ship made landfall without further incident, not counting Fry’s
unfortunate reaction to a stale Twinky she found in the galley, and
fairly soon the whole Planet Express staff were gathered in the
room was tense; normally a post-mission debrief would only involve
Leela and Hermes, sorting out the accounts and getting stories
straight for when the clients inevitably called to complain about
broken packages and the like, whilst everyone went home early to get
some well-deserved rest. The resentment at being kept behind was
top of that, Fry found herself sat directly opposite Bender with the
entire expanse of the table between them. Bender didn’t look at
her as she sat down, preferring to stare at the ceiling with his
eyeshield half lowered as he smoked one of the cigars Fry could no
longer stand to be around.
Professor shuffled in and sat down in his chair at the head of the
table. He gave everyone a meaningful look. “You may be
wondering why I called you all here today,” he said after a
moment. “I realise that you all want to go home and enjoy
yourselves in the fleshpots and such, but Leela has brought something
important to my attention. The peace treaty gathering on Eridani
Prime,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “The heads of
almost every major world in the Democratic Order of Planets will be
there and I want a piece of that action!”
not just spam them like everyone else does,” Bender asked. “I
could set it up for you. I’d only ask for a sixty percent cut.”
preposterous in the extreme because I have no idea what you’re
talking about,” Farnsworth said. He wiped his brow. “And
I certainly haven’t tried it already either.”
Leela leaned forward a little. “I don’t like it. Zapp-”
that wonderful captain Brannigan, h’yes, he’ll be there
won’t he? We need an in, Leela. Something that will get us a
more steady income.”
nothing is more steady and dependable than a government contract,”
Hermes added, patting his briefcase.
gave Hermes a puzzled look. “But aren’t we already
getting a lot of work? I don’t remember flying this much since,
projections are never wrong,” Hermes said. He pressed a few
buttons on the console in front of him, activating the main display
screen, where a graph appeared. “Based on our current income
and expenditure we seem to be doing fine,” he said. A few more
buttons were pressed and the graph expanded to include a sudden
precipitous fall. “However, that doesn’t factor in the
reductions that will be comin’ in the economy by the end of the
year thanks to Captain Brannigan’s shenanigans.”
The Democratic Order of Planets is ‘administratively
reorganisin’ their entire fleet now that the cold war is over,
and that means a lot of service contracts lapsin’, a lot of ex
sailors lookin’ for work and a lot of people who don’t
need parts deliverin’ any more. Taking that into account we’ll
be bankrupt in eight to ten months at the very latest. That means you
lot will be out of work.” He turned to face the team, his face
deadly serious. “Permanently.”
looked over at Bender, now fully attentive. The robot turned to look
back at her and spoke. “How about downsizing? Getting rid of
unnecessary burdens and such.”
we thought about that,” Farnsworth said. “The mayor’s
office and the I.N.S. both said that Zoidberg was our responsibility
whether we wanted him or not.”
means he’s an employee, and as long as he’s an employee
we have to pay him a wage.” Hermes glanced down at his papers.
“Even if it is just fifty cents a week...”
eyes widened. “I’m getting a raise? Hooray!”
be stupid you spineless caneswaggler!” Hermes adjusted his
glasses and peered at the papers again. “Everyone else on the
team has to be here otherwise we don’t function.”
mean,” Amy said after a moment’s thought, “you’re
saying that after all these years of holding ‘expendable’
above our heads, we’re all actually necessary employees?”
glared at Amy, not for the first time, but with extra passion now.
“Yes,” he admitted, making a pained face. He shuffled the
papers. “And unless we have some sort of government contract
you’ll all be unemployed necessary employees too.”
cleared his throat as Hermes sat down. “That’s where you
come in, Leela. And the rest of you. We need to get one of those
heads of state to agree to pay us lots of money. I don’t know
how you’ll do it. You can sleep with them for all I care, but
you are all going to that function, and that’s final.”
was a general grumbling as everyone stood to leave – except Amy
and Zoidberg, who both seemed to be quite happy in their own ways.
Leela glared at the young intern’s back as she left but managed
to hold back her ire though, if Amy had seen her eye, she might have
had a fairly good idea of what Leela wanted to say.
stayed in her seat, watching Bender. The robot was still puffing away
on his cheroot, the apparent picture of perfect contentment. He took
out the cigar and examined it.
you coming home tonight?” He refused to look at Fry when he
spoke. In the background Leela paused and turned to listen.
I’m not sure that’s any of your business, Bender,”
Fry said. She stayed in her seat. Bender, for his part, also refused
to move. “But if you must know I was thinking about crashing
then.” Bender stubbed out the cigar on his own hand and dropped
it into his compartment. “You’ve been doing that sort of
thing a lot recently, Fry. Always hanging out with ‘the girls’
or crashing somewhere, or just not turning up. I’m starting to
wonder if you even live with me any more.” He paused and tapped
a finger against his chinplate. It made an annoying metallic clink
with every beat. “On the other hand you’re still paying
half the rent so what do I care?”
let out a short laugh and walked from the room whistling to himself.
Fry watched him go; she felt like running after him, pulling him
back, begging to have
his friendship back but it wouldn’t have worked. She sighed and
looked down at the table.
put her hand on Fry’s shoulder. “It’s hard, I know,
but you’ll get over it.” Fry nodded sadly but kept her
head low. It felt right. She didn’t deserve to see anything.
Leela rubbed her shoulder and sat down in the next seat. “I
found some apartments we can look at for you next week if you’re-”
I’m sorry Leela, it’s too soon to think about that right
now. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to talk to you about it, right
now I’m just not... not in the mood.”
I understand. I’m sorry Phi.”
finally looked up to see the rather unedifying sight of Professor
Farnsworth shuffling toward them. “Hi Professor.”
Fry. Leela.” Farnsworth stopped by the table and smiled at
them. “Ahh, don’t you worry your pretty heads about that
contract balderdash, it’s really so simple even Zoidberg could
do it. I just like to have a certain amount of, eyuh, redundancy in
the system, yes. That’s right.”
in that case...” Leela put her hands on her hips. “You
don’t need me to go.”
as such, but it would help. Besides, the possibility of your
attachment to that nice coffee-shop owner down the block would be
wonderful leverage to use against your, uh, potential suitors?”
How do you know about Samuel?”
that doesn’t matter,” Farnsworth said, waving Leela away
with one hand. A tiny remote television slipped out of his cuff and
wrapped itself around his palm, where it began showing a pale green
image of Maxine’s interior on a slim screen. “Ahh, I
wondered where that went...”
slipped the device off his hand. Ignoring Leela’s spluttered
protest he turned to Fry and put a hand on her shoulder. “Miss
Fry, You may be glad to hear that I’m very close to a solution
to your, ah, problem. I have to run a few experiments over the next
day or so but I believe I may well have enough information to reverse
the process that made you what you are.”
was a lot faster than I thought it would be,” Fry said, giving
the table a thoughtful stare. So soon... just when she was getting
used to the way things were. “How soon can you do it?”
two weeks, perhaps three at the most. It’s not a particularly
delicate operation, apart from the timing of the events. I’ve
performed one or two small-scale transitions already with several
elemental atoms. They’re up in the lab if you want to have a
not sure that’s such a good idea,” Fry said. Leela put a
hand on Fry’s other shoulder.
on Phi, you’ll have to get over this fear of the lab some time
or you’ll never be able to get through this.”
Besides, my lab isn’t the least bit scary,” Farnsworth
added, looking at the ceiling. “Well, uh, except for that
singularity I accidentally created in the corner... but at least it
makes the garbage easy to dispose of, h’yes.” Farnsworth
turned and peered at Fry as if he’d never seen her before.
shifted under the glassy gaze of those thick-lensed eyes, which might
have been trying to tell her something, or might just be completely
blank from a stroke. She looked up at Leela. “I really don’t
on Fry, what’s the worst that can happen?”
slapped his face. “Oh lord, you just had to say it didn’t
you...” he turned and started the long trek to his lab,
muttering about paradoxes and narratavium.
Professor...” Leela sighed. She took Fry’s shoulder
again. “Come on, we’d better follow him before he forgets
what he was going to do again.”
pushed herself from the chair and shook her arms trying to relieve
the tension she could feel building up in her back. She smoothed down
her shirt, tapped a toe against the ground and looked at Leela.
“Okay, lets get this over with.”
followed Farnsworth up the stairs to his lab. Near the top of the
staircase Fry suddenly hesitated and bit her lip.
glow up there,” Fry said, pointing. “I saw that last
time. When it
looked up to the lab door. An orange light cast out of the door and
on to the wall, picking out details with odd shadows. “That’s
probably just some weird lights or something. Come on, stop being a
baby about this Phi.”
Leela, I really don’t have a good feeling about this. It’s
like there’s some sort of, of feeling in my stomach...”
she looked past Leela’s head at the light. “That light
scares the crap out of me and I don’t know why.”
Leela’s sentence was cut off by a huge, sucking, roaring sound
from the lab. She threw herself across Fry with a wordless yell,
knocking her backwards so that they both fell back down the stairs to
the landing just as a huge girder slammed through the wall. Fry hit
the floor hard enough to knock the air from her lungs. She choked,
took a deep breath and then let out a ragged scream.
that didn’t change anything Fry opened her eyes and tried to
sit up. Leela’s motionless body lay across her, surprisingly
heavy given her size. Fry keened and tried to push Leela off but only
managed to squirm a little way along the floor.
grunted and suddenly woke with a yell. She glanced around, then down
at Fry, and then up the stairs. “Oh hell.” She clambered
to her knees and pulled Fry up to a sitting position. Fry patted over
herself to check everything was still working. She followed Leela’s
gaze up the stairs. A small patch of of the girder sputtered with
pale blue flames as exotic chemicals from the lab burned away at the
galvanising paint. Leela sat down next to Fry and whistled. “If
you ever get one of those feelings again you make sure you tell me
straight away, Phi. That was close.”
close, Fry thought. She suddenly realised that the voice of the
thought was female. What an odd thing to think about. “Oh, the
Professor!” Fry shot to her feet and ran up the ruined stairs,
clambering over the girder before she even thought about it. Leela
was a step behind her when Fry reached the door to the lab.
place was not wrecked, exactly. A blast mark marred the floor near
the centre of the lab, a ragged hole had been punched in the roof and
there were several girders embedded in the floor and wall but the
room was largely intact, though the Smelloscope was smashed.
Farnsworth stood near the far wall staring up at the sky, where a
bright orange ball of flame was receding toward the horizon, already
well on its way out into space. A chunk of masonry fell from the edge
of the gap and crashed to the floor.
gasped when she saw the mess, and then yelped when she saw what had
caused it. “Fry!”
glanced at Leela, wondering why she used that name now of all times.
She quickly walked across the lab to the Professor, carefully
skirting the blast mark and the more obviously dangerous equipment.
Oh...” Farnsworth looked away from the plasma ball, now a
barely noticeable dot in the sky. He adjusted his glasses. “Oh,
on earth was that... that thing?” Fry pointed at the sky. She
looked back over the lab. “What did you do?”
turned and looked around his lab, seeming not to notice the
destruction. “Well. That was an apparent side-effect of the
universal matrix transition,” he said.
that doesn’t matter! The point is, it’s caused by the
same thing that caused you to turn into a highly attractive woman. I
hadn’t quite thought about the full effects of what I was
doing, but it seems that when the transition occurred a number of
atomic nuclei were thrown on to new and slightly erratic courses.”
Farnsworth adjusted his glasses again. He peered up at the hole and
tutted sadly. “It’ll take a long time to get that
leaned on a bench, glancing up at the sky now and then. “That
looked like the ones we saw over Fifth Avenue,” she said,
giving Fry a meaningful look.
suddenly turned to face Leela. “What? When? When did you see
Leela thought for a moment. She pushed off from the bench and started
to pace toward the hole. “A few days after Fry got out of the
hospital. We were shopping with Amy.”
many did you see?”
Fry said. She shoved her hands in her pockets. Farnsworth rubbed his
chin, a frown creasing his already-creased brow. “Is it
as much as you’d think, but it does raise interesting
questions. I had hoped the effect wasn’t so widespread.”
looked at her shoes and sighed. She swung her leg back and forth.
“Wait a minute. Didn’t Kif say something about a plasma
ball hitting the Nimbus?”
yes, he did,” Leela said. She folded her arms and looked up at
the sky. “From what he said, that idiot captain would probably
have screwed up those negotiations if he hadn’t been knocked
off balance by the blast.”
saying that this thing changed history or something?”
nodded slowly. “Yes... in a manner of speaking it did just that
for millions of atoms, but most of those are so isolated that it
wouldn’t make a difference on a universal scale. However...”
Farnsworth wandered over to a table where a few magnetic containment
jars rested on a thick metal plate. He stared at the for a long time.
“In the right circumstances, a sudden non-predictable change of
direction by a single atom could caused a positive feedback wave that
would result in a macroscopic events. Most of the changes would still
not have any effect beyond being very pretty,” he added,
looking up at the gap again. The plasma ball was long gone now. “But
if they were to happen at the right spot, as it appears to have with
the Nimbus, the
effects would be very profound. Our immediate history has been
irreparably altered by this accident. Who knows what might have
that’s all very interesting, Professor, but it doesn’t
seem to make much different to Philippa’s condition.”
Leela glanced at Fry again, trying to re-assure her. “Sorry for
talking for you like this Phi.”
it’s not a problem. I...” Fry shook her head and smiled.
Farnsworth, for his part, just looked at them vacantly. Fry looked
around the lab, marvelling at how little equipment was actually
damaged. “I guess we saw the changed atoms right there. Is
there a chance that could happen to me?”
my yes,” Farnsworth said. Fry swallowed. “But it’s
so remote that it isn’t worth worrying your pretty little head
grumbled something about sexism and turned to leave. She was almost
at the door when Farnsworth spoke again.
Fry, there is one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet.”
Fry turned, glanced across the room at Leela again and then looked at
the Professor. Farnsworth worried at a pile of papers and books on a
workbench, eventually drawing out a few scraps of slightly singed
paper. “It’s probably nothing, but there’s a few
oddities that have been thrown up by my calculations. They’re
the only reason I haven’t tried a large-scale experiment yet.”
is it?” Fry watched the Professor leafing through his notes
with a strange worry squirming around in her guts. Leela stood
nearby, her face a picture of sympathy.
don’t really know,” Farnsworth said eventually. He put
the papers down. “All my simulations work perfectly. The
transitions to and from the alternate universal matrix work without
any incident at an atomic scale,” he said, glancing at the hole
again. “Almost... there’s a lot of uncertainty involved
when you get above anything the size of a carbon atom. If it wasn’t
for that I would have been able to switch you back several weeks
it’s about risk, Professor, I’d be willing to take it,”
Fry said, looking at Leela again. Leela looked back, uncertainty
creasing her brow for a moment. Then she looked away.
I was quite happy to risk your life already, Miss Fry, the problem is
risking everyone else’s as well. I have to be certain of that
before I try and I won’t be certain until next week. Now come
along, go find me some nice men to clean up this lab.”
grimaced and shook her head. “Come on Phi, lets go get some
coffee,” she said, grabbing Fry as she walked past.
Professor,” Fry managed to call before she was pulled through
tell me, Philippa... what on earth is going on?”
were sat at their usual table in Maxine’s, by the window, in a
pair of comfy chairs that Samuel insisted they use whenever they came
in. Fry looked out of the window at the occasional passing traffic
and the gritty water of the Hudson river in the distance. She sighed.
“I don’t think I want to turn back.”
Fry... Phi...” Leela put her coffee down and leaned forward.
shrugged and picked at her customary danish with a forlorn
expression. “I do want to change back, but... I... I like this,
our friendship. I’d be worried about losing it again.”
Philippa, that’s sweet. I think we could probably keep it up if
you’re willing to try,” Leela said, picking up her coffee
again. “What about Bender?”
what about him?” Fry put her coffee down and folded her arms.
“He’s boorish and rude and, and loud, and he smokes those
damn cigars even when he knows I hate them. He never made an effort
to be my friend.”
blinked at Fry’s outburst. She leaned back and thought about it
for a moment, as a strange worry began to manifest. “Oh lord. I
screwed up,” she said at least. Leela leaned forward again and
took Fry’s hand. “I really screwed up didn’t I?”
are you talking about?”
advice. I told you to back off and let him work it out himself, but I
didn’t think about how you’d respond to his reactions...
I’m sorry Phi. I think it was my fault.”
he reacted exactly how you said he would whenever I tried to make
but after your change you weren’t used
to the way men react any more,” Leela said with a sad smile.
“You said it yourself, your mind and body are completely
different. What you remember doing in a given situation wouldn’t
apply now, because you think
nodded slowly. “Yeah, that’s true. Actually I have a lot
of trouble remembering how I used to act... well except for the more
memorable moments,” she added after a moment of thought. “It’s
all so... grey. Like I don’t care about it any more.”
that means that you wouldn’t be able to communicate with him
properly,” Leela finished. She glanced over at the counter.
Samuel waved to her. “Men communicate with women very
differently to the way they communicate with each other. The problem
is, Bender still can’t see you as a woman, which means you’ll
have to either convince him to see you that way or try and ride
things out until you change back.”
I ever do,” Fry said. She looked out of the window and sighed
again. “There’s so much going through my mind right now,
Leela. So many things I wanted to say to people that I’ve never
been able to say before because it would have sounded weird, or
because I just didn’t think about it. I can say them now
because they don’t
you’re smarter? I knew it!”
eyebrows creased together. “I wish...” she rattled her
fingers on the table and smiled again. “I see some things more
clearly than I used to but I’m not smarter. I can just say
things that I couldn’t before.”
twisted her empty cup around the table and fiddled with the handle.
“There are some things you can’t say now.”
blinked in surprise. This was about as close as she’d ever
heard Leela come to admitting she had feelings for... but she
couldn’t, could she? The man she might have
loved wasn’t here. Fry put her hand out and gently touched
Leela’s arm. She smiled when Leela looked up.
shadow fell across the table. “Not interrupting another moment,
am I?” Samuel leaned forward and retrieved Leela’s cup,
giving her a wink as he straightened up. “I’ll just get
you a refill.”
Sam,” Leela said with a coquettish grin. She fluttered her
eyelid just a tiny little bit; Samuel grinned nervously and turned to
leave. “Oh Samuel, wait a moment.”
for you,” he said, turning back. Leela patted the arm of her
chair, motioning Samuel to sit down. He took a seat and smiled at the
pair. “All right, what conspiracy are you beautiful creatures
dragging me into?”
nothing like that,” Leela said. Fry thought she sounded a
little flustered, but said nothing while Leela made eye at Samuel.
For his part, the young man just sat and looked affable. “I,
uh, that is we have been
invited to a diplomatic function on Eridani. Movers and shakers and
all that sort of thing,” Leela said, her voice growing smaller.
“And I sorta need a date.”
not take Philippa here? You two seem to make such a nice couple.”
Samuel smiled at Fry and then winked. Fry felt herself turning pink.
let out an uncharacteristic giggle. “Oh you...”
if you’re going to let a catch like that go to waste...”
Samuel stood up and gave Leela a florid bow. “My lady, I would
be honoured to accompany you. When do we leave?”
in a week.”
great, then I have enough time find a temp to manage the cash
register while I’m gone.” Samuel picked up Leela’s
cup and smiled at her as he stepped back from the table. “Thank
you. This means more to me than you realise.”
you might not thank me once we’re there,” Leela said, and
then grimaced as if letting out some sort of terrible secret. “You
probably know about Zapp.”
infamous Captain Brannigan? I heard something about a website, but go
bit back on the angry reply that rose in her mind. “He has it
in his head that that I’m only bringing a date along to make
him jealous. Don’t be surprised if he tries to challenge you to
some sort of testosterone match before the evening is out.”
that’s nothing I can’t handle. Why, only last week I had
to put down Theo over there for trying to argue that Shakespeare’s
plays were really written by Jeffrey Archer. That was pretty, uh...
harrowing...” Samuel’s boast faded under Leela’s
pitying gaze. “Not good enough, huh?”
smiled and shook her head. “You’re a far better man than
he is, but remember this guy commands a starship. He could vaporise
you from orbit if he wanted.”
tutted and tapped his chin. He looked around the shop at the
assembled regulars, most of whom had apparently swapped books in the
last fortnight. There was a strange, strained silence over them that
seemed to collectively lean toward their table. One even had his book
upside down. “I do hope you aren’t trying to discourage
me,” he said, and the smiled again. “Never mind, I’ll
find myself an armoured tux and we’ll see how things go.”
Leela said. She and Fry stood up. “See you tomorrow then?”
yes, chocolate and blueberry cookie day,” Samuel said with a
wry grin. Leela twisted her fingers together.
I really that predictable?”
yes, that’s what I love about you two. It makes my accounts so
much easier.” Samuel pulled a tray from a nearby table and
started cleaning up their plates. “I’ll see you,”
he said as he walked away. Leela watched him go, her cheeks ever so
never thought I’d see that,”
Fry said, putting on her coat.
Fluttering like a little girl.” They stepped out and made their
way to the door, which Fry opened in what would have been a gallant
gesture at one time. “I mean, I’d always hoped to see you
acting that way toward me, though, god knows if I would have actually
noticed it back then.”
was not ‘fluttering’,” Leela retorted. “Much...”
it Leela, you were this far from tearing his clothes off there and
then. Why don’t you two just-”
I appreciate the gesture but, really, it’s a little weird.”
Leela pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “What I mean
you mean is that you still sometimes see me as the old Fry, too,”
Fry said. She put her hands behind her head as they walked, enjoying
the sun on her face. “Don’t worry about it. Even if you
don’t get used to me this way at least we’re together,
sorta. If it makes you happy to be with Sam then you don’t need
to worry about my feelings. I can live with it.”
Philippa, what about the Professor turning you back? From what he’s
saying it’ll just be a couple of weeks from now,” Leela
said. She took Fry’s arm and pulled her close to the wall.
“When you change back you’ll be a man again. Even if
we’re good friends, all your old feelings will be back. What
if... I... and, that is, if we...”
turned away and looked up at the sky. “I don’t think
about it,” she said eventually, turning her gaze to the planet
express building down the street. “You know me, Leela. If I
went around thinking about the future in that sort of detail I’d
go crazy. I’d be you.”
I’m crazy am I?”
Fry shuffled her feet. “Okay, bad example.”
minute before you were talking about how you didn’t want to
change back,” Leela said. Fry sighed again.
was now talking. What I have now feels pretty good for me. I might
change my mind again in five minutes.” She turned back to Leela
and put on a goofy half-smile. Leela just clutched at her bag,
watching Fry’s face.
wish I could be that impulsive, just once,” she said quietly.
Sam out on a date is pretty impulsive for you,” Fry replied.
She glanced back down the block to Maxine’s, where an old
couple were sitting on one of the pavement tables arguing over
something. Her face softened for a moment. “That could have
been us,” she said, with just a hint of longing.
could still be in some parallel universe.” Leela nodded at the
thought, but then humphed and shook her head. “Nah. I wouldn’t
be caught dead in paisley.”
looks crystal-clear in space. The lack of any intervening haze of to
bestow objects with a strange, almost terrifying clarity at distances
that the human mind almost can’t comprehend, yet even those
distances are witheringly small compared to the vast gulfs of
interstellar space. Entire planets can be lost, flung out from their
parent systems to wander dark and cold between stars, rarely found
except by chance encounters.
Sethi Powall of the DOOP light corvette
Arcturus had never discovered a Wanderer before. They were rare,
hard to find and tended to be flung from systems rich in heavy metals
and exotic elements, which made them valuable, and made a
discoverer... if not famous, then at least noteworthy. And rich. The
DOOP paid a handsome discovery fee to any DOOP crew lucky enough to
stumble across a Wanderer and Powall was quietly adding up how much
of it would be left over once he’d bought himself that moon he
had his eye on. Quite a lot, it seemed.
glanced out of the Arcturus’s
main observation deck at the distant black mass, only visible by the
stars it occluded, and then at the faint orange speck that had
attracted his ship here in the first place. It was another one of the
strange flares that had been reported all over Orion’s Arm for
a few weeks before disappearing into the deeps. His standing orders
were to pursue and catalogue any unknown phenomena of that
description but, frankly, the draw of the Wanderer was just too much.
The entire crew were quietly celebrating – or not so quietly
for some of those off duty. He’d have to care for a few
hangovers next duty shift.
had returned to contemplating his moon when the comms crackled.
“Commander? Bridge, we just got a reading from the Wanderer.”
Powall sat up. “What sort of reading?”
sort of infra-red spike. It wasn’t there before.”
be right up.” Powall looked longingly at the Wanderer and then
left the observation deck for the bridge.
tell me what we’ve got,” he said as he entered the
bridge. The lieutenant on duty, a Neptunian woman who’s name
Powall had never been able to remember, shooed an ensign away from
the main sensor display and brought up a replay of the last 30
like several heat spots sitting on the surface,” she said,
pointing to the display, which altered to bring the relevant area of
the Wanderer’s surface into a plan view. “They aren’t
moving and they haven’t changed intensity, but our preliminary
scans showed that this body was completely inert.”
you’re saying someone else got here first?”
one option, sir,” the lieutenant said, folding two of her arms.
She manipulated the display with the other two. Powall tried not to
grimace. “There’s also the possibility of micrometeorite
impacts, previously unrecorded seismic activity or more of those
see.” Powall stared at the display. “Take us to stand-by
alert anyway, just in case. And make sure our discovery claim has
been sent, I don’t want some fraznick prospector stealing our
moons, er, money.”
done, sir,” the lieutenant said. She turned to the ensign, now
stood on the far side of the cramped bridge, and repeated Powall’s
order before turning back to the display. “If I might venture
it would be wise to retreat to a standard remote observation orbit.”
The Neptunian fixed Powall with a stare. Powall tried to look into
her pale blue eyes and gave up, looking away. He could never
intimidate blueskins no matter how hard he tried. It didn’t
help that they reminded him of Vishnu, which brought up all sorts of
bitter childhood memories of his Swamij beating the knowledge of the
five forms into his head.
shall consider it, Lieutenant. For now-”
Another ensign turned from the weapons console. “Sir, multiple
contacts, directly ahead!”
strolled over to the command chair and sat down, bringing up an
auxiliary display. “Identity?”
sir, computer is currently classifying as heavy assault cruiser,
equivalent to Argo class.”
hostile sir...” the ensign tapped away at his console, his skin
turning pale as he examined the readouts. “Uh... very hostile
sir. Very very hostile. Weapons are armed, gun-ports open, shields
raised and they appear to be moving to flank us.”
us out of here, now!” Powall turned to the Neptunian
lieutenant. “Get a message to high command, hostile craft
we have an ID on the craft,” the ensign said, turning again.
“They’re Ruklisk sir.”
Aren’t we-” An alarm sounded, warning of incoming fire.
“Evasive action. Aren’t we at peace with those sons of
The ship bucked as it sought to flee the closing Ruklisk cruisers.
Their firing was a little erratic, missing the ship by thousands of
metres, but one shot was true and crashed against the shields,
ringing the little ship’s hull like a bell. Powall winced. This
deep inside DOOP territory, what the hell are the Ruklisk doing
the lieutenant said, pointing at the wanderer. “We’re
about eleven light-years beyond Eridani sir, and moving toward earth
at about point seven C relative. The chances of them finding this
right before we did are astronomically small, they’ve probably
been tailing this rock for the last century.”
right-” Powall winced as another shot crashed home, shaking the
bridge and setting a dozen alarms squawking. They weren’t going
to survive many more like that.
hit sir, shields holding,” someone shouted. Powall groaned.
me we have comms!”
by... minimal comms sir.” Another impact. Somewhere below the
deck Powall could hear a rending explosion and a strange,
ear-piercing shriek as part of the lower deck started to decompress.
“We’ve lost all propulsion sir. Port-side shields have
collapsed, multiple breaches on decks four and five.”
we should abandon ship sir,” the Lieutenant said, turning to
look at Powall.
Lieutenant, we won’t be doing that,” Powall said, looking
out at the closing cruisers, still tiny dots against the dark
star-field. The bridge shook under another barrage from the nearest
cruiser. “The Ruklisk like to
about the way he said it must have hit home, as a withering reply
died in the Lieutenant’s throat. She blinked and looked away.
the self destruct systems and then let the bastards have everything
we’ve got,” Powall said, turning to the weapon’s
officer. The ensign swallowed and nodded. “And get
a message out, tell them them our situation, attach our last sensor
sweep of the wanderer and start transmitting our status in
real-time.” The lieutenant nodded, pushing the comms officer
away to carry out the order personally.
set the message to repeat once it’s completed,” the
lieutenant said as she turned back to Powell. She braced two of her
arms against the console as the Arcturus shuddered under another
barrage. “Our FTL comms are gone.”
space... it could take months for anyone to even notice the signal,”
Powall said quietly. He looked about the bridge, already devastated
by the assault and noticed that his vision was starting to tunnel
slightly. The ship must have vented most of its atmosphere already.
His crew worked frantically to manoeuvre their crippled ship away
from the attacking Ruklisk but they were starting to flag in the
thinning air. “I just hope they get it in time. Weapons, target
the nearest ship and let them have it.”
all weapons sir,” the weapons officer said. Powall sat back and
thought about his moon as wave after wave of weapons-fire streaked
toward the closest Ruklisk vessel. It was unlikely they’d even
make a dent on such a massive ship but at least they’d die
someone shouted. There was a momentary shudder as the impact started,
and then Powall knew nothing more.
week passed by at an agonising snails-pace, with very little work to
fill the time. Fry moped about in Bender’s closet, watching TV,
playing a few games and trying to figure out how she could get back
into Bender’s good books. There didn’t seem to be much
chance of it though; twice, now, she’d found her stuff dumped
by the door, although both times Bender had either forgotten to
change the lock-code or couldn’t be bothered, and he didn’t
seem to care when she moved herself back in. Perhaps it was the rent
thing again that held him back. Or perhaps he was trying to find a
way of reaching out to her.
Definitely the rent thing.
the lack of work came a lack of pay, though Fry didn’t have as
much trouble as the others thanks to the tax rebate that she got for
being a woman in what used to be a man’s job. Hermes had eaten
the waiver the day he found out and then spent the entire afternoon
locked in his office trying to calculate how much the damaged paper
would be worth as a tax write-off. Of course Amy didn’t have
problems either, thanks to her parents, and Zoidberg didn’t
seem to notice the sudden lack of income. Leela was probably having a
hard time of it but, Fry realised, she would be too proud to admit
she was having a problem until the debt collectors were knocking down
her door. Although she did sell her
biggest concern was Professor Farnsworth. The Professor spent all his
time in his lab where, mixed in amongst the usual background buzz of
small explosions and strange chemical smells, was a strange sensation
that struck Fry whenever she was in the building. A sort of tickling
sense of wrongness that fizzled at the base of her spine and wouldn’t
go away, and which seemed to amplify whenever the Professor was
experimenting with the universal matrix or whatever it was he’d
called it. With the tension she had at home, Fry was spending more
and more of her time at work, lounging around and waiting for
something to happen.
the whole week, virtually nothing. The company had enough of a
surplus to keep the bills paid and the ship maintained, which was a
stupidly easy job while they weren’t crashing it every few
days. Apart from that work was non-existent.
was getting adept at guessing when Farnsworth was experimenting on
her predicament. Toward the end of the week he spent nearly all his
spare time on the problem, apparently quite enjoying the challenge of
altering the very fabric of the universe.
the day before they were due to leave he seemed to spend most of the
morning repeating the same experiment over and over again. Shortly
after lunch Farnsworth quite suddenly turned up in the employee
lounge and handed Fry a note. “Look after this for me”
was all he said before returning to the lab. An hour later he came
into the room holding a similar piece of paper and then looked
around, his gaze abruptly resting on the clock. With a slightly more
confused expression than he normally wore he turned and retreated
from the room again, mumbling under his breath. Fry looked at the
folded note and, for once, managed to overcome her latent curiosity.
She pocketed the paper and opened another beer.
sun was low when the others started to arrive. Normally Fry would
have gone home by then but she just couldn’t deal with the
prospect of facing Bender on what was rapidly becoming his turf.
She’d packed a few necessities that morning and stashed them on
the ship, along with an evening gown and some other formal wear that
Amy had picked out for her.
door rattled as someone entered. Fry stood up, dropped her empty beer
behind the couch and smoothed down her shirt as the lounge door
opened. It was Hermes. He looked at Fry, seemed about to say
something and then turned away.
hi, Hermes,” Fry said under her breath. “Nice to see you
shoulders tensed but he didn’t reply. LaBarbara entered a
moment later and made a beeline for Fry. “Goodness, is that
really you, Fry?”
time I checked,” Fry stuttered as LaBarbara swept her up in a
great big hug that lasted just a little too long to be comfortable.
Fry squirmed her grasp. “Ah-heh, it’s nice to see you
sure have changed. When that husband of mine told me what happened, I
didn’t see to believe it, but here we are!” LaBarbara
leaned closed to fry. “So, how you enjoyin your time as a
woman? You had yoursel any fun yet?”
swallowed and let out a nervous giggle. Fortunately Amy’s
arrival gave her the escape she needed. Fry harried LaBarbara over to
Amy and then shot over to the far side of the room, putting the table
between them and herself.
arrived a moment later, sporting a large case with airholes drilled
in it. She shrugged at Fry’s quizzical expression and headed
straight for the ship, shortly followed by everyone but Fry herself.
Bender arrived, sporting a cigar that was, surprisingly, unlit. He
strolled across the lounge and sat opposite Fry.
Bender sat back, chewing on his cigar with whatever passed for teeth
in that mouth of his. He took out the stoogie and stared at it.
“These things don’t look so cool when they aren’t
Fry said. She took a deep breath, expecting Bender to light up and
blow smoke in her face like he always did. Nothing happened. “Bender?
Are you okay?”
laid the cigar on the table and stared at it. “As a robot I
don’t usually feel much in the way of emotion. I could light
this thing up and then set your hair on fire with it and all I’d
think about was how incredibly funny you looked.”
aren’t doing it though,” Fry replied. She touched her
hair. She’d got quite proud of her recent styling attempts, it
wouldn’t put her in the best of moods if she lost it all. “I
I do feel emotions,” Bender continued, picking up the cigar
again, turning it this way and that. “I don’t like the
ones I’m feeling right now. They’re distracting me from
you don’t have any work,” Fry said, folding her arms.
“How can you be distracted from doing nothing?”
I never tell you how to feel emotions!” Bender sighed and put
the cigar away. “Fry, I can’t live with you this way. I
can’t have any fun.
When you were a guy I didn’t think twice about bringing a few
fembots home for a little... awww!” Bender’s hands
crashed down on the table. “See? I can’t even talk
to you about it any more!”
It’s not like you ever had that problem around Leela and Amy,”
Fry retorted. She pushed her chair back just in case Bender did
something more destructive to the table. Bender peered at her, then
folded his arms and looked away.
because they’ve always been women, and they don’t
live with me.” He stood up and paced for a moment. “All
my memories record you as a man, and now you’re not. It’s
not compute’ huh?” Fry laughed at her own joke until she
noticed Bender wasn’t laughing with her. In fact he was
glaring. “Okay, not funny. Look, Bender, if it makes you feel
better you can pretend I’m someone else, or I can move out or
don’t know about that,” Bender said.
the rent? Bender...”
turned to look at Fry, and for the first time she saw the emotions he
was feeling, however badly the were expressed. Bender sighed. “Fry,
if it was just about rent I would have got some other meat sack to
pay and thrown you out weeks ago.”
did try to throw me out a few times,” Fry pointed out. She
stood up and moved around the table until she was near the door.
Bender followed her a few steps.
Uhh...” Bender’s fingers tapped out something in binary
as he thought. “Spring cleaning?”
rolled her eyes. “Har.”
I’m really trying to reach out here Fry. I got a book on how to
talk to women and everything!” He reached into his chest
compartment and pulled out a tattered book as proof. Fry took the
book and skimmed through the pages, though none of it seemed
particularly ground-breaking. She passed it back. “I can do
this,” Bender said, closing his chest compartment again. “I
even used that phrase. ‘Reach Out’. Easy!”
thing is, you might not have to for much longer,” Fry said. She
felt a strange tingle in her neck and glanced up at the ceiling; was
the Professor was doing the same experiment again?
you’re telling me-”
time next week I’ll probably be a guy again.”
Bender looked away. Fry tried to catch his eye again, walking around
until she was in front of his face, but he kept turning away until
his head was facing backwards.
the matter, I thought you’d be happy?”
I think my emotion circuits must be faulty or something,”
Bender said, letting out another sigh. “It certainly can’t
be because I’m getting used to the way things are now.”
want me to stay like this?”
suddenly turned and looked at Fry. “Hell no! I want my friend
shook her head and smiled. “I am your friend, Bender.”
She glanced at the clock and noticed the time. “Oh hell, come
on, we’d better hurry or they’ll leave us behind.”
you go and I’ll sell all your girly stuff on e-bay.”
Bender laughed until Fry hit him with a chair. “Ow...”
stumbled forward and whacked his head on the table, sending a spray
of sparks into the air as he dislodged some vital piece of equipment.
Fry closed her eyes and let out a frustrated sigh. She dragged the
concussed robot out to the hangar, where Leela was waiting at the
bottom of the ship’s gangway, tapping her foot. She tapped her
wristbox and glared at Fry.
going to be late. What were you doing anyway,” she added,
looking down at Bender. “Or do I want to know?”
shook Bender’s arm, which promptly fell out of its socket.
“Probably not. Can you help me get him up the stairs?”
hooked her arm under Bender and lifted him upright. “Ugh, I
forgot how heavy robots could be. Zoidberg!”
decapodian appeared at the stop of the gangway and peered down at
Leela with a pleasant expression. “Hello.”
be a dear and drag Bender up the stairs for us will you?”
so now I’m a lifter why not...” Zoidberg seemed to almost
dribble down the gangway. He looked at Bender. “Hmm, this robot
is seriously ill. Tell me Bender, have you punched yourself in the
you should then!” Zoidberg grabbed Bender’s legs and
started hauling him up the steps. “So are we going anywhere
interesting for our holidays this year, hmm? I expect we’re
going somewhere with lots of sandy beaches. Zoidberg loves
sandy beaches, so many different
kinds of free food... And we’re
going! You’re so kind.”
way up the stairs Bender grabbed old of the rail and suddenly pulled
himself upright. “If I walk the rest of the way will you stop
I still get to join you on the beach?”
Bender stormed up the stairs and into the ship, trailed by a sad
guess the Professor isn’t coming,” Leela said as they
climbed the steps. Fry paused near the top and looked back across the
not,” she said, before entering the ship. Fry followed Leela up
to the flight deck and took a seat by the communications console.
was at her usual place by the engineering console, and Bender was
lounging on the observation couch at the front of deck in a thick
pall of cigar smoke. The others were sequestered in their cabins.
Leela sat herself down in the captain’s chair and stared at the
front windows. “Well, we’d better get this show on the
we’re picking him up,” Leela said as the ship’s
engines wound up to full power. They lifted out of the hangar and
turned west, drifting along a few hundred feet above the Hudson river
until they reached an apartment block on the river-bank. Leela set
the ship down in a park just beyond the apartments. “I’ll
be right back,” she said, before running from the ship.
blew a smoke-ring toward the ceiling. “Feh. Show-off.”
couldn’t help but agree.
apartment block was fairly typical for the district. Low rent, but
not minimal, and quite well appointed. Leela was about to press the
buzzer for Samuel’s apartment when he appeared at the lobby
Sam.” Leela grinned and took Samuel’s hands in her own.
“It’s nice to see you. Are you all packed?”
everything I need right here,” Samuel said, holding up a
hold-all. “I figure we aren’t going to be there long
enough to justify more than a couple of days worth of underwear.”
nice, Sam. Very nice.” Leela looked to one side for a moment,
then beamed at Samuel. “Come on, we’re in the park.”
I saw the landing lights...” They walked down the road toward
the park entrance hand in hand, both smiling private smiles.
what’s the deal with Philippa then?”
Leela stopped in her tracks. “What about her?”
you two seem to be very close,” Samuel said shortly. He hefted
the hold-all to a more secure position before continuing. “First
time you came into Maxine’s I thought you were a... well...”
what, couple?” Leela laughed, and Samuel couldn’t help
but smile again. He let out a laugh of his own and shook his head.
isn’t it?” They walked on a little distance in a
companionable silence, until Samuel spoke again. “Still, you
two are awfully close, and you talk about some weird stuff. If I
didn’t know better I’d almost think Philippa used to be-”
I were to explain it I’d have to understand it myself,”
Leela said quietly. She looked at Samuel, her eye betraying a hint of
confused longing. “It’s complicated, lets put it that
Got you.” Samuel paused at the park gates and looked up at the
dark bulk of the Planet Express ship towering over them. “So
this is your ship is it?”
I fly her a lot,” Leela said with a modest shrug. She took
Samuel’s hand and lead him toward the gangway. “I can
give you a tour if you want.”
no, I’ve seen ships before,” Samuel said, trailing behind
Leela. He pulled back as they reached the bottom of the steps,
pulling Leela around to face him. “The ship isn’t what
I’m interested in.”
Uhh...” Leela looked up into Samuel’s eyes and smiled. “I
stood there for a while, just looking at each other. Then Samuel
looked up at the darkening sky; a few stars were starting to appear.
“Incredible really. I’ve been on a few journeys out there
but I never looked at the stars before. You get to look at them all
Leela didn’t bother looking up at the sky. She stared at Samuel
with rapt attention until he looked back at her again. Leela turned
pink and looked at the floor. “We... we should probably get
going,” she said, feeling strangely awkward.
a moment,” Samuel replied. He brushed his hand against Leela’s
face. “You know, I think I fell in love with you the moment you
walked through my door,” he said. Leela coughed and looked
away, trying to hide her blushing cheeks.
don’t say anything,” Samuel said as he gently turned
Leela’s face back toward him. “Whatever happens later,
whatever you’re thinking, it doesn’t matter. This moment
bit her lip and nodded a tiny nod. She closed her eye.
watched them kiss from the shelter of the gangway, glad that the
shadows of the hatch were hiding her face. She felt light-headed as
she watched, her stomach fluttering with unaccustomed jealousy and
loss. Her mouth was dry. She bit down on her knuckle to muffle a
quiet sob as they kissed more passionately, yet there was no passion
to her sadness. Fry backed away before their kiss broke, unable to
watch, unable to face the final, inevitable conclusion of her change.
There was no insane jealousy, no anger at another touching Leela,
being close to her in the ways she had once desired. There was
nothing but a void. The sudden emptiness would have overwhelmed her
but for a single spark of something that might have been love, that
let Fry see beyond herself for just a moment.
was free of a burden she had carried ever since they had met. A
brief smile played across Fry’s face as she retreated to her
cabin, even as the tears started to well up in her eyes.
the twilight of the employee lounge Professor Farnsworth paused and
stared at the note in his hand, momentarily wondering why he’d
come down with it, and then at the clock. He grumbled and put the
note on the table, then returned to his lab.
the twilight of the employee lounge Professor Farnsworth paused and
stared at the note in his hand, momentarily wondering why he’d
come down with it, and then at the clock. He grumbled and put the
note on the table, then returned to his lab. A chance gust of air
lifted the note and carried it to the edge of the table, where it
teetered for a moment before flopping to the floor.
the twilight of the employee lounge Professor Farnsworth paused and
stared at the note in his hand, momentarily wondering why he’d
come down with it, then at the clock. He was about to put the note on
the table when he saw another piece of paper lying on the floor next
to it, folded up the same way. Farnsworth grumbled and picked up the
note. He unfolded it carefully and read the note it contained.
he mumbled, looking up at the lab. “Oh my...”