Background Noise, part 14
By Dave Vincent
Signs and Portents
[Circles - To see circles within circles in your dream indicates that you are well protected or that you are being overly guarded. You may need to let down your defenses. Alternatively, the dream may highlight the notion that you are going around in a vicious circle. You need to somehow find a way to break this circle. To see an imperfect circle in your dream signifies that you will face many obstacles and setbacks in achieving your goals. In the end, you will overcome these obstacles and find that your struggle was well worth it.
Roses - To see roses blooming in your dream signifies faithfulness in love and the arrival of a much joyous occasion. Roses also symbolize love, passion, femininity, and romance, particularly if they are red roses. To smell roses in your dream denotes unimaginable happiness and pleasure.
Blood - To see blood in your dream represents life, love, and passion as well as disappointments. If you see the word "blood" written in your dream, then it may refer to some situation in your life that is permanent and cannot be changed.
Music - To hear discordant music in your dream, signifies unhappiness and troubles in the home.
Altar - To see the altar in your dream, symbolizes that you are making a great personal sacrifice.
Cross - To see a cross in your dream signifies suffering, martyrdom, death, and/or sacrifice. Perhaps your dream is telling you that you have a cross to bear. Ask yourself what is causing you to suffer or what is causing you great difficulties.- Dream Moods, What's in Your Dream; a dictionary of dream symbolism]
Somewhere Not Here -
"Cold and eerie" was her first thought. "Ahh, what a miserable dump" was her second. Leela wrapped her arms around herself and looked about. She seemed to be in some sort of woodland of barren trees. A heavy mist floated amongst the trees adding a sense of hushed waiting to the scene. Above, three stars shone dimly in the night sky.
She stood for several minutes trying to decide where she was. After looking in each direction, it occurred to her what the place reminded her of.
"It's like one of those horror vids Fry likes," she thought. "Those ones where the nearly naked and extremely chesty actress dies horribly."
She looked down at herself and grimaced. She was wearing a rather sheer looking nightgown and naught else. "Well, okay then." she muttered to herself, "Let's see if the monsters are up to a little Arcturan Kung-Fu ass-kicking."
Unable to decide on a direction and too cold to stay still, she stepped off towards the way she was facing. The ground was spongy and damp. Thinking she might be in a swamp, Leela stepped gingerly at first, trying to feel her way but was soon striding purposely forward. As she walked, she swung her arms back and forth in attempt to gain some warmth.
After what seemed to be a long time, she felt her foot touch stone. She peered into the mist and was able to make out an odd-shaped structure ahead of her. As she approached, Leela saw that it was a slanted building carved into a rocky hill. A dimly lit jagged opening was in front of her. On either side of the opening grew a rose bush that climbed up the side of the rock and intertwined at the top of the opening. The vines had three dark roses that gave off a strong rose petal scent.
"So beautiful," she said, "and that scent is wonderful."
As she stood at the opening, she reached up to take one of the roses. The rose moved away from her hand. Surprised, she reached for one of the other flowers but it moved as well. Every time she tried to pluck one of the flowers they moved. Frustrated she thrust her hand swiftly at the nearest rose.
"Ah," she cried as the thorns stuck her. The rose moved back to its original location. She looked down at her hand and saw the blood from three pricks on her finger. Sucking her bloody finger, Leela stepped up to the opening and peered in. The opening gave way to a small and dimly lit corridor. The light did not appear to be coming from anything she could see but seemed to be leaching out of the stone. Leela stepped forward and moved slowly down the corridor. At the end was a closed stone door. In the dim light, she could make out three symbols carved into the stone. She peered closely at them. At first, she thought they were circles within circles but then it occurred to her that they might be eyes. She was wondering what they could mean when a noise drew her attention.
A low sound could be heard from the other side of the door. Leela put her ear to the door and listened. She could just make out the sound. It was music but discordant and disharmonious. Suddenly, she was afraid. Whatever was on the other side of the door, she knew she did not want to see it.
Leela turned to leave but she found herself facing the door again. She whirled swiftly and saw that the door was still in front of her. The music grew louder. Leela trembled, no longer sure if it was the cold or plain terror.
"Pull yourself together woman," she scolded herself. "You're Turanga Leela, the toughest space captain in the entire DOOP."
Feeling somewhat less fearful, she reached for the door knob but paused as she saw something appear on the door. It was glowing faintly but she could make out that it was writing. As she peered at it, it began to glow dark red. As the glow grew, it became a single word, "BLOOD". She felt her pulse speed up as she remembered that she had touched the door at that spot when she was trying to listen through it. Looking at hand, she saw the cuts from the thorns were gone.
Knees trembling, Leela grabbed the door knob and turned it. The discordant music swelled as she heard a loud click. The door swung open into what seemed to be a circular room. Like the corridor, it was dimly lit. Instead of a diffuse glow, the light came from three torches stuck into sconces along the wall. In the center of the room was an altar above which a cross was suspended in the air with no visible support. In front of the altar, a cloaked figure sat hunched over on a rough wooden chair.
Leela stepped into the room. As she did, the volume of the music dropped. As her eye swept the room, she noticed that the circular design was imperfect. Instead of making an arc on the far side, the wall lurched inward and swayed back out. The room was empty save for the cross and the hunched figure on the chair.
Leela called out to the figure. "Hello?"
No answer came and she stepped forward. As she drew closer, she could see that the altar had three rings within rings carved on it. She stopped a few feet away from the chair and called again.
"Um, excuse me," she said uncertainly, "could you help me? I'm kind of lost."
The figure's head, which had been slumped on its chest, came up. It was hooded and the shadows cast by the torches hid the face. A chuckle rumbled from the figure.
"So, you've come at last," a hoarse female voice said. "Welcome to my prison."
Leela looked about again and then said hesitantly, "Who are you? Where am I?"
"Who am I? Where are you?" The woman cackled scornfully. "Don't you know? How can you not know?"
Leela shook her head. "I don't know anything."
"Well, at least that's true," the woman conceded mockingly. "You certainly don't know anything about yourself."
Leela said in her haughtiest voice. "I most certainly do. I am well aware of who I am."
"And yet, you claim not to know who I am and where you are," the woman sneered.
"I don't," Leela snapped. "So stop saying it like I'm responsible."
The woman laughed bitterly. "Of course you are. You are the sole reason I'm here. You put me here. You tortured me. You made me what I am. You did it. No one else!"
Leela clenched her fists and stepped forward, nearly shouting, "Stop saying that. I don't know who you are and I don't know where I am."
The laughter came louder now. Leela pointed at the woman and said angrily, "Who are you? And where am I? Answer me."
The figure stood up and Leela saw that it did actually did have a hunched back. The arms came up and two grayish sore-covered hands shot out of the folds of the robe. The fingers were so misshapen that they resembled claws. Leela froze, staring in revulsion.
The hands went up to the cowl and grasped the edges. "Are you sure you want to know?" the voice growled in contempt.
"BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!"
Leela had been on the verge of a defiant answer when the room shook as if from a terrible blow. The sound echoed all around them. Leela looked back to the door and saw it shuddering from the pounding.
"Time is running out," the voice said, hands paused at the cowl's edges. "Your one chance to know is slipping away. Your choice."
Leela turned back and stared at the figure. Part of her wanted to run away and scream in terror. But she wanted to know what it had to show. And in the end her curiosity won out.
"Just like the busty girls in Fry's vids," a sardonic voice, which sounded very much like her own, said in her mind.
She nodded weakly and the figure straightened up some more. Now it was closer to Leela's height.
"BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!"
Leela gasped and stared back at the door again. It was bulging inward from the force being put on it from the outside.
"Look and learn," came a terrible voice. Leela turned and gave a quavering shriek at the sight she saw in front of her. The robe had fallen to the ground revealing a naked heavy-set female figure. Its legs were lumpy with fat and covered with hideous sores. Below them, the woman had extremely large bloated feet. The arms were the same as the legs and ended in the gnarled hands she had already seen. The breasts were heavy and pendulous. They splayed down over a grotesquely extended stomach. The shoulders were stooped and one of them had a hump on it. The hair was thin, lank and a diseased-looking whitish-purple. The face was scabrous with two ghastly sores were on the cheeks. The large nose was nearly pointed and misshapen. A large single reddish eye with a look of madness peered at her. Leela felt sick to her stomach and leaned over to retch. Nothing came out and she put her head back then she stared back at the face again. To Leela's horror, she saw that it was her face. This hideous creature had her face.
"Not very pretty am I?" the other said showing a rotted teeth smile.
Leela sank to her knees and began to weep. The figure shuffled slowly and painfully towards her. Leela crawled away towards the door and began screaming, "It's not true. Stay away. Don't touch me. Stay away. It's not true."
The other stood in front of her and put a claw-like hand on Leela's shoulder. She flinched at the clammy touch and stared up at the mad eye.
"Who are you?" she sobbed. "Where am I?"
"Do you not know? How can you not know?"
"It's not my fault," Leela wailed.
The woman said in a terrible voice, "I'm sorry you saw that Fry. I usually try to keep my sadness pent up inside where it can fester quietly as a mental illness."
Leela flinched as each word echoed in the small room. "No, please no," she cried.
"Yes! You made me," the other shouted. "You've been torturing me for years. It has to end. You must end our suffering. Only your death can do that."
"No, Fry will come home," Leela cried. "We will be together and everything will be fine. You'll see."
The other stood looking at her for a moment then showed her broken teeth again. "You already know in your heart that he is going to die on that planet." The voice was cold as ice and full of venom. "Even if he does come back, he will realize that he could have other women. Human women with two eyes and small noses. Not a disgusting mutant freak like you. I am your future, Turanga Leela. Look at me and despair."
Leela whimpered, "It's not true. Fry loves me. He said so."
"Loves you?" The other cackled dementedly. "What makes you think he will love you? Why should Fry love you? What have you ever done for him other than treat him like dirt? You've ignored his advances and scorned his romantic gestures. You don't deserve him."
Leela moaned and covered her face. She sobbed, "I can change. I can make things better. I can…"
"It's too late. Your fate has been determined, Turanga Leela. You have no choices. There is only the path laid out for you." The woman's voice was racing along now, furious and harsh.
Dropping her hands, Leela blinked at this. A sudden sense of déjà vu hit her and she asked, "What did you just say?"
Unheeding, the other went on with spittle flying as she worked herself into a rage. "The only way you can escape it is to die. For without Fry, you will end up here."
She looked around the room and then shouted, "Here, forever."
Leela shook the hand off her shoulder and screamed her defiance. "No!"
"BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!"
Suddenly she was awake and heard the sound of someone pounding on a door.
"A dream," she thought, "just a dream."
Planet Express Ship, Earth orbit, 1947 -
The robotic voice said, "First, I will inform you as to reason the Mighty One was sent back in time to the Earth year 1947."
Lady Lambsy looked over at her scientific advisor, Doctor Pattycake, and saw her staring at the metallic head in rapt attention. Suddenly, a strange sense of uneasiness came over her. She felt, no, knew, that something was wrong with Pattycake being here. Lambsy stared back at the robot head called Bender. It had gone silent as if awaiting a command.
Without knowing why she felt as she did, Lambsy turned to Pattycake. "Doctor Pattycake, who else knows that our people created the time travel device?"
Focused on the robot, Pattycake blinked and turned to look at her. The question caught her off guard and Lambsy was pleased to see that Pattycake was actually flustered.
"No one, Great Lady. The others only know that the Mighty One traveled through time to this era."
Feeling relieved, Lambsy nodded. "Tell no else then. I will decide who needs to know. For the moment, it will be a secret only we two share."
Pattycake agreed and Lambsy went on. "Now, I wish you to return to the study of the time travel device. If it was damaged, then I would like to know how they planned to return to the future. And please ask one of the Recorders to step in here."
A quick look of disappointment flitted over Pattycake's face but she nodded her obeisance and left the cabin. Lambsy looked back at Bender. The robot remained mute and she wondered if this was part of her future self's plan. She rubbed her temples. Lambsy did not like the growing sense of unease she had.
She was about to have the future revealed to her but she felt a sense of dread. It was as if a great turning point in her life was about to occur but she could feel that somehow it would not be pleasant. It awoke in her a memory of the Clone Wars.
She had made a great mistake, one that she truly regretted; for she had backed her father in his desire for total victory. She remembered how she had stood in the Great Council chamber when Adoy had given his stirring speech that had ended the chances of an armistice and a peaceful resolution to the war. How proud she had been that it had been she who cast the first vote to continue the struggle. They had thought it would all be over quickly. How wrong that belief had been. It lasted nearly two hundred more cycles. And the toll had been immense.
That memory led to another more unpleasant. It was a vision of her standing on the bridge of one of their starships orbiting a Follower planet. She had given the order to begin the bombardment that would destroy the billions of Followers and their Clone allies below. Behind them was strewn the wreckage of the Follower-Clone space forces that had attempted to protect this planet. She remembered feeling exultant and flushed with victory. This battle had broken the alliance's back and now nothing could save them from total annihilation. After all the battles, Lambsy and the others were tired of the war and only really went on because of Adoy's unrelenting drive for extermination of the alliance. Now, here where the final victory could at last be seen, she was elated. She could feel the same exultation in all of her crew save one. That one, her aide, Moppet, was sad. Lambsy had asked her why she did not share everyone's joy at the coming of the end of the war. Moppet, who would be the mother of her son's dead wife, Leilliah, was one of the few truly spiritual Eternians. It was said that she had been touched by the First.
Standing beside her as the first missiles went streaking down towards the defenseless world, Moppet said mournfully, "We will have the victory but the cost will be too high. Now we will have no choices. We can only follow the path laid for us. Eternia's doom is sealed with this victory. We will know more. After this we will always be on the defensive; always pushed back; until such time as we are overthrown. And our fall will be our own doing. Thus, will the First repay our arrogance."
Fired with the joy of victory, Lambsy had laughed at the gloomy woman. Now recalling it, the memory aroused her fears and suspicions. Suddenly the path was going to be laid out for her and the thought was giving her a headache.
Her reverie was broken when the cabin door opened and the Recorder, Grumpystilkins, entered. A dour and taciturn Eternian, he was one of the most reliable of all her staff. He could be trusted but was that enough? No, she decided, something truly important was about to happen and only she could witness it. Feeling foolishly paranoid, Lambsy directed him to guard the door from the outside and prevent any from entering. The Recorder saluted and left the room.
Lambsy looked back at Bender. The robot head did not speak and Lambsy wondered if the mechanical being was even aware of what was going on. Guessing that it was not, she spoke up. "We're alone now. You may continue."
The robot's eyes opened and the eerie electronic voice crackled. "Lady Lambsy, I am you talking to you from the Earth year Twenty Nine Ninety Nine. I implanted this program into the robot Bender who will hold it until you reveal yourself to him. Listen well, for this program will self-erase upon completion. The Mighty One is due to arrive at the beginning of the next Earth year. There is much to be done and so little time to accomplish it all."
The robot's voice continued on in its monotone voice. "I will not reveal all that will happen since you would be tempted to change the course of history. Although my temporal theorists believe that time paradoxes cannot occur since any action taken in the past was meant to occur, I have my doubts. We must be very careful not to endanger the universe's one chance to be free of the Brains. I know that if I had known what was to come, I would have made every effort to change the future. In that, I now understand that I am my father's daughter." The voice paused then began again. "Understand that the future holds much sorrow for us. It cannot be avoided but as the humans say - what does not kill us; makes us stronger. And you will have to be very strong to face what must be done."
Lambsy felt trepidation as she climbed up onto the bed. The voice paused a moment then began, "First, the reason for the Mighty One to be sent to the past."
DOOP Naval Vessel Nimbus, Maug Sector -
Kif sat in the captain's chair and watched the bridge crew going through their tasks. The Nimbus, with its powerful sensors, was sitting at the edge of the Maug sector scanning for any contact that might signify a potential raider. Kif knew that the crew found the work repetitiously boring but it was vital to the defense of Maug itself. Kif did not mind the boredom, he found himself quite adept at keeping himself busy. Zapp had all manner of problems with it and disliked anything that couldn't keep his interest. It was generally the reason he simply took off whenever he liked to do what he liked. Aware that Zapp had powerful relatives in the DOOP, Kif understood how Brannigan always got away with it. Still it made things difficult for Kif since he had to figure out how to fulfill Fleet orders and satisfy Brannigan's whims.
For now, Zapp was semi-conscious in sickbay with a broken nose and three broken ribs. The doctor thought that in a few days his injuries would be healed up sufficiently to allow Zapp to be put on limited duty. But he had told Kif that Zapp seemed severely depressed.
"It's not like him," the doctor had drawled. "He's never seemed to be bothered by anything before. Whatever happened to him this time has really affected him badly. He won't talk to anyone and hardly eats. You' all want to let me know what happened, Commander Kroker. No? Ah well, then how about you talking to Brannigan and see if he'll see a psychiatric counselor. He won't even acknowledge me when I talk to him about it."
Kif had no doubt that Zapp needed it but he was also just as certain that Zapp would refuse. Brannigan preferred Kif as his sounding board for baring his soul. He sighed as he realized that he would have to spend hours of his days listening to Zapp work out his problems.
Kif looked up at the threat board. It was all green. A glance at the sensor screen showed the various ships of the task force doing their patrols. Kif had deep feeling of satisfaction at how well things were going. Then, as was his wont, he reflected morosely on the thought that there would be a price for Leela's attack on Zapp. He didn't know what would happen but was sure Zapp would do something. He knew he would have to be ready for Brannigan's revenge. At best, he hoped to keep Amy out of it. But knowing that she was Leela's friend and would try to help Leela did not make Kif feel optimistic. All he could do was wait for Zapp to make his move and try to counter it.
"No way to run a Navy," he mused to himself and then turned back to his duties.
Jungle near Myksho Ridge, Da Nang IV -
During the heavy rainstorm that night, Rand and Major Smith had made better time up the ridge. The storm had provided excellent cover and they were able to get nearer to the crest of the ridge. Rand was sure they'd be able to begin the descent into the Ashowa Valley on the following night.
Despite this optimism, Rand was worried. The major was showing a marked decline from the robust Special Forces officer who had trained for this mission at Fire Support Base Aberdeen. He did not seem to have the energy he once did and was frequently rubbing his shoulder and neck. She could hear the cybernetic Chameleon chip that was implanted in his brain stem. It would whir swiftly for a few moments then nearly stop. She noted that the major was most affected while the chip was in its active state. It was clearly wearing him down.
If this continued, she was not sure the major would be able to go on. And she knew what mission failure would mean to this proud tormented man. He had been a freak on Earth because of the intermittent operation of the Chameleon chip which altered his features to another species in a totally random manner. He had no control of it and it could not be removed.
He desired to return to the Special Forces but the Intelligence Service liked his investigative and interrogative skills and would not release him. And truthfully, he had to acknowledge that the chip's erratic behavior would hinder him in the military. Eventually he had begun to consider suicide. Rand felt that the major believed that this mission was his redemption from the misery he had endured. He would never quit and he would never return without the Persae DNA sample they sought. She knew he would die first. And Rand had promised herself that that would not happen.
"Well," she told herself as they moved slowly up the slick slope through the dark trees, "if I have to, I will carry him. He will not fail while I live."
Warehouse somewhere in New New York -
Zoidberg cowered along the far wall behind a large crate. The warehouse was alive with the sound of pulse blasts, electronic screaming, and the rattle of robots collapsing. And amongst the din, a loud fearsome laughter could be heard. The racket alone was enough to scare anyone but Zoidberg found the hideous laughter froze his very soul.
"Oh Great Crab," Zoidberg half sobbed. "Allow me to get out of this place and I promise I will do my best to aid Simon and his missionary brothers. I promise to be a better squid and follow your precepts."
A pulse blast impacted on the wall above him. Dust and parts of the wall cascaded down onto him. Zoidberg pressed himself down onto the floor and sniveled in fear.
"What to do?" he moaned as he covered his head. Part of him wanted to run about the building looking for an exit but the trained intelligence agent part of him knew that a panicky movement would only end in him being shot down by the mob robots or the forces of the robot Devil. "Best to wait here and see what develops."
The fight seemed to be coming closer to his hiding place. Zoidberg could tell from the diminishing sounds of pulse fire that the mob robots were losing the struggle. A peek from behind the crate showed that the line of demon robots had pushed halfway across the warehouse. In the far distance, he could see a group of mob robots, shackled together by electronic collars, being shepherded out through the hole in the warehouse wall by pitchfork armed demon robots. The hole was lit by the dark flames that illuminated but did not burn which allowed Zoidberg to watch as the long line of sullen mob robots disappeared. Towering above all of them, the Robot Devil stood with his hands on his hip joints, laughing.
Zoidberg moved back behind the crate and mulled over this development. "Well, if the mob robots lose, I may be able to get away in the confusion. On the other claw, the robot Devil may not want any witnesses."
"Why is it never easy?" he asked himself. "Why does everything have to be so hard?"
A noise drew his attention. It was near the other end of the crate and Zoidberg crawled towards it. As he got closer, he could hear two mob robots talking.
"Clamps, I don't think we can win this one."
"Joey, I ain't going to robot Hell. I'm not letting dat laughing creep get me."
"Let's not think of endings yet. We need to escape if we can. Run away to fight another day."
"Yeah but how? Our boys are nearly done. I reckon we's gots anudder ten minutes before we's finished. Maybe less."
"We need to ask ourselves what the Donbot would do in our place."
Crouched at the edge of the crate and intent on his eavesdropping, Zoidberg was caught off-guard when Joey Mousepad and Clamps came crawling around the corner. Zoidberg fell backwards then quickly scuttled to the far end of the crate. Clamps and Mousepad were just as startled and ran into each other. Both got tangled up in a heap. Seizing the moment, Zoidberg started to move away from the crate. His motion brought a sudden burst of pulse fire which caused him to dive back behind the crate.
Clamps rose up and looked at Zoidberg. "You!" he roared and cycled his clamp hands furiously. "Maybe I'm going ta roboHell but at least I'll make sure ya get what's coming to ya." He stepped angrily towards Zoidberg.
Zoidberg tried to make himself small as he could; bringing all of his appendages underneath his body. He prayed his hard shell could withstand the crushing force of Clamps' hands.
Joey rose behind Clamps. Looking at Zoidberg curiously, he reached out and grabbed Clamps' shoulder.
"Wait my friend," he said. "This might be our opportunity for escape."
Clamps, his electronic eyes glowing, slowed and looked back at Joey. "Dis meatbag? What could he do?"
Joey gave a chuckle and looked at Zoidberg. "Doctor Zoidberg, we have not met but I was the Donbot's most trusted associate. As you can no doubt see, we are in a difficult situation. If we don't escape we are as good as dead since we will be tortured in robot Hell for an eternity. That makes us desperate robots. Now you are faced with a choice. You can go out there and distract the Devil or I'll let my good friend Clamps have his way with you. I can guarantee that Clamps will do more excruciatingly painful things than what the devils will do to you. What do you say?"
Clamps stepped forward and pointed his clamp hands at Zoidberg. Zoidberg tried to hug the floor harder, his eyes large and fearful in the dark.
"Think, Zoidberg,' he told himself. "There must be a way out of this. There is always a solution to every problem."
Suddenly, an incongruous image of himself in his suit appeared. He was standing with his claw raised. Around him were aliens of every type, all with one of their appendages raised. A human in a blue suit stood on a raised platform in front of him. The human had his hand raised as well. Behind him was a picture of some other human and the DOOP flag. Professor Farnsworth and Scruffy stood along side one of the walls.
He wondered why the memory of his becoming a DOOP citizen would occur to him at this most dire of moments. He thought about all the hours of studying the DOOP constitution that he put in to pass the test and then he smiled as understanding dawned.
Joey raised his hand and said harshly, "Well, what's it going to be? The quick death from the devils or Clamps slowly grinding your soft parts? Are you going to do what I say? Yes or no?"
A flurry of pulse blasts struck the crate. Something shifted inside and fell towards the bottom of the crate. It clanged in a bell like tone.
Struck by the ominous sound, Zoidberg looked at Joey and said with a smile, 'The box says no!"
Planet Express Ship, DOOP Naval Station, Maug -
The memory of the dream faded quickly as the first thing Leela noticed was how her mouth felt like it was full of cotton. She smacked her lips and grimaced at the bad taste. It was as if she had slept with a sock in her mouth; and not just any sock, but one of Fry's.
The next thing that became apparent was that her eye was hard to open. It seemed gummed up and felt swollen. It took a few seconds for her to determine that she had slept with her contact in. Leela reached up and rubbed the dried sleep from her lashes as she tried to orientate herself to the surroundings. The banging sound stopped.
Leela sat up and looked about. She saw that she was in her cabin on the ship but could not remember how she got there. The last thing she remembered was the Nimbus and Brannigan lying on the floor. She wondered if she was still on the Nimbus and where Amy was. A voice called out from the other side of the door.
"Captain Turanga? Captain Turanga? Are you in there? Wake up, damn it."
The banging on the door began again. Irritated Leela swung out of bed and stood for a moment then felt her legs go rubbery on her. She sat back down again and waited for the feeling to pass. The banging on the door grew louder. She stood up again and managed to stagger to the door. She pushed the electronic button and the door slid open to reveal a tall barrel-chested marine in camouflage coveralls. He looked to be in his fifties with a weather beaten face and deep set eyes. A large scar disfigured his left cheek, running from near his eye to his jaw. The man had his hand raised to continue pounding on the door.
"Yes?" Leela said grumpily, feeling logy from too much sleep.
The marine's eyes roved up and down her as he broke out in a large appreciative smile. Leela looked down at herself and realized she was wearing her tank top without her bra and only had her panties on. She blushed and hastily closed the door.
"What the hell is going on?" she muttered to herself as she reached for the tatty nightgown she kept on the ship. As she covered up, she could hear the marine laughing on the other side of the door. Angry, she opened the door again and gave the man a fierce glare. Unfazed, the marine just smiled again.
"Well, dammit." Leela cried, exasperated. "What do you want? And why are you on my ship?"
The marine grinned and said, "Master Gunnery Sergeant Mulvaney, ma'am. Admiral Tsing sent me to bring you to the hospital."
"Tsing? Hospital? What hospital?" She asked.
Mulvaney said, "The naval hospital on Maug, ma'am."
Suddenly, Leela was alert. She now realized where she was. A fearful thought crossed her mind. "Oh, no… not Fry. Please God, not Fry."
She looked at Mulvaney who was continuing to look her over. Part of her was irritated at the man's brazen ogling but another part was flattered. The thought that Fry could be in the hospital soon drove those thoughts out.
"Who is at the hospital?" Leela asked; her voice low and nervous.
The sergeant looked surprised and then said, "You don't know?"
Leela shook her head and felt her heart racing. The Marine gave her a kindly smile and said, "I thought you'd been told already. That young Martian lass of yours is laid up in sickbay with some sort of nasty allergic reaction. The pill-pushers have stabilized her but they need more info. They want someone to come talk to them about the girl's medical record. The admiral figured you would know something about your own crew."
Leela blinked and felt a wave of relief go through her body. "Not Fry," she breathed to herself then felt ashamed as she realized that Amy was sick. She thought about the Mulvaney's words for a moment.
"Wouldn't that information be on her career chip?" Leela asked.
"She ain't got one," the sergeant shrugged.
Surprised for a moment until she recalled that career chips were only required on Earth, Leela said, "Give me a moment to dress."
He nodded his head as she shut the door. Leela grabbed the pants and jacket that lay over the back of the chair at her desk. She dressed hurriedly and was soon in a hover jeep headed for the base hospital. Mulvaney told her that Amy had been loading cargo when she collapsed.
"She swole up like a tick," he growled. "The docs got her stabilized. They want you there to give them some info on the gal. They don't know why she's reacting so badly."
Leela nodded and looked down at her legs. She grimaced as she saw the dark rusty stain on the right knee of her pants. She was wearing the same clothes she had on when she had attacked Zapp. She could see that Zapp's blood was spattered on her jacket as well.
"A fine sight I must be," Leela thought but she could not deny her satisfaction at the memory of Brannigan lying on his stateroom floor, whimpering and bleeding. She hoped she had seriously hurt him. Maybe broken something that would heal slowly and hurt for a long time. His treachery that had resulted in Fry being sent to Da Nang still made her angry. If Zapp had been there right at that moment, Leela would have gladly continued stomping on him.
After parking in front of the hospital door, Mulvaney escorted her up to the room that Amy was in. The young Martian was lying in the bed covered by a blue blanket. Above her head was a monitor with blinking lights. Amy had many tubes coming out of her. Some were stuck into her arms, some snaked up in through her mouth and nose, and one came out from between her legs underneath the blanket. Leela gasped when she saw the lovely girl's face. It was darkly mottled and so swollen that her eyes were nearly invisible.
A wave of sadness and horror went through her. Leela reached out and stroked Amy's hair. She felt the tears begin trickling down her face. Standing beside her, Mulvaney touched her arm and muttered that the "lass would be alright. The doc's a right smart one, he is."
Leela gave a slight nod and wondered how much more suffering Planet Express would have to endure. Zoidberg was dead. Bender was shutdown with only his head remaining. The professor was in a drug rehab clinic. Fry was off fighting on some god-forsaken planet. And now Amy was very, very sick.
"It is too much," she thought bleakly. "Everything is spinning out of control. And I feel so helpless to stop it."
"Here's the doc, then." Mulvaney rasped. The sergeant moved towards a chair near the wall and sat down. The doctor, a tall imperious looking man with gray hair, glared at him but Mulvaney merely gave him a smile and put his leg up on his knee.
The doctor cleared his throat and looked at Leela. When she turned to face him, he recoiled at her one eye but recovered quickly.
"My dear captain," he murmured in a soft professional tone. "I'm so glad you could come. I'm Doctor Agarn. I'm the head of the Infectious Diseases Department here on Maug."
Wiping her eye, Leela nodded politely as she asked, "What happened to Amy?"
Agarn moved to stand over Amy's bed and look at the monitor above her head. He took a long moment reading the vitals then turned back to Leela.
"She has had a sort of anaphylactic shock event. Can you tell me where you've been recently? Like in the last week?"
"Other than Earth, Io Naval Station and in orbit around Goony Bird, we've only been here."
"Hmm," the doctor thought for a moment and then looked back at Amy. "Not likely to have gotten anything unknown then. Unless, of course, the Persae unleashed some new plague but no, that's not likely either." He muttered to himself. The doctor turned and asked, "Is Ms. Wong allergic to anything?"
"I'm not sure," Leela began but then remembered Amy's vehement dislike of the Hyperchickens. "Wait. Amy said she's allergic to the Hyperchickens of Gooney Bird Station."
"Ah," Agarn said. "Well that's good news. We now know what to treat her for. I'm not sure why she reacted so badly, the local natives are only distantly related to the Hyperchickens. But we can start a more aggressive treatment beyond stabilization." He rubbed his hands together. "Good, good. We were worried she might have picked up some new disease."
Mulvaney snorted and Agarn wheeled around. Mulvaney gave a wide grin and said, "Sure an' the swabby cargomaster told you that the lass said allergic, now dinnit he?"
Agarn gave Mulvaney a nasty grin before turning to Leela. "The sergeant is right. He may be insubordinate and no doubt thinking that being the Admiral's pet allows him to get away with it, but he is right." Mulvaney winced at this. "But we had to be sure. At least now we can say that this is some sort of allergic reaction. But something has made it unusually potent. Captain, can you give any medical background on the young lady?"
Leela thought for a while then began remembering a few things Amy had told her. "Well," she said hesitantly, "she had cuteness reduction surgery."
"Pshaw," the doctor snorted. "That was a phony cosmetic ploy that some scam artists pulled on the very rich and gullible. They merely put you under and do a pore cleansing. Makes you feel like your skin has been scrubbed harshly. Everyone thought that they had had some cuteness removed but after awhile, they realize that nothing had changed. The smarter ones were too ashamed to admit they were taken. I've read some psych reports that say that now it is considered the in thing to say that you've had it. Hmmph, it's something right out of the stupid ages."
Mulvaney laughed and Leela gave a little smile to think that Amy had been duped. Then she remembered something Amy had told one night while they were out bar hopping. Leela had been bemoaning how having only one eye kept from having a decent relationship. Amy, extremely drunk, had sneered and called Leela a whiney baby.
"I was chunky as a kid," she had said, slurring her words. "I had to get an implant and genetic modification to make myself cute and skinny. I'd take one eye any day over being like that again."
Leela frowned as she remembered what had happened next. Amy had looked at her up and down with her gaze lingering a long while on her hips. Then she said, "Sorry, Leela." It wasn't so much that Amy thought her fat that angered Leela but the pity in Amy's voice when she had said it.
Shaking off the memory, she looked at Doctor Agarn. "She had a genetic modification done along with some sort of implant to help her remain thin."
The doctor thought for a moment then asked, "Not the Slim-Ever treatment?"
"Don't know," Leela shook her head. "Does it matter?"
"Yes it does," he said suddenly very serious. He stroked his chin as he stared at Amy. "Well now. Yes it is most likely the Slim-Ever. Should have been recalled as too dangerous for humans. The damn thing amplifies many existing physical conditions such as allergies. Until it's removed, we can only stabilize Ms. Wong here. With the genetic modifier that they sold along with it, the Slim-Ever implant will amplify her allergic reaction to the Mauggies. It will amplify it enough, so that our medicines won't be able to cure her. If we don't remove it, she'll remain as she is; in a coma. And the longer we wait, the more likely she won't wake up again." Leela gasped at this and Agarn turned to her. "You're sure you don't know if it was the Slim-Ever."
Leela shook her head again and stared down at Amy. She wanted to cry but didn't want to do it in front of these two men; maybe when she got back to the ship.
"Well, we'll check for it." He smiled. "Thank you, Captain Leela. You've given us something to go on."
Mulvaney snorted derisively and rolled his eyes. "Tis comforting words indeed."
Agarn turned on him and snapped, "That's enough out of you, sergeant. You can escort the captain out of here. And keep your skylarking ass out of my hospital."
Mulvaney laughed and stood up. He gave the doctor a sloppy salute. Agarn returned in a like sloppy manner. Mulvaney winked and nodded to Leela who realized the two men were joking with each other. She turned to the doctor and said, "I'd like to stay for a while."
Agarn shook his head. "No point to it. Visiting hours ended twenty minutes ago. You can return tomorrow. I believe we will have your friend in better shape then."
"How long will it be before she can leave?"
"Hmm, maybe about a week. If she does have an implant, we'll have to remove it. Can't do much about the genetic mod here. That takes a lot of higher tech gear than we've got out here on the border."
"I'd still like to stay for a while."
"Best you be going for now, Captain. Your friend is unconscious and you already done all you can to help her. And truthfully, you look like you are in desperate need of a shower and a change of clothes."
Leela frowned and was about to argue when Mulvaney touched her arm. She turned and the sergeant said, "Ma'am, we should leave. Doc Agarn will take care of her and Admiral Tsing would like to see you, soon as."
Leela was inclined to reject this but Mulvaney gave a thin lipped smile that let her know that it hadn't been a request. She looked back at Amy for a long moment then strode out of the room.
Planet Express Ship, Earth Orbit, 1947 -
The electronic voice stopped leaving Lambsy stunned. Her future self had only laid out portions of what was to come but it was enough to make Lambsy despair. The hardships, the suffering and, worse, the betrayals made Lambsy want to weep. But there was no time for self pity. She had to get work immediately. Lambsy climbed off the bed and began to move towards the door when Bender came back to life.
"Hey, you lousy hamster! Where's my booze? I ain't waiting much longer."
Lambsy looked at the robot's head and smiled. "Why, of course, Mr. Bender. I'll attend to it right away."
Lambsy stepped to the door and opened it. Grumpystilkins waited outside. She smiled at him and asked him to enter. Establishing a telepathic link, she said, "Have Captain Plummy take this obnoxious tin man's head and bury it in the desert at these coordinates." She mentally passed him the designated area in the desert where Bender was to wait for rescue. Grumpstilkins saluted and hurried away.
Lambsy looked up at the robot's head on the table and said, "Please be patient, we will serve you in a moment."
"Patient my shiny metal ass! Up yours, munchkin. I better get something to drink soon."
Although she would have liked to have dumped this loud obnoxious mechanical man into space with enough force to send him into the sun, Lambsy realized that he still had use. The Mighty One needed protection until he could spread his genetics amongst the human race. This miscreant was part of that protection although why, she still couldn't understand.
Lambsy stepped out of the room and walked back to the bridge. Dismissing the two attendants, Lambsy looked at the four figures sitting motionlessly. A Decapodian, an old human male, the Mighty One and the female she now realized was the Other. She looked at the one-eyed female and thought, "At least one part of the prophecy is resolved. We now understand what Aeryn meant about the Other. I suppose I should have DNA tests run to confirm what my future self said, but no need. Through her I will have my son back again."
She looked back as Pattycake stepped onto the bridge. Plummy arrived right after her. Lambsy paused to look at the two senior members of her staff and tried to remember what she had thought of them before she knew the future. Looking at Plummy, she began in a crisp tone.
"Are you aware of the Followers from the star system called Zeta Reticuli?"
Plummy nodded with a small grimace of distaste. "Yes Milady, they are a grayish large-eyed race, much given to skulking about and plundering pre-tech worlds. I believe they are local to this sector."
Lambsy smiled. "Good. A ship with four of them will pass close by in the next hour. I want you to capture their ship and crash into the desert near the atomic base. I will give you the coordinates of both the ship and the location where it will be crash landed. No survivors, if you please, Captain."
Plummy looked surprised for a moment then nodded. Lambsy sighed inwardly as she recognized that her people had never seen this side of her. Feeling sad at the coming passing of their innocence, she explained the rest of his task. The young Watch captain listened intently as Lambsy described the crash and cover-up story that was to be implanted into the local town folk and military personnel at the town called Roswell. Plummy saluted and Lambsy acknowledged it with a tilt of her head.
Lambsy smiled at the young captain. She would have to handle him even more carefully now that she knew he was reporting to her ex-husband on all that she did here. But she had always suspected it. Since Lord CuddleySoft was commander of the Eternian forces, any of the military personnel assigned to her would be his people.
Plummy departed and Lambsy turned to Pattycake who was looking expectantly at her. Lambsy felt a slight bit of remorse at what she had to do for she had genuinely liked the scientist. The knowledge that she was an agent of Lord Lovey-Dovey had shocked then angered her. Plummy could not have given Lord CuddleySoft much information since he and his soldiers spent most of their time patrolling this system's borders. But Pattycake had been involved in everything Lambsy had done. Lambsy had confided in her. She was chilled to the marrow to think that during all that time her chief scientist had been reporting to LoveyDovey.
Lambsy asked quietly. "What have you found out?"
Pattycake said, "Great Lady, I believe the humans had intended to use the stolen dish to generate a microwave burst to allow them to open a portal back to their own time. But it won't work. They need what is in the box. It is coated with an unknown metal alloy that is required to combine the solar gravitons and microwaves to create a chroniton implosion. This will be the only way to open a path through the portal. The human dish needs to be coated with the alloy."
Lambsy nodded. She already knew all of this from her future self. "I want the damaged box in the kitchenette melted down. What remains of the alloy is to be used to coat the radar dish attached to this ship. I doubt much of it survived its first use but it will be enough to allow them to traverse the portal again. Time is of the essence as they will need to enter the time portal in the next four hours."
"Great Lady, my scan of the ancient human reveals that he is a very capable if somewhat erratic scientist. He may discover the alloy. In the wrong hands, the time travel device could be extremely dangerous."
Lambsy shook her head. "No, the metal will not survive a second use. This is the only time travel device we will have unless a new source of the precious ore if found."
Pattycake nodded gravely. "I will direct my staff…."
"No! I want you to handle it personally. No one else is to know," she said vehemently, then followed with a softer, "I want this kept a secret for now until I have had time to think about what it means."
Pattycake blinked in surprise at Lambsy's tone then nodded. Lambsy watched as Pattycake moved towards the kitchenette. Lambsy went over to look at the four Followers. Quickly, she implanted the story of how they escaped from Roswell and how Bender's head fell back into the desert. Finally, Lambsy stood in front of the one-eyed female. She did a light scan of her mind and tried to sort through the jumbled memories and emotional conflicts. Lambsy felt she could almost sense the overlay of her dead daughter-in-law's DNA in the genes of this strange looking being.
Lambsy looked at woman and felt a great sadness. She understood that she would do what she had to do, so that the universe would survive. She would send her son to become this Follower's pet; she would condemn four Follower sentients to death to cover up these four's attack on the military installation below; she would destroy a planet and all its inhabitants so that the rare metal needed for time travel could be acquired; and she would use her dead daughter-in-law's DNA when the time came.
"And," she thought sadly, "I will do much, much worse. All in the name of Necessity. What was it the humans say - The good of the many over the good of the one?"
Of all these deeds, the average Eternian probably could not accept using one of the Eternian elite's DNA for such a thing. Such was the reverence for those who were part of Adoy Firstborn's family. Indeed, while the average Eternian might find it distasteful that common Eternian DNA had been used to aid in the development of these humans, they could adapt to the idea. The thought of using someone like Leillah's DNA would be incredibly shocking. Such information would be just the thing LoveyDovey needed to cause an upheaval in the tense Eternian political situation.
Despite all that, Lambsy would do it without hesitation. The future was more important than Eternian niceties. She focused again on the female's mind. A light scan established that the woman had some problems. She had suffered from intense loneliness, isolation and a lack of love. A miserable childhood followed by a grim and driven adolescence had left terrible psychic scars on her. The arrival of the Mighty One had changed her life for the better. Yet his presence was causing her some emotional distress as she struggled against the fate the Eternians had chosen for her.
"Alas, my child," she thought, genuinely grieved. "I have no time to mind link to you and perform the conditioning necessary to heal your psychic wounds. Perhaps later, after you are born I will be able to help you."
Lambsy thought for a moment about this and realized that if she hadn't been cured already then there would be no chance in the future either. She looked at the woman and said, "It's too late. Your fate has been determined, Turanga Leela. You have no choices. There is only the path laid out for you."
The door opened and Grumpystilkins entered. She looked back at him and he nodded. Turning to the one-eyed human, she reached out and touched her cheek to stroke it gently.
"Poor thing," she said sadly, "I have no time to help you. You will have to find healing somewhere else. But not here."
She moved quickly to follow the Recorder to her ship.
Warehouse somewhere in New New York -
Zoidberg stepped out from behind the crate and stood in the halo of one of the few unbroken lights. The pulse fire was still going on but it was mostly confined to one section of the warehouse where the last determined group of mob-Robots was holding out. The demon Robots were closing in on this group and Zoidberg could see that the battle would not last much longer. The Robot Devil was still standing by the smoking entrance his forces had made in the warehouse wall when they had started the attack. His laughter could be heard over the sound of the battle noise.
Zoidberg studied the tall red robot. It was standing with its hands on its hip joints; head thrown back and electronic laughter was coming from the speaker grill that was its mouth. Its terrible laugh echoed throughout the warehouse and it chilled Zoidberg to the marrow to hear it. Part of him wanted to run. Part of him wanted to fall on the floor and wail in terror. But all of him knew that this was his opportunity.
The Robot Devil kept laughing but soon caught sight of Zoidberg. His laughter trailed off and he stared at the Decapodian. Followed by some lesser robot demons, he strode over to where Zoidberg stood.
"Hello," Zoidberg said in his idiot's voice. "I'm Doctor Zoidberg of Planet Express."
"You're not allowed here," one of the lesser demons said as the Robot Devil stood silently looking at Zoidberg.
"I wouldn't be here if I had my choice," Zoidberg said agreeably, "but, alas, I was kidnapped by that deranged rohbut with the funny hands. Shocking what happens these days to decent citizens."
"Why would they want someone like you?" the Robot Devil asked.
"Well, I am a respected doctor," Zoidberg began to tell his cover story. After a few moments, the Robot Devil looked bored and stared over Zoidberg's head. "Anyways, they took me hostage and…" Zoidberg stopped when the Devil raised his hand. The Devil said, "Forneus" and one of the lesser demons stepped forward. The Devil looked at the horned robot for a moment. The robot nodded and walked off hurriedly.
The other lesser demons looked up at the Devil and one of them said, "What's the word boss? You want us to take him down? The Missus did say no witnesses."
The Robot Devil looked down at Zoidberg for a long moment while rubbing his pointed chin. "Well, he's not a human so I guess we can give him a tour of Hell."
The other demon robots chittered excitedly and moved towards Zoidberg. Zoidberg smiled inanely and then said, "Excuse me but I'm a citizen and I know my rights."
This stopped the robots that looked back at the Devil for guidance. He sneered, "A citizen? A useless lump of meat like you? Impossible."
Intensely grateful that Professor Farnsworth had gotten him a career chip when he had come to work at Planet Express, Zoidberg held forth his right claw. "Scan away."
The Robot Devil nodded at one of his minions. The lesser demon held up an arm that quickly converted into a scanning device and ran it swiftly over Zoidberg's hand. The device blinked and made a few dweeping noises then a paper printout appeared. The demon pulled it off and handed to the Devil who peered at it closely.
"Well, John Zoidberg," he said in a sarcastic voice, "this says you are indeed a DOOP citizen and ooooo…..a Waste Consumption Specialist to boot. Oh my, what an exciting job you must have."
"What? That's impossible! Your machine must be inaccurate. Is it set for a Decapodian?" Zoidberg barked in outrage.
The robots all began laughing. Zoidberg looked even angrier. He stomped his sandaled foot and shook his claw at the Robot Devil.
"I demand you rescan me. I'm a doctor not a ….not a…." He fumed at the Devil.
"Consumer of garbage?" the Devil sniggered.
"The Professor said…" sputtered Zoidberg incoherently.
"What an excellent joke," the Devil laughing evilly. "I must meet this professor one day and congratulate him."
All the other demons joined in and laughed uproariously at Zoidberg. After a few moments, the Robot Devil stopped laughing. All the other robots went silent at the same time. Wiping an imaginary tear from his eye, the Devil looked down at Zoidberg and said, "Well, by the amended Fairness in Hell Act, I'm not allowed to bring harm to any non-robotic citizen of the DOOP. So I guess you're free to go."
One of the lesser demons said quickly, "But boss, the Missus says we can't have any witnesses."
The Robot Devil brought his fist around and smashed the robot down to the ground. "I'm in charge here and I'll say what's what. I don't care what that old hag says. I'm bound by law to let the citizen go. Anyone else want to object?"
The other robots shook their heads and said in obsequious tones.
"Not me, boss."
"Whatever you say, boss."
The Robot Devil glared at them for a moment then turned to Zoidberg.
"My good doctor," he said as he put an arm around Zoidberg's shoulders. "I'm sure that you wouldn't be one for talking about what happened here, now would you?"
Zoidberg assumed his idiot's face and said, "Talk about what?"
The Devil peered down into his face for a long moment then, seemingly satisfied at what he saw, said, "Yes, that's right. Nothing to talk about at all."
Zoidberg winked and then said expectantly, "Okay, I can keep my mouth shut but what's in it for Zoidberg, eh?"
The Devil drew himself up to his full height and looked sternly at him.
"I won't pinch your head off, how's that?" He snarled.
Zoidberg ducked his head down into his shoulders. The Devil laughed and waved one of his minions forward. The robot held out a piece of paper and a pen.
"This is a waiver stating that you absolve the Robot Devil, Robot Hell and all corporate subsidiaries, including any holding entities, of any liabilities that might have been incurred during your presence here. You further undertake to not reveal anything you saw here tonight under threat of the severest legal penalties." The robot said officiously. "Sign here, here, here and initial this page," it said as it pointed at the individual blanks.
Zoidberg tried to read the document but the Robot Devil growled impatiently, "Sign the damn thing so we can all go home."
Zoidberg signed. The lesser demon then handed Zoidberg some coupons. "These are for half-off at Elzar's."
Grabbing the coupons, Zoidberg went whoop-whooping out of the building.
The Devil watched him leave then turned to check on the final stages of the battle. While he had talked with Zoidberg, the demon Robots had overrun the last mob-Robots. As he moved towards the surrendering robots, one of the lesser demon robots behind him asked one of the others, "Who was that guy anyway?"
"Dunno. I reckon the boss knows him or he wouldn't have let him go."
Another voice chimed in. "Idiots! The boss doesn't want the Missus to have all the cards. If'n all the mob boys are rounded up then she might not feel the need to fulfill her end of the bargain. Didn't you see them two sneaking out the back? No one fools the boss."
"But," one protested, "We had this place surrounded. How'd they get away?"
"Because, moron, the boss sent Forneus to call off the boys on that side."
A collection of electronic voices gave a respectful, "Ooooh."
"Yeah, but it's not like him to let a mark go without some fun."
"You saw the coupons I gave him?"
"They were expired."
The robot demon gave an electronic trill of amusement. "Dang, the boss is something smart, ain't he?"
"That's why he's the boss."
The others nodded and fell in behind the tall striding figure that began laughing a terrible laugh again.
DOOP Naval Station, Planet Maug -
Leela stood in the cargo bay as the Navy robots loaded the missiles into the ship's magazine. While she was grateful the Navy was providing them with a reload of weaponry, the scorching lecture Admiral Tsing had given her for trying to go to Da Nang had wounded her pride.
"Not that I hadn't deserved it," she thought with a rueful sigh. "It was a stupid idea and could have got Amy and I killed."
She grudgingly conceded that Tsing's points about minefields and raiders had made a lot of sense. She had taken an awful risk and was lucky they were still alive. Still it bothered her that she had been caught so easily and she had been foolish enough to say this to the admiral.
Tsing had told her coldly, "You are a damn fine ship's captain, young lady. But that does not mean you are the best there ever was. No one is always on their game and a good captain can weigh the odds and decide when it's better not to try. You can risk your own life if you like but as captain, you have a special responsibility for those under your command."
He had paused and then roared angrily, "Damn it woman, you could have gotten that kid killed. You should know better."
Leela had tried to explain but Tsing would have none of it. "No excuses. You aren't Navy but if you were I'd court martial you right now and ship your sorry ass home to rot in some menial position. And to think, I thought you'd make a good fleet officer."
After Tsing's earlier praise when she had brought in the Rose Convoy, this had hurt and Leela really did feel sorry. She apologized and promised not to try again. The admiral had nodded and told her that he was going to give her a reload of weapons and once Amy was well enough to travel, she would escort a convoy back to Earth. Feeling intimidated by the man's anger, Leela hadn't dared ask if the company would be paid for the cargo job. Tsing had brusquely dismissed her and told her to stay out of trouble. Mulvaney had escorted her back to the ship.
On the trip back, she had asked Mulvaney why the Admiral had been so angry. Mulvaney didn't say anything for a while then said, "That lass of yours reminds him of his daughter."
At the ship's gangway, the big Marine had given her a paper that had Fry's e-mail address and unit location on Da Nang.
"As of yesterday, he was still okay," Mulvaney said and left with a cheery salute.
In her cabin, Leela had turned on the computer to find an e-mail from the dutiful Kif with the paperwork necessary to have Fry discharged. Leela had sat down and wrote a message to Fry. In it she explained how Zapp had fixed things so he would be drafted and how the paperwork could get Fry sent home. She finished the letter with: "Please Fry. Fill out and submit the paperwork. We really need you to come home. Do it for us. Do it for me. Love, Leela."
She stared at the message for a long while. She thought about the last time she had used the word love in a message to Fry when he was on Mars. She remembered she had added it unconsciously and had deleted it before she sent it. This time she had made her choice. She finally understood that she did love Fry and wanted him back with her. Leela attached the message to an e-mail to Kif. She figured that Kif would be able to get it to Fry faster than the regular mail delivery from Maug which had to wait on a convoy.
Fire Base Cantigny, Da Nang IV -
Fry staggered back into the bunker and sat down on the rough chair. Around him, the other men from second squad came in and plopped down on bunks or chairs. Everyone looked drained and exhausted. Fry couldn't remember ever feeling so worn out. They had just come in from a patrol to the Lethe River. The area was still free of major Bug concentrations but the patrols did run across a few Bug patrols too. These small actions began to tell on the DOOP forces and casualties started to mount in small but growing numbers.
Luckily, the second squad had found no one on their patrol. But the weather had been enough to enervate the men. Fry wiped the sweat from his forehead and neck as he pulled his breather off. The high humidity mixed with the breather's spirit glue that held the thing to the wearer's face caused a rash; the Da Nang kiss the troopers called it. It itched and caused the wearer to suffer acne around his nose and mouth. Fry's lifetime diet of sweets and fried food combined with his current Slurm addiction made him particularly vulnerable to the effect. And even though Slurm was unavailable and sweets rare on Da Nang, he paid for his past excesses by having nasty outbreaks whenever he wore the breather for too long.
Sighing at the feel, Fry pulled out the ointment that helped reduce the itching. After putting some on, he passed the tube around to the rest of the squad.
"Only one little dab," he warned. Resupply was getting spotty and Fry didn't want to run out. He was checking his bag and didn't notice Sid Kawala use a large amount. When the tube came back to Fry, it was nearly empty. Fry frowned and looked around to see who had used too much but Sid had already gotten into his bunk and turned away.
As Fry thought about how he was going to get a replacement, the door seal opened and the squad sergeant Alexei, platoon sergeant Hicks and Lt. McNally came in. They walked over to Fry and stood in front of him. Fry looked up at them and wondered what he had done wrong this time but relaxed when he saw Alexei smile.
"Stand up, Fry," said Lt. McNally solemnly. Fry stood and the lieutenant pulled out a piece of paper. "This just caught up with you. Generally, it happens the week after a trooper finishes Medic training."
Fry wasn't sure what the LT meant and looked confused. Alexei grinned. McNally smiled as well. "I won't read it all, since I'm sure you'd like to get cleaned up and get some rest. So here's the meaningful part."
He peered at the paper in the dim chemical light and began, "Pursuant to DOOP Forces Regulation 1.4.777/a, Private First Class Philip J. Fry is hereby notified that upon successful completion of Medic Training, he is promoted to Corporal with all the responsibilities and privileges. It's also dated a week after you finished school, so you should see some back pay coming." The LT grinned and extended his hand. "Congratulations, Corporal Fry."
Shaking the lieutenant's hand, Fry blinked in astonishment. Alexei and the others began slapping him on the back. Even Hicks looked faintly pleased. After all the commotion died down, Fry sat on the chair rereading the letter. The only coherent thought that occurred to him was "Won't Leela be proud of me now."
Earth Orbit, 1947 -
Lambsy sat in her cabin listening to the voices on the speaker. She could hear the crew talking to Pattycake. The chief scientist was in a spacesuit applying the remains of the time device's metal alloy to the microwave radar dish attached to the Mighty One's ship. Only Pattycake and Lambsy knew what she was doing. The others thought that she was repairing the dish to aid the Mighty One's return to his own time.
"Almost done," came Pattycake's distorted voice. "Just one more coat. There…it's done. I'm on my way back."
Lambsy picked up a cup of Earth tea and took a small sip. A few moments passed and then she heard Pattycake's voice again.
"Something's wrong here." Lambsy marveled at the lack of fear in the voice; just the sense of impatience and curiosity although that would change quickly enough.
"What is it? You must hurry, the Followers will awaken any moment now and they will depart. You could get swept up in their wake." The voice of one of Pattycake's aide was clearer.
"I'm having a problem with my….." The radio began to break up. "….supply. By the…., it's nearly emp….Emergency. Can…..hear….I'm out of a….Emergency."
"Come in, Doctor Pattycake," the voice was excited now. "We are getting a rescue team ready right now. Can you hear me? Doctor, can you hear me?"
There was no reply. Lambsy looked out her cabin window. The Mighty One's ship began moving rapidly towards the dwindling time portal. A blue glow bathed the ship. It entered the portal. A flash of bright light appeared for a brief instant then the ship and portal disappeared.
An alarm went off followed by a voice on the ship's speaker. "Attention, attention. Doctor Pattycake is in trouble. Rescue team to move immediately. I repeat, rescue team to move immediately."
"There are boundaries one crosses without knowing," Lambsy thought, "but this was not one of them. The fate of the universe is at stake and no one, not even Lord Oday himself, is immune to the grim scythe of Necessity."
She heaved a weary sigh.
"Still so much to be done yet," she whispered to the empty cabin. Lambsy stared bleakly out the window. She would have to find the words for her people to enable them to endure the tragedy. Feeling a bit hypocritical at the thought of eulogizing Pattycake, she focused on what to do next. They would have to leave soon for Vergon Six. She had to set up the mining operation to find the temporal ore.
"A whole planet destroyed for a mere few ounces of the most precious metal in the universe." She mused and then smiled inwardly. "At least I'll soon be seeing my son again.
A motion caught her eye out the window. The rescue team was moving away from the ship. And in the distance, she imagined she could see a small dim shape floating in the emptiness of space.
"Necessity," she whispered, feeling a sadness descend on her.