Leela shaded her eye with her hand as she watched Amy, Scruffy and Hermes paddle their little boat away, taking the Professor with them. The Planet Express crew had prepared for almost two weeks for the little expedition to the nearest town, and Leela wished she could go.
She sighed, turning away from the horizon. It made sense that only the normal humans go, but she still didn’t like it.
Plus, it leaves me here with Bender, she thought tiredly. The robot was trying to get Kif to play poker, but the Amphibiosan had little taste for card games.
“It doesn’t matter, anyway, Kif – he’s already lifted your wallet,” Leela said snidely as she opened a mug of self-heating coffee.
The alien grabbed at his pocket, and then turned and started berating Bender. “There are pictures of my beautiful Amy in there, you malfunctioning thief!”
Bender tossed the emptied wallet back at the DOOP officer, waving a manipulator. “Yeah, yeah – I just took the cash; you can have your lousy pictures back.”
Kif opened the wallet and looked at the animated pictures of Amy lovingly. “You’re welcome to the cash; these pictures of Amy are worth every last cent I have. Besides, what do you plan to do with Earthican money millions of light-years from New New York?”
Bender thought for a moment, and then his metal shoulders slumped. “Aww, thanks for taking the fun out of it.”
“Alright, you two,” Leela said, taking a sip of her coffee. “If you’re done being stupid, let’s finish repairing the ship.” As she said that, a shiver of déjà vu ran up her spine. How many times had she said that before to Fry and Bender? Oh Fry, I pray that you’re okay. Do you miss me as badly as I miss you?
Before she broke down in tears again, Leela seized control of herself and said, “Let’s get cracking.”
Kif saluted her and hurried into the makeshift machine shop set up in the hold. Bender saluted, too, although somewhat more slovenly, and then lit a cigar.
How many of those things did he bring with him? Leela wondered, and then shook her head. It doesn’t matter, I guess. “Bender, play time’s over. Get into the shop with Kif and bend whatever it is he needs bent – I don’t want to have to use the patriotism override.”
Bender made a raspberry noise, but he headed into the ship, muttering under his breath about “killing humans” along the way. Leela could also hear LaBarbara humming from the makeshift kitchen set up near the fire pit, where the woman was cooking some Jamaican dish. Leela shook her head; LaBarbara was almost as bad a cook as Bender, but she seemed eager.
None of them, however, had noticed the small, three-eyed black creature which snuck from his hiding place inside the Planet Express ship and capered off into the jungle, red cape trailing comically behind him.
Amy, Hermes, Scruffy and the Professor beached their little boat on a rocky shore near town, tying a line to a convenient tree. Amy helped the Professor out of the boat, and then turned to consider the rest of her little crew.
“You there,” she said to the janitor, “stay with the boat.”
As the little group walked away, the Professor whispered to her “I don’t trust the new guy anyway.”
“Why do you think I left him behind?” Amy whispered back. The three trudged along a game trail, helping the Professor along the way, until they reached the outskirts of the open-air market.
“Now remember, everyone, we just want information about the cyborgs. And for god’s sake, don’t just blurt it out, either!” The Professor admonished them.
The three first approached a woman selling knitted sweaters from a grimy stand made of wooden boards and piled rocks. “Excuse me, my good lady,” the Professor said, “but do you know where we could find the nearest cyborg representatives?”
Amy covered her face with her hands, and Hermes exclaimed “Professor!”
“What?” the scientist said crossly.
Amy pushed forward. “Ma’am, we just arrived here on your island and were wondering where we might stay?” Amy hoped the more prosaic question might distract the vendor from the Professor’s blunt questioning.
“There’s an inn by the Master’s fortress on the hill there,” the woman said, raising her eyebrows at the curious group. She pointed to a rise on the slope of a dormant volcano, where a stone fortress squatted under a dark cloud.
“A little stereotypical,” Hermes muttered. The professor just shook his head and said, “So old-school mad scientist.”
Amy muttered a “Spleesh,” and then tried turning up the cuteness on the woman. “So, your…Masters…do they have as much metal in them as…our…Masters do?”
The woman looked at them suspiciously. “Are you spies for the Masters? I’m a loyal subject; I don’t have any truck with the pirates! Now get on with you, and let me go back to honest selling!”
The three backed away from the stall and headed further into the chaotic market, dodging porters carrying barrels and fishwives with baskets of various seafoods.
“Horseflesh from Marrakesh!” Hermes said, “This market is busy.”
“You think this is busy,” a well-dressed man told them, “you should see the Great Market at the feet of the Masters’ Great Castle on Prime Island.
“Really,” Amy said, “tell me more!” She winked at the man, and lowered the zipper of her sweatsuit a bit.
The man’s face brightened. “Why, of course! It’s one of the great scenes in the world.” His eyes seemed locked on Amy’s chest.
“Wow,” she purred, putting her hand on his arm. “How do we get there?”
Hermes rolled his eyes, whispered something to the professor about a green snake and sugar cane, and wandered off.
Amy continued her gentle questioning of the well-dressed man, who was transfixed by her charm. He gesticulated wildly as he pointed to the east, described the vast distance of the trip (which he had taken many times), the risks from storms and pirates (which he had bravely faced), and the stone-faced power of the Masters (before which he had trembled appropriately).
Amy nodded, and oohed and aahed breathily as she mentally took notes on his descriptions. After a while, with some gentle prodding, he had given her fairly complete directional guides on how to find this Prime Island.
“Well,” Amy said seductively, “that is fascinating. Perhaps you can tell me more…at your inn. Are you staying nearby? Perhaps I can join you after I get my grandfather to his place.” She hit him with her full-wattage smile.
The man babbled the address of his inn. Amy blew him a kiss, took the Professor by the arm and led him away.
“Artfully done, Ms. Wong,” the Professor said. “I doubt that temptress Mom could have fared any better.”
“Glugg!” Amy shuddered at being compared to the ancient, decrepit industrialist. Changing the subject, she said “I think with that information Leela and I can plot a course for the central headquarters of the cyborgs.” Amy looked around. “Now where did Hermes get to?”
“He said he was going to try his hand at some trading.”
“Well, where are we going to find him?”
“Ah! There’s the young whipper-snapper!” The Professor raised one shaky hand and pointed. Hermes was coming towards them with a troubled look on his face.
When he reached the Professor and Amy, he held out his hand and opened his fingers. “Take a look at this,” he said. “I just traded some…dried plants…I had to a local vendor for this.”
The two looked at the coin in Hermes’ palm and gasped.
Leela lifted up her welding goggle and wiped the sweat from her brow with one arm, while the other put down the plasma torch. She was perched atop the ship, installing a replacement chair in the now-repaired gun turret. It had taken her nearly the entire day to peel away the wreckage of the old turret and put in replacement gimbals, pressure seals and the new laser gun. Now she was putting in a new seat for the gunner to occupy.
Leela fingered a piece of scrap metal she had saved from the damaged section. It was part of the facing of the gun controls, and it had been etched – obviously over several years, because the alloy was tough – with simple symbols: P.F. + T.L. That’s my Fry – he never gives up. She smiled, thinking of Fry, and looked at the new chair she put in. That’s a lot more comfy than the old one, she thought. I think Fry will like the new seat. She smiled at herself. Taking care of Fry has become second nature to me over the years. It does make me feel – what’s the phrase Fry uses? – warm and fuzzy…
“They’re back!” Kif yelled from the beach.
Leela looked up, across the water, and saw the boat carrying Amy and the rest returning on the waves. She rose from her crouch and waved at the returning people. Someone – she thought it was Amy – waved back.
They rowed for a while, and Leela realized they were much further away than she originally thought. Damn depth perception, she thought. Soon enough, however, the little boat hit the beach, Amy and Hermes jumping out to drag it further out of the water.
Kif helped the Professor out of the boat, and Scruffy opened the stopcock to start deflating the boat. Amy came up to Leela and said, “Good news and better news, Captain Turanga!”
Leela smiled at the younger woman’s brashness. Amy seemed pleased that her mission had met with success. “What’s the word, Ms. Wong?”
The Martian woman tapped her forehead and said, “I think we’ve got the location of the cyborgs’ main base.”
Leela nodded. “Good work, Amy. Let’s see if – ”
“There’s more news!” Hermes exclaimed, pulling away from the embrace LaBarbara had locked him in. “Look what I got!” He thrust out his hand.
Leela squinted at the bent, worn medallion in Hermes’ palm. It was a giant coin, and it bore a vaguely familiar bust on the face, with the words ‘In Earth We Trust’ on the top, and ‘3002’ curved along the bottom. Hermes flipped it over.
The medallion or coin had inscribed on it a catafalque, with the notation ‘In Tribute to Earth President McNeill, Who Gave His Life for His Planet,’ and along the bottom of the coin ‘No Value - Not For Legal Tender.’
“Your God!” Bender said. “It’s from Earth – I remember when they minted those things and were handing them out at the Freedom Day parade.”
“They weren’t handing dem out, you mechanical menace,” Hermes growled. “You just stole dem from de vendors.”
“How did it get here?” Leela wondered. “Did it come through the wormhole with someone else?”
“I don’t think so,” Hermes said. “The guy I got it from had a story about it being sold to him by the last of a long line of traders who traveled among the stars. I think someone has another way to reach the Earth!”
The professor nodded. “I scanned the coin on the way back, and I didn’t pick up any stray synchrotron radiation, which would be on any object which came through the wormhole.”
“Didn’t…we all come through the wormhole? Wouldn’t all of us contaminate it?” Kif asked.
“Oh, bah!” the Professor said. “I programmed it to exclude the ship and those of us here (thank you, Bender, for getting everyone’s DNA samples). So I can say with absolute certainty that this coin didn’t come through the wormhole.” The Professor crossed his arms, daring anyone to challenge him.
“Oh great Jah! Dis means there’s another way back!” LaBarbara clutched at her husband’s shoulder.
Leela clapped Hermes on the back. “Good work, man.”
The bureaucrat smiled in a strained way. “We still don know how to contact dese traders, or who de are.”
“Perhaps the cyborgs can tell us,” the Professor said. “Let’s not forget we need to contact them.”
“Contact them why, again?” Bender asked sardonically.
“Contact who?” the Professor asked, a confused expression on his face.
Leela sighed. “Not this again.” She raised her voice. “Okay, everyone. The ship is just about ready to fly. Kif and Bender, please finish the new laser turret. Amy, I’ll help you plot a course to Cyborg Central. Everyone else, get ready to leave as soon as the turret is ready. Let’s save this planet, find Fry and get our asses home!”
The Planet Express crew cheered her – except for the Professor, who was looking around. “Who are you people?” he asked crossly. “Where’s my cocoa?”
“I regret to inform command that the Mighty One is still missing. I have high hopes, however, that the Other will be able to locate him.”
“Do you require assistance at this time, Lord Nibbler?”
“Please send a ‘Kitten’-class ship for my use. I do not believe I can hide further aboard the Planet Express ship, and if they do find the Mighty One, they may depart quickly.”
“We will comply, Lord Nibbler. Is there any chance the Other will leave the Mighty One behind on this doomed world?”
Nibbler purred slightly. “I do not think there is a force in this Universe, or any other, that could make the Other leave the Mighty One behind.”
“Again, Fry!” Pratt shouted. Fry swung his cutlass another time at the hanging sack of hay and twine, panting from exertion. His arm felt like lead.
From the corner of his eye, Fry caught movement. He wheeled about, bringing up his sword, and deflected the blow that Pratt aimed at him.
The pirate lord stepped back, a broad smile on his face. “Very good, my boy.”
Fry put his arms down, curved sword at his side. He wiped the sweat from his eyes, and panted. The slanted rays of the setting sun made his sweaty skin glisten.
“Tired?” the pirate asked him.
“Exhausted,” Fry admitted. He flexed his sore muscles. “I feel like I’ve been mauled by Siddhartha.”
“You were practicing for two hours, according to my count,” the captain said, gesturing to a flowing sandglass. “That’s your longest time yet,” he said with some satisfaction. “You’re turning into quite the swordsman.”
Fry nodded. He could feel his strength and endurance growing, and the praise Pratt gave him stoked his pride even more. I wish Leela could see me right now! He shook his head. No, Leela *will* see me again. Putting down his sword, he picked up a water skin and guzzled out of it.
Pratt picked up the sword and put it in the case, and cut down the target bag. “Get up to the crow’s nest, Fry – take a look out before the sun sets.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Fry turned to go.
“When I see you next,” Pratt said off-handedly, “I think I will regale ye with the tale of where we’re going – and what we’re doing when we get there.”
Fry froze in place, but didn’t turn around. He nodded, his back still to Pratt, and kept going to the mainmast. Reaching the base, he started climbing up the rope ladder, still deep in thought. Should I help Pratt? *Can* I help Pratt, knowing what he’s done? An image of Leela, sobbing on her bed, flashed back to him. Can I *not* help Pratt?
Fry shook his head. Thinking’s not your strong suite, boy, he thought to himself in Yancy Senior’s voice. Then another thought formed in his head.
Why isn’t it?
I always let others think for me. Bender, the Professor, even Leela sometimes. Maybe it’s time I thought for myself. Fry smiled. Even so, I still wish Leela was here – if only to ask her advice. And kiss her.
The sun had set, and the sky was darkening into the deep black purple of this pre-artificial-light world. Thick cloud banks were forming in the distance, and pre-cursor clouds scudded before the wind over the Matei Pavel. Fry studied the clouds for a minute and then noticed, high in the sky, a trio of Cyberian raiders flying in a triangle formation. They were flying in the same direction as the sailing ship; Fry considered raising an alarm, but they didn’t seem to notice the Matei Pavel as they sliced through the sky.
Fry blinked. He suddenly noticed a slightly larger ship flying in the center of – being escorted by? –the Cyberian formation. Is that electric mucus? He blinked again, but the ships had vanished behind a cloud bank. Was that –
Fry shrugged off his sudden anxiety. If it was, they seem to be headed the same place as me, he told himself.