increasing what she couldn't help but think of as a perverse joy. After all, what sane woman would take pleasure out of egging others on in subverting the law in a fashion that could secure at best a five-year prison sentence and at worst execution? And all to throw herself and the people she worked with and cared for into a potentially deadly situation?

Then again, what sane woman wouldn't be somewhat blasé, given that she confronted this kind of occurrence on a near-weekly basis? She decided that if she considered it closely enough, it wasn't perverse – but she couldn't help but think about it as her fingers flew, constructing a reply to Hermes.

Subject: Re: Re: re traffic
From: "Leela, Turanga" <leela-t@planetexpress.biz>
To: "Conrad, Hermes" <hconr172@centbur.gov>
Date: December 9, 3008 15:00 (NNY)

ha! trustworthy? professional? with bender about? epic lul. poor doop.

team planet express go go go *grin*

setting everything up now in the most moron-friendly manner possible.

- tl