Ghost of Xmas Past, Part 2
"You'll have to forgive me," Leela said, her voice heavy with sarcasm. They were sitting on the couch on the bridge, returning to Earth. "I didn't see the family resemblance."
The girl, Vyr Fry had said, trilled and sang out a long string of sweet sounding words in the same musical language she had spoken earlier. Fry and Amy both stared at her with very different expressions: Amy was trying not to laugh, and mostly succeeding; Fry was furious. Even though she didn't know the words, Leela could tell she was the butt of some joke.
"What have I told you about your language, young lady? Now, tell her what you said and apologize." When she hesitated, he added "NOW," in his sternest 'dad' voice.
She sighed and hung her head. "I'm sorry for calling you, among other things, a blind ocelot."
"And," Fry added, still in his 'dad' voice.
"I won't speak Ryll around you anymore, since you don't speak it and that isn't polite." Her head still down, she glanced quickly at Fry, who looked over to Leela.
Sighing heavily, she shook her head. "Apology accepted. Just don't do it again and I think we'll be alright."
Visibly relieved, Vyr touched her stomach. She looked to be in a little pain, but it quickly passed. Suddenly, she looked around. "Where's your head," she asked.
"End of the hall, last door on the right," Leela said.
"Thank you," she replied, nearly running from the bridge.
"I'll see if she needs anything," Amy said, leaving almost as quickly. The tension on the bridge was rising quickly, and she didn't want to be around when the storm that was brewing finally broke. They sat together on the couch, neither looking at the other. The silence that sat between them was thicker than the ship's hull plating.
Finally, Leela sighed, and said, "Fry-"
She was cut off by a blood curdling scream from behind them. Up faster than she could see, Fry was running from the bridge, his pistol suddenly in his hand.
When and where the hell did he learn to do that, she thought, trying to keep up with him.
He saw someone in the hall between him and Vry. Not seeing them clearly, he struck quickly, tackling the person to the ground. He cocked his right hand back, pistol barrel in his grip to smash the skull in of whoever would try and hurt his baby.
Someone shrieked his name. Amy, he thought. Looking down, he saw her face. She was crying and terrified. And under him. He was going to smash her head in. He quickly rolled off her, shaking and suddenly crying silently.
"Oh God, Amy. I'm so sorry. I couldn't stop myself. I heard her crying…."
"I understand, Fry," she said, but she still slid away from him, shaking.
"It's ok, daddy," Vyr said, leaving the bathroom. She looked pale and scared.
"What's wrong, baby," he asked.
"Nothing, daddy," she said, not looking at him. His alarm and confusion rose quickly. He was never 'daddy' unless something was really wrong.
"Girl stuff," Amy said, seeing the look on his face.
"Oh," he replied. Then, the light finally dawned. "OH! Girl stuff. I see." Another headache I don't need right now, he thought. But one I would have had to face sooner or later. Getting up, he headed toward the cargo bay. "If you girls don't mind, I'm going to check on our ship. You guys girl it up all you like."
"Don't worry Fry," Leela said. "We'll take good care of her. " Amy already had her arms around Vyr, singing to her in Ryll. Fry heard something about it being normal and natural.
"Sure. Good," he said, nodding absently as the door opened and he walked though.
Bender was already in the cargo bay, jacked into Fry's computer, his eyes spinning. Watching his old friend a little, Fry walked over to the ship and began doing the inventory he had asked Vyr to do.
It was a wreck. The right wing assembly that was hit by the marauder's cannon fire had almost completely disconnected from the fuselage when he scraped into the bay. Little too close, he thought. When the wing had pulled away, the hull plates also had opened up on that side. The wiring that was visible between the plates was burnt and sparking. Seeing nothing good, he went around back to open up the access panel to the power core. He dropped it as soon as he opened it, electricity arcing out at him. The core's casing was cracked in several places and the wiring connecting it to the converters was corroded. Great, he thought. Looking up, he saw that the barrels on the rear turret were slightly out of line, warped by their near constant use over the last few days. Sighing, he shook his head. The second most important thing in his life was a near total loss. Not much better than the most important thing, he thought.
Bender was unplugging as Fry came around the left wing. At least that's still attached, he though glumly.
"Hey Bender," he said. "Anything good in there," he joked, not feeling all that funny at the moment.
"No. What the hell have you done to this classic, Fry? Poor maintenance scheduling, substandard parts, and an underpowered computer core. You should be ashamed of yourself, Fry."
"I am, Bender. She deserves better. She's served me well for a long time, and now she might be heading out to pasture." Trying to sit on the left wing caused the overstressed landing gear to creak loudly. Sighing, he got up and sat on the floor, leaning up against the wall. "What did she say," he asked.
"Kill me. Over and over." Seeing Fry's face, he laughed, adding, "Just kidding. Really, though, it doesn't look good." Taking out a beer, Bender walked over and sat next to Fry. After a few long drinks, he asked "Who's Andris."
"What? Who? Oh, he's the former owner. I bought the ship from him a few years back."
"Ship says you stole it."
"Nope. Bought it. Old computer must have a glitch or something."
"Hey, you don't need to justify robbery to me, buddy. Super King's retired, remember. So what's this I hear about a little meatbag that you're hanging out with now?"
"Good for you, skintube, good for you. Just like… never mind."
Distracted by his own problems, Fry didn't hear half of what Bender was saying. The ship's a wreck, Vyr has 'personal issues,' and now Andris might be back. Could those have been his ships? No, that's not possible. He's dead. I saw his ship blow up. Hell, I blew it up. Must be a glitch in the system.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, when Bender asked, "So, you staying this time Fry?"
"Looks that way."
"Good. You owe me 98 months back rent. Any more, and I would have had to sell the rest of your crap."
"Rest," he asked, looking sideways at the robot.
"Hey, when you left, you didn't just run out on Leela, you ran out on all of us. I needed closure."
"Some. But not enough to not be happy to see you." Putting his hand on Fry's shoulder, Bender said, "Welcome home, Fry." Squeezing slightly, he added, "And if you ever pull that disappearing crap again, I'll bend you good. You hear me?"
Walking for the door, he turned his head around. "Remember," he said, "98 months."
Smiling at his friend, Fry got up and went back to his ship.
An hour later, it didn't look much better than when he started. Worse, actually. In addition to all the other damage, the repulsors and the power converters were shot. The right side torpedo launcher and the landing gear had also been damaged when the right wing came apart. At least, he thought to himself, the left wing and the shield generator were still intact.
"Small favors," he said aloud, looking at his list.
"Sometimes, they're all you get, Fry," Leela said from behind him.
He turned around and saw her standing there. God, she's beautiful, he thought. After everything she said and everything that he did, and eight years apart, she still made his heart race when he looked at her.
"How's it look," she asked, already expecting the answer.
"Bad. Near total wash. I'd be better off getting a new one. If I could find one, and if I could afford to buy it, that is." He sat back down on the floor against the wall.
"Why are you flying this crate? It's practically an antique."
"So am I," he said, slightly indignant. "Besides, she has sentimental value. How's Vyr?"
"Better," she said, sitting down next to him. "Adjusting. She and Amy are talking about 'girl stuff'."
He made a non-committal grunt. "You know, this is a problem that I've seen coming for eight years and haven't been able to come up with a decent way to fix it. What am I going to do, Leela? I don't know about any of these 'girl things'."
"It's just nature, Phil. There is no fix. It's not like she's a leaking radiator. She's your daughter. Just keep being there for her, and I'm sure things will work out."
"Still. Eight years and I couldn't find her a mother to explain these things to her. Instead, I nearly kill Amy. How's she doing, by the way?"
"She's better, too. Still a bit shaken, but she understands. Wait," she said suddenly. "Eight years? She's what, 12?" When he nodded, she asked, "What happened the first four years? Where are her parents?"
"Not sure about her mom. Somewhere, I guess. I blew her father up a few years back, though."
"You did what?" She asked angrily.
"He was scum and he deserved it. It's a long story that you wouldn't understand."
"We have 10 hours until we get to Earth, so start talking, Fry."
Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes. Slowly, he started telling his story.
"When I left eight years ago, I was a wreck. You nearly killed me, Leela. I was crushed. So, I took what money I had and left on the first transport I could get, going as far as my money would take me. I ended up on Concord Dawn…"
"Concord Dawn! Why in the name of Space Monkey would you want to go to that scum hole? And why aren't you dead because of it?"
"Can I continue? Thank you. Anyway, my money ran out on Concord Dawn, so I got a job working with a Mandado mercenary company…"
"YOU DID WHAT!"
"…in their supply division. Took three years of hard training before I was allowed to wear this," he said, pulling the pistol from its holster, handing it to her butt first. "Ares Predator II. An antique slug thrower, loaded with armor piercing explosive shells. Put a hole the size of your fist in an Omicronian at 30 yards. There's a matching one in the cockpit with my armor."
Ignoring her, he continued, lost in his own world. "They trained me in security and other things I'd need to survive the job. It was a hard life. But she made it bearable. Two years ago, I earned my armor. She was so proud of me."
Putting her hand to the sides of her temples, she bowed her head and said, "Please don't tell me you're a Mandado super-commando?"
"Hell no. Those guys are nuts. Journeyman Protector, third class. "
"Which means?," she asked, handing him his gun back with a bit more respect for him than she had felt earlier. Well, more than she ever felt, in fact.
"I can wear the armor and get a few perks without getting shot on sight while wearing it."
"You're a rent-a-cop?"
"A rent-a-cop trained in heavy combat, thank you very much."
"That explains a few things," she said, "but not Vyr. Where does she come in? She's twelve, and you've been with her for eight years. Adopted?"
"On the nose-y," he said.
"On one of my first missions, we went to resupply the medical stations of several…how to put this delicately…"
"Whorehouses?," she offered.
"I was going to say brothels, but same difference. The Mando, our chief, owns a stake in several." Seeing her glare, he said, "Don't look at me like that. He owns the buildings. He actually takes better care of the girls than their owners do."
"They're slaves?," she said, her anger rising.
"You think that anyone wants to be a prostitute on the Fringe, Leela? They're so far out on the edge of DOOP space, they're lucky to see a cruiser every decade. No, the DOOP doesn't exist out there.
"Anyway, after finishing our run, I noticed this little girl, scared and hiding in the corner. I asked one of the girls who she was and they told me her father had given her to the Madame to pay his debt."
"HE DID WHAT," she thundered.
"According to the males of their species, Ryll girls are good for two things on the Fringe: dancers or slaves. Since she hadn't started dancing yet, he gave her away to be a whore. So I kidnapped her."
"Excuse me? Could you repeat that? It sounded like you said you kidnapped her."
"I took her with me. That's no life for an orphan. For anyone, for that matter. I was able to hide her for a few weeks. I nearly got killed because of it. When I explained to my superior, she understood why I did what I did. According to Mandado traditions, I adopted her and raised her as my own. Mandado law allows children to be children until they're 6. After that it's all combat training."
"Explains why she was so cool under fire during that pirate attack," Leela said.
They were quiet for a long time after that, Fry lost in his own memories, and Leela digesting what he said. Philip J. Fry was a Mandado Journeyman Protector. Third class or not, he was now an accepted heir to a military tradition that stretched back centuries and was rivaled only by the Omicronian Black Guard.
I made him this, she thought. I pushed him into becoming a trained killer. My best friend. The most loving and gentle man I've ever known is a remorseless killer. And I did it to him. She quickly wiped away the single tear that ran down her face.
"The first few years were hard," he said. "Training and delivering supplies took up a lot of my time. Vry spoke so little Earthican and I spoke no Ryll." A faint smile played across his face as he thought of it. "She is so smart, though. And patient, too. She picked Earthican up right away. She saved me, Leela," he said, looking over at her. "I saved her and she saved me. She focused me on something other than my pain. I grew up quickly. Having a kid will do that do to a person."
She looked away, hiding her eye. Guilt, he thought. About what? Maybe something else?
"She's my world," he continued, softly. "And now she had a problem that I can't fix."
"I already told you, Fry. What's happening to her is just nature. This is nothing you can slap on some Bond-O and repaint. All she needs is your love and support, and she'll get used to it quickly enough. Why did you guys come back, anyway?"
When she got now answer, she looked over. His eyes were closed and he was breathing slowly, his chin resting on his chest. Great, she thought. Our first heart to heart in eight years, and he falls asleep. Typical.
She quietly got up and walked out of the bay, turning out the lights as she left.
The Omicronian knelt in front of the shimmering, transparent blue hologram of a hooded figure. Even though he couldn't see his mistress's face, he knew she was very angry.
"You're failure in this matter is distressing, Du'urr."
"Yes, my Mistress. I'm sorry, Mistress."
"You have a very limited time to tell me why I shouldn't kill you, Du'urr. What can you tell me of how you lost the Target?"
"He was rescued by a cargo ship and they headed to Earth, Mistress."
"How do you know this? There are hundreds of inhabited planets in that sector."
"The logo on the side of the ship, Mistress. It was the Planet Express delivery service. They are based on Earth."
"Yes, I've seen their commercial."
"The Target used to work there. The owner is his kin."
"I see. He will seek sanctuary with his family. Typical. And the child? Is she still with him?"
"Excellent, Du'urr. I shall put a commendation in your file."
"Then I shall live, Mistress? I can continue the hunt?"
"No, Du'urr. I shall be making alternate plans." As soon as the transmission cut off, the explosions started ripping through the marauder. Soon, it and its crew, were reduced to radioactive particles, floating across the void.