Futurama

Fan Fiction

Leela's Choice
By Flounder

Part 1 - Fry

“Ouch!!”

Leela grimaced as she grabbed her right hand with her left. She’d just whacked her knuckles on a pipe deep in the bowels of the Planet Express ship.

She and Amy were deep into the 14th hour of a long day at work. Two out of six power converters were on the fritz. Problems had developed in the environmental controls and sewage treatment plant during the last delivery. Worst of all, the regular and emergency coffee generation systems were broken.

“Amy,” she sighed, “it’s late. We can pick this up again in the morning. The replacement converters will be back from the repair shop tomorrow. We’ve fixed almost all the leaks in the air conditioning system. And we can send Fry down to Homeworld Depot tomorrow for a couple of new coffeemakers.”

“I have an idea, Leela. How about if we stop by O’Zorgnax’s for a nightcap or six?”

“Oh, yeah. Thought you’d never ask.”

-…-.-

At 8:07 AM the next day Leela flopped down heavily on the employee lounge’s couch. Despite swallowing an almost-lethal dose of Hang-Away half an hour earlier, the inside of her eyelid still seemed like sandpaper. She felt every heartbeat resonating painfully inside her skull. Why oh why did we do shots last night?, she thought.

Amy bounced in a few minutes later, apparently none the worse after matching Leela drink for drink.

She grinned as she spied Leela sprawled on the couch. “Hi, Leela! Why are you looking so sick?”

Leela closed her eye and rubbed her brow with her left hand. Oh Lord…

-…-.-

Professor Farnsworth shuffled into the lounge.

“Good news, everyone! We finally got that lucrative contract to deliver supplies to the DOOP!”

A very dark look crossed Leela’s face. She slowly lifted her head from the couch’s back while opening her eye. “Professor, does that include their ships in combat?”

“Why, yes. Why do you think it’s worth so much money?! The first delivery is tonight. I don’t know anything! Leave me alone!” He wandered off.

And the good news just keeps coming. Leela thought about how much work she and Amy had ahead of them today. Her face turned a nasty shade of green. Her eye and cheeks bugged out as she lunged for the toilet.

-…-.-

Late that night a very pissed-off, extremely tired, and still hung-over Leela, plus Amy and Fry, took the ship into space. Just before their departure a DOOP lieutenant came to Planet Express. He handed Leela an envelope containing their destination and course, along with orders not to open it until the ship left the solar system.

A few minutes later, just after passing the Kuiper Belt, she ripped open the envelope and withdrew the paper it contained.

It read:

Destination: DNS Nimbus (BP-1729), near Omicron Persei. At captain’s discretion, choose course with at least two course changes of 30° or more. Choose speed for arrival between one and two hours after leaving Sol system. Contact Nimbus on subspace channel 40/7268.5 using 100.0 Hz subaudible encoding five minutes before entering destination system.

She dejectedly dropped the paper to the deck and leaned back in the pilot’s chair. Her left hand slowly massaged her aching forehead. Oh please, any ship but the Nimbus…”Amy, could you take over for a few minutes? I’m going to be sick.” She reached the toilet near the bridge just in time.

-…-.-

Amy picked up the paper and read it. Her eyes widened. Kiffy! She immediately programmed the course plotter for arrival in one hour plus one minute. She then pushed the throttle forward.

-…-.-

Leela returned to the bridge ten minutes later. As they approached Omicron Persei she reluctantly contacted Nimbus.

The DOOP ship’s communication operator ordered her to proceed to the opposite side of the star from the fourth planet.

Just inside the orbit of Omicron Persei 10, three large Omicronian ships jumped her; they’d been hiding behind the planet. Fry was already manning the gun turret. Although still feeling queasy, Leela started violently turning the ship in every direction.

The Omicronians split up and shadowed her, keeping close. Whenever her twists and turns brought her close to one of their ships, it fired phasers and missiles. She saw on her sensor display that more Omicronians were on the way. Her shields were steadily losing power under their constant assault.

“Fry, Amy, batten down the hatches, I don’t know how much farther we’ll be able to go!!”

Just as they passed the system’s 9th planet, the enemy ships started exploding - one, two, three, in quick succession. Seemingly from nowhere, several DOOP fighters followed by Nimbus appeared on the sensors. The approaching Omicronians scattered to the six solar winds.

Nimbus ordered Leela to slow down and keep on steady course and speed. The PE ship was soon taken aboard the DOOP vessel. An ensign met Leela and her crew on the hangar deck.

She handed over the cargo manifest. With mock disappointment in her voice she said to the lieutenant, “I expected your captain to personally greet me. He always does.”

“Ma’am, Captain Brannigan is busy. The ship is still at Action Stations; we’re not out of danger yet.”

Leela felt a surge of acceleration. She looked out the hangar deck windows. Several Omicronian battleships and fighters appeared off the port bow. Nimbus and her accompanying fighters turned sharply and tore into them. In a few minutes the battle was over. The Omicronians were gone.

-…-.-

An announcement blared from the ship’s public address system: “Secure from Action Stations.” Airtight doors were opened. Amy scampered off to find Kif.

Several enlisted people appeared on the hangar deck; the PE ship’s cargo was quickly hauled away. Leela and Fry prepared to depart. Captain Brannigan appeared on the hangar deck.

He strode purposefully in their direction. Leela’s head was still pounding. Her lips pursed as she took in a sharp breath, waiting for the inevitable.

Fry drew up beside her, an angry look on his face. He whispered to her, “Don’t worry Leela, I’ll protect you!”

“OK Fry…I feel a Brannigan ass-kicking coming on. But wait until I start. Then feel free to join in.”

Zapp stepped up to her and said with an air of professionalism, “Captain Turanga, thank you for helping us lure the Omicronians into our trap. I apologize for the deception. We were not where we said we would be because we found out a few minutes before you arrived that the enemy was monitoring our communications and they were waiting for you. I hope there was not much damage done to your ship. If there was, I’d be happy to have my crew help you repair it.”

She kept her guard up, but was slightly disarmed by his manner. A single thought still ran through her mind: That rotten bastard used us as bait! “Thank you but no, Captain. We are quite all right. I hope the cargo arrived in good shape and is useful to you,” she said, resisting every urge she had to strangle him.

“Yes it did, and it is. We’ll send two fighters to escort you to the outer fringes of the system. I wish you a safe trip home. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must return to the bridge.” She stared at him, flinchingly anticipating more. I’ve got to act professional if I want to get away from this stupid gas bag, she thought.

He shook her hand, turned around and departed without another word.

Leela and Fry stared at each other, dumbfounded, their jaws hanging open.

Fry whispered, “Leela, what the hell just happened and why aren’t we kicking his ass just on general principle?”

She giggled. After a moment she shook her head and spoke into her wristamajiggy. “Amy. Time to leave.”

-…-.-

Did that really happen or am I just asleep and dreaming?, Leela mused as the ship departed the Omicronian system. He didn’t proposition me, or drop any crude hints, or treat everybody there with anything but respect! It’s not like Zapp to address anyone formally. He used my family name. He seemed genuinely thankful for our help! He’s even lost some weight! DOOP leadership must have given him a real talking-to or something…

-…-.-

Leela met Fry the next morning at a coffee shop about halfway along the route to work. He ordered the usual for her: hot, no cream, extra-strength and heavy on the sugar.

She closed her eye and took a sip. “Aaaah…that tastes good, Fry. Thank you. Just what I need to get my heart started before work.”

“I hear we’re going out with a full load to a couple of places today.”

“It’ll be OK, as long as you and Amy are there. Why don’t you set up the cargo manifests after we leave?”

“Gee Leela, are you sure I can handle that?”

She heard a not-at-all-subtle note of sarcasm in his voice.

Lightly touching his arm, she said, “Fry, I have every bit of confidence in you. You’ve been doing a great job these past few weeks.”

He smiled at her. Wow! She complimented me! “I won’t let you down, Leela.”

-…-.-

The next two weeks took the PE ship and its crew to DNS Stratus, Cirrus, Cumulus, and Altus plus a few smaller DOOP combatant vessels, always with a full load in her hold. Her professional treatment by Zapp Brannigan remained in the back of her mind.

Eventually they took on another cargo destined for Nimbus, which was on a regular deployment at the southern edge of DOOP space.

-…-.-

Zapp strode up the landing gear stairway into the Planet Express ship.

“Ah, Captain Turanga and crew! Welcome back on board Nimbus. We’re serving lunch in a few minutes - would you like to eat while my crew unloads your cargo? Please, we’d be delighted if you’d join us in wardroom 1.”

Leela frowned at him. “Only if you promise not to imprison us.”

He laughed. “You’re not trying to save any endangered species on this voyage, are you?”

Zapp, Kif, and some of the other senior officers accompanied Leela, Fry, and Amy to the wardroom.

Amy and Kif ate quickly. Kif said, “Captain, if you don’t mind…”

“Go ahead, Kif. You’ve earned some free time. I’ll see you on the bridge after our guests depart.”

Fry asked for seconds and thirds. Leela thought, This food is delicious! Last time we ate here, it was worse than Greasy Sue’s Greasy Truck Stop.

After lunch Zapp asked Fry and Leela if they’d like a short tour of the ship. “You’ve seen so little of it…for which I sincerely apologize.” He blushed.

Both gladly said yes. Zapp gave them the stem-to-stern, top-to-bottom tour, enthusiastically showing off everything as he went. He was obviously proud of his ship and crew.

Fry was exhausted and Leela was short of breath by the time they reached the hangar deck; Zapp was barely breathing hard.

He accompanied them to their ship. “Thank you again for bringing us that cargo. It means a lot to me and my crew. Have a safe voyage back to Earth.”

-…-.-

Soon after leaving Nimbus, Fry could see that Leela was deep in thought.

“Leela…what’s up?”

“What’s up? Zapp Brannigan is what’s up. This is the second time we’ve come on board his ship in as many weeks. He hasn’t insulted or demeaned you. After years of chasing me he hasn’t so much as said a naughty word, let alone dropped a hint that we should - ah - meet.” Her cheeks turned a light shade of crimson. “Something’s up with him. Why has he been so nice, so gentle to me…to us?!”

“It’s a scam, Leela. He’s just too slimy.”

“I’m well aware of that. So what’s his angle? What’s he trying to do?”

“Leela, what is he always trying to do?”

She sighed. “You’re right. He never changes. I think.” But I’m still confused. What if he really has turned over a new leaf?

-…-.-

They met at the coffee shop on the way in to work, just as they’d been doing for the past few weeks.

“Leela, the manifests are ready, I loaded the cargo last night, and the blastoff sundaes are in the

freezer. Oh, and here’s your coffee. You need some help with the pre-flight checklist?”

She wrapped a hand around the steaming-hot cup. “Oh Fry, you didn’t have to do that. Of course you can help me.”

“I knew we’d be leaving early, so I didn’t want anything to hold us up.”

“That’s very sweet of you.” She smiled and took his hand in hers as they walked out the door.

.-.-.

Part 2 - Leela

A week later found them on their way to Nimbus with a full load of cargo. Their written orders said:

Destination: DNS Nimbus (BP-1729), near Rigel system. Proceed via Castor and Betelgeuse systems. Choose speed for arrival between two and three hours after leaving Sol system. Contact Nimbus on subspace channel 75/3993 using 127.3 Hz subaudible encoding exactly seven minutes before entering destination system.

Leela planned to slow down and cut close to each of the two stars when changing course in order to accurately mark the ship’s position.

They passed Castor without incident and were soon slowing down to round Betelgeuse.

Fry looked up and said, “Damn, that’s a big star.”

Amy and Leela’s attention was absorbed by position marking and the course change. Fry looked down at his instruments. “Leela, there are three unknown ships coming out of the shadow of Betelgeuse and heading straight for us. Fast. Raising shields now!”

Her eye widened. “Fry! Get up into the-“

Six blasts of energy hit the ship head-on before the shields were fully formed. The resulting sudden change in forward velocity overpowered the gravity pumps; Leela, Amy, and Fry were tossed headlong toward the front of the bridge. Lights in every part of the ship flickered, then went out. The faint high-pitched whine of the converters wound down and stopped.

Amy lay in a heap, knocked out. Fry struggled to reach the engineering console. Leela helplessly laid on her back, thinking Why can’t I move my arms or legs? She managed to open her eye; out of the bridge windows she saw two large ships whose design she didn’t recognize approach from overhead.

Suddenly, a blindingly bright energy beam engulfed the closest ship from its rear. It exploded instantly; the fireball lit up the sky and the expanding cloud of gas shook the PE ship like an old shoe in a bulldog’s jaws. The second ship tried to escape, but wasn’t fast enough. The last thing Leela felt before passing out was the shock wave from the third ship exploding somewhere underneath her.

-…-.-

Her eye opened a slight bit. The surroundings slowly began to register.

Cloudy…turquoise…pea-green…stainless steel…I’ve seen this somewhere before…

She tried to sit up but was held down by restraints. She struggled vainly against them.

WHERE THE HELL AM I?!?!

A man dressed in DOOP Medical Corps uniform came into the room and looked down on her.

“Ma’am, please try to relax. Doctor McGee will be here shortly.”

She collapsed back on the bed as the doctor walked in.

He spoke slowly and deliberately. “Captain Turanga, I’m sorry but we restrained you for a reason. You suffered multiple concussions, severe spinal cord damage, and many broken bones. If you’d stood up just now you would’ve passed out again and hurt yourself. You’ve been out for about a day and a half. You’re mostly healed now, but you need a few more hours in bed.” He closely scanned her vital signs on the bulkhead display behind her.

She painfully whispered, “My crew?”

“They’re in their own rooms. The woman was injured even worse than you, but she’ll be OK. We found the man collapsed at your engineering console. He’s the hero of the day. If he hadn’t turned on the emergency power we probably wouldn’t have found you before you plunged into Betelgeuse.”

“Where…where am I?”

The doctor gave her an injection via the IV in her left arm. “On board Nimbus. The Captain will explain everything when he gets here.”

-…-.-

“Captain Turanga, may I come in?”

“Of course. This is your ship.”

“And this is your room for as long as you need it.” He sat down next to the bed.

“Captain Brannigan…uh, Zapp…can I aks you some questions?”

“Please do.”

“First, what happened to us at Betelgeuse?”

“We’re still trying to figure that out. The three ships that attacked you are apparently not from anywhere in DOOP space or that of our allies, or any enemy system we’re familiar with. We’re analyzing our sensor readings to figure out where they came from and why they ambushed you. Fortunately for you, we don’t have a lot of data or remains from the ships to analyze.

“We do know that your flight orders were tampered with. They were supposed to allow you leeway to pick your own course, with four course changes. The trap was set for you by someone in the orders’ chain of custody. Those ships were trying to dock with you when we destroyed them - they obviously wanted you or your cargo. I can’t tell you what they wanted to do with it or why. We’re still trying to figure that out, too.”

She shook her head to clear it. “Hold on a second - what do you mean, ‘when we destroyed them’? How did you wind up coming to our rescue?”

“We learned just in time from administrative comms traffic that there was a difference between your course and the one you were ordered to take. We headed for Betelgeuse at flank speed and arrived just in time to take on those ships with our new nova weapons. You probably owe your life to our cryptologic technicians. I’ve put them in for commendations.”

Leela noticed that Zapp wasn’t taking all the credit for himself.

“OK…second question.” She sat back and took a deep breath; her eye narrowed. “Why aren’t you trying to seduce me?!”

Zapp blushed furiously and looked down at the deck. “Captain Turanga…do you mind if I call you ‘Leela’?”

“Of course not. It’s not as if we recently met. If you know what I mean.”

“Thank you. Um…it’s really quite simple. You see, until recently I was sick.”

“What do you mean?”

“I had cooties.”

“What?!”

“Cooties. It’s a disease. Have you ever heard of it?”

Her face took on a serious look. She searched her memory for information on the illness. Viral…mutates rapidly, conventional antiviral treatments don’t work on it…no known cure…affects mostly young boys and girls, but for some unexplained reason they usually grow out of it. Adults who get it suffer severe lapses in judgment.

“Ah…Yes Zapp, I’ve heard a little bit about it.”

“The Milwaukee Clinic has been doing a lot of research into cooties’ cause and treatment. They asked the DOOP for some research subjects. Milwaukee being the most romantic city on Earth, I immediately volunteered.” He blushed even darker than before and bowed his head again.

“They pronounced me cured just a few months ago.”

He hesitated for a few seconds. “Leela, I don’t know how to say this without sounding insincere, so I’ll just say it. I’m so very sorry for what I’ve said and done to you.”

He rose from his seat and prepared to leave.

She heard the real emotion in his voice and saw it in his demeanor. No insincere sobbing this time. “Zapp…please, can you stay for a minute?”

“Truth be told, I feel ashamed to be in your presence.”

“OK, I’ll admit it - that’s new for you.” She chuckled. “Now, you have no reason to feel that way. You had good enough judgment a couple of days ago to rush to our rescue and give proper credit to those in your crew who did the legwork.”

She looked at him and smiled.

“We owe you our lives, Zapp.”

“Thank you, Leela. I appreciate the compliment.” He still looked sheepishly at the deck.

“Now come here.” She gave him a long, lingering hug and whispered in his ear, “I forgive you. For everything.”

-…-.-

A few hours later, Leela checked on Amy. She was still unconscious while the ship’s medical machinery healed her injuries. Kif had been by her side since she was brought in.

Leela sat and talked with Kif about Zapp.

“Everything he told you is true. He acts like a commander now. He really is a changed man. For example, he doesn’t even make me shave his armpits any more.”

She cringed. “Do they think he’ll ever have…um…a relapse?”

“He goes back to the clinic for regular checkups every time we return to Earth. But they think he truly is cured.”

-…-.-

She left Amy’s room and went into Fry’s. He was sitting up and reading the latest edition of “Space Boy in Outer Space.”

“Fry, are you OK?”

“Leela! Are you all right? I tried to warn you…”

“Fry, you did a great job. They caught us by surprise. And you saved the day for us by turning on the emergency power. We’d be mostly hydrogen and oxygen atoms by now if you hadn’t.”

“What do you mean, Leela?”

“You lit up the ship’s emergency lights. Then Nimbus spotted us among all the debris from the three ships that attacked us, and hauled us in before we wound up being part of Betelgeuse.”

He feigned a surprised look. “Oh. Gee. I just turned the lights on so we could get something to drink. I was feeling pretty thirsty.”

She frowned as her eye rolled skyward. “Fry…”

He grinned, winked, and pointed both index fingers at her. “Gotcha!”

“Oh, you rotten…” She gave him a tight hug, then backed a few centimeters away and draped her arms over his shoulders. She smiled, touched her forehead to his and said, “Thanks for helping to save our lives, Phil.”

His eyes opened wide at her use of his first name. He gently put his arms around her waist and drew her to him. Their eyes closed as they kissed.

-…-.-

“Go to sleep, both of you. We’ve all had a rough couple of days. And I need the two of you to be alert when we get home.”

Amy said, “But Leela, we need to align all the converters…”

“I’m not planning on going fast. The Professor’s lab has the test equipment we need to do a proper alignment. You two go to sleep. Dream about the people you love.”

Both smiled at her. Fry looked back in longing as he left the bridge. They shambled off to their respective cabins. Both were snoring in minutes.

She wished to be alone in the pilot’s seat, her mind free to ramble, with only the company of her thoughts and her ship quietly humming.

She didn’t want to dream.

Physically I feel good…but my head is spinning. What is wrong with me??

It’s those stinking men! Can’t they just leave me alone to lead my solitary life?

She tried to read Nimbus’ Chief Engineer’s ship condition report. After the attack, his personnel put many hours of effort into getting the PE ship’s systems up and running again.

But she couldn’t concentrate.

Her teeth ground together. Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

-…-.-

The course change at the Phoenix system came and went easily. She radioed a friendly hello to a nearby DOOP light cruiser. They wished her a happy voyage. Yeah, right, thanks a lot.

Her outward mood belied the turmoil she felt inside.

Why me? Why now? My life was lonely and sweet…

Her eye slowly reddened as Earth drew closer.

.-.-.

Part 3 - Amy

Amy woke up about ten minutes before planetfall. She yawned and stretched, put on her little boots, then wandered onto the bridge.

After quickly scanning the engineering and navigation consoles she looked at Leela, whose eye and face gave away her feeling of sadness.

She sat down at the navigation console seat and turned around to face the pilot’s chair. “Leela, what’s the matter?”

“Nothing. Just tired,” she said while grimly staring straight ahead.

Amy gently laid her hand on Leela’s right arm. “Come on. Something’s bothering you. You’re coming in toward Earth 0.7 degrees above the ecliptic. You didn’t start slowing down until we were almost 500 kilometers inside the orbit of Eris. Oh, and you forgot to put an extra converter on line when we entered the system.”

Leela leaned over to the engineering console and angrily punched a couple of buttons.

“Even when you’re falling asleep you operate this ship with more bureaucratic precision than Hermes ever dreamed of. So - what’s on your mind?”

She sighed; her shoulders drooped. “OK, Amy…something is wrong. But it’s going to have to wait until we land. Tell you what - let’s head to the bar when we lock up for the night. It’s been a month or so since I last had a drink.”

“About time.”

“One thing though - don’t tell Fry. This is a girls’ night out.”

“Well, g’uh!”

-…-.-

Amy drank up, then slammed a fifth shot glass down on the table. Eight bottles of Olde Fortran Extra Strong - “New and improved, with more alcohol!” - sat in front of Leela, seven and a half of them empty.

“My back teeth (belch) are floatin’. Be back in a secon’, Amy.”

She stole an admiring glance at Leela lurching away toward the ladies’ room. God, she’s cute…well, maybe not as cute as me…and she’s so smart. She even holds her liquor pretty well. Why can’t she find a good man?

Amy attracted the server’s attention and ordered another couple of malt liquors plus a shot of Wild Jive Turkey.

Leela dropped heavily back into her seat a few minutes later. “OK, Amy. I’m ‘bout halfway to passin’ out. Time to talk.”

Amy smiled, put her elbows on the table and hands under her chin, and attentively leaned forward. “Tell me all about it, sister.”

Their drinks arrived.

Leela put her right hand on Amy’s left forearm and looked at her intensely through a half-closed eyelid. Her words and thoughts slurred out into a big messy pile. “Amy…you ever think twice ‘bout what happen’ to ya in the past? I mean, with a guy. Or two guys. What ya done. Or didn’t do. Geez, I’m not makin’ sense…”

“Two guys at once? I had no idea you liked that.”

“No! No!! That’s not (hic) wha’ I meant.”

“Leela…are you talking about Fry? ‘Cause you really don’t have a past with him. Aside from the time skips. They don’t count.”

A tipsy, unshaven barfly sidled up to their booth. He said leeringly, “Would either of you lovely (hic) ladies be interested in…”

Leela flew to her feet, grabbed the man’s head and slammed it face-first onto the table, then drop-kicked him into a nearby corner. The crowd at the bar went silent for a moment.

She yelled at his inert form, “Don’ innerupt us when we’re talkin’!!” She immediately calmed down and slid back into her seat. “Now wha’ was I sayin’? Oh yeah. No. I mean, yesh. I mean, Fry saved our…uh, what’s the word… lives, yeah, that’s it, a few days ago at Betel…uhhh, Betel…(hic) that big red star. He’sh always meant a lot to me. I’m not lyin’ to ya. Would I lie to ya? I think I like him. I wanna give ‘im a chance. I really wanna. He’sh been on my mind a lot lately. Among other things. I mean, men.”

“What do you mean, ‘among other things’? You don’t mean you like another man, do you?”

Amy’s thought processes were riding the alcoholic edge of fuzziness.

Leela’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Yeah…I think tha’s wha’ I mean.”

“What other man are you th…” Amy’s eyes grew wide as she slowly thought back over the last month. “Leela, please tell me you’re not warming up to Zapp Brannigan!!”

“Yesh…I mean no!” She quickly gulped the last of the eighth bottle, then put her head down on her arm and stifled a sob. When she looked up, her eye was red and her cheeks were wet with tears. “I mean, I am!”

Amy sat back in her seat. “Leela, how could you? How could he? After how he’s treated you?? I mean, he’s been nice to you for a few weeks, but…he’s Zapp Brannigan, fer cryin’ out loud!”

She quickly gulped down her shot. A shiver ran down her spine.

“He was sick! Before, I mean! He came back to Earth an’ got cured!”

“Ai ya! Leela, what in the South Bronx are you talkin’ about? There’s no cure for stupid an’… an’…stupid!”

“It wasn’ stupid. He had…he had…uh…lemme think…”

Amy suddenly felt a wave of tiredness and discontent wash over her. “Leela, neither of us is in any condition to think. Let’s get outta here while it’s still early. I have a big soft couch at my place. You’re welcome to sleep on it tonight.”

By the time they reached the tube station they were leaning on each other to stay upright.

-…-.-

“Leela,” Amy whispered.

She didn’t stir.

“Leela!”

She turned over, burying her face in the pillow.

We’re running out of time. Amy came close to her ear and yelled, “LEELA!” She scurried across the room in fear of an imminent ass-kicking.

“Wha-, what the-, what’s wrong??” Aaaagh! Bright light!

“Saddle up! Hermes called, we’re running late, we have to get down to the office now. I made coffee.”

Her eye blinked open, then shut again as she rubbed the sleep out of it. “Where? Where is it, damn you?”

“Gah! Right over by the stove. Please don’t beat me up, Leela!”

She stumbled into the kitchen, shading her eye. “Geez. I feel like the south end of a northbound buggalo.” She put on her wristamajiggy and looked at it. “Amy…it’s only 7:30.”

“We have an early delivery today. Anyway, Hermes calls every morning to wake me up. Then he calls every ten minutes until I leave.”

“Oh, look at this…I got a call early this morning from Zapp Brannigan.”

This is it…he’s gonna ask her out. “You sure you should return it?”

“Um…yes…no…I don’t know.” She frowned and massaged her forehead. “Let’s get going. I really need a shower. And more coffee.”

-…-.-

Amy and Leela walked in to Planet Express.

Leela made a beeline for the kitchen percolator.

Amy wandered into the conference room. The large display screen lit up; Zapp Brannigan’s face appeared on it.

“Ah, Miss Wong! Do you mind if I call you Amy?”

She turned away shyly and blinked a few times. “Of course not.” What a pleasant surprise - he really is being a gentleman…

Leela walked into the room, closed her eye, and took a long drink out of her mug. Looking up, she saw Zapp’s mug filling the screen.

Not quite sure what to think, she said, “Hello Zapp, why are you calling so early?”

“I have some information about those ships that attacked you a few days ago. We did a spectrographic analysis of what was left of the gases they expelled. It seems they have an abnormally low concentration of buntium diobnoxide.”

“Buntium diobnoxide?”

Amy whispered, “That’s the gas emitted by dark matter. It’s what gives it that awful smell.”

Zapp continued, “Yes. The low content of it in their exhaust indicates they were using an old-fashioned recombinant propulsion system. So they may have needed extra for their engines. Your cargo included several gas bottles full of the stuff. They may have known that, and planned to steal it for their own use. We’re tracing their gas trail.”

“So, what’s the next step after you find where they came from?”

“Sorry, but we’ll have to get to that bridge before we cross it, Leela.”

-…-.-

“Fry, what are you doing here on the ship? It’s 8:10. You’re not fashionably late, as usual.”


“Leela, I came in early to read up on how to align the converters. The book doesn’t tell us everything, you know. Amy sent me her notes. I’ve been studying them since 6:30.”


“6:30?! Well, what have you done so far?”

He turned to the engineroom portable computer. “For starters, I’ve figured out a way to individually toggle the engine room PLCs and PID controllers on or off without interrupting the operation of the on-line controllers, in any combination of converters and reactors. The status will show up on the bridge engineering console. That’ll make it easier for the pilot to tell if there’s a problem, or to switch just about anything in the engine room on and off line. We won’t have to run back there so much any more. When Amy gets here we’ll start with the alignment.”

“Fry…as your captain, I have to say…”

He looked puzzled. “What, Leela?”

She wrapped her arms around him in a bear hug then gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you. Thank you for making my job easier. You’re working so hard. I really appreciate it.”

His face turned red. He scuffed his left shoe back and forth on the deck. “Oh, it’s really nothing. So, Leela…wanna go catch an ape fight in a couple of days?”

“I’d love to.”

-…-.-

She took his hand and smiled at him as they walked along the street.

“Phil, I meant what I said - you’re doing a really good job these days. I admire that in a man. What happened that changed you?”

“Maybe I just grew up, Leela.” I love it when she calls me Phil.

The fights that night were all grudge matches. Fry and Leela both yelled themselves hoarse.

They took each others’ hands as they strode back toward Leela’s apartment.

“Leela, I had a great time tonight. Thanks for coming with me.”

“So did I. It was my pleasure.”

He walked up to the building’s entrance with her.

“Do you mind if I give you a goodnight kiss?”

She smiled. “I’d really like that, Phil.”

They slowly embraced and started to kiss, deeply and passionately. They wrapped their arms around each other and pulled close together. He felt a low-pitched moan of pleasure escape her throat. Her left leg wrapped around his right. His right hand started to wander…

She pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Phil…I’m so very sorry. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I think I’m falling in love with you. But I can’t go through with this. Not now. No matter how much I want to. And I do want to. I’m just not ready yet. Do you understand?”

He steadied himself. “Leela…I’ve been in love with you for a long time. But before, I was just a child about it. Now I understand that I have to respect you, no matter how much it hurts to do so. I can be patient. That’s what comes now from my love of you. Someday, we’ll be together.”

She smiled. “I hope so. Good night, Phil.”

“Good night, Leela.”

She watched him walk away, tears filling her eye. She ran up the stairs to apartment 1I, walked in, slammed the door behind her, and cried herself to sleep.

-…-.-

One week later, Leela, Fry, and Amy sat in the employee lounge watching the afternoon √2 News.

Morbo announced, “This just in - the DOOP warship Nimbus has scored a victory over enemies in the Rigelian system. More details to follow. Earth’s puny ships will be powerless in the face of my race’s mighty onslaught!”

They heard the communication screen in the conference room emit two loud beeps. All three hurried to see who was calling.

Zapp Brannigan came on screen. His right arm was in a sling. Bruises covered his face. He said, “Good news, everyone! We’ve tracked down and defeated the Rigelian raider group that’s responsible for attacking your ship at Betelgeuse.”

Leela asked, “Surely they weren’t Rigelians? They’re a primitive, warlike race, but they’ve been at peace with the DOOP for years.”

“No - they were a rebel pirate force that was attacking merchant ships all over the quadrant. It hasn’t been in the news yet, but some of their agents inside the DOOP were arrested today. We think there may have been a faction of the Rigelian military supporting them. But when we showed up with large numbers of cruisers and fighters, and beat the tar out of the pirates near Rigel, their government gave us its utmost cooperation.” He smirked.

Amy spoke up. “Kif - how is my Kiffy doing?!”

“Lieutenant Kroker fought the enemy very bravely. I’ve arranged to have him moved up in rank slightly ahead of the regular promotion cycle.”

“Oh Kiffy, my hero…”

“We’re returning to Earth in a couple of days to go into space dock and get our battle damage repaired. The Earthican Legion is hosting a reception for us at the Waldorf-Asteroid Hotel in New New York. Everyone at Planet Express is invited.”

-…-.-

“And now, presenting Captain Zapp Brannigan!”

Zapp strode up to the podium and thanked the president of the Earthican Legion.

“Friends and fellow Earthicans, we fought a pitched battle near Rigel. Fortunately it didn’t take long to defeat the enemy. I’m sorry to report that our losses included fifteen of Nimbus’ crew members.

“Please join me in a moment of silence to honor them.”

Everyone in the room bowed their heads.

A minute later Zapp continued, “And now let’s all welcome the real hero of the battle. Commanding a bomber and a squad of fighters, he came to our aid at just the right time. Here he is, Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker!”

Everyone cheered loudly. Amy got on her feet and yelled.

Kif, proudly sporting a new medal on his chest, stepped up to the podium as everyone looked at him admiringly. “Well…gee, oof, thank you, thank you everyone. I really don’t know what to say. Captain Brannigan’s plan of attack worked just the way we wanted it to. Our crew are the real heroes…”

-…-.-

The Planet Express ship had just the right cargo capacity for delivering small quantities of raw materials to the shops of the DOOP’s space dock near Earth, so it was kept busy with shipments from all over the solar system.

One late night Leela strode purposefully through the upper decks of Nimbus toward Zapp’s office, needing a signature for a high-value delivery.

As she passed the open doors of the deserted crew lounge she heard the sound of an ancient piece of music being played on a piano. Peering inside, she saw the instrument - an old upright - near the far bulkhead. Over the top of it she could barely see a rhythmically-moving tuft of blond hair.

She stood up straight, listening intently. Something warm stirred in the very depths of her soul.

Not wishing to disrupt the impromptu performance, she moved through the shadowy outer areas of the lounge, slowly and furtively working her way around the room so she could see who was playing and soak up the sound of the brilliant music.

She spotted Zapp, his eyes closed and head moving in cadence, at the keyboard. The tempo sped up.

An empty Slurm can rolled out from underneath a chair. She accidentally stepped on it.

Zapp’s eyes opened wide; he lifted his fingers from the keys and looked at her. “I’m sorry, Leela. Did you need something?”

She spoke very softly, so as not to disturb the cathedral-like air of reverence. “Zapp, I recognize that work…one of Chopin’s études, isn’t it?”

“Close. It’s his nocturne in C-minor, opus 48, no. 1. I’ve been playing it every night this week as a dirge for my lost crew.” He looked down at the deck.

Oh Zapp, you really have changed…”It’s gorgeous. I didn’t know you had any musical talent.”

“I learned piano and violin at an early age. But they were never able to teach me to sing properly.” He laughed. “You’re welcome to come back and listen to more, if it pleases you.”

“Zapp…” She shook her head. A tear formed in her eye. She threw down the papers she held and wrapped her arms around him. They softly kissed. She backed away slightly and smiled. “Please keep playing. I’d love to come back, any time you’ll have me.”

-…-.-

“Leela, would you like to go out tonight? Um…I promise it won’t end like last time.”

She smiled at him. “That’s an offer I can’t refuse. See you after work.”

.-.-.

Part 4 - Zapp

Nimbus’ repairs were completed a few days later. She left the Sol system to patrol the northern edge of DOOP space.

About a week and a half later Planet Express, still with its ship chartered to the DOOP, received an operational order:

Destination: DNS Nimbus (BP-1729), at Alnilam system. High value cargo. At captain’s discretion, choose course with at least five course changes of 20° or more. Choose speed for arrival between one and two hours after departing Sol system. Contact Nimbus on subspace channel 20/14313.0 using 77.0 Hz subaudible encoding two minutes before entering destination system.

Uh-oh, thought Leela, high-value cargo means it’ll probably have a built-in self-destruct mechanism controlled by a slightly distraught computer.

-…-.-

“DNS Nimbus, DNS Nimbus, this is the Planet Express ship, do you copy?”

Leela checked to make sure she was on the right channel and the transceiver was operating properly. She was perplexed. They’ve never not been there before…

She slowed the ship as it came into the vicinity of Alnilam.

“Nothing on star system scanners, Captain. Switching to long-range scan.”

“Thank you, Fry.” He’s all business when we’re at work, no matter what he thinks about me. I REALLY like that! And he’s running the navigation panel as if he was born to do it.

“Leela, can I shut down a couple of the converters?”

“Wait just a minute, Amy.” Leela felt goose bumps on her arms. Something’s wrong here…

“Captain, I think I’ve spotted our target. It’s dead ahead, moving very fast directly at us, coming in from outside the system. Wait…wait…confirmed! It’s Nimbus!”

A static-filled but steady voice erupted from the subspace transceiver. “Planet Express ship, you’re in danger! Get clear of the system! Maximum speed! Get out of here!”

I heard that!,” said the cargo computer. “Danger! Preparing to initiate self-destruct sequence!”

“Amy, could you please talk to that computer and calm it down!! Convince it that we’re going to be OK!”

“I’m on it, Leela!”

She opened a secure laser channel to Nimbus’ bridge. “Zapp, what the utah is wrong?”

“We’re under attack by two Denebian Empire star demodulators! They’re right behind us! Two of our five engines are shot to pieces. Shields are almost down. Get your ship and yourselves out of here!!”

She thought quickly. “Hold on a minute, Zapp. I’m going to…” She quickly explained her plan. “Stay on your present course, make the best speed you can. Hang tight - help is on the way!” She broke the laser comm link. “Fry! Did you hear what I told Zapp?”

“Yes, ma’am! Shields are already up!”

“Then get to the turret and buckle in! You know what to do!”

-…-.-

Leela firewalled the throttle. The ship leapt forward. All six converters protested, but kept putting out steady power.

She quickly set a countdown display for distance to Nimbus. Its numbers decreased very fast. In less than half a minute the hulking DOOP ship appeared on their short-range scanners. They were still headed nose-on directly at her.

Steady…steady…Now! She flipped the ship into a tight barrel roll, missing Nimbus by a scant few hundred meters. In the middle of the roll she stabbed the steering stand’s FIRE! button. Two missiles flew straight out from below the bridge. Before the missiles cleared their tubes Fry started firing the gun for all he was worth. The Denebians became severely distracted; their gunners started to lose the range on target.

“Amy! Load two more!”

She punched buttons on the engineering console. “Two more loaded and ready to fire!”

The first two missiles hit the soft underbellies of the enemy ships. Fry stared through his slow-speed display at the huge triangular, rough-skinned, kinda-cheese-wedge-shaped Denebian vessels as the ship flew directly between them. They looked somehow familiar, but he couldn’t place them.

Leela overloaded her engines and thrusters to pull the ship into the tightest of 180-degree turns. The gravity pumps whined but didn’t fail. Good job rebuilding them last week, Phil!

She hit the FIRE! button once again. Two missiles sped toward the enemy. Each hit one of the ships’ glowing engines hard, knocking out one of three on each vessel.

She pushed the throttle to its stop; they flew once more right between the two Denebian starships before their gunners could figure out what to do.

Nimbus’ aft gunners got their range and started firing. The enemy had enough. Both ships, now heavily damaged, broke off the pursuit and fled.

-…-.-

Zapp was standing in the hangar, arms folded and a scowl on his face, as the Planet Express ship landed. He watched her cargo-bay doors open and a pair of big boots appear. “Leela, I told you to get your ship out of here! Why didn’t you listen?!”

She finished lowering the cargo lift to the deck then angrily wagged an index finger at him.

“Zappariah Brannigan, you don’t always know the best thing to do! And why are you yelling at me, anyway? You’d probably be a rapidly-expanding cloud of gas right now if we hadn’t shown up!”

Watching the scene, one enlisted crewman whispered to another, “Look at those two, arguing like an old married couple.” The other laughed.

Zapp replied, “I’m well aware of that. And we all thank you. But you should know when to fight and when to run!”

“I do know, dammit! This was the right time to fight…”

They continued arguing as they walked toward Zapp’s office.

-…-.-

“…And furthermore, my ship is not under your full operational control! And I’m the captain and am perfectly capable of deciding how to run it!”

“But Leela, I didn’t want to see you get hurt.”

“Oh.” Her anger softened as they entered his office.

“We owe you our lives, Leela. I owe you my life. And I don’t take such debts lightly any more.”

“Consider it repaid. Now we’re even.”

Zapp looked down for a second. He went to his office computer and punched some keys. “Leela, you know we’re in the Alnilam system. Do you know what ‘Alnilam’ means?”

“Um…no.”

“Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

She sat down on his couch, a perplexed look on her face.

-…-.-

Zapp rummaged through a wooden box in his cabin.

Maybe this is the right time. You’re falling in love, old man, deeply and completely.

Isn’t it SO much better than just chasing tail?

-…-.-

He reappeared a few minutes later holding something behind his back.

“Leela, ’Alnilam’ means…’string of pearls’.”

He handed her a medium-length pearl necklace. Her eye opened wide at the sight of its natural rainbow hues.

“Ooh…that is SO beautiful!”

“Take it. You deserve it.”

“But this must’ve cost you a fortune!”

“I’d rather you had it. It reminds me too much of…old times and how I used to be.” His cheeks turned dark red. “But on you, it’ll look just beautiful.”

She twisted the pearls as she put on the necklace. “Oh Zapp, you really have changed for the better.”

She got up off the couch and wrapped her arms around his waist. She leaned forward and kissed him deeply. He put his arms under hers. She heard a gentle sigh of pleasure come from deep within him. He felt the inviting warmth of her body through their clothes. Her left hand moved down his back…

He suddenly pulled away. “Leela…I know it’s hard to imagine but I can’t do this. Not right now. Not with you. The problem is, I’m falling too much in love with you. I’m still a red-blooded man and you know I’d love to have you. But…with all the hurt and grief I’ve given you, I can’t take the chance of adding to it. It’s wrong right now. Am I making sense?”

She pulled back and straightened up. “I think I understand. I wouldn’t want to hurt you now, either.”

“I do have a very important question to ask you.”

“What is it, Zapp?”

He kneeled in front of her, held both her hands in his, and looked up into her eye. “Turanga Leela, will you marry me?”

-…-.-

She slipped the pearl necklace into her pocket before boarding the ship. I don’t want to have to explain this to Fry and Amy…not just yet.

After leaving, she set course and piloted the ship away from Alnilam. Soon after leaving Nimbus, Fry and Amy went to their beds for a snooze without being asked to do so.

Alone in the pilot’s chair, she mentally replayed the last minutes she spent with Zapp.

I told him everything is happening so fast, and I’ll have to think about it, but I do love you, and there are lots of practical issues in play here. He said he understood perfectly, and whatever I decide he will always cherish our time together. How sweet of him!

She whispered to herself, “Dammit…we were so preoccupied that I forgot the delivery paperwork.”

-…-.-

Fry walked into his cabin and sat down, but sleep was the last thing on his mind.

She said she thinks she’s falling in love with you. It’s up to you to help her go there...if it’s true. You know you love her. There’s one thing left to do…and if everything works out right, you’ll both be happy for the rest of your lives.

He stood up and started pacing. But what if she says no? Don’t let that stop you from trying! Cross that bridge when you come to it.

A few minutes later he left his cabin and headed for the bridge.

-…-.-

Leela was deep in thought when Fry walked in.

She jumped a little when he sat down near her. “Oh Phil, you surprised me!”

He lightly touched her left arm. “Sorry Leela, I couldn’t sleep. Do you mind having some company?”

She smiled. “Not at all.”

“You did a great job kicking Denebian ass. Wait a minute, maybe they don’t even have asses.”

She laughed. “That’s sweet of you, Phil.”

He leaned a bit closer. “Leela…I’m in awe of you. You’re the smartest, most talented, most squared-away woman I’ve ever met.”

“You’re not doing too bad yourself, recently. You used to be an immature child-man. I don’t know what happened to change you, but I love what you’ve become.”

“Zoidberg already checked me for worms. There aren’t any, this time.”

She laughed. They shared a brief, passionate kiss.

He sat up very straight. “There’s a question I’d like to ask you.”

“What is it, Phil?”

He kneeled beside her and took her hands in his. “Turanga Leela, will you marry me?”

.-.-.

Part 5 - Goodbye

He felt as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

Her eye almost popped out of its socket.

“Phil…I don’t know what to say. I meant it a few days ago when I said ‘I think I’m falling in love with you.’ But please, give me a little while to think about it. I’m not brushing you off or saying no. Just…just…”

“I understand, Leela. This is big. And a lot has happened today.”

You don’t know the half of it, she thought.

“I think I’m getting a little tired.”

“Phil, could you just do me one little favor before you go to sleep?”

“Name it, my dear.”

“Please take over for a few minutes. I need to visit the ladies’ room.”

“You got it.”

-…-.-

She hurried to her room and sat on the bed. Her teeth gritted together.

No…this won’t do…this won’t do at all…

Bursting at the seams, she ran aft and ducked into the engine room, pulling its soundproof door tightly shut behind her.

She pounded on the bulkheads and let out a scream that could have woken the dead.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH! DAMMIT! DAMMIT!! DAMM-IT!!!”

She leaned over, hands on her knees, and slowly caught her breath. The tears she was waiting for did not come.

-…-.-

He turned around in the pilot’s chair. “Oh, there you are. I missed you.”

Phil, you don’t realize it but you’re making my life much harder and more complicated…”Hi there. I’m ready to take over.” She smiled, but there was sadness in her eye.

“OK. I’d love to stay and chat, but I need to take a little nap. Wake me if you need anything.”

“All right. Pleasant dreams.”

He caressed her cheek, leaned over and kissed the top of her head. She closed her eye and smiled. Dammit…

-…-.-

Which one?! Which one, dammit!?!

Amid all the softly whirring, clicking, and beeping machinery around her, no answer was forthcoming.

What the hell…I should feel honored, two fine men asked me to marry them today!

So why do I feel like throwing up?!

Fry…the man who’s always been there for me. Zapp…who’s become the man I first thought he was.

Dammit! Much as I hate to admit it, I need some advice. Who knows both of them, and me as well?

-…-.-

“Grab a booth, Amy. What do you want to drink?”

“Ah…how about a Plasma Fusion Boilermaker?”

“Whoa! Hope you feel strong tonight. I’ll go order.”

Leela sat down a few seconds later. Their drinks arrived soon after.

“Amy, I’m buying tonight. I need your advice, and it can’t wait ‘til I’m drunk.”

She put her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands. “I’m all ears, Leela.”

She furtively looked around and whispered, “Zapp and Fry each asked me to marry them today.”

Amy sat up ramrod-straight; her eyes opened wide. “Sheesh Leela, warn me next time you’re gonna say something like that!”

She frowned. “I’m sorry. You’re the only close friend I have who knows anything about both of them. Amy, I just don’t know what to do. On the way back I was thinking seriously about just dropping off you and Fry then leaving for parts unknown. But all of you mean too much to me. No matter how much grief you cause.”

Amy smiled.

“I want to face them. I have to face them and decide. Both of them are wonderful men, now. I think I could be happy with either. Can’t have both - you know I’m strictly a one-man woman. But which one, dammit?!”

How the hell should I know?! “OK, Leela. Does either know that the other asked you to marry him?”

“Uh…no. I didn’t tell them.” She looked up in deep thought. “Could that be a problem?”

“No, actually it could be a plus.”

Amy leaned on the table, thinking hard.

“All right. It’s really very simple. How do you always decide things like this?”

Leela looked confused for a few seconds, then her eye opened wide. “No - you don’t mean…”

“Yes, I do. I have a quarter right here.”

Leela giggled and leaned back. “Amy…you’re a genius!”

She touched Leela’s arm and smiled. “I bet you say that to all the girls.” They both laughed.

-…-.-

They sat on the floor of Leela’s apartment at 2 AM.

“OK Amy, here goes.”

She flipped the quarter high into the air, then grabbed it as it fell and slammed it on her forearm. She furtively moved her hand up slightly and looked at it.

-…-.-

“Leela, look at this. I got a message from Kiffy.”

“What does it say?”

“I’ll tell you the part that’s important to you. Zapp has been picked for promotion to Rear Admiral.”

“Really? That’s another reason why I need to call him.”

-…-.-

Leela strode into the Planet Express building later that morning with a spring in her step.

She saw Fry in the conference room. He noticed the radiant look on her face.

“Someone looks happy today.”

“Right you are, mi amigo. Phil, I really need to talk to you after Hermes’ morning feel-good session.”

He smiled broadly.

-…-.-

“…and so I called him this morning and told him.”

“You WHAT?!” Fry couldn’t contain his shock.

“I told him that I’d marry him. I’m going to be Mrs. Admiral Brannigan. Tomorrow at 10 AM. At Citihall.”

A pleading look covered her whole face.

“Phil, I need you to be there. Please.”

Stone-faced, he stood up and said, “I have somewhere to go. Be back in a little while.”

He ran down the stairs and across the hangar bay floor, then disappeared through a side door.

-…-.-

At 9:50 the next day, Zapp and Kif in dress uniform and Amy in a dark blue miniskirt and suit waited in the office of New New York’s Justice of the Peace.

Leela, clad in a simple tan knee-length dress, walked in a few minutes later. She looked around and asked, “Where’s Phil?”

Amy said, “He said he’d be here. I think. Leela, we need to get started.”

-…-.-

“…By the power vested in me by the state of New New York, Zappariah Brannigan and Turanga Leela, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

They kissed. Amy and Kif cheered.

For a few moments Leela’s world was focused on her new husband. Her head tilted slightly to the right as she said, “I love you, Zapp.”

He stared into her eye. A look of pure joy covered his whole face. “Leela, you’ve just made me the happiest man in the universe.”

She looked around. “Where is Phil?!”

-…-.-

He threw his keycard on the kitchen counter. ‘Bye Bender old buddy, I’m gonna miss ya.

Hoisting his backpack to his shoulders, he walked out the door of the apartment for the last time, thinking over the preceding day or so. He hadn’t slept a wink since yesterday.

First came shock. Then disbelief, then tears and longing and anger. Early in the morning, he’d given in to acceptance and surrender.

I give up. Leela my love, I can’t seem to ever do what’s necessary to win you. I wish you all the happiness in the universe. But I can never look you in the eye again.

He left the Robot Arms Apartments building and ducked into an alley. Pulling out his cell phone, he looked at its time display while turning it over in his hands. 10:15 AM. The deed is done. Emotionally drained, he smashed the phone and threw the pieces in a trash can.

His next-to-last stop was at Big Apple Bank, where he closed his account.

Four hundred thirteen dollars and seventy-seven cents. That’s all I have to show for years of work. Well, OK…that’s mostly my fault.

Turned down in favor of…of… He couldn’t even say or think Zapp’s name. That’s all I have to show for a lifetime of unrequited love packed into a few years.

I thought I liked living in the 31st century. But for the first time I’m sorry I ever came to this time and place.

So close but yet so far…

So far. That’s where I’ll go. So far.

-…-.-

After disembarking from the space liner Constitution’s fifth-class accommodations, he checked into a youth hostel on Ceti Alpha 8 then perused the hostel’s “Rides Offered/Wanted” bulletin board.

That night, he got thoroughly stinking drunk at a nearby pub. His vision was blurry, but his mind was focused. In the hostel’s bathroom he painfully dug out his career chip and flushed it down the toilet.

Two days later he caught a ride in an old orange and white space-VW-van of questionable mechanical condition and registration, with a hippie named Brodie. They headed for the Great Beyond Nebula. He spent several hours pouring out his life story.

“Fry, time to forget about her, man. I’ll take you where there’s peace and love and women to spare. You won’t be sorry about it, bro.”

He wiped away the last tear he’d ever shed for her. That sounds pretty good.

.-.-.

Epilogue

“Eeeeeugh!! Please shut it off, Professor. I can’t stand it any more!” Leela’s face screwed up into a mask of disgust. “So that’s what would happen if we got that DOOP delivery contract?!”

Professor Farnsworth used his Finglonger to turn off the What-If Machine. “I’m afraid so, Leela,” he said. “Accurate to one or two plausibility units. I think. It may need some adjustment.”

Her anger was growing by leaps and bounds. Zapp stinkin’ Brannigan and me, MARRIED!?!

“Professor, I’ll show you what kind of adjustment this device needs.” I looked so fat in that wedding dress!

She jumped up from the table and roundhouse-kicked the machine out of the lab. It bounced off the nose of the ship and smashed into a gazillion pieces on the hangar-bay floor.

Amy, Hermes, Bender, and Zoidberg scattered just as fast as they could. Fry tried to tiptoe away. She clamped her hand onto his shoulder and spun him around.

He saw the terrible look in her eye and knew he had only a second or two before she delivered a mighty ass-kicking.

Fear made his whole body tremble. “Leela, it was just a What-If! Please don’t-”

Her brow furrowed in anger. She punched him hard in the stomach. He let out a loud “OOF!” and crumpled to the floor like a sack of potatoes.

“And THAT is for running out on me when I needed you most!! Some friend you are! Don’t you ever run away from me again, dammit!”

She indignantly strode toward the ship, fists tightly clenched, muttering to herself.

He smiled weakly and croaked out, “I love you too, Leela.”

The End.

Buddies