Ghost of Xmas Past, Part 1
"Not good," he muttered, rolling the small fighter out of the line of fire of the three pirate marauders that were pursuing them. And gaining quickly.
"With all this moving around," a voice behind him said, "I can't get a clean shot."
She sounds worried, he thought. So was he. Not for himself, but for her. He'd lived for over 1,000 years. He'd outlived almost his entire family, all of his old friends, and his entire civilization. She was barely 12, and had her whole life ahead of her. Maybe.
"Do you want to hit targets or do you want to live," he asked back to her, strain evident in his voice. When she didn't reply, he said, "That's what I thought. You just keep shooting, and I'll just keep us flying and not dying."
He dove and ducked the small craft, as it was continuously buffeted by cannon fire. The stream of fire continued from behind him. She made some small, happy sounding noises, indicating she was having a little more success hitting the targets. We going to make it, he thought. Then the ship shook, taking a direct hit to the right wing assembly, setting off more alarms. Then again…
There were two more small shakes, and the voice behind him said, "Torpedo's away. Those were our last two."
"Acknowledged," he said, transferring power from what few systems the ship had that were non-essential to combat to the shields. "How we doin'?"
"Shields are at 15% and falling slowly, hull integrity is holding at 90%, there are no more torpedoes, the guns are starting to run very hot and if we keep this up they'll trip the safety and shut down in about 3 minutes. Oh, and the engines are red lining. We've got maybe 5 more minutes there, too. And I'm thirsty. Do we have any Slurm left?"
He laughed, shaking his head. "None cold," was all he said.
"Poop," she said. "There's another ship coming in. Portside, about 50,000 klicks. She's changing course to intercept."
Great, he thought. "Type," he said, making mental notes all of the lights that were flashing red and the ones that had stopped blinking, indicating total power loss to those systems.
"Custom cargo hauler, it looks like. Oblong-oval-ish , with three fins. "
I hope that's who I hope it is, he thought. His heart rising into his throat, he said, "Open a channel."
"They're calling us."
"Put it here."
"Unknown star fighter," her voice said. The voice from his dreams, but considerably nicer than the last time they actually talked. "This is the Planet Express delivery ship. Do you need assistance?"
He laughed to himself. They still might live. "Any help you could give Leela would be appreciated. I'm out of torpedoes, losing power, and most of our functioning systems are red lining."
"How do you-Fry? FRY? Is that really you?"
"Leela, could we do this after we're not dead?"
"What? Sure." Through the open channel, he heard her giving orders. "Amy get up top. Bender… BENDER! Get a lock and fire torpedoes."
"Damn the torpedoes," he said. "Do it yourself, big boots. I'm busy."
"I got him," she screamed behind him. "I got him!" Under their combined fire, one of the pirates exploded.
Through the still open channel, he thought he heard Leela grinding her teeth. What's that all about, he thought to himself.
"Great shot, kid. Don't get cocky," he said, smiling as he did. "There's still two more of them out there. Oh, sorry one. Nice shooting, Amy."
"Thanks old man," she said, laughing. "Glad you're still with us, Fry."
"Fry," Leela said, her voice still sounding angry for some reason.
"Later Leela. When I'm not dead, remember?" Alarms started going off in the ship. He'd shut down all non-essential electrical systems and began siphoning off what power he could from the ones they still needed. Power was failing all over the ship. The weapon systems went off-line, followed by the shields.
"How about now?," she asked. The other pirate ship, seeing itself outnumbered, broke off and ran.
Checking his remaining instruments and ignoring her question, he asked instead, "Leela, what's in the cargo bay."
"Nothing," she said. "We're on our way home. Why?"
"I need you to open the bay doors so I can land."
"Fry, I don't think that's-"
"Leela, we don't have time for your 'I don't think' attitude. We're quickly losing power and atmospheric containment. Now would you please open the damn doors?" Systems were failing everywhere. The engines were off-line now. They were down to only their maneuvering thrusters. It should be enough. He hoped. If she ever opens those damn doors, he thought.
"Opening the bay," she said, her anger quickly forgotten.
The escaping atmosphere buffeted the ship. The cockpit started fogging up as their atmosphere started leaking out of a crack in the seal. At least he hoped it was the seal. That was a slow leak they might survive. If the glass went, they were dead.
Suddenly, some of his instruments lit back up. She was transferring power from the last few surviving combat systems. "Thank you," he said.
"Any time," she replied. More lights went off as the power was shifted away and to the systems they still needed to live. "Life support just went off-line. Whatever you're going to do, do it fast, please."
"I'm working on it," he said, sliding the small ship into a cargo bay that was barely big enough, scraping the walls with the wing tips, breaking the running lights off.
"Is that her?," she asked. "THE Leela?
"Yep," was his only reply. They were in the bay, and he could see Leela through the airlock closing the door behind them. "Touchdown," he said, dropping, as gently as he could, the damaged fighter to the floor. There was creaking and popping everywhere as all of the overwhelmed systems finally failed.
As atmosphere cycled back into the bay, he looked over his shoulder. "You should stay put for a few minutes. This could be…"
"Awkward?," she offered.
"Yeah. A little bit," he replied, popping the canopy. After a quick look, he determined that it was the seal. Good. They were cheap and relatively easy to get. This was going to be a big fix, and he didn't want to think of how and where he was going to get the parts, let alone how he was going to pay for it.
"Start running a list of what this repair job is going to look like," he said, unbuckling his crash webbing.
"Yes, sir," she replied with a mock salute that he only half saw.
She was waiting for him when he finally climbed out. They just stood there, looking at each other.
"Well," she finally said. "If it isn't the Ghost of Xmas Past."
After a few more seconds of staring at each other, he finally said, "You look good."
And she did. The eight years since they had parted hardly touched her. She was curvier than her remembered, fuller in the hips and chest. Her hair was shorter, the ponytail gone, but it was still bright purple. There were a few lines around her eyes and mouth, but they didn't make her look old. They made her look happier, if anything. More content than he remembered. That was it. She looked content.
"You too," she lied.
He's looked better, she thought. His hair was short, still red but with white liberally sprinkled through it. His beard, too. Gone were his red jacket and jeans. In their place was an armored black leather two-piece flight suit, similar to what motorcyclists sometimes wore. What she saw of his body looked too thin, like he hadn't had a good meal in a long time. And then there were his eyes. They were clearer and brighter than she remembered. But there was something dark there, she saw. They were hunting through the shadows, always looking for any trouble. But above all, he looked so very tired, like he hadn't really slept in a long time. And then there was the pistol riding rather easily on his right hip.
"What's with that," she said, pointing at the gun.
"Big, wild, universe," he replied. "You can't be too careful. It's better to be safe than sorry."
There was a loud pop, followed by flowing, musical words in a language that Leela had never heard before.
"DAMN IT!," a voice shouted from within the cockpit. The source stuck her head up and glared at Fry. "I told you that this would happen when you bought those cheap converters."
"Watch you language," he said. "And you said might."
"Might, would. What's the difference? We're stuck now. Oh," she said, noticing Leela for the first time. "Hello," she said, adding a wave.
She was young. Not much more than 12 or 14, she thought. She was also blue, with two…tails for lack of a better term, coming off the back of her bald head. Her face seemed to be open and cheerful, with two bright blue eyes staring out at her. Very alien and exotic looking. Just his type.
"Little young for you, isn't she," she asked, her voice full of anger and hurt.
"You think…," they asked simultaneously, and then he began laughing. The girl added an "EWW," before she started to laugh, too.
"What am I missing," Leela demanded.
"She's not my girlfriend, Leela," Fry said when he caught his breath at last. "She's my daughter."