28 February, 3007
DOOP Data Repository
In orbit around the third planet in the Canopus system
DOOP Lt. Commander Glenn Jacobs, Bureaucrat Grade 25, loved his job. He did nothing but file DOOP paperwork with the Central Bureaucracy, six and one half hours a day, five days a week. With the increase in pirate activity, he had a nice backlog of reports and acquisition requests from the ships out in the field. He was just now getting to the report from the Nimbus’ action against the Feeorin pirates near Rori eight months ago.
Nodding in satisfaction, he issued the orders to resupply the fleet’s flagship: 2 of the state-of-the-art Alpha- class fighters and 8 of the older Vindicator-class fighter to replace the 10 destroyed Logans. The Vindicators were much slower than the Alphas, and the Logans for that matter, but they were much cheaper than either, and they still met the minimum DOOP operating parameters for combat air/spacecraft. He was just about to stamp the order when he noticed the last item on the list: one escape pod.
Flipping through the report, he found the entry. The Nimbus had launched one escape pod during the action against the pirates, but it had never been recovered. Additionally, no wreckage was found and the emergency transponder beacon was never activated. Reading the entry, Jacobs noted where the pod had been launched from: the Forward Lounge on deck 6. The VIP lounge.
Looking again, he read the life signs: one human and one near-human (Mirialan). After scanning the crew manifest, he found no Mirialans. He quickly started to flip through the other reports filed from the Nimbus on that date and found only one ship that had a Mirialan on board: a cargo vessel from the Planet Express delivery company that was detained by Captain Grolsh for not having the proper access code to land on Rori. The captain, a near-human Cyclops of unknown species, and the ship’s cook, a bending robot, were taken into custody on a long list of charges. The company’s delivery boy, a human, and a Myslaxian priestess, a near-human (Mirialan), were placed in protective custody in Forward Lounge 6. The VIP lounge. A cold shiver ran down his spine and a single thought ran through his brain: lawsuit.
Two civilians, one of them a priestess of a religion that had supplied the DOOP with many of its most skilled physicians, were missing. This could be a disaster. Slapping his hand against his forehead, he silently cursed the DOOP for placing a woman in command of the flagship. This kind of sloppy record keeping and asset control was exactly why women shouldn’t be allowed in the armed forces in the first place, he thought as he reached for his comm device.
“Lt. Gunn,” he said. “Get me the Rand Ecliptic. I need to speak with Fleet Admiral Brannigan.”
1 March, 3007
New New York City
She woke with a start. It was the same nightmare that she had been having almost every night for the last eight months. She looked over at her clock, but she already knew what time it was. It was always the same time. Knowing she wouldn’t get anymore sleep, Leela staggered out of bed and into her kitchen to start her coffee.
Her apartment was a mess. She just didn’t have the energy anymore to be bothered with being anal about her housekeeping. She went to work, came home, drowned her misery in a bottle of something (this week it had been Venusian wine), and then went to bed (or passed out), only to begin the cycle again at 3:45 in the morning.
The only breaks in this pattern were every Wednesday night from 6 to 8 when she went to the psychiatrist that Hermes had made her see as a condition of her continued employment at Planet Express. The doctor said it was her unnecessary guilt that kept waking her up at the same time every day. She hadn’t done anything wrong.
But Leela knew that she had. She abandoned him, and he died. He loved her, and she ran out on him. She had left him with that woman.
She had a good two hours to completely sober up from that bottle Chateau La Toilet that she killed last night. She and Hermes decided that if she was going to keep getting up at 4 AM, she might as well have her own key to the office so she could go in early and work on the ship. She wasn’t being paid for the time, but the company was paying for her psychiatrist, so it was a fairly even trade. Six months of coming in two hours early had paid off. The one good thing to come out of Fry’s death was that she had the ship running at nearly 95% efficiency now.
She sat in the dark watching the morning news, wondering when, or if, Morbo and Linda slept. She was just about to get up and pour herself another cup of coffee when she noticed the crawl under the pair saying something about the captain of the Nimbus being removed for lying about being a male and dereliction of duty. Good, she thought. Serves that scaly bitch right. She’s almost as responsible for Fry’s death as I am. More, because it she hadn’t detained us, we’d have been and gone by the time those pirates attacked.
Humming with contentment for the first time in almost a year, Leela headed toward the bathroom. She turned the water on, and distantly heard the phone ringing. “Who the hell would be calling me at this hour?,” she wondered as she ran quickly to the phone. She checked the caller ID and walked away huffing. “Amy,” she muttered. “That snotty bitch can wait until I’m showered.”
“Leela,” Amy’s voice said over the machine. “Kif’s been made Captain of the Nimbus. Central command’s ordered him to find Fry’s escape pod. Command -.” The rest of her sentence was cut off by the machine.
All of the lights were on at the Planet Express building when Leela arrived promptly at 5:45. “That’s odd,” she said. “I wonder what the Professor did this time.” When she got to the door, it was already unlocked. Uneasily, she walked through. When she stepped out of the elevator and into the kitchen, they were all there waiting for her.
“Where in Jah’s name have you been, Leela?,” Hermes asked.
“I’ve called you at least half a dozen times in the last half an hour,” Amy said.
“Meh. I don’t turn the phone on my wrist-a-majigger on until 6. Well, here I am,” she said. “What’s so important?”
“No time for that,” the Professor snapped. “I’ve called you all here because I have important news. Oh my, yes.” He just stood there for several minutes before they realized that he had fallen asleep. Sighing in irritation, Leela grabbed Hermes’ clipboard and slammed it down onto the table. “Oh, God, I’ve been shot,” the Professor yelled.
Ignoring him, Leela said, “What’s so damned important?”
“Tell her,” Hermes said looking somewhere over Leela’s shoulder.
“We’re going to find Fry,” Kif said coming from behind the refrigerator door with a carton of orange juice. “Central Command wants us to investigate the possibility that Fry and Sister Jadzia survived the crash.”
She was stunned. Fry’s alive? “What, what did you say?”
“Central Command wants to try and find the escape pod.”
“I can’t tell you, Leela. It’s classified. I’m sorry.”
Something in Leela snapped. She rushed forward and picked Kif up by the throat and carried him to the railing. Swinging his legs over, she said, “You’ll tell me right now why you’re torturing me like this, Kif Kroker, or so help me God I’ll open my fist. Why does Central Command want to look for Fry?”
All the others surged forward, trying to rescue Kif and get a hold on Leela, but Bender was faster. He ran to the front of the crush, pulled a pistol out of his casing and pointed it at them. “Everyone just stay calm,” he said. “I want to hear the answer. Well, whadda ya have to say for yourself, Kermit?”
When he just continued to stare at them, Leela shrugged her shoulders and said, “I’m sorry, Amy.”
“Wait,” Kif said. “I’ll tell you. Just pull me back over.”
“No can do, Squishy,” Bender said.
“You heard the man-bot,” Leela said. “Spill it.”
Sighing, Kif said, “Central Command is worried that the Myslaxan’s and Professor Farnsworth will sue the DOOP for wrongful death because we didn’t conduct a thorough enough search for the escape pod after the incident at Tasia.”
“There was no escape pod, Kif,” Leela said. “I saw it blow up.”
“There wasn’t enough wreckage. We did a battlefield analysis after the incident, and all we found were trace fragments of the pod. The weapons that were used that day by both sides couldn’t have vaporized an entire escape pod.”
“You’re torturing me like this just to cover your own butts? I should just drop you on general principle. Who’s bright idea was it to use Planet Express as a passenger ship?”
“That would be me,” a voice said coming out of the bathroom. Standing there, hands on his hips, chin out-thrust, was Fleet Commander Zapp Brannigan. Smirking, he said, “By the way, Conrad, your toilet is set on disintegrate. Well done. Now, Leela, my bossomy swan,” he said, turning her way. “Bring Kif back over the ledge. If you drop him, he’ll just make a big green squishy mess that Kif’ll have to clean up later. Come over here and let me comfort you over the loss of that hair pile.”
Grinding her teeth, Leela pulled Kif back over the railing and hurled him at Zapp and then walked to the elevator, Bender by her side.
“So, we’ll call it a rain check, then?”
“If we were in such a hurry to leave, why are we still sitting here? Hydro-spanner,” Leela said sticking her hand out of the engine access port.
Bender handed her the tool and went back to looking at his magazine. “Hermes and that fat jerkwad said that we’re waiting for a Myslaxian representative to show up.”
“Do I need to update my sarcasm unit again, Leela?”
Sticking her head out, she said, “I just don’t trust those guys, Bender.”
“I know what you mean. I don’t trust any of you organ sacks as far as I can throw you. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty long way. Hmm…, I gotta work out a different, ah, what you call it, figure of speech to use. Anyway, what about Doctor whats-her-name? Your head shrinker?”
“Dr. Martin? She’s alright, but she’s still one of them. And that Sister…” She shook her head and went back to work on the engines.
Bender took out a beer and chugged it down. Belching fire, he said, “Meh, you were just jealous.”
“Jealous? Jealous?,” Leela yelled from inside the access hatchway. “I was not jealous! Just because I was cautious about an alien skank trying to seduce Fry, I’m jealous?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Fine, maybe I was jealous. I mean, he was in love with me for years, and this chick just shows up and he’s all googly-eyed for her? What’d she have that I don’t?”
“She was hot, it seemed like she actually liked Fry, and besides, it’s the whole forbidden fruit angle. Geeze Leela, don’t you know anything about drama, or crime? See, you set a mark and then start tempting him with things he can’t have, but really wants, in Fry’s case, a pretty woman that likes him and wants to be his friend, and maybe then some. The whole nun outfit only sweetened the deal by hiding whatever ‘treasures’ she had. All Fry gets to see is a pretty face with some striking features, at least as far as you skin-tubes define them, and that makes him want it more. The whole unknown factor of what her body might look like was a tempting little bonus. And with Fry, catching the fish was easy. You reject him all the time, a pretty girl talks to him, and boom goes the dynamite.”
“So wait, you’re saying that this was my fault after all? That if I had just said yes, all of this could have been avoided?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Bender, do you realize what this means?”
“Nope, but since I don’t care, I’m guessing you’re going to tell me anyway.”
Ignoring the robot, Leela pulled herself out of the access port. “Bender, I was right. All of this is my fault! Dr. Martin, with all her fancy degrees and years of psychological training was wrong when she said this wasn’t my fault. Woooo!” Leela danced around for a few seconds before she stopped, mid-twirl. “Wait. Why doesn’t this make me feel any better?”
“Because you’re almost as big an idiot as Fry. I’m going to make sure the jack-ass hasn’t tried to hotwire the ship and set us on a collision course with the Sun.”
“Yeah, you do that,” she said suddenly thoughtful. “Call me when the Myslaxian gets here and we can leave.” Bender said he would, but Leela didn’t hear him. She closed her eye and tried not to fall apart as she remembered what she had just screamed triumphantly: all of this was her fault.
She didn’t like to drink this early in the day. Even when she went to Space Mardi Gras with Fry and Bender a few years ago, she at least waited until 11 AM before opening the first beer of the day. But, here it was, almost 9:30 AM, and she really needed a drink. Between Zapp and the Myslaxian doctor sitting on the couch (she almost physically threw him off the ship when he tried to sit down in Fry’s chair), she really needed the emergency bottle that Bender kept stashed in the overhead bin.
“I’d like to thank all of you for being here with us today,” Zapp said, standing in front of the window at the front bridge. Only the priest, Dr. Fillian was paying attention to Zapp. Leela and Bender were trying to ignore him, Amy was pretending to file her nails, but she kept looking up at Kif, who was standing next to Zapp, humiliated, and holding up the Earth Flag.
“Now,” Zapp continued, “this is a very dangerous mission. Some of you might not make it back. Probably just you, Kif. But don’t worry, my young paddy-cake, I’ll take care of the Wong girl for you when you’re gone,” he said, winking at her.
“It’s Padawan, you idiot,” Amy said. “And if you come near me, you’ll regret it.”
“Bah, your grief for Kif’s impending demise is making you crazy. Don’t worry, the Zapper will be able to comfort you soon enough, even if you will be a single mother. I’ve found that I get aroused by some mothers. They’re desperate and easy.” Grinning, he quickly fell over as Leela banked the ship sharply.
“If you have nothing decent or useful to say, Zapp,” she said as she righted the ship again, “would you please shut the hell up.”
“Oh, Leela. Your grief is still making you mad. Maybe the Zapper will have to comfort the both of you at the same time.” Leering, he added, “Or I’ll watch as the two of you comfort each other.”
“Admiral Brannigan, please,” Dr. Fillian said. “I agree with Captain Leela. If you don’t stop this childish behavior, I’ll be forced to ask her to return to Earth, where my first stop will be our lawyer’s office.”
“No need for that, Doctor,” he said standing back up. “Where was I? Oh yes, the mission. We’ll be traveling to Tasia where we’ll activate the escape pod’s homing beacon from orbit. From there, we locate it and find out if the victims survived. And if not, we’ll find out if the locals buried the survivors of the crash.”
Sighing, Kif said, “You don’t bury survivors, sir.”
“Well, what happens when a plane crashes on the border of two countries? Where do you bury the survivors? Well, Kif? Where’s all your logic now?”
There was a collective groan from everyone on the bridge.
Leela lay on her bed trying to nap. It would still be another hour to Tasia, but she had to get off the bridge. She set the auto-pilot and locked out the controls to keep Zapp from attacking a nebula, and then went to lie down. That had been two hours ago, and she was no closer to relaxing than she had been when she started. The single thought, that everything that happened to Fry was her fault, kept repeating over and over through her mind. She grabbed her pillow and put it over her face and started to cry.
There was a light tapping at her door that she barely heard. She ignored it for a few minutes, but the knocker was insistent. Finally, she yelled, “Go away.”
“Captain Leea,” the voice said. “Can I help you with what’s wrong?”
Great, she thought, the good doctor. The second to last person I wanted to see right now. “Go away,” she repeated. “I don’t need any of your help.”
“To the contrary, Captain. I think you precisely need my help.”
Grabbing one of her boots, she hurled it at the door. “Go away, damn it. I told you, I don’t want your help.”
“Captain, who are you mad at, Sister Jadzia, Fry, or yourself?”
Angry, Leela got up and opened her door. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You should let me come in, Captain,” the doctor said. “I would just like to help you.” He was calm, his face open, and his eyes were glowing blue.
Leela ‘s head felt like she was lost in the fog. She really wanted to let him in and help her. It’ll be alright, she thought. He just wants to help. Suddenly, something in her screamed ‘NO!’ Blinking, her head clearing, she reached out and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “What the hell are you trying to do to me, you bastard? Your eyes weren’t that color before.”
The doctor was shocked and his mouth hung open. His eyes were wide and had turned back to the blue-green color that she remembered from when they met this morning. “I, I , I was only trying to help,” he stammered. “You shouldn’t have been able to resist…”
“Resist what,” she said, pinning him down onto her bed.
“Please, Captain, you’re hurting me.”
“I’ll do a lot worse to you if you don’t tell me right now what the hell you were trying to do to me.”
“Suggestion,” he said. “I was trying to get you to open up to me, to help with your therapy.”
“My therapy? What the hell does this have to do with that?”
“I’m your new therapist,” he said. “I’ve read the reports. Dr. Martin wasn’t making any progress with you, so she petitioned the Council to reassign you. She was going to tell you at your next session. I was going to meet with you then, but then this came up and the Council decided to send me so that we could get acquainted.”
“Well you’ve done a fantastic job of screwing that up, haven’t you?,” she said getting off of him.
“Well, you weren’t very nice to me this morning,” he replied. “I just did it to help us get off on a better foot.”
“So you thought doing a woogie-woogie mind trick on me would be a good first step? How stupid are you? No, don’t answer that. I want you to leave. Leave now, before I toss you out of the airlock.”
“Captain, as your doctor, I think we should talk about this.”
“What’s to talk about? I told you to get out. End of story.”
“Then I will have to update Mr. Conrad that you’re no longer in therapy. That will terminate your contract with Planet Express, will it not?”
“Are you trying to blackmail me?”
“You call it blackmail, I call it making sure you get the treatment that you obviously need. Having read your records, and just by watching and interacting with you today, I can tell you have a massive rage issue directed toward anyone that upsets your life in any way. You were set nicely with Dr. Martin, but you’re reacting this way when I told you I would be taking over your therapy.
“Then there was the incident this morning with Captain Kroker. Allegedly, you threatened to drop him two stories to the floor of the hanger if he didn’t tell you want you wanted to know. And then there are your unresolved issues with Admiral Brannigan, Sister Jadzia, and Philip Fry, just to name a few. Shall I continue?”
Growling, knowing she was trapped by him, Leela said, “No, that will be enough, Doctor.”
“Good. Now, let’s try all of this again Captain. My name is Doctor Malcolm Fillian. I have doctorates in psychology, parapsychology, and xenopsychology. Plus, I am a sixth level Pure Bred mentalist.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Myslaxa has two different types of worshippers: the Pure Breds and the Converts. All Pure Breds have mental skills to one degree or another. Converts don’t. Dr. Martin was a Convert. The Pure Breds are represented like an inverted pyramid, leading down ten steps. The more powerful your abilities are, the further down the pyramid you are. I am on the sixth step. As my powers grow, should I live long enough, I might achieve the seventh level.”
“Why not tenth?”
“There have only been three tenth level Pure Breds in our history. That amount of power in any living being is very, very rare. And very, very dangerous.”
“What about Sister Jadzia? What level was she?”
He was uneasy and didn’t answer for a few minutes. Leela honestly thought he wasn’t going to answer her. Then, “Sister Jadzia was an eighth level mentalist, which is unique for one of her age. The hierarchs had been calling her Myslaxa’s Chosen since she reached the second level at the age of 6.
“What’s so big about that?”
“Until she came along, I was one of the fastest to reach second level. I did it at 15.”
“Why did your eyes change color?”
“When we use our powers, we have to focus them through our talismans,” he said pulling out his holy symbol. “The physical manifestation of our powers turns our eyes blue. It is our goddesses color.”
“Why were her eyes always that color?”
“What did you say?,” he asked alarmed. “What do you mean they were ‘always that color’?”
“Her eyes were an unnaturally bright blue for the entire time she was around us. That’s bad, right?”
“Very bad, I’m afraid. Yes, I think that that might explain quite a bit, though.”
“I really shouldn’t tell you, you know,” he said getting up to pace the room. “I’d be talking out of school. It’s just religious housekeeping issues that don’t concern you.”
“If she was on my ship, and she was using her woogie-woogie mind powers on a member of my crew, you bet your ass it concerns me.”
Sighing, he sat down and said, “You’re probably right. Several months ago, Sister Harriet, as I’d always known her, went on a retreat to Hyperion. When she came back, she was…different. She insisted on being called Sister Jadzia, saying it was her true, full name, and the only proper way to speak to someone. She started calling all of us by our full names, too. And she’d stopped using contractions. We all thought it was a little weird, but we accepted it. The mental stress of developing your skills to the eighth level manifests itself differently in each individual. If this was all that happened to her, we could accept it.”
“But what about the blue eye thing? What’s so bad about that?”
“That’s a very big problem. It means that she was drawing upon her powers constantly. You see, Harriet’s eyes were always as black as the purest onyx. Deep pools that you could almost dive into… I’m sorry, Captain,” he said, turning his head in embarrassment.
“You were very close, then?”
“No. No. She barely knew I was alive, let alone how I…” Smiling, he said, “Oh, Leela, that’s very clever. I can see why, underneath it all, Dr. Martin thought so highly of you. ‘Stubborn with a very gruff exterior, but very sensitive underneath. All in all, a difficult, but wonderful, young woman.’”
“I know what it’s like to love someone who doesn’t know you’re alive,” she said. “And to be loved like that.”
“That doctor, Adelaide, and Fry, correct?”
“Yeah. Fry was the only one that always tried to get me to accept myself the way I was. If I had only listened to him, things might have been different. So many things,” she said, staring out the porthole.
“Leela, what if,” the doctor began, but was cut off as the ship lurched from an impact and the power momentarily went out.
Barefoot, Leela ran for the bridge, quickly leaving Dr. Fillian behind.
“Damage report,” Leela yelled as she got to the bridge, but she got no answer. Zapp was sitting in her chair, trying to wrestle the wheel lock out of place. Bender, Amy and Kif were nowhere to be seen.
“Ah, Leela,” he said innocently and turning to face her. Shoving him out of the chair, she noticed that there was considerable damage to the lock and the steering wheel in the areas around it, like he’d been trying for two hours to remove it. Pushing in the child safety lock and twisting, Leela easily unlocked it and threw it at him. Looking at the scanner, she saw three unknown ships were just within firing range and taking long-ranged pot shots at them. Barley registering ahead of them was Rori and its moons. Leela pushed the engines to high and set course for Tasia.
The door slid open and Bender walked in, an empty martini glass in hand. “Who’s the bastard that’s responsible for spilling my drink?”
“Why the hell weren’t you on the bridge?,” Leela yelled.
“You set the child lock and the auto-pilot. I didn’t need to be here. But that doesn’t answer my question,” Bender said as Amy and Kif joined them on the bridge, their clothes not on correctly.
“Where’ve you two been?,” Leela asked, twisting the ship away from incoming fire.
“Uh, ah, oh, uh, ah,” Kif stammered.
“We were, uh, I mean to say, uh, that is,” Amy said.
“They were doing it.”
“Thank you, Bender. I figured that part out. Somebody get on scanners and someone else get up top. I can’t do everything here.”
“You heard her, Kif,” Zapp said, standing up next to Leela. “Start doing things. Chop-chop, man. Leela needs to rest. Her weak, womanly spirit is at low ebb. We’ll be in her cabin, if you’d like to join us Amy.” Suddenly, Zapp grabbed at his groin and fell over whimpering. Calmly, Leela put her right hand back on the steering wheel.
“Bender, get up top. Amy, get down to engineering and try and give me more power. Kif…you just stay out of the way.”
“Why doesn’t he take Bender’s station?,” Amy asked. “You can run the scanners, can’t you, my little tadpole?”
“Uh, em, er, uh,” he stammered.
“Yes or no, Kif,” Leela said.
“Yes,” he said finally, sitting down at Bender’s station.
“Just don’t touch any of my stuff, Squishy. I got my eye on you, boy,” he said, as he unscrewed one of his eyes and set it on the console, pointing it at Kif, before heading to the turret.
“Kif, just keep track of the bad guys and watch our instruments. And please try not to get a tummy ache,” Amy said, kissing him before leaving for engineering.
“Status, Kif,” Leela barked as she sent the ship into a rolling dive.
“Engines are at 75%, shields are at 90%, and the three fighters are still on our tail.”
“Distance to Tasia?” 75%?, she thought. Come on Amy, we need more juice.
“At current speed, we’ll be there in 10 minutes. But, the fighters will be in medium range in 3, and short range in 5.”
“Damn it,” she whispered. Punching her hand down on the internal com, she said, “Status reports.”
“Too far out of range for a good shot, No Boots,” Bender said.
“I’m giving you all she’s got, Leela. Those shots before the shields went up did a good deal of damage down here. The number 3 and 4 engines are starting to red line. You’ve got a few more minutes with them before I’ll have to shut ‘em down or they’ll blow us up.”
“Turn into them, Leela,” Zapp groaned. “Close the distance so Bender can return fire. It’s the only chance we have.”
Leela blinked a few times before she realized that the idiot might actually be right. If she closed to firing range, Bender could bring the more powerful cannons of their ship to bear on the fighters and clear their tails. “Kif, shield status?”
“Leela, you don’t honestly think-,”
“When my woman wants your opinion Kif, I’ll give it to you. Now, shield status.” Zapp fell over again as another stiff right, this time to the jaw, dropped him.
“Shields are still at 90%. Leela, you really don’t think….oh, Lord, you do.”
Leela spun the ship around and began to rapidly close with the attacking fighters. “Head’s up, Bender,” she yelled over the com. “They should be in range in any second.”
“What the hell are you doing?,” Bender yelled back as he started firing.
“Somebody’s got to save our skins,” she replied. “Just do your job and kill some humans.”
Bender fired quickly and destroyed two of the fighters in their first pass. The third ship broke off and tried to quickly run to Tasia, with Leela hot on its heels. “Bender, can you get a lock,” she said, pouring on the speed. Engines 3 and 4 were running at 130%, and Leela knew that meant real trouble. If they can hold out for a few more minutes, she thought. “Amy, divert power to containment on 3 and 4.”
“I’ve already done that,” came the reply. “Why do you think life support is off-line?”
“When did that happen?”
“When you charged the fighters,” Kif said. “By the way, shields are down to 25%, engines are at 50%, and we’ve got a bigger problem. There’s a large contact just coming into scanner range. It’s coming out from Tasia’s night side. Computer lists it as a corvette and it’s not registering a DOOP signature. It matches what your computer has on file for the Feeorin Pirate ship that you engaged last time you were here.”
Letting loose a long and vile stream of curses, Leela started to dive toward Tasia. “Kif, activate you DOOP beacon. If we can find the pod, great. If not, we’re going to try and get the hell out of here. Amy,” she yelled over the com, “shut down weapons and get 3 and 4 running green again.”
“It should take 2 hours, but I may be able to get them running in 1.”
“You’ve got less than 5 minutes.” This led to a long stream of Martian and Mandarin curses before Leela closed the channel. “Where’s the pod, Kif?”
“Weak signal coming from the night side, Captain. The corvette will be in firing range in approximately 2 minutes.”
“Divert all available power to the rear shields. We still need this bucket to get us home. Feed me the coordinates, Kif.”
They had just reached the upper atmosphere when the corvette started firing. The ship rocked out of control as the moons atmosphere started to work against Leela. Then the power failed. Bright white emergency lights quickly came on-line, but very little else. Leela had no control over their decent.
Bender burst through the door (literally, since the interior doors were one of the things not working), screaming, “Abandon ship. Robots and children first!”
“I agree,” Zapp said, coming around again. “Fleet officers and robots first!”
Suddenly, engine 1 kicked back on, giving her a little control.
“That’s all you get, Leela,” Amy’s voice said as the com crackled with static. “The rest are too badly damaged to fix here. I’ll need a full repair bay to get them within thinking distance of running again.”
“It’ll do,” she said as they crossed the solar terminator. Leela dove the ship downward, trying to get out of the corvette firing range as fast as possible while still trying to home in on the beacon. Soon, the pirate vessel gave up. Leela didn’t immediately know, or care, why, but it soon was apparent: they were coming in too low, too fast. Cutting the engine back, Leela pulled back on the wheel with all she had, bracing her feet on the console to try and get extra leverage. “Brace yourselves,” she yelled. “This is gonna be rough!”
She sat naked on an outcropping of rock, drying in the early morning sun after her bath in the lake near the house they shared. It had been a wonderful night. Her emotions were running so high, she hadn’t gone to bed.
Last night had been the final night of the Harvest Festival, and he finally asked her to dance. Sure, he danced with most of the women there, but she had been watching him. He was careful to choose only the wives of their friends, or those too young or too old to marry. She was the only woman of “marrying age” that he danced with, and it made her feel special. Hours later, just remembering how his hands felt on her back made her stomach flutter and her knees weak. But that was nothing compared to how she felt when he kissed her…
She had left him in their house, just so she could freshen herself up for him. She knew that this was going to be the day, and it had to be perfect. It had taken her eight long months to build up enough courage, but when he woke up this morning, she would tell him how she felt about him. And, she thought smiling, exactly what I want him to do with me.
Sighing contentedly in the morning light, she ran her fingers through her short black hair. It had grown steadily during the eight months that they had been on Tasia. He had been just as surprised as she was that her head was shaved bald. But, he pointed out that it probably would get very hot under the veil that she used to wear, so it made sense for her to shave her head. At least it doesn’t itch so much anymore, she thought as she collected her clothes and went home.
Turning the bend, she saw the smoke for the first time. The lake view was perfect to the east, over the rainforest and right to the ocean. But to the west, toward the village, the trees blocked the view. With a sick feeling in her gut, she ran home. What she saw when she got there turned her blood to ice.
Their house was in ruin.
Screaming his name, she started to throw the wrecked pieces of their life around, searching for him. Every so often, reflecting off some still shiny piece of metal or broken glass, she would catch the reflection of an unnaturally bright blue light. But she couldn’t be bothered by that now. He was gone. She was finally going to tell him that she loved him, and he was gone.
She threw her head back and shrieked, fists balled at her side. It was so loud that it scared the birds into flight up to half a mile away. But that was nothing compared to the shockwave that accompanied it. She stood oblivious as the wave threw pieces of their life across the clearing that used to be their front yard.