Fan Fiction

A Different View, part 5
By Graham Dawson

Chapter Five – Lets Party!

Twenty-eight hours. It wasn’t their longest trip, or the furthest they’d flown, but on those trips Fry hadn’t been trying to avoid anyone. Now she wasn’t sure if there was anyone on the ship she could even talk to. Bender was still trying to work out whether he wanted to accept her, Hermes wasn’t talking, LaBarbara was talking too much and Leela was... busy. About an hour after take-off she’d put Amy in charge – Amy! - and disappeared into the bowels of the ship with Samuel for what she claimed was going to be a tour.

“Yeah right,” Fry muttered. She stared at the wall of her cabin – adorned by a poster of some hunk Amy was lusting over, plus a few pictures of Kif and some other flotsam. Amy was probably the only person she could talk to and conversations with her were usually quite limited, as she’d found out during the first few days of sharing her cabin. What had seemed cute and familiar to Fry as a man was just boring and repetitive to Fry as a woman. “To hell with it.”

She stood up from the bed and crept out into the corridor. Empty. Fry walked toward the flight deck, her stockinged feet silent on the composite decking, and paused at the entrance. Amy was slouched in the captain’s chair with her feet up on the control column, snoring. Beyond her, Bender was still lounging on the couch, though the haze of cigar smoke was gone and a bottle of cheap liquor was propped up on the arm.

Fry crept around the edge of the flight deck until she could see Bender a little better. He was reading. She peered at the book, which seemed to be another “how to talk to women” instruction manual. Fry shook her head and smiled at the thought of Bender actually trying to learn something. Perhaps he wasn’t such a bad friend. She edged back out of the flight deck and padded along the corridor, looking for somewhere quiet that wasn’t her cabin.

She passed down through the galley, paused for a moment and wondered if she should get herself a snack, but then decided against it. It would only end up on her- Fry shook her head to try and clear the thought out. She quickly left the galley, returned to the top deck and carried on toward the aft, where there were a few nooks and crannies to be found in the engineering spaces.

Just before the ‘brain’ room Fry found a small access panel open. She peered in; a short crawlspace lead into a larger chamber right up against the inner hull. It seemed quiet enough, so Fry crawled in and shuffled along until she was able to stand almost upright.

The chamber was quite long, taking in a fair portion of the ship’s aft section. Further along Fry could see more access ports. She stooped along the chamber, looking for somewhere to curl up for a while.

Suddenly Fry heard voices echoing from an access hatch up ahead. The hatch was unsealed and left partly open, letting a sliver of light shine down into the crawlspace. Fry edged toward the hatch and peered through the gap left at its edge. Her stomach bucked; she could see part of Leela’s cabin; the voice was Samuel’s. Fry shuffled into a more comfortable position, her heart racing even as she tried not to think about what she was doing. She put her head back against the bulkhead and listened.

“You still haven’t told me what’s between you and Philippa,” Samuel said, his voice sounding a little sleepy. There was a rustling of bedsheets and a momentary silence that Fry’s mind filled with all sorts of disturbing mental images. She bit her knuckle again in an effort to keep silent.

“That’s... it’s a long story,” Leela eventually said. More rustling, and then a thump as someone got out of bed and started pacing. A shadow passed across the hatch.

Samuel’s turn again. “We have plenty of time, you know,” he said.

“There are a lot of things we could do with that time,” Leela replied with a husky voice. Fry tried to think about something, anything else. Pancakes pancakes pancakes... and coffee... damnit!

“Give me a break, Leela, I’m worn out...”

“Ohh... poor Sam.” More sheets rustled, and then another lengthy silence followed. “All right, even if I tried to explain everything you wouldn’t believe me. I still don’t understand all of it myself.”

“Try me. Come on Leela, seriously, I’m all ears.”

“You’re all something,” Leela said. Samuel chuckled. More silence. Fry almost imagined she could hear-

“You love her, don’t you,” Samuel said suddenly. The sheets rustled again and someone, presumably Leela, suddenly paced to the far side of the cabin. “Oh come on Leela, it’s obvious that there’s something between you two. You’re more than just friends.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Complicated? This ship is complicated. The Espresso machine in my shop is complicated. This...” A second set of feet thumped against the deck. “Leela, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“No, it’s ok. It’s fine. It’s just difficult to explain.”

“It’s all right. If you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll understand,” Samuel said. “After all, who am I to judge?”

“You’re a good man,” Leela replied. She let out a sigh, and the bed creaked as they both sat down again. “The truth is, I did have feelings for Fry, and she had feelings for me at one time, after a fashion... I... I sort of blew it. Something changed, I can’t really say what. I didn’t know how I felt. I still don’t know now but she was... oh, it’s too complicated.”

“She seems to have gotten over it pretty well,” Samuel said.

“Yes, she has. She’s a good friend. In fact she’s the best friend I’ve ever had, always so quick to forgive me and forget mistakes I’ve made, but I only noticed recently. These last few months have been the best of my life in a lot of ways. I feel... free, around her, like I can tell her things that I can’t tell anyone else.”

“Even me?”

“Hey, some things man was not meant to know,” Leela replied playfully. More silence. “Wow, how did you know about that...”

“Lucky guess.”

“Ahh...” Leela giggled and the bed creaked again.

“Sooo, did you two ever-”

“That’s really none of your business.”

“Oh. Well. Are you ever going to explain this to me or will I just end up with the word ‘complicated’ tattooed on my forehead?”

“I might do that anyway,” Leela said. “Or perhaps down here... hey, I thought you said you were worn out!”

Fry shuffled out of the crawlspace and moved as far down the chamber as she could, her palms sweaty and her heart still racing. She hunched up at the far end of the chamber, near to where she had originally crawled in. Best friend? Best friend had always been part of what she’d wanted ‘before’, though not all. But, then, priorities change. As far as Fry knew, Leela had never talked about her like that before. A tear trickled down her cheek but she ignored it, preferring to concentrate on the warm feeling just underneath her breast.

Fry crawled out of the access and sealed it up. She dusted herself down, looked about to see if anyone had seen her, and then crept back to her cabin.

For a while she just sat on the bed with her chin resting on her hands as she stared at the wall. A faint smile would brush her lips every now and then. Eventually, though, the boredom set. Fry looked around the cabin; her eyes came to rest on the dress hanging in the half-open closet, still wrapped in plastic. Taunting her.

Fry walked up to the dress and looked at it. The plain white material shimmered as she lifted it, like silk, but somehow lighter and with more intensity. She peeled back the plastic and lifted the dress from its hook, then carried it over to the mirror, where she wrapped the airy cloth over her front and posed a few times. For once Amy had let sense override her random shopping urge. The dress was perfect.

Papa Echo Sierra zero zero one, Eridani Orbiter Control, you are cleared for pre-entry orbit at level one three two zero azimuth delta fifteen.

“Copy,” Leela said, concentrating on her readouts. “Level one three two zero. Estimate perigee in... fifteen minutes.”

Copy papa echo, set transponder to niner zero seven two and contact entry control on seven seven five point five, good day.

“Copy, niner zero seven two, goodbye,” Leela said, snapping her fingers at Fry, who quickly dialled in the transponder code and new contact frequency. “Damned Eridanis, always so uptight about following the rules,” she said, before activating the comms again. “Hello entry control, this is Papa Echo Sierra zero zero one on alpha delta, uh, fifteen, level ahh... one three two zero perigee zulu thirteen, requesting vectors for entry to Fort Baker spaceport, over.”

Hello Papa Echo Sierra this is entry control, level one three two acknowledged, please maintain your present orbit and await instructions.

“Dammit. I mean, copy that.” Leela turned off the comms and set the autopilot to stabilise their orbit. She twisted sideways in her seat and glared at the planet over Fry’s shoulder. Fry sat back in her seat and smiled at Leela until the other woman noticed. “What?”

“Oh, nothing,” Fry said, still smiling. She turned back to her console. “Looks like you gave Samuel a very thorough tour of the ship considering the amount of time you took.”

Leela swallowed and looked away. “Well, it’s got a lot of interesting features,” she said, blushing slightly. She looked up at Amy who just shrugged, then back at Fry, who was smiling again. “You seem to be in a very good mood.”

“Oh yes, most definitely,” Fry said, widening her smile a little. She put her arms over the back of her chair and spun it a little. “Wouldn’t you be? I’m going to what promises to be a great party on another world with my best friends. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”

“When you put it like that...” Leela rubbed her nose thoughtfully, her earlier moment of embarrassment forgotten. “It’s just a bit sudden. When we left you seemed about ready to jump out of an airlock, especially when Samuel came on board.”

Fry shrugged. “I prefer being in a good mood,” she said. She sat a little more upright and smiled again. “I was jealous of you two, in fact I think I still am jealous, but I’m happy for you as well. If I can’t be happy for my best friend...”

Leela gave Fry a quizzical look. “That’s good to hear, Phi, but it’s still a little odd. Normally you’re only this happy when you’re about to do something stupid.”

“Like jumping out of an airlock?” Fry winked at Leela. “I’m just happy,” she said glancing at Amy and then back Leela. They both looked at her with doubtful expressions. “Really!”

Leela shrugged and turned back to her console. “Be that as it may... oh what the hey, if you’re happy then you’re happy. What the hell is keeping these people?”

“You know,” Amy said, “we could always try and use your connections to get our slot bumped up.”

“You mean call Zapp? No way!” Leela folded her arms. “I wouldn’t call that self-impressed blowhard for help if I was stuck in a hole and he had the only rope in existence.”

Leela nodded, satisfied that she’d made her point, just as the comms crackled to life again.

Papa Echo Sierra zero zero one please adjust orbit to holding level two two zero zero, delta zero and acknowledge when complete. Estimated holding time eight hours. Over.

Amy and Fry stared at Leela. She put her hands up. “All right...”

“Leela. So, we meet again. The game is a on the other foot.” Zapp’s face filled the viewscreen as he leaned forward and smiled benevolently. Leela folded her arms and glared at him. “To what do I owe this highly arousing pleasure?”

“You understand this is purely a business call,” Leela said, maintaining her glare. Zapp raised an eyebrow and then tilted his glass in acknowledgement.

“It’s certainly a very erotic business call,” he said.

“Cram it Captain. You’re going to call up Entry control and tell them to give us a priority landing slot.”

“And in return?”

Leela lowered her head for a moment, resting an hand on her forehead. She let out a frustrated sigh. “You don’t get anything, Zapp. If we’re stuck up here for the next eight hours we’ll miss the conference.”

“Ahh, tut tut Leela, every fair turn deserves another scratch on the back! This is business after all... spend the evening with me.”


“Half the evening,” Zapp persisted, putting his drink down.

“No.” Leela’s voice remained firm. Zapp walked toward he viewer, an almost anguished expression on his face. He seemed about ready to plead with Leela, but at the last moment he looked aside. Leela cocked her head. “Emotional blackmail won’t work twice, Zapp,” she added.

“Oh. Well.” Zapp’s composure returned almost instantly. “How about one dance?”

“I wouldn’t even consider it.”

“Then I’m afraid you’re in orbit for the next eight hours,” Zapp replied formally. “Good evening Captain.” He leaned forward to switch off the viewer.

“Oh, hell, wait!” Leela glanced at Fry and Amy. “All right, one dance. But you don’t touch me anywhere except the hip, shoulder and hand or I’ll have your balls as earings. Got me?”

“I... why yes,” Zapp said, a leering smile creasing his lips. He gave Leela a mock salute. “I shall see you within the hour.”

The screen blanked out. Fry let out the breath she’d been holding for most of the conversation. Some distant memory had twinged at her in oddly familiar ways after Leela’s last threat. She’d almost felt sorry for Zapp.

“What are you going to tell Samuel?” Amy asked, glancing toward the back of the flight deck. Leela shrugged.

“Something. He’ll understand, and hopefully this is the worst that will happen on this trip.” She strapped herself in, waiting for the radio call. “Fry, go let everyone know we’ll be landing soon,” she said.

“Gotcha,” Fry said with a cheery smile. She turned to leave, but Leela grabbed her arm and pulled her close enough to whisper.

“Samuel isn’t in his cabin. I was, uh... showing him my diary.”

“Sure you were,” Fry said with a wide smile. She patted Leela’s arm. “I won’t tell anyone.”


“Though it was pretty obvious really,” Fry added as she reached the flight-deck door. Leela scowled at her and tried to get up, but her seatbelt yanked her back into her seat.

“Don’t push your luck,” she growled at Fry.

Fort Baker Spaceport was barely worth of the name, consisting of a pair of landing pads with two huge hangars behind them and a few auxiliary buildings a short distance away. Snow sputtered across the sky and drifted up against buildings as the evening drew in, but otherwise failed to make an impression on the landscape thanks to the constant easterly wind that blew across the tundra to the east. The Planet Express ship wobbled slightly as Leela fought against the wind, but settled down perfectly on the pad. She was towed into the hangar almost before her engines were shut down.

Several ships were arrayed across the hangar floor, mostly the transports of visiting dignitaries not quite important enough to warrant a landing slot and welcome at Fort Abel in the Eridani capital. The crew surveyed the ships as they were towed into place near the back of the hangar, wondering who they belonged to. Leela peered at the wall directly ahead before completing her final shut-down.

“All right, time to leave,” she said to the assembled crowd. She glanced around the bridge as the crew and their passengers trooped out, then slipped the keys out of the control column and dropped them in her pocket.

A loading bot was waiting for them at the foot of the gangway. “Come on, hurry up people, I don’t have all day,” it yelled, flapping an irritated crane arm at them. “Bags go in the back, heavier gear goes in the middle and no riding!”

Bender and Fry looked at each other and quickly lifted their feet from the bot’s deck. Fry chuckled and pinched at her arm. Hermes cleared his throat.

“Now listen up you lackadaisical laggards,” he said, pulling a clipboard from his ever-present briefcase as the bot slithered away. He consulted the papers on the board for a moment. “Our cars will be arriving in precisely ninety seven seconds which gives me just enough time to tell you the followin details. We’re stayin in the same hotel that is hostin the conference, thanks to your Captain Brannigan, Leela, and we have passes for the after-conference dinner only, which means no wanderin around the city and no tryin to sneak out of the dining room or into other parts of the building. Especially you two,” he added, pointing at Leela and Samuel, who both gasped and tried not to look guilty. Hermes looked up at the sound. “Oh. I meant you two.”

Hermes shifted his accusing finger to Bender and Zoidberg. Bender threw up his hands in disgust. “Oh come on, what fun is a place like this if I can’t rifle through other people’s belongings?”

“You aren’t here to have fun! And Zoidberg, I had to promise you’d stay away from the kitchens before I could even requisition the forms to apply for the permission to inquire about extending your visa, so you make sure you stay in plain sight at all times, you hear me? No kitchens, and no rummaging in the garbage.”

“Aw...” Zoidberg slouched and made a sad bribbling noise.

There was a loud tooting outside, accompanied by the sound of a pair of hovercars pulling to a noisy stop. Hermes looked at his watch. “Ooh right on time. I love this place,” he said with a distant smile. LaBarbara rolled her eyes.

A pair of limousines were waiting for them outside. Amy almost squeaked with joy at the luxury of their interiors and pushed her way to the front of the group, where she leaped into the first limo and spread herself out on one of the seats. “Wow, this is incredible,” she said, fingering a bottle of what turned out to be a local and very expensive sparkling wine.

“I’m sure you get this all the time when you’re at home,” Leela said, climbing in opposite Amy. She cuddled up to Samuel as he sat down. Fry consciously looked away, glancing out of the door, where Bender was protesting at having to sit in the same car as Zoidberg. Their car pulled away a moment later.

“I don’t get this sort of thing back home, mom and dad are pretty spartan when it comes to cars,” Amy said, peering into cupboards and hatches. “Neat, a Ninplaybox three-thousand!”

“Ooh, let me see that,” Fry said, pushing herself along the seat. “Does it have Space Invaders?”

“I... I don’t think so,” Amy said, poking at the controls with an unsteady finger. Fry grimaced and sat back.

“Man, I forgot, you don’t have that any more...” She put her arms over the back of the seat and sighed sadly. “It’s strange what you miss most,” she added with a slight shrug. Leela gave Fry an odd look.

Samuel sat forward a little and peered at the Ninplaybox. “Space Invaders. Isn’t that an old videogame?”

“Yeah, I was one of the top scorers on it when I left the twentieth century,” Fry replied. She closed her eyes and thought back to when she would spend hours on the arcade machine in Pannuci’s. “I used to be a hotshot at that game, played it all the time when I wasn’t on deliveries. One time I got my name on every single score slot, until some punk kid tried to beat my top score. I showed him a thing or two... of course then Mr Pannuci turned off the power and wiped it all.”

“I thought most twentieth century women weren’t in to that sort of thing.”

“Oh I wasn’t a...” Fry’s eyes snapped open. She tried to hide her sudden acute embarrassment behind a cough. “That is, I was-”

“Philippa wasn’t an average woman,” Leela said, putting a hand on Samuel’s shoulder. She wrinkled her brow and tried to look pleading. “It’s...”

“Let me guess,” Samuel said, slumping back in his seat. “Complicated, right?”

Leela nodded. “Uh-huh...”

Samuel shrugged and leaned his head back. He took a deep breath, let it out and smiled a little. “A riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma,” he said quietly, then glanced out of the window. “Oh, I never thought I’d see one of those in my lifetime.”

They had pulled up at a checkpoint manned by a nervous pair of local militia who were being watched over by a hulking Ruklisk. The terror stood a little apart from the militia, paying little heed to the humans as it watched the passing vehicles. Now and then it would shift an insectile leg or shuffle its spiky bulk as it craned its torso for a better view of the road. The alien’s spines were slowly wafting up and down around its face and neck, concealing part of its face from view every so often, apparently, a sign of agitation and boredom. He flicked a clawed hand at the car and grunted something unintelligible to the senior militiaman. The militiaman nodded and waved the car through the checkpoint.

“And Zapp stabbed one of those things?” Leela peered through the back window at the receding checkpoint. “He’s braver than I thought...”

“As long as you don’t get any ideas,” Samuel said, taking Leela’s hand with both his own. They smiled at each other. Fry managed to suppress her almost involuntary urge to make a retching noise. “He can have his dance if he wants it, but you’re saving the last for me.”

“Glech, come off it you two! All this sweetness is making my teeth rot.”

“Oh, but when you’re flinging yourself at Lieutenant Kroker it’s all okay?” Leela frowned at Amy, but mixed it with a wicked smile. Amy primped her hair and looked away. “Not that you’ll get much of a chance,” Leela added, a look of doubt creeping on to her features as she looked out at the city. Ruklisk occupiers seemed to be standing on every other street-corner, whilst very few of the locals seemed to be out. Those that were on the streets were either pressed against the walls, too timid to even cross the streets, or had a strange glazed look in their eyes as they plodded about their business.

“I hate to ask a stupid question, but did anyone actually think about what was going to happen to Eridani when the Ruklisk take over?” Leela looked around the car. Nobody answered. She turned back to watch the streets, where a small group of locals were trailing behind a Ruklisk like tame animals, all of them wearing the same turgid look on their faces. “Zapp, what have you got us into?”

Fry sat on her bed and watched the wall. It was an interesting wall. For starters it wasn’t Amy, and it wasn’t naked. She twiddled her thumbs and traced a pattern from the floor to the ceiling.

“Come on Phi, it’s not like you haven’t seen it before,” Amy said from somewhere over Fry’s shoulder. Fry shrugged.

“Different circumstances,” she said.

“But you’re a woman now!”

“I didn’t particularly like seeing naked men when I was a man,” Fry replied, closing her eyes as Amy skipped into view. She risked a look. “Oh, underwear at last...”

“I can’t help it if I’m a free spirit,” Amy said, lifting a gown from one of her bags. She hugged it to her chest and spun around. “What do you think? Green or violet?”

“Uh... blue,” Fry said, pointing at the hem of a dress that was hanging from another bag. She shrugged. “I like blue.”

“Well, I’ll try it, but I was leaning toward the green myself,” Amy said. She pulled a few more dresses out and laid them on her bed, then stood and stared at them. Fry turned and looked at her dress, once again hanging in its plastic cover. She sighed.

Leela peeked around the door and frowned. “You two had better hurry up or we’ll be late.”

“Oh keep your hair on,” Amy said. She closed her eyes and started to ip dip the dresses on her bed. Leela scowled at her and then looked at Fry.

“Surely you can’t be having trouble deciding too,” she said with a wry smile. Fry shrugged and stared at the dress again, then looked at Leela.

“To be honest, it’s a little odd.”

“You’ve been wearing women’s clothes for six months, how is this any different?” Leela walked over and sat down next to Fry, resplendent in a long black ballgown that glittered and sparkled like the night sky. She put her arm around Fry’s shoulder and squeezed her a little. “Still, if you need help with anything...”

Fry looked at Leela, wondering if now was a good time to mention the decisions she was going to make. There were so many things... then a thought crossed Fry’s mind. “Actually there is something you can do,” she said, and gave Leela a nervous smile.

Bender tip-toed down the hall, moving from doorway to doorway the way he imagined soldiers and criminals did when they wanted to remain hidden. He reached the end of the hall and laughed quietly to himself as he started to unlock the door he found there.

After a moment the lock click and the door slid open. Bender peered in expectantly, his eyes scanning around for anything worth stealing. “Aw... crud. Another bust. Doesn’t anyone have anything worth stealing around here?”

He turned from the room, making sure the door closed before he left, and made his way further down the corridor. “Perhaps there’s something on the ground floor... ooh, they have safes in these places!” Laughing, Bender made his way to the elevators and took a car to the lobby. A concierge behind the desk gave him a haughty stare.

“Robots are not allowed out without an accompanying owner,” he said sternly, pointing at Bender. “Do you have an owner?”

“No, but I wasn’t planning on going outside either,” Bender replied. He walked over to the front desk and leaned on it. “Have you got safe around here? My... ‘owner’, thinks I need to be put in secure storage for a bit. I’m very valuable to her.”

The concierge looked down his nose at Bender as if not quite able to tolerate Bender’s presence. He consulted a small book, which he then tucked into his waistband just inside his jacket, and smiled briefly and formally at Bender. “This way.”

Bender followed the concierge into a room toward the back of the hotel. A large safe door filled most of one wall. A row of eight combination locks were equally spaced across the door, though the concierge didn’t seem to bother with them when he opened it. He simply slipped a key into a slot hidden behind one of the locks, twisted it twice and then pulled on the door-handle.

The safe door swung back silently. Air gusted past as the pressure equalised, and Bender couldn’t help rubbing his hands together with almost undignified glee. He glanced at the concierge. “So I just go in there, right?”

“Indeed. When will your owner wish to retrieve you?”

“Oh you can just come and let me out in about, oh, eight hours,” Bender said, shuffling forward. He almost skipped across the vault’s threshold and paused inside. Bright lights bathed the safe, which was painted a stark white inside, lined by hundreds of compartments and drawers. Larger items were piled here and there on the floor. Bender laughed quietly and crept forward.

He was just opening the first drawer when he realised that the safe door hadn’t been closed. He turned and looked over his shoulder. “Hey, what’s the-”

A loud, alien growl echoed through the safe and Bender’s voice faded. He crept back toward the door and peered around it; a pair of Ruklisk were standing over the cowering concierge, who seemed to be pleading.

“Please, I will do anything, just... just let me go.”

One of the Ruklisk reached out and grabbed the concierge by his neck, lifting him from the floor. “You think we would let a perfectly useful slave go running away?”

“But I’m too-”

“It doesn’t matter what you are now, Hu-mawn,” the second Ruklisk said, fluffing its spines menacingly. Leather creaked as the creature reached back and plucked one of its spines from its back, with barely a gasp of pain. “These creatures make such squishy slaves,” it continued, eyeing the spine. It took out a knife and started whittling the end until a spit of bright green fluid began to ooze from it.

“They are not as squishy as the koslety in charge of their Democratic Order of Planets.” The first Ruklisk laughed and held up the concierge again. “Do you have family, hu-mawn? Friends?” The concierge nodded. “Well say goodbye to them. I would say they might miss you, but by now they probably don’t even know who you are.”

The concierge struggled against the grip around his neck, legs flailing uselessly as he tried to wriggle from the Ruklisk’s grasp to no avail. The second Ruklisk held up the spine and peered at it with satisfaction. He glanced at the first Ruklisk, who turned the concierge around and held him so that he was leaning forward. The second Ruklisk held the spine up and quickly stabbed it into the back of the Concierge’s head. The man shrieked in pain and fell limp. Then he shrieked again as the spine’s poison began to leech under his skin. The Ruklisk dropped him to the floor.

“This is the part I always love,” he said, taking out his knife. He started to trim his claws while the concierge writhed on the floor, foaming at the mouth. After a while the man’s thrashing died down and he lay still. The Ruklisk examined his nails and put the knife away. “Wake up, slave.”

The concierge opened his eyes and sat up. His eyes were glazed and unblinking, his face slack and devoid of emotion. He pushed himself up and stood a little unsteadily, then slowly turned to face the Ruklisk. The alien pair seemed satisfied with this and turned to leave.

“Isn’t it so convenient that these slave species always put themselves at our mercy,” one said. The other grunted in agreement.

Bender tried to back into the safe. He almost made it, but tripped over a group of statues that clattered to the floor with a horrendous clanging noise.

“Eeep...” Bender scrabbled at the floor and tried to find somewhere to hide, but it was too late. One of the Ruklisk peered around the door and saw him. Bender sat up and looked back at the alien. “Uh... hi?”

The Ruklisk didn’t bother answering, but simply raised a gun and fired at Bender, blowing him apart.

The bathroom was cool and surprisingly dry, and quite spacious, though Fry had chosen it simply because she was about to do something that needed no distractions, which in turn meant getting away from Amy. She leaned over the sink and stared at the mirror.

Leela drew out her lipstick and held it out to Fry. “Now I don’t know what experience you have with these things, and frankly if it’s more than a year old I don’t want to know.” She lifted the cap and twisted until the applicator appeared. “Hold it close to your mouth and then move it slowly out from the middle.”

Fry took the lipstick and stared at it for a moment. It was a hot pink, which looked quite attractive on Leela but might not work for her, though obviously she wouldn’t know unless she tried. With great care she held the applicator near her bottom lip and pouted. Her hand hovered for a moment. “I’m not sure I can do this.”

“Oh give it here,” Leela said, grabbing the gloss. She lifted Fry’s face and looked at it. “Your lips are quite thin, perhaps we can just plump them up a bit,” she said as she waved the gloss over Fry’s mouth. Fry felt a momentary greasy sensation as the gloss was layered on, which disappeared as it cured and bonded. “There, now make a kissy face again.”

Fry pressed her lips together and then licked at the gloss. It felt almost invisible. She looked in the mirror. Leela had done a surprisingly good job, filling out her lips just a little without exaggerating them. Fry turned her head this way and that, admiring the way the gloss brightened up her face without making her look slutty. “Wow, look at me.”

“If you want I can put on a little foundation and-”

“No, no this is fine,” Fry said, touching her cheeks for a second. She licked her lips again. “I figured I should make an effort but I don’t want to go overboard.”

“Sensible girl.” Leela dropped the gloss back in her bag. “Now, go get changed so we can hit the party. I think Amy will be done by now.”

Fry nodded. She put her hand on the door handle, then paused and turned to look at Leela again. “Thanks, Leela. You’re the best friend I could have right now.”

Leela blushed and smiled.

Fry stood in front of a full-length mirror and admired herself again. The dress was more than perfect, it made her look good, even if she did say so herself. She twisted this way and that, making sure she wasn’t snagged or wrinkled in an embarrassing way, even though she knew Amy was behind her somewhere, fuming at Fry for taking so long to change. Leela had gone off with Samuel several minutes ago and Amy was eager to get into the party. Fry didn’t care. She was enjoying the moment.

“All right, you’ve seen yourself some more, now can we go?” Amy stalked over to the door and pulled it open a little too violently. “I’m missing all the fun!

Fry sighed and looked heavenward. She gave herself one last look in the mirror and blew herself a kiss. “Why didn’t you just go ahead and leave me?” Fry said as she joined Amy in the corridor and they started to walk toward the elevators.

“And miss the chance to see everyone drooling over you like idiots? Imagine how they’d feel if they knew,” Amy said with a salacious grin. She smoothed down her own dress – orange, Fry noted – and grinned again. “This party is going to be so much fun. And I’ll finally get to see Kiffy! Isn’t that great?”

“Yeah. Great,” Fry said, examining her nails. Perhaps she should have coloured them. She glanced at Amy’s fingers and saw she was even wearing some sort of extensions. They paused in front of the elevators and waited for a car to arrive. “I’m not sure I like the idea of people drooling over me. It’s making me nervous,” she said.

“Oh. I wouldn’t know about that,” Amy said brightly. Fry looked at her.

“You must have been nervous at your first party though?”

“Nope!” Amy smiled at Fry again and hopped into the elevator as soon as the doors slid open. Fry followed her cautiously, reasoning that something that cheerful had to be dangerous.

It had to be attitude, she realised as the elevator began its slow descent to the ballroom where the after-conference party was being held. Amy assumed that everyone liked her, and so more often than not they did. She was shallow, but not in the vindictive sort of way, which meant she just didn’t notice when people thought badly of her. Fry wondered if she could ever manage to be like that. Before she’d just not cared what people thought but now, changed, she had become very conscious of other people’s attitudes toward her. It permeated everything she did.

Being a woman was so complicated!

The elevator came to rest and opened at the head of a long, banking set of stairs that widened out on to the floor of a huge ballroom. Here and there a diplomatic Ruklisk stood by a wall or in a corner, ignoring the assembled species that thronged the ballroom floor as they swept their rolling black eyes over the assembly. A small orchestra was just completing the final segue of Strawberry Fields to polite applause from the few guests who had actually deigned to dance. Fry spotted Hermes and LaBarbara near the orchestra chatting to a strange looking alien – obviously trying to get a lead on a contract. All work and no play. She crept forward and started down the stairs, keeping close to the rail.

Amy suddenly ran past her, waving her arm in the air and staring at a knot of diplomats near a buffet table. “Kiffy!”

The Amphibian detached himself from the crowd and ran across the ballroom, meeting Amy just as she reached the bottom step. They flew into a hug. “Oh Amy,” Kif said, almost smiling. “I’ve missed you so...”

“Poor little Kif,” Amy replied, stroking Kif’s head. She swept the slender alien up in another hug and spun him around. “Kif, I want you to meet someone,” she said as she put him down. Fry was just reaching the foot of the stairs, grumbling under her breath about how stupid her shoes were. She kicked her heels against the floor.

“I don’t know how the hell you walk in these things,” she grumbled, staring at her feet. Her calves were already starting to ache from the unaccustomed position. “I swear I will never make a joke about high heels again...” Fry looked up and found Kif and Amy staring at him. Amy raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. She turned to Kif.

“Kif, this is Philippa. She’s-”

“A cousin,” Fry said, and then screwed up her face to think. “Hubert Farnsworth’s, um, cousin. Uh... a hundred and twenty times removed or something.”

Kif looked Fry up and down with a vaguely confused air, then peered closely at her face. “You look a lot like Amy’s ex,” he said slowly, then seemed to snap out of whatever stupor he was in. “Uh, excuse me, I’ve been on tour with Brannigan for the last eight months. You tend to lose social skills.”

“That’s okay,” Fry said. She leaned against the stair-rail and lifted one of her legs in the air with a pained sigh, twisting her ankle to relieve the pressure on her calf. “Oh man, it’s like being a giant Barbie doll...”

Kif watched her with puzzled fascination until Amy noticed and batted him on the shoulder. He swayed under the impact but didn’t seem particularly pained. “Ah, excuse me. Sorry Amy. I should get back to-”

“Lieutenant!” Zapp’s voice echoed across the ballroom. Kif started trembling and looked wildly about, trying to find Brannigan; Fry spotted him making a bee-line for their little coterie, a determined look on his face. “Kif, you’re supposed to be attending to me while I entertain these fine people,” he said as he drew close. Zapp clamped a hand on Kif’s shoulder and turned him around. “Why are you cowering over here like some kind of- why, what’s this?”

Fry realised this sudden change of attitude was aimed at her. She put her foot down and looked up at Zapp. The captain was sweating slightly and seemed a little the worse for drink but, under all that flab, he did almost seem handsome. Something about his personality was-

“So, apart from being very erotic what do you do for a living?” Zapp wiggled his eyebrows and Fry saw him tucking a little brown book into his pocket. She groaned.

Zapp gave an ostentatious bow with a flourish of his hand, and then took Fry’s hand and kissed it. Fry shuddered. “Please don’t do that.”

“Oh but I must,” Zapp said, licking a knuckle. Fry squeaked and pulled her hand back. She suddenly had to lean further back as Zapp cast himself toward her, leering and grasping for her shoulders. There was a stink of cheap spirits on his breath, mixed with expensive wine and too much greasy food. Fry gagged and almost stumbled backwards under the onslaught.

“You’re almost as erotic as Leela... say, where is Leela?” Zapp straightened up and looked around the room.

“Probably hiding!” Fry said, pushing Zapp away. She backed up, ready to fend off Zapp’s advances again but he wasn’t interested any more.

The overbearing idiot grabbed Kif’s shoulder again and pulled him up so his head was at Zapp’s height. “Kif, I have to find her. She promised me a dance, and if I can time it right I might be able to convince her to take a look at my royal suite.”

Kif sighed and let himself hang limp. It was easier. “Is that a euphemism, sir?”

“A youfer-what?”

“Never mind, sir...” Kif peered over his shoulder at Amy. “I don’t suppose you know where Leela has gone?”

Amy shrugged and looked around the room. “I guess she’s probably beating up some head of state to get a contract out of them somewhere,” she said, eyeing Zapp’s arm and hefting her purse. Kif saw the motions and quickly shook his head to warn her off.

“Sir, perhaps you should try the buffet,” he said, pointing to the far side of the room. Zapp nodded thoughtfully.

“Good thinking, Lieutenant. The way to a man’s bed is through his stomach. If she wants me, she’ll be there.” Zapp put Kif down – dropped him, more accurately – and straightened his uniform. He swayed slightly as he walked off toward the buffet.

Fry sighed and sat down on the stair. “I don’t know how he ever managed to convince Leela to sleep with him,” she said, massaging her ankles. Amy looked up from her place at Kif’s side and shrugged. “He’s an idiot. An ugly idiot.”

“Yeah, well Leela has a bit of a soft-spot for idiots.” she said.

“I was an idiot and I never noticed that before.” Fry’s brow crinkled as she tried to figure out what she’d just said. It felt like she should be having one of those epiphany things right now but all she could think about was getting drunk. “Forget it, I’m going to get something to eat,” she said, standing up. Fry looked down at her feet and frowned, then quickly pulled her shoes off. “I really don’t know how you manage in these things.”

Amy shrugged again. “You get used to it I guess,” she said, helping Kif to his feet. She put her arm around the alien’s slim shoulders and gave him a quick cuddle. “If you try hard enough you can get used to anything.”

Kif smiled at Amy, the genuine smile that Fry had never seen him use around anyone else. She tied her shoes together and, giving the pair a final glance, slung the shoes around her neck and wandered over to the buffet table. Of course she was careful to avoid Brannigan, who was at the far end of the table stuffing a handful of canapés into his mouth. Fry loaded up a plate with snacks – what the hell, one night wouldn’t ruin her figure, would it? - and meandered across the floor until she found an empty table. She sat down at toyed with her food, then sat back to watch the crowds moving about.

A flash of purple bobbed through the throng toward her and Leela finally emerged, trailing Samuel behind her like a lost puppy. They sat down next to Fry; Samuel stole a few items from Fry’s plate. “Turnabout is fair play,” he said with a wink. Fry shrugged.

“This place is giving me the creeps,” Leela said as she glanced over her shoulder. “Have you seen the number of guards they have around here?”

“I hadn’t really noticed,” Fry said, rubbing her hand. Even though it made absolutely no sense she was sure she could still feel Zapp’s tongue on it. She shivered. “Zapp is looking for you by the buffet.”

“I saw, that’s why we haven’t eaten yet,” Leela replied, looking at Samuel, who smiled briefly before stealing some more of Fry’s food. He didn’t wink this time. “Have you seen Bender or Zoidberg since you got here?”

“Nope. I haven’t seen them since we got to our rooms.” Fry said, turning to look at the buffet. Normally the Decapodian would have been hovering, for want of a better word, around the largest supply of food in the room. Perhaps that was why he was missing. “I guess they didn’t want him hogging the buffet. I hope we’re not eating him.”

“I wouldn’t mind so much if Zapp had the decency to go missing with them,” Leela said, glaring at the man who, it seemed, was still managing to entertain a small group of dignitaries. The laughed and applauded as he finished some embellished tale with a flourish of his arms. Leela growled. “I’m going to find Bender. In case that idiot asks, tell him I died or something.”

“My lips are sealed,” Fry said around a half-eaten scotch egg. Leela screwed up her face at Fry’s lack of manners but didn’t say anything. She stood up and turned to Samuel.


“Not like I have anything better to do,” he said with a smile. Sam paused half way through standing and leaned toward Fry. “Thanks for the food.”

They made a beeline for the doors at the far end of the ballroom and were swallowed up in the crowd. Fry sat back in her seat and resumed watching the crowds. There seemed to be a small commotion as someone made their way through the gathering toward a podium set up opposite the stairs. A security team started to move up around the podium, gently ushering people away from it until there was a respectable distance. Then, to rising applause, President Glab made her way up tot he podium, followed by Zapp and a an arrogant looking Ruklisk of some indeterminate but high rank. She held out her hands for silence.

“My good friends, we reach, tonight, a culmination of a process that has brought peace to our galaxy after a century of hostility. Thanks to the efforts of our gallant Captain, we have finally ended our cold war with the Ruklisk.” Glab held up a glass, which was quickly filled by a waiter. She inclined her head to the man and held the glass higher. “To peace,” she said, taking a large swill from the glass. The gathering joined her toast with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Glab put down her glass – obviously not her first of the night, as she swayed just a little – and looked out at the gathered leaders. She smiled benevolently. “Thanks to the efforts of our diplomatic teams the Democratic Order of Planets can now welcome the Ruklisk as equals. This new era of peace means that we no longer need to maintain our fleet at its current level. Last week I authorised the decommissioning of ninety-five percent of the fleet. Those ships not already docked are returning to their home ports even as we speak.”

The room erupted, with some delegates yelling their disgust, whilst the rest either cheered, congratulated each other or tried to calm everyone down. Around the edges of the room the Ruklisk shifted on their feet and looked at each other. Zapp looked up at Glab, his face paling as he clenched his fists. He set his jaw and frowned at the floor. Glab, unable to find a gavel, started banging her fist on the podium for order with little effect. “Be quiet! All of you!”

Eventually the crowd settled down, with one or two leaders sporting minor injuries, including a few bite marks. Glab held out her hands. “The DOOP council are in the process of finding a new purpose for the remaining ships. Our militarism was a necessary response to the threats we faced in the last century, but that threat no longer exists. Now we are truly an organisation of peace, and to that end I am promoting Zapp Branigan to the rank of Ambassador General. The Ambasador will now give his thoughts on what we have achieved.

“I give you Zapp Brannigan.”

Brannigan rose from his seat, wobbling and sweating profusely, shaken but unbowed. He pulled himself upright and walked up to the podium to a smattering of applause, lead by President Glab, and put his hand out to quiet them. “Thank you, thank you all. You know, I often say that history is made by putting the right man in the right place and letting, uh... history do the talking.” There as an uncomfortable silence. Zapp scratched his side and peered at the crowd. He tapped the mike in front of him. “Is this thing on? Never mind. Today, I come to you not as a Captain, or an officer, but as a man. A man with needs, a man with desires. A ship. A crew. A woman at my side...”

Zapp gripped the sides of the podium and bowed his head. “I come to you as a man with victory in his hands, carrying the torch of peace through the dark valley of the shadow of war. I am not, by nature, a violent man but I always pull through when the chips are falling like flies to the slaughter. The loss of my fleet is a hard blow to my staying the course, however.

“I have prepared a few words of verse to commemorate this event...” Zapp reached into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of paper.

“Oh brother,” Fry said, putting her head in her hands. It was going to be a long, long night.