Amy couldn't help but feel as if she was dying just that little bit more inside when the ship's computer flash-rebooted for the seventeenth time. Reworking a custom-built distribution of Linux to manage kinetic defences instead of laser ones was ridiculously difficult – much more than it should be. Still, while she waited for the next dialog to pop up, she had an excuse to watch happenings outside.
The dream team were assembling the port-side forward rail gun, as demanded by the DOOP engineering command, and even as she watched, Fry swam through the zero-g field to retrieve a linear motor from the gigantic parts crate below, lobbing it up to an unseen Leela in a slow arc and smiling. Herself unseen inside the Planet Express' cockpit, Amy pondered the dream team even as the barrel of the old laser cannon floated up and over her vantage point, Fry following at high speed and catching it just before it would have left the field. There was a muffled explosion of amused clapping, presumably from Leela since there was nobody else capable of clapping in a reasonably human fashion, and there was a smile on Fry's face as he laboriously swam back down, pushing himself onto his feet at the floor and passing the heavy cannon through the grav-field's boundary to Bender, who, grumbling, leaned it against the bay wall, Fry reassuming his place as secondary engineer.
For people who were still working at three-thirty AM after an earlier full day of said work, the team were doing a bang-up job, it seemed. Presumably because the team were Leela, Fry and Bender, quite possibly the best people on the full team by any informal or formal standard she could name; Hermes might be able to name different strictures, but Amy personally doubted it. Even a bureaucrat couldn't hold a full library of DOOP Central Bureaucracy assessments in his head … at least, I don't think he can. Who knows?
Amazingly, the DOOP were still shipping in parts, even now. Polarised armour plating, coil gun components, radio bits, software … Amy was bogged down just trying to sort out the smaller systems, and envied Leela and Fry in that all they needed to work with was the arc converters and the cannons. As it was, she was stuck in the middle of hooking up the exterior sensor feeds to the in-hull router, and the exterior turret feed simply refused to work – every time the thing swiveled, the camera was cut off until it swivelled back precisely to twelve o'clock forward. Luckily, a mounted gunner wouldn't have to use the camera feeds, but a cockpit gunner might have some trouble.
A thump on the hull below – it had to be Leela installing the first solenoid for the port-side rail gun, interfacing it directly with the larboard-aspect enarthrotic variant-auxiliary circumductor. Even the terms made Amy's mind twist, and she decided that on the whole she was happy she was working inside the air-conditioned ship, rather than outside with bunches of strange components she doubted she could pronounce, much less assemble. No, her calling was, at least for the time being, small-parts maintenance, even if the majority of it was setting things up for the big-parts maintenance people.
The mini-terminal sitting on the floor next to her gave out an irritated beep as she unfastened the last clamp from the bridge networking router, pulled it out of its in-deck pit, and let it float free while she searched around for the appropriate cables, long plastic snakes with triangular heads. Finally having found all of them, she plugged them neatly in one by one, rigged up a union with the networking port on her mini-terminal, and keyed in the boot code.
The interior lights went out.
Simultaneously, there were two screams from outside as the zero-g generator gave out and Fry and Leela dropped like stones, flailing on the rather formidable way down. Bender was laughing as if his sides were about to split, and, Amy saw, he was over on one wall holding the generator plug. Typically juvenile, she thought sourly as Fry and Leela landed in a tangled heap on the safety mattress below. Of course it's the kind of thing a robot would do … gleesh, sometimes I wonder how Bender got employed here. Oh, that's right, Fry vouched for him.
Fry and Leela quickly disentangled themselves, Leela making her difficult way off the safety mattress and advancing on a fleeing Bender. Such fleeing did not prevent him from having his torso rapidly disconnected from the rest of his components and used as a parts container, while his head was placed precariously on the dorsal hull, in the space of 45 seconds. Amy heard a wounded mumble of how Bender now couldn't see anything, although she suspected she was the only one who did, and Fry walked over to replace the plug in the socket.
Fifteen minutes later, the external cam feeds were hooked up, and Amy surveyed the ship to make sure she'd be clear to keep going. Fry and Leela were currently engaged in affixing armour plates to the portside hull, and they seemed clear of the weapons systems Amy needed to assess. The coaxial anti-ship and Nordenfelt rail armatures seemed fixed on properly, just under the nose, and the port for the spinal cannon had been drilled out with a tunnel drilling machine inside the new windowed cargo module, and then there was …
Ah yes. Even the sight of the Funnelweb automatic weapons complex sitting in the docking bay made her wince – a four-row, thirty-six-barrel kinetic multi-cannon that was supposed to be mounted on the ventral surface. The original concept was a fairly basic Stupid Ages one, but no vehicle in existence at the time had been able to mount the damn thing.
The DOOP had given the Planet Express a thorough assessment, though, and demanded the prototype Funnelweb AWC be installed – so as to 'decrease your liability rating', they said. Provisional lieutenant commander Fry would probably be tasked to operate it, given his high marksmanship ratings. For now, however, he wouldn't be testing it, since the team was packing up, intending to continue the work tomorrow – and for that Amy was infinitely grateful, as the recoil would likely knock the Ship through the opposite wall and a minute's worth of firing would probably shred about two blocks in any direction. As chief engineer, she was meant to know these things.
At any rate, getting off her elbows and getting out of the ship gave her an opportunity to contemplate things with a normal blood flow, instead of her head tending towards being suspended just off the horizontal. As such, she was now less concerned with the internal systems of the ship than Fry and Leela, and she watched the two like a hawk as soon as she cleared the side door and saw the two a few hundred metres ahead. Make a cute couple, no?
Blissfully unbeknownst to the two, they'd been the subject of much bunk-room gossip over the past couple of days – ever since Zoidel had called them the dream team, it had reignited discussion of their past: the opera, the love note in the sky (Bender had quietly told them about it) …
Perhaps the old song was right: Two hearts drawn together / bound by destiny; Amy dismissed the lyric as uselessly dramatic, despite her own tendency towards romanticism, but it did have a certain application here: the two seemed to keep saving each others' lives in one way or another, and there seemed a sense – one cannot exist without the other.
Pity Fry's such an archetypical nice guy, Amy thought. Without the nervousness and recent tendency towards being reserved, he might actually have a chance, although who's gonna tell him that? And Leela … every time Fry gets quiet, she gets quiet. There's something going on there, and we few, we happy few, we set of siblings, we're pretty sure we're in on it.
Come on, even considering it from where they are, I can't see why one of them doesn't talk to the other, she continued orating to herself. Fry's a Nice Guy – nervous, kind, thoughtful. I know Leela, and I know she sees that, but she keeps not acknowledging him. Ever since Lars …
“ … ever since Lars,” Amy repeated to herself with a growing sense of epiphany. “That's it!” Ever since Lars, Leela's been footloose and fancy-free, and … she's been holding herself back. Fry is what Lars was, and she doesn't want to let herself acknowledge it, even to herself, in case he disappears, or dies, or something. They're stuck in a catch-22 – each is too nervous to ask the other, and they're killing themselves over it.
Bender was clanking along, some way back, and Amy dropped back to him. “Ever since Lars, am I right?”
He simply looked at her, bewildered, and she explained. Throughout the short account – Bender was one of the 'set of siblings', a self-conscious take on the 'band of brothers' – the robot was actually looking thoughtful, stroking his imaginary chin, once or twice. As much of a callous ass as Bender could be, she was reasonably sure he wasn't enough of said to drop the Set's secrecy. “As much as I hate to agree with a meatbag, you're pretty much right there,” was all he contributed, and Amy took it as the concurrence it sounded like. Hell, even the self-proclaimed psychologically-maladjusted mech-boy sees it. It's that obvious!
Bender spoke again, quietly. “You know, I think one of these days I'm going to say something puzzling to Fry – 'do something about it, fleshtube' or something similar. Not say openly what I mean. Give it a bit of luck, he'll get it.”
Amy snorted. “Bit of a long shot? They'll work it out eventually, though, although probably with a bit of judicious interference. As far as I'm concerned, they're parts of each other's lives, and they're parts they can't let go … thing is, though, don't overly interfere unless they're just being dumb.”
It was Bender's turn to snort; he tapped his imaginary nose. “What kind of man would I be?”