Futurama

Fan Fiction

Atypical Delivery, part 2
By JBERGES

Chapter 4

Airlocks were, and still are, a major building block in space technology... just like Space-Legos. Without them, any type of smooth transition from a livable state to the vacuum of space would be nearly impossible. There are two major types of airlocks. Firstly, the archaic two-stage airlock: Invented eons ago, this system required the traveler to first enter a sealed room, wherein the pressure was slowly altered to a set point. The traveler then proceeded out the other side once the pressures matched. This has all been rendered obsolete by the invention of the one-stage airlock. The device makes use of dark energy (not to be confused with dark matter), a mysterious yet palpable force of the cosmos that exerts a negative pressure on any baryonic matter. An intricately designed wall of energy, invisible to the eye, manifests when the portal opens, creating a seamless pressure continuum, as well as forming a permeable barrier of repulsion for oxygen atoms at the inner si! de, effectively holding in the air. Such airlocks are currently in practical use in rest stops, battle cruisers, and escape pods on fancy cruise liners. Soon, all but the antique ships will be equipped.


The taxi carrying the crew plowed through the rest-stop’s airlock before it could close, keeping the distance between it and the Planet Express ship manageable. Less manageable was the situation arising in the backseat.

“We have to go back! We have to go back!” shouted Fry, realizing the spot they had just left their Martian friend in.

“We can’t go back, damnit!” snapped Leela. “I refuse to lose my ship to... to whoever happens to be stealing it!”

“But Amy-“

“Amy will be fine. We’ll go back for her later. Charlie isn’t too bad of a guy once you get to know him.”

“Yeah,” added Bender, “And it’s not like he has anything else to do considering we stole his cargo, Fry.”

“You WHAT?” This was enough to elicit an alarum inside of Leela. “Have you no conviction?!”

“Three last month alone, and that’s why I approve your idea of getting as far away from here as possible.”

“Leela,” Fry tried to plead, “It wasn’t my idea! It-“

“Oh of course it wasn’t,” railed Leela, “I can count on you not having ideas, but you probably just went along with it like you always do.”

“I... I tried to stop him at first...” Fry mumbled meekly, like a child who had made his mother disappointed.

“Well this is just great,” bemoaned Leela. “Now I don’t know if we should– OW!”

Her head struck the ceiling of the cab as it suddenly jerked downward, then to the left, then in many non-Cartesian directions. The sensation felt jarringly familiar to the woman’s recently disrupted thought process.

“What are you doing?!” she yelled to the cabbie.

“Just trying to follow that ship, like you said, ma’am.” He responded, pointing a heretofore uncategorized appendage towards the Planet Express ship, which appeared to be engaged in some sort of insectan mating dance.

Leela exhaled in slight relief. “The broken quantum drives!” she exclaimed. “How could we forget about those?! They won’t get far at all! This makes everything much easi- OW!” Her face struck Bender’s torso as the taxi corkscrewed.

“OK...” she forced through gritted teeth, “just... just follow the ship’s general trajectory, alright?”

“You’ve got it, ma’am.” The driver steadied the vessel just in time to be blinded by a bright flash.


“What the hell did that damn lobster do?!” screeched Holly, clinging to the captain’s chair for dear life, having previously neglected to engage her seat restraint.

“Probably nothing, he’s too stupid to sabotage us so quickly. I’m placing my blame with the pilot,” responded Kui, neglecting to engage restraint of a more oral variety.

“Ugh, it’s not my fault; and I can’t concentrate! Why do you have to be so agitating?!”

“I can’t help it Hol, my spinal cord is the agitator from an old top-loader...”

If Holly’s immediate response could be accurately transcribed, it would be liable to contain more ellipses than the standard geometry book. Who could crack a joke at a time like this? They were spiraling, shaking, and shimmying towards nowhere in particular, and the woman could tell that the ship would soon fall apart under its own duress. She pushed the disturbing implications of this out of her mind and focused on what she could handle.

“Get that lobst- what the frig is his name anyway? Well, get him up here. Just in case he knows more than he lets on.”

“But... but he might be naked!” Kui’s expression contorted in a fairly anomalous way for a killing machine.

“If you don’t get out of here in five seconds, I’ll get naked.’

“You wouldn’t.”

She bravely let the seat go with one hand and grasped her shirt zealously.

“Three...”

“Ack! Alright, I’m going!” The robot scampered away like an embarrassed teenage boy.

Drastic times, drastic measures. If he could play on her insecurities, she could play on his. Though, the thought of that lobster’s adipose flesh jiggling in harmonic phase with the ship was even a bit much for her stomach, which, in turn, she silently hoped would not act in a similar manner if further exposed.


Back in the cab, the driver steadied himself as he slowly realized he was not being attacked.

“Oh, that didn’t distract you, did it buddy?” asked Bender, scant an iota of concern in his voice. “When Grace’s skull here found its way to my shiny exterior, it reminded me that I wanted to try out the camera I put in there. This little viewfinder here locked right on to that reflection of you in the mirror. Ah, the paltry marvels of non-Bender technology...”

“Alright, alright, just take it easy,” huffed the cabbie. “My driving’s not exactly stellar... well wait... I guess by its very nature it is... but-”

“Picture’s ready!” shouted Fry, reveling in the current diversion. The camera spat out a photo into Fry’s waiting hand. He gawked uneasily at it.

“This isn’t you...” Fry declared to the driver. “It’s some creepy alien with a white face wearing spandex...’

“Hmm... looks like one of those dancer guys from the Cirque du Alpha Centauri,” replied Leela, peering over Fry’s shoulder. Apparently, she had been hoping for a distraction just as much.

“The what?” croaked the cabbie, peering back into the passenger area.

“Y’know, the Cirque du AC?” Leela resumed, “It’s this big spectacle that travels from system to system and a bunch of girly guys dance-“

“They are NOT girly! They are cultured!” Bellowed the driver, with a tone that suggested a nerve had been hit.

“Yeah, I suppose that you can’t stereotype....” dawdled Leela, expressionless, “But regardless, if you get your kicks dressing like that and prancing around, you’ve got a screw loose.”

“You... take... that... back.” The cabbie raged, now with a tone that suggested a nerve had been sliced and haphazardly torn from the flesh. In a starling coincidence, Fry concurrently lost his nerve.

“Alright man,” he started, “I don’t think she meant any-“

“It’s you!” shouted Bender, still analyzing the photograph. “You’re the crazy sissy in the leotard! Why did you tell us you were in the Cirque?”

“I’m... I’m not! I just... I just...” The creature’s voice cracked, and he suddenly became quite despondent, but this emotion was quickly followed by a blinding fury. “Listen you freaks, I don’t know where you come from or what kind of vile mind games you’re playing but I have had enough! Get the hell out of my cab!”

With that, he pressed a glowing red button on the dashboard. Two “Crap!”s and a “Huh?” barely escaped to the front of the vessel before a divider shot up between the two sides, sealing them apart. The back instantaneously jettisoned from the front, while said front made a quick U-turn, heading back towards the rest-stop. The passengers met his icy stare as he passed by.

“Arg, she didn’t mean it! I have screws loose all the time! It’s a robo-compliment!” blathered Bender, as if he could still be heard. Further protests dissolved into a string of unintelligible syllables as their speed of expulsion increased at the same rate the taxi disappeared.

“It’s no use Bender,” sighed Leela. “We’ll have to ride it out.” She pointed out the flat glass window that now acted as a windshield of sorts. “We’re drifting towards that planet over there. Hopefully it’s inhabited, and hopefully he wasn’t cruel enough to disable the auto-reentry routine.”

Meanwhile, Fry’s thought from a minute and a half ago finally reached his mouth. “What’s happening? Why was that guy so mad?”

“He jettisoned us.” Leela began. “The Astro-Jettison Act of 2860 reserves cab drivers the right to abandon unruly or dangerous passengers, as long as there’s a decent chance they’ll survive. As for why he was mad...” Leela took the picture into her hand.

“This does look like him...” she confirmed. “What is with this camera you stole?”

“Who cares!” shouted Fry, briefly swapping places as the pessimistic one. “Are we going to die or not?” He had had enough angst for the day. At least 500 angstroms of it, by his count.

“Probably not.” Leela assured. “Though let’s hope there’s a hospital within a mile or so of where we land. This won’t exactly be safe.”

“Woohoo! Another free bag of glucose!” Fry shouted, and was content.


Amy gazed lingeringly into those cold eyes. Buried under the layers of odium, there was some empathy, and that’s probably why she hadn’t been hurt yet. She could understand why Charlie was so upset, but really, were the restraints necessary? Shuffling in her chair, the Martian was briefly able to see things from his side, and considered that she too would probably want some collateral if something of value had been taken from her. In truth, she held some empathy for Charlie’s situation as well, but it shared the same protective layering.

“You’re... you’re not going to do anything to me are you?” she stuttered, noticing she sounded a lot more shaken than she thought she was.

Charlie sighed. “Look kid, I know you didn’t do anything wrong, but I’m not letting you go anywhere until I get back what’s mine. I’m not trusting anyone anymore.”

“But... but they need to get our ship back first! You’re going to leave me tied up for hours?” Frankly, she was used to the arrangement, but not the circumstances. “Why don’t you go after Bender... follow their cab?”

“Because I’m in no mood for a chase. Worried about them not coming back, are we?”

Amy could tell where he was going with this. “They’ll be back as soon as they can. They’d never abandon anyone.”

“That confident in your friends, eh?” Charlie reiterated, slowly thumbing through the contents of Amy’s wallet, pausing on her pictures of the crew. “Hmph. And a Reptile lover I see...” He held up a particularly adorable print of Kif and Amy.

While she fought the urge to correct his nomenclature, Foster developed a wry sort of smile. “Heh, I’m twice the man he could ever be.”

“…I’m a quarter the woman you’d ever want.”

Charlie laughed earnestly at this, but in one unbroken motion viciously kicked Amy’s chair over. With no way to stop the fall, Amy took the brunt of the impact, but stayed focused on her assailant’s next move from her back. He was still infuriated, but... he wasn’t even looking at her...

“You’re losing it! Losing it! Think this through!” He barked at a nearby mirror. There was a pregnant pause, and it appeared to be triplets. “Damnit... why can’t I...” he broke off sharply. “Fine! I’ll do it. We’ll catch up to your friends, they’ll get their ship, I’ll rip your robot to shrapnel, and we’ll all be on our way, OK?”

“OK.” Amy muttered weakly, quite disconcerted by the psychotic tone Charlie’s voice was taking on. Without hesitation, he was peering down at her.

“Right. Let’s go.” He said calmly, reaching down and offering a hand.

Amy timidly gestured toward her bound arms with her head. “Uhh...-” she started.

Charlie blinked. “Oh! How stupid of me!” he chortled awkwardly. Swiftly retracting his outstretched arm, he turned around, and walked away.


On the impaired Planet Express ship, Holly steered to the best of her ability; it felt like the ship was disintegrating all around her. Having given up on an escape, she began a dicey descent into the atmosphere of the first habitable planet she was able to reach.

“The landing gear was non-responsive, Kui,” said Holly “Any suggestions?”

“Aim for a lake Hol, I’ll count how many times we skip,” the robot mused dryly. Holly was no longer in the mood, though she never really had been.

“Kui, do you want to die?!”

“I wasn’t being serious, I-“

“No, I mean, do you want me to kill you, right now, with a sizeable blunt object?”

“I-”

“Well then help me or SHUT UP!!

The edge on her voice was nigh enough to cut the tension in the air. Kui peered out the windshield and took a deep, unnecessary, simulated breath. The planet’s surface no longer appeared spherical; they had one shot at this.

“Alright Holly my dear, the best way to do this is to bisect the gap in between those two mountains over there, then bring it to a sliding stop on the downhill section behind them.”

Holly exhaled deeply, making up for the fact that Kui had forgotten to. “Right, I see.” She attempted to adjust the trajectory, aiming for a rather tiny opening flanked by two intimidating peaks. “Like this?”

“Yeah, just hold it steady. Bisect the gap, and then- woah! More bisectually! More bisectually!”

Kui ducked for cover, as if a lower stance would help his situation. The ship had had enough of listening to its driver, and very nearly careened off of the leftmost summit. On a desperate whim, Holly cut the engines completely, realizing that they were going to miss their only soft landing spot. For a brief moment, her body relaxed completely. At least the violent quaking was over, and they had done all they could. Finally having an opportunity to, she latched her seatbelt tight, and turned to her still cowering companion.

“Keep ducking Terminator, your crash position might actually help you this time around.”

She braced herself. This was it. The last thing she heard made her both wince and smile in the most morbid of ways.

“You fixed the shaking while I got my shell? Splendid! I was beginning to wonder if- Brrrraaaa!!!!!


Chapter 5

Quantum physicists, or ‘quantum mechanics’ as they came to be known (due to the fact that they were the only people able to fix any invention based on their theorems) achieved near celebrity status in 2900, when the last possible law in the field was successfully crafted. A unified theory was complete, allowing for the understanding of everything scientifically explainable. That said, the mechanics became arrogant jerks, secluding themselves in cliques and having lengthy, high profile ‘scientific’ meetings.

Nothing is truly accomplished at these summits, since everything to be discovered already has been. However, they continue to convene, even as their celebrity status wanes to that of B-movie stars, spending meeting after meeting rehashing pseudoscientific jargon in the hopes that it will make them seem important again. Their last report looked something like this:

New Super-Awesome Laws of Nature

1) If something has happened, there is still a chance that it did not, in fact, happen.

2) If something didn’t happen, there is no chance that it happened.

3) That said, a box is a surprisingly inadequate place to keep a particle.

4) Pauli Exclusion Principle: The head of Wolfgang Pauli is no longer allowed to these meetings, because he is a loser. (voted for unanimously by all scientists, except Heisenberg, who remains uncertain).

All things considered, quantum mechanics are brilliant, but no longer do anything useful for society. The odds of finding one anywhere, besides at a sleazy bar shouting pickup lines like, “Hey baby, your structure is hyper-fine!” are incredibly low. The odds of finding one in places where you’d actually need one are nil to negative slim.


“Hey, this planet’s habited!” squealed Fry, “We’ll find a ride and a mechanic here for sure!”

Fry crawled out of the taxi-half and surveyed the desolate town they had landed by. Everyone had survived the spectacular crash, as usual. Crashes had become so mundane to the trio that Leela had even stopped mentioning them in mission logs and diary entries. They simply weren’t worth the waste of time to describe them.

The cyclops checked her wrist. “Hmm, breathable air… and this planet is recognized by DOOP, so they speak English at least. Maybe we’re not totally boned.”

“Wait, wha?” Fry faltered.

“Haven’t you noticed that no matter where we go, you can communicate with people? When DOOP headquarters moved to New Jersey, the universal language became English. All citizens of DOOP planets are required to know it… except the people of Earth… for some odd reason.”

“Oh…” Fry seemed enlightened. “I just thought everyone in the future used telepathy.”

“Well that’s just stupid. When have you ever-”

Fry raised his finger as if to interject, and stared cogitatively at her.

“Fry, I can’t read your thoughts.”

“Oh, right. Well, then- hey what the-”

Overhead, a distinctive shape plummeted through the atmosphere. It was a beacon of hope, as well as a normal beacon, not associated with an emotion. Leela raised a fist to the sky.

“Don’t crash my ship, whoever you are!!” she shouted.

“Yeah, you’re stealing her job,” quipped Bender, finally emerging from the capsule.

“No one crashes like I can,” Leela replied, quite proud of herself. “C’mon, we’ve gotta chase it down. It’s going to land miles from here. Let’s head into town and see if we can bum a ride.”

“Or ride a bum.” added Bender.

The two carbon beings started to walk towards what appeared to be the most populous section of the town ahead of them. Bender followed close behind.

“Hey guys, check out this picture I just took!”


Holly lay slumped in her chair, drifting back into consciousness. A small light directed at her face, she opened one eye grimly and mumbled to the blurry red figure holding a flashlight before her.

“Uhhhghh... am I dead?”

“Yes. I’m so sorry. I did all I could-”

“You?!” the woman shot, hate proving the elixir required to bring her around. “You’re... you’re... but you’re not even hurt?!” This clearly bothered her substantially. She closed her eyes again, running a hand through her hair and over her neck. Either she had sweat more than she ever had in her life, was currently bleeding to death, or had wet herself in extraordinary fashion. Forcing her eyes open again she scanned the area, and with that, dissected her predicament.

“Please be blood...” she muttered to herself, but didn’t venture to check her hand for the telltale signs.

“We. Are. Screwed!” Kui’s voice echoed through the halls as he approached. “This ship is totaled! Communications are down! Either we start walking, or we somehow miraculously put this contraption back together. And those engines don’t make sense to me at all!”

“Well, we can always try...” Holly tried to sound confident; she didn’t like the sawtooth Kui’s normally sinusoidal speech had taken on. She changed the subject. “Hey, am I bleeding?”

“Yeah, but it’s mixed with a lot of sweat.” The robot was loud enough, yet distant, if such a thing was possible. Holly decided to put her concerns to the test.

“Hmm… I’m surprised I came out of it so well, not a lot of padding around here.”

“Yeah...” The robot murmured. Now she was truly scared.

What, no fat joke? That was a perfect set up! Are you OK?!”

“We’re... we’re not making it out of this Hol.” He suddenly sobbed. “We’re going to die and this lobster’s going to be here through it all, as unharmed and stupid as ever.”

In fact, Zoidberg had not moved since Holly first saw him. He remained quiet, watching purposefully.

“C’mon now...” She was not used to situations like this at all. “I’m sure it’ll work out OK. Grab a medkit for me and one for the ship; we’ll give it a try.”

“I... I saw some weird looking ferret thing hoarding a medkit back in the halls. He was by the gravity field former, which seems to be in working order at least. I’ll snatch it from him.” The robot slowly steadied himself.

“Repair kit’s probably down that ladder,” Holly commented, pointing across the cockpit. “So grab a kit for me, kay?”

“Which one, the former or the ladder?”

“We’ll need both.”

“Medkits?!” Zoidberg suddenly interrupted, “Those are for patch jobs and quacks with no talent! I have a whole office full of medical equipment! Used syringes, body bags, shell glue, whatever!”

Holly considered beating him to death with a piece of his own carapace, but then thought of a much more clever solution.

“Well, I am bleeding a little bit, and I have a hangnail. Do you have any heavy duty tranquilizers?”

“Absolutely.”

“OK, Doctor, you can help me.”

Kui visibly brightened, which meant either he was a bit happier or had just blown a potentiometer.

“See Kui, at least some things work out,” she said, allowing Zoidberg to dutifully carry her out of the room. “Let’s get started as soon as I’m done with him, I’m getting tired.”

“And fat!”

“Mmm... a bit forced now. Wait for your moment,” she critiqued through a sincere smile. As bad as the situation was, it’d be much worse if they didn’t stick together.


Bender’s picture depicted a scene so busy that Leela and Fry had to squint a bit as they walked to determine everything that was going on. Like the picture taken before, the photo itself was monogrammed ‘N.S.’ in the far lower right. The scene portrayed completely corroborated Leela’s suspicion of what was specifically unique about the camera other than simply that. Bender was on center stage surrounded by countless robotic and human fans alike, Beck at his side, money, booze, and cigars nearly rained from the sky. Leela scoffed lightly at the sheer selfishness this implied, but smirked when she first noticed the purple and orange spots in the crowd. She wondered if Bender had even noticed the whole crew was there in the front row.

Noticing Fry’s perplexed countenance beside her, she gave him a short explanation.

“Don’t you get it Fry? This camera takes a snapshot of what you most want.”

“Oh... I was wondering why someone would build a camera that inserted you into a random performance.”

“Well... actually that could be true too, but my version makes much more sense.”

“Well, let’s try it out again and find out!” shouted a contented Bender, raising the camera to point at Fry. Leela instinctively snatched it from him as if the subsequent shot were to fire a bullet.

“Let’s not.” she demanded, and then added, far too awkwardly, “We don’t know if it has any adverse effects... could be... could be dangerous!”

Embarrassing thoughts scampered through Leela’s hassled mind. Perhaps it was a bit narcissistic, but she knew at least one thing Fry had always wanted to do, and though it may not have topped his list, she wanted no chance of discovering such a scene on film. Granted, she knew Fry wasn’t as bad as Zapp, who went as far as to retain half a dozen of most items so he could say “sex-tuple” more than any normal person should. Still... something about what image could fade onto that exposure, be it of her own exposure or not, set her on edge.

A bus passing on the opposite side of the intersection they had just reached looked awesome enough to dislodge the guys from any rebuttal. It skidded into the terminal, unfolded itself into an Optimus Prime type character, did a quick penance as passengers boarded, then folded back up, speeding away with remarkable efficiency. As it drove off, Leela caught of the glimpse of the sign on the side of the bus: “CAUTION: Bus Kneels.”

Heretofore unnoticed due to this spectacle, the bussing facility came into view across the street.

“Looks like a bus is our best chance,” Leela said, “I’ll go in there and see if any are headed east; you wait here in case one comes by while I’m asking.”


Elsewhere, in a galaxy, far far away, life was proceeding as usual for the two earthbound members of Planet Express. The ceiling had been painted, the couch was deservedly sanitized, and the lab animals had been mostly re-emboweled. The Professor was quietly asleep, and Hermes joyfully reveled in the lack of din. He quintuple-stamped a form entitled “Box Delivery to Disorgatron,” thereby vowing on his bureaucratic badge that the package had arrived. It was a typical delivery, so though he hadn’t heard anything from the crew yet, he remained either blithely confident in their success, or blithely apathetic to their fate. All was well.

“Hermes, bring me my formal bed-pan!”

Perhaps not.


Meanwhile, the typical delivery has turned atypical, and was only getting worse; Leela had hit another jam. Of course, for this crew, a typical delivery was atypical, and anything not atypical was far from a typical experience.

“So... there are no more buses running today?”

“Nope, that was the last one” the teller politely replied.

“Could I order a taxi of some sort from here?”

“Well, you probably could, but, they won’t accept foreign currency or extragalactic credit cards without numerous ID’s, and the banks have already closed. We’ll be closing soon too, now that the last bus has left.”

Leela scratched her head; this was looking more and more like a definite problem.

“Well... can you try to get me a loan?”

“Baby, I’d love too get you alone.”

The wink that followed sent a familiar shiver up the woman’s spine. Perhaps luckily, Fry concurrently burst through the door, interrupting the ill-fated flow of the conversation.

“Leela, let’s go! Another bus is coming by! We can catch it!”

Realizing she was practically at a dead end anyway, Leela vaulted the queue rope and easily beat Fry to the door in pursuit of the bus that was indeed passing by. Following close behind, Fry and Bender waved their hands desperately, trying to catch the attention of the driver, who had apparently failed to stop at the nearby terminal. Nearly a half-sprinted block later, Leela realized the pursuit was futile; she was losing ground, and could not keep up much longer. She slowed to a walk and made a U-turn, noting with some meager delight that it would be a few seconds before Fry and even Bender reached her.

“It’s useless,” she said as they slowed to a halt. “I’ll have to try to convince that teller to help us. According to him there’s no more buses, so we have no other means of transport.”

Looking up, however, Leela noticed the lights were now off in the building they had come from.

“No! Don’t be closed now!” Leela ran back at a fatigued pace to discover a ‘Closed’ sign on the door, yet none of anyone within.

Plopping herself to the curb with blatant disregard for her posterior, Leela exhaled. They had no chance of getting to their ship now, unless another unscheduled bus randomly came by. Seeing as one just had, she reasoned there was still a sliver of hope. Noticing that once again Fry and Bender had caught up to her, she turned to the redhead.

“Did you manage to see where that bus was headed, Fry?”

“Oh, yeah. I saw the going-to display. It’s heading to a place called Knotten’s Irviss. Do you think it’s near where we need to go?”

“Knotten’s Irviss?” That didn’t quite sit right with the woman; though she couldn’t exactly determine where she knew that place from, she was positive that she had heard of it before.

And then it hit her, like a sack full of sacks full of dark matter.

“Fry... it didn’t by chance say NOT IN SERVICE, did it?!

“Um... maybe? I don’t know, the bus was moving really fast.... Oh, also, I can’t read that well, and have bad gums.”

Fry now cowered from the all-too-well known furrowed brow and emergence of the vein, which he had semi-affectionately dubbed ‘Veiny,’ on Leela’s forehead.

“This is perfect, just perfect! Because of you, we have absolutely-”

*click*

“Bender, enough with the damn camera!”

Leela winked the spots from her eye and grabbed the contraption from Bender.

“No. More,” she seethed. This was her breaking point; any other surplus of emotion would set her over the edge, which is why it must have been the prominent self-destructive side of her psyche driving her pupil photo-ward as the blips faded from her oversized retina. The result was nearly enough to send her mental-ward.

More bittersweet than the chocolate she was wishing she had a cubic fathom of right now, the photo was simultaneously a striking rendition of a treasured desire and a slap to the face. She, Fry and Bender were there, each carrying boxes into a well-furnished apartment. Her parents embraced in the sunlight streaming majestically through the open window-

“Oh, God...” Leela choked. She’d need a dictionary, a translator, and a Geiger counter to explain how she was feeling at this point, but it didn’t matter. She broke down just like her ship had before, leaving Fry in the uncomfortable predicament of determining just how much to comfort her, knowing he was a large factor in her current emotional fragility.

Fry lay an arm gently over her shoulder and sat down as close to her as he could without getting tingly. He looked at the photo as a rush of understanding found its way through his synapses.

“It’s not fair!” She sobbed, “This is how it should be. The fact that this is only feasible in my wildest dreams is just plain wrong! My parents belong on Earth’s surface.” She paused to look around. “WE belong on Earth’s surface! But nothing’s going right... nothing has since we started.”

She looked Fry in the eyes for the first time, but couldn’t hold her gaze there for more than a second. She had shown weakness, and she hated that far more than she hated Fry right now.

“I’m sorry.” She wiped her eye and looked down at the ground. “I should be leading you right now... I just don’t know what to do... I-”

She stopped; something had caught her attention on the Desiderator.

“Bender, why has this camera taken four pictures? It should only be three.”

“Well, four is a baker’s three when you think about it...” Bender started to wheedle.

“Just tell her,” Fry insisted. The delivery boy sensed the gravity like an anvil near a neutron star, and for once the robot obliged.

“Oh, alright. I took Fry’s picture while you were at the bus place. But it’s not that interesting.” Bender grudgingly reached into his compartment, pulled out the stashed picture, and handed it to Leela, who, oddly, was finding that she wasn’t as mad at this revelation as she should have been. Maybe her emotions had finally had enough.

“It’s just a picture of me holding a black piece of paper,” Fry explained, “I mean... I’m not dissing black paper...” He clarified, “I can just think of a few things I want more... like a light-saber, or a Frisbee.”

Leela skeptically went over the new picture, slightly calmer now due to the digression. Indeed, it was as Fry had described it. Apparently taken from the point of view of Fry’s eyes, one hand on each side grasped a black rectangle in the foreground. The background gave no further clues.

“Well, I wanted to save this for later... but…” Bender started, interrupting all deductions Leela was making. Regardless, at least this trivial mystery provided some deductions other than those to her sanity. Bender had produced another device; one Leela had yet to see.

“The camera wasn’t the only cargo?”

“Yeah, what gave that away?” Bender chided, twirling his new toy playfully. “This is the ...uh... Fry what’s this called?”

“The Lawbreaker one point... something.”

“The Lawbreaker One Point Something!” He repeated proudly. “It just might be our ticket out of here.”

“Do you know what it does?”

“Honey, do I even need to?” Bender replied, offended. “Whatever it does, I’m going to use it to rob one of these shops and then we’ll have the money we need to get a ride. Simple as that. Now for a test run...or something... yeah.” He pointed it at a nearby building and pressed a random button.

In her retelling of the event, all Leela could add to her log was “*scene missing*.”

*FLASH*

The three materialized, currently unaware that they had ever dematerialized, on a shady glen by a worn dirt trail.

“And now that the test run is complete...” Bender continued, “I need a drink.” He reached into his compartment for a high-proof cocktail.

“What happened? Did that thing blow up the town?” Fry shouted, a bit panicky.

“We’re nowheres near where we just were!” Leela exclaimed, looking at her wrist computer. “We’re 92 miles east of... wait. We’re right by the ship!”

“But how?” Fry was gleeful yet confused, which only differed from his usual gleeful ignorance by the desire to learn.

“Bender...” Leela started, “That thing doesn’t break criminal laws... it breaks physical laws. If these readings are correct, we were vaulted here at light speed with no means of propulsion.”

Bender had yet to catch up with his captain or the significance of what she just said.

Doesn’t break criminal laws? What a rip!” Bender sighed, but was quick to rebound. “Oh well, let’s see what else it does.”

“Don’t you dare!” Leela barked. “We might have gotten lucky this time; next time we could reappear in vacuum, or break some other law and be converted into pure energy!”

“Or we could break the physical law that keeps our teeth from chewing into our own brains!” Fry added.

“We don’t need it now anyway; we have a mile walk to the ship. Let’s get a move on,” Leela commanded, steadying herself in her leadership position again.

As they walked up the dirt path, Leela broodingly pulled out her picture again. It made her so happy... and yet so utterly miserable at the same time, but she kept hoping the first would outweigh the second. She needed it too. The monogram in the bottom right caught her attention. “N.S.” She wondered what it meant. She pulled out Fry’s picture; it had the same exact marking in the bottom right. All the pictures had it. What could—

She froze, letting Fry and Bender get ahead of her. There was something extra here. Leela squinted at the picture of two hands grasping a black rectangle...

“The monogram...” she whispered to herself, “The monogram’s on the black paper too! But that means it’s really-”

This thought completed mentally but not audibly, because something even more important had attracted her attention. The hand on the left side was clearly Fry’s right hand, and the one on the right side was Fry’s left hand. That didn’t make any sense. She noted a hint of red sleeve on the right hand; this was definitely Fry… but…

The photo was practically jammed into her eye at this point, and Leela was fast realizing that the second hand was definitely not Fry’s. It was too slender, too feminine... too familiar...

A total explanation hit her all at once. It clarified it all so well; it had to be right. It couldn’t be right, but it had to be. By now Fry had turned around, spotting Leela gaping at one of the photos. As he reached her, the only sound Leela could make was a half-second unification of a cacophony of emotional byproducts... Luckily for Leela, it sounded somewhat like a sneeze.

“Uh... Bless you.”

All Leela could do now was look Fry in the eyes as she put the snapshot away. Fry read the severe insecurity, but misguessed the source photo.

“It’s... it’s OK Leela. When we get back home we’ll give your parents a good long visit, alright?” A pleading, yet empathetic smile spread across his lips.

She had no words, and instead wrapped Fry up in an embrace that would have dented Bender’s back had he been the target. Fry accepted the lack of oxygen as a fair trade for this moment, and tried his best to console her despite being completely unaware of both what had transpired and the depths of his own affections. When Leela let go, she spoke only what her emotional semi-permeable membrane would let back out.

“You get on my nerves a lot Fry... but… but you’re a really good friend. I just wanted you to know that.”

“And you know I would never want to work with anyone else.”

“Thanks,” She said, wiping yet another tear from her eye.

“If we’re done leaking fluids here, I’d like to get moving again!” shouted Bender; he was far ahead of them by now. “If you don’t hurry up I’m downgrading dinner from secondary to tertiary rib!”

Leela and Fry caught up, not hand in hand, but closer than two would normally walk. They both had had a slight boost in morale for their own reasons, and perhaps it was in the cards all along that only now could they read the sign around the bend. It made Leela laugh gawkily and Fry pump his fist teasingly in a minor celebration.

[Welcome to Knotten’s Irviss]


Chapter 6

The field of medicine in the 31st century can only be described as magic by most. Heart attacks, heart murmurs (a variation of THS), achy-breaky hearts, dislocated faces, and other common ailments all have simple and effective cures. Doctors can do almost anything, but as it goes, they have no fiscally solvent reason to do so. If everything in the universe were to be cured, just what would become of the doctors? Thus, some ‘incurable’ diseases are left to reproduce unscathed, and remedies for afflictions such as obesity are reserved for those with either a lot of money or the required connections.

Similarly, it makes sense that the common med-kit only has enough remedial value to keep one alive long enough for want of another med-kit. Indeed, a standard med-kit is about as remedial as it gets. The dermis-fusers work only for minor cuts, salves are painful and inefficient, and painkiller bottles actually contain SweetTarts and watch batteries. In some ways, the PE crew is lucky to have a doctor as amicably willing as Zoidberg. While he’s clearly unsuited for his profession, he actually wants to help, and will use anything at his medicinal disposal (or from his medicinal disposal) to do so.


Holly rubbed the back of her head; the minor wound seemed healed enough, and part of her wondered if it had not simply been the result of her brain attempting to escape her recently abusive body. She checked the sprawled doctor one last time to make sure he has been properly knocked out and would not wake during their repair work. By her calculations she had about twenty-four hours to go, and quite frankly, part of her wanted to be sedated as well.

“Holly, get down here! Something broke off and I can’t tell if it’s from me or the engine!”

The woman locked the door as she left.

“I’m coming Kui, be careful down there! If the stabilizers are quantum then there’s a chance of duality!”

She hustled to the ladder; hoping her two pre-dropout years of technical training would pay off.


Amy struggled to free her fettered limbs, annoyed that her two years of technical training could not help her this time.

Charlie had not been back yet, and she wondered just where they were flying, just what her captor thought he was doing, and why they hadn’t caught up to the rest of the crew yet. What time was it? Had she fallen asleep or just zoned out? Now semi-prone and shifting to her side, the cool tile floor chilled her face to a peculiar numb state. If she could just stand up… but the chair was too heavy and unwieldy for her petite body. For once, the Martian wished she had her captain’s build.

Just when Amy had contorted herself in the most compromising position imaginable, Charlie sauntered back through the doorway.

“Oh I’m sorry, am I interrupting something private?”

Amy dropped flat again in anger and embarrassment. The chair pressed ruthlessly on her as she landed, but she didn’t dare show it.

“Hey, how about untying me now? I’ve been good, right?”

“I’ll let you go once I get to your robot; isn’t my word enough? Look at things from my side.”

Amy didn’t bother to ponder this, but had resigned to make a compromise.

“Will, will you pick me back up at least?”

Charlie obliged quicker than he would have liked, and steadied the chair back at its normal position at the table. Amy heaved a sigh of relief just before the lizard’s rough hand grasped her wrist forcefully.

She cringed and closed her eyes… but no harm or violation came. She meekly opened them again.

“Hey, where are you going with that thing I wear on my wrist?!”

“You have Leela’s frequency in here I assume. We passed the cab your crew was in a while ago, but it had astro-jettisoned them.”

“What?”

“I thought it’d be easy to find them at first but there’s a few planets they could be on, and I don’t feel like searching too hard. I’ll get a lock on her with this.”

Amy didn’t respond; this explained why her friends hadn’t come back for her, but then what had become of them?

“Surprised it does more than make calls and organize dates?” Charlie continued though the stillness, “Don’t worry sweetie, I won’t mess with your calendar.”

He lingered as the cloud of patronization settled like a fine powder over the room, then promptly left the woman to baste in it. Amy was beyond infuriated as the door slammed shut. Despite her casually ditsy ways, any misogynistic behavior immediately sent her spiraling into feminist student mode.

“As soon as I get free...” she seethed to herself. “I’ll show him who the clever one is. I’ll blind him with science…”

For the time being, of course, she would simply have to tarry away the minutes.

“…and acid.”


Back on the planet that Fry, Leela, and Bender had never bothered to ascertain the name of, a small plume of smoke visible past the valley they had entered finally gave visual confirmation that they were near. Leela held out an arm to stop the other two, and turned to give orders.

“Alright, we don’t know who or what we’re dealing with here. It could be pirates, criminals, or confused geriatrics. In any case, we’ll attack-”

“What if it’s just Zoid-”

-we’ll attack via attack plan 41 Surround. Everyone sync their Captain Cadoodle Secret Spy watches. Fry, what time do you have?”

“Exactly 12:00… now! ...wait… 12:03… 12:05! My God, we’re in a time warp!”

“Turn off the stop watch.”

“Right.”

“And Bender, that’s not a standard Cadoodle-issue watch.”

“Yeah, well in retrospect, the cab driver had it coming.”

“Whatever. You guys know the drill…”

“I thought ‘The Drill’ was attack plan beta double-drill”

“For the last time Fry,” Bender shouted, “no two-bit operations!”

“Not that type of drill!” Leela interjected “And besides, you’re thinking of attack plan beta awl router bore”

“All routers bore?” Fry wasn’t keeping up.

“Oh yeah,” Bender replied. “Have you met my half-sister Link-Sis? She goes on, and on, and on…”

The squabble continued for several minutes; almost a page straight out of A Bot and Costello’s latest comedy routine. When they had finally sorted it all out, they took their respective positions, and closed in on the waiting vessel.

Anger at the unidentified hijacker mounting, Leela made her way through the light brush at the base of the slope. The ship looked pretty banged up, and this just added fuel to the fire. Fortunately, no stray fuel had been added to the ship, which had until recently been on fire. Narrowing her eye slightly, she spotted her quarry. They were right there in the open, working diligently on the engines in the same way a 5-year old works diligently on a tax return. Leela sized them up. Fry and Bender could probably take the robot down, especially since they had the element of surprise, though she surmised that that could easily be countered by the element of uranium. The woman, Leela noticed, was of a similar build to her, though a bit shorter in stature. Leela had no doubt she could handle her, unless she happened to be armed, which was a frightening likelihood. She smiled wryly; the odds were better than usual.

Some blinking lights and a refreshingly cheerful spy ditty signaled that it was time to move in. Taking a breath, she silently crept closer to the back of her crumpled vessel. With any luck, she would arrive at the same time as her cohorts, and-

"Freeze!"

Leela slumped; Fry and Bender had beaten her there, and were now staring down the anode end of an ion pistol. On the much-less-dangerous idiomatic plus-side, Leela was thereby in the perfect position to strike. Taking a few stealthy strides, she launched into a flying kick, only with great difficulty quelling the standard Kung-fu scream until after she had made contact; it didn't feel as satisfying. Leela made perfect contact with Holly's dominant wrist, sending a shot wide and the gun itself tumbling to the ground. She had been aiming for the back of the woman's head, but this, she deemed, was close enough.

Bender and Kui both lunged at the gun for different reasons, while Holly spun around in nearly a complete circle, grasping her struck wrist.

"Owwww! Hey, what’s the big idea here?"

"We're taking our ship back, you no good evil pirates!" shouted Fry, completely ignoring the epic struggle for survival/a free gun being waged behind him.

Your ship?! We already have this ship's owner sedated!"

"He's not the ship's owner!" Leela shouted, enraged by the thought. "I'm in command, and-"

"Our intel says this ship has one occupant," Holly tensely explained. "And he fits the comprehensive description of a 'big creepy alien' in my book.”

Leela took a threatening step in. “What did you want from us?”

“Nothing from you, you nutcases.” Holly also took a step forward. Fry took a step back. “If you must know, we were sent to steal something called the ‘Lawbreaker’ from this ship, but really I don’t care anymore and I’m quitting and I give up… so it’s all moot now, so get out of here unless you want to help us fix an engine.” Exasperation had flooded all of the ire from her voice.

Bender froze upon hearing the name of the device he pilfered, and was promptly shot with a quick ion blast.

“Ow! Quit it!” He went to snatch the deadly weapon from Kui, only to realize that his own finger was already on the trigger. Repressing an embarrassed laugh, and noting that shooting a robot with an ion pack was obviously pointless, he nonchalantly stuffed the pistol in his cabinet, and then turned to the puzzled women. Leela was the only one with both the proper information and the wherewithal to piece it together, and as if they were aware of this, all uneasily waited for her to speak. Instead, she chuckled knowingly.

“I think you hijacked the wrong ship, uh…”

“Holly.”

“Holly. The Lawbreaker was in the ship next to ours, being piloted by none other than a big creepy looking alien, who by now is after us anyway since we already stole it!”

“You were hired to steal it too?”

“Nope, just a hobby, baby,” Bender bantered casually.

“Anyway, we’re going to have to give it back to him, because a friend of ours is in trouble if we don’t. After that you’re free to try to steal it again, I guess. Though I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“Can’t we just have it now?” Holly moaned. “I need this paycheck.”

“Sorry, no can do. But you can help us fix our ship, unless you want us to kick your asses then charge you for the repairs.”

Holly sighed deeply, in a way which made the empathy flicker in Leela like a broken neon sign. Holly turned to her fallen friend, still rubbing her lower arm.

“You didn’t happen to get that gun back did you?”

“Nope.”

“Alright then, we’re in. We’ve been trying anyway…”

She pointed to the engines. It was pretty questionable whether the ship could fly even if the engines and stabilizers were fixed at this point, but it was worth a try.

“Wait, no it’s not!” said Leela, mulling similar thoughts through her head. “We can’t do this without a quantum mechanic!”

Fry joined in, remembering the problems from before. “Yeah, no one here is smart enough to know the science-thing stuffs inside the engine-mabobbit. I mean, it’s not like someone has some sort of magical tool that makes enginescience not matter-“

“He’s right!” Leela interrupted.

“He said something?” Kui chided.

“The Lawbreaker!”

“What about it?” Holly asked, apprehensively.

“We learned what it does… sort of; it breaks physical laws at the touch of a button. We just need to pick the right button…”

“So… maybe if we pick the right one, the engine will fix itself?”

“There’s a chance, but there’s also a chance that it’ll backfire and kill us all.”

“What, the engine, or the plan?”

“…Both.”

“Great…”

Holly and Kui exchanged prolonged glances. Fry and Leela felt left out, and therefore had an exchange of their own. Bender wasn’t one to share.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Holly sighed, “By the sound of it this isn’t even what the boss was looking for.”

“Who’s ‘The Boss?’” asked Leela.

“Ooh! I know this one! Tony Danza!” Fry confidently answered.

“Actually, we don’t know,” said Holly, ignoring the redhead. “Kui and I worked freelance in anything from petty to grand theft, and anyone who gets in contact with us stays anonymous. It pays enough to get by, but seriously, I’m done after this. After what that lobster put us through…”

“Zoidberg?”

“Yeah…” she seethed, “Zoidberg.” The name rolled off her tongue like a bookcase down a ravine. Kui trembled at its utterance.

“You didn’t… kill him, did you?” asked Bender.

“No, like I said, he’s tranquilized in the med-bay.”

“Oh…” and he sounded quite dejected. “Well, the slightly more reason to hope the ship explodes!” He shouted, brandishing the Lawbreaker and taking aim.

“Hold it!” Leela shouted.

“I am!” Bender retorted, waving the controller playfully in her face. Leela took the opportunity to grab it from the robot’s lax fingers. “Aw… I gotta stop doing that.”

“Everyone get back; we’ll stay in a group, and I’ll try one button.”

The group did as instructed; it was a bit unnerving for them all, huddling near people they didn’t exactly know and could barely even trust, but when faced with the unknown many are apt to act in unusual ways. Leela held the remote out, and paused for a moment. Was this the right thing to do? Something was nagging at her in an unmotherly way…

As if on cue (in Leela’s mind at least), the side door of the ship snapped open and Nibbler bounded out. He had been watching the situation unfold from the cockpit, and upon realization of the actions to be taken, decided it was best to join his owners, even if it meant giving away his expert door-using prowess.

“Nibbler!” Leela shouted, as her pet scampered to her leg and clung on lovingly. “How could I forget my snuzzie-ooki-wunkins?! Aw… you’re OK!” She picked him up and hugged him tightly. This display of simple affection upping the spirits a bit, Leela turned to her ship yet again.

“Ready?” she asked, nearly rhetorically, “Now!”

Aiming the controller over Kui’s shoulder, she held her breath and pressed a button.

The proceeding seconds were about as anticlimactic as her night with Zapp. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. Without rethinking the situation, she hastily jabbed at a second button, by now with the sentiment that any reaction was better than the discomfiture of no reaction. This time, the unthinkable happened. With a flash of life the ship’s engines flared into sudden action. Fry jumped at the sound and bumped Holly, who toppled into Kui, knocking him down.

“It worked!” She yelled, “what did you do?!”

“I have no idea,” admitted Leela. “These buttons aren’t labeled. I guess… I guess it knows what you want to happen. It’s really helped us out twice now.” She paused, looking hesitantly at the prodigious device she had wielded. “Now I’m never touching this damn thing again.” She opened Bender’s chest and put the device next to the gun and the camera.

Fry and Holly pulled Kui up. “You alright?” They asked, nearly in unison.

“Yeah… yeah…” he muttered. “You didn’t bump me that hard. It’s just my head…” He clutched at his metallic skull. “Doesn’t feel too right.”

“Might be left-over from the crash,” said Holly, “Or maybe when you- uh… Kui?”

Holly stared intently at the automaton’s face.

“What, what?! Is there something on my nose?!” he squirmed, and went to wipe at his face, but instead his hand unhinged from the wrist and folded back into itself. “What the…”

“Your eyes are red… blood red. Maybe you should lie-”

“ARMING!” Kui shouted, taking a jolted step back, surprised at his own tone. Where his hand once was, a large machete popped into place from within his armor. “What’s happening?!”

Nibbler leapt from Leela’s arm and ran for the hills; literally. In a Lassie-like way he beckoned for the others to follow, but no one was paying attention to him. Three more knives, a menacing looking laser turret, a medieval mace, a can of mace, and a purple light saber had sprouted from compartments scattered about the robot’s body.

“LOADING KILLBOT BATTLE TACTICS… oh God, help me!”

“Yeah, that’s who needs the help,” said Bender to Leela, both stepping towards the direction Nibbler had bolted.

“I can’t… I c-c-c-AQUIRING TARGETS!” Kui tried to move in two directions at once, fighting his programmed instincts with whatever he could, but he was clearly losing the battle. Holly took one courageous step forward, a step closer to losing a battle of her own.

“Kui! Ku-i! It’s me, Holly!” She seemed more desperate than the crew would have liked. It didn’t appear like she was used to this. In fact, Holly had never encountered anything like this before, ever. The turret locked on her.

“Uh… yeah, it’s me, Fry!” Fry echoed.

“Yeah, that’ll sway him.” Bender remarked.

“Hmph. I don’t even think we even introduced ourselves earlier…” added Leela, backing slowly up the hillside.

“Don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of time to while we’re bleeding.” Holly avowed, now abandoning her brief flirt with bravery.

“He’s a killbot… a real live killbot,” Leela rambled on, “I’ve never met one before.”

“Neither have I…” Holly replied, almost in a trance.

“EXTERMINATING.”

The three crewmembers hit the ground with instincts born from years of tight scrapes; Holly closed her eyes with a whimper that implied that she knew much more than scrapes were coming.

From inside Kui, something resembling the sound of a large man blowing an empty dart gun resounded across the otherwise deserted glen. Then, the briefest of eerie silences resounded even louder. Leela sprang to her feet.

“The gun’s not charged! Move it!”

Holly wheeled about, snapping back to the reality of the situation. Hitting stride just as Fry and Bender regained their footing on the slope, the group headed uphill.

“Fry, quick! Sacrifice yourself! …thousands of times,” Bender pleaded, remembering their foe’s weakness. Fry didn’t listen, and as their run slowly morphed into a climb, the sounds of wild slashing and swinging grew ever closer.

Grasping for a handhold, Leela half climbed and half dragged herself up the precipitous terrain. She had a slight lead on her counterparts, which at this point granted her the dubious honor of hearing the most deaths before her own. A knife struck the rock above her, and she had to sway abruptly, letting it fall past her. Holly approached on her other side.

“Uh, can you can climb a hill to escape a Killbot?”

“No, only bears and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

“Right.”

Noting the implied futility, the two women stopped, then rolled, pinning their backs to the wall to survey their fate. Fry and Bender had done the same a yard or two below, the latter now sporting the handle of a machete for a hat.

Kui stood mere feet away from the men, all remaining weapons poised. He shuddered lightly.

“I...I-I-I- I’m... sorry” he stammered, raising an arm to strike.

*SPLAT*

Holly and Leela were unceremoniously doused in a disgusting goo which, for one truly horrifying second, Leela’s mind reckoned to be Fry’s various organs and fluids. A searing, tingling pain flooded the woman’s wrist the next, and she instinctively grasped at it, only to cause the pain spread to her other hand. Meanwhile, the goop was moving, purposefully leaving her person, headed back towards the...

“What... the... hell?!” Holly slowly shouted as Leela’s wrist device jettisoned to the ground in a shower of sparks.

Just below them, Charlie Foster’s ship clung to the cliff face like the residue from Fry’s nasal septum, the ferromagnetic landing aperture resolidifying after the initial impact splash. Fry was climbing steadily towards the women through the impeding ebb of magnetic material, whilst Bender, meanwhile, was in a giddy heap, already nearing the second verse of ‘Oh, Susanna.’

Holly edged towards the ship.

“.... ... Kui?” she asked, unsure of whether or not she wanted a response. Her beckoning was greeted only by the sound of the side door flinging open, and a distorted flight of stairs deploying. Charlie stormed out as soon as the staircase allowed it, and irately surveyed the aftermath.

“Damnit! Got the wrong freaking robot...” he yelled, briskly shimmying towards his true target, who currently was in no position to defend himself. The reptile reached down, and with one frighteningly brawny and precise twist of the machete decapitated Bender, proceeding then to discard the blade and beat this new acquisition against the cliff face.

I thought I saw Susanna-Thwack!-saw SusannaThwack!“OW! Hey, thanks! I was-Thwack!“going crazy there for a-“Thwack!“Oof! So you can stop-“Thwack!

This continued for longer than was probably necessary.

Holly had by now spotted Kui, pinned harmlessly between the ground and the landing pegs, a metallic fruit in the worst gelatin dessert ever imagined. The large flux had obviously caused a system crash, and he was frozen perfectly still like a mosquito in amber. Holly felt almost as if she was viewing him in a museum, and couldn’t help forgetting the recent events in favor of their years working together.

“We have to get him out of there!” She begged, almost losing her precarious footing.

“No, leave him for now; he’ll be fine after a reboot,” said Leela, picking up a much calmer Nibbler. “Happens to Bender all the time.” She added, motioning to the carnage beside her. “See?”

Charlie slammed Benders head back onto his body, ripped open his torso, and grabbed both the Lawbreaker and the Desiderator.

“Now apologize.” He commanded, looming over him like an eclipse that stared portentously back.

Bender briefly thought about trying to surprise Charlie with the gun that he had yet to grab, but through dulled artificial senses decided that for once the olive branch could be used for something other than martini night. Everyone was looking now, making it even more embarrassing. Bender sighed.

“Alright, I know when I’ve been beaten... and just now you really kicked my ass... so... I’m sorry.”

“Good then.” Charlie’s demeanor warped unsettlingly yet again as he smiled. “We’re all square. I’ll even let your favorite Martian go.”

“All... square?” Leela repeated, tentatively.

“I just want this all behind me now... let me get on with my delivery, and you can get on with yours.”

“Heh, fat chance... we’re going home.” Leela scoffed, apathy taking hold of her tired bones. “But thank you.”

“Hey... uh... we don’t have a ship...” Holly spoke timidly, and then lowered her voice further, “and I don’t have a ‘we.’ Could the fritzo and I maybe get a ride with someone?”

“Sure!” Fry responded. “Let’s just untrap the menacing beast of doom that tried to kill us and carry him down this perilously steep incline to-”

Actually... it’d be best if we left your friend there tangled in the landing gear” Charlie interrupted. “He’ll be fine ‘til I get him wherever you’re going.”

“Nowhere to go now anyway...” Holly mused, “Out of a job.”

“Well, I’ll get you to a repair shop at least, doll.”

Some mindless expository bantering later, everything and everyone was safely put in its proper place. The PE crew boarded their disfigured ship, engines still running, and set a course for Earth.

Charlie watched their sputtering take off, a mix of unaccountable feelings stirring gratingly. He felt like he had gone too soft by letting them off, but, unfortunately, after making the decision to save them from the killbot, he had realized, there was no sensible reason to kill them himself. If anything, he thought, it had lead to another interesting alien woman being aboard his craft; something he has almost getting used to... something he was perhaps even starting to... like...


Chapter 7

The theory of quantum entanglement states that two particles, once they interact, are forever bound to one another, affecting each other across limitless space at seemingly instantaneous speeds, forever. The implications of this are nothing short of massive, sprawling networks of matter, delicately connected to each other via enigmatic forces across the cosmos. If the equations are to be believed, perhaps everything is connected to everything else in some way; actions never truly isolated, coincidences never truly coincidences. Layers beyond what anyone can perceive are buried beneath reality, and science is simply unable to take advantage of them. It is impossible, and scientists can only watch and wonder why.


After touchdown, Fry emerged from the PE ship dragging a still anesthetized Zoidberg. To the best of the crew’s knowledge, he was still alive, but vitals are hard to check if your subject is cold blooded, has an exoskeleton, and you don’t really care.

Bender followed, dragging Amy, still bound to her chair. Charlie saw it best to leave her that way after she didn’t appear to show the same forgiveness as the others. She had stayed in that position after she failed to show forgiveness towards her crew for forgiving Charlie so easily.

Leela exited last, dragging only herself, yet looking the worst for wear from it. It could never have felt better to arrive back at her place of work; this misadventure had been particularly draining, and the flight home had taken twice as long as it should have because she had not wanted to push the engines.

Entering the conference room after ditching their incapacitated and metallic friends, Fry and Leela came across Professor Farnsworth, looking as calm as ever, neither curious of their delay nor thankful for their survival. Seated across from him was a younger old man, sipping some coffee, a notepad in front of him.

The silence unbroken, Leela coughed abruptly and aggressively.

“Oh, uh, wha? Oh yes! Welcome back! I trust everything went well?”

“Yes, sir.” Leela replied.

“You have the invoice?”

“Yup!” Fry chirped, handing a crumpled sheet of paper to Hubert, which he unraveled and read to the best of his ability.

We got whatever we were delivering -Love, Not Fry. Very good! That sounds like a suitable reply for a task I can’t specifically remember!”

Leela couldn’t decide whether she was more exasperated by Fry’s half assed attempt at trickery or at the ease with which it succeeded. Why did she even bother? ...Oh right, she didn’t...

Farnsworth motioned to his companion just as the doorbell rang. Leela went to answer the door as the Professor continued undaunted.

“This is my long time friend and colleague, Nuzi Spoziano.”

“Nuzi?” Fry repeated, “That sounds familiar...”

“Delivery for a Hubert James Farnsworth!” came a low voice from behind the door that Leela was about to open.

Nuzi snorted. “Hubert! I still can’t believe you go by that now. Back when we met, you said-” The door opened.

“Leela?!”

“Charlie?!”

“Nuzi?!”

“Charlie?!”

“Meredith?!”

“Fry, we are NOT saying random names, we are all legitimately surprised!”

“Sorry.”

Charlie Foster burst into the room, confused and mildly entertained.

“Nuzi, what the hell are you doing here?!”

“Well, I got nervous when my inventions didn’t arrive and I couldn’t reach you, so I took a space-cab to James’s to discuss what to do. You do have them, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I still got ‘em. ...and Leela,” Charlie turned, “You work for James, the guy I’ve been delivering these devices to the whole time?”

“I... I guess so,” Leela stammered, “But we’ve never called him James, so we couldn’t have pieced it together anyway.”

“He went by his middle name when he was younger,” Nuzi added, “Now... how do you know my Charlie?”

“We’re... kind of the reason the package got delayed,” She admitted, “It’s a long story with crashes and deceit and misunderstandings and-”

“Us!” Two more figures appeared from outside, having heard the commotion.

“Holly, Kui?!” Leela took a shocked step back, then gathered herself in time to stare Fry down before he could say ‘Gordon?!’ “Now what are you doing here?!”

“While I was delayed these two helped me out Nuzi,” Charlie started, “Anyway, I was thinking it was about time you let me have a crew to assist with deliveries.”

“Well, Lord knows you could use the social skills,” Nuzi replied, “I’m sure we can work something out.”

“Great!” Holly shouted, high-fiving her robotic partner.

“Hey, first of all, I want to apologize for what happened out there,” said Kui, “I still don’t know what happened, but now that everything’s sorted out I would have felt really bad if I managed to kill you guys.”

“We’re used to friends randomly going on homicidal rampages, don’t worry about it,” Leela assured, then turned to Holly, “How are you going to hold up working with these two?”

“It’s funny,” said Holly, “It all kind of balances out. Kui defends me when Charlie insults my aptitude, and Charlie defends me when Kui insults my appearance.”

“Sounds... wonderful,” Leela dryly responded.

“We get our share from her too, so don’t buy any of that damsel bit she’s giving,” added Kui.

Even more than before, Leela saw a bit of herself in the look Holly shot back. She assumed, perhaps a bit arrogantly, that Charlie saw the same thing.

“Now then,” Nuzi took a big breath, “what the bloody hell is going on here? Could you fill an old man in?” The man he was referring to must have been himself, since Farnsworth was by now fast asleep.

“There’ll be plenty of time to explain while we fly you home Newz,” Charlie ensured, “As much as I love the oddness of this situation I need to get going. ‘Nother business proposition waiting if you know what I mean.”

“Fine,” Nuzi agreed, having looked over his quiescent associate. “I may have outstayed my welcome. Well, it was nice meeting you two-”

“Wait!” Leela couldn’t let this chance get away. “You have to explain these devices to me. We saw what the Lawbreaker does, but how… and why?”

“You used it?”

“Well, yeah...” Leela was looking at her shoes, and hated it. “Twice, and each time it got us out of a jam, but we never really figured out how it worked.”

“Ah, curiosity gets the best of us all sometimes, eh?” Spoziano remarked, the initial vagueness of mood emerging as a definite curiosity over irritation. “Random field testing isn’t the worst thing in the universe I suppose; let’s have a look at what happened. Charlie?”

Charlie handed him the Lawbreaker, and Nuzi promptly attached a device of his own to it.

“This thing runs diagnostics on all my inventions, just makes things easier...” Some lights blinked and he read over a fine printed display, “The Lawbreaker was designed to break laws, scientific and otherwise, on the user’s whim, but at the moment it always picks something random. I can’t make heads or arses of it, honestly, but that’s why the buttons aren’t labeled... they were supposed to do different things, but don’t yet,” He paused to read more thoroughly, “Seems to me that this actually was used three times, not two.”

“Really?” Leela reacted in the way she one day hoped to be able to lie.

“Yes... now let’s see.” Nuzi hit some buttons and checked the readout again. “The last time this device was used the 2nd law of thermodynamics was broken.”

“Makes sense,” said Leela. “Our engines were ruined and they partially reassembled to the way they were.”

“Good, that’s a success,” Nuzi replied approvingly, then went back to reading. “The time before that... hmm... that’s a new one.”

“What law did we break?”

“Asimov’s First.”

“Kui, that’s it!” Leela shouted. “I hit that button an extra time before the engines were fixed and we all thought nothing happened...”

“But it was making your programming homicidal the whole time!” Holly completed the sentence. “This makes everything OK! It’s not going to happen again!” She hugged him for the first time in a while, causing him obvious embarrassment.

While they joked, comforted, a bit more, Leela and Fry turned back to Nuzi.

“The time before that, we traveled through space faster than light to get back to our ship,” Leela recounted as Nuzi read, “What law was that? Einstein’s? Newton’s?”

“Hardly,” chuckled Nuzi. “The only reason you ended up by your ship was because you would have been by it had things not gone horribly wrong, am I correct?”

“Yeah,” said Fry, “How did you know?”

“Murphy’s.” said Nuzi, plainly. “You got back to where you should have been by effectively breaking Murphy’s Law! Oh... how I wish this device worked predictably! I’d make millions.”

“Yeah...” said Leela, trancelike due to the ludicrousness of recent revelations. “Well... thanks for your help!”

“We’ll see each other again sometime soon, I’m sure,” promised Charlie, “Maybe we’ll meet for sandwiches again or something.”

“Definitely,” said Fry, shaking the reptilian’s hand.

“And tell your friend Amy I said hi, OK?”

“I think I’ll pass,” said Leela. “Bye, you three, don’t get into too much legal trouble, alright?”

“Same for you and that Bender guy,” said Kui. “See ya.”

“Bye!” said Holly, grabbing Fry and Leela into a quick, clumsy, group hug which said ‘I barely know you still but we almost died next to each other so that’s gotta mean something.’ The three turned, and exited, Nuzi close behind. Fry waved, but Leela jumped outside before the door shut and spun Nuzi around.

“One more question, if you don’t mind.”

“No problem, dear. What is it?”

“The camera... the camera you made can spark some powerful emotions. Be careful with it, OK?”

“I don’t plan on selling it if that’s what you mean, it can tempt and twist the heart in any which way it pleases, and you are powerless against your own consciousness. I know that far too well now... and I’m sorry if you had to experience anything like I did too. It is... the price we pay for curiosity.”

“I think I’m better for it,” Leela averred, “But... is there any reason the camera would give a cryptic message? One that wasn’t straight forward like the rest?”

“Well, I’ve never seen it do that before... it’s been flawless as of late.” He thought for a moment. “Maybe... well, maybe, a subconscious is sometimes smart enough to keep things it knows you’re not ready for obscured, like a message in a prophetic dream. That’s the best I’ve got, dear, and I’m a bloody scientist! Sorry if it’s not what you needed to hear.”

“No, no, that will do.” Leela said, holding back a tear whose cause she couldn’t trace to a reason. “Thanks for everything, Nuzi.”

“No trouble at all. But it’s about time I left you to your own devices... heh. Keep safe now!” He turned and left, hustling slightly as to not keep Charlie and the others waiting for long. Leela slowly wandered back inside.

“What was that about?” Fry asked, waiting for her at the entrance.

“Nothing... nothing...” Leela mumbled, and let a meek smile evolve on her face. “TV?”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

And, life returned to normal, which, thankfully or unthankfully, was as about abnormal as it could be. The future, both as a society and as a personal outlook, may not have looked the brightest for everyone, but it was far from dark; and as long as you’re trying to save yourself when faced with death from space crashes and homicidal robots, you know you have enough to live for. Inside the PE building, Zoidberg and the Professor slumbered further, Hermes obliviously filed forms, and Nibbler secretly untied Amy as she too napped as best she could. Bender filched the contents of the Martian's locker while he had the chance, and the two remaining unaccounted passed out next to each other to the buzzing drone of a hypnotizing toad.

Aboard Charlie’s ship, three new friends bickered noisily about the proper way to cook a buggalo steak, and, resting in a bunk, a thought struck Nuzi Spoziano. “Well, the subject could have been missing a brainwave or two... but... nah... that’s impossible.”

THE END

Buddies