Background Noise, Part 4
By Dave Vincent
Life during Wartime
(General Abrams decided that the DOOP military needed to re-establish some traditions. To help build unit pride, he resurrected ancient unit designations and ship names. New navy ships came to be called names like the Hornet, Iron Duke, or Hiryu. For the army, ancient unit names became a focal point for the new forces. On Da Nang 4, the 1st Infantry, 8th Guards and 51st Highlander divisions were recreated to handle the Da Nang campaign. They became the home for the large number of soldiers who did one year tours on Da Nang. Part of Abrams' plan to quickly gain combat experience for the newly minted DOOP military. - The Da Nang Campaign by Vijay Ranjanpurani, Major General rtd. West Point Press, Earth 3079.)
(Old New York was entombed by the founders of New New York. The Persae attack had left the old city in ruins. Their weapons generated a large radioactive residual and a severe toxic waste problem. No human could live there safely for any length of time. To protect the citizens of New New York, a vast sarcophagus was built over the old ruins. The city of New New York was built on top of the sarcophagus. Old New York was left to decay into history. Years later, it was discovered that the mutated humans created by the Persae attack had taken to living in the less toxic sections of the old city. The surface dwellers were fearful of contamination by the mutants and ruled that they could not come to the surface without government permission. A shoot-on-sight rule kept the mutants down in their dank abode. - The Ruined City by W. U. Konguk, Restored Cambridge University, England 2985)
(In addition to the immense physical damage done by the Persae attack, the use of plague bombs compounded the horror. The plague, soon called Red Express due to its bloody lethality, spread rapidly. An infected person had no chance of survival without quick medical attention. Most of the underdeveloped countries succumbed as the limited medical facilities collapsed under the crush of victims. The remnants of civilization went underground to escape the virus. While the remaining military forces of the Earth struggled to keep the Persae from occupying the planet, advanced medical research units were created to discover a cure. Earth's soldiers, fighting in chemical protection suits, finally drove the Persae away but the plague meant that the survivors would have to stay underground to avoid exposure. Some people risked living on the surface and a feudal society sprang up in the ruins of Old New York. In 2302, the Persae raided Earth again and destroyed this plague-ridden society. Fortunately, untouched by the Persae, Mars and the other system colonies had built enough ships to chase the Persae raiders away. Mars led the effort to discover the cure for the plague virus. The cure was finally discovered in 2306 by Earthican research biochemist, Lisa Van Houton, who said she had seen the vital component of the cure in a vivid purple-tinged dream. The cure freed humanity to return to the surface of the Earth. - Earth and Red Express - the Plague Years, 2258 to 2313 - from a speech to the Thirtieth Bio-warfare Defense Conference of 2812 by Dr. P. G. Kripnor, John Hopkins University)
Planet Express Building, New New York -
It had been a slow three day journey back to Earth with Bender's positronic brain acting as the modulator. Because the programming was so difficult, they could only fly at 10% power. Along the way, the Space Rescue ship, Amundsen, had found them. It had come looking for them after La Barbara Conrad had reported them lost. The Amundsen had called Earth to report that the Planet Express ship was on its way home. It flew alongside them as it shepherded them back to the Solar System.
After the initial excitement of getting the engine repaired wore off, Leela became depressed as she thought about missing Fry's graduation ceremony. Amy noticed her moodiness and asked her what's wrong.
"I'm feeling bad about missing Fry's ceremony. I promised him and I've never not kept a promise to Fry."
"Well, you can always make it up to him." Amy said brightly but Leela frowned. Amy went on. "Leela, even you have to admit that you care about Fry. Look how this is affecting you. If you were just friends, you wouldn't be bothered so much."
Leela sighed and said quietly, "I don't know. I like Fry but he's simply not the type of guy I'm looking for. He's nice and sweet but he's never going to get far in life. He's content to be a delivery boy. I need something more."
Amy put her hands on her hips. "Look, you've dated a lot of successful guys who all turned out to be creeps. Fry loves you. I think you might be in love with him but you're too damn proud to admit it. You are scared that people will make fun of you because Fry's just a delivery boy and can be goofy at times. Really, you're such a damned snob, Leela. Well, I think once you realize you love Fry, you won't give a damn what anyone thinks."
Leela looked at Amy with a disbelieving grin. "Right. Okay, enough about my personal life, let's concentrate on getting home. Go check on the modulation. I'm noticing some slight fluctuations in the drive field."
Amy shook her head in exasperation. "There's no use in talking to you. One day, it will hit you and you'll realize I'm right."
"The modulation, Amy."
"I'm adjusting it now." Amy said as she made some changes on the computer they'd linked to Bender's brain. She turned to Leela again and said. "You can try to ignore it if you want but this conversation is only postponed. I think you have a chance for true happiness with Fry and I'm going to meddle till you think so too." Amy stuck out her tongue at Leela.
Leela groaned. "What? Now you're my mother? Sorry to burst your bubble but I've got a mom."
"Yeah," Amy said with a grin, "and if she was here, she'd be saying the same thing."
Leela threw up her hands. "I give up. Go and check on the others and leave me alone for a while."
DOOP Naval Transport Roger Young -
Fry stood with all the other soldiers in the huge assembly area on the ship. A colonel in khaki coveralls walked in and up onto a raised platform in front of them. A master sergeant shouted for attention. All of the troops came to attention as the colonel began to speak.
"At ease men. I'm Colonel Moscewicz. You are assigned to my transfer battalion until we reach Da Nang. Normally that takes a month but because we have to wait for a convoy, it's going to take longer. How long I don't know. That means we'll be the Navy's guest on the Roger Young for awhile. It also means we have to live by their rules and restrictions. Fortunately the Roger Young is a combat transport which means it has plenty of room and a virtual reality simulator. Now, I hope you like training because I love it. And we're going to be training every moment we can. And I don't mean marching in close order drill. We're going to be doing training on the skills you will need to survive on Da Nang. I've just come from a one year tour there, so I know that the training regime we have come up with will help you survive your tour. When we're not doing simulated combat training, we're going to be doing classroom training. Additionally, we're going to help our Navy brethren out by assisting in cleaning the ship."
A loud groan went up. The colonel grinned. "Believe me, gentlemen, the ship is going to become rather, shall we say, aromatic before too long. Keeping it clean will help us all. Now, after you are dismissed, you will report to the sergeant in charge of your berthing. He will have your unit assignments on Da Nang, the training schedule and what your cleaning responsibility will be. We'll rest every Sunday and there will be a religious parade for those of you who want services. We have a priest from the Unified Religious Organization assigned to the battalion. And I believe the Roger Young's chaplain is a Buddhist but can handle all denominations. I plan to have several extracurricular activities and some sports. One final thing, leave the Navy alone. They have a job to do and if they tell you to do something, do it. My idea of disciplinary actions for troublemakers involves a scrub brush and the ship's waste processor. Any questions?" No one had any especially as the sergeants were glaring at anyone who might feel the urge. "Very well then." He nodded to the master sergeant.
The master sergeant yelled, "Attention." Everyone came to attention. Colonel Moscewicz nodded and said, "Dismissed."
Fry went back to his berthing area where the berthing sergeant gave him his assignments. He opened a small envelop and read that he was going to be assigned to the 1st Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry. The sergeant smiled at Fry. "Way to go. The Big Red One its ownself. Best outfit on Da Nang." He pointed at the large red number one insignia on his shoulder. "Now here's your cleaning assignment."
DOOP Naval Vessel Nimbus -
Kif sat in the captain's chair reading the latest intel reports on the current situation. They troubled him and he pushed the comm button for Zapp's quarters. Zapp answered with an annoyed voice.
"Yes! What is it? I'm very busy right now."
"Er, Commodore, I need to discuss the latest intel with you. It's important, sir."
"Call me when it's vital."
"Okay, it's really vital. Could affect the mission."
"Nonsense. Handle it yourself, Kif. I'm busy."
Kif sighed knowing that whatever Brannigan was doing, it was something he did not want to see or know about. Nevertheless, Brannigan had to hear the new intel.
"Sorry sir but it will take the Commodore's insight to determine the best course of action."
The intercom was silent then Zapp said, "Very well. Come on down."
Kif took the papers, turned over command to the Officer of the Deck and headed down to Zapp's cabin.
When he entered Zapp's room, he was surprised to see Zapp was wearing his dress white uniform. Kif had to admit that Zapp cut a dashing figure with his braid and ribbons. He was taken aback to see that Zapp was wearing a Rear Admiral's insignia. Zapp saw his expression and laughed.
"It's all right, Kif," he said grinning. "I'm just seeing how they look."
"Um, sir, I don't believe that there has been any message dealing with a promotion for you. Has there?"
"It's only a matter of time, Kif. Only a matter of time."
Kif looked at Zapp's hoverbed. It was covered with all of his uniforms. Kif sighed and thought, "The dimwit has been down here all day trying on his uniforms with the stars." He remembered the report in his hand and said, "Commodore, we have the latest intelligence reports. I need to make you aware of them."
Zapp was looking at his profile in the mirror and sucking in his stomach. He waved his hand at Kif. "Go ahead."
"Sir, the current intel on Persae Fleet locations indicates that the Persae are still engaged in the mopping up of the various systems that are in revolt. But there is a new development in that we are starting to see a slow buildup in the Kalkriese System opposite Da Nang. Intel believes this indicates that the Persae are winding up their campaign against the rebels and are beginning preparations for war against us. It is worrisome news, sir. We are likely to be called forward to support Da Nang if the Persae attack."
"So? Let 'em come. We'll whip them like a three-legged buggalo. Damn, Kif, I swear sometimes you are really too cowardly for the Navy."
Kif shook his head. He realized Zapp didn't mean to insult him but simply said whatever popped into his head. "I don't know sir. The odds are really long against us. The Persae will outnumber us nearly 4 to 1 in ships of all classes and almost 8 to 1 in capital ships. And they'll be able to pick the time and place of the attack. President Nixon wants them to be the ones who start the war."
Zapp sneered. "We ought to go right in and hit 'em now while they're still tied up fighting their own people. Catch them with their socks off."
Kif was impressed. "Uncommonly good sense, sir. But I'm guessing that the President wants the neutral powers like Decapodia or the Tencteri to see that the Persae are the aggressors and maybe come in on our side. We're going to surely need some help."
"Rubbish! We can handle this all by ourselves. Why I wish it were just you and me and the Nimbus alone. We few, we happy few, we men of Task Force Brannigan." Zapp struck a heroic pose in front of the mirror then he scowled. "I'd have beaten them the last time they came but the Navy was caught unprepared and left me to face them with a bunch of amateur draftees. I didn't have a chance."
Kif realized that Zapp was off in his own fantasy world, forgetting how poorly the Nimbus had performed against the Persae raid. Several senior admirals were sacked when the new Chief of Staff took over. Zapp should have gotten the ax too, but he, or his family, had managed to get the ear of the new president and Zapp was handed a plum assignment in the Arachnid War. It was a one-sided rout against the defenseless spider species. Zapp's image as a leader was restored. The president personally picked him to lead the marines on Da Nang. But Zapp managed to fumble it. He even had to be rescued by Leela and Fry in a still classified mission. After Da Nang's moon was destroyed, Zapp was sent back to the Nimbus under a dark cloud. And Zapp's dark cloud was Kif's as well. He sighed again.
"Commodore, the intel also includes information on the latest attacks by the stealth raiders. We're sure they're Persae but without nailing one there's no way to prove it. They were over in Sector Gamma 37/25 but close to our sector. We might see some attacks over here soon. We need to alert the Task Force. With your permission, of course."
"Alright Kif. Send it on to the other ships in Task Force Brannigan. Tell them to keep a watchful eye peeled. We don't want the raiders giving us the goose out here." Zapp looked over at Kif for a moment and then said hesitantly, "By the way, I've got a message that I received a while back. I've been waiting for the right time to give it to you." Zapp reached into his nightstand drawer and pulled out a piece of paper. He handed to Kif.
Kif was surprised. He had told Communications that all messages had to go through him. He wondered how Brannigan got the message before him. He was going to have to have a little word with the Comm officer about such things. He looked down at the message and gasped. It was an order promoting him to Lieutenant Commander. And it was dated a month ago. Kif frowned. Zapp had been sitting on his promotion for a whole month. "The jealous bastard," Kif thought angrily. "He doesn't want to see me get promoted. It spoils him presenting me as the incompetent one to cover his ass when he screws up."
Zapp looked at Kif and smiled sheepishly. "To be honest, I forgot to give it to you. Congratulations, Commander Kroker." He saluted.
Kif looked at Zapp, mouth agape. "Forgot," he thought. "God help me, it's probably true." Kif straightened up and saluted back. Zapp shook his hand and grinned. Slapping Kif on the back, he said, "It's customary for a new officer to buy drinks but since the Nimbus is officially dry, I'll do the honors. You can pay me back."
Zapp reached into the cabinet above his bed and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He poured two drinks. Kif tried to beg off but Zapp was insistent. "To Lieutenant Commander Kroker," he said as he raised his glass in salute. Trapped, Kif drank it down, feeling suddenly nauseous but determined not to barf in front of Zapp.
"That will be ten dollars, Commander." Zapp said. "Don't worry. I'll dock it from your pay."
Planet Express Building -
When the Planet Express ship arrived in the late afternoon, La Barbara was there with Dwight and Cubert. She and Dwight rushed to Hermes and Cubert ran over and hugged Amy. Amy smiled at Cubert as she pulled his arm from around her rear end and shoved him away. The Professor excused himself and went back to his quarters. Zoidberg said he had messages to check and left. Scruffy merely grunted and headed out the door. The two boys ran off to play video games. Leela finished shutting the ship down and came out to find La Barbara, Hermes, and Amy waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Leela noticed their long faces.
"What's wrong? Has something happened to Fry?" She asked, feeling a sudden chill.
"I'm terribly sorry, Leela," said Hermes. "La Barbara says Fry shipped out to Da Nang early this morning."
"What? Oh, my God!" Leela cried. "How can that be? We had him a safe job on Mars."
"The president called up de Guard last week. Fry's unit was sent to Da Nang dis morning." La Barbara said. They all looked sadly at Leela who had turned pale.
"No, this can't be happening. This cannot be happening. Not now." She sat down on the edge of the stairs and a wave of despair flowed over her. Amy put her hand on her shoulder. Leela pushed it away. Suddenly, Leela felt anger surge through her. She jumped up and headed towards the door. Amy shouted, "Where are you going?"
"To see that lying slut, Morgan Proctor," Leela said grimly as she left the building.
"Oh dear. Husband, I forgot to tell her dat Fry left a package for her." La Barbara said.
Hermes shrugged and said, "We'll let her know when she gets back."
Fire Support Base Aberdeen, Da Nang -
The major and Rand jumped off the truck onto the wooden deck in front of the base's headquarters bunker. In front of the entrance, a soldier in camouflage came to attention and saluted. The major saluted back and entered the bunker. Off in the distance, some heavy artillery guns began crashing. Rand stopped for a moment to watch and track the outgoing shells and calculate the range. Satisfied that the target was at least twenty miles away, she turned towards the bunker door.
Rand was pleased at the change in the major. He was more cheerful and more interested in things around him. She hoped that maybe he might find a reason to survive this mission. That was something very important to Rand for she was in love with the major.
She had worked with him for nearly thirteen years. Together they were one of the most effective teams in DOOP Counterintelligence. She had found his skills as an interrogator and his ability to reason out intelligence problems useful assets for the team. But the major's life outside of his job had been confusing to Rand. She couldn't understand his despair. She knew that the malfunctioning chameleon chip was a serious problem for the major but she didn't understand why since it didn't really affect his ability to do the job.
After a while, she decided to try and understand the why of it. So while the major went to his thrice-weekly psychotherapy treatment, Rand would download information on human psychology from the MilNet. Rand's studies led her to believe that the major felt the chameleon chip would hinder his ability to mate and reproduce. She began to watch for signs of the major trying to overcome this. When the major did nothing, she even tried to set him up with the other human females in the department but none of them wanted anything to do with the major. When Rand asked one of them why, the female replied that she didn't want to date a man who might not be the same shape at the end of the date. This puzzled Rand but she soon realized that the human females of her department were not willing to mate with a shapeshifter. After trying unsuccessfully with females in other departments, Rand gave up.
After the fifth year, she began to stop off at the bars with the major following their work assignment so she could spend more time with him for she enjoyed being with him. She normally drank only mineral oil but alcohol had little effect on her and she easily matched the major drink for drink. She had little need for the money she earned and often paid for all the drinks. The major objected at first but Rand pointed out the logic of it. Her money had no purpose as she lived in a closet at work and no life outside work. It was better used in buying drinks for her partner. Often she carried the major back to his apartment when he'd drunk too much. Soon, the major was asking her to stop and drink with him after work. Rand felt he liked her company. This pleased Rand since the other humans they worked with seemed fearful of her even after she had been with the department for thirty years. Of course, the humans knew what she was and were afraid. But not the major, he saw her for what she did, not what she was. After working with her for a year, he began to treat her as a full partner and not a machine.
Rand began to think about the major when he was in his down time the humans called sleep. Rand wondered if he dreamed like the psychology texts said and what his dreams were about. Rand too had dreams. She knew they were just her programs running while she was down for recharging but she remembered them and thought of them as dreams. Sometimes the dreams were bloody as she recalled a long lost past. Some memory that had been badly erased she realized. Sometimes, they came as replications of the major's different forms as her programming remembered them. Rand liked these dreams. She found the major's various forms fascinating and had started counting them. She had reached nearly eighty-seven which was at least fifteen more than the number of species in the DOOP federation.
The major's life began to exert a fascination on her. She wanted to know more about him. She found she was afraid to ask him outright. This struck her as a programming fault. She ran several system checks but found nothing wrong. Finally she went to a mercenary positronic programmer she knew of. For the right amount of money, the human could illegally program a robot to do anything. Rand had caught him at it and the human had offered her any programming she desired to look the other way. Rand had given him the break but required him to be on call for department work. The human thought Rand was a cop and she allowed him to continue in this misapprehension. The human had proven useful on several intelligence cases and, if he guessed that Rand was more than just a cop, he said nothing.
Rand asked him to check her out. She explained what was happening and the diminutive programmer had foolishly laughed. Rand had backhanded him and, after he came to, he had apologized profusely. He had her lay on a reclining table and hooked up wires to her head. These wires ran over to a large computer on a table. He ran a deep programming scan on her and, after an hour of looking at the data, came over to her.
"Well?" She had demanded.
"Got bad news for you, toots." He said, showing a bloodied smile through his graying beard. "Your programming has been evolving."
"What does that mean?"
"When Gysberg developed the first positronic brain, it was theorized that it was possible that the artificial intelligence might start exhibiting human traits given enough time. After all, Gysberg modeled it on the human brain. Even today, we don't know everything about the human brain and Gysberg mimicked the human brain perfectly. The Gysberg positronic brain contained subroutines that even he didn't know what they did. But they are generally dormant since they lie deep below the major programming."
"Spare me the history lesson and get to the point."
"The special modification the Feds did on you has caused your positronic brain to develop paths around the modified area. These new paths are going through those unknown subroutines. I'm guessing that they're based on the centers of emotions in the human brain. Basically, you're developing feelings. You know. Emotions. What is happening to you is that you've got a crush on this guy you work with. It's starting to invade your logic routines." He grinned. "You're becoming more human. Wow, I'd really like to cut your brain open and check it out."
Rand looked up at him and said, "I don't want anyone to know of this. Ever."
"But toots, this is the stuff Nobel Prizes are made of. For chrissakes, we could make a fortune off this." He looked eager. Rand reached up and pulled the connecting wires out of her head and then jerked them. The computer they were attached to came flying over to her. She snagged it quickly and crushed it.
"Ah, man, toots. Did you have to do that? I could have just erased the files." The man asked in an angry tone. Rand stood up and dropped the computer. When it hit the floor, she pointed one of her fingers at it. Flames shot out and the computer began burning. The man cried out and reached for a fire extinguisher. Rand grabbed him and picked him up off the floor. He began wailing.
Rand brought his face level to hers. He gasped as he looked into her dark green eyes and cold female shaped gun-metal gray face. She spoke quietly. "If I ever hear that you've passed this information on or if someone starts talking about it, I'll find you and treat you just like this computer. Understand?"
The man began nodding and Rand, who had seen enough terror stricken humans to recognize one, lowered him. She raised her other hand in front of his face and several nasty looking blades came up out of her fingers like claws. The man whimpered. Curling her fingers, she touched his face with one of the blades, running it down his cheek and leaving a slight red line to mark its passing. The man winced. She gave a cold robotic smile. "I may have feelings but I'm still who I am. Remember that and live."
The man shook noticeably and turned pale. "But you've been modified," he said in disbelief. Rand dropped him on the floor and stood over him, her green eyes glinting in the light of the burning computer. She smiled, saying, "Maybe the modification didn't take." She deployed all of her weaponry and stood like a metallic demon above him. He cried out in horror and began begging for his life. "Remember this and keep silent." Then, restoring herself to normal, she turned and left the building.
After that, she began following the major on the days when he was not at work. She didn't think of this as being wrong but she didn't let him see her either. Rand was curious about what the major did away from work when he was not drinking. Sometimes he went to the gym if in a suitable form. Sometimes he went to a movie. Generally he ended his day drunk. She found herself shocked when, one day, he stopped outside a suicide booth. The first thought she had was that she had to stop him. She was about to rush him but he was just standing there staring at the booth. He held his hand palm up with a shiny new quarter on it. He stood looking at the booth for ten minutes and then, sighing, he put the coin in his pocket and walked away. Over the next few months that Rand followed him, he returned several times but each time walked away. Eventually he took to wearing the coin on a string about his neck. From then on, she always followed the major away from work just in case.
Rand began to have thoughts that bothered her tremendously. She wanted to be human so she could be with the major. This struck her as illogical. She was perfect. With proper maintenance, she could conceivably last several thousand years. The major was mortal and, given the way he drank, it was unlikely he would see seventy years. Yet, that did not matter to her. She wanted to be with him. This desire confused her. She looked at her psychology texts but they could provide no answer that made sense to her. Finally she took to reading romantic novels. After downloading and reading several thousand, she came to the conclusion that love was totally illogical. She could not understand how humans in love could even function but she knew she was in love. She decided that if it was illogical, then she would live by the rules of illogic. She made it her goal to save the major. Violating all of her programming, she blackmailed their supervisor to get her assigned to the Da Nang mission. She even allowed herself to talk about the major to the Navy lieutenant on the Nimbus without understanding why she did it. The little green lieutenant guessed her secret. She had denied it but she wanted to tell someone how much she loved the major. She badly wanted to tell the major. But she didn't know how and she was afraid the major would be repulsed by her feelings. So she kept quiet, knowing that she was experiencing something the romance novels called unrequited love. It was painful but she endured for she understood and found comfort in the goal of saving the major.
So for now, the major was in a good mood. Perhaps she could convince him to let her go alone on the mission which seemed suicidal to her. She would sacrifice herself for him; another illogical thought. She felt herself humming quietly as she entered the bunker behind the major. "Life," she thought, "is interesting." A concept, she realized, that was totally alien to robots.
Central Government Bureaucracy building, New New York -
Leela arrived at Morgan's office at nearly six o'clock. She thought that everyone would have gone home but the building was still a hive of activity. Leela took the elevator to Morgan's floor and walked into the front office. Allen wasn't there but Morgan's door was ajar. Leela went to the door and looked in. Morgan was sitting at her desk looking at some papers. Leela knocked, startling Morgan. She looked up and saw Leela. She hurriedly put the papers into a folder and stuck them into her top drawer. Locking the drawer, she looked back a Leela again, "This is a surprise. I doubt you're here to offer to buy me a drink so it has to be about Fry?"
"He's been sent to Da Nang. You said he'd be safe on Mars." Leela said angrily.
Morgan put up her hand. "We didn't know the president was going to federalize the Guard. It's not my fault."
Leela stood in front of Morgan's desk and folded her arms. "I want Allen to go on-line and change Fry's orders."
Morgan laughed. "No way! Hacking the Selective Service Bureau is one thing but messing with the Ministry of Defense in time of war can be defined as treason. They shoot people for that sort of stuff. Besides, it can't be done. The MOD has the best cybernet protection in the world. Allen's really good but he's not capable of cracking the MOD."
Leela stared hard at Morgan and clenched her fists menacingly. Morgan gave Leela a cynical smile and said, "There's nothing you can do to threaten me, Leela. And I'm not risking Allen for Fry. End of story."
"Damn it. Fry could be killed." Leela exploded.
Morgan reached into her desk and pulled out a cigarette. Taking her time, she lit it and took several puffs. Leela stared hard at her. Morgan smiled and blew out a long breathe of smoke.
"Then he takes his chances like everyone else has to. If Fry's time is up, its up and you can't change it Leela. Allen can't change the orders. No one can except the Ministry of Defense or the president. So unless you are Nixon's personal friend or you've got lots of cash to donate, Fry's going to Da Nang. I'm sorry, but that's how it is."
Leela suddenly felt empty. She looked out the window at the brilliantly lit city and thought she could just start crying and never stop. Morgan looked at her and said, "Come on. You might not buy me a drink but I'll buy you one. You look like you could use it."
Coming around the desk, she led Leela out of the office and down into the street. Morgan walked with Leela down two blocks and entered a small bar called Bureau Cats. It was a small, smoky place decorated with bureaucrats-as-cats statues and posters. The bar was already crowded but two men recognized Morgan and got up from the bar. Nodding, Morgan directed Leela to sit and ordered a martini for herself and a LoBrau for Leela. As they sat drinking, Morgan looked about the room as she sipped her drink. Some people stared at Leela in disgust but Morgan gave them a frosty smile and they turned away. Feeling depressed, Leela stared down into her beer. Morgan looked over at Leela and said, "So you found out that Fry was the one?"
Leela shook her head. "No, I'm still not sure about that but I do have feelings for him. I'm afraid he'll get hurt without me around to protect him. I don't know why but I do. It's really bothering me."
Morgan laughed and shook her head. "Sure and I'm the tooth fairy."
Leela frowned. "Why does no one believe me when I say that?"
"Because you are a bad liar, Turanga Leela. You positively give off the vibe that Fry's your guy. And, although God knows why, Fry loves you. He told me so when I tried contacting him a year ago. The damned fool boy is crazy about you. But, hell, if you want to fool yourself, go ahead. One day, you'll discover the truth of it like I did. Hopefully, it won't be too late."
Leela felt anger at the thought of Morgan calling Fry. But hearing that Fry loved her bothered her tremendously. She knew she had a romanticized image of the type of man she wanted. She wondered if she'd ever find that type of man. She saw Morgan staring at her expectantly. She shook her head. "I like Fry... a lot but he's not really my type. I like successful men who are go-getters. Fry's nothing like that. I see him more as…um, a brother."
Morgan was taking a sip of her martini and started choking. She had to cough into a napkin for a few seconds. Leela was concerned that she had swallowed the olive but quickly realized that Morgan was laughing.
"Oh my God! That has to be the funniest thing I've ever heard. Your brother? Really, your brother? You didn't really say that? Did you?"
"It's not funny. I'll thank you to stop discussing it. "
"Sure, Leela. Keep lying to yourself." Morgan grinned then said sadly, "Till it really hurts."
Leela frowned as Morgan ordered another round. They sat together for five more, two that they bought and three others from men at the bar. Morgan treated the men with contempt. The TV over the bar was showing more war news. Morgan talked about the war for a while but thought it wouldn't come to much. "The diplomats will resolve it before too much longer. We just have to find out what the Persae want and give it to them. Personally I think the administration is just using it as an excuse to increase its power."
Leela decided she didn't want to hear about the war anymore. She asked, "So where's Allen?"
Morgan said sadly, "Gone to visit his parents. Be gone all week. It's going to be real lonely. I guess I'll just work late."
Leela drank her beer and looked over at Morgan. "How long have you been with Allen?"
Morgan started and took a quick drink. "Relationships with junior members of the bureaucracy by senior staff are forbidden. Who says I'm with Allen?"
Leela snorted. "Now who's ignoring the vibe? You were practically ready to have sex with him the last time I saw you two back in August."
Morgan gave a woozy grin and Leela realized that Morgan was getting drunk. "Okay. I like the guy. He's bright and really, really kind. A little lazy and a complete slob. He's got no ambition but he really lights my fire. When he was first assigned to me six months ago, I noticed that he'd look at me in a way that wasn't professional. It was a turn-on but I ignored him. When he asked me out, I reminded him of the rules. He said rules are meant to be broken. I should have had him tossed for even considering something like that. Bad attitude for a bureaucrat. Besides, he was just a kid. Like you, I thought I'd be better off with a go-getter too. Maybe a doctor or a lawyer. Even a politician. But damn me, if he didn't keep after me. He really started to grow on me. I'd find myself daydreaming about him but I maintained a professional front. I learned a hard lesson with Fry. One night, I was working late. He walked in and put some papers on my desk. I looked up right into his eyes. All of a sudden it hit me like a lightening bolt that I wanted him. Next thing I knew I had him laying on my desk with me on top." She stopped and stared about. Then she laughed sheepishly. "I shouldn't be telling you this. But, hell, you're the closest thing I have to a girlfriend." She shook her head and said sadly, "sometimes you need someone you can talk to."
Understanding, Leela nodded. Feeling the beers herself, she asked, "How old is he?"
Morgan smiled, "Only five years younger than me."
Leela burst out laughing and the people in the bar stared over at her. Feeling like they were looking at her eye again, she glanced down at her beer but she gave Morgan a sly smile.
"Okay, ten years younger," Morgan said, furiously blushing.
Leela grinned. "Who is lying to themselves now?"
"Damn you, Leela. There you go looking down your nose at me. You've got to be older than Fry." Morgan said with a drunken grin.
Leela gave her a nasty look. "I'm only a few years older."
Morgan laughed and knocked over her martini. She signaled the bartender for another.
Leela realized that Morgan was pretty soused. She thought it was a good opportunity to try again to save Fry. "Is there any way we can get Fry's orders changed?"
Morgan grinned nastily. "Not a chance in Robot Hell. Your "brother" will just have to take his chances like all those other poor bastards who are on that hellhole. Besides, if you can get over worrying about your "brother" for a moment, you might start worrying about yourself."
"What do you mean?"
Morgan bent over and whispered drunkenly in Leela's ear. "There is going to be another call-up to establish a reserve force. About three million. Everyone who doesn't have a good excuse like war industry or a disability is going to be subject to the next draft. I'm reviewing the paperwork right now. You could find yourself in uniform before the year's out."
Fire Support Base Aberdeen, Da Nang -
Rand stepped into the large bunker and looked about. It was standard layout in accordance with the schematics she had studied on military doctrine for the Da Nang campaign. It was made out of several large cargo containers reinforced with plasteel and covered with dirt and sandbags. It contained several rooms that were partitioned off by hanging blankets. Some rooms were sleeping areas. One room contained the large and powerful radio that the headquarters needed to keep contact with the smaller fire bases in the area and Fort Thunderbolt.
The bunker had a positive pressure environmental control unit which meant no one had to wear a breather. The breathers were small filtration units that fit over a soldier's mouth and nose. They were required for any human to walk around in the open since the atmosphere was full of toxic vapors. The marines under Brannigan had worn bubble hoods so the breathers were a major advance for the soldiers.
The room they were in was a large one with a table and several maps hanging on the walls. Several men in green and muddy brown camouflage uniforms stood about the table looking at the maps. A tall, thin bald man walked over to the major and said, "Major Smith?" When the major nodded, the man shook his hand and said, "I'm Lieutenant Colonel Kenny Swaratha, I'm the G-1 (Personnel) for the division. Welcome to Aberdeen and the 51st Highlanders."
The major replied, "Thank you, Colonel. I have special orders. IV Corps should have informed you of my mission needs."
The colonel smiled. "Yes but I'm afraid another message has arrived." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He handed to the major.
Major Smith frowned as he read it. He turned to Rand. "Looks like we're on hold again. The government is going to try something else." He clenched his fist about the paper as if he wanted to crush it. Rand watched as he made a visible effort at controlling his anger. He turned back to the Highlander colonel. "It doesn't say what I'm supposed to do while I'm waiting. Has my Special Forces team arrived? I could start training. Or do I return to Thunderbolt?"
Colonel Swaratha chuckled. "No it doesn't say what you are supposed to do. And no, there aren't any special forces' teams here at the moment. The 8th Guards are mounting a sweep up north and most of the teams are supporting it."
"So what am I supposed to do?" The major asked, clearly frustrated.
"The division CO, General Le Maurieny, has some ideas about that. We're going to use you as a roving troubleshooter for a while. The general says anyone who has General Abrams confidence can be very useful."
"Yeah, we're going to have you go around our various firebases and spy on them. We want to know how we're doing without making it into a formal division inspection. The general thinks you can give us a fresh set of eyes on how we're doing out here." He stopped and stared at Rand. "Can I ask about the robot?"
The major shook his head. Swaratha grinned again and then stuck out his hand, "Welcome to the Highlanders, Major."
Smith shook his hand and the colonel turned, calling to a sergeant. "Get this man some jungle gear and a Highlander badge. And get his robot painted in camo. It stands out like a sore thumb."
New New York -
Leela walked out of the bar feeling dizzy. Morgan had stayed to talk to some of her co-workers. Leela hailed a cab. She got in the taxi and gave her apartment address but after a few seconds told the cabbie to head for uptown. She directed him to stop near an old subway entrance. The cabbie expressed concern about leaving Leela in such a rundown section of town but Leela smiled and gave him a good tip. She got out of the cab and when the cabbie offered to wait, she shook her head and thanked for his concern. He grinned and tipped his hat as he drove away. Leela went down the stairs of the subway entrance. She walked for a few minutes until she came to an access door that was marked with signs stating that entrance was forbidden and considered dangerous. She looked about and, sure that no one was about, opened the door. Inside was a small opening with a hole in the floor. A ladder was built into one side. Leela got on the ladder and began climbing down. It took about ten minutes of climbing before she reached the bottom. She exited the small room at the bottom and came out onto one of Old New York's main streets. The old buildings sat tumbled around in shattered ruin. Strange eyes looked at her from the dark windows. She walked south along the street in the dull luminescent glow of the toxic and radioactive wastes strewn about. Sometimes some mutated animal came loping by; pausing to stop and sniff at her. She used a small flashlight she carried to scare off the ones that didn't keep moving. After twenty minutes of walking, Leela came upon the tunnel that led to the area the mutants lived known as Mutant Town. She walked down along the tunnel and came out into a town area by a large glowing pool. She noticed that someone had put up fence around the pool. It looked brand new. She thought it odd considering how dank and dark Mutant Town was. Moisture dripped from the ceiling above. It was cold and clammy. Leela considered it a horrible place to live but the mutants were forbidden to come to the surface without permission. Leela thought it was unfair but the mutants didn't seem to be too bothered by it. Her father said that it allowed the mutants to live without being troubled by the prejudices of the surface folks.
Leela was walking along the edge of the pool towards her parents house when she notice a lot of light and construction noise coming from one of the tunnels that went off in every direction from Mutant Town. She stared towards it and noticed some figures moving in front of the tunnel entrance. Curious, she walked down a well lit man-made pathway towards the tunnel entrance and was surprised when the figures resolved into two mutants wearing army coveralls and carrying some nasty looking rifles with bayonets attached.
"Halt. Who goes there?" One the mutants asked in a hard voice as he raised his rifle to his stooped shoulder with his three hands; one of which grew out of the side of his head. Leela stopped and said, "Hi, Raoul. It's me. Turanga Leela. You remember me, right? I'm Morris and Munda's daughter. I've come down to visit them."
"Hiya Leela. Sorry but this area is off limits to civilians." Raoul said as he lowered his rifle. The other mutant, who Leela recognized as Dwayne, came over and said, "That's right. No one is permitted here without a pass. Orders."
"What's going on here? And what's with the uniforms? Have you formed some special club?" Leela asked in confusion.
Dwayne laughed, his enormous forehead glowing in the lights. "We're in the army now."
Raoul grinned and said proudly. "The DOOP Federation Army! You are looking at two privates of Company C, Second Battalion, First Legion Etrange, Earth Home Forces."
Dwayne looked just as proud and said, "And this area is off limits to civilians. So you aren't allowed to be here. You need to move on before the Sergeant comes on his rounds. He might have us arrest you for spying."
"You guys are in the army? But you're mutants. Mutants aren't allowed to serve." Leela said, reeling over the thought of mutants serving in the military. Raoul snickered and said, "You ain't been down here in awhile. Things have been changing around here quite a bit."
Dwayne nodded his large forehead and put his finger along the left side of his two noses. "That's right. A lot of new things down here. And a lot of mutants serving in the forces now."
Raoul pointed his rifle at the pathway back to Mutant Town. "You need to get going before the Sergeant comes. We don't want to have to arrest you."
Leela looked at them again and realized they were serious. She thought, "I need to talk to Mom and Dad and find out what is going on here."
She thanked the mutants and walked back to Mutant Town. She arrived at her parent's ramshackle house and knocked on the door. Her father opened the door and stared at her with his one eye. His sideward mouth opened into a smile and he yelled, "Leela. Munda, its Leela." He grabbed her into a hug. Leela's eye glistened as she felt her dad's strong arms encompass her.
"Oh Dad," she murmured, "It's so good to see you."
Her mother came out behind Morris and waving her tentacle arms, her large single eye shedding tears, "Leela, darling. It's so good to see you. It's been so long."
Morris let go of Leela and stood aside as her mother grabbed her. Leela felt a wave of emotion go through her as she hugged and kissed her mom. She and Munda were both trying to talk and sniffling at the same time. Morris laughed in delight and ushered them into the living room. Leela and Munda sat on the dilapidated sofa as Morris went to the drink cabinet.
"Margaritas for everyone," he said cheerfully. Munda raised her hand and said, "Now Morris, I've got a delivery tonight and you're going on duty. And, from the smell of her breath, our daughter has already had quite a few." She turned to Leela and said apologetically, "Not that I'm criticizing, Leela. Because if you want a drink, we'll be happy to get it for you."
Leela smiled at her mom's ways; motherly and fearful of offending. She shook her head and said, "No. I'll pass on the drinks."
Munda nodded and said, "How about some coffee? It's hot and fresh. And there are some doughnuts too." She pointed over to a small hand cart with a large coffee urn and several boxes of doughnuts. Leela stared at it apprehensively and said, "No. I'm not really in the mood. Thanks."
Morris laughed and said, "Don't worry. We made it out of purified water from the surface and the doughnuts were made by a pastry shop upstairs as well. They're fresh, only got them an hour ago."
Leela looked surprised and Munda grabbed her hand with her tentacles. "Yes Leela. We now have clean water piped into Mutant Town. And fresh food is delivered regularly from upstairs."
"When did that happen?" Leela asked in amazement. Morris came over and sat down on beside Munda. He put his hand on top of Leela's and Munda's.
"About three months ago, we had a visitor," Morris began. Munda interrupted with, "Such a nice man. And a general too. And, oh Morris, weren't the two soldiers with him such nice boys?"
Morris grinned and began speaking again, "He came down to explore old New York. He wanted to know how solid it was and how dangerous. The mutants were scared of him at first especially as one of the soldiers was carrying a rifle." Munda nodded and took up the story, "Everyone hid as they walked around the town. His aide kept calling for us to come out and speak to them. He said they weren't here to hurt anyone. Only your father was brave enough to go out and meet them." Beaming with pride, Munda looked at Morris who blushed with embarrassment.
Morris raised his hand. "It wasn't really brave. After all, there were only the three of them and one was only a head in a jar."
"Nonsense. You were heroic." Munda said glowingly and put her tentacle on Morris' shoulder. Leela sighed as she saw the loving look her parents exchanged. "I wish I could find someone to look at me that way," she thought sadly, then remembering what Amy and Morgan had said, shook the thought away.
"So, what happened?"
"Well it turns out that the general was a very important man." Morris said, still staring at Munda. Munda ran her tentacle down the side of his face. Morris grabbed it and stroked it slowly. Munda smiled and looked back at Leela.
"He was the Chief of Staff of the whole DOOP Military. His name was Creighton Abrams and he was looking at the ruins to determine if it was safe." Munda said. .
Morris put his finger to his lips, "Munda, it's supposed to be secret. Right?"
"Morris, it's our daughter. If we can't trust her, we can't trust anyone. She won't tell anyone, right Leela?" Leela nodded and did a cross-her-heart motion with her hand.
Munda nodded. "They're building shelters down here in case the enemy gets to Earth. The general didn't think they would but he said he believed in being prepared. He asked us if we would permit the Federation to build here. Asked us mutants, mind you, if we would permit it. We've never been asked anything before. We had a meeting and said we would only agree if we were allowed to help. He thanked us and said things would change."
Morris chuckled, "Boy, did they ever."
Munda laughed too. "Yes they certainly did. The next week a bunch of soldiers began showing up with a lot of equipment. Such nice young boys. They put the fence up around the pool so no one could accidentally fall in. Then, they installed a large water pipe from the surface. During their off hours, they ran pipes into most of the buildings and even built some sewer pipes. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for us. And they set up a store where we could buy fresh food. At first, we didn't have any money but that soon changed. And when some of the mutated predators tried to attack them, they called in some very tough looking types who hunted them and killed them all. Oh Leela, it was wonderful to be able to walk around at night without being afraid that we'd be eaten."
"They were Special Forces. Very professional. Very, very polite." Morris said admiringly.
"Yes but not like our boys are. They're with the Seventh New New York Engineers. Such hard workers and so young. I thought any one of them might make a good match for you, Leela, but they're hardly more than boys except their captain and the three sergeants. He's a very fine man. But, he's married and the sergeants are your father's age." Munda shook her head.
Leela smiled at her mother's matchmaking thoughts and asked, "And Dwayne and Raoul? How'd they get in the Army?"
"Oh, after the engineers started, another officer appeared and spoke at a meeting of all the mutants. He said that General Abrams had decided to that the mutants had a right to serve the Federation as well since we could be killed if the enemy came. He asked for volunteers and nearly everyone did. They wouldn't take anyone over a certain age or with limited physical abilities. Morris and I weren't allowed to serve because of our age but they did find employment for everyone who wanted to help. Doesn't pay much but we've never been paid in our lives. It helps with paying for the food and water." Munda said with a smile.
Leela said. "They'd take the few dozen mutants and create jobs for them? Are you sure they're just not playing a trick on you?"
Morris laughed. Munda said, "General Abrams is not the type of man who plays tricks. The Federation is facing a war and everyone is needed."
Leela looked shocked. "What kind of jobs? And what do they have the mutant soldiers doing?"
Munda said, "Some of us help with the construction work. Some run errands for the Army. Some are working for a special Navy unit. Your father is part of the Wardens. As for the soldiers, they sent some sergeants and officers and a really mean looking colonel to command the mutants. They've been training the mutant units for the last two months."
Leela was stunned. "Navy unit? Wardens? What do they do?" She stopped and said confusedly, "Wait a minute! Mutant units? How many are there?"
Munda said calmly, "There are over fifteen thousand mutants here. We have supplied two full regiments of soldiers. The First and Second Legion Etrange." Leela could hear the pride in her mom's voice.
Leela sputtered, "Fifteen thousand? I never realized there were so many mutants."
Morris smiled at his daughter's confusion. "Yes, we've been down here a long time. And they say that the First regiment is going to be sent off Earth. It is a great honor. A lot of the Second are trying to change places with those in the First."
Leela felt that her world had turned over. She wondered if she was having some drunken dream. There was a knock at the door and a female voice shouted, "Munda. It's time to go."
Munda looked at the clock and hurried over to the hand cart. Morris got up and helped push it to the door. Munda put on a coat. Morris opened the door and pushed the cart out where two other middle aged female mutants waited. They said hello to Morris who proudly pointed out Leela to them. They both smiled and waved at her. Munda rushed over and kissed Leela. "Sorry darling but I have to go do my volunteer work. We deliver coffee and donuts to the night shift boys down the in construction tunnel." She headed out the door, stopping to kiss her husband. She looked back at Leela. "Don't wait up for me. I won't be back till late. Morris, don't forget you go on watch in an hour. I left a snack for you on the table."
Morris smiled and nodded. The women grabbed the cart and pushed it towards the construction tunnel.
Leela watched her mother push the cart along the path. She kept thinking she was going to wake up any minute in her own bed. Her dad pulled her back into the house and closed the door. He went over to the closet and pulled out a dark green military jacket. He set it on the chair by the door. Leela sat down on the sofa.
"Dad," she asked, "what the hell is going on?"
Morris turned back to her. Smiling, he walked over and sat down beside her. "The mutants, my darling daughter, are finally catching a break."
Leela grabbed his hand. "Tell me what is going on with Mom and you."
"Your mom is working with several other women for a special Navy unit. You know she has a PhD in exo-linguistics."
Leela shook her head. Morris went on. "When the military found out about that, the Navy came down and put her to work."
"Well, it's a secret but since Munda has already blabbed about the other secret stuff…they've got her working trying to translate the enemy's communications. Evidently no one in the Federation understands the enemy's language so Munda and some of the other ladies who are too old for military service spend ten hours a day trying to come up with a translation of intercepted communications."
"But the military can afford the very best. Why give something so important to mutants? I mean even if it is Mom."
Morris grinned. "Leela, your mom has a nearly genius level IQ. She was the top student in her class. Admittedly, she did it all via the Internet but she got several offers of employment from universities. Of course, being a mutant, she couldn't accept. Besides, the Navy doesn't have to pay her top rates like one of those topsider professors would want."
Leela felt both surprised and proud. She thought, "Mom's a genius with a PhD? Wonder what Dad is? Oh, I always did feel my parents were special." She smiled and looked at her dad. "Dad, how about you? Are you a college graduate?"
Morris laughed. "Only of the school of hard knocks. When I met your mother, I was probably one of the stupider mutants around. I only lived for partying and getting drunk. At least until I met your mother. She was so beautiful with her one eye and purple hair. I think I was in love with her the first moment we met. She, of course, thought I was a moron." He laughed again at the memory. Leela suddenly felt chilled and shivered. "So I kept trying to date her and she kept pushing me away. If it hadn't been for Fiona, I doubt we'd have ever gotten together."
"Fiona? Who is that?"
"Who, Fiona? Oh, yeah, I guess you wouldn't know about her. Fiona was Mutant Town's midwife. She delivered you. Come to think of it, she delivered your mom and me. Hmm, and our parents too as I remember it. I think I've got a picture of her." He went over to a bookshelf and pulled out a tattered photo album. He leafed through it and said, "Aha, here she is."
He brought it back to Leela and pointed to a picture of a younger looking Munda holding a one-eyed baby with a younger version of her dad behind her. In the background was a tall seven-eyed blond woman with four hooves in place of hands. She was smiling at the baby.
"She was a wonderful old woman. Helped everyone and always seemed to take an interest in your mother and me." Morris smiled at the memory.
"Where is she now?" Leela asked as she stared at the picture wistfully.
"She's gone. No one knows where. I imagine she went off into one of the tunnels to die and was eaten. She was very old." Morris looked sad. "Such a wonderful woman, we won't see her like again. She really helped the people of Mutant Town and never asked for anything in return. She must have realized her end was nearing because she taught Vyolet to take her place as midwife." He sighed. "Such a tragic loss. She was truly a great lady."
"How did she help you with Mom?"
"She came to me one day while I was hanging about with my friends getting drunk. She asked me to follow her and we went into one of the tunnels. She said to me, "Morris, do you want to be a bum all of your life?" I went, "I don't know. So far it's a pretty good living." She asked me how I felt about Munda. I said that I loved her. Then she said, "Munda likes you. You make her laugh. She needs you; otherwise she'll lead an empty and lonely existence." I said, "What can I do? She thinks I'm a loser." Fiona said, "She doesn't realize yet that she loves you. She was born to be with you. Don't give up, she's almost yours."
Morris paused and looked fondly at the photo. "I can't tell you how that made me feel. I was floating on air. Fiona pulled me back to the ground by saying, "One of the things you can do is start bathing regularly." I went, "What? No way." Needless to say I was a complete slob. Fiona merely stared at me with her eyes. She had such all-knowing eyes. It was like she could read your thoughts. She said, "Do you want to be with Munda for the rest of your life? Be father to her child?" I thought about it and nodded. She said, "Then listen to me and do what I say." She told me to start bathing regularly. To cut back on the drinking and to start doing simple things to get Munda's attention. I asked her what she meant. She said, "Start showing an interest in what she does. Start being polite to her. You know, open the door for her, help her carry her books, the sort of stuff a man does for the woman he loves. Help her." It may have seemed obvious but that's how dumb I was. I admit I wasn't keen on the bathing and especially not thrilled at cutting back on the drinking. I mean I was a young guy who liked hanging with my buddies. But Fiona merely said, "Well it's Munda or it's your buddies. Your buddies will probably always be there. But girls like Munda only come once in a lifetime." She was right of course. I followed her guidance and a year later, I asked Munda to marry me. I've never regretted it. I have had a truly wonderful life with her. The only regret is that we couldn't keep you with us." He sighed and his eye became watery.
"Why did you give me away?" Leela asked, suddenly feeling weepy herself. "If you loved me, why?"
"Like your mom said when you discovered us. We loved you so much that we wanted you to have a better life than was possible for you down here. If you had stayed here, you would have had no future and no hope."
"Oh, dad. I would have been with my parents. It would have been enough." Leela cried, tears streaming now.
Morris grabbed her and pulled her into a hug. "No baby, it wouldn't. You'd have been miserable here. Fiona was right when she said that you were too smart to survive here. You would have been a beautiful flower cut off from the sun. All parents want something better for their children. We wanted you to have an opportunity to be whatever you wanted to be. I think we made the right choice no matter how hard it was on your mother and me. And on you."
"Wait a minute; Fiona was involved in the decision to send me to the orphanarium?"
"No, your mother and I made that decision. Fiona recommended the orphanarium because she had some business dealings with them. Some other mutant children were sent there to give them a chance at a better life too."
A small battered grandfather clock on the mantle chimed. Morris looked over at the clock. "Whoops. It's time for me to go relieve Arnie. It's my shift." He stood up and got his jacket. He put it on and pulled a whistle out of his pocket. Placing it around his neck, he went back to the kitchen. Coming back to the living room, Leela saw that he was carrying a small lunch pail and a flashlight. He smiled at her and walked over to her. Kissing her on her forehead, he said, "You can sleep in our bed tonight, your mother and I will make do with the couch. Don't wait up, sweetheart."
Leela began to argue but realized it wouldn't do any good. So she hugged her father and said, "Where are you going?"
Morris turned and said, "I'm a warden. The Army said they'll need people to guide the surface dwellers if the enemy comes and they have come down to the shelters. Until that time, we wardens patrol the town and keep watch. The Army thinks it is good work and pays us. It may be busy work but it keeps us in practice and ready if the balloon goes up. I'll be roving around the town till four in the morning. There's some surface food in the kitchen. Help yourself." And with that, he left the house.
Leela wasn't hungry and feeling tired from the beers and the long walk, she took a blanket and stretched out on the couch. She thought to herself, "There is no way I'm taking my parents bed so they can lay on the couch." She hardly seemed to close her eyes when she fell into a deep sleep.