1RL05 2006 June 19
This is the fifth fic in my Eight Hours to Earth series.
Winner 2007 FMMB Fan Fiction Awards - Best overall fiction
Disclaimer: The Futurama name, characters, and settings belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a work of fan fiction which has no commercial intent or value and was created soley for my own amusement and for that of other Futurama fans. The author would appreciate it if this work is not placed on websites or reproduced in any form without his express consent.
Fry yawned and stretched. He didn't much care for these longer flights when it was just himself and Leela because the only time he got to see her was when they changed watches, and then one was going on duty while the other was heading off to bed. They didn't get to spend any quality time together. Then when they got back to Earth, one or the other of them would be out of sync with real time and would take two or three days to get back to normal - jet lag they'd called it back in the 20th century. Fry wondered if anyone in this time would know what that meant.
He glanced at the instruments and the scanner - everything was boringly routine. He leaned back and put his feet up on the edge of the console.
The minutes dragged. Slowly, an hour passed.
The scanner beeped. Fry sat up and took a look. A blip had appeared just at the threshold of detection. That wasn't unusual - space was big and empty, but just as with oceans and deserts most traffic was concentrated into more or less well defined lanes that led directly from one terminal point to another, so encountering other ships was normal. Fry wasn't concerned. They were only running on two converters, so they weren't making a lot of speed. Even still, it might be hours before the other ship gained on them enough for the scanners to start resolving any kind of detail. With any luck, it would be Leela's problem to deal with.
So it came as a surprise when half an hour later the scanner beeped again. He looked at the display.
"Uh, Oh." he said to himself. He carefully read the display again, trying to understand what it was telling him.
It only took a moment for him to catch the general drift - he opened the intercom to Leela's quarters and jumped to the Engineering station where he lit off the rest of the converters.
Leela's groggy voice came through the intercom. "What is it, Fry?".
"You'd better get up here, something weird is going on.".
"We haven't fried another converter, have we?".
"No, that's not it. We've got two ships closing fast. The scanner says they're Q class armed transports and that their shields are up and their weapons are charged.".
There was no response.
The bridge door wooshed open and Leela came running in. She went directly to the scanner and looked at it. Her eye swept across the status board, then she slid into the pilot's seat.
"What do you suppose these clowns want?" she asked.
"Beats me." Fry replied.
"Well, let's find out.".
Leela opened a general call on the communicator. "Planet Express calling unidentified ships. State your intentions.".
A voice came back; "Planet Express, stand to and prepare to be boarded. Surrender your cargo and valuables and no one gets hurt.".
"Like hell." Leela replied and switched off the communicator.
"Get to the gun, Fry. I think we can out run these guys, but ....".
Fry didn't stick around to see if there was more. He wanted to get to that turret and get strapped in before Leela let loose with the engines.
Leela waited until the indicator showed the lower hatch to the gun turret had been closed and locked, she counted to 10 to give Fry time to strap in, then she pushed the throttles open and swung the ship in the direction of a nearby solar system. She made several radical course changes and every time their pursuers changed course to intercept.
In only a few minutes, Leela confirmed her suspicion that with all 6 converters on line they were easily outrunning their pursuers.
What was bothering her was what what could they want? Those old transports were no match for a modern ship's speed, and even their guns and shields would have been marginal against the PE ship. Only the fact that there were two of them would have made it anywhere near an even battle. Probably whoever it was didn't realize just what the PE ship was packing; their drive systems might not be the newest but they could still run with the big dogs, and their armament and shields were a lot better than what it said in the register. Leela wished that Bender and Amy were along - with more hands she'd turn and fight.
"Oh, well," she thought, "they'll get tired of the chase and give up soon enough.".
Leela computed a course through the solar system ahead that would use the various planet's gravity to give them a boost and at the same time make their pursuers loose ground and burn more fuel.
A beeping got her attention: a yellow warning light was flashing - low oil pressure on converter #1.
Another yellow light - high temperature on #1.
"Damn!" Leela said. If she had another person down in the engine room, they could put a backup oil pump on the lube system. Leela switched #1 to stand by and then keyed the intercom.
"Fry, put the gun on remote and get down here.".
A minute later Fry came in the door.
"Converter trouble. Take over here, I'm going down to the engine room to see what I can do. I'll call you from there - keep the intercom open and give me running status reports. Just keep it on course for now."
Without waiting for his reply, Leela ran out and made her way down to the engine room.
Upon entering, she noted that things didn't sound quite right.
She called Fry on the intercom. "I'm here Fry.".
"Leela, I've got lights on the #2 converter - over temp and low oil."
"I see it. I'm on it.".
Leela cut in auxiliary oil pumps and routed them to the two converters. Then she went to the #1 converter and opened the cap on it's oil reservoir. A gush of pink foam sprayed out - Leela jumped back just in time to avoid getting it all over her.
"What the hell?" she exclaimed.
When she pulled the cap on #2, it did the same thing.
Just at that moment, #1 started making a ferocious metal on metal screech. Leela looked at the control panel - there were several red lights and it's automatic protection had just cut it out - she saw it's output drop rapidly to zero.
Seconds later #2 did the same thing, and yellow lights popped up on #4 and #6. Leela ran to the control board.
"Fry, back off the power, use just enough to stay ahead of those guys.".
She watched the load meters drop off. Leela lifted a deck plate in the center of the room and wormed her way down into the cramped space below. She located the auxiliary lube system and laid her hand against one of the pumps - she felt vibrations that told her it was running. She cracked open a bleed cock on the pressure side of the pump, drops of reddish fluid dripped out. Leela reached out her finger and picked up a drop. She closed the cock and rubbed the oil between her thumb and finger.
"What the ...? This doesn't look right." she said.
She was working her way back up when she heard Fry's voice "Leela, we're loosing #5 and the bad guys are gaining.".
"Got it Fry" Leela called out as she cut off #5. "We've only got #3 left, don't load it over 70% and if you see it doing anything weird, back off even more.".
Up on the bridge, the communicator beeped, indicating an incoming message. Fry pressed the button.
"Planet Express, this is your last warning. You might be able to out run us if you had full power, but you can't now. You have one minute.".
"Leela, we've got two missiles in the tubes. Let me fire them - that ought to chase those guys off.".
"Ok, Fry. Be sure to program them to target different ships and set them to run at their slowest speed. That way they'll run longer and chase them further away.".
"Ok, will do." Fry said.
Leela remembered the spot of oil on her fingers. She looked at it for a moment. Then she went to the #3 converter and pulled the lube oil reservoir cap off. The oil in it was different - it was black and thicker. She went to the other converters and checked each one - all had the lighter reddish oil in them.
"Missiles fired." Fry's voice came over the intercom.
Leela pulled up another deck plate and dropped down inside. Here was a narrow opening lined with cabinets. She opened one and pulled out a 5 gallon metal can. She shoved it up through the opening above and climbed up after it. She opened the can and stuck her finger in - the same red oil. She went back down and pulled up the remaining 3 cans and checked them - all were the red oil.
"Fry, this system we're coming to, are there any class M planets in it?".
"Just a sec - yup, one, the 4th planet.".
"What do we know about it?".
"Ummm ... Slightly larger than Earth, gravity 1.06 of Earth, yada yada, Indigenous humanoid population, origins unknown, yada yada, pre-industrial, no contact allowed - Hey! You guys have a prime directive.".
"Great. Set course for it, Fry. What's happening to our friends?".
"They're turning and running. Now we only have one crisis to deal with, huh?".
"Looks that way." Leela said.
Leela looked at the labels on the cans, and then started to pull up the manual on the converters on the computer.
"What is it Fry?".
"If I have to face a crisis or two and get stranded in the middle of nowhere, I'm glad I'm with you.".
"Thanks, Fry, but right now ...".
Leela was interrupted by Fry shouting. "Wooo Hooo. Look at that. Got 'em. Take that you bastards!".
"Fry, what's going on?".
"One of the missiles - it got one of the transports. They couldn't out run it. It got 'em right in the engines and the whole thing just went up in one huge kabooom!".
She could hear the sounds of Fry dancing around over the intercom.
"Fry, what's happening with the other one?".
"Still running - he's keeping ahead, just barely.".
Leela smiled. That was Fry - enjoy what the moment had to offer and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Well, her job was to worry about tomorrow now. She found the oil specifications, and they had the right cans, but it sure didn't look like the right stuff in the cans.
She shut off all of the converters except #3.
A few minutes later she was back on the bridge. She checked the instruments and sat down. At this rate, it'd take them close to 5 hours to reach the 4th planet.
"So what's up with the engines?" Fry asked.
"Looks like wrong oil in the converters. I think 1 and 2 are probably seized up. #3's OK - for some reason it has different oil in it. 4, 5, and 6 are probably OK, but we can't run them. If 3 holds together we might make it, but it'll be a long, slow trip. There's something really weird about this whole thing.".
"Don't we have any extra oil?".
"20 gallons, but it's the wrong stuff. The cans are labeled right, but that isn't the right stuff in them.".
"Can we take the oil from #3 and put it in one of the others?".
"I thought of that, so I took a couple of drops of each and put them together. They're seriously not compatible - they form an acidic gel that pitted the hell out of a metal surface. I'd hate to see what it'd do to the insides of a converter. We'll need to figure out what that stuff is and find a way to flush it completely before we put the right oil in. What we really need is to find a well equipped repair base somewhere, and I think our odds of that are kind of remote.".
"So why don't we turn around and head back to Earth?".
"Oh, lots of reasons. One, at this rate it'd take us months to get there and our destination is closer; Two, our only working converter is flaky; and Three, that's back the way our friends went. Besides whatever issues they had in the first place, I gotta think they're going to be unhappy that we blew one of them up, and we can't outrun them or fight them on one converter. So I think what we're going to do is find a nice quiet secluded spot on that planet and park for a while. That way, if there's anyone else laying for us up the road maybe they'll give up when we don't show up. And maybe we can figure out a way to get a couple more converters back on line. Then we'll finish our delivery and work out what we do next from there.".
"What if we can't fix the converters?".
"Then we try to limp to our destination, deliver our cargo, and arrange transport home. Either that or we set up housekeeping in whatever pre-industrial style is in vogue down there.".
They were silent for a while. Leela yawned.
"Fry, I need some more sleep. I'll just go up front - call me if anything happens.".
She went forward and laid down on the couch. Fry settled into the pilots seat.
Just over 4 hours later, the ship gave a violent lurch that threw Leela off the couch. She jumped up. Fry was nowhere to be seen. In the back ground, Leela heard the high pitch scream of a converter at high output.
"Fry?" she called.
"Here." came his voice from somewhere behind the Engineering Console.
The ship lurched again, throwing Leela back onto the couch.
She heard a slapping sound, and the converter whine began to die down. She pushed herself up and looked back - Fry was leaning over the Engineering console, his hand flat on the emergency shutdown button.
"What happened?" Leela asked.
"I don't know." Fry replied, "All of a sudden it just took off and dumped me on the floor. It was over 120% by the time I could get to the shut down button.".
Leela ran back to the pilot's seat and strapped herself in.
"Seat belts, Fry." She ordered, and he strapped himself in at the Engineering console.
"Try restarting #3.".
Fry manipulated the controls. No. 3 started back up, surged up and then back down, idling unsteadily.
"On line." Leela ordered.
Fry flipped a switch and nodded.
Leela nudged the throttles open slightly. The converter wound up and the ship lurched ahead.
"Runaway. Kill it.".
Fry shut it down.
"Are we boned?" he asked.
"We're boned." Leela replied. She was thinking. The only good thing was that they were headed in the general direction of a planet that could support their kind of life. Landing on that planet, or even getting into orbit around it without power was another matter.
"Is it time to send a SOS yet?" Fry asked.
"What's a SOS?".
"Distress call. Yell for help.".
"We could do that, but the bad guys will probably pick it up before anyone else does, and we'd rather they didn't find us. What we can do is send an encrypted message back to PE telling them what happened and where to look for us. Of course, it might be weeks or months before they receive it, but it's our best option.".
Leela turned to her computer console and sent a short e-mail describing their situation and their plans, and giving the coordinates of where they were and where they were going. She set it to retransmit every 5 minutes.
"Ok, Fry, we've called for help. Now we have a more immediate problem to deal with. Here's what we're going to do; you have to land the ship.".
"Me? I can't land this thing down there. There aren't any guide beams, no GPS, no beacons. This is a seat of the pants kind of landing. You're the only one who can do it in a place like this.".
"No, Fry. You have to do it. I'm going to be down in the engine room running the converters. We've got two, maybe three working converters that won't last long, and one working one that wants to run away - if we let it go it could explode and destroy the ship. So we need someone down there who knows how those things work and who can baby sit them. Since we don't have anyone like that, we don't have too many options here, so that means me. That leaves you to pilot the ship. We don't have any other choice.".
She turned, smiled, and looked him straight in the eyes; "I know you can do it, Fry. You have to do it. For us.".
Fry gulped. "Ok." was all he could squeak out.
Leela turned back and studied the scans of the planet.
"We're going straight in. We aren't going to have time to find a landing site. Just try not to put us down in the middle of a lake or a city.".
"I'll do my best." Fry said.
Leela unlatched her harness. She got up, stepped over to Fry, leaned down and kissed him.
"I know you will.".
She turned and left the bridge.
Fry sat there for a moment, then moved to the pilot's seat and strapped himself in. He switched the intercom on and reached out and took the control yoke in his hands. He placed his feet on the pedals on the floor. His mind flashed back to an old black and white movie he'd seen on TV late one night back in the 20th century - images of a 4 engine propeller driven bomber limping back home after being shot up over the target; one engine out, another loosing oil, the aircraft skimming over the water, slowly loosing altitude, injured crew members, pilots struggling to keep the machine in the air ...
"Ok, Fry. I'm ready." Leela's voice came over the intercom, bringing him back to the present.
"I'm going to bring #3 back up and try to ride the governor manually. I've got #5 warming up. This crummy oil seems to be ok as long as the temperature doesn't get to high, so I've routed all of the lube systems to it. Maybe by distributing the load the temps will stay cool enough to get us down. Ok?".
"Whatever you say, Leela.". Fry hadn't understood a word she'd said.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the Universe" he thought "to have a woman like that. She can do anything.".
"Wait a minute. If it weren't for her, you wouldn't be in this mess now." another part of his mind said.
"Maybe. But if it weren't for her, I'd be dead a dozen times over. I'd never have survived the 31st century without her. I need her, and she needs me." the first part replied.
The ship lurched, bringing him back to reality again.
"Sorry, Fry. This thing isn't any too stable. Get going.".
Fry pushed the yoke ahead. The ship surged forward and down toward the planet. He could tell Leela was having trouble controlling the converter.
"Fry, try to give me 5 or 10 seconds warning before anything really violent happens, will you?".
"Remember to keep the nose way up until we get down to 80,000 or so.".
"And when you get down under ten thousand bring up the Z axis thrusters - this thing has almost no aerodynamic lift when the airspeed is under 400.".
Slightly exasperated: "What?".
What he really wanted to say was "Yes, Dear?".
Softly: "I love you Fry.".
Fry instantly felt bad for that last thought.
"I love you too, Leela. When we get to some nice solid ground, I've got a great big kiss for you.".
"Fry, if we get to some nice solid ground in one piece, I've got something better than that for you.".
"Now there's incentive.".
They were at the outer edges of the atmosphere. Fry studied the topology of the planet beneath. A large land mass was passing under them, and all he could see out ahead was ocean. This maybe wasn't the best approach to be making, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. He hoped there was something on board that would float - they might have a long swim before he could give Leela that kiss.
The atmosphere was getting thicker. The ship was being buffeted around and Fry could see the waves of heat fanning past the window. He studied his instruments. He pulled back on the yoke to get the nose up a little more. The ship was very sluggish to respond. Fry realized that this was going to be a lot harder than he'd thought - he was coming with a lot less power available than he was used to.
"Fry, back off on your power. I can't hold this thing much longer at this level.".
Fry eased the throttles back. The ship's nose dropped. Fry pulled back on the yoke. Nothing happened. He pulled back harder. The yoke was vibrating in his hands, the ship barely responded.
They were still dropping faster than they were moving ahead. If he didn't do something about that, everything would end quickly in one big splash. Fry pulled harder.
Slowly the ship's nose came up and started trading vertical velocity for horizontal.
There was a sudden surge of power - the ship shot ahead - the yoke almost felt normal again.
Then a loud "Bang" from somewhere below. The yoke froze in his hands. The status board showed #3 converter off line.
"Leela?" Fry called anxiously.
"I'm OK Fry. I couldn't hold #3 any longer and the main breaker just tripped out. You'd have loved the show, there was a flash at least 4 feet long out of the arc chute. I'm bringing #5 up. Find us a place to land fast.".
That was the problem - there was only water visible before them. And to make matters worse, they were flying into the planet's night.
Fry pushed the throttles open and pulled back on the yoke. Once again, he had some measure of control. He still had over 15,000 feet of altitude, but his air speed was dropping - they were under 450.
"Leela? What happens when we get under 400?".
"Unless you have Z thrusters, we drop like a rock. Why?".
"No reason. Just curious.".
"Maybe it would help if you call out instrument readings. Give me altitude and air speed every 30 seconds or every 500 feet. I'll try to help talk you down.".
"Thanks Leela. We're at 15,000 and 420.".
"14,500 and 405.".
"14,000 and 390.".
They both felt the ship start to drop.
"13,000 and 370.".
"Z thrusters now Fry, just a little.".
Fry nudged the Z controls as he watched the altitude. Air speed was dropping fast, but the decent was slowed.
"The thrusters are going to take power from the main drive, so we'll loose air speed. That's OK. Just give us a nice steady rate of decent until you get down to 2000 or so and then try to level out there unless you've spotted a good landing site. Do you see anything?".
Fry peered out the window. It was night and it was raining. He couldn't see squat.
"Not yet." he replied.
Down in the engine room Leela carefully watched her instruments. She didn't know what the critical oil temp was, so she had no way of knowing how long the converter would last. She was only letting Fry have about 20% - she hoped that it would keep running long enough so if they needed a short burst to land, they'd have it.
Fry watched the altimeter sink past 2000.
"2000 and 180" he called.
He pushed the Z axis control open more. They were still dropping. More. Still dropping. He pushed it against the stop. Main drive went to zero and they were still dropping.
"Leela, I need more power. I've got the Z wide open and we're still dropping.".
"I'll try Fry. Any sign of a landing spot at all?".
"Leela, we're over the biggest ocean I've ever seen, its night, it's raining, and there's nothing on the scanner.".
"Ok, Fry. We keep trying. Watch for any patch of land anywhere.".
Leela pushed the converter up to 30%. Fry felt the power increase. He stabilized their altitude and had a little power left over for main drive.
"300 and 150. Altitude holding.".
Leela watched with concern - the oil temperature was starting to increase.
The minutes passed.
A slight change in the sound of the converter caught her attention.
"Fry, get ready, we may have to ditch. I don't know how much longer we'll have power.".
They flew on.
The scanner beeped. Fry jumped. There was something, at maximum range, just a little to their right. He gently changed course directly for it, whatever it was.
"Something on the scanner, Leela. I'm heading for it.".
The noise from #5 was increasing, and it didn't sound good.
Fry glanced at the scanner display. "'bout 20 miles.".
Leela did a quick computation in her head - 20 miles at 150 miles an hour, 8 minutes. She doubted the converter would hold that long.
She switched #4 and #6 back on. They were this close - if she had to destroy every last converter to get them down safely, that wasn't too much of a price to pay. She desperately wanted to deliver on that promise to Fry.
The minutes ticked slowly by.
Leela could feel the vibration from #5 - the same vibration 1 and 2 made just before they failed.
She held the main contactors for 4 and 5, listening. The instant #5 started making that metal on metal noise, she yanked it's control open and threw #4 in. Leela felt the ship losing altitude again as #4 tried to spin up under full load - it was cold, she hadn't dared warm it up properly because of the oil situation. It wasn't producing enough power. She jumped over and put #6 on line.
On the bridge, Fry saw the power fall off and felt them start to drop. He stared unblinking at the power indicators and the altimeter, trying to make them increase by sheer force of will. His mind flashed back to the movie, he pulled back on the yoke as hard as he could - he remembered that seemed be important just before the plane pancaked down into the water. He hoped that whatever physics applied to World War Two aircraft were still applicable to 31st century spaceships.
The power indicators gave a couple of hopeful surges, and the ship gained a couple of feet of altitude, but then they started dropping again. They dropped under 100 feet. Power was failing. Warning lights and alarms started going off. Fry reached over and muted them.
"Hang on Leela, we're going in. I love you."
The two lower fins slapped the water, bouncing the rear end of the ship up in the air. Fry stomped the foot throttle down and pulled back on the yoke as hard as he could. The ship seemed to be standing on it's nose - Fry knew if they hit water like that it'd be all over. The nose slowly came up, the ship dropped. It landed flat on it's belly in the water - Fry was thrown hard forward in his harness. The ship bounced once, it's nose rising into the air and slamming Fry back against the seat. It hit the water again hard. Fry was flung forward again - as he blacked out, his last vision was of water rushing over the window.
Fry woke with a start. He looked around. The bridge was in nearly total darkness save for the red glow of one working emergency light. They were motionless, the ship was sitting with its nose running uphill and a slight list to the left. The sound of rain pelting on the hull mixed with various unpleasant sounding hisses and other mysterious noises.
Fry realized that he could see rain on the windshield, so they hadn't sunk.
He carefully moved his head and arms and legs. He was sore in places, but nothing seemed seriously wrong.
"Leela?" he called.
No answer. He tried the intercom, but it was out. Everything was out. Fry released his harness, ran to the emergency cabinet at the back of the bridge, and found a flash light. He had to force the door open to get off the bridge. He ran through the corridors as fast as he could. He pushed the engine room door open and swung the flash light around. The compartment was filled with acrid smoke and water covered the floor.
"Leela?" Fry called in alarm.
Fry spotted her crumpled form laying on the deck just in front of the converter control racks. She was face down, the rising water lapping at her nose. Fry ran over and rolled her over.
"Leela? Can you hear me?".
He felt her wrist and found a pulse.
Relief flooded over Fry, but it was only temporary - he knew he'd have to get her out of here. He carefully felt her limbs, neck, and rib cage. Nothing was broken that he could find, and least nothing serious. He got his hands under her armpits and slowly dragged her to the door to the compartment. Figuring there had to be a better way, he squatted over her and pulled her up onto this back. It was hard going getting back up through the dark and crazily tilted passage ways with Leela on his back, but somehow he made it as far as the side hatch.
Fry opened the hatch and leaned out. Water was lapping a foot below the door. He squinted into the distance. Through the dark and the rain, Fry thought he could make out land. He could see what looked like a beach with a row of trees behind it. He could hear the sound of waves breaking on the shore. They'd almost made it. The ship must have come down just where the water was getting shallow. He guessed it was maybe a hundred yards to shore.
Now the question was stay here, or try to get to shore? Fry recalled the movie again - there had been a mad scramble to get out. Of course, a twentieth century aircraft wasn't water tight and would sink quickly. A space ship was air tight, so it should be water tight, right? They'd been under water with it once and it had held. But where was that water in the engine room coming from? That most dreaded phrase from twentieth century space operas sprang into his head - "Hull Breach". Fry reasoned that they must be sitting on the drop off to deep water - that would account for the ship's up angle. If the engine room were breached and filling with water, it might pull them down.
Fry made up his mind to get off the ship.
He ran to the ship's galley and grabbed as much food as he could stuff into a couple of plastic bags. Then he did the same thing in the medical bay. He took a blaster from the ship's armory. He laid this stuff in a pile next to Leela. Now he needed something that would float. He stood there trying to think of something, but there wasn't very much on a space ship that would make a good flotation device. Suddenly, an image popped into his head - he ran back to the engine room and shined the flash light around - Ah HA! The 4 cans of oil Leela had brought up from the hold were floating in the water. Fry waded out and herded them back to the door. It took him two trips to haul them back up to the hatch. Then he took the hammocks from his cabin and lashed the 4 cans together forming sort of a raft.
He stood there for a moment, catching his breath and surveying his work. He glanced around and spotted a cabinet on the wall - in it was a fire extinguisher and an ax. Fry almost laughed - he'd never paid any attention to that cabinet before - it seemed funny to him that a thousand years in the future and on a space ship of all places there would still be axes in the fire fighting equipment. He took the ax and added it to the pile.
The wind was increasing, and waves were starting splash over the sill of the hatch. Time to go Fry told himself. He used some tape from the med bay to lash the bags and the ax to the makeshift raft, then pushed it out the hatch. He tied it to a rung on the ladder, then reached in and pulled Leela out through the door and got her onto the raft. He pulled the hatch door shut, slid into the water, and hanging on to the back end of the raft pushed off toward shore.
As they drifted away from the ship, Fry recalled that he didn't really know how to swim. He decided to panic later. Fortunately the wind and waves were in his favor and pushed them rapidly toward the beach. After a few minutes, Fry felt his feet touch bottom in the trough of a wave. A bit later he felt the bottom solidly under him, and he was able to push toward shore. Finally the raft bounced on to the beach with a crunch. Fry laid there for a minute, exhausted.
He forced himself up, picked Leela up, and carried her up the beach near the tree line. Then he went back and pulled the raft to high ground. He tore open one of the bags from the med bay and pulled out two thin packets - "solar blankets" they were called - thin plastic tarps, one side had a coating that was supposed to absorb the suns rays, the other side was supposed to reflect them. He unfolded one and laid it on the ground and rolled Leela on to it. He took the other one and put it over her, using piles of sand in the corners to hold it down against the wind. He searched the beach and found a stick which he used to prop up the head end of the upper tarp, forming a crude tent. Then he dragged the raft over and used the oil cans to help hold the bottom edge of the tarps down.
Fry was cold, wet, and exhausted. Some heat would be nice. He stumbled around until he found a good sized rock. He took the blaster, pointed it at the rock, and pulled the trigger. There was a loud cracking noise and the rock split into a dozen pieces, one small one bouncing off his leg. Fry squatted down and placed a hand near the remains of the rock - he couldn't feel any heat.
"Shoot." he thought, "It worked on Star Trek.".
He stumbled back to the tent, crawled in next to Leela, and cuddled up to her. She moved slightly and made a soft noise.
"We did it, Leela. We're on dry land.".
He kissed the side of her face.
He put his head down on his arm and was asleep in seconds.
Fry woke up some indeterminate time later. Every joint in his body ached. It was still dark out. The rain had quit, but the wind was still blowing. He was still wet, but the little makeshift tent had achieved a measure of warmth.
He checked Leela - she was still breathing, her pulse was strong and her temperature felt normal.
He put his hand on her shoulder and gently shook her. "Leela?".
Fry tried again.
Same result. Fry was worried and didn't know what to do. She wasn't strapped in when the crash came, so she probably had got bounced around pretty good. She might have internal injuries. He felt around and found the flash light, clicked it on, and started examining her. She had a couple of pretty good bruises and a small lump on her head, but other than that there weren't any other obvious signs of injury.
Fry shut off the light and laid back down. He laid there a long time.
"It should be daylight by now." he thought. He peeked out side and it was still pitch black.
"I wonder what time it is?".
He clicked the light back on and took Leela's right hand, pulling her arm up. Her wrist comm was missing.
Fry dropped back down and laid there. More time passed. Finally two urges got strong enough to force him to move. He crawled out of the tent, walked a few paces away, and peed. Sighing with relief, he walked to the waters edge and rinsed his hands off. Then he pulled the remaining bags off the raft and carried them into the tent. He opened one with food in it, selected something, and started chewing on it.
Leela groaned and shifted.
"Leela?" Fry said, suddenly alert.
"Fry? Is that you?" she said weakly.
"I'm here Leela. Are you OK? You've been out for a long time, I've been really worried.".
"My whole body hurts, but I think I'll make it. Where are we?".
"In a tent, on the beach.".
"Out in the water about 100 yards. It was still with us last time I looked.".
"How'd we get here?".
"I made a raft.".
Slowly, grunting and groaning, Leela rolled over on to her side, facing Fry.
"Thanks, Fry. I guess it was your turn to save me this time.".
"I couldn't have done it without you, Leela.".
"How long have I been out?".
"I don't know. Your wrist comm is gone, so we don't have a clock. It's been dark for quite a while. I felt like I got all the sleep I needed, and I had to go to the bathroom, and I don't usually have to do that until after I've been up for...".
"Fry." Leela interrupted, "Too much information. Do you remember what I told you about ending your stories one sentence sooner?".
"No, you don't understand. My point is that I think it ought to be morning. It should be light out by now.".
"Maybe this planet has a longer day than we're used to.".
"I don't know about the day, but night sure seems a lot longer.".
Leela smiled. She would have laughed, but she was afraid it might hurt.
"Help me out of here, I want to look around.".
Fry crawled out of the tent and peeled the top tarp back. He took Leela's hands and helped her up. She rose slowly, grunting and groaning. She held on to Fry and took a couple of tentative steps.
"Nothing seems to be broken, but I'm sore in places I didn't even know I had places.".
She slowly looked around.
"Daylight." she said pointing along the beach.
Fry looked in the direction she indicated, a tiny sliver of red was showing along the horizon.
They walked a short distance up and down the beach, then sat near the tent waiting for the sun to come up. It did so very slowly, almost grudgingly.
As daylight slowly brightened, Leela started inventorying the contents of the bags Fry had brought from the ship.
"It looks like we've got enough food for a while, although eating some of this stuff cold may be a little rough.".
"I know." Fry said. "I had something earlier that tasted like the Professor's socks.".
"I'm not going to ask how you know what those taste like, Fry. Was this what you were eating?" she said, picking up a container that had been opened.
"Yeah, that was it. It's not very good.".
"Well, no wonder, it's soap.".
"Oh. Well, it was dark ...".
Leela was pulling things out of one of the bags from the medical bay. She held up a box.
"And just what exactly were you thinking when you packed this?".
"Huh?" Fry said.
He looked at the box: "condoms, one gross, size small" it said.
Fry's face turned red.
"Uh, it was dark and I was in a hurry, and I, um, meant to grab the large size.".
"You're a dreamer Fry, in more ways than one.".
"Someday you'll find out different.".
"I hope so, Fry. I hope so.".
Over the next few day-night cycles they slowly explored their surroundings, taking it easy while Leela's worked the aches and pains out of her body. They discovered a source of fresh water not far from their camp.
The planet's day-night cycle was indeed much longer than the standard earth day they were used to. Some days they'd be tired and ready for bed when it still looked like afternoon out. Other days their whole "day" would be dark.
Leela had poked a stick in the sand and was placing rocks abound it at various points.
One afternoon when Fry was coming back from getting a drink at the spring, Leela had smoothed out a spot in the sand and was drawing triangles and making calculations with a stick.
Fry studied it for a moment.
"That looks like the ancient Egyptian algebra I saw in a dream once.".
"You're partially right, Fry, it is algebra, with some trig and geometry too. I made a sundial," she said, pointing to the stick with the stones around it, "and I'm trying to figure out just how long the day is.".
"You can do that?" Fry said, with some amazement in his voice.
"Yes, you can. If I've figured it right, it looks like this planet has a rotational period of about 38 hours.".
"Cool. Magic." Fry said.
"Well, it was an interesting intellectual exercise, but it doesn't really help us any. What we really need to do is to find a way to get to and from the ship easily. Can you swim?".
"Then we need some low tech way to build a boat. How did they do that back in the 20th century?".
Fry rolled his eyes. People, even Leela sometimes, seemed to think they were cavemen in the 20th century.
"Piece of cake." Fry said sarcastically, "We'd find a nice flat rock, spend a couple of weeks rubbing it on another rock until we got a nice sharp edge. Then we'd tie it on a stick and use it to chop a tree down. Then we'd hollow out the tree and make a canoe out of it. Then we'd row the canoe across the lake to the marina and buy a boat.".
"That's ridiculous, Fry. There aren't any trees big enough to make a canoe out of around here.".
"How about a raft, then?".
"A raft? Not your oil can and hammock creation? Don't get me wrong, it was a great emergency rescue device, but I don't think it would support both of us.".
"No, I mean like a bunch of tree trunks tied together. Like in Tom Sawyer.".
"Tom who? Was that a movie? I don't recall seeing it.".
"No, it's a book, but you were a little out of it then. We need a few logs all about the same length and we tie them together.".
"Ok. I guess that's what we'll do. I don't have any better ideas.".
They spent the next few days chopping down several trees and cutting them to length. Fry untied the ropes from the hammocks, and they used them to lash their raft together. One their first try, they made it about 10 feet before the raft flipped over, dumping both of them in the water.
Leela came up with the idea of adding outriggers and once they'd done that, the raft proved stable.
238 billion miles away an old freighter was plodding through space on course for Tau Ceti. It's receivers picked up a faint signal on the antennas that stood out of it's hull at intervals along it's length. It's communications computer correlated the various data streams and reconstituted the original message, which was then queued for retransmission the next time the ship was in range of another ship or planet.
They paddled their raft out to the ship. It was near low tide, so more of the ship was exposed. They paddled around it, checking the outside of the hull.
"Well, what I can see looks Ok, Fry. Let's get inside.".
They tied the raft to the ladder and climbed up. Leela pushed the hatch open and stepped inside.
The air was stale and dank, with orders of oil and burned insulation and dead things from the sea.
"Whew." Fry said, making a face.
"Yeah." Leela said, "Come on, let's start on the bridge.".
They surveyed the bridge and didn't find any major damage. Then they went to the Engineering spaces - the reactor room where the two dark matter reactors were was still dry. Leela checked the reactors.
"First thing is to see if we can start one of these and get the generators up so we can get some light and ventilation. Hold the light over here.".
Fry held the flash light while Leela checked and adjusted various controls.
"Ok, here goes. Keep the light on this gage right here.".
Leela reached up grabbed a large lever. A plate screwed to the panel identified it as the "Manual Damper Control". She lifted it out of it's notch, which had another plate next to it labeled "Auto", moved it over into the main slot, and pulled it down several inches. They watched the gage.
She pulled it down a little more.
A minute went by, still nothing.
"On a cold start I think it's Ok to pull it all the way down until the gage gets up to 40." Fry said.
Leela looked at him.
"How do you know that?".
"I think I saw it in one of the manuals I read.".
Leela looked at him for a moment, then pulled the lever all the way down.
The seconds ticked by. Then there was a faint noise from within the reactor. A minute. Two. Three. The needle on the gage twitched. Four. It twitched again, then slowly rose off the pin.
"Looks like you remembered right Fry. Do you remember what we do next?".
"Once it gets to 100 you can put it back on Auto. You can start the generators when it gets above 150.".
They stood and watched the gage rise. When it passed 40 Leela pushed the lever back up part way. At 100 she put it back into the notch. Soon, it passed 150.
"Ok, Fry, let's see if we can get some power.". She went to another panel and told Fry where to shine the light. She studied the panel, then pulled a lever.
"That's odd." Leela said.
She pushed the lever back and pulled it again.
She adjusted a couple of control settings, and then cycled the lever again.
"Damn." she said with a sigh. "I guess we'll have to go get the schematics and start doing some troubleshooting."
"Maybe we should try hitting it." Fry said. "That what my Dad always did to our TV when it wouldn't work.".
"Fry, this is mil-spec hardware. It's made to stand up under battle conditions. Hitting it is not going to fix it. You couldn't hit it hard enough of even get it's attention. Come on, help me get the tools and test equipment out.".
She turned to go.
Fry stood there looking at the rack. He made a fist, swung his arm back, and smacked the panel right next to a large knob that reminded him of the channel selector on his parents' TV set.
Leela turned around.
"Fry, you can't ..."
Beneath their feet, they heard a hissing and whirring noise. Lights lit up on the panel and meters moved.
Leela stood there with her mouth hanging open.
Fry was rubbing his hand and grinning.
"A guy I knew back in the 20th century used to say "There's a lot to be said for technology you can fix with a hammer".".
"OhhhhKayyy." Leela said. "We have power. Let's see what we can do with it.".
The next stop was the electrical distribution board. Leela threw a circuit breaker and lights came on in the reactor room. She threw another one and they heard the ventilation fans start up.
They smiled at each other.
Leela connected power to the rest of the ship. When she tried to set the breaker for the converter room lighting circuit, it tripped immediately.
"We've got a problem back there." she said "but we can work around that.".
They rigged a couple of work lights in the converter room. The water had risen several more inches since the crash.
"Our next problem is to find a way to pump this water out of here, but I think we'll leave that for tomorrow. I'm tired. How about a hot meal for a change?".
"Yeah, that sounds great. Any chance of a hot shower, too?".
"Maybe in a couple of days. If we can get the converter room pumped out and there isn't any major damage, I think I know a way we can get #3 running enough to get the ship to shore. Then we can live on board with most of the comforts of home.".
They went to the galley, heated some food, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The next day found them back on the ship. Leela had plans of the auxiliary lube system up on the main view screen. To Fry, it looked like a map of an ant farm.
"Looks like that's the only option." Leela said. She turned to Fry.
"The only pumps we've got that could possibly do the job are the coolant pumps and the auxiliary lube pumps. We can't use the coolant pumps because we'd contaminate the whole system. The aux lube system's already hosed, so that's what we'll use. I'm going to have to go down below deck and rig suction lines. That means I've got to do some diving. You'll have to be my line tender. Let's go.".
Leela stopped by her cabin on the way and changed into a set of coveralls. When she came out, she handed Fry a wrist comm.
"Where'd you find this?" Fry asked.
"It's my old one." Leela replied. "It doesn't have all the features my other one had, and the version of Tetris kind of sucks, but all the basic stuff is there. At least we'll know what time it is.".
In the engine room, she rigged a hose to a portable blower and practiced breathing through it. She put on a pair of goggles, ones that were specially made for her one eye, and had Fry tape around them to keep water out.
"Ok Fry. I figure this should take about 15 or 20 minutes. You hang on to this cable. I'll give one tug on it every once in a while to let you know I'm OK. If I get in trouble, I'll give a bunch yanks and you come get me. If anything happens up here I should know about, give a couple of yanks and I'll come up. Ok?".
Fry nodded, a worried look on his face.
Leela waded out into the water, reached down and felt around, and lifted a deck plate up. She put the hose into her mouth, a clip on her nose, and started breathing. She looked at Fry, gave a thumbs up, and descended under water.
Fry played the hose and the cable out. He felt a single tug on the cable.
Fry watched the bubbles popping to the surface at intervals. Every couple of minutes, there would be a tug on the cable. He glanced at the time display on Leela's wrist comm - she'd been down 12 minutes. Fry was starting to get nervous.
Leela surfaced, crawled up onto the deck, and peeled the goggles off her face. Fry ran over and pressed a towel into her hand, and she wiped her face with it.
"I've got one done, and the other part way. The tape was starting to come loose and leak.".
She rested for a few minutes, then Fry taped her up and she went back down again. This time, she was only under about 8 minutes.
"Ok, that should do it. If the pump motors haven't fried from being under water, we might be in luck.".
Leela manipulated several valves, explaining to Fry that this should route the flow outside. She switched on the pumps. They went up to the hatch and looked out - there was a stream of oily water squirting out of the side of the ship. It took the better part of the afternoon to pump the engine room down to where the water was below the deck. When they were ready to call it a day, Leela switched off the pumps.
The next day they had the pumps running again. The water had risen a little over night. Leela was poking around in the various nooks and crannies below the deck of the converter room.
"I found it, Fry."
"Where the water is coming in at?".
"Yes. There's a pipe down here that's fractured and water is running out of it. Grab that manual and tell me what a pipe with a green label, number 3-69207 does.
Fry flipped through the manual.
"Ah, here it is. Green is Sewage. Section 3, 69207? Holding tank overboard dump line.".
"Yuck! I was swimming in that stuff yesterday!" Leela hollered from below.
She crawled halfway out of the access hatch.
"I'll never feel clean again. Let me see that, Fry."
Fry handed her the manual, and she started looking through it.
"That's a 3 inch line, but there's only a small flow of water coming in. There must be a .. ah, here it is, a valve. I bet it's leaking. It may have lifted during the crash and got something lodged in it. Maybe if we open and close it it'll seal.".
Leela looked around.
"There, Fry." she said pointing, "See that wheel over there? Go turn it a little while I watch and see what happens.".
Leela wormed her way back down into the access hatch. Fry grabbed the wheel and gave it half a turn.
"No. Try some more.".
Fry turned it another half a turn.
"I'm getting a little more flow, but not much. Try another turn.".
Fry turned it a full turn. Down below there was a sudden "Sploook" sound followed by gushing water.
"FRY!" Leela yelled from below. "Yuk! Gross! Other way! Turn it off! Blech.".
Fry frantically spun the wheel the other way. The gush slowed to a dribble and stopped.
A vile odor wafted up from the hole.
Fry peered uncertainly over the edge. Leela's hand appeared, holding some sort of slimy dark blue thing with way too many tentacles and protuberances.
"Gahhhhh!". Fry jumped back away from it.
Leela, soaking wet and looking like a drowned rat, pushed her way up out of the hole.
"Fry, take this thing and dump it overboard, and for God's sake, turn up the ventilators.".
A snarl of cables and hoses ran from converter #3 over to #1.
"Ok, Fry. Let's see what happens.".
Leela walked over the converter control racks. She pressed a button on the #3 panel. Contactors clunked and hummed; then a sudden sharp "crack" sound as the circuit breaker on the starting circuit tripped. Save for a single red indicator, the #3 panel was dark and silent.
"Crap!" Leela said.
She reset the breaker and tried again with the same result.
"Damn, I must have crossed up something in the starting circuit." She said. "Oh, well, we'll just have to use the manual start procedure. Follow me, Fry.".
Fry followed her over to a cabinet in the corner of the compartment. She opened it and started handing him things - a welder's helmet and gloves, a carbon rod about 2 feet long, a coil of heavy cable with a clamp on one end and a big, round plug like thing on the other end, a long metal shaft with a handle on one end, a big wrench, and a pair of dark goggles.
"Ok, Fry, over here."
Fry staggered after Leela. She unloaded him next to the converter. Then she took the cable and inserted the plug end into a receptacle on the control rack. She clamped the carbon rod into the other end and handed it to Fry.
"Here, hold this. And don't let it touch anything, especially metal.".
Fry made a whining noise.
Leela removed two access panels from the converter. She took the wrench and unscrewed a plug from the end, then inserted the long rod, sliding it in and turning it until it locked in place with a clacking noise.
She put the helmet on her head and pulled the gloves on.
"Ok, Fry, give me that." she said as she took the cable and carbon rod from him.
Fry was only too glad to hand it over.
"Here." she said, handing him the goggles, "Put these on.".
"I can't see anything through these things." Fry said.
That's Ok, they're supposed to be like that. They'll protect your eyes from the flash. Just grab the handle and get ready.".
Leela got down on her knees and carefully pushed the carbon rod in thorough an access hole in the side of the converter.
"Ok, Fry, we're ready. Start cranking that thing counterclockwise. When you hear the arc strike, you can quit and pull it out.".
"Umm, Leela, what does an arc striking sound like?".
"Don't worry about it, you'll know.".
That didn't make Fry feel any better. He gave a tug on the end of the crank, but nothing happened. He pulled a little harder, still it wouldn't budge.
"It's going to take some effort to get it started, Fry. There's a lot of mass in there to get moving. Put your back into it.".
Fry leaned over, grabbed the handle with both hands, and pulled as hard as he could. Slowly it started to move. It went over center and Fry leaned against it and pushed.
Leela watched as he cranked. After a dozen revolutions she said "Ok, get ready.".
She pulled the visor of the welders mask down and poked the carbon rod inward with tapping motions. The was a bright flash, a sudden sharp "crack" sound, and a loud, low growl from inside the converter. Flames shot out of the hole near Fry's hands.
"Gahhhh!" Fry hollered as he jumped back.
Leela pulled the crank rod out and stuck the plug back in the hole, then she closed the access panels. That muffled the noise, and the only sound was the characteristic hum of a converter at normal idle.
"Sorry, Fry, I forgot to warn you about that.".
"That's Ok, I think I've still got a couple pairs of clean underwear. Is it working?".
Leela looked at the control rack.
"Looks like it. Everything appears normal. Get up to the bridge and call me when you're ready. I want you to very carefully lift this thing up just a little bit, tip toe it up to the beach, and set it down. Nothing fancy, no height, just real simple.".
"Are you sure you want me to do this.".
"Yes, Fry, I am. I know you can do it. And when you do, there's a hot shower and clean bed waiting for you.".
He kissed her, turned and left.
A minute later his voice came over the intercom.
"I'm ready, Leela. Let's go.".
"Ok, Stand by. Here goes nothing.".
Leela grabbed the main contactor lever for #3, closed her eye, and pushed it up. There was a clunk as it engaged. She opened her eye, all of the indicators on the board were normal.
"It's on line, Fry. Give it a try. Go real easy, all this extra plumbing is probably going to screw up the governor response.".
Leela grabbed a nearby cooling pipe and hung on.
The converter spun up smoothly as Fry demanded power. Leela felt the ship pitch back slightly, then rise and level off. At first, it felt like there was no other movement, only the load meters showed power flow to the main engines. It seemed to take a long time. Leela knew she could have made the move in about 30 seconds. She waited, giving Fry all the time he needed. Finally she felt the ship touch down. The converter dropped back to idle as the engines and thrusters shut down.
"All done." Fry reported.
"Good job, Fry. That was very smooth and we're nice and level. I'm shutting the converter down now.".
Leela and Fry stood on the sand outside the ship. Fry had set it down on a level piece of beach they had picked out about a quarter mile from their camp site. He had even swung it around so it was pointed along the beach. Leela was impressed.
They hauled the stuff from their camp back to the ship. Leela got the water systems functioning, and they enjoyed their first hot showers in weeks.
They were both exhausted from a hard day. They stopped in the corridor outside Fry's cabin. He opened the door.
"Oh! I forgot, no hammocks. I guess I'll go sleep on the couch on the bridge.".
They looked at each other for a moment.
"No, Fry." Leela said. "Come with me.".
She led him down to her cabin.
"I've gotten used to having you close at night, it's very ... comforting.". She blushed a little.
Fry smiled. They undressed, crawled into bed, and kissed goodnight.
Sometime later, Fry lay awake. Leela was curled up next to him, her head on his shoulder, gently snoring. His arm was wrapped around her back, softly caressing her side. Her hair kept falling in his face, and he'd blow it away. He was thinking about his life and about Leela. That he had been frozen for a thousand years, that she would be there when he was unfrozen, that through a series of the most unlikely circumstances they went on to work together, to grow together, to love each other - sometimes it was all too enormous for his mind to comprehend. His eyes teared up. With his free hand, he caressed her hair. He buried his nose in it, smelling the scent of it. He was sad, because there just wasn't any way he could express the vast love he felt for her. And at the same time he was immensely happy; everything in life he'd ever wanted - a robot for a friend, to be an astronaut, to be loved by Leela - had all come to pass.
Leela was awake. Sort of. She was in that foggy state between sleeping and waking where ... something was tickling her nose and that brought her back to full consciousness. Fry was curled up against her side, his head on her shoulder, gently snoring. Those two tufts of hair that stuck out of the top of his head, the ones that no amount of combing or hair care products could keep down, were poking her nose. She ran her hand over his head, petting him like a cat, amusing herself by watching the tufts spring back up as her hand passed.
Sometimes it all seemed silly to her. Fry. Sure, he wasn't the brightest star in the sky, but he was her star. She'd tried to reach for brighter stars, and she'd been burned every time. But not with this one. He had such a deep love for her, such a level of commitment, that she could sense it sometimes. And that made her feel good - good about herself - and perhaps just a bit less cynical about life in general.
"Thank you Fry." she said softly. "Thank you for being you. Thank you for being persistent. Thank you for being patient and waiting for me. I love you. I love you more than you could ever know.".
She put her arms around him and squeezed him close to her.
The old freighter was entering the Tau Ceti system. It's receivers picked up the pilot carrier from the system's comm network. When the signal strength was high enough, the computer deployed a high gain dish antenna and aligned it in the proper direction. A klystron powered up and as soon as it warmed up and stabilized, the computer began sending the messages in it's queue.
The tight radio beam, it's billions of undulations carrying the coded data streams of hundreds of messages, streamed in towards the receiving station at the speed of light, the first of many hops as they transversed the network. When they reached one of the regional data centers, the messages were sorted into queues based on their destination. The computers noted that the passenger liner Olympic, bound for Sirius, was just about to depart. Messages bound for Earth and points beyond were routed to it.
Leela was walking up the corridor past the open side hatch when she heard a metallic hammering sound from outside. She leaned out and looked around, but couldn't see anything. The sound was intermittent - a few hits, a pause, a few more, another pause ... She went back through the corridors, down the steps, and followed the sound into the trees where a path through the vegetation meandered a dozen yards to a small clearing. There was Fry, sitting on a overturned pail with a hammer and chisel, apparently sculpting a large rock.
Leela walked over.
"Fry, what are you doing?" She asked.
Fry had his back to Leela. He was just taking another swing with the hammer and was surprised by Leela's presence. He missed the chisel and hit his thumb.
He jumped up, dropping the hammer and chisel, and stuck his thumb in his mouth, muttering garbled curses around it.
The hammer dropped on his foot.
Fry made inarticulate noises as he hopped around on his other foot, thumb still in his mouth.
He tripped over the pail and fell over backwards.
Leela doubled over in laughter while Fry rolled around on the ground, waving his foot in the air, sucking on his thumb, and glaring at her.
She dropped down beside Fry.
"I'm so sorry Fry." she giggled, "but you just looked so funny - like something out of a Harold Zoid film.".
"Great." Fry mumbled around his thumb. He pulled it out of his mouth and looked at it.
"What are you doing here any way?" she asked, looking at the rock he'd been working on. On it, chiseled into it's face, was a crude, child-like drawing of a one eyed alien shooting dinosaurs with a ray gun.
"What is this?".
Fry got up, shaking his thumb in the air.
"Well, I figured some day some explorer would stumble across this place; there's nothing here - it's almost as boring as one of Hermes' staff meetings - so I thought I'd leave them something to find that will keep 'em guessing for a couple of thousand years. Kind of like that stone circle thing in England or those stone heads on that island.".
"Fry, that's just wrong.".
Leela studied it for a moment. Then she laughed.
"But it is funny. You better not tell anyone about this.".
She turned and headed back toward the ship.
Hermes Conrad paced back and forth in his office. He had to be, he thought, the single most frustrated bureaucrat in the whole known Universe. Leela, Fry, and the Planet Express ship had been overdue for over 6 weeks now. That meant no shipments, no paperwork, no reports, no requisitions, and worst of all, no income. The only thing he'd had to occupy his time was the quarterly tax forms, which weren't due for another month yet; and the weekly form to the Central Bureaucracy telling them that nothing else was happening, which only took him all of 30 seconds to do.
Hermes thought about the missing crew. It wasn't as if he personally cared for any of them. Leela, he had to admit, was competent, but too headstrong for his liking. Fry was an idiot, barely suited to pushing hoverdollies around. He would have gotten rid of Fry long ago, except that he was a distant relative of the professor, he worked cheap, and didn't complain too much.
And now, to complicate matters, Fry and Leela had a pretty serious relationship going, so if he felt Leela was worth keeping he probably had to accept a package deal. Sooner or later he figured something would come up that would put that theory to the test, but they're cross that bridge if and when they came to it. He couldn't understand Leela and Fry - Leela, he thought, had higher standards than that. Although if some of the rumors he'd heard were true, maybe she didn't.
At least, somehow, they'd managed to stay alive this long; longer than any other crew PE ever had. Hermes figured that was mostly Leela's doing. Sometimes they'd come limping home in a ship that looked like it was ready for the scrap heap, but they always managed to deliver their cargo and get back. Then Leela and Amy, with whatever help they could coax or coerce out of Fry and Bender and the Professor, would fix it and then they'd head back into space to do it all over again.
Hermes shook his head. He didn't know what drove these kids to risk their lives hauling junk around the stars, especially for what PE paid. The universe was a big, disorderly place; too much so for a bureaucrat like himself who strove to bring order to the chaos to be out running around in it. But whatever it was, they were making money for Planet Express - or at least they had been until they'd gone missing.
Adding to Hermes' frustration was that they'd had to wait two weeks after the ship was officially overdue before they were permitted to file a report with DOOP. And DOOP wouldn't necessarily go looking for them unless they had a ship going that way - one little lost delivery ship just wasn't important enough to divert a DOOP vessel.
And don't get him started on the insurance company. Unless there were some definite evidence of disaster, they wouldn't pay off for at least 6 months. It seems that crews sometimes decided to make off with ships and go into business on their own, or take an extended vacation somewhere, or an unscrupulous owner would send a ship somewhere to be altered and claim it as lost.
Hermes resumed pacing.
Leela was in the converter room, trying to find something that would flush the bad oil out of the converters. Complicating the problem was it had to be something that they had on hand and in sufficient quantity to do the job, and something that wouldn't damage the internals it had to come in contact with.
Fry walked in wearing only his briefs and carrying a blanket under his arm.
Leela eyed him suspiciously.
"All right, Fry, what are you up to now?".
"You need a break, Leela, you've been at this for days. Come outside and lay on the sand with me for a while, it's unbelievable out there right now, you gotta see this.".
Leela sighed. She looked around the converter room. She knew she needed to keep working if they were going to find a way to get off this planet, but she also knew she wasn't making any progress right now and was feeling frustrated. Maybe she did need to get away from it for a while.
"Ok. I guess so. Just let me aks you one thing, what's with the underwear?".
"Oh, I didn't bring any shorts or a bathing suit or anything, so this is about all I've got.".
"Yeah, I think I'm in the same boat. Oh well, it's just us, I guess it won't matter. Come on.".
Leela slid off the stool, switched out the lights, and led Fry up to her quarters.
"Wait here. I'll be back in a second.".
Leela went into her room and took off her boots, pants, and top. She stood looking in the mirror. She scowled.
"Compared to a bathing suit, this stuff from the Bulk Underpants Outlet catalog looks pretty frumpy." she thought.
She considered for a moment, then opened a drawer, reached into the back, and pulled out a bra and panty set she'd bought some time back but had never worn. She held them up, looking at them, debating.
She peeled off her regular underwear and put on the new ones. She had to carefully arrange herself to get everything packed in. She looked in the mirror.
"Wow. This is kind of the other extreme." she said to herself. "I don't know about this. It'd knock Fry's eyes out, that's for sure.".
She turned, first one way, then the other, checking her look in the mirror. The thought of walking out of her room, in front of Fry, and going outside like this was causing butterflies in her stomach, but also a certain excitement.
"Come on Leela, be a little impulsive. No one but Fry is going to see you, and he deserves a little something.".
Her mental debate we interrupted by a knock on her door.
"Leela, is everything OK?" Fry asked through the door.
"Yeah, no problem, Fry. I'll be right out.".
She took one last look at herself in the mirror.
She took a deep breath, but not too deep, she wasn't sure the top would take the strain, and walked out the door.
Fry was in the corridor, leaning up against the opposite wall, the blanket under his arm.
"What took ..." he started to say.
His eyes bugged out.
His jaw dropped.
Leela felt like she must be turning beet red, but was determined to carry on regardless. She assumed a pose which she hoped was similar to one she'd seen in one of Amy's fashion magazines.
"Like it, Fry?".
"Holy ... Flurking ... Schnit!".
Fry's reaction was obvious.
Leela found she was enjoying this. She did a slow turn to give Fry the all around view.
"Come on, Fry, let's go outside and see what's so unbelievable.". She took his arm and led him down the corridor. He stumbled along, having trouble walking.
They started down the steps of the ship, when Leela suddenly stopped.
"Fry, it's the middle of the night out here. What is this?".
Fry had finally recovered a little of his composure.
"Um, come on, Leela, you'll see.".
He took her hand and led her down the steps and up the beach a little ways. He spread the blanket out on the sand, and laid down on it.
"Come on, join me.".
She laid down and stretched out. The sand was warm under the blanket. There was a gentle breeze blowing in off the ocean. The only sound was the water rippling at the shore and the soft rustle of the trees behind them. As her eye adjusted to the dark, she saw that the sky was absolutely clear - there wasn't a cloud to be seen, no haze, and on this pre-industrial world, no pollution. The view of the stars was incredible.
She moved her hand over and found Fry's, taking it in hers.
After a few minutes, she said "Fry, you were right, I did need this, and it is unbelievable.".
When Fry didn't say anything, she rolled her head to look at him.
He wasn't looking at the stars, he was looking at her.
"Sorry, Leela. I was just thinking, the stars are great and all, but they're nothing next to you.".
"Oh, Fry," Leela said softly, "you can be so corny sometimes. Come here.".
They drew close to each other.
Their lips met.
In it's infinite dimensions the Universe continued it's chaotic process of creation, existence, and extinction. Uncountable trillions of stars were doing their cosmic dance across the heavens. Unknowable billions of life forms were being born, struggling to eke out their daily existence, and dieing. Civilizations were rising, flourishing, declining, and passing into history. But for two lovers on a beach, time and space had ceased to have meaning.
Bender walked into the Planet Express offices. He found Hermes in the lounge, feet up on the coffee table watching TV. He stood there expectantly, wringing his hands together.
"Nothin' yet, mon.". Hermes said to him.
Bender sat beside him and put his feet up on the coffee table.
After a few minutes Bender opened his chest compartment and took out two beers. He handed one to Hermes. They sat and drank in silence while the TV yammered across the room.
"Bender, mon, If I didn't know better, I'd think you was worried about Fry.".
"Worried? That's one of those human emotion things which I ain't programmed for. Nope, Bender's not worried about that meatpie. Couldn't care less. Besides, the cyclops will look after him.".
The Olympic was nearing the outer marker of the approach lane to Sirius when it passed the DOOP supply vessel R. L. Pratt, outbound for Earth. Even though they were theoretically beyond maximum range, their computers succeeded in establishing a brief communications link. Messages addressed to Earth were transferred, queued in order of age. Leela's message to PE was the last one to get through before the signals degraded into the noise.
Fry was laying on the beach outside the ship "catching some rays" as he liked to put it. It was a clear, bright day, with only a few fluffy clouds drifting slowly across the sky. Fry liked to watch the clouds and look for shapes, but today there weren't very many. He relaxed, enjoying the feeling of the warm sun on his skin. All in all, being marooned here wasn't too bad. He had shelter and food and water and heat and light and Leela, and other than a little cleaning and a few routine chores, there wasn't any work to do. It was almost like a vacation.
Fry scanned the sky, watching the vapor trail left by a high altitude aircraft, just visible as a tiny dark dot moving across the sky.
He scratched an itch and listened to the water lapping at the beach. He sighed happily. Sleeping with Leela was wonderful, being able to curl up next to her and hold her close, and to wake up in the morning with her beside him.
"Fry?" a little voice in the back of his mind said.
Sometimes he still couldn't believe how his life had turned around - how the love of a woman like her could make such a difference.
"Fry? Helloooo, Aircraft?" the voice said again.
"Yeah, if we had an airplane we could fly around and see what kind of world this is." Fry thought.
"Wait a second!". Fry sat up, and looked back at the sky. "Aircraft? Here?".
The vapor trail was starting to swing through an arc, the tiny dot growing as it moved in their direction.
"Leela!" Fry screamed, scrambling up and running for the ship.
It was a space ship, and it was circling their position several hundred feet up. Leela and Fry stood at the top of the stairs, watching. Leela handed Fry a long barreled gauss rifle.
"Keep me covered, Fry, but don't get trigger happy.".
Leela descended the steps and walked out into the open, carrying a towel in her hand. She stood there until the other ship was directly in front of them, and then waved the towel over her head.
The ship slowed and turned toward the beach. Landing struts dropped down and it settled down on the sand a dozen yards away. It was an older ship, about half the size theirs. It was completely nondescript, long overdue for a paint job, and no markings were visible. There was a hatch set into it's side about a third of the way back from the front. The hatch opened and a face looked out. The face disappeared and a man backed out of the hatch and descended the ladder rungs set into the side of the ship. He dropped the last couple of feet to the ground and turned, heading toward Leela.
He was human, older, with thick black hair streaked with gray, receding in front and thinning noticeably in the back. He wore blue jeans, a blue work shirt, and black shoes.
He stopped about 10 feet from Leela.
"Turanga Leela of Planet Express I presume?".
"That's right. How did you know?".
"I've been looking for you. May I assume that is Mr. Fry observing us from the ship?".
Leela eyed him suspiciously.
She turned toward the ship.
"Fry, come on down here.".
Fry cautiously descended the stairs, gauss rifle in hand.
"Greetings, Mr. Fry. Phillip, isn't it?".
"How do you do sir? I go by Fry.".
"All right," Leela said, "You seem to know all about us. Who are you?".
"My name is not important and would probably be difficult for you to pronounce anyway, but having a handle can be useful so you can call me 'Bob'. I'm employed by the people to whom you cargo is destined. I'm something of a problem solver for them, a troubleshooter, if you will. When you became overdue, I was sent to look for you. I intercepted your distress call, and from that I knew where to look for you.".
"How did you do that? That message was encrypted.".
"Oh, well, just about any encryption can be broken if you have enough text to work with and the time and computer resources to throw at it. But, sadly, I have to admit that it was a lot simpler than that. I back tracked along your probable course and when I intercepted a message out in the middle of nowhere I made note of it's direction. Then I made a couple of fast runs and triangulated it's origin. Since you seem to have resent the same message at intervals, I was able to compare time stamps in the data stream and it pointed to this planet like an arrow. It saved me a lot of time, but it still took me almost three weeks of searching to find you - there isn't another spit of land for almost 3000 km in any direction. I'm very curious to hear your story as to how you ended up here.".
"It's a good story," Leela said, "but it's telling will have to wait. Can you help us get out of here?".
"Undoubtedly. That's why I'm here. My employers are very anxious to receive this delivery. What kind of trouble do you have?".
Leela briefly described what had happened.
"May I have a look, please?".
Leela gestured up the stairs. "This way.".
Bob looked over the converters and the oil situation. At length, he turned to Leela and said "It's what I thought. I've seen this before, although so far as I know, you two are the first to live to tell the story. You were sabotaged.".
"Sabotage?" Leela and Fry both said in surprise.
"Yup. As you surmised, someone replaced the proper oil in the converters with this other stuff. It works until it gets too hot, then it breaks down and your converters fail. So you can take off and run normally at low power and you don't notice anything wrong. All they have to do is get someone to chase you a little bit and all of a sudden you've got a big problem. What I don't understand is why they didn't tamper with #3.".
"I think I know." Leela said. "We blew it up a while back, and we had to tear it down and overhaul it. It's been flaky, and we kept having to get into it and work on it. We'd have noticed it if it'd been messed with. But the real question is who would do this and how did they do it?".
"I cannot, of course, tell you too much, but suffice to say that there are agencies whose interests run counter to those of my employers. Some of these interests would go to very great lengths to stop this shipment from getting through. We thought that we had taken sufficient security precautions so that they wouldn't know about it, but obviously they found out. The fact that they knew that PE was carrying it and that they had time to organize this in advance gives me a very strong indication of whom I'm dealing with, and we will deal with them in time.
As to how they did it, you have a robot in your employ I believe?".
"Bender?" Fry said. "He might sell his own grandmother for a couple of beers, if robots had grandmothers, that is, but he wouldn't ...".
"Fry!" Leela cut him off.
"My guess is that he's infected with a virus specifically designed to cause him to sabotage your ship. The way robots are, it's trivially easy to infect them.".
Bob reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small device, which he handed to Leela.
"Next time you see your Mr. Bender, put this in his cartridge slot. He won't know or remember what's going on. When it ejects, plug it into a computer - it'll show you if there's been an infection and it will transmit the details to me via an untraceable path. Once I analyze the infection, I should know what to do next. Those details do not concern you.".
"But if he is infected, how do we clean it?" Leela asked.
"Oh, the cartridge will take care of that, too. It's plug and play - can't get any simpler.".
"Bender's programming isn't exactly OEM. What if he crashes?".
"Just reboot him and try again. It almost always works.
"Anyway, the good news is that I can fix your oil problem so you can get under way on 3 converters. I've very impressed with your jury rig on #3's governor, I'll have to document that and add it to my bag of tricks. It you two can help me carry some things, we can get started. With luck, we should be on our way within 24 hours.".
It took them 3 trips with the hoverdolly to haul all the necessary materials and supplies, and by dinner time half a dozen hoses snaked from the engine room to the cargo bay, where they connected to a piece of equipment.
While they sat eating, Leela and Fry related the story of their landing in detail.
By the afternoon of the next day, the hoses and equipment were all stowed back in Bob's ship, and he sat with Leela and Fry on the bridge of the PE ship with star charts up on the main view screen.
"Here is the course I recommend we take. It's just a bit longer than the more direct one, but we know it's clean and we won't run in to anyone.".
He scrolled the chart.
"About here, we'll meet one of our ships who will escort us all the way to Xinu. By then I will have arranged to expedite your arrival, there won't be any necessity to stop for inspection. Any questions?".
"Only one." Leela said. "How do we get home? I don't want to try to run that distance with only half my converters working. If we run across any unfriendlies, we would be hard pressed to out run or out gun them, and we've already had one more brush with death on this trip than our contract allows.".
"I think we can help you there also, although you will have to trust me somewhat more than you might be inclined. We can discuss that after we get to Xinu and I've had time to make certain inquires and arrangements.".
Bob reached in his pocket and pulled out an ancient pocket watch. It made an audible ticking noise as he looked at it.
"If there are no further discussions, I think it's high time we get underway." He said. "We'll have about a 4 day run at your best speed. I'd like you to follow me if you wouldn't mind.".
The computer chimed, signaling the arrival of an e-mail. Hermes jumped and ran to his desk. This might me the most exciting thing that would happen all day.
The e-mail was encrypted, so he had to get his book of message keys from the office safe. It took him 3 tries to get it decrypted properly. As soon as he saw who the message was from, his level of excitement rose. It was from Leela, on board the PE ship, dated 9 weeks earlier. He didn't understand all the technical details, but the long and short of it was they'd been attacked and were headed for a crash landing on a planet somewhere.
At last there was something to do. Hermes got on the phone to DOOP. It took him 3 hours to work his way through channels to get to someone that had some semblance of authority and convince them that he had definite information on a missing ship. In the end, his frustration was only made worse - the best he could get out of DOOP was that they had a ship going that way in about 3 weeks and they'd take a look.
Hermes considered his options. He went to the conference room and pulled up a star chart. With a fast ship, they could get to that planet in 5 or 6 days, but where would he get a fast ship? He knew well enough that PE's budget wouldn't be able to cover the cost to rent or charter one. No, what he needed was someone with an interest and either access to a ship or political pull. Someone like Amy Wong.
Amy was on Mars somewhere. Hermes went back to his desk and started sending messages.
Once again, Fry found himself in space, in the PE ship's pilot seat, feet propped up on the console, and just a bit bored. He and Leela were back on opposite shifts, so even though he was sleeping in her bed, she wasn't there, and he wasn't sleeping any too well. It was amazing how fast you got used to something, and how long it took to get unused to it again.
The minutes dragged. Slowly, an hour passed.
The scanner beeped. Fry glanced over at it; a blip had appeared just at the threshold of detection.
When the scanner bleeped again a while later, Fry looked at it and sighed.
"Here we go again.".
Whatever a Kriegsherr class battleship was, at least it wasn't moving very fast and they still had a couple of hours to intercept. He looked at the bridge chronometer, it was almost Leela's shift anyway, so he decided to wait.
A few minutes later Leela walked onto the bridge.
"Hi Fry, what's new?".
Fry pointed to the scanner. "That is. I hope that's the ship we're supposed to be meeting. That's a big ugly brute - 25th century according to the computer, and there isn't any way we're going to either out gun it or outrun it, even if we had 8 working converters.".
Leela studied the scanner and computer displays for a moment.
"Impressive. I hope you're right.".
Fry got up and she dropped into the pilot's seat.
As they passed the big battle ship a little over an hour later, Fry and Leela stood at the window watching the mammoth ship drift by. It fell in behind them, and the 3 ships formed a line heading toward the inner planets of the system ahead.
Bob transmitted the landing coordinates to them, and they sat down on the night side of the 2nd planet. They could see very little, but they both got the feeling that they were on some kind of military base.
Fry lowered the cargo bay elevator with the single container that constituted their cargo on this run. Bob was waiting, along with three people in nondescript clothing. Two of them silently set about removing the container, while the 3rd one signed for it. He pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to Fry.
"We understand that there were some complications for you on this trip. We deeply regret the attack against you and the inconvenience it caused. This is by way of additional compensation for you and your company.".
He turned and left.
Fry stood looking at the card for a moment, and then handed it to Leela.
Three more people, two women and a man, also in nondescript clothes, walked up and stood behind Bob. There was a military air about them.
"Now," Bob said, "here is the part where you have to trust me a bit. We have a facility that can repair your converters, but you can't know where it is. Therefore, you two will have to remain in your quarters while we fly there. This crew" he said, indicating the newcomers, "will fly your ship to the base, and then to your departure point. I assure you they are highly qualified. While on the base, you will be allowed the run of your ship, but you must not leave without permission. Your other option is to leave now and fly home as is. I recommend you take the first option.".
Leela looked at Fry for a moment, then reached in her pocket, pulled out the keys to the ship and tossed them to Bob, who caught them with a sweep of his hand.
"When do we leave?".
The flight took a little over 4 hours. When Leela and Fry were permitted out of her quarters again, the ship was inside some kind of large hanger.
A young man, perhaps two or three years younger than Fry, with short blue hair and a very military uniform presented himself on the bridge. He introduced himself with what Fry assumed was a rank and name, but which Fry wouldn't attempt to pronounce, mostly because he figured that making those noises would be painful. For no conscious reason, Fry decided to call him 'Charley'.
Charley looked back and forth between Leela and Fry, his gaze lingering on Leela. Fry felt the hairs bristle on the back of his neck. Charley's English wasn't any too good, and he finally managed to make it understood that he was to report to the commander about repairs, and which one of them was in charge?
After a somewhat extended and confusing exchange, Charley and Leela discovered they both were fairly fluent in a common alien dialect. Within a few minutes, they had plans of the ship's drive systems up on the view screen and were conversing rapidly about them. Leela pointing to things on the screen and Charley making notes. To Fry, it all sounded like a couple wild animals fighting.
When Charley finally left the ship, Leela explained to Fry that he had been assigned to manage the repair gang that would fix the ship. It was shortly afterward that a group of workers in military looking work clothes swarmed over the ship. By the end of the first day, the upper portion of the hull over the converter room had been cut away and large pieces of machinery were being hoisted out by an overhead gantry crane.
Charley was seemingly everywhere, supervising, directing the workers, and consulting with Leela.
The work went on incessantly, day and night. Leela spent most of her time supervising the work in the engine room, and was occasionally permitted off the ship to watch certain phases of the overhaul that were taking place on the giant machine tools that lined the hanger.
There wasn't much for Fry to do - no one here spoke his language, and while he could carry out simple maintenance tasks back at PE, what was going on here was way beyond his abilities. So he had to content himself with hanging out on the bridge, playing games and watching videos on the ship's computer.
It annoyed him a little that Leela seemed to always be with Charley, but he was in charge of the repairs, so there wasn't anything Fry could say. Although he didn't speak the language, he'd started to notice something in the tones and inflections of Charley's speech that bothered him, but he couldn't pin down just quite why.
Hermes found a terse reply from Amy waiting for him when he arrived at work that morning. "Will arrive 1100, be prepared to leave immediately." it said.
Hermes rounded up Bender and the Professor and told them to get ready to leave.
A short time later, a van pulled up in front of the PE building and three people in blue uniforms got out. They entered the building and presented Hermes with a list.
"A Miss Wong wireds us froms Mars and tolds us to have these equipments and supplies out sides and readys by 1100." the foreman told Hermes.
The list specified exactly where each item was located, so all Hermes had to do was point them to the specified location. They worked quickly and the pile of boxes, cans, and crates grew on the sidewalk outside. The were just carrying the last item out when a large armed yacht dropped out of the sky and sat down in the street outside, blocking all but one lane. A cargo elevator dropped open underneath and a boarding stair unfolded out of the side. Two uniformed officers came down the stairs, one went to the workmen and started directing the loading of the ship. The other, clearly the higher ranking of the two, said "Miss Wong's party, I presume?", eying the group with some disdain.
"Dat's us." Hermes said.
"This way please." The officer said, indicating the stairs. "You may leave you bags here and they'll be brought on board.".
Amy was waiting for them on the bridge.
"Hi Guys." she said as they walked in. "We'll leave as soon as they finish loading. It'll take us about 5 days to reach that planet.".
A few minutes later the yacht lifted off.
Fry was startled out of a sound sleep by a rapid hammering noise somewhere above and aft. He groaned and squinted at the clock on Leela's desk. 5:30 in the morning? He was annoyed again, for the 3rd day in a row. These people were some kind of workaholics to be making such a racket at this hour of the morning. He buried his head under the pillow, but the noise had the ability penetrate even that.
He sighed. Leela was already up and out and it was obvious he wasn't going to get any more sleep. He might as well get up. He dragged himself out of bed and looked around for his clothes - they weren't on the floor where he expected them to be. It was too early and it took a few seconds for his sleep fogged mind to catch up - oh yeah - he'd put his pants in a drawer and his shirt in the laundry hamper. What was it Leela had said she was doing to him? Oh, yeah - domesticating him - that was it. It all seemed silly, but if it made her happy then it was worth it.
He pulled open a drawer and found his pants and a clean T shirt and got dressed. He plodded down the corridor to the galley and got himself a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. He sat at the tiny table and started eating, almost wishing they were still marooned back on that planet. At least there, he could usually sleep in as much as he wanted.
Leela walked by the galley, spotted Fry, and ducked in.
"'Morning Fry, you're up early."
"Mugig." Fry said around a mouth full of cereal.
She walked over and gave him a big hug and a kiss.
"Wow, what was that for?" Fry asked.
"Don't be silly Fry, as if you didn't know. I don't know how you did it, but thank you, that was very thoughtful of you.".
Fry was seriously confused. He bit his tongue, just to make sure he wasn't still asleep and dreaming this.
"Leela, whatever it is, I'd love to take credit for it, but I have no idea what you're talking about.".
Leela looked at Fry quizzically.
"You didn't get me flowers?".
"Flowers? Where would I get flowers here?" Fry asked, making a mental note to get her some flowers when they got back to Earth.
"Just a minute.".
She left the galley, and Fry took the opportunity to take a sip of coffee and spoon another load of cereal into his mouth.
Leela was back with a small vase that had half a dozen flowers in it - definitely not anything from Earth, but attractive just the same.
"You didn't get me these?".
Fry shook his head.
"Well if you didn't, where did they come from then?" Leela wondered aloud.
Fry shoveled in another spoonful of cereal. An answer was occurring to him, and he didn't like it very much. He chewed in silent contemplation.
Shortly after lunch on the fourth day, the opening in the hull had been welded back in place and testing began. Three huge cables were snaked into the ship through the cargo bay and into the engine room and load testing on the converters was underway. It went on all afternoon and into the evening.
The bridge chronometer was showing 1956 when Fry got up from the console where he'd been seated, stretched, and walked over to look out the bridge window. He was bored with movies, bored with video games, and bored with the view in this hanger - at least he was until he spotted Leela and Charley off in a secluded corner.
Leela was confused. Charley - she'd picked up the habit of using Fry's name for him - had asked her for a moment and led her over to this quiet corner of the hanger. She couldn't imagine what it was about, the repair work on the ship was done unless the tests turned up anything unusual.
"(Miss Leela,)" Charley began using the local honorific, "(I wish to speak with you about a personal matter.)".
Even though they had found a common language to speak, and even though Leela was fairly fluent in it, there were still some concepts that she didn't have a firm grasp on the translation of; and some of the local variations in meanings occasionally escaped her. In this case, she thought he'd said personnel. She couldn't imagine what this had to do with her.
"(Yes, what is it?)" she said.
"(Well,)" he began, suddenly sounding nervous, "(I'm not very good at this kind of thing, but I have never met anyone like you before ...)".
He reached out and took her hand and continued: "(... and I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me tonight.)".
Leela was stunned. She ran the conversation back through her mind several times, re-checking the translation, making absolutely sure she had it right.
"(Ummm, I'm sorry, I can't do that.)" she said at length.
"(Yes you can. I have received permission for you to come to my quarters.)".
"(No, that's not what I mean. I'm not free to do that.").
She gently pulled her hand away.
Charley straightened up into a more formal stance.
"(If it is because you think that my rank is too far below yours, I am already ahead of the standard promotion schedule. I am a hard worker and have every expectation of achieving a comparable rank within a few years.)".
Leela put her hand on her forehead and shook her head.
"(No, it isn't that at all. For one thing, I'm civilian, not military, Captain is a job title, not a rank. The real reason is that I'm already committed to a relationship ... to Fry, my shipmate.)".
"(Him? The one who has done no work since you've been here? He is not worthy of you.)".
"(I can see why you would think that, but that's the way it is. I appreciate your offer, but I can't.)".
"(Then I will fight this Fry for the right. You will take me to him so that I may issue the challenge.)".
"Oh, Lord, not another one of these kinds." Leela thought, rolling her eye.
She considered her options. They were inside a hanger of a large, well organized, well disciplined military organization that could field ships that could squash them like a bug. Fighting their way out didn't seem like a realistic option. Time to try a little finesse.
"(No, I won't. You're a nice guy and I don't want to see you get hurt. Fry may not look like much to you, but you don't want to mess with him. He's never been beaten in one of these things. I saw him in Claw Plaque on Decapod 10 - it wasn't pretty.)".
She watched him closely. She though she detected a faint wavering in his determination. One more little nudge should do it she thought.
"(And something else you should know. Have you heard of the Codex Turanga?")".
"(No.)" he said.
"(It is the way of my people. Fry and I are ... I do not know how to translate the concept, we are 'for' each other. If you should somehow best him in combat, I would be obligated to kill you. It is our way.)".
She could see the defeat and the pain in his eyes. She felt bad, but what else could she do?
"(I would not fight you.)" He said. "(I am happy to have met you and to have been of service to you. I shall not soon forget you.)".
He stood erect once more, gave the local salute, turned on his heel, and left without a look back.
Leela watched him go. After a moment, she turned and looked up at the ship. There was Fry standing in the window looking at her.
"Damn!" she said. She made straight for the ship, up the steps and went directly to the bridge. Fry was still standing by the window, only now he had his back to it and his hands in his pockets.
He looked at her expectantly as she walked in.
"Fry ..." she started.
"He wanted you to go out with him, didn't he?" Fry said, interrupting her.
"Yeah, how did you know that?" Leela asked in surprise.
"I could tell. You turned him down.".
"Fry, he's just a sweet kid far away from home and he had his first crush. I really hated to have to do that, but ...".
"You gotta do what you gotta do." Fry finished for her.
He smiled, then added "I'll say this for him, he's got great taste in women. He'll do all right.".
Leela walked over and pulled Fry into a hug.
"Thanks for understanding, Fry. When I saw you up here I was worried you'd be mad or upset or something.".
"Hey, you told me I had to learn to trust you. I knew you'd do the right thing.".
Leela squeezed him tighter, a drop of moisture in her eye.
"Oh Fry, I wish just once you'd get mad at me for something, just so I know you cared.".
"I think you already know how much I care." Fry said.
The next morning the flight crew was back on board, and Leela and Fry were again confined to quarters. This time the ship was in flight for almost six hours. They could tell from the noise and vibrations that the ship was really being pushed hard at times. Leela paced the narrow confines of her quarters, sat at her desk and fidgeted with things, organized her drawers, and resumed pacing again.
Fry lay on the bed watching her. He could tell she didn't like being cooped up here while a bunch of strangers were flying "her" ship.
Finally things quieted down. A while later there was a knock on Leela's door. She got up from her desk and opened it. A guard said "Your presence on the bridge is requested.".
Fry got up and followed Leela. They were in space along side the battleship they'd seen on the way in.
A woman with short cropped green hair, in a uniform whose markings suggested an officer of some kind, was waiting for them.
"All systems and hull integrity have been fully checked. We made a 4 hour run at 100% and 10 minutes at 120% and everything is operating normally. You have a full load of dark matter. Your departure course is on the navigation display. We suggest you stick to it until you reach the indicated point. After that you may choose your own course to wherever you want to go. Your records and flight logs have been purged of any data that reveal your recent travels. Instead, they show you've been here docked with this ship for the last 6 days. For security purposes, your own as well as that of others, we would appreciate it if you would keep your visit to the planet and repair base a secret.
My crew and I will leave you now. Please do not power up until you receive clearance to depart.".
She turned to go.
"Thanks." Fry said.
She stopped and turned, looking at Fry.
"You're welcome." She replied, slightly surprised. She turned and left.
Leela followed her down and made sure the hatch was secure. When she got back to the bridge, she slid into the pilot's seat and began readying the ship for flight.
As soon as the shuttle disappeared from view behind the big warship the communicator squawked to life, giving them permission to get under way. Leela nudged the throttles open and they slowly pulled away. She held them to a relatively slow speed until they were well clear.
"Strap yourself in Fry. Let's see what these things will do.".
Fry knew that look. He made sure his harness was good and tight.
Leela pushed the throttles open. The converters wound up and the ship shot ahead.
Leela charted a course for home and set the autopilot. They were ticking along on all 6 converters at 85%. They were really hauling.
Two days later, they were back in the vicinity of the system where they'd crashed, and Leela backed off the power. She shut down all the converters except #3, and set it at 40%.
"What are we doing?" Fry asked.
"We're going trolling." Leela answered.
"Yeah, didn't you ever go fishing?".
"Only that once. I'm a city boy, remember?".
"We're going to drop our lure and move along slow and see if we can't get a sucker to bite.".
"Just what are we fishing for?".
"Some stupid wanna-be pirates in the employ of people I don't think I would like.".
"You mean those guys that chased us?".
"That's them. I figure we've got a score to settle, and just maybe we can do "Bob" and his friends a favor. It pays to have live friends and dead enemies out here.".
Fry leaned back and kept quiet. If it were up to him, they'd keep it in high gear and get home as quickly as they could. But he also knew that when Leela made up her mind to do something, you might as well try to convince a killbot to change it's ways.
They plodded along for a day and a half. Fry was rousted out of a sound sleep by the buzzing of the intercom.
"Fry, get up here. I think we're getting a nibble." came Leela's excited voice.
Fry stumbled to the bridge.
"We've got 3 ships that appeared on the scanners an hour ago. They kind of ran parallel out at maximum range for a while, and now they're on a course that will cross behind us. If it's our friends, my guess is they'll close slowly and make a fast run when they get to the nearest point of approach. I'm not getting any transponder returns, but their scanner signature sure looks like those old armed transports.".
"Can we take three of them?" Fry asked.
"With all six converters on line we can always out run them, but I think we'll have some fun with them first.".
Fry was pretty sure that Leela's definition of fun was going to involve death by violence.
They watched the 3 ships draw closer. As they did, the scanners were able to resolve more details.
"That's the one that got away last time." Leela said, pointing to one of the blips on the screen. "If possible, he gets it last. Get up to the gun but don't do anything until I give the order, I don't want to spook these guys. They think they're sneaking up on a wounded sheep limping home, and I want them to keep thinking that. They should be making their move in the next 10 minutes or so.".
Fry made his way to the gun and strapped himself in.
"All set here, Leela." he said over the intercom.
"Ok, Fry. I'm killing the gravity.".
A moment later Fry felt his internals start to float and the weight on his arms and bottom relaxed.
They waited. Leela watched the scanners like a hawk - sure enough, the 3 ships suddenly turned and accelerated, their shields and weapons coming up.
She brought all the converters on line and switched on the shields.
"Here they come. We wait and let them take the first shot."
The ships came on, closing fast. They opened fire. The PE ship bounced as it's shields absorbed the hits.
"All right boys, let's party. Heat it up Fry.".
Leela shoved the throttles open and the ship shot ahead. She opened some distance from their pursuers, then twisted the yoke and swung around in a wide arc. She zeroed in on one of the flanking ships.
"Get 'im, Fry!".
Fry opened up, the orange streaks of energy flying toward the old transport. It's shields held as they flashed past.
Leela swung the ship around in a tight circle and brought them up behind the other flanking ship.
"Up his ass, Fry".
Leela backed off the power as Fry sent bolt after bolt into the engine of the ship ahead.
The ship was turning hard, trying to get away, but the PE ship was faster and more maneuverable and Leela held position behind.
The commander of the other flanking ship had obviously realized the odds were against him and was turning away, engines at full emergency power. The lead ship, their nemesis from the last time, was turning to intercept.
The engine of the ship ahead flared and died.
"Break it off Fry, we've got company and he's not going anywhere." Leela said as she fed power to the engines and turned away. She ignored the lead ship and headed for the other flanker. She raced past it, ran out in front of it and turned back, angling for a head on attack.
"Leela ..." Fry whined.
"Get him, Fry!" Leela ordered, eye narrowed to a slit. The two ships raced toward each other.
Fry pumped shot after shot into the ship ahead as fast as the gun would fire. Return fire streaked toward them, making their shields glow with dissipated energy and bouncing the ship around.
"Their shields are collapsing - hammer 'em". Leela shouted.
The ships were getting dangerously close. Fry's shots were now impacting the hull of the other ship, leaving glowing spots. At the last moment, Leela veered sideways, passing within a few dozen yards of the other ship. At this range, Fry's shots easily penetrated the hull - he peppered it's side with a line of holes as they passed. The ship exploded in a fireball behind them.
"Strike one." Leela said.
The lead ship had now decided that discretion was the better part of valor and was running.
"Oh no you don't." Leela said, "you owe me - you almost cost us our lives. You won't get off that easily.". She pushed the throttles wide open.
"Same as before Fry, take out his engines, but try not to blow them up.".
She swung their ship in behind the other. Fry started pumping shots into the blue white glow of the engine exhaust.
The scanner started a frantic beeping. Leela glanced at it - the ship ahead had just launched two missiles which were arcing around toward them.
"Missile launch, Fry, our turn to run. Try to get 'em.".
Leela turned the ship away and opened up the throttles. The missiles were closing from behind. Leela pointed the PE ship back at the disabled flanker and pushed the converters to 110%. A quick check showed an estimated 45 seconds until missile impact, and 60 seconds to the other ship. Leela pushed the converters to 120%.
Fry took several shots at the missiles, but they all missed.
"They're too small, Leela, I can't see 'em and I can't get a fix on them.".
"Save the juice, we need it for the engines.".
She pushed the converters up to 130%, the ship reverberating with their high pitch screaming.
She concentrated on the ship ahead. They were headed straight for it. This was going to be a tricky maneuver. She switched off the intercom - she wanted no distractions. They closed on the other ship. At the last instant, Leela twitched the yoke back and then forward. The PE ship literally hopped over the transport with scant feet of clearance. Behind them were two almost simultaneous fireballs as the missiles struck the transport.
Leela backed the power down and switched the intercom back on.
"Strike two." She said.
She swung back toward the remaining ship.
"Ok Fry, it's the last inning, the blerns are loaded, and it's full count.".
As they closed, she studied the scanner. The engines of the one remaining ship were damaged but still working. Leela bored in from behind.
"Stuff some ions up his tailpipe, Fry.".
On the third shot, the transport's engines failed and it's shields collapsed.
"Cease fire, Fry.".
Leela swung the ship around and brought it parallel with the transport.
She opened the communicator: "Transport, this is Planet Express. Surrender your vessel.".
Her answer was several weak laser blasts. The PE shields absorbed the hits.
"Don't return fire, Fry. Secure the gun. These bastards are mine.".
She switched the gravity back on, got up, and moved over to another console. She reached down and started manipulating controls.
"It's the windup ..."
She put her finger into the #1 hole of the old telephone dial that, for some perverse reason known only to the Professor, fired the torpedoes. She pulled it around to the stop and released it.
"and the pitch ..."
The ship jarred slightly as a torpedo launched. The missile ran slowly, straight in toward the other ship. It took over a minute to get there.
Impact! The warhead detonation tore the ship in half. Explosive decompression finished the job.
"Strike three. You're out." Leela said.
She returned to the pilot's seat, and a few minutes later they were on their way back home, running flat out.
Fry had returned to the bridge.
Leela set the autopilot and got up. She took his hand and said "Come on, Fry. You need some cuddle time.".
Amy and the rest of the PE crew were in the main lounge when alarms started hooting. The telephone rang. Amy answered it.
"Ships on the scanner, Ms. Wong, very long range. 3 or 4, one of them might be the PE ship. We're also getting energy patterns indicating laser fire. It looks like there's a fight going on. We just went to battle stations and full emergency power.".
"Thank you Captain, we'll watch from down here". Amy hung up the telephone and turned to her coworkers.
"The Captain thinks he's got the PE ship on scanners. It looks like there's some kind of battle going on.". She picked up a remote control and fired up the large view screen. She set the background for the view out the front of the ship, and overlaid it with certain scanner displays.
Even at their speed, it would take almost half an hour to reach the ships on the scanner. They watched with growing anxiety as first one blip, then the second disappeared from the scanner display. They were getting close enough for the scanners to resolve sufficient detail that it tagged one of the remaining blips on the display as the PE ship with a high probability factor.
The two remaining blips merged into one; the ships were too close together for the scanners to resolve them separately. They stayed as one for over a minute. Then the dot began to move again, picking up speed and heading in their general direction. Where it had been, no dot remained.
Amy picked up the telephone. "Captain, intercept that ship.".
"Yes, Ms. Wong.".
The two ships closed the distance between them.
Fry and Leela lay on the bed, locked in an embrace. Leela's wrist communicator started beeping.
"Oh, poo." she said as she groped for it on the night stand. She pressed a button and looked at the display. She pushed another button and laid the wrist com back on the table.
She turned her attention back to Fry.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It's a Wong ship. Probably the PE crew looking for us.".
"Shouldn't we get up and make sure or something?".
"Nah. The ship will take care of it.".
Fry started to say something, but Leela rolled over on top of him and shut him up.
"They're really hauling." Amy said studying the scanner display.
"The chief engineer says scanner readings indicate they have all 6 converters running and they're at over 90% loading." the Captain informed her.
"How can they be doin' that?" Hermes asked. "I thought they was all broken.".
"Obviously they must have fixed them." Farnsworth interjected.
"Guhh. If Leela's description of what happened was anywhere near accurate, there's no way they could have fixed those things. That would take a month at a heavy repair station." Amy said.
"Ok, so we're seein' things." Bender said, "I knew I hadn't been drinking enough." He pulled out a beer.
Amy looked at the displays again.
"Their scanners are working, transponders and comm links are up, everything seems normal. They must know we're here, why aren't they slowing down? Try contacting them." Amy told the Captain.
"We have." he replied. He pointed to a screen. "That's the reply we get.".
They all looked. The screen read "Do not disturb.".
Amy shrugged. "So, follow them.".
. -. -..