after ‘The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings’. Fry
and Leela aren’t technically going out, but they are much
closer than they’ve ever been. Some time has passed, and Fry
himself is a little bit more mature and worldly… not much
though. And just so it doesn’t confuse you - he and Leela have
taken to calling each other ‘red’ and ‘purple’
on occasion... kind of like pet names.
This fiction is shippy, but I dislike writing romance without a plot, so
it’s also an action adventure with some moderate violence.
The illustrations are all my own. Apologies for my exterior Starship
shots – I’m kind of a character specialist and I tend to
suck at inanimate objects.
Caption: ‘Activate willing suspension of disbelief circuit…
the final frontier… These are the missions of the Starship…
Planet Express ship. Its mission: to explore strange new worlds, to
seek out new life, and new civilizations… to boldly go where
no man has gone before… and deliver packages!”
are you talking to, Fry?”
red-haired young man broke out of his reverie and glanced sheepishly
away from the forward view screen. Leela was watching him oddly from
the Captain’s chair, her enormous single eye fixed in a
was narrating,” he muttered, wandering back over to the
engineering console and slumping down.
battered old green workhorse lumbered through deep space, silently
slipping between stars. Fry never got sick of the sight – the
depths of space, brilliant nebulae, raging novas… all the kind
of things his peers found so mundane. But he was from an ancient
time, and the wonders of the Universe were still so new, so
breathtaking. Though there was one thing more amazing…
glanced at her. Silken bangs of purple hair framed her beautiful eye…
her full lips fixed in a strong line. She was a perfect, unique
Amazon… the most incredible person he’d ever met, and…
quit staring at me!” Leela snapped.
The delivery boy looked away guiltily. He knew she was tense –
the specifics of their latest mission would soon bring her into close
proximity to a person she’d just as soon decapitate. The
arrogant overblown space ‘hero’, Captain Zapp Brannigan
of DOOP, commander of the Nimbus and recipient of the three heavy
crates that took up most of the PE ship’s cargo hold.
had had any choice in the matter she would have vehemently declined
the mission, however under a DOOP security mandate, the services of
Planet Express had been commandeered – there was no choice in
the matter. Concerns about an intelligence leak within DOOP had
prompted command (Brannigan himself, no doubt) to use the small
private carrier to transport components for a new super-weapon to the
Nimbus at the front line of the Xylogen War. Due to the official and
hazardous military nature of the mission, the usual crew of three was
augmented by Bureaucrat Hermes Conrad to oversee transfer protocol,
and inept physician John Zoidberg… to theoretically tend to
any injuries sustained.
Leela,” Fry said quietly. “If Zapp tries to put the moves
on, I can pretend to be your fiancé again… if you
looked at him, and to her surprise found that he looked genuinely
concerned for her, and not in the least bit suggestive. “Thanks,
Fry,” she said. “If it comes to that I’ll take you
up on the offer. But I hope to be in and out without having to lay my
eye on that creep.”
creep he may be, but he’s sure got good taste. Like a skunk
that drinks fine wine… or a slug that smokes top-range Zuban
very sweet and bizarre, Fry.”
burst onto the bridge suddenly, with his mouth appendages twitching.
someone say something about a slug!?” he screeched.
rugged little green freighter trawled through interstellar space, a
dark, sinister shape shadowed it, maintaining a 20,000 kilometre
distance. The other ship was larger and sleeker, with innumerable
pincer-like leading edges that gave it a gothic appearance enhanced
further by its black paint scheme.
frigate was running silent. Coasting on candle-power thrusters and
using only passive scanners. The bridge of the vessel had an
atmosphere of electric anticipation as a gathering of strange
tri-symmetrical creatures observed the Planet Express ship’s
is the one?>> the alien commander wheezed at its first mate.
sir. This is the ship our Intelligence indicated.>>
then has it no escort?>>
would seem the DOOP are attempting to transport their weapon under a
cloak of secrecy, sir…>>
eh?>> the commander rubbed one of its chins with a
multi-jointed mandible. <<A devilish scheme of devilish
proportions matched only by the proportions of the devil who
instigated it… what did you say his name was?>>
Zapp Brannigan, sir…>>
you say? A truly worthy adversary, worthy of being my adversary. Now,
what about this ship?>>
seems to be an older class of transport vessel, sir. Fast but lightly
armoured. Offensive armament includes a single laser turret and
with your overly-analytical claptrap, Kryzzerch, you disgust me>>
the commander snapped. <<A true warrior knows that battles are
never won through careful planning or knowledge – they are won
through blind impulse and reckless action! The same way a beautiful
female is won.>>
stifled a small yawn and rubbed her eye. Glancing at the
chrononometer, she noted that it had been six hours since her last
red, I’m gonna take a nap. Do you want to take the helm for a
face lit up. “Sure thing, purple!” he exclaimed. “Take
as long as you need!”
smiled at his enthusiasm. An interstellar spacecraft was just a big
toy for him, and while his immaturity was irksome at times, she still
couldn’t help but be infected by his playful nature. The way he
looked at the Universe with wonder could make her see some of the
things she took for granted in a whole new light… humanity’s
accomplishments, and the marvels of space; it really was amazing, all
moved aside for Fry to sit down, their hands briefly touched, and
both felt a momentary tremor of excitement that they each tried to
conceal. Fry took the controls and grinned.
stay the course, kiddo,” Leela told him. “No deviations
except in an emergency… and if there is an emergency, I
expect you to wake me immediately.”
know the drill, Cap’n.” Fry winked roguishly. “Sweet
left the bridge, her mood lighter than it had been in hours. Despite
all the monumental screw-ups and overt idiocy, Phillip J. Fry had an
indefinable quality about him that could lighten anyone’s heart
when they were feeling down without even trying… especially
suppose there’s a reason for that, she thought. Face it
Leela, you’re madly in…
of thought was interrupted as she ran into Bender exiting her
quarters. The android stopped and looked at her blankly. Leela glared
Bender demanded indignantly.
them off,” she said. “Now.”
grumbled inaudibly to himself and removed the bra and panties that he
was wearing awkwardly on his cylindrical chassis. He threw them at
Leela and clumped off.
bland and unappealing anyway,” he declared as he disappeared
toward the cargo bay.
looked at the stretched-out undergarments and wondered how long it
would take for the residual effects of Bender’s temporary
gender-swap to wear off. She went into her quarters and lay down,
trying not to think about her impending encounter with the
sex-obsessed buffoon. She found it easier and more calming to think
about Fry instead.
in the cargo hold, Hermes Conrad sat at a small folding desk with a
sheaf of papers in front of him, busily documenting each uneventful
minute of the cargo’s journey. Checking and rechecking that the
three crates were still present and noting each creak of the ship’s
hull. An official mission from the DOOP was a large-scale event sure
to earn him kudos with the Central Bureaucracy… perhaps even a
one-point promotion if all went well.
looked up from his paperwork and glared in irritation as Bender
clumped noisily down the steps muttering to himself.
are ya doin’ down here, ya metal monstrosity?” Hermes
growled. “This area’s off-limits to unauthorized
personnel for the duration of da mission! If you want t’come
down here you need to submit an application for DOOP probationary…”
yeah, yeah – cram a clam in it, fleshsack,” Bender said.
“What the hell is it we’re hauling anyway? Is it porn? I
bet it’s porn.” He wanked over to one of the enormous
DOOP-stamped crates and set about trying to lever it open.
it!!” Hermes shrieked, leaping over the desk to grab Bender’s
arms. “Ya clankin’ cacophony of colliding cogs and
camshafts! If we tamper with this shipment we’ll be lookin’
at the inside of a DOOP prison!”
mean YOU will be,” Bender retorted. “This haul’s
your responsibility, ain’t it?”
technically yes, but…”
get your greasy paws of me or I’ll hit you with a shovel.”
Bender moved to shove the Jamaican aside, but Hermes held up his
alright, alright!” he said. “If you leave this shipment
alone I’ll let you have a day off work.”
week!” Bender snapped.
a week,” Hermes relented.
fine, a week. Starting now.” Bender pulled a cigar from his
chest compartment, lit it, and blew a cloud of smoke in Hermes’
face. “Bwahahaha! Seeya later, loser!”
slumped in relief as the robot meandered away singing to himself.
This particular shipment was far too important to allow idiots like
Bender and the ice-cube from the stupid ages to gum things up.
passed without incident. Bender found his way onto the bridge and was
trying to play rock-paper-scissors with Zoidberg – neither of
them had the right shaped hands for the game. Zoidberg continually
produced ‘scissors’ even when he wasn’t trying to,
while Bender could only make ‘rock’… nevertheless
he was on a winning streak.
the ship through a number of minor course-corrections and
gravity-boosts through manual control, and was proud of himself when
had finally tired of his game and sauntered over to Fry.
see eyeball’s been leaving you behind the wheel more often
these days,” he observed. “Seems like she trusts you more
than she used to. And that’s a trust that can be exploited…”
guess she does,” Fry said happily, tuning out his friend’s
endless plotting. “It has been a long time since I destroyed
anything valuable or threatened the lives of innocent people.”
right; you are slipping.”
she has been a lot nicer to me ever since I wrote that opera.”
mulled on that for a moment. “Well… I’d be worried
about that if I was you,” he said. “She’s at that
age when human females start getting desperate for offspring. I say
she’s sizing you up as a free source of genetic material,
buddy. Run for the hills.”
don’t think that’s…” Fry trailed off as his
eyes were drawn to the long-range scanner. For a moment a contact had
registered at the edge of scanning range. It was weak and
ill-defined, and on the next pass it had disappeared.
He called up the command routines for the high-powered radar array
and fired a burst into the sector where the contact had been. Briefly
the object returned to the screen, before becoming scattered and then
vanishing altogether. It had been closer that time, but the ship’s
computer hadn’t been able to lock onto it or produce
can you take a look out of the port… err… starboard
dice, meatbag, I’ve taken the week off.”
great.” “No…. arrr!” Bender
marched away. And Fry was forced to resort to the other person on the
can you go and watch out the starboard window,” he said
reluctantly. “Tell me if you see anything unusual while I try
to get a fix on this…”
I’m useful!” The good doctor leapt up from the couch and
ran to press his face against the reinforced plexiglass. “I see
nothing, my friend.”
looking, I think there’s something out there, but it keeps
vanishing…” Fry focused on the console, directing
electromagnetic scans in a dozen different frequencies across the
same vector. Should I call Leela? He wondered… It
doesn’t seem like a big deal… probably just a chunk of
comet debris. And if I wake her over something that trivial she might
not think I’m competent any more…
yet, but it’s a great pleasure to work with you… oh
is something!” the crustacean said, clicking his claws
excitedly. “Something big and dark is passing in front of the
stars. I don’t know what it is, but it has style – black
is the new black, they’re saying.”
hell…” He keyed the intercom for the Captain’s
quarters and spoke apologetically into the microphone. “Leela,
I’m sorry to wake you,” he said.
wrong, Fry?” came the muted reply a few moments later.
got an object off to starboard. Scanner contact is wigging in and out
so size and distance can’t be determined… seems like it
might be a stealth ship or something.”
it’s an equipment malfunction, you’re probably right,”
Leela said, appearing beside him and making him jump. “Asteroids
don’t tend to deflect scanner beams.”
confirmed visually,” Fry said, vacating the Captain’s
chair and noting that Leela’s hair was untied, cascading past
her shoulders like an amethyst waterfall.
the helm and studied the scanner readout. A ghostly shape was picked
up, its position and size seeming to change from one second to the
next. “I think you’re right, red,” she said, her
eye narrowing. “Whoever they are, they’re operating a
sophisticated stealth system. I need you to send out a friendly hail
on all frequencies – can you do that?”
problem.” Fry dashed over to the communications console and
manipulated the controls. “Broadcasting,” he said.
new friends!” Zoidberg said, waving a claw at the dark frigate.
Leela looked past the lobster and saw the area of shadow passing in
front of the stars.
response?” she asked Fry.
he replied, feeling his stomach knot.
it. They’re obviously after this stupid DOOP shipment. And now
they know that we know they’re there.”
what - what?” Fry frowned in confusion at that sentence.
shook her head. “We’re gonna break and run,” she
said, keying the shipboard intercom. “All crew to
taking a week off,” Fry said.
useless in a firefight anyway,” Leela muttered. “Fry,
terrifyingly you’re actually our best marksman – you take
the laser turret.”
million quarters in the video arcade well spent!” Fry said,
whipping out a quick salute before dashing off.
her jaw and spooled the engines up to full power. Lets play,
of the dark frigate had become aware of the PE ship’s scans,
and now the little green freighter had increased speed and banked off
toward Galactic west.
them!>> the commander hissed, pointing a complex claw-thing at
the forward viewscreen. <<Blow them into less than atoms!>>
the first mate raised a hesitant mandible. <<I should remind
you that our orders are to capture the cargo intact.>>
yes, Kryzzerch – don’t bore me with the trivial details.
Just do whatever has to be done.>> The commander slumped onto
his perch, drumming his claws on a console and looking bored.
suggest we target their engines.>>
have an idea! Lets do that!>>
frigate powered up from stealth mode, activating full engine power,
shields and weapon systems. Like a mako shark crossed with a
porcupine, the great spiky black behemoth swung onto an intercept
course with the fleeing Planet Express ship.
clambered quickly into the gunner’s seat, donning his helmet
with targeting visor. The laser cannon’s controls responded to
his touch, bringing the big gun around smoothly to point toward the
weapon system is active,” Leela said through his helmet radio.
safety mechanism and powering up,” Fry replied, baring his
teeth in excitement and toggling a pair of switches. The cannon
hummed a friendly note as five-hundred thousand volts of stored
energy filled its coils.
to blast space invaders at your command,” he said.
until they fire,” Leela instructed. “We have to have
clear and irrefutable proof of overt hostility.”
right… we’re the good guys, I know…” Fry
glared at the dark shape closing in on a sharp tangent. “Just
once I’d like to try my hand at being the bad guy; their job
seems a lot easier – and they get to have cool names like
‘Doctor No’ or ‘The Green Goblin’.”
gripped the controls and kept the crosshairs fixed on the approaching
vessel. It was still out of range, but it was fast – Leela had
the Planet Express ship at full acceleration and the enemy was still
closing. There were few ships in the galaxy of any size that could
match the PE ship’s dark matter engines.
joined Leela and Zoidberg on the bridge, looking flustered and
is it? What’s happenin’?”
being pursued by an unidentified vessel,” Leela replied tersely
as she watched the now-visible enemy frigate on the scanner.
animal of someplace!” Hermes shouted. “It must be the
Xylogens come to prevent delivery of the new weapon! We’re
doomed! They got knives where we got fingers, and gattling guns where
we got knives! They know no mercy! They gonna cut us up into little…”
up!” Leela yelled. “Man the weapons console – I
want all four torpedo tubes dialled online and ready to fire straight
damn you!” she shouted. The Jamaican scrambled to the console
and did as he was told.
a siren wailed and the ship bucked violently under impact.
return fire!” Leela shouted into the intercom.
already shooting volley after volley of concentrated laser fire. He’d
opened up as soon as the dark frigate’s blue energy weapons had
flared to life, blasting back at the enemy ship as waves of dazzling
bolts slammed into the PE ship’s deflector shields and
Fry!” Bender yelled from beneath his feet. “You up for a
game of darts?”
Fry snapped, trying desperately to keep his bead on the enemy craft
as Leela zigzagged.
right – if your darling sweetheart Leela asks you to shoot at a
hostile attacker you’re all ‘yes ma’am, right away
ma’am’, but when Bender wants something you’re
suddenly too busy. Robot’s best friend indeed! Well fine, you
have your fun. I’ll be all alone playing darts by myself.”
first barrage, the gauge in front of Leela told her the rear shields
were already down by 50%. Whatever kind of energy weapon the enemy
was using, it was powerful – far too powerful for a
non-military tub like the PE ship to hold out against for long.
a higher-pitch radar lock-on alarm sounded, and to her horror Leela
saw two small blips appear on her scanner. The enemy had fired
for evasive action!” she shouted, preparing to corkscrew
Leela, hold the course!” Fry said urgently over the comm.
channel. “I got ‘em in my sights, just keep steady so I
we can’t survive a hit from one of those.”
paused for a long moment and then relaxed slowly. “I do trust
gunner’s turret, Fry sighted the two rapidly-approaching
pinpoints of light. He fixed on the first and tracked it before
firing off a burst of laser blasts that tore the torpedo to pieces,
causing a cataclysmic explosion that lit up the quadrant of space
like a miniature sun. The second torpedo flew onward, closing the
gap. Fry squeezed of a barrage of shots, narrowly missing. He
breathed out slowly and sighted again as the projectile neared.
watched the torpedo on her monitor, with a sense of calm, ignoring
the horrified shouts of Hermes and Zoidberg. She knew he’d
never fail her. He’d fail at everything else because there was
nothing else he cared about – but never her.
last instant, scant seconds before impact, the second torpedo
vanished, shot down by Fry’s phalanx fire. The shockwave
buffeted the ship and a glowing plasma ring washed past them.
work, red,” Leela said. She used the cover provided by the
explosion to initiate a manoeuvre.
the still-raging thermonuclear inferno of the torpedo detonation, the
Planet Express ship performed a graceless nose-over-tail flip to
point back in the direction it had come from. The engines flared,
forcing a violent reversal of direction. In the cargo hold, Bender
threw a dart toward the dartboard when the deck suddenly shifted
beneath him – the ship’s artificial gravity unable to
compensate for the violent about-face.
when it stabilized, he found that the dart had hit him in the back of
the head and lodged there.
Xylogen frigate burst through the dissipating plasma cloud, only to
be confronted by the Planet Express ship, bearing down on them
Hermes!” Leela shouted. “All four torpedoes away!”
hit the four launch buttons simultaneously, and the projectiles
blasted straight toward the big ugly face of the enemy ship. Leela
peeled away, just as the weapons impacted with enormous fountains of
fire and plasma. She took the PE ship zooming along the underside of
the larger vessel, giving Fry free-rein to blast the enemy at close
range where its shields would have no effect. He created a glowing
path of fiery wounds along the other ship’s hull where clouds
of crystallizing atmosphere vented explosively into the void. The
Xylogens returned fire from innumerable gun ports along the serrated
fuselage, but were unable to compensate for the little ship’s
cleared the frigate’s rear, Fry swivelled and brought the
cannon to bear on the three main engines now exposed. He unleashed an
unending barrage of laser fire, sinking blast after blast into the
big lightspeed propulsion cones. Fire and debris were disgorged, and
one of the engines exploded outward in a spectacular mushroom of pure
Fry bellowed as the explosion partially engulfed the other two
engines on the enemy ship. His celebration was short lived – a
concentrated hail of energy bolts followed the fleeing Planet Express
ship, fired from a cruciform spire on the enemy’s vessel. With
the PE ship in open space, and with no cover, she was struck by many
of the blasts even despite Leela’s best attempts to weave
through the onslaught. As the rear shields dissipated, a blue spear
of energy lanced into the engine cone, causing a shower of
kilometre-long sparks. The ship lurched, its acceleration suddenly
unstable, and deep inside its innards, the port dark matter reactor
detonated, tearing through the engineering deck like a tsunami of
to ignore the stricken shudders beneath his feet, focusing all his
willpower on firing at the enemy. The Xylogen frigate was wallowing,
trailing tendrils of superheated plasma and clouds of debris from its
numerous wounds – but still, gradually, it was rounding its
bloodied nose to face the PE ship once again.
of the Xylogen ship was awash in acrid smoke. Sirens blared
mournfully as crewmen scuttled around, putting out numerous small
Gods, my ship!>> screeched the commander. <<Look what the
devils have done to my beautiful ship!>> Damage reports pulsed
yellow on the screen schematic, painting a picture of total chaos.
The alien creatures looked on, aghast – none quite able to
believe that one tiny freighter could have caused so much
mate cleared one of his throats. <<The enemy vessel’s
main engine has been hit, sir,>> he said. <<She’s
dead in the water.>> The screen changed to a shot of the Planet
Express ship drifting with a slight spin. The laster turret continued
to spit red beams.
that gunner!>> the commander growled. <<But don’t
destroy the ship. I want those bastards alive.>>
the cargo intact,>> the first mate added.
watched a pair of blue energy pulses flare from the Xylogen ship and
lance toward him. With the main engine out of commission, Leela
wasn’t able to take evasive action, and the bolts slammed into
the gunning turret. Fry threw an arm up to protect his head as sparks
erupted around him – the laser cannon burst into flame, and the
bubble canopy began to dissolve in a spiderweb of fine cracks.
pepperoni!” he exclaimed, pushing himself back from the cannon
mount. He let himself fall backwards through the access hatch, a
blast of flame from the fried laser knocking his helmet off as he
went. As he landed heavily on his back at the bottom of the ladder,
the turret bubble exploded outwards into space, sucking a torrent of
atmosphere with it. Fry was picked up and thrown around in the sudden
tornado of escaping air, slamming into the bulkhead numerous times
until the emergency pressure hatch closed over the severed turret
man…” he muttered to himself as he lay dazed and bruised
on the deck. “That was even worse than that time I slept in a
As he lay
there trying to gather his wits and stop his ears from popping, he
became aware of a familiar thumping pair of boots. Leela’s face
suddenly appeared above him, full of fear – her eye was wet
God, Fry! FRY!?” She knelt down and lifted his head, noting the
cuts and abrasions.
wrong?” Fry asked stupidly, looking at her with concern.
turret blew,” Leela choked, stifling a sob. “I thought
you were in it… I thought...” She trailed off, suddenly
feeling foolish and embarrassed.
hey…” Fry reached up and gently wiped a tear off her
cheek. “It’s okay purple – a little explosive
decompression never killed anyone important.”
chuckled in relief and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him
tightly as if to make perfectly sure he was real. Ever since the
incident with the bee sting, she’d had a near-phobic terror of
hugged her back, trying to ignore the pain from his various injuries.
For a moment he forgot about their dire predicament and instead lost
himself in the scent of her hair and the contours of her body pressed
composed herself and helped him up, and they stood awkwardly in
silence for a few moments.
are we boned?” Fry asked finally.
Leela replied. “The engine’s out – one of the
reactors fried and made a mess of the engineering deck, so we’re
can coax a little delta-V from the docking thrusters, enough to make
some slow manoeuvres, but that won’t do us any good. With a
week and a full workshop at my disposal I might have been able to
repair and reconfigure the quantum tunnelling servos to distribute
even thrust on the remaining reactor, but as it stands the propulsion
array is too far out of alignment to ignite for even a short burst
without risk of graviton implosion.”
stared at her blankly. “Leela, I don’t know what you just
said, but I do know that you’re the best Starship Captain in
the galaxy, and if anyone can find a way out of a jam like this –
wish that were true, Fry,” she said. “But right now,
we’re not going anywhere.”
you see why I suggested we load up some oars.”
looked around as Bender clumped up to him with his optic sensors
the big idea, skintubes?” he shouted, turning his head to show
them the dart sticking out of it. “Can’t you be more
gentle when you’re running from enemy gunships?”
your hole, Rodriguez!” Leela snapped. “If you want to
live to see tomorrow you’ll go down to the torpedo room and
load up the two spares.”
frowned at the robot. “Bender, you do realize we could all die
any minute, right?” he said.
Bender snapped. “I’m not technically alive anyway. And
I’ll be damned if I’m gonna waste the last minutes of my
life trying not to die.”
lurched suddenly beneath their feet and an ominous vibration washed
no… they have us in a tractor beam,” Leela groaned.
Bender threw up his manipulator arms. “Fine! I’ll go and
load the stupid torpedoes into the stupid torpedo stupid tubes! But I
hate you both.”
robot stalked off, Fry took Leela by the shoulders.
you go down to the engine room and see if there’s anything you
can do down there,” he said. “I know you think it’s
hopeless, but just take a look and maybe something will come to you.
I’ll take the helm – and when Bender’s done with
those torpedoes I’ll give our friends a nice surprise and maybe
buy you some more time.”
taken aback by the sudden assertive turn. Fry had become a lot more
confident and adept in the past year. She liked it… a lot.
you know I’m supposed to be the Captain,” she said
I’ll take a look.” She nodded and moved away.
jogged into the bridge to find Zoidberg running back and fourth
whooping in terror and Hermes frantically shredding all of his
documents. A shadow had fallen over the ship, and glancing out the
side window Fry could see that it was the bulk of the enemy frigate
filling the view and drawing closer.
I think you ought to break open the ship’s armoury,” Fry
said, seating himself in the Captain’s chair.
my great zombie God,” the Bureaucrat moaned, hurrying off.
Oh Fry!” Zoidberg scuttled over and grabbed Fry’s jacket
with his pincers. “You have a plan, don’t you, my good
friend?! Fry will save us all!”
actually, I don’t really have a clue,” Fry confessed,
You’re a useless milk-sucking vertebrate!”
that’s me alright.”
The communications console chimed a warning note, and suddenly the
viewscreen was filled with an image that made Fry’s bowels
clench. The alien commander was the bastard child of a thousand
horror movies – a complex mass of hooks and blades, organic and
cybernetic, topped by a multi-faceted head with three blood-red eyes.
Fry said, waving hesitantly at the viewer.
Xylogen commander made a sound like a violin being raped by a tomcat,
and Fry cringed. When the alien spoke again it was in English, if
English happened to incorporate the swallowing of a cheese grater.
you understand me now, human?” the creature hissed.
that’s slightly less horrific,” Fry replied, fidgeting
nervously. “So… how’s it going?”
the commander bellowed, flecks of greenish spittle flying from its
primary mouth. “Insolent Earthican filth! You have caused great
damage to my vessel and sent many of my most loyal soldier caste to
the cold tomb of space!”
it was a pretty cool battle,” Fry agreed, nodding to himself.
“I’d say we both gave as good as we got. How ‘bout
we call it a draw and just go our separate ways?”
Xylogen commander narrowed two of his eyes in an effort to
understand, then gave up and raised a serrated mandible
this, you barbaric fleshy fool – when I claim your ship and its
cargo, you will be taken and tortured. My people have spent millennia
perfecting the art of pain – it will be weeks before you
finally die! I think I shall begin by flaying the skin from your
primitive human reproductive organs.”
Fry raised his hands in horror. “Shouldn’t you at least
buy me a drink first? I mean, jeez – straight for the
reproductive organs… doesn’t your species know anything
link went dead and Fry felt suddenly ill. Hermes walked in carrying
an armful of grimy, rust-pitted old laser pistols and plasma rifles
from the ship’s antiquated armoury. He stepped over Zoidberg
and set the meagre arsenal on the deck.
dear,” he muttered. “I forgot to file a provisional
higher-duties request form for on-the-job handling of firearms…
where’s my briefcase?”
now, Hermes,” Fry said, racking his memory for some of the
spacecraft technology that Leela had painstakingly explained to him.
“The alien ship needs to lower its shields in order to project
a tractor beam, right?”
think so, mon.”
right – I need you to get me a fix on the position of the
tractor beam projector – I’m not ready to have my
reproductive organs flayed just yet. And when I am, it’ll be by
a one-eyed, purple-haired goddess, not by some disgusting space
Who’s talking about me?” Zoidberg sat up groggily. “Oy,
I had the most horrible nightmare, I did. I dreamed we were being
attacked by terrifying pointy alien monsters!”
that’s an amazing coincidence, Zoidberg,” Fry said.
distance between the two battle-ravaged starships closed slowly; as
the Planet Express ship was drawn inexorably toward its doom, the
dark frigate loomed ever larger, dwarfing the little green freighter.
reached the engineering desk, her eye watering from the smoke that
still billowed from wrecked components. As she had guessed, the place
was a complete mess.
don’t know what Fry thinks I’m gonna do with this,”
she muttered, eying the tangled mess. From toward the bow of the ship
she could faintly hear Bender cursing as he carried the two spare
torpedoes toward the tubes. She frowned and tried to focus on the
scene in front of her – the port side dark matter reactor had
exploded, reducing everything around it to scrap metal. Leela saw in
2D, which made it easy to picture what she saw as a schematic –
converter lines linking energy distributors and pulse capacitors…
all missing, and there were no replacements to be found on the…
Leela’s eye widened and she dashed off toward the front of the
produced a layout of the enemy ship onscreen, showing a green blip
where the tractor beam was being projected from.
it there, mon,” he said.
you, Mr Hermes,” Fry said, rubbing his chin. He keyed the
shipboard intercom. “Mr Bender, how are we going with those
of Bender, it was Leela’s voice that answered him. “Fry,
can you make do with just one?” she asked, sounding determined
guess so,” he replied. “Why?”
gonna perform surgery on one of them,” Leela replied.
sniffed derisively. “Oh, so now everybody thinks they’re
up, Bones,” Fry snapped at the lobster. “What about the
other one?” he asked into the intercom.
and loaded, buddy,” Bender replied. “That’ll be
off the intercom and narrowed his eyes at the enemy ship that filled
Hermes,” he said. “Target the tractor beam projector.”
wanna stop with the ‘Mr’?” Hermes muttered as he
manipulated the weapons control.
for my signal…”
now’s fine I guess…”
his eyes, Hermes dialled up the torpedo and hit the release button.
They felt a slight clunk as the projectile slid away, then watched it
through the window, quickly lining up and jetting off toward the
on, come on!” Fry mumbled through clenched teeth, watching as
the deck guns on the dark frigate opened up in an attempt to destroy
the approaching weapon. The torpedo flew straight and true, lancing
into the yawning cavern of the dock and slamming into the bulbous
tractor array. The explosion lanced through the enemy ship’s
unprotected innards, splashing great clouds of plasma and atmosphere
through the tremendous rent it left. Watching such immense
destruction unfold in absolute silence seemed strange and unnatural,
so Fry made some explosion noises with his mouth to accompany the
Bender’s help, Leela was able to prise open the casing on the
spare torpedo to reveal the inner components.
what are you trying to do?” Bender asked. “You gonna blow
us up and take the enemy out with us in a blaze of nuclear glory?”
No!” Leela stared at him.
I’ve always wanted to die in a blaze of some kind of glory.”
can die some other time, Bender,” she muttered, reaching into
the torpedo casing with her handheld multitool. “Right now I
need your help to remove this torpedo’s propulsion system.”
I see where you’re going with this,” Bender said with a
chuckle. “You’re gonna make us an escape vehicle and
leave the other fleshbags to their doom. I like your thinking!”
that’s not…” She rolled her eye and nodded
tiredly. “Yeah sure, that’s what I’m doing…
now give me a hand.”
Xylogen commander’s image came onscreen once again, and
Zoidberg ran away whooping down the hall. Fry and Hermes paled before
the terrifying visage – the creature was now silhouetted by
flame and flashing lights.
sound from the alien’s razor-toothed maw was a bellow that
could not have been intelligible in any language.
bless you,” Fry said automatically.
underhanded human scum!” the commander shouted. You have tried
my patience for the final time! The only reason I haven’t
blasted your pathetic ship out of existence is the superweapon you
are carrying. But I’m willing to risk destroying the prize if
it will stop the Brannigan from getting it… and if it will
Fry looked at Hermes. “Did hey say ‘superweapon’?”
need-to-know,” the Jamaican replied.
mean we’ve been hauling some kind of doomsday device and you
didn’t mention it?”
Captain knows, and I know. The rest of you are grunts – you’re
not supposed to ask questions.”
knew?” Fry shook his head. “No wonder these guys are
pissed… we’re carrying the DOOP’s trump card to
the Xylogen commander broke in. “Eject the weapon components
from your cargo hold or I will open fire. How long do you think your
shields will hold?”
Fry knew. “Uhh… can you give me a minute?” Without
waiting for a reply he put the Xylogen on hold and turned to Hermes.
mon, we can’t give them da weapon,” Hermes said. “Not
only will we be thrown in prison, but the Xylogen will have the means
to destroy the Earth!”
groaned and slumped lower in the chair. “What would Kirk do?”
he said to himself. Reluctantly he brought the Xylogen back onscreen
and cleared his throat.
sir… or madam,” he began, forcing Hermes to bury his
face in his hands. “We’ve considered your proposal and
decided we can’t give you our cargo. However, we can offer you
a lovely set of steak knives that come with a free…”
will suffer dearly for this insolence!” screamed the alien.
I got that part.”
image disappeared from the screen and Fry stared blankly, slowly
reaching for the intercom.
is it Fry?” Leela replied from somewhere in the ship.
they’re about to open fire again.”
a long silence before Leela responded. “Fry, do exactly as I
say,” she said. “As soon as the first barrage hits,
reduce all power to emergency level and shut off all internal and
external lights – we’re gonna play dead.”
Bender welding a support strut in the engine room and raced toward
midship. Such was her haste she forgot her lack of depth perception
and hit her head on a protruding pipe, swearing loudly. She reached
the garbage jettison chute and hastily piled the numerous bags of
Slurm cans, meal wrappers and assorted vestiges lying nearby into the
already half-full tube.
complete, she positioned herself with her hand poised above the
release button and braced expectantly.
frigate opened up with a blast of energy bolts that showered down on
the Planet Express ship, buffeting it violently. On the bridge Fry
followed Leela’s instructions, taking the ship down to minimum
power and killing the lights. For her part, Leela slammed down the
jettison button, sending the tube of garbage blasting out into the
Xylogen commander saw the PE ship’s energy signature diminish
and a jet of gas and debris spew from within.
fire!>> he snapped. <<They are finished.>>
ship was now dark and silent. Leela felt her way along the handrail,
groping blindly until a weak light appeared ahead of her. Fry
clambered down an access ladder with several glow sticks strapped to
his red jacket, and when he saw her he smiled.
sweaty and smeared with grease, and Fry was suddenly very aroused. He
glanced down at her tank top clinging wetly to her breasts and
realized she wasn’t wearing a bra.
neat trick,” he said absently.
something I read in an old combat journal,” she replied,
noticing his wandering eyes and deciding to let him enjoy the view.
“You empty the garbage tube at the right moment and it looks
like the enemy scored a hull breech. That should give us some time,
but eventually they’re gonna send a shuttle over to salvage our
looked up. “Yeah about that,” he said. “The bad guy
mentioned what it is we’re carrying. I had no idea…”
you know that I…”
tell the grunts, right?” Fry shrugged. “It’s okay I
guess. I don’t suppose it would have made any difference
not a grunt, Fry,” Leela said seriously. “You’ve
been wonderful through all this, no matter what happens. I’m
up. “You really mean that?”
do. I think you could be Captain material. I might have to start
watching out for my job.”
chuckled. “Thanks purple,” he said, stepping closer to
her. Leela inclined her head to let him gently rub a smudge of grease
off her cheek. Slowly she closed her eye and turned to nuzzle his
palm. She felt a warm glow within herself, and a sudden light-headed
contentment that seemed to wash away the horrific, desperate
situation they’d found themselves in. Suddenly it was just the
two of them and nothing else mattered.
what’s our next move?” Fry asked quietly.
wild impulse, Leela pressed herself against him and brought her lips
close to his.
about this?” she whispered.
good to me.”
they leaned close to kiss there was a loud clang at the end of the
narrow hallway, and an irritatingly familiar voice.
meatbags choose a time like this to reproduce!? Come on – we
got an engine to fix!!”
Fry both sighed and slumped their shoulders simultaneously.
Leela whispered to him with an apologetic smile. She settled for a
quick peck on the lips and pulled away from him. She followed Bender
toward the engine room, leaving Fry standing with his cheeks flushed
and a dazed expression on his face.
left the bridge deserted – with no engines and the systems in
standby there was nothing anyone could do there anyway. He passed the
medibay and glanced in to see Zoidberg crumpled in a corner in the
gloom with his back against the hull and his claws over his head
quivering in misery. For a moment Hermes almost felt sorry for the
disgusting crustacean, then the doctor let out a squirt of defensive
ink that spattered the floor. Hermes walked away.
been tight spots before, more than a few, but the Planet Express crew
had always managed to find a way through. This time though… it
seemed they had nothing left to fight with, nothing they could do
that would be anything more than prolonging the inevitable. Hermes
wondered if the long-range communications array was operational so he
could file his early death notice with Central.
climbed down to the lower deck and found Fry staring dreamily at the
Oh, hi…” Fry broke out of his daydream.
oh.” The delivery boy straightened and squared his shoulders,
as if suddenly remembering where he was. “I guess we need to
get ready… to make a last stand.”
was afraid you’d say that.” Hermes ran a hand through his
dreadlocks. “They may think we’re depressurized, but the
airlock is still the easiest access point.”
we set up barricades?”
Jamaican nodded despondently. “Great moose of Syracuse,”
he muttered. “I’m a bureaucrat, not a soldier!”
don’t worry Hermes,” Fry said encouragingly, patting the
older man on the shoulder. “I’m actually a veteran of a
few interstellar wars, you know. Stick by me and you’ll be
nearly choked. He didn’t know wether to laugh or cry.
gingerly reached around inside his chest compartment and withdrew a
cylindrical power coupling unit. He reluctantly handed it to Leela,
who began attaching it to the haphazard, jerry-rigged converter array
she’d been busy constructing.
Leela…” the robot said uncomfortably, fidgeting and
looking at the floor.
uh… gonna need that power coupler back later.”
looked at the unit in her hand. “Why, what’s it for?”
leaned close and whispered in her ear. Leela’s eye widened and
she reddened slightly.
I see…” she said, embarrassed. “Well… I’ll
try to be careful with it.” As disturbed as she was to be
handling a piece of the robot’s equivalent of genitalia, she
was also touched that Bender would freely offer the use of his
components. She didn’t comment – his rare moments of
decency weren’t something he was proud of, but they were the
thing made him just tolerable enough not to smash to pieces with a
monstrosity that she’d constructed with Bender’s help was
a precarious welded and duct-taped assortment of hastily-connected
distributors and converters cobbled together from the existing
hardware, the few undamaged parts of the ruined reactor, and the
propulsion system from the scavenged torpedo. Essentially it was a
bypass of the damaged energy link to the main engine, but the problem
was its capacity – the power transfer rod from the torpedo
wasn’t designed to take a load as large as what the dark matter
reactor would produce. Leela had looped coolant hoses around the
component, but it would still run dangerously hot and produce a lot
back from the mess of incestuously connected parts and frowned at it
in the semi-darkness.
wasn’t the worst part. A quick system diagnosis had shown her
that three of the thrust lenses in the engine cone were damaged, but
remote access to the thrusters was inoperative. Someone was going to
have to go outside and remove the damaged lenses or they would
explode with any application of throttle and completely destroy what
was left of the engine.
supposed it would have to be her. She started off to find a pressure
you want I should go out and get rid of those busted lenses?”
Bender said, puffing on his cigar.
stopped in her tracks and stared at the robot in amazement.
why are you being helpful?” she asked, suddenly suspicious. One
unselfish act in a day was reasonable, but two was downright scary.
A handsome heroic guy can’t help out his deadbeat loser
The robot folded his coil arms and looked away. “Lets just say
I’m a hopeless romantic,” he muttered quietly.
What do you mean?” Leela narrowed her eye.
looked at the floor and spoke in a rapid monotone.
gaped and then smiled slowly. “Oh Bender, that’s so swe…”
you say ‘sweet’, I’ll punch you,” the robot
growled. “Now get outta my way.”
followed him, smiling to herself as he swept up a toolkit and moved
off. Despite his coarse, offensive, violent, criminal exterior,
Bender really was a softie at heart.
reached the cargo hold and found Fry and Hermes busy putting up a
rudimentary barricade around the airlock door out of furniture and
provision crates. They’d brought all the guns from the armoury
and lined them up in preparation for combat.
As Bender trudged past, he snapped at Hermes: “This is a
travesty: I had to work, so my week off starts tomorrow – got
that, meatbag?” Not waiting for an answer, he moved to the
airlock and activated the door cycle.
watched the robot’s silvery sheen disappear outside and glanced
questioningly at Leela.
going to give us a chance,” she explained.
you have to bribe him?”
no,” she said, smiling to herself. “Although I think
there is something he wants the two of us to do when all this is
God, he doesn’t want us to polish his ass, does he?” Fry
groaned. “You can’t begin to imagine how much chewing gum
winds up down there…”
shook her head. “I’ll tell you later.”
they were interrupted as Zoidberg ran into the hold with his claws
up, whooping maniacally.
coming! They’re coming!” he shouted. “It’s
every lobster for himself!” With that, he dove behind one of
the large DOOP crates.
others looked at each other, and then moved to one of the portholes.
Outside, visible against the backdrop of the larger enemy vessel, was
a small, sleek shuttlecraft that was rapidly closing the distance to
the PE ship.
used the small suction pads in his feet to walk gingerly along the
ship’s outer hull toward the rear. Somehow he had managed to
keep smoking his cigar even despite the notable absence of oxygen for
combustion in the complete vacuum. The cold silence of space unnerved
him a little, so he switched on a folk music mp3 file to play in his
hard drive. The lack of artificial gravity outside the ship made the
toolkit he carried bounce around with every move he made, its mass
pulling his arm this way and that, and for one instant his body was
yanked partly back the way he came.
instant he caught a brief glimpse of something.
back again and swore to himself. One of the enemy’s
shuttlecraft was making a B-line for the Planet Express ship.
He had to
on his heel and trying desperately not to lose footing and float
away, Bender moved as fast as he could toward the engine.
Leela, and Hermes took up positions behind the makeshift barricade,
picking up weapons and digging in for a firefight. Fry chose a pair
of laser pistols, while the others selected plasma rifles. Zoidberg
could be heard whimpering somewhere behind them – he’d be
useless in a gun-battle anyway, his pincers quite unable to work a
weapons to low power,” Leela instructed. “We don’t
want to blow a hole in the bulkhead.”
do we…?” Fry pondered. “No… no, we don’t.”
raised one side of her eyebrow at him. “They’ll be
expecting vacuum in here,” she went on. “But as soon as
they access the airlock controls they’ll see the cabin is still
pressurized, so there’ll be no element of surprise.”
not,” Fry said, “but coming through that airlock they’ll
be in a bottleneck, and if fighting in the DOOP army taught me
anything, it’s that a bottleneck is not a good place to be. I
had my tongue caught in a bottle for nearly two hours! The other
soldiers laughed at me and wouldn’t help me get it out…
God what a senseless war that was…”
looked away and moaned. “Sweet horsefly of Narrabri,” he
said. “I’m fighting for my life alongside a moron…”
- don’t you talk about Leela like that!”
looked up at the dull thump that heralded the docking of a smaller
craft to the PE ship’s airlock. Crouching down behind their
defensive position, they prepped their weapons and waited expectantly
as the airlock cycled.
damaged engine cone was still radiating heat, and the electromagnetic
leakage became stronger the closer bender got. He climbed awkwardly
past the rim of the cone and started down the ‘dish’
face. The damage done by the Xylogen attack was plainly visible as a
dark smudge across the surface, at the centre of which the metal had
been shorn apart and three of the crystal lenses that dotted the
engine cone were cracked beyond repair. Thin tendrils of plasma
leaked from within, and the occasional arc of residual electrical
charge played across them and out into space.
tossed his cigar away, and it went spiralling into the darkness.
Using the lenses as handholds, he climbed down the face of the engine
until he reached the damaged section. With one hand, he opened the
toolbox and fished around inside for a socket piece, but a sudden
burst of electricity arced out and hit him, causing his servomotors
to constrict. The resulting spasm sent the toolbox flying away into
damn you!” he spat. Growling and muttering further, he set
about working the heavy-duty screws with his three-fingered
manipulator claws. It was going to be painstaking work since most of
the screws had superheated and partially melted into the engine
airlock revolved with a hiss, and from within a cloud of vapour, the
Xylogen boarding party moved forward…
the…?!” Fry almost laughed.
they’re…” Leela gaped in astonishment.
the size of hamsters. Armour-plated and bristling with weapons, but
no more than a few inches high.
let their size fool you!” Hermes warned through clenched teeth.
“Those little bastards have obliterated entire civilizations!”
what’s going on?” Zoidberg moved out from his hiding
place and looked upon the attacking force. “Oh, they’re
so adorable!” he crooned. “Like a clutch of hatchlings –
to think I was so afraid of these little…”
ya demented shellfish, get down!” Hermes yelled. Too late.
diminutive Xylogen force opened fire with their miniature energy
pulse rifles, and Zoidberg was struck in the thorax by a sizzling
barrage. He was thrown backwards by the combined blast, and charred
viscera was blasted across the hold with the scent of boiled lobster.
hit the deck he was in two pieces.
my God!” Fry shouted shrilly. “They killed Zoidberg!”
BASTARDS!” Leela seconded.
gunfight started in earnest. The three Planet Express crew firing
from their sheltered position down upon the tiny alien fighters that
scuttled rapidly back and fourth across the deck. The humans scored a
lot of hits, but most of the Xylogen troops got back up and kept
going, their ablative armour protecting them from the blasts.
Leela, and Hermes were forced to fall back as their barricade was
quickly blown apart.
hell with this,” Fry growled, switching his laser pistols back
to full-power against Leela’s advice. He opened up wildly
against the insect-like creatures that were flowing across the floor,
blasting them and the deck plates into glowing molten patches.
be careful!” Leela warned.
be time to be careful when we’re dead!” he replied.
Xylogens fell back momentarily, but then counter-attacked in a pincer
movement, unconcerned by how many of their own number was lost. One
of the aliens leapt high into the air and landed on Fry’s face.
It clung there, hissing and trying to slash at his eyes with multiple
blade appendages. As Fry flailed frantically, Leela expertly swung
the butt of her rifle and caught the creature, sending it spinning
away. She twirled the rifle around and followed through with a plasma
shot that took out the alien before it even hit the deck.
the three of them were forced back and back.
cast away the last damaged lens unit and climbed back up the engine
and onto the main fuselage. One look down the length of the hull
showed him that the enemy shuttle had docked at the airlock.
this bends!” he griped, trying to think of another way back
into the ship. A thought struck him, and he started off toward the
bow. Progress was slow, moving with the aid of the suction pads, and
the thought of his friends in peril made Bender growl in frustration.
Reaching the lower starboard stabilizer fin, he came to a decision.
He moved out onto the fin and positioned himself on the leading edge.
Electronic butterflies fluttered in his stomach simulator as he
prepared for his next move – the last time he’d found
himself at the mercy of zero gravity in deep space had been a long
and painful journey. If he misjudged this, he could find himself on
another lonely tumble into the cosmos.
his feet under him he braced for a few seconds and then, with an
anticipatory squeak of terror, pushed himself off the fin.
his aim was straight. He sailed along silently, floating past the
enemy shuttlecraft and noting the flash of weapons fire showing
through the portholes. The nose of the ship drew near, and he
extended his arms, stretching them out to near their full length to
catch hold of the ship’s red ‘running board’ strip.
Using his forward momentum he was able to swing himself down under
the nose, where he gently touched down and applied his suction pads.
a mental sigh of relief, he moved to one of the torpedo launch tubes
and knelt to begin prising the cover open.
coming, attacking in waves. They fired their tiny guns and twirled
their tiny blades, screaming battle-cries as they leapt into the
fray, meeting their death against the humans’ weapons one after
Planet Express crew had scrambled past the two halves of Zoidberg and
taken some small amount of refuge behind the DOOP crates.
little monsters!” Leela gasped, ducking back behind cover and
dropping her uselessly overheated rifle. “They just don’t
Well we’re much less… giving-up…ish… than
they are,” Fry said, briefly confusing himself.
if we sacrifice Fry to them, they’ll let the rest of us live,”
yeah – it worked with those IRS auditors.” Fry stepped
forward. “I’ll do it,” he said. “For the
getting sacrificed!” Leela snapped, then cringed when a small
lump of Zoidberg fell from the ceiling and slid off her shoulder.
“Err… nobody else, I mean.”
ducked when a volley of energy blasts spattered into the crate near
their heads. The burst of gunfire ripped apart several planks and the
side of the crate split open suddenly, falling to the deck and
releasing a small landslide of brownish rectangular objects.
Xylogen boarding party and the Planet Express crew both stopped to
look at the pile in surprise. It seemed that the DOOP crate was
filled entirely with…
bricks?” Hermes said, looking closely at the pile of objects on
the deck. “What in the name of Jah is going on here?”
the superweapon?” Leela wondered.
I think I get it,” Fry said. “Mud bricks are these guys’
secret weakness!” He picked up one of the bricks and hurled it
at a nearby Xylogen. It hit the alien and split in half on its
carapace, leaving the creature unharmed.
Fry,” Leela said. “I see what’s going on - we’ve
been duped. We weren’t commandeered to transport their weapon –
we were used as a decoy!”
one of the creatures screamed up from the floor. “Where is the
don’t have it,” Leela replied, leaning down to address
the tiny attacker. “It isn’t on this ship.”
Xylogen glared up at her balefully with its three red eyes. “Very
well,” it hissed. “In that case – DIE!”
grabbed Leela by the back of her tank top and yanked her away just in
time to avoid a face full of energy pulse. He pulled her close to him
and fired an answering burst from his laser pistol at the attacking
aliens. Leela grabbed another laser pistol that Fry had tucked into
his waist band, then dropped to a couch and began shooting.
are you still fighting us?!” she screamed at the enemy. “We
haven’t got what you want! This is pointless!”
Xylogens didn’t hear or didn’t care. They kept coming,
forcing Fry, Leela, and Hermes back toward the back of the cargo
hold. Along the way, they blasted open the other two crates to find
them similarly filled with stacks of low-grade mud brick that would
have been better employed in third-world housing programs.
stumbled on an uneven deck plate, and was unable to avoid one of the
enemy’s shots that caught him a glancing blow to the side of
his head. He fell unconscious, with a blackened welt along his right
temple and a large portion of his dreadlocks burnt away.
Leela didn’t have a chance to tend to their fallen friend –
they’d found themselves pressed back into a corner and
surrounded by the little spider-like space demons. It was suddenly
very quiet, and the Xylogen paused expectantly, as though savouring
their victory. Fry edged in front of Leela, putting himself between
her and the aliens.
Captain,” he said quietly as he glared down at the ring of
deadly enemies, “it’s been an honour and a privilege. And
I wouldn’t change a thing… except the part where we got
blasted to pieces by tiny little monsters.”
Fry…” Leela gripped his shoulder. “There’s
so much I wanted to say to you… but I kept putting it off…
and now I may never get the chance. Fry… I don’t want to
die without telling you… that I lo…”
SOMEONE CALL FOR A SAVIOUR?!”
coarse shout echoed around the cargo hold and the Xylogen troops
turned just in time to see an irate bending robot launch into their
midst and begin stomping furiously, crushing one alien after another
into pungent yellow ooze on the deck.
this is kinda fun!” Bender said. “Like stomping grapes to
make wine… hey I wonder if we can ferment these critters?”
going, jerkwad,” Fry said angrily as he used the distraction to
rally from the corner and fire on the Xylogen. “She was about
to tell me she loved me – couldn’t you have waited five
well excuuuuuse me!” Bender snapped, kicking one of the aliens
across the hold. “Maybe I’ll just let you get fried next
tables turned, and the battle quickly became a rout. With their
numbers depleted, the Xylogen troops were unable to hold back the PE
crew, and one by one they died. The last one left standing fired off
a wild blast from his energy rifle while stumbling backwards. A lucky
shot struck the robot square in the chest and blew him to pieces.
Fry screamed, reaching out to catch Bender’s head.
rounded on the remaining Xylogen, whose gun had expended its energy
reserve. The little creature looked up into the barrel of Leela’s
laser and cleared one of its throats.
will accept your unconditional surrender,” it announced, trying
to sound as threatening as possible.
narrowed her eye.
my shiny metal ass,” she said, and pulled the trigger.
it was over.
your own damn material, big boots,” said Bender’s head,
you’re alive!” Fry said.
head is. I don’t think the rest of me’s gonna be disco
dancin’ for a while.” They looked down at the charred and
dented remains of Bender’s body lying amid scores of splattered
moved to where Hermes lay and began inspecting the burn on his head.
he okay?” Fry asked.
breathing is steady,” she replied. “And the burn seems to
be only superficial. Help me get him to the medibay.”
sure,” Bender griped from under Fry’s arm. “I’m
just a head, but lets all help the guy with the little burn.”
let’s all help the ethnic minority!” another voice chimed
in. “Meanwhile, I’m lying here in two pieces – and
I have a splinter in my egg sack.”
my God!” Leela breathed. “Zoidberg!?” She raced
over to where the top half of the lobster lay, leaking various fluids
from where the lower part of his torso should have been attached.
it hurt?” she asked, not knowing what to do.
as much as it does when you forget my birthday!” Zoidberg
folded his arms indignantly. “But I do seem to be dying. As a
final request, I would like a bronze statue of me to adorn every
street corner and…”
can we do?” Fry asked.
The Doctor rippled his mouth appendages. “The medical
facilities on this vessel are woefully inadequate. I demanded new
equipment from the Professor, but does anyone ever listen to
about the Nimbus?” Fry asked Leela.
would have the capacity and expertise to treat a Decapodian,”
she confirmed. “But even if I can get the engine going on half
capacity it’ll still be days before we reach the Xylogen
system. He’s not going to last that long.”
Fry narrowed his eyes and stroked his chin. “Unless…”
been quite a task, but they had finally managed to cram both halves
of Zoidberg into the ship’s refrigerator to keep him fresh
until they could locate a suitable medical team. The crustacean
hadn’t been too keen on the idea, and even in his injured and
woozy state he’d managed to rip a few holes in Fry’s
jacket before they’d gotten the door shut.
worry about it,” Fry told Leela and Bender while he patted the
fridge door. “Being frozen isn’t so bad. It’s kinda
like going to sleep… on a glacier.”
was propped up on a bed in the medibay tanked out on morphine with a
cellular regeneration pack strapped over one side of his head. And
Bender’s body had been collected and placed in a pile in one
that reminds me,” the robot’s head said from the floor.
“You guys wanna go check in my chest compartment? I got a gift
to send to our friends out there.”
it just from you, or can we put all our names on it?” Fry
reached into the robot’s disembodied torso and pulled out a
bulky spherical object.
this is the warhead from the torpedo we dismantled.” Her eye
went wide and she smiled wickedly, then turned and raced to the
airlock where the enemy shuttlecraft was still docked. Without
hesitating, she stepped through and into the dim pungent interior of
the Xylogen craft. The ceiling was very low, forcing her to stoop.
the warhead down and activated its timer mechanism, selecting ten
minutes. Then, using a pair of eyelash tweezers from her pocket, she
manipulated the tiny controls on the shuttle’s piloting
console, having to strain her eye to make out the diagrams on the
little screen. Finding the alien craft’s autopilot, she set it
to return to the mothership, hit the activation button on the
warhead, then quickly dashed back through the airlock as it began to
small puff of delta-V, the sleek little shuttlecraft pushed away from
the Planet Express ship and began to trawl slowly back toward the
dark frigate that loomed beyond, carrying with it the ticking
rejoined Fry, and together they made their way up to the bridge.
managed to remove those damaged lenses?” Leela asked as she
dropped down into the Captain’s chair.
yeah,” Bender replied from under Fry’s arm. “As
usual I’m the only one who can get anything done around here.”
Bender’s head down on an empty seat and deliberately tightened
a restraint harness over the robot’s mouth. He went on an
angry, muffled rant.
brought the systems back online and tracked the progress of the
automated shuttlecraft on the short-range radar. It was nearing the
give this a try,” she muttered to herself, gingerly selecting
engine control and opening up the remaining reactor on minimum power.
There was a deep hum and a slight vibration in the deck as the
jerry-rigged power conversion apparatus struggled with the power
load. And she hadn’t even lit the thrusters yet – the
engine room would need a full radioactive decontamination when they
got to the Nimbus.
load warning alarm went off, and Fry reached up from his station and
are we going to explode?” he queried quietly.
she replied. “Most of our engine is now held together by duct
tape, and half the components in it are designed to move a mass one
thousandth the size of this ship.”
as soon as we engage the engine the bad guys are gonna start blasting
us again, right?”
smiled grimly. “Oh, they’ll have other things to worry
about,” she said.
shuttlecraft entered the main hanger bay of the dark frigate, moving
deep inside to the docking terminal. Leela glanced at the time
readout on her wrist thingy and edged up the power on the reactor,
feeling the ship respond with an unhealthy quiver. Still she didn’t
ignite the main engine – she was waiting for the right moment.
warhead inside the shuttlecraft reached the end of its countdown, and
the antimatter inside its containment sphere was released to impact
normal matter, triggering a massive release of energy. From outside,
it looked as though a new star had suddenly been born inside the
Xylogen ship’s hanger bay.
Leela said through clenched teeth. She activated the main engine, and
the PE ship lurched forward with a violent buck, trailing a dirty
cloud of isotopes.
soft, unprotected innards of the alien frigate were torn asunder by
the violent explosion that was amplified by its confinement. Entire
decks were vaporized in the initial blast, and then the thermonuclear
fire found its way to the rows of fuel tanks, and a secondary series
of explosions ripped the ship apart from within.
bridge of the vessel, the commander scrabbled back and fourth in
is happening?>> he shrieked. <<What’s going on!?>>
are defeated!>> the first mate told him. <<We must
commander drew himself up. <<Never!>> he said. <<A
commander never abandons his ship, you coward.>> As he spoke,
he was removing his ceremonial sash of command. With slow, deliberate
motions, he hung the sash on the first mate’s neck, and then
pushed past him and hurried away.
mate groaned and slumped his three shoulders as the ship shuddered
violently and plumes of fire erupted from splits in the walls.
dark frigate was engulfed in a final devastating eruption of fire and
plasma, the Planet Express ship chugged away.
Roddenberry had written more than a thousand years before, space
truly was the final frontier. What he’d failed to mention,
however, was that the frontier was a rough, brutal place where pain
and death lurked behind every star and you had to bleed and hurt and
grit your teeth just to make your way in the Universe.
fairness though, Roddenberry never actually went to space until after
despite all the terror and chaos and unreasoning hatred that went on
in the vastness of space, none of those concerns could take away the
beauty… the majestic brilliance of it all.
himself once again staring out at the cosmos in wonder through the
bridge viewscreen. Leela watched him silently and a smile played
across her lips.
events of the last day had faded into a horrific blur. After their
escape from the Xylogen clutches, the Planet Express ship had almost
torn itself apart from the violent vibrations generated by the
jerry-rigged engine. But Leela’s roughly thrown-together
modification held together; it was noisy and unsteady, and the thrust
was asymmetrical, but they’d piled on enough speed to plot a
trajectory by, and with a few cleverly-mapped gravitational boosts
along the way, they’d be able to reach the Nimbus fighting in
the Xylogen home system inside of three days without having to engage
the engines much.
unfortunately, the closest port of call.
though, Leela was actually eager to see Zapp Brannigan…
certainly for vastly different reasons than he was to see her. He had
used her and her ship as a diversionary operation without her
knowledge or consent – it was likely that the false
intelligence of the superweapon’s presence on the PE ship had
been deliberately leaked to the Xylogen to distract the aliens from
the real transport vessel. And because of that three of her crew were
now seriously injured and her ship was flying on a wing and a prayer
– she was going to leave boot prints all over Brannigan’s
head for what he’d done.
thought of Hermes, still lapsing in and out of consciousness; the
close-proximity energy blast to his head might have caused some
neurological damage. And Bender – his body was scrap and would
have to be replaced… she and Fry had committed to pitch in for
the cost, and Bender put on a brave face, but they could tell he was
quite depressed about losing his ‘birth’ body forever.
there was Zoidberg too. She made a mental note to give that
refrigerator to charity as soon as they returned to Earth –
they could never eat from it again.
engaged the autopilot and stood from the chair, stretching languidly.
The accumulated scrapes, bruises, and frayed nerves suddenly hit her
like a railgun blast, and all she wanted to do was flop down on her
bunk and sleep for a thousand years, just like Fry.
She looked at him again, and this time he was staring back at her
blankly. He looked as tired as she felt, and he still bore the
assortment of shallow cuts and abrasions he’d sustained when
the cannon turret blew. In the rush of escape and subsequent tending
to Hermes, she had forgotten to look over his injuries.
could you watch the ship for a while?” she asked the robot,
picking up his head.
that’s all I’m gonna be good for now anyway…
watching things,” Bender replied bitterly. Leela looked
worried, so he continued in a kinder tone. “It’s fine. Go
on, get outta here big boots.”
him down on the main console and patted his head affectionately
before walking over to Fry and taking him by the arm. Fry allowed her
to lead him off the bridge, and Bender’s head shot him a lewd
wink as he went.
up, purple?” he asked.
checking you out,” Leela said, and then rephrased: “…checking
out your injuries.”
it’s nothing serious,” Fry said, then mentally kicked
himself. “I mean… I guess it’s better to be safe
than sorry.” He began limping slightly.
smirked. Some things never changed.
a small medikit from the sick bay, and not wanting to watch Hermes
gibber and hallucinate, took Fry to her own cabin. He stepped over
the threshold, feeling like Indiana Jones breaking into the inner
sanctum of some holy temple. The door slid shut behind him and he
felt a little tingle of excitement.
lie down and let me put some dressing on those cuts,” Leela
told him, motioning toward her bunk.
Fry said, sitting down on the edge of the bunk. “It’s
supposed to be an honour to dine at the Captain’s table –
I must have done something REALLY good to be lying on the Captain’s
chuckled and tousled his spiky red hair. “I know it’s
somewhere you’ve always wanted to be,” she said, and then
blushed slightly in the awkward silence that followed.
no - she’s onto me,” Fry muttered, grinning widely and
rolling his eyes.
playfully pushed him onto his back and sat down beside him. Using a
bio-dabber from the medikit, she began gently swabbing the cuts on
Fry’s head and applied protective films of synthetic skin. Fry
closed his eyes and enjoyed her touch – she was soft and
tender, occasionally tracing the lines of his face with the tips of
her fingers. She seemed to be enjoying herself.
noticed Fry’s white T-shirt was spotted with blood in a few
places where tiny debris had scythed through the fabric during the
off your shirt,” she instructed, her voice suddenly husky.
up and shrugged off his jacket. Leela reached up and helped him peel
the shirt over his head.
God, Fry…” The delivery boy’s ribcage was crossed
on one side by a large dark bruise that reached almost around to his
that when I fell down through the hatch,” he explained. “It’s
very gently probed the bruised area with her fingers, checking for
broken ribs. When she raised her eye she found that Fry was staring
back at her intently; suddenly all pretence of a medical examination
dissipated. She was sitting on her bed inches away from the man she
loved, with her hands on his naked torso. Her pulse and breathing
quickened; she licked her lips and slowly moved her hands up to his
clearly experiencing the same impulse. He ran his hands along her
thighs, hips, sides, shoulders, neck, and finally held her face
between his palms, gazing into her beautiful eye.
him draw her closer, and their lips brushed lightly.
she whispered against his lips. “I love you.”
and whispered back: “I know. And I love you.”
pressed against one another and kissed deeply and slowly. They had
kissed before, but never like this – this was real, passionate,
hungry, yet at the same time tender and gentle. Leela pressed Fry
down onto the bunk and straddled him. When she finally broke the kiss
Fry let out a long contented sigh.
leave me breathless,” he murmured. He watched open-mouthed as
she let out her hair then unashamedly stripped off her tank top and
tossed it away. “…Wow.”
leaned back down to lock her lips against Fry’s, their little
green starship coasted quietly through interstellar space and the
stars looked on.
of the voyage passed without incident – the only exciting
points were where the engine needed to be engaged to assist with
gravitational slingshots. At those points the little ship bucked and
screamed like an unbroken colt carrying its first rider.
was lucid enough to answer some questions about how he felt, but
little else. Fry and Leela weren’t confident enough in their
knowledge of medicine to attempt setting up an IV, so they had to
carefully assist the bureaucrat to swallow some water.
these activities, and stints on the bridge to keep Bender company,
Fry and Leela spent the rest of the time in Leela’s quarters
exploring their newfound intimacy. It had taken a brutal and deadly
space battle to do it, but the barrier that had stood between them
for too long had finally been broken. Now Leela couldn’t
understand why she had held him at arm’s length all that time –
had it been fear? Inadequacy? Blindness from a life of looking at the
world with one eye, in two dimensions, flat and logical? In any case,
it was no longer important.
course, both of them had had sex before, but this had been the first
time either of them had actually made love. For Fry it was the
consummation of the most meaningful and mature relationship he’d
ever had, and the realization of a long-held dream. For Leela, if was
the first time in as long as she could remember that she’d
slept with a man and not woken to feelings of guilt or shame or a
sense of having been used. They were both happy.
had immediately noticed the contented glow on his friends’
faces, and had delightedly poked fun at them.
wots all this then?” he’d said in his curious Londoner
accent. “You two organisms finally succumb to your primitive
instincts? Oh! Oh! You gotta name your first kid after me!”
And so it
went; as the PE ship limped laboriously onward the two lovers
cultivated the tentative and beautiful union that had blossomed in
the midst of chaos.
Zapp Brannigan was bored. With the successful deployment of the
secret DOOP superweapon, there had been precious little to do in the
Xylogen system except mop up remnants of resistance on the three
inhabited worlds. There was nobody but Kif to listen to his
victorious monologues, and the little Amphibiosan
weakling had been infuriatingly disinterested of late.
supper he’d just enjoyed was sitting heavy in his stomach as he
absently stroked the velure of his uniform while he reclined in his
Kif said quietly, appearing by his side.
you see I’m busy, Lieutenant?” Zapp snapped.
sorry sir, but we have a ship on the scope, approaching our
Zapp leapt to his feet. “Finally some action! Target it with
every weapon we have, and some other weapons we don’t have!”
sighed. “It appears to be the Planet Express ship,” he
eyes widened. “The lady Leela!” he exclaimed. “Of
course, I remember now. She and her vessel were instrumental in
operation Clean Sweep… and now that she’s here, she can
be instrumental in operation Red Hot Loving.
Beam me over to her ship.” Zapp put his hands on his hips and
stared at him for a long moment before replying. “Sir, that
technology doesn’t exist,” he said.
with that attitude, it never will!”
little green Lieutenant looked away in disgust, and noticed the
monitor readout. “Um… sir?” he said.
Planet Express ship seems to have sustained some substantial battle
damage and it… it is flying toward us on a collision course.”
around in alarm and looked out the Nimbus’s forward viewscreen.
Sure enough, a little green dot could be seen growing ever-larger.
is that crazy erotic woman doing?” he muttered to himself as
the nose of the PE ship expanded into startling detail. “Brace
for sexy impact!”
last moment, the Planet Express ship pulled up, but not before Leela
activated the main cargo bay doors on the underbelly. As she nosed
the green freighter up and over the bridge of the Nimbus, three large
crates of mud bricks sailed onward and slammed into the warship’s
hull, smashing apart and dispersing into a small dirty nebula.
made her point clear. And she would remove all doubt when she landed.
Express ship was parked in the Nimbus’s cavernous docking bay,
and Leela was giving instructions to maintenance crews and DOOP
medics when Zapp arrived with Kif in tow. She didn’t notice his
presence at first as she watched Hermes being carried out of the PE
ship on a stretcher and a pair of paramedics struggling with a frozen
block of Zoidberg.
well, well – look what the solar tide washed up on Zapp’s
shore,” a silky smooth voice crooned into her ear, and warm
pungent breath fanned her neck. Leela automatically lashed her boot
heel up and back, feeling it connect with satisfaction into something
soft and small.
down like the sack of crap he was, and curled into a whimpering ball.
Kif hung back and tried not to snigger.
son of a bitch,” Leela snarled, turning to look down on
Brannigan in contempt. “You sent my crew and I on a suicide
mission as a damn decoy. Three of them are seriously injured. Don’t
you have any morals or sense of responsibility you disgusting oaf –
we were nearly all killed!”
you… still came… to be… by my side,” Zapp
managed to croak. “Face it Leela… you just can’t…
kicked him in the stomach, hard, and rounded on Kif.
she snapped. “Did you know about this?”
no,” he stammered. “This is the first I’ve heard of
it, I swear. I would never knowingly endanger Amy’s friends.”
accepted that with a curt nod. “Alright Kif, I believe you,”
she said. “I trust that the DOOP will take care of our damage
and tend to the crew’s injuries. After all, this was sustained
in the engagement of a military directive.” She spat the last
part of the sentence with bitter venom, casting a sidelong glance at
Zapp as he climbed unsteadily to his feet.
course,” Kif said. He inclined his head to Fry when the redhead
naturally,” Zapp said. “We will gladly repair the damage
to your crew and tend to your ship’s injuries. But in the
meantime, Leela, perhaps you would like to accompany me to the
Lovenasium and tend to a little something else?”
red. The bastard just wouldn’t stop! She balled her fist, and
was about to strike him, when someone else unexpectedly beat her to
fist lashed out and connected solidly with Zapp’s jaw, snapping
his head around and causing him to stumble backward. Leela gasped in
surprise and delight as Captain Brannigan spat blood, and a tooth hit
the deck; he looked stunned and his eyes watered slightly. Fry
advanced on him and he took a step back.
got a whole mouth full of other teeth,” Fry said slowly. “I
can take the rest of them out one by one, or you can apologise to my
eyes widened as he realized the boy really meant it. He cleared his
throat and swallowed hard, gingerly wiping blood from his chin.
sorry Captain Leela…” he said hoarsely. And then, not
willing to face any more punishment from the Planet Express freaks,
he turned on his heel and marched away with as much dignity as he
Brannigan was out of earshot, Kif let out a little giggle.
that was wonderful!” he said. “Phillip – you’re
too,” Leela said, quite impressed. She gazed at Fry in wonder
and he grinned back at her.
like the old saying:” he said, “violence solves
didn’t bother correcting him; instead she stepped close and
kissed him – inflicting physical injury on Zapp Brannigan was
about the sexiest thing he could have done for her, and she was going
to show her gratitude.
for a moment and muttered: “oh my,” before quietly taking
skilful application of medical nanomachines, both Zoidberg and Hermes
were back on their feet within two days. During that time, the DOOP
‘ground’ crew conducted a near-complete refitting of the
Planet Express ship, stripping out all damaged components and
replacing them – the vessel hadn’t seen so many new parts
since it was built. The trick Leela had pulled on the engine
impressed the technicians enough that they asked her permission to
include it in the next edition of the starship emergency procedures
Brannigan remained mercifully absent during the rest of the stopover.
Kif told them that he had secluded himself in his quarters and could
sometimes be heard talking to himself. Leela wondered how long it
would be before ‘the Zapper’ finally lost his mind and
his command – Kif could be a real leader, and she thought it
was high time he was elevated.
wasn’t her business.
ship repairs were finally complete, Kif led Hermes, Zoidberg, and
Bender into the docking bay to meet Fry and Leela. Hermes’ head
was patched with sticking plaster, and Zoidberg’s midsection
was wrapped in bandages, but their eyes were drawn inexorably to
look at me!” the robot wailed. “I’m hideous!”
no you’re not,” Leela said uncertainly. “It’s
afraid it was the only spare body we had in stock,” Kif
explained. “As a temporary measure it will have to serve until
you can find something more appropriate.”
head had been mismatched to a skeletal robot body that made him look
like an anorexic. Fry couldn’t help but chuckle.
cram it lover boy!” Bender shouted.
Bender,” fry laughed. “As soon as we get back we’ll
go straight to Mom’s and get you a new bending unit chassis –
to see you guys are okay too,” Leela said, addressing Hermes
Someone’s glad I’m okay!” Zoidberg shouted happily.
glanced at his watch. “We’re behind schedule,” he
thanks for all the help, Kif,” Fry said, clapping the little
alien on the shoulder.
pleasure,” Kif replied. “Once again, I extend the DOOP’s
apologies for this unfortunate chain of events. Oh, and please say
hello to Amy for me.”
will,” Leela said, giving him a quick hug. “You watch out
for yourself – don’t let that idiot get you killed.”
that, the crew made their way toward the newly repaired and polished
Planet Express ship that sat gleaming on the flight deck, ready to
take them home. Hermes and Zoidberg went up the boarding stair, while
the other three hung back for a moment to inspect the ship.
a beautiful girl,” Leela said, gazing at the smooth green
she sure is,” Fry said quietly, looking at the ship’s
Captain. Leela glanced at him and smiled. They drew close and put
their arms around each other.
took a swig from a bottle of beer and puffed on a cigar, both of
which he had somehow acquired during the short walk across the
on, let’s get outta here,” he grumbled. “I wanna
get home and back in a body that suits my delightful charisma as soon
as possible. Then everything can go back to normal.”
almost everything,” Leela whispered to Fry.
of them marched onboard, and within a few minutes, the ship was
blasting away toward a blue planet orbiting a yellow star somewhere
out in the vast expanse of the Universe.