Fan Fiction

Background Noise
By Dave Vincent

Zoidberg, John Zoidberg

(June 20, 3002) New New York -
The crew of the Planet Express was sitting around the table in the lounge. Hermes Conrad had been giving a long and boring lecture about misuse of the company's internet connection. Leela was staring determinedly off into space trying to avoid looking at Fry who was looking at her with sad longing. Bender was drinking beer and belching contentedly. Zoidberg was paying rapt if totally confused attention to Hermes while Amy was heatedly arguing about using the company's e-mail to send lustful messages to her boyfriend, Kif.

"For Jah's sake, girl, tone it down. The internet company told us dat dey would blacklist us if you continue to send such stuff into da DOOP MilNet. You could even get dat green lizard of a boy friend in trouble with da DOOP Navy."

"It's not my fault that Kif only has access to the MilNet. Why should they be so stuffy? And why are they reading my personal e-mail messages?" asked Amy angrily.

"Hooray, Zoidberg is in the clear on this," said the doctor raising his hands over his head.

"Amy, da MilNet belongs to DOOP and dey can read any message dey want. Including yours," Hermes, in his most pompous bureaucrat tone. "And, you, you hideous garbage eating crackpot," now rounding on Zoidberg, "I haven't even reached de part about you and de Professor's credit card."

"It was a frame," Zoidberg whoop-whooped. "I wasn't even there. And it was Bender. Who says it wasn't? Not me, I tell you."

"Shut the hell up, Zoidberg!" Bender snapped and then belched a stream of fire. Hermes paused and was about to say more when the Professor came into the lounge.

"Good news, everyone! We have a new delivery to Epsilon Eridani 3. We're taking up a cargo of eggs for some loony. Ah, yes, the money I'll make." He paused with a smile and then coming out of his reverie, "And Leela, you'll get to see your special friend, Captain Brannigan. His ship is making a visit there."

"Er, I'd rather not," Leela said quickly. "Let Amy take it. That way she gets to see Kif."

Amy started to nod but then the professor said, "Oh my, no. She's going to be overhauling the spare drive engine I bought. You people have been driving me to poverty with your constant damaging of the ship." Amy moaned and shook her head. She'd already argued most of the morning with the professor about the relic of an engine he'd bought. It was going to take a miracle to get the thing functioning.

"Yeah, besides Leela wouldn't want to pass up a chance to meet her first love. If you know what I mean?" Bender said with a salacious chuckle.

"Hey! That's not cool, Bender," said Fry, coming to Leela's defense. "She was drunk that time. Or maybe it was she was unconscious. I know Leela wouldn't touch Zapp unless she was mental or something."

"Yeah, Fry? That's not what I remember," retorted Bender. He and Fry began arguing about what had happened with Leela and Brannigan.

Leela groaned and looked at the squabbling group. She wondered if anyone would ever forget that horrible mistake with Brannigan. She shook her head and thought, "No, not until I can obtain every copy of the video the pig made of us. "Zapped" indeed."

She could see Fry was about to become angrily immoderate in her defense and fearing he would blurt out something even more embarrassing, said loudly, "Thank you, Fry. But I guess I'll have to go and deliver the package. No matter how miserable things will be."

Bender, nudging Zoidberg in the ribs, "She's out for more action. Know what I mean?"

Zoidberg looked blank and said, "No I don't."

"Her and Zapp. Doing the hippidy-dippidy. Getting snu-snued in all the wrong places!"

"Bender, will you shut up?" Leela shouted. "Or I do I have to start talking about Gender Bender?"

"Whoa, whoa, skintube. Let's not go nuclear here. Someone's liable to get hurt."

"Enough of this gabbling. Off you go," said the professor, making a shooing motion. "And take Zoidberg with you."

"Hooray. Zoidberg gets to go with his best friends. And see the wonderful Captain Brannigan. And why not? Zoidberg is always welcome wherever he goes. And who knows, maybe there will be a buffet." Zoidberg began dancing and waving his claws about.

"Sheesh. Put a cork in it, crab face," growled Bender.

(June 25, 3002) Epsilon Eridani 3 -
The Planet Express ship arrived at Epsilon Eridani 3. A huge cylindrical space station loomed over the planet. They could see the Nimbus sitting along side the station. A large number of other ships were moving around the station. An attractive red-headed DOOP Navy officer with a Russian accent came on the view screen and gave them directions for docking. Ordering Fry and Bender to get the cargo ready, Leela quickly landed inside the huge cargo bay of the station. Shutting down the ship, she marched to the cargo hold and found Fry and Bender tossing styrofoam packing pieces at the sleeping Zoidberg's open mouth. Angry, she shouted at them about the mess and then ordered them to get the package ready for delivery.

"Look, you guys, the Nimbus is outside the station. If we're quick with the delivery and Zapp's over on his ship, we can do this and get out before the fat bozo even knows I'm…we're here. So don't screw this up."

"Ah for crying out loud, don't get your panties in a twist, Captain bossy jerkette," growled Bender.

"Whatever you say, Leela," said Fry sketching a sloppy salute. Leela looked at him suspiciously to see if he was mocking her. Fry had been trying to be more responsible since she had thrown him out over the parasites, she thought, but he was still Fry - still a klutz, still idiotic, still childish and still lazy. She decided he was having one his responsible moments and gave the signal to open the hatch.

Outside, a DOOP Security Officer was waiting. He scanned their identification and pointed them to storage area and the cargo office. They moved the cargo to the storage area.

"You guys wait here while I go get the paperwork done. Don't touch anything, don't speak to anyone and, most of all, don't move from this spot!" she ordered. The three of them nodded and, uttering a quick prayer, Leela went over to the office. Fifteen minutes later she came out to see that everyone had disappeared. She began cursing silently and headed towards the station main entrance.

Inside the station -
Bender was looking down at the craps table and fondling the dice, smiling around at the aliens and humans who were putting money on the table. "Suckers," he thought, puffing his cigar and engaging his cheat program.

Zoidberg was mooching the leftover food and drinks on the empty tables. Fry was standing in the middle of the casino, drinking a beer and staring at all the exotic aliens. Fry was amazed at the diversity of species in the casino. Looking towards the casino door, he saw Leela coming towards them. He remembered that she had ordered them to stay put, but Bender had immediately blown that off and walked into the station. Fry, thinking that he should get Bender back before Leela returned, had followed. He had argued with Bender all the way to the casino. Now, he was thinking that staying until Bender got done with losing money was a bad idea. He recognized the look of anger on Leela's face and cursed himself. "Let her down again, Phil." He thought sadly. "Why do I let Bender talk me into these things?" He heard the table operator say very loudly, "Sir, do you have a cheat program running?" Bender denied it in an insulted tone. Fry didn't hear the table operator's reply because, suddenly, six security officers were there pointing pistols at Bender. Fry looked over to see that Leela was also surrounded by three more. He felt a tap on his shoulder and he turned to see a balding security officer with a sad hound dog look.

"Sir? Could you and your friends please come with us?" Before Fry could answer, Bender began bellowing, "What's the freaking charge? I ain't done nothing. I know my rights." The balding man looked amused and said, "Well, I'm certain cheating at DOOP sanction crap tables is illegal. And I'm sure we can think of some other charges as well. So close your trap and come with us."

Bender began to object some more but Leela told him to pipe down. Next thing Fry knew they were in two adjoining cells. He couldn't see Leela but he could hear her. Mostly she was swearing and demanding to know what they had done. Fry and Bender both denied doing anything wrong.

Leela muttered angrily for awhile and then said "Fry, I really thought you were coming around but I now realize that you are never going to change."

Fry felt as if she had hit him. He so desperately wanted Leela to respect him. He tried to explain what happened, how he was trying to stop Bender. Leela listened without comment then told Fry to get some rest. A half-hour later, a couple of security men brought food and drink for Fry and Leela and beer for Bender. Neither would answer any questions. After eating the food, Fry kept trying to engage Leela in conversation but she finally told him to get some sleep. Feeling depressed, Fry lay out on the hard bunk and began to drift off. Just before he went under, he heard Bender say, "Where's Zoidberg?"

Aboard the Nimbus (2 hours later) -
Zoidberg was sitting in an interrogation room in the Nimbus' brig. A DOOP Marine was sitting by the door patiently watching him. Zoidberg was feeling pretty good. Here he was in a nice room and they had fed him. Something called a MRE that was stamped expired. "Oy, what a feast that was," Zoidberg thought happily. He smiled at the marine who scowled back at him with faintly disguised disgust. After a while, the door opened and in walked Zapp Brannigan and his first officer, Kif Kroker. Dismissing the marine, Zapp took a seat behind the table with Kif standing behind him.

"I won't beat around the bush, Zoidberg. We were told to hold you for a special visitor who is on his way to the Nimbus," said Brannigan cheerfully. Kif whispered, "Sir, perhaps we shouldn't show all of our cards right away…"

"Quiet, Kif. Gods, I don't know what disgusts me more - your incessant whining or your constant complaining. I'm running this interrogation."

"Yes sir," sighed Kif.

"Alright, Zoidberg, out with it. Why are you here and what is it you want?"

Zoidberg stared at him without comprehension. Kif coughed and, with a tone of exasperation, said, "Sir, the station received orders to hold him and any companions. The orders were specific about isolating him aboard the Nimbus. They were also specific about no one talking to him until the special visitor arrived."

"That is so typical of you, Kif. Always no initiative; no urge to grab for all the gusto. It is no wonder you haven't advanced past the rank of lieutenant after so many years of service." Kif stiffened and suppressed a retort. "But I am captain of the Nimbus and I will interrogate this slippery and cunning foe. And get all the credit for it, too. All right Zoidberg, who are you working for and what is your mission?"

"I work for Planet Express and I'm a doctor."

"Planet Express, Planet Express. Where have I heard that name before?" Brannigan mused, rubbing his chin.

"It's the company that Turanga Leela works for, sir," muttered Kif.

"Leela? My lovely and sensuous Leela? Good gods, Kif, why didn't you say so? Zoidberg, tell me all you know about Leela."

"What's to tell? Oy, the things I've seen. And that Fry character. But, still she's…"

"Enough evasion. Get to the point. Does she talk about me?"

"Er, er…" Zoidberg began to stammer, "Who are you again?"

"Zapp Brannigan, Captain of the Nimbus which is only the most powerful ship in the DOOP Navy. Winner of countless medals." At this, Kif made a quiet snort. "And lover of the sexy and bosomy Captain Leela. Now, stop stalling. Does she talk about me? Answer or by whatever gods you hold holy, I'll have the information beaten out of you."

Zoidberg blinked in surprised and for a moment seemed stunned. "This is what you're holding me for?" Then quickly, "Ah, that Zapp Brannigan. How could I be so forgetful? Why yes, she often speaks of you with longing and sadness. She says she realizes that you are too much man for one woman and she must share you with the galaxy."

Zapp nodded with satisfaction. "That's the way you do it, Kif. Give them a taste and they always want more. You might think about that with your so-called girlfriend," said Zapp, making quotation marks when he said girlfriend. Kif looked outraged but said nothing.

"So, where is the lovely Leela now? Pining away no doubt, dreaming of the ol' Zapper."

"Sir, she's over in the station brig. Remember? They were ordered to arrest Zoidberg and all his companions."

Brannigan smiled with a lustful look. "Locked up in the brig, eh? Great work, Kif. Why this could become my next best seller. I can see it now…Zapped 2, Prison Heat. Yes, yes. Kif, I'm going over to the station to arrange for her to be transferred here at once."

With that, Zapp got up and headed out of the room. "Order a shuttle prepared for me. And make sure the lovenaisium is ready. And I'll need you for some personal grooming when I get back."

Kif looked ill and meekly replied, "Yes Sir."

Kif went over to the intercom and gave the order to prepare the shuttle. He looked at Zoidberg and moved towards the door, thinking of the horror to come. Personal grooming, he thought and shuddered. The door opened and a large Plutonian in DOOP Army coveralls stood there with a female robot behind him. The Plutonian pushed through the door and looked at Zoidberg who visibly quailed. He then stared at Kif and barked, "I'm Major Smith. I'm the one you had orders to wait for. Who the hell are you and what are you doing with my prisoner? You were ordered to keep him isolated and no one was to talk to him."

Kif swallowed hard and said, "I'm Kroker, the first officer. Zapp.. ehem, Captain Brannigan wanted to interrogate him for other reasons."

The Plutonian roared, "WHAT!" and Kif flinched. "I get jerked in mid-transit for this and you Navy clowns make a hash of your orders! I'll kick Brannigan's oversized ass out the airlock for this. Where is he now?"

Kif stammered out about Zapp going to get Leela. Smith snorted angrily and then pulled out a small communications device. He called the station security and forbade release of Leela. He said he would be over later to look at the prisoners. The voice on the other end made a terse acknowledgement and signed off.

The robot had sat down behind the table. She looked at the Plutonian and said, "Ready for recording, sir." The Plutonian nodded. He looked at Kif and said gruffly, "sit down, sonny. I've read the files and you have some sort of relationship with this Decapodian. I may need you for some of the questioning."

Kif tried to make an excuse about Zapp's orders but the Plutonian merely glared at him and Kif collapsed into the chair. Kif looked at Zoidberg and thought he could see fear in his face. "The Plutonian is really scary," Kif thought, "Oh dear; I'm in serious trouble if he thinks I'm involved with this idiot lobster." And mournfully, began contemplating his court martial.

The Plutonian sat, stared at Zoidberg for a moment and then said quietly, "Yeobot Rand, begin recording." A whirring sound started and then faded away, Rand began speaking, 'June 25th, 1811 hours Zulu time. Interrogation of Doctor John Zoidberg, male decapodian. See file #3489/35ZT. Employed by Planet Express delivery company as company physician. See file #3489/13AT. Interrogation conducted by Major Smith and DOOP Navy Lieutenant Kif Kroker. See file#3489/103MT. Interrogation conducted aboard DOOP Naval Vessel, Nimbus, Zapp Brannigan, commanding officer."

Zoidberg looked at the robot with amusement and said with a smile, "We're making a movie? Ooho, did I tell you about mine uncle, Harold Zoid. What a great actor…"

"Enough of that," said Smith. "We know that is your cover, playing the idiot. We are quite aware of your employment in the Decapodian Intelligence Service, Dr. Zoidberg."

"What? Me a spy? That's an outrage, sir! How dare you insult me? A lowly sneaking spy? I'm a respected doctor."

"As I said, enough of the role playing, Zoidberg," said Smith coldly, "I'm in a rush and not above getting rough if necessary. You are going to talk or you are going to be painfully unhappy. Choice is yours."

Behind his clowning, Kif thought Zoidberg looked frightened. 'No wonder, I'd be scared too." Kif sensed a real anger in Smith. He'd be happy to tear Zoidberg apart. And from what Kif could see, Zoidberg recognized it too.

"I'm a naturalized citizen of DOOP. I know my rights. I demand to see a lawyer," Zoidberg spoke in half-hearted tones. Smith gave a smile that chilled Kif. "Being a naturalized citizen makes what you've been doing treason. We still give out the death penalty for that." Zoidberg blew out his mouth tentacles in a fearful trill and sagged into the chair.

"You are Doctor John Zoidberg?" Zoidberg nodded. Smith said quietly, "Please respond verbally, Doctor." Zoidberg spoke up in a sullen tone, "Yes, Zoidberg."

After that, Kif watched as Smith interrogated Zoidberg. He asked questions that Zoidberg would deny with outrage or meekly confirm. Sometimes Rand would project some video image of Zoidberg meeting with shadowy figures in strange places. Zoidberg looked harried and often trilled weakly when Smith exposed contradictions.

After almost an hour of this, Kif felt that a confession wasn't too far away when, without warning, Smith started to shimmer and with a faint clicking sound, Smith the Plutonian was gone. In his place was a muscular human with close-cropped orange and gray hair. Kif blinked in surprise. The human looked at him and in Smith's voice said, "It's still me, Kroker. Damnable faulty chameleon chip."

Zoidberg was staring at him in shock. The major looked back at Zoidberg and said, "Okay, Doctor, let's walk back through your statements once again." Although shaken by the sudden transformation, Kif began to realize that Smith was covering the same ground and catching Zoidberg out in lies. Zoidberg seemed particularly upset by Smith's transformation. Zoidberg began babbling about his recruitment, easily giving up everything. The whole time, the crustacean stared at Smith. Kif thought the transformation had been particularly effective in rattling Zoidberg. Then he realized that Smith was totally unmoved by Zoidberg's confession.

"Zoidberg's hiding something," Kif thought with sudden insight, "something really big. Something that he's willing to use his own spying career as cover for. That's what Smith is after."

Zoidberg had sullenly confessed his job as a Decapodian spy but insisted that he had never reported anything of value. Smith said with a humorless smile, "Oh, yes Doctor. We are quite aware that you have been sending the Decapodians chickenfeed."

Zoidberg's face showed a hopeful smile. Smith asked mildly, "Why don't we go over your relationship with the Eternians?"

Kif thought Zoidberg was going to have a stroke. His eyes widened and he began trilling anxiously, mouth tentacles waving rapidly. Smith said with an icy tone, "We know that you have spoken to the one that is disguising himself as a pet. We have it on video."

"Aha," thought Kif, "this is what he's after." Then, uncertainly, "what does Leela's pet have to do with any of this?"

Zoidberg leapt up and began to shout angrily, "A lie. A lie. It's a damnable lie. Nibbler is a greedy little hell beast. A member of the lower species. A pet."

Smith looked on Zoidberg's ranting calmly but Rand brought up her hand which opened into a nasty looking pistol. Zoidberg was waving his arms as the robot pointed the pistol right at his forehead. Smith said something to Rand and a video began showing on the wall. Kif watched in amazement as the brain swarm appeared on Earth wreaking havoc and destruction. He watched Fry fight them. Next, the Eternians arrived and destroyed them. Another video sequence showed Leela and Nibbler together. Finally, a set of videos appeared showing several sequences of Zoidberg and Nibbler sitting in a dumpster outside Planet Express. Although Nibbler said nothing, Zoidberg was quite vocal and it was clear that the subject was Fry and Leela.

Zoidberg stopped waving his arms and stared open-mouthed at the videos. He slumped back into this chair and began weeping. Smith let him sob for a few minutes and then said in an angry tone, "These recordings were only recently reviewed after far too long. As soon as the reality of them set in, we put out a warrant for your arrest. That's why we are here now. As I said, we know all about you, Doctor. Now do you want to tell us about this Fry and Leela and why they're so important to the Eternians? Or do I have to talk to them just like I'm doing here with you?"

"No, no. They can't be touched. If the Eternians find out that you know, they may exterminate all of us," Zoidberg said in true terror.

Back on the Space Station -
Zapp was frustrated. The Security Chief wouldn't release the prisoners. He'd had tried the famous Zapper charm then tried to pull rank. But the chief had smirked and asked for several different forms. Zapp wondered where Kif had gotten off to. If he was here, he could send the little green weasel to get the forms. He'd tried calling for him but received a reply that Kif was tied up with the special visitor and could not be disturbed. Brannigan didn't like the sound of that. He gave the officer a direct order to get Kif over to the station but the officer replied that the special visitor had authority from the Chief of Staff himself which overrode Zapp's orders. Brannigan didn't like that either. He thought about going back to the ship but decided to see Leela instead. The Security Chief just shrugged and ordered one his people to take Zapp down to the holding cells. A tall sergeant led Zapp into the security complex and stopped in front of two cells. One held Leela and the other had Fry and Bender.

"You've got 15 minutes," said the sergeant, "The Chief says to toss you when the time is up." Zapp was oblivious to the man's insulting tone. He was staring at Leela who was standing in the cell door holding onto the bars. Leela looked out at Zapp and said, "Oh, lord."

Zapp smiled and tried unsuccessfully to grab one of Leela's hands. She stepped back from the bars and said contemptuously, "What are you doing here? And, why are you wearing pants? I thought you liked the velour look."

Zapp ran his hands down the dark blue coveralls and said sadly, "We've got a new Chief of Staff. He doesn't like anyone taking the initiative to show some style. No, we gotta all wear the same drab coveralls like we're a bunch of robots."

Bender yelled angrily, "Hey! What's wrong with robots?"

Zapp ignored him, continuing to stare at Leela. "I'm here to save you, my love. I am going to get you out of this hellhole and back onto the Nimbus for some good, good loving gratitude."

"Sorry, I'd rather stay here. Or be spaced out the airlock."

"Leela, lovely Leela. How can you resist the ol' Zapper? We can make erotic sensual music together, my sweet turtledove."

"That is so not tempting, Zapp. How about NO!"

Fry came up to his bars and said angrily, "Leave her alone, you big baboon."

"Ah, the pipsqueak boyfriend. Leela, I can't understand why this puny excuse of a man would keep you from being with me."

Leela put her hands back on the bars and said in a cold voice, "Zapp, Fry is a lot of things but the one of the best things about him is he is not you. He's sweet and caring, unlike you. Let me make this clear just so you don't misunderstand. I don't want to be with you, talk with you, or have you love me. So why don't just forget about me and let me be."

Zapp looked at her and felt anger welling up in him. How could she reject him? He stepped back away from the cell and watched with mounting rage as Fry reached out his hand and touched Leela's. She squeezed his hand and looked at Zapp calmly. Zapp stared the two hands and then at Fry. "This carrot headed moron is keeping Leela from me," Zapp thought with fury. Then an idea occurred to him and he smiled at Fry. He turned to Leela and said, "We'll meet again." He then yelled for the sergeant and left the complex. Leela let go of Fry's hand.

"I'm sorry, Leela," said Fry softly. "I wish I'd followed your orders. We wouldn't be here now."

"Yeah, you should be sorry, meatbag. Look where you've landed us," Bender chimed in.

Fry stared back at Bender and sputtered something. Leela said quietly, "its okay, Fry. You do the best you can. I suppose that is what I like about you. And I apologize for yelling at you. I guess you were trying to do something to help. But next time, come get me first."

Fry was suddenly elated. Leela had found something to like about him. Taking the initiative, he asked, "Leela, will you help me shape up? Help me become a better person?'

"Ah geeze, I'm think I'm going to puke," said Bender in disgust.

Aboard the Nimbus -
Kif listened incredulously as Zoidberg half-sobbed, half-trilled out a monumentally fantastic tale.

"As the Planet Express doctor, I have access to Fry's and Leela's health records plus the physicals I do for the insurance company. I noted something strange about Fry. His brain waves weren't as normal humans. There was definitely something very strange about his brain. Leela was also different. Her genetic structure was nearly human except for the mutant gene that gave her one eye. But, she had another gene that I couldn't identify. I was intrigued and began to pursue it further when Nibbler came into my office. I thought he was just looking for something to eat and was going to chase him away. But he jumped up onto the counter and began to speak to me telepathically. I was shocked that he was even intelligent, I tell you. He began by explaining who he was and why he was on Earth. Although the Eternians are master telepaths, they are too arrogant to hide what they think. It was clear to me that Nibbler did not think much of me as he barely hid his thoughts," Zoidberg sighed.

"He began by saying he was called Lord Nibbler and he was from an ancient race. The Eternians had come into existence shortly after the birth of the universe. They had ruled a mighty galactic empire for millions of years until the brain swarm came. The Eternians fought them but could not face them in open battle. Over time, their empire collapsed. The swarm comes like locusts every 10,000 years. Every time they come, the Eternians try to stop them but fail. They finally have to let them run their course and simply die out, but the galaxy is always devastated. The Eternians could see no way to defeat them. So they abandoned the galaxy to the lesser races and retreated to their home world. They feared that the brain swarm could never be defeated. Then, about a million years ago, a prophet came to be born among them. This prophet stated that a human would be born on Earth who would have the capacity to defeat the brain swarm. The Eternians began to watch Earth and waited for the day of this human's birth. And in time, Fry was born. They recognized him right away. They arranged for him to be frozen and ensured that he was protected during those long years. As you can see from the videos, Fry was able to defeat the brain swarm. But it did not end the threat. 10,000 years from now, they will return. Realizing that Fry's special genes needed to be preserved, the Eternians determine to find him a mate who would protect him and would bear his children. That is their goal; to spread Fry's special gene throughout humanity so they can stop the swarm. But they needed that mate to possess the necessary genetics that would pass on the brain wave but allow the bearer to remain competent. They don't want Fry's stupidity to be the dominating gene. Here, Leela enters the story. The Eternians realized that Fry would want a beautiful woman but that he could not compete against other men for such a woman. So they decided that his mate had to have some flaw that kept other men away. They chose the mutants because that was the stock that had the most potential for their purpose. They began to genetically alter a certain number of them. Over time, they suffered many failures but finally managed to bring together a combination that produced Leela. Although her parents were true mutants, Leela was totally human except for the one eye. Leela's parents give her up to a human orphanage. I'm not sure but I think the Eternians were involved in that too. Once there, they began to secretly train her without her knowledge. They worked on her psychology, her need to nurture, and her desire to be physically fit. It was all very subtle. Leela became the ideal woman to protect Fry. They fixed the career probulator so that her assigned career chip would make her the one that Fry would meet when he awoke from his frozen sleep. They are always watched and protected by the Eternians. They even fixed things so that Fry would go back into his past to become his own grandfather and ensure the power of the brainwave gene.

Kif flared, "That makes absolutely no sense. And it's disgusting. How can Fry be his own grandfather?"

"I'm a doctor, dammit. Not a temporal theorist."

Smith, who had been listening quietly except for a slight hiss of breath at Fry being his own grandfather, asked "Why did the Eternians reveal themselves to you?"

Zoidberg said, "They misunderstood human emotional dynamics. They did not foresee that Leela would develop her own romantic ideal and Fry simply wasn't it. They just thought that she would naturally gravitate to Fry out of loneliness. So they decided that since I had discovered that they were different, they would ask for my help. I've always felt I was an outsider and a failure. This was a chance to be a part of something grand and I agreed. They asked me to infect Fry with some specially modified parasites. I waited until the opportunity arose and implanted the worms without anyone being aware. And they worked like magic. Fry became more mature and more desirable to Leela. But, the Professor felt they needed to restore the old Fry. I was in a quandary and nearly exposed myself to stop them. Luckily, Leela intervened herself to prevent it. Unfortunately, we underestimated Fry's ego. He wanted to know if Leela loved him or the man the worms had created. So he terminated them himself and returned to his old self. Leela rejected this Fry and there we stand. Although I think Fry has been slowly maturing, I worry that he will never be fully mature enough for Leela."

Smith spoke again, "Seems to me that they really don't need you at all. To be honest, I can't see why they simply don't take them and breed them together in captivity."

Zoidberg spoke scornfully, "The Eternians are a great and ancient race. They don't enslave others and the certainly aren't going to breed them like lab rats. They like Leela and Fry. They'd like it to be a love match. Besides, the offspring will need to have children with normal humans to pass on the two genes. They believe that most of their children will be normal humans. Though they do expect at least one to carry the mutant gene, they believe it will still have the other desired ones. Eventually, the mutant gene will be bred out. That would be hard to accomplish in a lab or a slave camp."

"Sounds like they're just rolling the dice hoping for a seven," said the major.

Zoidberg disagreed, "It's already part way there. Fry is totally in love with Leela and she genuinely likes him. As I said, the Eternians want it to be a love match. As immortals, they admire and respect love. I suspect they will figure out something else to do."

"You admire the Eternians?" Kif asked.

"Yes, they are a great race. From my telepathic contact with Lord Nibbler, I have the impression that they have dwindled over time. I fear that they are tiring of being immortal. This may be their last great act for the galaxy. I'm proud that they have chosen me to aid in this great quest. Yes, proud I tell you."

The major spoke again, "You seem to have gotten an awful lot of information from this Lord Nibbler. Why did he tell you all of that?"

Zoidberg looked prideful and sly, "As I said, Lord Nibbler wasn't able to fully hide all of what he was thinking when he touched me telepathically. I'm not the brainless squid people take me for. I've pieced a lot of it together with my own research. I've investigated the mutants. I was at Roswell when Fry became his own grandfather. I've talked to some of the more ancient races about their own legends of the Eternians. Some of it is conjecture but I'm sure I'm right. As for you, I laugh at you and your DOOP. Now, that you know, the Eternians will probably destroy us all."

Smith smiled, "Fortunately, doctor, there is something that will prevent them from doing it."

"What, your puny DOOP military? Bah, don't make me laugh."

"No doctor, their plan relies on us humans for it to work. So I doubt they will be destroying us. Now then, here's what is going to happen. You are going to be working for us. You'll be paid a reasonable salary commensurate with the risk. But you will report all contact with the Eternians and keep us current about the status of the two humans."

"Work for you, pfah. Like I would betray the Eternians?"

"You haven't got a choice. Indeed, your options are rather pitiful. You can work for us or we lock you up as a Decapodian agent, or we simply tell the Eternians that you rolled over on them," Smith said with an icy grin.

Zoidberg's eyes bulged out and then in an agonized tone, "but if they find out?"

"They won't. We aren't amateurs at this. We'll have someone who can meet with you without suspicion."

Zoidberg thought this over a few minutes. "Reasonable pay, you say? Enough for Zoidberg to move into an apartment and, maybe say, eat at fancy buffets?"

"Well, let's say it will be more than you are making now."

"Low pay and no choice. Ah, Zoidberg, why did you ever get out of the birthing pool? Well, the Eternians aren't paying me anything. Oy, I'll do it but I won't be part of anything that harms the Eternians or Fry and Leela.

"Why would we want to harm them? They're trying to save the universe."

With that, Kif realized the interrogation was over. Rand stated, "End record" and stood up. Zoidberg, suddenly giddy, was dancing in front of Smith. "Very well, my new friend, we will work together." Then he stopped and peered at Smith, "You look very familiar. Have we met?"

Smith shook his head. Zoidberg shrugged and asked, "So when will I meet with you again?"

Smith said, "It won't be me. I'm headed elsewhere. You'll be contacted back on Earth. We're wasting time here. Let's get back over to the station and retrieve your friends."

Smith and Zoidberg moved out the door. Kif watched, shaking his head at the whole thing. He felt the robot, Rand, put its hand on him. "The major's going to be in a good mood. He'll want to talk to you before we leave."

Kif let his curiosity seize the opportunity, "Who is he? And what is a chameleon chip?"

Rand gave a deep rumbling sigh, "Many years ago, he was a Special Forces officer who was seconded to the DOOP Intelligence Agency. When he was 28, he volunteered for a special experiment. One of the scientists from Mom's Corporation had developed the chameleon chip. Once implanted into the brain stem, it was supposed to allow the user to change into different forms. You can see the implications for intelligence work. However, despite successful trials on monkeys, once the chip was implanted it immediately malfunctioned and could not be removed. It changes his appearance at random times and into random races without any control. The scientist was appalled and worked day and night for 3 years trying to correct the chip. Some say he eventually went mad from what he had done. For the major, it was a disaster. He lost his fiancé. He could no longer be a spy. He was moved to counter-intelligence where I became his teammate. For years he was depressed and underwent a lot of psychotherapy. Despite that, he did his job with all of his considerable skill. He kept trying to get back into the Special Forces but DOOP Intelligence wouldn't let him go. Finally, after 15 years of trying, he's on his way back to do a mission for the Forces. The only reason we are here is that we were closer to you than any other agent."

Rand stopped and looked towards the door, then began again. "But, all those years have taken a toll on him. I know that he no longer desires to live. Most time he just works very late, drinks too much and, although he doesn't know, I have followed him and seen him stand outside a suicide booth. He just stands there staring at the booth, holding a quarter that he keeps on a string around his neck. I think he would choose to use the booth but he still wants to end as a soldier. That's all that's left to him - the hope that he can still be useful as a soldier. Now, we're going to Da Nang 4 for a special mission that is considered extremely high risk. That is why he was allowed to volunteer for it. It is a desperate throw of the dice and he is considered expendable. I believe he will go seeking to accomplish the mission with all of his ability but, in his heart, he will hope to find an honorable death. I had to pull out all the stops, including some blackmail, to get them to let me accompany him. I've been with him for a long time. I do not want to see him give up his life. I want to save him." Rand closed her eyes and sighed again.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because the major wants something from you and I want you to understand the human who is asking. What he will ask will be very difficult for you."

Kif felt concern. He thought fearfully, "I hope he doesn't want me to testify against Zapp." He stared at Rand thinking about what it had said and then, with sudden shock, he cried out, "You're in love with him!"

"I'm a robot. We don't have such emotions."

Kif shook his head in disbelief. A robot in love with a human, how could such a thing be possible? He had heard rumors that some robots formed lasting friendships with humans but had never met one that did. They moved out the door and followed Zoidberg and the major to a shuttle. Zoidberg chattered happily the whole way. The major was silent and, on the shuttle, looked at Kif in a way that made him tremble a little.

Station Docking Bay -
Once they arrived at the station, the major called the security chief and requested the prisoners be brought to them. Rand and Zoidberg stood by the Planet Express ship. The major and Kif were alone in the windowless customs office. Kif wondered what was going to be asked of him. The major stared out the door and then spoke quietly.

"Lieutenant Kroker, what do you think of Brannigan?'

"Well, er, um, sir. He's my commanding officer, sir."

"Off the record, Kroker, and make it the truth."

Kif paused and then, with real anger, said, "I hate him. He's an incompetent blowhard who always shirks his responsibilities, abuses his rank, wears phony medals and has caused innumerable disasters. Plus he uses me for degrading personal grooming chores."

"Why haven't you done something about him?"

"Sir, I'm a serving officer in the DOOP Naval Forces. I cannot commit mutiny."

"Would you file charges and testify in a court martial?"

"Well, er, ahem, are you ordering me to do it?"

"Not at all. It wouldn't work anyway. Brannigan's protected by folks up high. His grandfather is a powerful senator. His great-aunt is a vice admiral. His family is a big contributor to our president's re-election campaign. They like having Brannigan the hero around. It would be very hard to bring him down. Besides, you don't seem the type who'd be willing to take the risk."

"Hem, er, ah…" Kif blushed a bright green.

"Truthfully, Lieutenant Kroker, do you ever see yourself commanding a DOOP Navy Vessel?"

"Well, it has always been my dream…," Kif began but sputtered out in the chilly blue glare of the major's eyes. "No sir. I'm not the right sort to be a leader."

"We all need to recognize our limitations, Lieutenant, but it doesn't mean we can't be useful. Whatever else we do, we can still do our duty. You are due for transfer soon, yes?"

Kif nodded. The major said, "How would you like a job that allows you to contribute to the greater good of the DOOP Navy?"

"What do you want me to do?" Kif said hopefully. "Anything that gets me away from Zapp."

"Well, your fitreps are a dog's breakfast. Brannigan has pretty much ensured that you are to blame for most of his screw-ups."

Kif stiffened in anger at this. Brannigan had never told him what he wrote in his fitness reports. He generally had Kif sign an empty form. Kif had thought that Brannigan, being completely lazy, didn't write anything at all.

"Oddly enough, Brannigan seems to like you around so you haven't been cashiered. Without a miracle, you'll never get pass Lieutenant. But we can help you a little. Maybe get a little motion going in your career. But the cost will be high."

"What is it you want me to do?" Kif said sadly.

"Stay with Brannigan." Kif began to protest. The major held up his hand. "We need someone who can reduce the damage he does. The new Chief of Staff will eventually move him to some place were he will be less damaging. But politics being what they are, that is going to take some time. Meanwhile, he needs to ensure someone he can trust is here to act as a brake, so to speak. I think you are that someone. Brannigan could have done a lot more damage without you here and you seem to have the personality to endure the abuse."

Kif wanted to scream NO as loud as he could. "What would happen if I don't?" he thought, "As a cashiered officer, I would have no hopes for decent employment on the outside. I don't know if Amy and I will work out. And I've always loved the Navy. This may be my only opportunity. If I'm split from Brannigan, I'll be lucky if they allow me to resign ahead of the court martial."

The major eyed him silently. Kif realized the major already knew his answer. Kif sighed, "It is a hard thing. It will mean more suffering and degradation."

"Believe me, I understand, Lieutenant. But it will mean a lot to the DOOP Navy and all those sailors whose lives you save."

"How will I endure?" Kif said in anguished tones.

"You gotta do what you gotta do," the major said in a soft and sad tone. "We all must do our duty and hope it is of some use. I like to find solace in that."

Kif thought he saw a hint of something shiny at bottom of the major's open collar. He began to feel a strange sort of kinship with the major. "Fellow sufferers," he thought, "for the good of the service."

"Yes, thank you, sir." Several thoughts ran through Kif's mind at once. It occurred to Kif, that like Zoidberg, he had been recruited without much choice. And he wondered if he and not Zoidberg had been the purpose of the major's stop on the Nimbus. Then, like a flash of lightening, it hit him that the major must be working directly for the new Chief of Staff. That gave Kif some measure of hope. Feeling a bit bolder, Kif asked "Sir, what about Fry and Leela, and the Eternians? Are you going to do something about them?"

"What for? Oh, we'll keep track of them but I doubt we'll intervene."

"But why? It seems they are very important to the future." Kif said in shocked tones.

The major grinned mirthlessly, "Kroker, the DOOP is not in the business of matchmaking. Besides, it is something that won't have an effect for 10,000 years. The government only thinks in election cycles. It's just too long for us mortals to worry about. We'll just keep watch and let the Eternians handle it. Besides, we may be able to profit from their obsession with these two."

Then the major's eyes turned bleak and he said, "By the way, Kroker, this is ultra top secret classified stuff so keep your mouth ultra shut. Not a word to your girlfriend, your mother or anyone else you might feel inclined to chat with. Not even Brannigan. You don't even dream about it, clear."

Kif gulped and nodded. The major reached out and shook his hand. "Who'd believe you anyway," he said and smiled. Aware that he had been dismissed, Kif saluted and headed back to the shuttle for the Nimbus.

A few minutes later, Rand walked into the cargo office accompanied by the station security chief. The balding man smiled and pointed out the door to the Planet Express group standing under guard at the steps to their ship. The major stepped to the door and looked out.

"Thanks, Mike. Let them go and tell them it was all a misunderstanding."

"Always our pleasure to further the cause, even if we never know why," the chief said with a wry grin and walked out to the group.

The major stood in the doorway looking at the Planet Express crew. Zoidberg was regaling them with a story of wandering the station after the security force had determined he was mostly harmless. As usual, no one was paying the least attention. Leela was talking angrily to the Security Chief. Bender was smoking his ubiquitous cigar and humming happily to himself. Fry was looking about the cargo bay at all the ships. His roving eyes landed on the cargo office door and he saw a man and a robot standing there. What he saw made him start, rub his eyes and stare.

"Hey, that guy sure looks like my brother, Yancey. Older but…" he thought but then he heard Leela yell, "Fry, let's go. We're going home."

Fry turned to look at Leela and then back to the door. But the vision of Yancey was gone and a Cygnoid in army coveralls stood at the door. Fry shook his head and stared again. The Cygnoid remained staring back at him. Fry looked about for a second and shrugged. He turned and followed the rest of the crew up the steps into the Planet Express ship.

In the cargo office, the major watched the PE ship leave the docking bay. He looked over to another ship that was boarding some soldiers. He turned to Rand and said, "That's our ride. I've got a long report to send. This side trip hasn't been a total waste of time but it means we have less time for the prep work on Da Nang 4." Quickly looking at his new form in a small mirror, he pulled out an ID card with a Cygnoid picture. With that, he led the way to the waiting ship.

End of Part 1.