Leela’s large round eye opened up to the amazement of the people around her bed. They were little more than blobs of color, as she couldn’t focus her eye yet, but the woman leaning over her was definitely Asian.
“Amy?” she said in a weak voice.
“No, I’m Doctor Sung,” she responded softly. “Try to relax.”
“My God,” said one of the distant blobs, “how did she ever get troo dis?”
“Hermes…that’s Hermes,” she said, as she pointed up weakly toward the blob. The voice was unmistakably Caribbean.
“I’m sorry miss…dis be Jimmy Kingston here,” the man said.
Leela squeezed Dr. Sung’s hand. “The others?”
Another blob, definitely a male, leaned over to speak with Leela. “Miss, we don’t know yet. They might have been rescued by now - we just don’t know. We got the all-call and found your half of the ship floating near the outer marker.”
Leela began to quietly weep, and Dr. Sung administered another dosage of medication. “She needs more rest,” she told Captain DuKane.
As Leela slipped back into sleep, flashes of memory came to her. Ship klaxons. A warp vortex. A heated debate with Amy. Horrible sounds of crushing metal. Then, darkness.
“We really should get her to a medical facility,” said Dr. Sung.
“We’ve been over this before,” responded Captain DuKane. We’ve got to stop at Cyclon first, and then on to Nairobi Station. Maybe she knows someone on Cyclon.”
“That’s quite an assumption - just because she’s got one eye…”
“How am I supposed to know?” DuKane shrugged his shoulders defensively. “How many worlds have we been on where the people have one eye?”
She rolled her eyes in disgust.
“Min-Jee…I’m sorry. I’m trying to run a business here. I didn’t plan on running across a crash victim. I can’t afford to go half way across the galaxy to take this woman to a trauma center. She either gets off at Cyclon or waits for the ride to Earth.”
Min-Jee Sung stared into DuKane’s eyes. “Remember, John, I was once one of those ‘crash victims’”.
DuKane reached out and gently squeezed her hand. “I’ll take care of her, I promise.”
Loud alarms wailed throughout the ancient ship.
“Oh God, a warp vortex!” yelled Leela in panic as she looked at the screen.
“Are you sure?” said Amy.
“Oh God, I wish I wasn’t.” For the first time ever, Leela had to make a decision that affected people’s lives. She turned to Amy. “Get the others into the safety zone in the bow of the ship.” Amy looked back in shock.
“Like hell…I’m not leaving you here!”
Leela spun around and grabbed Amy by the shoulders like a child. She squeezed hard. “Listen, you spoiled little brat, you’ve got a baby girl at home and a man that loves you. You guys at least have a chance if this tub of crap breaks up. I’ll be fine here…I’ll give you guys a fair chance to get away. Maybe I can still maneuver the ship away from this mess. Now get in there! Now!!”
Leela pushed Amy through the doorway into the forward half of the ship, like she was a piece of luggage. Tears were streaming down Amy’s face as Leela looked into her eyes one last time. Her voice broke up as she spoke. “Tell Fry that I love him.” With that, Amy began to bawl like a child as Leela slammed the hatch door shut and secured it. “Now get going!!” she yelled, and returned to the console. Amy bolted down the hall…she had only minutes to get Fry and the other three Desoxo crewmembers into a small safety chamber at the front of the ship. With the sealing of the hatch, everyone had at least a shot at survival if the ship broke cleanly in two, which it theoretically was designed to do. Amy sealed a second hatch on the way to the others, closing off what was called the “crush zone”. The hatches to the crush zone were called “Jesus hatches”, because if they failed, that’s who the crewmembers would see next.
The Murmansk began to shake violently as it came apart.
Captain DuKane found Leela in the lounge in her bare feet and medical gown. “For the love of Asimov, what the hell are you doing out here?”
“I’m sick of crying, I’m sick of taking medicine, I’m sick of trying to make sense of what happened. I just had to see something different.”
DuKane glanced down at the drink cup in her hand. “Oh crap…I see you’ve found some of Jimmy Kingston’s homemade rum. You know you really will go blind with that stuff.” He saw that his trademark sense of humor wasn’t working. “Can I at least get you some kind of uniform?”
Leela gave a mock salute and agreed to get dressed in a ship’s jumpsuit.
“Where are we going?” she asked as she took another sip of the strong liquor.
“Cyclon, and then to Earth…you can get off on either.”
“Yeah…don’t you have family or friends there?”
“How can I…I’ve never heard of the place.”
DuKane shot back a puzzled look. “Cyclon? It’s the cyclops homeworld.”
Turanga Leela’s jaw dropped open.
Somewhere in the early dawn of New New York, a small child with black spiky hair gazed out the window. She held on to the toy rocketship that she took everywhere with her. Bender the robot came into the room.
“Whatcha doin’ up so early, squirt?”
“Is Mommy home?” she asked. “Is Mommy coming home?” she gazed up at the robot with a smile on her face. “Mommy is bringing me a new toy. Is Mommy home?”
“Not yet…soon. We gotta get you back to bed, pumpkin.” The robot gently grabbed Annie by the mid-section and hoisted her up like a sack of potatoes. Annie chuckled.
Bender looked over at Professor Farnsworth, who had just peeked into the room. Farnsworth shrugged his shoulders and shook his head no.
The Democratic Order Of Planets has a rescue service in the better travelled parts of known space. Every once in a long while, they actually rescued somebody. More often than not, it was a recovery of dead bodies. The crew of Life Squad 199 were more than a little happy when they pounded on the bow of the Murmansk and actually detected several thumps in response. Thankfully, this part of the ancient freighter actually worked as it should have. The ELT beacon also worked. Once rescued, Amy, Fry, and the other three members of the crew tore into packaged military meals like animals. They were also dehydrated, so they were given lots of fluid packs. Even though she needed some injuries tended to, Amy stood there in the clinic area with a huge smile on her face as they bandaged her up. She looked at the captain of the rescue ship and sighed, “I get to see my baby again…I get to see my baby again!” He smiled back.
She looked over at Fry, and saw a concerned look on his face.
“You found Leela, didn’t you?” she asked the captain.
“The woman on the other part of the ship…we broke in half…”
“Ma’am, this is all that we found…the bow of the ship…”
Amy’s heart sank as she slumped against a nearby bulkhead. She began to cry again.
The Konstantinov touched down at the edge of the landing tarmac, which was really little more than a flat, rocky field. For its size, it was fairly nimble. John DuKane still managed to somehow keep it going, both physically and financially – this was getting harder to do as monstrous companies like Desoxo were taking away his business with larger ships...big ships, like that piece of junk Murmansk. Finding the needed business often meant dealing with shady brokers and going through dangerous patches of space. Cyclon, the cyclops homeworld, was tucked away in a backwater of space that was known for its ferocious piracy. It was no wonder that Leela hadn’t heard of it – it was in a D.O.O.P. red travel zone.
Leela was still sleeping in a foldout cot when they landed. Dr. Sung gently nudged her shoulder.
“Wake up…we’re here.”
Leela stirred to consciousness after a vivid dream. Her eye opened.
“Leela,” Sung asked, “what was that language you were speaking?”
“Language?” Leela sat up in her cot.
“You were speaking in your sleep.”
“I only speak English…and some of my friend’s Cantonese. Most of that is swear words.”
“I’m Korean, and that wasn’t Chinese that you were speaking. It sounded like a dialect from here on Cyclon.”
“What, you’re trying to say that I was talking ‘cyclopian’?” she said in a humorous vein with a smile.
“Well, I don’t know,” Sung smiled back. “What was your dream about?”
“You know…I don’t even remember. It was vivid, though…”
“Let’s get going…the delinquents will be rolling out of here soon enough.”
“Hey…who you callin’ a delinquent?” quipped Jimmy Kingston comically.
“If the shoe fits…” replied Min-Jee.
“See how dey be treatin’ me man?”
Jimmy’s sidekick Oso was tagging along behind. His real name was Wanderer of Worlds, but he got the nickname because he resembled a polar bear back on Earth. He was huge and powerful, and was fiercely loyal to his crew, but was also capable of great amounts of kindness and generosity. Leela reached out and scratched the fur just below his neck…he responded with a contented coo like a friendly dog.
“By the seas of Neptune! Oso don’t let no one do that,” blurted Jimmy.
“I think you’re fitting right in, Leela. And with piloting skills, DuKane may never let you leave the ship…you may be stuck here.”
“You know,” Leela responded with a glum look, “that might almost work for me, but I’ve got to find out what happened to my friends.”
Just for fun, Oso gave Leela a big bear hug, hoisting her into the air like a large child. She laughed as he spun her around.
“Bender, come here old lad,” said Farnsworth with a smile on his face.
“You’re sure happy about something…you find a new way to make a gin martini?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know. For years I’ve been going on about ‘good news’…now I’ve really got something to crow about.” Professor Farnsworth hit a button on his wrist phone and a holographic image of their lost friends appeared near them. They had different clothing on, but seemed to be no worse for the wear. They waved to the camera.
“They sure are. They’re pulling into Midway Station and should be in by Monday next.”
Bender scratched his metal head, as if he were human. “Where’s Big Boots?”
The blood drained out of Farnsworth’s face and the joy left it as well. “They don’t know yet. They’re still monitoring the network to see if she’s been picked up.”
Then, as if on cue, the little spiky-haired Annie came up to the two. She was still holding her rocketship, and it hadn’t left her side since Amy had gone. “Is Mommy coming?”
“Yes she is, sweetie,” responded Farnsworth in a rare display of affection. “if you can hold out just a few more days. Look at Mommy here in the picture.” Annie waved up at the holograph, as if Amy could see her.
Leela followed the crew of the Konstantinov down the ladder to the surface of Cyclon. It wasn’t a pretty place, but God was it good to be dirtside. Gravity was slightly more, and she noticed a G-class star like Earth along side of a smaller white dwarf in the sky. The air was clean, free of any pollution, obviously the sign of a lower tech level.
Leela quietly observed the first cyclopian people that she’d seen, aside from Morris and Munda. One of these was a food vendor with some strange looking fruits and vegetables. Leela was curious. Captain DuKane stepped in to help her make a selection.
“You’ll need some help here. These are pretty good, if cooked,” he said, pointing to some weird spiked blue things. “Stay away from this green thing here, unless you want to spend a week in a hospital.”
Leela made her selection, and DuKane paid the man with some sort of voucher coupon. The man looked at Leela for some sort of approval. Leela made an unusual gesture to her forehead with two clasped hands…the man smiled and did the same, and then moved on. DuKane gently grabbed Leela’s arm.
“Uhh, how did you know to do that?”
I don’t know,” said Leela, already munching down on her fruit, “it just seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t do wrong, did I?”
“No, you did right. Be careful though…a careless hand gesture like that can get you into hot water fast here. By the way, what are you eating? I’ve never seen one of those.”
“I don’t know, but it’s delicious.” Leela got a funny look on her face. “Filoo’rin.”
“Filoo’rin…it’s a filoo’rin. I think…”
DuKane looked at her funny as he cocked his head. “Really? How would you know?”
Leela just shrugged her shoulders and continued eating. DuKane took a bite, and Leela was right – it was delicious.
This time Dr. Sung shot her a curious glance. “Leela, maybe you are in your place here.”
“Min-Jee is right,” DuKane added. “It’s time to do some business with these people…and I want you there with me.”
Amy ran so fast through the transit terminal that she nearly trampled a woman standing in a ticket line. She knocked a small case out of her hands, gave it back to her, and then quickly apologized. By the time she got to Fry, she was nearly out of breath.
“Calm down, Amy…what’s going on?”
Amy pulled out a plastic message card with writing on it. She smiled as she read the words with pride: “This is Leela…I’m fine and okay. I’m with a freighter crew on Cyclon, and will send another message when I can. I will see you soon Fry”.
Amy threw her arms around Fry and gave him a big hug.
“We all made it!”
Fry squeezed Amy, but still looked puzzled. “Where is Cyclon?”
At the edge of the dusty, rock strewn landing strip stood a small building made of pieces of stone. This wasn’t like most stops she’d delivered at. No shopping areas. No restaurants. No entertainment centers. Just a settlement outside of a larger town. As the crew of the Konstantinov made their way to the building, they spotted a man and a woman leaving it. They were both lavishly dressed, and obviously wealthy by local standards. DuKane leaned over to whisper in Leela’s ear.
“Don’t talk to these guys…this is a warlord and his wife. Just smile as you go by.”
Leela tried to avert the gaze of the two, but they were curious about another cyclops in their midst.
“Mon-heshda,” said the warlord.
“Mon-heshda-ka,” Leela replied. The crew looked on in amazement. Jaws dropped.
“Kesha oot aa?” inquired the woman. The two were genuinely curious.
“Keshata Turanga-da,” she answered with a smile, without any hesitation.
The Warlord and his lady got a surprised look on their faces, then gave a partial bow and a hand gesture, and continued on their way. DuKane turned to Leela in amazement.
“You speak their language?”
Leela didn’t know what to say. By now she was shaking.
“Leela…they bowed to you. They bowed to you. Those guys are like royalty…they don’t bow to anybody! You’ve got to start telling me what’s going on.”
“I swear…I don’t know what’s going on. I’d never heard of this planet until you told me about it.”
“Aw, nuts…let’s go in and do some business,” said DuKane.
It was pouring down rain in New New York, but no one was complaining. Amy held Annie for what seemed like an eternity. In spite of nearly dying in a crash, Amy had even found a toy for Annie in a gift shop at their lay-over in Sheffield Station. The little girl pointed to the bandage Amy still had on her forehead.
“Mommy got a little boo-boo,” she told her daughter, “but I’m okay now.” Actually the gash was quite large, but the doctors assured Amy there shouldn't be any scarring. She was very lucky to have gotten to the safety zone in one piece, as she’d been thrown against a bulkhead when the ship started coming apart. She looked over to find Fry standing alone from the others. Bender walked over and gave him a playful punch in the stomach.
“Hey, Meatbag,” he blurted out, “did you guys bring me anything?”
Fry produced a bag with a bottle in it. “Will some Arcturan brandy do?”
Bender pulled the bottle out and looked at the label. “Ahh…this will do! Just stay back you coffin stuffers – I’m not sharing!”
Amy gave Bender a mock punch on the shoulder. “That’s the whole point, Bender…we won’t be stuffing any of those for a while.”
Bender raised his bottle in a toast. In a rare moment, especially for Bender, he opened the bottle and shared it with everyone.
Captain John DuKane hammered out a sweet deal on a load of platiluminum ore going to Earth. The deal was due in no small part to Leela’s use of the broker’s own language.
The shipping broker, a small toad of a man named Sigotha, was identical to a human except for his single eye. His vision needed correcting, and he had an eyepiece to look through for reading.
Near the end of the deal, Leela tossed out a colloquial expression in his native tongue that nearly made him fall over laughing: “You can lead a quong beast to a jumbak tree, but you can’t make him eat the roots.” Leela couldn’t believe that she’d said it, and had very little idea of what it meant.
“By the gods of the sea,” the broker chuckled, “you’ve even got a northern accent. I’ll just bet that you’re from one of those little villages up near the Axe Head Mountains. I’ll wager that if I went into your lodge right now, your mother would be cooking up some nice hot bhathagg in a pot.”
Leela just smiled nervously, as she really didn’t know what the guy was talking about. Strangely, a hot bowl of bhathagg sounded really appetizing at that moment and it actually made her mouth water. She was gripped by so many confusing emotions that she didn’t know how to process it all. Just thinking of the smell of bhathagg conjured images of a loving household, a kind, wise mother, but she couldn’t unlock those memories. Memories?? By the way, what the hell did bhathagg taste like? What did it even look or smell like?
“Tell me, child, what is your clan name?
“Turanga,” she replied, as if she knew exactly what he was asking.
His jaw hung slackly for a second. He reached out and gently grabbed her by the arms. He looked into her eye with his. “By the Gods, child - could you be the last living Turanga?”
Amy had wondered for the longest time how little Annie had been getting cookies out of the kitchen late at night. Instead of confronting her directly, she and Kif decided to set the cookies up high on a shelf and quietly watch to see what happened. Sure enough, like clockwork, the little spiky haired girl in her pajamas strolled in hunting for cookies. They watched her get a step stool and put it up next to the kitchen counter. Amy almost blew the whole thing when she nearly giggled. What happened next surprised the daylights out of both of them – Annie made her arm stretch nearly two feet to get the lid off of the cookie jar. After retrieving a cookie, the long arm put the lid back, and then returned to its normal length. The two parents looked at each other in amazement as the little twerp left the kitchen with her cookie. She had actually inherited some of Kif’’s stretchy DNA structure.
“She gets this from your side of the family,” said Amy with a chuckle as she pointed to Kif.
“I think we’re going have to hide that cookie jar better,” he responded.
The crew of the Konstantinov did a little wandering through the streets of the cyclops settlement, much to the behest of Captain DuKane. He didn’t like surprises, and was anxious about what might lie around the corner for their new guest crewmember. In a small dirt field between two buildings, the crew happened upon two young cyclops warriors training with a sharan-jii. The sharan-jii was a short spear made of wood and light alloy, with a bulb-shaped weight on the end. The fighting style was similar to what she had seen in the South Pacific regions of Earth; part combat and part dance. She was drawn in by it. After watching for several minutes, one of the young men was able to parry the weapon from the other one’s hand, and it fell to the ground in front of Leela. The young warrior immediately came up to Leela, apologizing profusely. Leela, far from being offended, picked up the weapon and began to make combat moves with it. She was simply amazed at how light the thing actually was, and how natural it felt in her hands. She came into a combat stance with it, where she held the weapon on top of her right arm and had her left arm out. She looked like she had wielded the weapon since childhood, yet she’d never seen it before. Suddenly looking embarrassed, as if she’d done something wrong, she humbly bowed and handed the weapon back to the young man. He returned the bow, and smiled back.
“Oh,” DuKane whispered to Sung, “this is just too creepy. What’s next?”
Leela had a smile on her face, like a young girl that had just played successfully at a piano recital.
“Uh, we can get you one of those at the gift shop on the way out. Let’s pick up our load and head for Earth.”
“Captain, I don’t think I’ll be going with you.”
This really drew a concerned look from DuKane and the others. “Uh, honey-dew, we don’t come back this way for another three months – it’s not like you can just pick up a shuttle or something. There isn’t even a transit terminal here, just Froggy the broker and one deep space communications unit.”
Dr. Sung gently put her hand on DuKane’s arm. “John, it’s like I said before…her place is here.”
“Min-Jee,” Leela said, “all I ask is that you pass along a message to my friends that I’ll be along as soon as I can. Especially to Fry – I know he misses me. But I’ve got to do this…whatever it is I’m doing.”
“Leela,” DuKane said, “you know you’ve always got a job with this motley bunch if you want it.”
Leela and the crew of the Konstantinov embraced, and Oso again picked her up like an uncle would pick up a child and swung her around.
“Three months,” DuKane said to her, as he pointed to his wrist chronometer, and held up three fingers.
A man was watching her as she waved goodbye to the crew.
Sigotha the broker was thrilled to see that Leela decided to stay behind, and even offered her a room for the night. He even insisted that she take some money with her as she explored the city. The first thing she used it for was to buy some native clothing at a market stall in town. Everything seemed to go well, but she suddenly realized that she was alone on a strange planet. As familiar as many things were here, she was painfully aware of the fact that she was still an Earth woman on a new world. As darkness started to fall, she stopped to look at a posted bill on the side of a building. She couldn’t read all of it, but she could tell that it was a large dance that was being held at one of the family lodges. She resolved to ask Sigotha about it when she returned to his lodgings. As soon as she reached the door, the smell of a freshly- cooked meal filled the air around her. Again, she felt at home. Again, she felt complete.
The Planet Express crew decided to celebrate the fact that they’d all made it alive by having a party at the newly opened Neutron Star Café. The Neutron Star had already been a huge hit on Midway Station, and it was a big deal that a location on Earth was opening up. Everyone of the gang got dressed up for the occasion. Amy still had a small bandage on her forehead, but wore an expensive party dress and fancy shoes. Hermes wore a ridiculous electric green suit. Even Farnsworth found some sort of suit and hat that made him look like a 20 year old pimp. Everyone was having a good time except for Fry, who still felt like a part of him was missing. He held in his hand a message card from Leela who informed him that she might be longer than expected because of a ceremony for her family that she had to attend. At different times in the evening, Amy would glance over to him in empathy…he tried to have a good time with the others, but his thoughts kept floating over to Leela. He tried to ignore the thoughts, but he wondered if she would meet someone else out there, wherever she was.
“You’ve got a good fighting style,” the man said, “but it could use some work.”
Leela turned to see the handsome young cyclopian male who’d been watching her practice on the fighting field from a distance. He had dark hair and a beard, and even his eye was good looking. And he was tall. Leela just stood there for a second, not knowing what to say. “Um, what am I doing wrong?”
“You’re trying to overpower it. The sharan-jii is a very light weapon…it doesn’t need much power to get it to do what you want it to.”
“Oh, I get it,” Leela smiled, “sort of like a golf swing.”
“Oh.. that’s right. Never mind.”
“Here…may I?” The man stood closely behind her and guided her arms with his through some of the basic combat maneuvers, much like someone trying to help with a person’s golf swing. She kept trying to focus on what he was saying, but she found this difficult. She found him very attractive.
After the impromptu lesson, it was time for the man to be on his way. “I’m so rude…I didn’t even introduce myself,” he said, “my name is Lanrum Kirth. What’s yours?”
Kirth gave her a surprised look, but she was getting used to that.
The next day Kirth and Leela met up with each other in the center of Unitros near the Cenotaph. As he’d promised, Leela got a tour of the city. She had already started wearing a sash with the Turanga family colors, and was wearing a traditional Cyclonian dress and sandals. She also had all that purple hair of hers down, and loop earrings. For their lunch, she got to sample that quong beast that she’d so eloquently talked about with the broker earlier. She also got a tasted of a local liquor called chaldeg-boru, which reminded her a little of cinnamon. Even though it was tasty, Kirth advised her to go easy on it. By early afternoon they were already holding hands.
The tour led them up to a high ground that overlooked most of the city. The trail leading up the hill was quite scenic, and covered with fan leaf trees. All around the hill was a grassy area with stone monuments scattered about. Kirth had noticed that the joy had left Leela’s face as soon as they’d reached the top of the climb.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“Well, the hilly part is called Beggar’s Hill. The rest of what you see here is called the Battleground of the Four Winds. It’s always been where the feuding clans have settled their differences.”
Leela dropped to her knees and ran her hand through the grass as if she were trying to find something. She stood back up and looked at Kirth. “I feel very uncomfortable here…I need to go.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” he said innocently, “we can go somewhere else.”
“No, I need to be alone for a while.”
“I’m sorry…I understand. I’ll catch up with you some other time.”
Leela quietly left the grassy battlefield and its monuments without Kirth.
In the late afternoon, Leela decided to go to the dance, although Sigotha did advise her to be careful. At this point, Leela didn’t know whether she’d gone too far in her explorations, or not far enough. Upon walking up to the lodge building, she heard her first taste of Cyclonian music…like everything else here, it was strange, yet familiar. She decided that she liked it. It reminded her a little of Celtic folk music that she enjoyed back on Earth.
Leela entered the building, and immediately noticed that there were armed guards all about the place with long lances…it looked like a fun party, but this let her know that things could get serious in a hurry here. She suddenly spotted a familiar face in the crowd of people – Kirth was there.
“Is this just a small town,” Leela asked him, “or are you everywhere?”
“I admit that we don’t have as many hotspots as New New York,” he replied with a chuckle. He looked at her admiringly as the music began to change. “You have the look of a northern girl…can you dance like one?”
“We’ll just have to find out, won’t we?”
“This is freighter Konstantinov, 2,000 kilometers from the outer marker, inbound for Nairobi Station,” said Captain DuKane into his headset as he guided the nimble craft into the Sol System near the orbit of Saturn. It would be good to be back on Earth.
“Affirmative, Konstantinov, you are number two for approach to Nairobi. Maintain current course until established at the inner marker.”
DuKane really wished that Leela would have been there to make that approach, as he was still loaded down with tons of paperwork before they went through customs at Earth. He still hoped to hire her at some point in the future, maybe after she got this thing out of her system.
As the dance ended, Kirth was truly amazed…she could dance like a girl from the North. She stopped to catch her breath and sat down at a table with Kirth. A young man with a flagon of black spore brandy came out to fill everyone’s glasses at the tables. Leela felt that it was time to really let her language skills shine for the crowd. She stood up from the table, raised her glass on high, and made a toast.
“Mon hutsuk ala veshya kez Kylakk akari!”
Everyone just froze, and began bursting out in laughter. Leela melted inside, and noticed that even Kirth was trying hard to keep from snickering.
“Uh, what just happened?” asked Leela in a quiet voice as she sat back down, “what’s so funny?”
“Leela,” he said in a kind voice, “I don’t think you’ve quite mastered our language yet. You just wished that these people would be attacked by a small predatory animal that lives in the Western Forests. That’s what a Kylakk is.”
“Oh, God…that bad, huh? I was trying to wish them a long and happy life.”
“Leela, half of them know that you’re a visitor from Earth. They’re having a good time, and they are just glad that you’re visiting them. You can’t be perfect at everything.”
Leela got ready to belt down some of the brandy when Kirth gently put his hand up to stop her. “You haven’t had that tested yet.”
“Tested? You mean ‘taste-tested’, like in the old days on Earth?”
“Uh, yes,” said Kirth awkwardly, “it’s just a silly old tradition. Nothing to it.”
“Are you telling me you’re going to send a little guy out here to taste my brandy?”
“Uh, not a guy, exactly…”
Soon a small animal that resembled a ferret on Earth was brought out on a chain. Various people at the party poured a tiny bit of their brandy into small dishes that were set up on the tables. The animal gleefully lapped up the brandy.
“This is ridiculous,” said Leela, as she followed suit with the other guests, “all you’ll end up with is a drunken animal. You know, I’ve got this friend back on Earth named Bender that…”
Her story was cut off mid-sentence by a gasping of the party guests. The small creature had just happily lapped up Leela’s drink bowl, and was now convulsing. After a few seconds, the animal slumped down to the table and stopped moving. Everyone was in shock, as they began to back away from Leela’s table.
Before she could react, Kirth had grabbed Leela by the arms and took her to a back door.
“What the hell just happened?” asked Leela.
“You need to get out of here,” he said, as he shoved her out the door.
“And go where?”
“Anywhere…just get out and go…go back to the broker’s house…now!”
Sigotha the broker caught up with Leela in the late evening back at the battleground on Beggar’s hill. He had cared for her like family since she’d come there, and his wife worried about how the evening went. Finding her here was just a strange hunch…and it was a good one. He found her weeping near one of the monuments, running her hand through the blades of grass as if she were searching for a lost item.
“My child, what are you doing out here?”
“I’ve got a memory here in this field, and I can’t unlock it.”
“Leela…you know what happened here…”
“Yes,” she said, wiping a tear from her face, “I guess I do. This is all that’s left of my family is this piece of stone…and now they’ve tried to kill me.”
He got a surprised look on his face. “They did?”
“Yeah…they tried to poison me tonight.”
“You mean they don’t settle business that way on your world?”
“No!” she retorted, “well, not usually.”
“I see that you’ve even found the right monument. Your whole family was killed here. Only one girl child was left. Some say that she was found by Omniversalist missionaries and taken to Earth to be raised by foster parents. We don’t need to go over that now…come and let my wife make you some piping hot deg-kibb and some dinner.”
Leela reached out and took hold of Sigotha’s arm without looking at his face. “I’ve got to know…who was it that did this to my family?”
He got a pained look on his face. “If you must know, it was family Lanrum.”
Leela cried some more, then relented to the offer of the meal from Sigotha.
The next day, Kirth looked everywhere for his new-found love interest. He finally caught up with her at the combat training ground. She was busy doing her maneuvers with the sharan-jii. Kirth came up to meet her, amazed at how much the fighting masters had taught her in such a short time.
“Miss Leela…here you are! Look what I’ve got…I brought you a bottle of chaldeg-boru, and some of those candies you enjoyed in the market yesterday.”
Without saying a word, Leela launched the sharan-jii at Kirth. It lodged into a tree behind him, and literally pinned his shirt to the trunk…luckily he was wearing a loose-fitting shirt, as the spear went just under his arm. Kirth’s mouth flopped open.
“Leela, if this is a joke, it’s a very funny one. It was a very humorous joke. You people from Earth have a great sense of comedy,” he said loudly in an exaggerated tone. He pulled the javelin out of his shirt and the tree. “It was a joke, right?”
Leela walked up to him holding a long ceremonial dagger. She held it up to his throat. “You killed my family. You are the reason I don’t have a family!”
He gently pushed the blade away from his neck. “Can I explain?”
“What’s there to explain?”
“Leela, that was my family. I was only a child…I had nothing to do with the death of your family. I know that doesn’t help to ease the pain.”
“When were you going to tell me? When we started a new family? Damn you!”
“I didn’t know how to explain…I mean, what do I say? ‘Oh and by the way, my family killed all of your family’. How do I say it?” He reached out to touch her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me!”
“Leela, please! I thought that we could bridge this gap and forge a new family together at the Ceremony of Ascendency. We could put all this behind us…all the family hatred and the clan fighting. We could start a new life, just the two of us…”
“What, and get a dagger in the back from one of your family? Or maybe get poisoned after the wedding...I’ve already seen how you people pull that trick. Kirth, that gap is just too big to be bridged…just go.”
Kirth picked up his bottle and box of candy, and quietly left the training field.
The crew of the Konstantinov were treated to a grand tour of the Planet Express building. Everyone seemed to have a good time, including Oso, who was having a blast playing with Little Annie. Hermes found it enjoyable talking with Jimmy Kingston, as they had frequented some of the same spots in the Caribbean. Dr. Sung enjoyed chatting with Amy.
“I’ve never seen Oso act this good around children,” Dr. Sung told Amy, “he usually eats them.” By now Oso was pulling Annie by her shoes as she held on to a doorway, stretching her like taffy as she laughed. To her he was like a big animated teddy bear. Captain DuKane chatted with Professor Farnsworth and Bender.
“By the way,” DuKane asked, “which one is Fry?”
“That would be that sack of meat over there with the frown on his face,” quipped Bender.
“Phillip Fry, I’ve got a note from Leela telling me that she’ll be at Cyclon for pick-up when I return. That’ll be just a week and a half from now…you’re welcome to join us if you’d like.”
“See,” interjected Bender, “you get to see Big Boots and bring her home. I told ya this guy was bringing good news…”
“I’d like that,” said Fry, shaking DuKane’s hand.
“Yeah,” added Bender, “and I want more of that Arcturan brandy when yer out…a case of it!”
Before the Konstantinov crew could leave for their shuttle, they got one last laugh. Oso came walking out of the lounge holding Annie upside down by her shoes.
“Mister DuKane,” Annie asked, “can I keep him?”
He bent down to address the spiky-haired girl face-to-face. “Why no, honey – I need him to fix my engines,” he said smiling.
“Neat,” replied Annie, “I wanna fix engines someday too!”
“Maybe you will, little lady,” said DuKane with a grin.
Leela stood alone before the High Council near the obelisk in the center of the city. A small but curious crowd was present to observe the ceremonies. The Trapezium section of the city was truly beautiful, with fountains, hanging gardens, statues and grand architecture. The High Council had a group of armed gendarmes standing around, which made Leela feel reasonably safe. Crystima, spokesperson for the council, addressed Leela and the crowd.
“Members of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, may I present Leela of Family Turanga on this the Ceremony of Ascendency. Leela has returned to the homeworld to begin her family line anew. If she sees fit, she may take a mate and rebuild the Turanga family, and a new lodge will be built for her by the council. Miss Leela, how say you?”
“Matron Crystima, I have decided to wave the Right of Ascendency, and have further decided to return to my home on Earth.” Leela’s voice quivered a little, but she was sure that she’d made the right decision. As deep as this place was in her soul and bones, it was still not her home.
Watching in the crowd were Sigotha and his wife, who both smiled at her announcement. Farther back in the crowd was Kirth, who hung his head – he had really hoped that she would have a change of heart. Kirth quietly turned and walked away.
“Very well,” Crystima continued, “let it be known that Leela is still the head of Clan Turanga, with all the rights and privileges of a family leader. She will be extended the freedom to return at a future time and initiate the Right of Ascendency again, if she so chooses. This ceremony is now concluded.” Crystima addressed Leela in a softer voice. “Good luck, my dear…we hope to see you again soon.” She smiled, and left the Trapezium with the other council members. Sigotha and his wife came over to congratulate Leela.
“We’re so proud of you, my dear.”
“Did I just screw up?” Leela had a sad look on her face. “I’ve waited for an opportunity like this my whole life…and I just waved goodbye to it.”
“Leela,” Sigotha said in that soothing fatherly tone, “you know better than I do that your place is with the people that love you and care for you. I don’t even have to tell you that. I do have one last request of you before you go to your real home.”
“I’m going to insist that you have one last home cooked meal before you leave us…we have a nice hot pot of bhathagg waiting for you, just like from your home in the northern country.”
Leela smiled. “I think I can work that in.”
As Fry left the other crewmembers to talk with Leela, he noticed that a tall cyclopian man was chatting with her. They gave each other a warm hug, and he turned to go. “It is nice to meet you,” he said to Fry in a thick accent, as he shook his hand. With this, he walked away. Fry watched him leave, wondering who he was…he couldn’t help but wonder if he’d just met his replacement.
Fry and Leela took a long walk around the rocky landing tarmac on Cyclon…she wanted to greet the others, but there would be plenty of time for that. Fry marveled at her local dress and her family sash. Leela was glad to see that Fry had escaped the crash unharmed.
“So they tell me that you had a ceremony to start a new family and stuff,” Fry said.
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, uh…did you find a new guy to do that with?” Fry had a difficult time finding the words for what he was asking.
“Yes, Fry, I already have a nice guy picked out.”
Fry suddenly looked glumly down at his shoes – it was the news that he didn’t want to hear.
Leela reached out and gently grabbed Fry’s hands. She smiled at him. He looked up and his eyes opened wide. “Phillip, you and I are going to have to get working on that family of mine soon… I don’t want to end up being the last of the Turangas.”