Futurama

Fan Fiction

Stranger In A Strange Land, part 14
By La Belle Leela

Chapter 14

(Planet Express Delivery Ship, near The Khas’ Hmir System - 12/15/3008, 1615 NNY time)

“CRASH CRASH CRASH!” came the sound of kinetic energy projectiles, as they slammed into the hull of the big green delivery ship.

“FRY, GET YOUR BUTT UP THERE TO THE GUN!” barked Leela, as she threw the ship into another violent maneuver, to evade another onslaught of Omicronian attack vessels.

“Crud! Two more missile hits, and the shield is toast!” Leela thought, as she was using more, and more complex, dangerous maneuvers, stressing the ship’s hull, and causing her to wince involuntarily every time the ship’s airframe groaned, and rattled.

A spark of genius flashed inside her mind, as she shouted for Bender, over her shoulder. “Bender, I need you to get outside the ship, straddle the dark matter engine, point your butt out and vent your exhaust gas!”

“Can do! Just gotta fuel up first!” Bender said, as he gave a quick salute, began whistling, as he effortlessly ripped the top off of a full keg of Olde Fortran, and consumed it in seconds.

Bender worked his way alongside the top of the ship, the keg of beer in his metal belly started rumbling. “Ohhh geez, not yet, not yet! Ohhh, if I had cheeks, I’d wish they would stay together!”

Leela’s voice crackled on Bender’s com unit. “Bender, I’m transferring power from the shields to the Stabilization unit. If it’s not powered up when you vent, the speed will tear the ship apart! Don’t vent until I say so!”

“Ohhh! Hurry hurry hurry!” Bender said, as he gripped the grab handles on the fuselage above the glowing dark matter engine, screaming at 100% power.

“Fry, retract the cannon! We need to get the hull as clean as possible for maximum escape speed!”

Fry pulled the black stowage lever, swinging the laser cannon’s barrel automatically forward, and down into its trough. The cover sliding closed with a loud “thunk”.

“Ready, HIT IT!” he yelled, as he slid back down the ladder, and joined Leela on the flight deck.

“Hold on to something Fry. Strap in if you can, because we’re gonna fly!”

“But we are flying.” Fry remarked.

“*sigh* You know what I meant dingus! Leela thought to herself, as she reached for the ship’s microphone.

“NOW BENDER! VENT! VENT LIKE YOU’VE NEVER VENTED BEFORE!”

“Heh, heh, just like at Fry’s recital!” Bender laughed to himself, as he closed his eyes, & grunted

“NNNGHHH!” As a bluish-white exhaust plume three times the size of the Planet Express ship’s engine plume ignited from Bender’s rear end.

(Somewhere over the Eastern Seaboard, 12/15/3008 - 1625 hours NNY time)

While the furious battle with the Omicronians unfolded, back on Earth, Dave was headed south in his Hover-truck. Glancing at the instrument cluster on the dash, he noted his heading, speed, and altitude. “515 knots, 22,000 feet, heading 212.” Taking a quick look at the moving map display in the center of the dash console, “Should be coming up on Savannah, GA in a few minutes.” then resuming his look outside, periodically checking for other traffic, as he began a wide turn, skirting a rather large cumulonimbus’s anvil-shaped top.

The skies weren’t quite like Dave remembered. Back in the 20th, Air Traffic Control would have been watching him on radar, and he would have had to follow an exact flight path, for his present speed & altitude. Now, in the 31st century, the skies were much like the interstate highways were in his time.

He remarked about that, as a noisy pack of Hover-bikers passed him on the left. Dave glanced down to fiddle with his iPod, when a bright glare in his rearview mirror caught his attention. Something very fast was coming up from behind. “Probably the cops, or something” he thought, as he went back to selecting his next play list.

The fast moving craft passed over Dave’s truck at such a rate of speed, it nearly caused him to lose control, as it’s wake turbulence buffeted the big Dodge. Dave’s jaw dropped when he identified the craft, as it made a sharp, descending turn to his left. “It can’t be!” He did a double take, as he continued to watch the unmistakable profile of the A-4 Skyhawk as it dropped into the clouds.

Dave could see from it’s side profile it had been heavily modified. The wings and empennage had a completely different shape to them, extra structural strength, no doubt. It’s tailcone emitted a bright blue exhaust plume, no doubt that it had something far more powerful than it’s original Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408 turbine engine.

He almost wanted to follow the A-4, see where it was going, but he had somewhere to be, and the sinking sun showed him it was getting late.

Forty five short minutes later, Dave banked the big Hover-truck to the right, as he began descending towards a small island off the southwest coast of Florida.

The sky had taken on a glorious color in the early winter sky. Behind Dave, it’s was still a rich blue, but ahead, into the setting sun, the sky was set aflame by the setting sun. The scattered cloud layers took on a pinkish color, as he quickly lost altitude.

The place he had moved to with his family in the early 1990s, where he’d been the happiest, now sadly, Dave was returning to Marco Island, on the 5th anniversary of his father’s passing, to pay tribute. After fighting pancreatic cancer for over two years, “Meathook” Murphy, as he was known in the Naval aviation community, lost his battle shortly before Christmas 2003.

He thought back to that day, as he sat on the sand, watching the sun sink lower beneath the horizon. The first evening stars were starting to peek out, and he thought about his friends for a second. This place had been the setting for so many good moments Dave and his father had shared. He stood up, began walking towards to pounding surf, pausing only to unwrap a single red rose from it’s paper folder.

Dave waded out, until the water went about knee-deep. He took another look upwards towards the darkening sky, as he lowered his hand, and released the flower into the water. Rubbing the old, tarnished metal dog-tag from his pocket between his fingers, Dave closed his eyes, his lips moving in silent prayer.

When he finished, he raised his head skyward again, at the same moment, a brilliant shooting star lit up, as it crossed the sky from east to west. Dave couldn’t help but feel moved, like as if his dad heard what he’d just said. The sight of the star made him feel better, like his old man was up there, still looking out for him.

Dave sat on the beach long after the sun had set. His mind was swimming in thought, as he tried to think of all the people he had known down here. Marco Island hadn’t changed much, it was still a tourist spot, and Dave was amazed it was even still here after 1,000 years of beach erosion, and hurricanes. He rested his head on his forearms, and stared out to sea at the glowing western sky, and thought about one of the good things in his life, Leela.

“I wish she was here with me now. She’d love to see this.” Dave thought.

Walking back to the parking lot, a large sign caught his eye. “THE 414th MARCO ISLAND BEACH SAND REPLENTISHMENT PROJECT MADE POSSIBLE BY: Bank of Florida’s repossession of ¼th of The Gobi Desert!

“Hmmm, makes sense.” Dave thought as he passed the sign. Glancing down at his wrist computer, and noticing it was just after 9pm, he thought “Wonder what the others are up to back in New New York?” He fired up the Hover-truck‘s power cells, selected “The Beautiful Guitar” play list on his iPod, and settled in for the hour and a half trip back up north.

(Planet Express Headquarters, 12/16/3008 - Just after Midnight NNY time)

Glowing blue light from the TV flickered across the walls of the lounge. Since his home across the street was without one, Dave would often hang out after hours to watch the one in the main building. Shortly after midnight, the screeching from the hangar roof doors woke him. He’d fallen asleep after watching the news, and what seemed to him as the weirdest, all-robot sports show he’d ever seen.

The roar of the Planet Express ship’s engines as it landed briefly drowned out the sound of the announcer-bot. Dave picked up the remote, switched it off, yawned, and walked out to the hangar bay to say hello, and goodnight to everyone.

The sound inside the ship’s flight deck slowly faded, as the individual systems powered down. Leela enjoyed a few minutes of silence the cabin had to offer after a mission such as the one they had just flown. She sighed heavily, then groaned as she felt soreness ripple up her back and across her shoulders.

Turning off the last few electrical junction boxes, the ship’s interior went dark. Leela’s back ached even more, as she walked down the stairway to do her routine post-flight walk-around.

Dave was stopped in his tracks by what he saw on the other side of the door. The ship was extensively damaged. Jagged holes pockmarked the underside of the fuselage, a whole section of the port side fin had lost it’s leading edge fairing, and plasma burn marks covered the rest of the ship from nose to tail

As Dave continued his visual inspection of the battered ship, Leela’s voice could be heard, as she descended the ship’s stairs. “All I’m saying Fry is try to be more careful with open containers around other people’s furniture! Those Omicronians nearly smoked us after you dropped that full can of Slurm on their brand new couch!”

“Yeahhh, okay, sure Leela.” Fry said monotonously, as he shrugged her off and headed for the locker room.

She began to take in the full scope of all the damage to the ship, as she did her walk-around. “Crud, it’ll take a month to repair all this-Hey you!” Leela chirped, as she saw Dave inspecting what appeared to be the rear half of a dud missile, the business end of it still buried deep in the hull.

“Glad you guys made it back in one piece. Well,,, so to speak.” Dave replied, as they walked towards the locker room. “Yeah” Leela said, as she winced from a muscle spasm. “Oh, neck is killing me! Must have pulled something while wrestling the ship’s control yoke around.” she said, as she rubbed the base of her neck with her left hand. “Would you mind?” Leela said, as she motioned to the bench in front of the lockers. “Not at all” he replied.

“See ya guys!” Fry said, as he bolted for the door. “Huh, he seemed excited to be going somewhere.” Dave said, as he massaged Leela’s shoulders, “Hmmm, that’s nice, ooh! A little too hard there.” she whispered. “So what happened to you guys? The ship looks like hell.” he asked. “Yeah, The Professor’s not gonna be happy in the morning, I can tell you that!” Leela replied.

Leela was temporarily lost in thought. Her eye closed, and uttering the occasional groan, as she was clearly enjoying the back rub. “Ohhh, that, well, Fry managed to drop a full can of Slurm on that huge leather couch we were delivering to Omicron-Persei 8, and being the aggressive, warlike, short-tempered creatures that they are, they attacked us all the way to the moon of Titan-ooooh, right there, don’t stop!”

“Maybe you should ice that shoulder a little bit when you get home. Might make the swelling go away.” Dave suggested. “Maybe you could ice it for me. While we watch a little TV.” she said, with a sly grin. “Leeeeeela, are you asking me to do what I think you‘re asking me to do?” Dave said in an equally silly manner as she had done. “C’mon, lets get outta here.” Leela said with an eager grin, as she stood up, and put her winter coat on. “Might wanna bring your Harvey jacket, it’s pretty cold outside.” she said, as the sound of a zipper came from around the corner. “Wayyyy ahead of ya.” Dave said, as he adjusted the silver & black fire-suit style jacket.

“Oh, and it’s Harvick, not Harvey, by the way.”

Snow flurries were falling, as Dave & Leela stepped outside into the frigid night air. The X-mas lights of the city were becoming more numerous, as were the heavy armor plates on several building fronts. The lights from downtown cast an eerie orange glow against the low cloud ceiling, as the bitter December wind whipped down the canyon-like street. Stores on the corner featured huge ads for low-low holiday prices on defensive weaponry for the coming destruction Santa-bot was surely bringing.

The two of them walked arm in arm across the street to the storage warehouse, where Dave’s hover-truck was waiting. That familiar, alluring scent of Leela’s hair filled his nostrils. He didn’t care if it was natural, if it was perfume or shampoo, all it did was make him want to pull her closer.

In the darkened alley, nearby, someone was watching. Slowly, wispy lines of white light began spiraling in the dark. As they got brighter, they revealed a young woman’s face, but as she slowly crept along the alley to keep watch on the two, light from a streetlamp made her face change from flesh to smoldering embers. Sensing she’d been noticed, she disappeared into the shadows from which she came.

Dave stopped for a moment, slowly looking to his right. “What, you see somebody?” Leela asked.

“Nah, it’s nothing, probably Zoidberg again.” he said, as they continued walking.

They climbed into the vehicle, Dave fired the power cells, and immediately turned the heater on. “Heh, I hardly ever used that thing! Now I’m actually glad they put the heater in!” he said, as he rubbed his hands after touching the ice cold steering wheel.

Moving through the boroughs of New New York in the late night darkness, Dave’s mind stuck on how quiet it was. The two of them didn’t talk much, just the idle swish of the wiper blades every few seconds, as the hover-truck drove on through the swirling snow squall.

“Wuhhohh! It is nasty out there!” Leela said, as she shook off the lingering snowflakes from her long, beautiful ponytail. The small ninth-floor apartment felt warm and inviting. Leela handed her coat to Dave. “Could you put this on the rack with yours? I’ll just be a sec.” she said, as she disappeared into the back bedroom.

The row of ceiling-mounted track lights in the living room highlighted a rather large painting. Dave studied it closer, as he’d seen it a few times before, but never looked at it up close. Three human figures, two female, one male, all in a tight, group hug. The two female subjects had what looked like purplish wispy clouds for hair, while the male subject was surprisingly void of hair. Against a dark background, a single light from the overhead track was illuminating the subjects, but not the whole painting.

“It’s supposed to be the moonlight shining through a storm drain grate.” came Leela’s voice behind Dave. He studied the painting further, noticing the artist’s signature in the lower right corner. Looking closer, it dawned on him, it was Leela’s signature!

“Then you, you painted this?” He asked with a smile.

“Yeah, it’s the night my parents and I reunited! I was so happy, I just had to put that moment in my life down on canvas.”

Dave felt a little twinge of sadness, as he stared down at the thick carpeted floor. He’d left his Mother and two Brothers over a thousand years back, and never said goodbye to them.

“You’re really lucky Leela.” Dave spoke softly, as he looked back up at the painting, then back at her. “Your parents are really something special. I think nothing in this world matters more than family.” he said, as his eyes turned a little glassy. “I’m glad you got a second chance with them.“ Leela placed a hand on his right shoulder. “Awwww, you‘re too much.” she whispered back dreamily.

“Here, sit down”, as she gestured towards the sofa.

Leela sat beside him “You okay?” as she rubbed his shoulder some more, and flipped on Late Night with Humorbot 5.0. She pulled a small throw blanket over them, as they relaxed further into the corner of the sofa.

“Yeah, I’ll be okay. I mean, I’m here with you, and there’s no place else I’d rather be.” Dave said, as he let Leela put her arm all the way across his shoulders, and pull him in closer.

After the show had ended, Leela flipped off the TV. She didn’t get up, but as soon as Dave shifted to stand, she held onto his arm. “wait”

“What’s up?” he answered in a low tone.

The orange glow from the city lights filtered into the dark living room, with just enough ambient light to see each other’s faces. Leela sat up closer to Dave, the light shining off of her eye, which was staring straight into his.

“Stay here with me tonight, Please.” as she gently leaned in close, and softly placed a kiss on his face.

“Leela, , , I don’t think I can do this. Not now.” he said, sounding rather upset.

“Do what?” she responded quizzically

“Look, I know okay. I knew this moment would eventually happen between us, and, well, , , to be completely honest, I think you and I have something really special, and by doing what I think you wanted the two of us to do here tonight would kinda be a setback.” Dave said, with his voice shaking a little bit at the end.

Leela looked confused “A setback? I still don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I want you to know that I really have serious feelings about you Leela. Just thinking about you drives me crazy, and if we were to, you know, “do it” for lack of a better term, I just think it would give you a reason to really hate me if things didn’t work out between you and I later on.”

She said nothing, but looked away, and waited to hear him finish as he paused.

“I don’t ever want to hurt you, I‘d never forgive myself! Seriously, I really care about you, I lov-” His sentence was cut short, as Leela placed a fingertip to his lips.

What happened next took him completely by surprise. Dave hadn’t been kissed with such passion in a long, long time.

“I understand, and I’m okay with it.” she said in a low voice, even though she had felt slightly disappointed.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Now I know that you’re truly a wonderful guy! You’ve always been honest with me, you’ve always stood up for me, and I love it that you told me you didn’t feel right, that takes a really strong conscience!” Even in the semi-darkness, Dave could see her smiling wider than ever.

“Still, I’d love it if you stayed with me tonight. There’s no deliveries tomorrow, and in the morning, I want to hear about this “A-4” you saw.” She said, as she stood up, extending her left arm for him to follow.

“Thanks, of course I’ll stay” he answered sleepily, as she led him out of the living room.

Morning announced itself early, as a clear blue sky shining in through the slats of the window blinds. Dave awoke, feeling very warm and content lying in bed, when he suddenly realized that the window was on the wrong side of the bed! He slowly turned his head, seeing a mass of purple next to him. “Nooo, It can‘t be! We didn‘t! Did we?” The events of last night slowly returned, as he came to his senses. Dave flipped the thick, pillowy duvet back, and saw that they were both still fully clothed. Relieved, he laid back against the pillow, looking over at Leela, as she too began to stir.

Leela snuggled closer to his left arm, burying her face into his shoulder, as she inhaled deeply and let out a soft “mmmmm”. Smiling slightly, he returned the gesture. He took in several deep breaths of her hair, pausing to gently kiss her forehead, and watch the little dots of sunlight shine in on her still closed eyelid, until he drifted back to sleep.

They slept for a while longer, when Leela finally shifted, raised her head and yawned. With a little smile, she reached over, playfully grabbed Dave’s left knee, shaking it a little. “C’mon sleepyhead, coffee will be on shortly.” as he yawned & stretched. “Ohh yeah!” as he felt several vertebrae in his back align with crackling sound.

Leela reached back across he bed, leaning down as they kissed each other. “Mornin’ Leela! You sleep okay?”

“Much better, you?”

“I slept like everything was perfect, like nothing bad in the world could hurt me.”

“Okayyy, enough with you waxing all philosophical! I’m making coffee. How do you take it?” She said over her shoulder, as she exited the bedroom.

“Light n’ sweet, , , just like you!” Dave said, wearing a huge grin, which abruptly drooped when he saw the old, tattered robe she had pulled on. “She deserves a nicer one. It doesn’t look exactly warm either.” he thought to himself.

“*sigh* you, always with the clever one-liners. C’mon, I wanna hear about that spacecraft you saw yesterday.” Leela said, as she flipped the kitchen light on.

After nearly an hour of talk over coffee, Leela was interrupted by her wrist computer device beeping, then the speaker crackling to life.

“Hey Leela, it’s Amy. Just wanna remind you about the DOOP Xmas party next Saturday Kif invited us all to.”

“Uhh, no! Of course not Amy, I didn’t forget.” as she leaned over to Dave whispering behind her hand “Actually, I did forget!”

Dave smiled and nodded, understanding the humor of the situation. “You n’ Dave are gonna be there right?”

“Of course we are Amy! Been looking forward to it all week!” Leela said, stifling a giggle.

Before Amy could finish, Leela cut her short “Uhh, Amy, I gotta go, I think the fridge is on fire!” as she cut her computer device off, ending the awkward conversation.

“So, you were saying?” Leela said, as she turned back to face Dave.

(DOOP Central Command Headquarters, 12/24/3008 - 2030 hours NNY time)

The annual X-mas party held at DOOP’s HQ was always a grand affair. Officers and the Non-Commissioned Officers wore pristine-looking formal uniforms. Their spouses, or dates attending the party similarly in gorgeous evening gowns. The entire main office hall was redecorated in festive gold, green & red garlands. Boughs of freshly cut, genetically-engineered, laboratory-grown pine tree branches & wreaths also festooned the walls.

The curbside valet opened the front passenger-side door of Dave’s hover-truck, as it pulled to a stop in front of the facility. “Good evening Miss, please watch your step.” said the valet, as Leela stepped out of the truck. Her eye fell upon the large illuminated fountain in the center of the courtyard. “This looks nice. It’ll be even nicer knowing Zapp’s not here to ruin the evening!” She thought to herself, as she turned around to see where Dave was.

He was quickly pocketing the claim stub from the valet inside his coat. The night air was well below freezing, but it didn’t seem to make anyone rush into the building. Several couples enjoyed the walk along the main pathway, up past the giant fountain.

“Hey! There’s Fry!” Leela said, as they neared the entrance to the hall.

“Whattup guys!” he said, after straightening his tie, and running a hand through his hair.

“Hey Fry, You just get here too?”

“Yeah, Jeannie said she’d be meeting me here shortly. You really look great tonight Leela!”

She blushed a little as she turned away.

“Thanks Fry, I saved it just for the right date!” Leela said, as she slowly turned around to show off the elegant evening gown. Similar in design to her burgundy “opera dress”, this one was jet black, accented with gold stripes that ran vertically up both sides, under her arms, then continuing out into finer gold lines that weaved a beautiful interlaced pattern over the shoulder, and then the front, and back of the dress. Leela has also replaced her standard elastic ponytail band, for a gold metal braided one. A pair of black formal gloves completed her stunning outfit.

A staccato sound of high-heel shoes came from behind where they were talking. A slightly disheveled looking Jeannie Sims rushed over to Fry.

“Hiii Fry! Sorry about this, but you know the Legal Bureaucrats, always want something done at the last minute!” she said, with a slightly crazy-sounding giggle at the end.

“You feeling okay babe?” Fry asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“Ohhh ya! I’m okay, just a little overworked hehe! I mean A LOT overworked! Ya know!”

Still looking at her with concern, Fry suggested they go inside, get a couple of drinks.

“Okay, well, have fun you two!” Fry said to Dave and Leela, as he led Jeannie inside to the festivities.

Inside, the party was in full swing. The DOOP had hired a local band, which belted out popular music of the current era, as well, as old favorites, mixing in various Xmas music in between.

“I need to go adjust my contact lens, be right back.” Leela whispered in Dave’s ear, as she left for the far side of the hall.

Social settings like this were still a rarity for Leela. Even in the past eight years at Planet Express, she’d only gone out to formal events like this a few times. Her secret that she wasn’t an alien was still only known to Fry, and a few other close friends, but it still made her feel a little insecure at times.

Leela felt strange as she walked to the ladies room. She felt like she suddenly became the center of unwanted attention. Strange glances caught her attention, as she walked, trying to ignore them. “Idiots! They see I’ve got one huge eye, why do they always stare!” she thought angrily to herself. After finishing, she thought about ducking out of the door beside the restrooms, and re-enter the doors near the bar area. The fewer stares, the better, she thought.

Back at the party, Dave waited at the bar for drinks, and casually conversed with several DOOP officers who, once they knew who he was, wanted to congratulate him for helping get Brannigan removed from command. During this time, he managed to overhear a few other officers and their dates near the wall behind him, make a few comments that were rather uncalled for.

“Hmph! Did you see the one-eye Charles? I mean, who’d she have to sheet wrestle with to get in here?”

“Ahh ha ha haaa! Good one Amanda. I don’t know, but it must have been someone who had to go slumming for good time!”

Dave knew who they were talking about. The last comment was harsh enough to prevent the first sip of bourbon from touching his lips. “Excuse me guys” he said to the two officers next to him at the bar, as he set his glass down.

Formal party or not, Dave wasn’t about to stand by idly. He laid a few bills on the bar for his drinks. “Your money’s no good here man. Those are on us!” the two officers said, as he re-pocketed the currency. Grabbing one shot glass, Dave raised it slightly, “Thanks, here’s to ya!” he said, as he finished it off, slamming the shot glass back on the bar, rim down. “I gotta go take care of something, watch my seat.” Dave said, as he left the bar.

Looking around as he walked, Dave saw Neptunians, Emissaries from Nylar-4, a few Omicronians, and of course, Dr Zoidberg at the far side of the room, inhaling a bucket of something.

The louder member of the group, who’d said what grabbed Dave’s attention earlier, stood about six inches taller than Dave, with blond hair & blue eyes, was continuing his rude comments about Leela, when Dave approached, tapping the man’s shoulder.

“Hey, I couldn’t help but overhear what you guys were saying about the woman with one eye, but I’d like to tell ya, I brought her with me tonight! Now that I‘m here, you got anything else to say about her?”

The officer’s dates recoiled in disgust when Dave said this.

“Tell me something, was she the first “thing” you saw when you got out of the tube?” one of the young women said, with an acid tone.

“I’m not a de-frostee.” Dave said bitterly.

“Riiiiiight” she answered, staring away.

The tall blond-haired one, stared at Dave for a minute before he spoke.

“So, you’re the one who got Zapp dishonorably discharged eh? Most of us here had the unique pleasure of serving with him. He was quite possible the finest line officer in command. You and that “one-eye” have a lot of nerve coming here tonight, and now you think you can take us on? Because we don’t think that freak of yours, as well as yourself, don’t belong here tonight?” he said, with a smirk on his face.

Dave felt the hair on his neck begin to rise. “Actually, if you’d like to be a man, and say anything else about her, you can say to me outside! Not here with your pals, but out on the sidewalk, because that’s where the paramedics will find you!” he said, feeling rage course through the muscles in his arms.

The officers didn’t appear fazed at all by Dave’s words.

“Typical Stupid-Ages mentality Mandy! That’s how they solved all of their problems back then.”

Realizing he was in a huge public place, Dave simply defused the immediate situation.

“I’ll tell you what, , ,”Charles” is it? I’ll be out there.” Dave said, pointing to the walkway that led to the street. “When you grow a pair, and want to tell me more, that’s where I’ll be. The same goes for you two as well!” he said, casting a menacing glare at the other two officers.

“And you can count on me being out there too, jerk wads!”

The two shorter officers bristled when they heard Leela’s voice from behind.

“You cowards got something more to say? Let’s do this outside, right now!” Leela growled, as she got right up in the blonde-haired officer’s face.

The two shorter officers clumsily bumped into one another, as they blurted out an excuse to be somewhere else, as they bolted for the door.

“Charles! I’m cold! Let’s go already!” said the blonde-haired officer’s date, as she kept staring in disgust at Dave & Leela.

“Hmph! See you later Stupid-ages, , , you too One-eye! For your sake, both of you better steer clear of my ship. “Accidents” can sometimes happen during missile drills!” he said menacingly, as he escorted his date from the room.

“Forget that idiot Leela. Zapp’s got plenty of jerks still in his corner, I’m not letting them ruin our night!”

“Yeah, you’re right. Time for a drink or two, or seven!” Leela said, sounding much calmer.

Fry and Jeannie were seated at the far corner of the bar area. Several flaming shots were on the small table they were sharing. Leela noticed it was weird that Fry blew the flames out before consuming his shot, but Jeannie would toss back the flaming liquid, not even so much as blinking while swallowing.

“Dave, watch this.” Leela said, drawing his attention to Jeannie, as she drank another flaming shot.

Watching her idly toss back yet another shot, “Damn!” he thought. “I’ve never seen, or heard of any human being able to do that. At least, not with the throat that God gave them.” Dave said in amazement, as she drank two flaming shots back to back. Fry barely managed to drink three, sans-flames.

The two officers who bought drinks earlier waved Dave and Leela back over to their side of the bar. From what one of them said, “Charles”, better known as LtCdr Charles X. Farrington III. He was a subordinate of Brannigan, serving with him many times, and not ashamed to admit that he worshipped the ground Zapp walked on.

The two officers, both looking in their late-40s, and wearing numerous awards and campaign ribbons on their white & gold uniforms, identified themselves as Captains, expressed to the two of them their gratitude for finally bringing down one of the most corrupt, and inept commanders in recent history. They both shook hands, and saying thanks once more to Dave & Leela before leaving

“Well, I’m drinking bourbon tonight. What’ll you have Leela?” Dave asked, as he waved at the bartender.

“Bourbon sounds nice.” as she gazed at the holiday decorations festooning the walls.

The two of them sat quietly, enjoying each other’s company as usual, when the band that was hired began their set for the evening with a 1990s slow-dance classic. “I‘m gonna turn the mic over to my sister Denise for this one. This is for all you lovebirds out there tonight!” the lead singer said, as he rolled into the first song of the evening.

Dave stood up from the table. He knew what would turn the evening around for the better. “Wanna dance?” She smiled, as she took his hand.

“I thought you didn’t like Flaming Amazons woogums.” Fry said to Jeannie, as they passed their table on the way to the middle of the hall.

Leela couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling she had about Lt. Sims. The young officer’s behavior seemed to take a complete reversal in the last few months.

The soft pop music from the band played, as the lights dimmed low. In all of the events that took place over the last few months, Dave forgot all about what it was like to be with family, or friends during the holiday. His two previous years in the 21st century found him all alone at Christmas. Two brothers at opposite ends of the continent that wouldn’t speak to him, and a mother who lived and worked on the other side of the world.

“She might as well have worked on the other side of the galaxy.” Dave replied in Leela’s ear, as they swayed & held on to each other during the song, letting the words of the chorus sink in. “I know you love and miss them, sorry Dave.” she whispered back gently.

“Thanks” was all he could muster in his mind, but he just embraced her a little tighter, to show his appreciation.

After the festivities died down, and the blazing assault on the city by Robot Santa had ended, partygoers both drunk and sober mobbed the rubble-strewn sidewalk for taxis. Passing his jacket to Leela, as he knew she had to be cold in the biting wind. Saying nothing, she let him place it over her shoulders, as the valet pulled up with his hover-truck.

“I’m terribly sorry sir! Your vehicle seems to have taken some damage in the attack.” Dave winced as he saw what looked like a giant shotgun blast that shattered the right headlight cluster & left the quarter panel peppered with small holes.

“I’m sure The Professor’s got something to fix it. Nothing I can do about it now.” No sooner that those words left his lips, did Leela’s wrist computer beep, as an incoming call waited to be answered.

“Hey Leela! it’s Fry. We’re having a little get-together back here at the office. Why don’t you two swing by.”

Smiling sweetly, she answered “That’d be great Fry! See you in a bit.”

(Planet Express Headquarters, 12/24/3008 - 2300 hours NNY time)

Amy and Dr Zoidberg had just finished putting the finishing touches on the Xmas decorations. A slightly-singed palm tree stood in the corner by a window missing a few of it’s panes. “Euugh, not to worry!” said Farnsworth, as he stood atop a ladder with a spray can of “Insta-Glass”. “There we are! WHOOP!” as he fell from the ladder.

“Ohhh, I’ll be okay, that shin always breaks about this time of year anyway!” as he limped back to his Rocket-Recliner.

By now, everyone else was seated on two large couches facing one another. A roaring fire was going in the fireplace, burning whatever Robot Santa had dumped down the chimney earlier that evening. Fry whispered something in Dave’s ear, which caused both of them to bolt from the room, out to his hover-truck. As was customary, The Planet Express employees had a small party, and exchanged gifts on Xmas eve.

A few minutes later Fry and Dave returned, both of them with several packages in their arms. “Okayyy, gather ‘round you guys!” Fry yelled. “You too Zoidberg!” as the Doctor gorged himself at the food table. “Vaaat? Me, join the others? Hooraaayyy!” as he clicked his claws happily.

“Ohhh, Fry, you shouldn’t have! Such a fine cologne this doe urine is!” Zoidberg said, as he held the small plastic camouflaged bottle up, deeply inhaling from it, and exhaling in ecstasy.

“Uhhhh, here ya go Fry, heh heh, enjoy!” said Bender as he slid a heavy burlap bag across the floor to where Fry was sitting. “Benderrrr, you gave back all the stuff you stole from me this year! Thanks!”

“Awwww, no problem organ sack! Merry Xmas!” he said with a chuckle, as Dave passed a heavy brown paper wrapped item to Bender.

“What’s this? *gasp*! It’s a suitcase of Arrogant Robot Bastard Ale! ‘Dat’s like the hardest beer to find! Ohhh, my emotional simulator’s goin’ nuts!” Bender said, sounding a little weepy, as he chugged down two bottles in each hand. “Ohhhh, I love ya buddy!” as he bear-hugged Dave hard enough to almost crack a rib!

Amy, Hermes, and The Professor each exchanged their gifts next. Dave received a beautiful solid gold 8x10 picture frame from Amy. Inside the frame was the picture Dave’s camera took of him and Leela on their first date. “Leela showed me the picture, I just had to do something like, super-special with it.” she said, smiling as her eyes lit up in reflection from the fireplace.

“Everyone finished?” said Leela, as she sat down after getting another glass of brandy. “Not quite” said Dave. “I saved the best one for last.” He stood up and took the box he was hiding next to his seat on the couch. “This is for you Leela. I hope you like it.” he said, as he sat down beside her.

“*gasp* you got me a present?” she said, nearly spilling her drink in surprise. She hadn’t quite gotten used to getting gifts yet. Growing up at the Orphanarium, she was lucky if Xmas brought her extra socks, or hygiene products.

She tore off the wrapping paper excitedly, but gently lifted the top of the long rectangular box underneath. Placing a hand to her mouth as she gasped again. Her eye welled up, and a single tear rolled off her nose, as she ran her other hand over the fine silk & terry cloth robe inside. “Oh, oh my, it’s so beautiful!” she said, immediately standing up to unfurl it from the box. “Here, try it on.” said Dave, as he opened it up, and let her slide it on. Leela was speechless, she wrapped herself in the folds of the long white robe, with it’s pink silk trim, as she did slow pirouettes in the warm glow of the fire’s light.

“Ohhh, it’s so soft!”

She quickly skipped back towards Dave, hugging him even harder than Bender did! “Oww!” he said, but laughing a little bit as she let go. “I guess that means you like it.” Leela only re-embraced him, “Ohh, thank you, thank you, thank you, I love it!” she whispered in his ear. They briefly separated, then she moved in to give him a kiss, when he stopped her.

“Hang on, that was only part one. Turn around.” Leela looked perplexed, but did as he asked. From out of his coat, he pulled out a small length of fine gold herringbone chain. “Close your eye” he said, as he unclasped the chain, placing it around her neck, and securing it again.

“Okay, eye open!” Leela gasped even louder this time. Her eye widened at the sight of the beautiful gold chain, and the small, heart-shaped locket lying against her chest. “Dave, you shouldn’t have,” she said, wiping away another tear. “I know, but this one’s very special, watch.” Dave stood in front of Leela, and whistled three distinct notes, causing the locket to open up, and chime the same three notes. Looking inside the locket, she saw her picture on one side, and Dave’s on the other. “I figured this would be a lot nicer to wear, and you could put the gold dog-tag on your keychain for the ship.”

Leela was overjoyed again. She embraced Dave again, kissing him just as passionately as she did a couple of weeks ago. “Hoorayyyy, she likes it!” shouted Dr Zoidberg.

“Spleeesh! Get a room you two!” Amy shouted, jokingly of course.

“Eughh-yes! Merry Xmas everyone! Merry Xmas! Enjoy your Xmas Day off, because you’ve still got a ship to repair! Huhwheeee! Uhhh, byeeee.” said Farnsworth, as he puttered from the room in his Rocket-Recliner.

“C’mon meatbag, let’s go get drunk!” Bender said, as he elbowed Fry. “See ya later everyone!” said Fry, as he left with Bender.

The others slowly left Planet Express, until only Dave, Leela, and Dr Zoidberg remained seated at the fireplace.

“Hey, what smells so good?” Dave said.

“Ohh nooo, that’s meee!” screamed Zoidberg as he ran for the saltwater tank in his office.

“Well, I guess that just leaves us. So, your place, or mine tonight?” Leela said, in a slightly tipsy voice.

“I do believe the brandy would hinder our driving abilities. My place sounds good.” he replied, with little burp “Ooops, hung start! Hah!”

“Good idea, and you can open my present in the morning. How’s that sound?” she said dreamily, as they left the office arm in arm, into the darkened street, and a light snow falling on them.

“Leela, you didn’t have to get me anything. Just being here with you is far greater than anything money can buy!”

Buddies