“Our cloaking shield seems to be working,” Leela said, keeping the power to the engines low.
“They’re ignoring us,” Amy confirmed from her station.
“Should I get to the turret?” Fry axed from where he was standing behind Leela. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“Wait,” Leela said. “We’re just a figment of their imagination.” She shot Fry a smile to show him she appreciated his presence
“This is just…unnatural,” Bender whined. “I don’t feel good about this, and aren’t my feelings the most important?”
The Planet Express ship cruised toward the ocean world, covered in a white ghost sheet. The Cyberian raiders circled the planet slowly, oblivious to the disguised cargo ship.
The Professor told them the Cyberians had the same cognitive blind spot as the robot guards of the Near-Death Star, and so the same disguise worked. They didn’t accept the existence of ghosts, and they wouldn’t see them.
So now the ghostly Planet Express ship, existence firmly rejected by the Cyberian pickets, slipped through their sensors and began to glow as it entered the doomed planet’s atmosphere.
“This ‘cloaking shield’ is heat resistant, right?” Kif axed nervously as Amy studied the indicators.
“What? Of course not,” the Professor scoffed. “Why would it be?”
“Oh Lord,” Leela said, covering her eye with a hand. She shook her head. Outside the main window, the white sheet was crisping into ash, already tattered by the re-entry heat. She turned on the all-ship intercom. “This is your Captain speaking – please buckle up for a bumpy ride.”
“Only one raider in range, Leela,” Amy said.
“Come on, hold it together,” Leela whispered, trying to flatten out their insertion profile to reduce the heat strain on the cloak.
The last bits of the tattered cloak whisked away as ash in a fire. Within moments, Amy shouted, “It’s heading right for us!”
“Hang on!” Leela shouted, turning the ship sharply to avoid expected fire.
“I’ll get to the turret!” Fry said, running to the bridge door.
The ship shook with a sudden hit from a Cyberian energy cannon. Fry tumbled across into Amy, who shrieked and crashed into a pile of parts the professor had been working on. Alarms flashed as Scruffy said, “Turret’s gone; direct hit.”
“Bastards!” Leela looked at her magazine display. The Professor had only loaded four torpedoes; he had been pressed for room. Leela was loath to use any without access to replacements.
“Hang on,” she grunted, and slammed the ship down toward the roiling sea.
The Planet Express ship dove through the atmosphere, leveling off to within 50 meters of the water. The Cyberian raced after it, wild shots plowing into waves and sending plumes of steam into the air.
The next blast from the Cyberian ship struck the Planet Express in the rear, shaking the cargo hauler.
“Crap!” Leela yelled. “I'm getting an emergency alert from the cargo hold.”
Hermes read off his display. “Someting’s giving a helluva radiation bath in dere, Leela.”
The Professor leaned over Hermes’ shoulder and read the same screen. “Oh, that’s just the hydrogen implosion core.”
“The hydrogen what?” Leela asked. She was wrestling the ship as it skimmed over the sea, the Cyberian raider right behind it.
“Implosion core, you simpleton,” the professor said crossly. “Why don't you ever listen to me?”
Leela’s eye narrowed. “What is it, you old maniac?”
“Oh, that. It’s just a doomsday device I brought along in case we needed to blow up Leo Wong's base.”
“You mean Mars?” Amy gasped.
“Oh, no. It's just a teeny doomsday device. Really more of a bad day device. It wouldn't do more than level a small state; say New New Jersey.”
“Why’s it bathing my cargo hold in ionizing radiation?” Leela asked sharply.
“Ionizing radiation! Good god, it only does that when it’s ready to detonate!”
“Oh, Lord,” Leela said tiredly. She glanced around the room quickly. “Okay, I've got an idea to kill two owls with one stone. We'll push the core out of the cargo hold, and maybe when it blows it’ll catch the raider.” Leela took a deep breath, and said “Amy, take the helm. I've got to do something about that bomb.”
She started to get up when Fry spoke up. “Leela – you’re the best pilot we’ve got. You stay at the wheel, Bender and I’ll deal with the bomb.”
“No buts,” Fry said. “Keep avoiding their shots. Bender,” he said to his friend, “let’s go.”
“What's with the ‘we,’ meatbag?”
Fry said, “It's got to be us; we’re the strongest onboard other than Leela, and she’s got the best chance of keeping us alive if she flies.”
“I hate it when skintubes use logic,” Bender grumbled. “It ain’t natural.”
“Fry,” Leela said, trying to keep her voice level. “Take one of the professor’s force field belts and - be careful.”
Fry flashed his patented goofy smile.
“Yeah, love you too, One-Eye,” Bender said sarcastically.
“We're in the hold, Leela,” Fry said. “Open the hatch.”
On the bridge, Leela nodded to Amy and tightened her grip on the wheel. Amy snapped a switch, and the ship’s airframe groaned as the cargo door at the rear cranked down.
Leela held the ship straight as it jerked and buffeted. “I've got her steady,” Leela said.
“Go ahead, Fry,” Amy announced.
Back in the hold, Fry and Bender snapped off the restraining ties on the pallet holding the implosion core, and started to push the whole package back toward the gaping maw of the cargo door.
Sudden flashes lit the dark sky, and the ship swayed again from the airbursts of near-hits.
“You alright down there?” Leela's worried voice said over the intercom.
“Just peachy,” Fry said, rubbing a massive bruise on his arm where he had fallen against another crate of supplies. He had to admit the professor and Hermes had loaded the ship for all manner of contingencies when they had broken the Feministas out of jail; unfortunately, the crowded cargo hold was making getting the core out rather difficult.
After another ten minutes of groaning and sweating, the two friends got the pallet to the threshold.
“Whew,” Fry said, wiping his forehead. “I have got to start working out.”
“You've been saying that for as long as I’ve known you, sweatsock,” Bender said, lighting a cigar. “I ain’t seen you lift a weight yet – other than a 12 ounce one.”
“Thanks, buddy,” Fry mumbled. He raised his voice for the intercom. “We're in position, Leela.”
Back on the bridge, Leela brought the ship's emergency power booster on line. “On the count of five, boys,” she said.
Amy and Kif intertwined hands.
LaBarbara and Hermes clutched at each other.
Scruffy opened one of Bender's spare beers.
Fry and Bender braced their backs against the implosion core.
The human and robot pair shoved with all their might and the pallet tipped over the lip and slid on its own into the dark night. Meanwhile, Leela slammed on the power booster, sending the ship racing away.
At that very moment, a Cyberian laser blast slammed into the Planet Express' dorsal fin, sending the ship twirling in its flight path.
A hail of loose boxes, papers and other junk swirled through the hold and streamed out of the back of the hold. Bender grabbed hold of a stanchion with one manipulator, and used his other extensor arm to grab the collar of Fry’s jacket.
“Amy – close the door!” Leela yelled, but Amy was already toggling the cargo door closed.
As Leela righted the ship, Bender dropped to the ground and let go of the stanchion. “Oh yeah, baby – who's great? Bender’s great!” he said. Feeling magnanimous, he said “Fry, you weren't too bad yourself.” He turned to his friend.
In his other manipulator Bender held only the torn collar of Fry's red jacket.
“Oh oh.” Bender said. “Big Boots isn't going to be too happy about this.”
“Happy about what?” axed Leela over the intercom.
“How attached were you to the red-headed meatbag, Big Boots?” Bender axed. “You seemed to get over him pretty quick before.”
“Bender, where’s Fry?” Leela axed in a tight voice.
“Funny story, that happens to show me in a good light - ” Bender started.
The ship banked sharply as Leela brought it around.
“What are you doing, woman?” the Professor exclaimed.
“Getting Fry,” Leela said grimly. She locked her eyes on the scanner.
“The bomb is going to explode!”
“All the more reason to hurry up,” Leela said.
“He’s gone,” Hermes said, putting a hand on her arm.
Leela drove an elbow into Hermes’ gut, knocking the bureaucrat onto the ground. “Don’t touch me,” she said absently, never taking her eye off the scanner.
“Damn it, you crazy cyclops,” the Professor said. “You’ll never – ”
A flash lit up the sky, throwing the crew’s shadows starkly across the deck and walls. They were racing toward a sudden monstrous fiery waterspout.
“Climb, dammit!” the Professor shouted.
“Leela – ” Amy screamed. Kif’s skin had morphed to the color of the bridge’s interior.
Leela let out an anguished wail and pulled the controls up, sending the Planet Express ship shooting into the sky and flipping it over, away from the blast. A glowing fireball swelled behind them, sending boiling sea water and flames into the sky. The ship barely outraced the flaming, all-consuming blast front, shaking from the howling winds.
“No sign of the raider,” Scruffy said helpfully.
Leela leveled the ship out in the stratosphere, sending it rocketing toward the sunrise of the alien world. When the ship stopped shaking, she engaged the autopilot and stood up stiffly. Her eye gleamed wetly, and her cheeks were red. Her hands clenched and unclenched reflexively. She looked at each of them for a moment.
“I’m going to my cabin,” she announced flatly.
“Leela,” Amy started, sure she should say something but unsure of what.
Leela brushed past her, marching toward the door. Kif caught at her elbow, and she slowed for a moment, staring at the little green alien.
“I’m sorry,” Kif said mournfully. Leela simply nodded at him in acknowledgment, and started moving again.
The rest of the Planet Express team looked around at each other as she stalked out of the bridge, the door hissing shut behind her.