Futurama

Fan Fiction

Stranger In A Strange Land, part 16
By La Belle Leela

Chapter 16 - “Letters”

(Planet Express Headquarters, 03/01/3009 - 0935 hours NNY time)

The previous night’s winter storm had all but blown itself out by the time Hermes arrived to open the office. Several odd-shaped packages littered the floor of the reception area, all undoubtedly dropped through the overnight slot.

“Fry!, Bender mon! Git out ‘ere an get ‘dees packages loaded!” he yelled, and he slid his keycard, punched the security keypad, and entered his impeccably clean office. Everything looked as it should, but a strange object on the floor in front of his desk caught his eye.

“Hmm, what could ‘dis be? Maybe Zoidberg’s finally resigning! Oh mon! how great would ‘dat be!” He said softly to himself, as he picked up and examined the envelope. No postage stamps, no indication of where it came from, the envelope was just a plain white standard size, sealed, and addressed to “Hermes Conrad” in black uppercase letters.

“Hey Fry, why are we doin’ this? We got that new guy now! He should be loading the overnight crap!” Bender groaned, as he lugged the last, and heaviest package up onto the loading platform of the Planet Express Ship.

“Haa ha, I know whatcha mean Bender. Hey, Dave hasn’t come over yet, he’s probably still sound asleep, jerk! That could be me still sleeping!” Fry comically lamented, as he idly sniffed at the weird fluid leaking out of the box Bender just dragged across the hangar floor.

“Nahh, it’s probably nothing serious, just like those organs we had to take to Transplant-7 a few weeks ago. BENDERRRR, TV TIME BUDDY!” Fry yelled, as he hit the switch, raising the cargo platform into it’s closed position.

Rushing out of the hangar, Fry nearly bowled Amy over as he ran for the lounge.

“Gahh! Watch it!” she exclaimed, letting several choice Cantonese swear words loose.

“Sorry Amy, didn’t see you there.” Fry apologized, as he landed butt-first next to Bender on the couch.

“Spleesh Fry! You almost put me through the wall! Oh, and this came for you.” she said, as she handed an envelope, similar to the one Hermes received, to Fry.

Fry resumed his slumped posture on the couch, as he tore the envelope open. He read for a few seconds before an almost-silent gasp left his mouth. “What? Why? What’d I do?” he choked out, as the letter slid from his hand to the floor.

Amy saw the look of shock on Fry’s face. “What, what is it Fry?” she said, as she picked up the letter, giving it a quick scan.

“Jeannie,,,, she dumped me! FOR HIM!” Fry growled angrily, feeling a great deal of rage building inside his chest.

“I went to her place the other day, and she was acting all weird n’ stuff! How was I supposed to know what was going on? She didn’t seem like everything was okay, I mean, what with all the stone carvings and open pit fires laying about the place!” Fry said, his face turning two shades of a darker red, as he kicked the wall.

“That sure doesn’t sound right Fry, and I know women!” Amy said sympathetically.

“How can this be? Dave n’ Leela, they‘ve been going steady for months now! Why would he be hooking up with Jeannie?” Amy yelled, as she finished reading the letter. “Of all the two-timing-ohh, how could he do this to Leela!” Amy said sadly.

Suddenly, Amy jumped up from her seat. “Oh, I’m totally going over there!, and giving that bastard a piece of my mind!” she said, as she stormed off out of the lounge.

“Dibs on the corpse!” Bender yelled, as she slammed the door behind her.

(Planet Express Storage Warehouse, 03/01/3009 - 1021 hours NNY time)

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! “YOU OPEN THIS DOOR!” Amy yelled, as she pounded her fists on the double steel doors of the warehouse’s living quarters. After almost ten minutes of relentless fist pounding, Amy walked around to a side window.

She peered inside the shop maintenance area. “Huh, that’s odd, his truck’s still here.” She jumped back startled, as she heard footsteps crunching on the gravel footpath behind the building. Amy gave a sigh of relief, realizing it was Fry joining her.

“Amy, is he in there? We need to talk, NOW!” he said angrily.

“I don’t know, I mean, his truck is in there, but he didn’t answer the door, and I like, knocked on it forever!”

Fry walked over to the window, grabbing an empty steel garbage can along the way.

Fry, what are you gonna do?” Amy asked nervously.

“When you live with Bender, you learn a few things about stealth entry into locked up places!” he said, as he heaved the trash can up over his head, and with a mighty grunt, he launched it at the window, shattering it with a mighty crash.

Broken glass littered the smooth concrete shop floor. Fry wrapped his jacket around his left forearm, clearing the rest of the broken glass away from the edge of the windowsill. With a slight struggle, he managed to pull himself up, and into the warehouse without falling. He reached back, grabbing Amy’s hands to help her climb through.

“What about the window Fry? The Professor’s gonna go nuts when he sees the mess!” said Amy.

“Right now, I could care less! That jerk stole my girlfriend!, and even worse, he dumped Leela! She must be so upset right now.” he said, looking at the floor sadly as they started looking around for Dave.

“*sigh* I can’t believe I thought he was the right guy for her! After I believed all those things he said, how he felt every time he saw her, every time he thought about her!” said Amy. The two of them looked all over the warehouse, finding not a soul in the place.

“C’mon Fry, he’s could be back over at the office by now.” as they exited, this time through the door.

(Planet Express Headquarters, 03/01/3009 - 1115 hours NNY time)

“Fry, where in Babylon is Leela? The deliveries should have went out an hour ago!” Hermes screamed, as he and Amy entered the lounge.

“She didn’t come in to work yet?” Amy said, sounding really worried.

“Jah! I’ve been calling her apartment non-stop. Where could she be?”

“What about her wrist-thingy? Surely she’d answer that.” Amy added.

“Nope, she must have the office number blocked or something, because I can’t get through!” he added. “And to further add to my list of problems, it seems ‘dat our new employee David, has taken it upon himself to resign! Now da Professor’s gotta find anudder individual to take care of his extra inventory!”

“HE QUIT?” Fry, Amy, and Bender yelled out altogether.

“Jah! Seems he’s fallen hard for‘dat tall dark-haired woman from da DOOP who was here a while back,,, and he, says, some kinda secret marriage!”

“That tears it! Bender, let’s go! I can’t take this anymore!” Fry said bitterly, both fists clenching up, as he headed for the hangar exit.

“Wait up Fry mon, ‘dees packages still gotta be delivered! Amy can fly da ship just fine!”

“Can’t do it Hermes, ship’s broken.” Fry said, motioning at the big green spaceship perched on it’s landing gear, ready to go.

“Da ship’s fine ya bum! Now get going!”

Fry tapped Bender on his back, motioning with his thumb towards the ship. Bender, as expected, gave the ship’s front landing leg a swift kick, causing it to fold under, and the whole nose of the ship to come crashing to the hangar floor, effectively rendering it useless. “Sorry baby, nothing’ personal.” Bender said, as he whistled and lit a cigar.

“Like I said Hermes, ship’s damaged. I‘m outta here!” said Fry, as the threesome exited to the street.

“Fry mon, jah gone loco in tha coco for real ‘dis time!” Hermes said to himself, as he went back upstairs to fetch Professor Farnsworth.

(Old New York (sewers) 03/01/3009, 1130 hours NNY time)

The stench was always bad down here, but never overpowering to him. Something behind him slithered over a rock, making him involuntarily turn for a look. Dave’s mind was going in two directions at once. Sadness and anger were already making him feel on-edge, now fear was joining the group, for he was in semi-darkness, alone, and armed only with a flashlight.

Dave passed the now familiar collapsed stone wall, that led to the rotted wood planking boardwalk that snaked through the mutant’s settlement. His light fell upon a torn, faded poster. A sickly green man with four eyes, and an outstretched pointing hand “PROTECT YOUR HOMELAND! JOIN THE MUTANT DEFENSE FORCE TODAY!”

After a little more walking, he arrived at the dilapidated front door of Morris & Munda’s home. Taking a deep breath, Dave thought “I hope she’s here. I need to know!” as he rapped his fist three times on the door. A dim light grew brighter, as he could see a shadowy figure through the cracks in the door. Dave stepped back, feeling uneasy about whether or not he would be welcome here.

“Why you bas-nngghh!” came an angered man‘s grunting voice, followed by a wide swinging blow. Dave felt the rush of air, as the wild punch narrowly missed his head.

“Some nerve you’ve got showing yourself down here! I’m gonna do to you what you did to my little girl!”

Dave steadied himself, Morris stood before him, wearing a dingy gray undershirt, instead of his usual cardigan. He didn’t look like a fighter, but he swung his fists hard and fast. The stocky mutant advanced towards Dave, malice gleaming in his one large eye.

“Morris! WAIT! It’s not what you think it is! Just listen to me!” Dave pleaded, as he backed up a little.

“Okay, you’ve got one minute! Hey, you guys hold him!”

Dave didn’t see or hear them. Several pairs of mutant arms reached out from behind him, and grabbing his arms. Struggling did no good, their grip on his arms tightened the more he tried to wrestle free.

“Nnghh! Morris! What are they doing? Get em’ off me! What do you mean I broke her heart? You’ve got it all backwards!”

“Whaaaa?” Morris said, walking closer. “If you’re trying to weasel your way outta this, Munda’s gonna make good on her promise to feed you to the crocs! START TALKIN’!”

One of the mutants started jabbing something cold and sharp into Dave’s lower back flesh, right where he’d been wounded.

“AGGGHH! SHE LEFT ME! SHE LEFT ME FOR FRYYY!!!” he screamed, as the tip of the weapon dug deeper into his scarred lower back.

“For a topsider, you suck at lying! What a fool I was to think you’d stay by her side!” Morris said, his voice shaking with rage and sadness.

Dave felt the sharp instrument back off, as if he would be allowed to answer his accuser.

“Listen! All I care about right now is finding Leela! Something is seriously wrong, and I need to talk to her!

“Time’s up!” Morris said, reeling back towards him, landing a solid punch to his gut.

“SERIOUSLY WRONG? Oh, like leaving that letter pinned to my daughter’s front door, telling her it’s over, telling her that everything you two have done for each other was meaningless, and you were running off with another woman you’d been seeing on the side! How you only feigned friendship, until her idiot boss could send you back, but now can’t! I should split you up the middle, and spill your entrails where you stand!”

Dave’s eyes now fixed on the dirty, crumpled ball of paper in Morris’s hand.

“Wait, WHAT? What letter? I wrote no such thing! Look, Fry’s girlfriend Jeannie shows up at my place, in the pouring rain, at 2 in the morning, crying her eyes out that Fry dumped her, as she bumped into him & Leela coming out of a bar earlier that night!

Morris just stared at him, giving no sign of backing down. “Go on!”

“Please! You have to believe me! There’s no way in hell that I’d ever do that to Leela, For crying out loud Morris, she saved my life! They could have easily left me to die on that godforsaken robot hell planet!”

“You suppose I should believe that? Your so called “letter” said it was meanin-” Morris’s reply was cut short by another’s

“LET HIM GO! NOW!” came a angry female voice from the darkness, followed by three laser blasts, that struck the rocks behind the mutants holding Dave back. They instantly released him, scattering for cover, as he dropped onto one knee, coughing from the pain in his abdomen and back.

Heavy footsteps pounded on the wooden boardwalk, a moment of silence before he heard it.

“Thanks dad, but I can take it from here.”

The pain subsided enough to where he dared to look up. There stood Leela with her father, a standard-issue Planet Express laser pistol clutched in her left hand, while she took the wadded up letter from Morris with her other one.

Leela unfolded the letter, wincing bitterly as she looked at it again, then dropped her view to look at him.

“Alright, you came down here to find me, well, here I am.” She said quietly.

Still down on his knees, Dave didn’t understand why she didn’t put the gun away, Leela sort of just held on to it, like she was expecting to use it at any moment.

“Do you honestly believe I wrote that?”

Maybe I do, and maybe I don’t.” Leela said quietly, while turning to face the other way, still flexing her fingers around the laser gun’s grip.

“I don’t know anything about a letter Leela. All I know is that Fry’s girlfriend shows up at my place at 2 in the morning, crying herself crazy about being dumped in the worst possible way, after bumping into you & him coming out of a bar after a date! She told me it was over between them, she said Fry finally realized who he was meant for all along!” All I wanted was to do was see you, to see for myself if it was true.” He said, now standing back up, Strangely, Leela still kept her back turned toward him.

“I don’t know what to think of all this Dave, none of it makes sense. I’m NOT going out with Fry! He was being a drunken idiot, and I was just being a friend, and taking him home. I have no idea what‘s going on!”

“That makes both of us.” He wheezed.

Realizing what he was about to do what could be the last thing he ever did, Dave walked towards the end of the walkway where Leela lingered.

“Ask yourself again Leela, do you really, honestly, truthfully believe that I put that horrible thing on your door?

Leela finally turned around. Her eye was shimmering in the reflections from the torch lights over the walkway.

“My heart doesn’t believe you are capable of something this cruel! But my mind says you’re just another jerk in line, waiting for your turn with me! Waiting to kick me to the curb & humiliate me after you’ve had your fun!”

Dave stood mere inches from her. Without taking his eyes off of her’s, he bent back down on both knees. The muzzle of the laser pistol in her hand was right at his eye level. His eyes fell to look upon the gun.

Looking back up her, he said “If that’s truly how you feel, then please, do me a favor.” He suddenly, but not quickly, grasped the barrel of the laser gun, still firmly in her hand, and pulled the muzzle gently against his forehead. “You’re the only reason why I’m still here!”

“If you believe that’s the truth, then I’m already consigned to hell! I didn’t write, or place that letter on your door. If you truly feel that I’m the one responsible for causing you this pain, then dammit, shoot! Because without you, my life means nothing!”

A few seconds passed, then a loud ‘thunk‘ of metal falling onto wood, as the laser pistol dropped from Leela’s hand onto the wooden boardwalk.

“Look at me!” she commanded. Dave looked up, as two big teardrops rolled down her face. “I can’t do that!” as she too dropped to her knees, and closed her eye, as she pulled him close.

“No! There’s no way that note could have come from you! I know it, I feel it deep down inside me, to hell with what my brain says!”

His face still buried in Leela’s shoulder, he choked up as he spoke his muffled sentence. “I love you Leela! Now and always, I do!”

“I know, I know, I love you too! Don’t you ever forget that!” she said, with what sounded like a small laugh, as she composed herself, and stood back up.

“C’mon, let’s get outta here. I know two people who need to apologize to you-OWWW!” Leela exclaimed. The hard ground seemed to rush up to meet both of them. Blackness clouded her vision before she could see what was attacking them.

A small, but strong arm brandishing a heavy object smashed both of them on the backs of their heads, rendering them unconscious.

(A small, cramped spaceship, Location Unknown. 03/03/2009 - 0900 NNY time)

It sounded like a faint, rhythmic hum at first. Slowly, Dave opened his left eye, then the other.

Blurry vision greeting him, his instinctively reached for his glasses, forgetting that with a blast from a laser device, Professor Farnsworth had corrected 20 years of wretched myopia.

His hand didn’t go very far. The cramped ship’s cabin barely had enough room, he was compacted against a side wall with another unconscious human form.

He managed to twist his upper body so that he laid with his back to the cabin floor. The small spacecraft had a clear bubbletop canopy, with no structural bracing to obstruct the majestic view of deep space.

Dave’s vision cleared, as he focused on the distant galactic formations.

Do not struggle! You are safe!” said a husky voice from a small seat inches from where Dave lay.

Safe? Where the hell am I?” Dave said groggily.

Do not worry, you are being escorted to my home planet, Eternium.” the voice said.

By a reflection of control lights, Dave noticed the pilot of the small craft. “Nibbler?”

Yes” came a quick reply. "Great, first he's talking, now he's flyin' spaceships!" Dave muttered.

It became necessary to take the both of you to this location. I had hoped logic and reason would be enough to convince the two of you, Your- *ahem* I mean, our worlds are in serious danger, and time is of the essence! I had no choice but to bring the two of you to Eternium, to show you the horrible evidence our oracles have discovered! Now, please relax, all will be explained upon our arrival, in three Earth hours.”

Great, now what?” Dave thought, as he stretched his numbed right arm out, only to bump it into something that felt like a mass of hair covering something hard. “Oww!” yelled Leela.

Please, both of you be still. We will be landing shortly.”

(Planet Eternium, 03/03/2009 - 1115 NNY time)

A small welcoming party was waiting, as the small transport hovered over the landing pad briefly, then alighting on it’s gangly tricycle landing gear. Several Nibblonians gathered in a hastily assembled welcoming party.

Nibbler hopped down from the tiny space vessel, followed by loud, painful groaning, as Dave Murphy, and Leela slowly climbed down, their joints making loud audible popping sounds, as they shook off their long journey in the tightly cramped ship’s cabin.

Nibbler turned around at the grotesque sounds, and waved a pair of medical officers over to aid his companions. “Leela, David Murphy, I apologize again for the inhospitable travel accommodations. If you desire medical attention, it is here." he said, as the two Nibblonian first aid responders gawked at the two hunched over humans that waddled around the pad, obviously in great pain.

Still hobbling, and bent forward at the waist, Dave wished he had an elephant tranquilizer-sized dose of painkiller to jam into his lower back. His whole torso burned with white-hot pain.

Suddenly, he felt a needle jab him in his side, turning, he watched as the tiny Nibblonian pushed the plunger. He instantly felt the pain subside, as he watched the plunger finish it’s trip to the bottom of the syringe, feeling no pain at all when the needle was pulled swiftly out of him.

Dave watched as the other medic injected Leela in a similar fashion as she lay on the ground, only administering her dose by way of her left thigh. “The Eildicath should eliminate your pain. Come now, the both of you are expected, in the Great Hall of The Everlasting Feast!”

Nibbler said, as he motioned for the both of them to follow. Dave grasped Leela’s hands, helping her stand, as they exited the landing pad.

Dave gawked in amazement, an action he had done pretty much at every new place he’d discovered in this new millennium, at the huge domed banquet hall. An enormous round table, large enough to seat well over a hundred humans, sat in the center of the hall.

Three dozen hooded figures sat in silence, as Nibbler took his seat, urging the two Earthicans to do the same. Several seconds passed before anything happened. It felt like hours passed, before one of the seated Nibblonians stood up, and greeted the new arrivals.

The small creature removed it’s hood, looking much the same as Nibbler did, but revealing two different features. This Nibblonian revealed four pink ribbons tied into bows atop it’s head, and two shiny, metal-capped fangs, as it began to speak in a gruff, but clearly feminine voice.

Nibbler leaned over, whispering at Dave. “She is our leader. Stand by to be introduced.” he said, as he leapt onto the table, removing an oversized item from his bandoleer pouch.

“My fellow Nibblonians, I come before you today to report that I was successful in learning the location of the Sacred Lexicon, and more importantly, safely bringing both of “The Others” here to Eternium.”

Small hooded heads twisted left and right, as the little creatures exploded in loud chattering between themselves.

“Nibbler, why did you bring us here….again?" said Leela. “Uhh, I mean me, I’ve been here before.” she said nervously, looking over at Dave.

“You were both in danger. We had no alternative than to evacuate the two of you to Eternium.” Nibbler explained.

Dave was still busy looking around at the strange complex. Out of a heart-shaped window, he saw everything outside the window, as far as he could see, was colored a sickly purple, or bright pink.

“Man, this trip gets weirder & weirder!” he thought, shaking his head side to side. “I still don’t think any of this could be real. I’m probably lyin’ in a coma in some hospital, and this is one helluva medically-induced drug coma!”

He thought, staring further at the gaudy landscape. He took one final look before heading back over to the table. “San Francisco would loooove this place!” Laughing a little from his joke.

A hologram appeared inside a lighted sphere in the center of the table. Leela’s eye shot open in terror, as she reeled backwards, instantly recognizing the form rotating inside the sphere from her nightmares.

“Do not worry, it is only a hologram.” Nibbler calmly said, as he studied the image for a moment before speaking further.

“What is that thing?” Dave and Leela said in unison.

A Fu-Kiru!” Nibbler answered monotonously.

“They are the ones bent on the destruction of any galaxy that does not submit to their rule. Many a star-system has been exterminated at the hands of them. They are known only as “Fu-kiru”! Creatures born of the darkness, entities whose only purpose is to conquer and kill for their own gain!"

“Sooo, are they alien,,, humankind,,, robot-kind?” he asked

“Neither! They are elemental, conjured of fire and shadows. Taking control of other life-forms through soul-stealing is how they ensure their sustenance. They cannot be stopped by conventional forms of warfare."

“But doesn’t Earth, the DOOP know about this?" Leela shouted, as her right hand reached involuntarily for her left forearm. “Ohhh dammit! Where’d it go?”

“I have tried many times to convince the leaders of your planet, only to have my warnings fall on deaf ears! I enlightened them about the nefarious three who were aiding these creatures arrival to Earth,”

What are we supposed to do? What about Fry? He’s a part of this too!” said Leela.

Nibbler paused, then continued to speak, as the room darkened, and a glowing sphere the size of a golf ball appeared. Slowly it expanded, until it hovered over the table.

“As you all know, our Oracles have imparted to us the knowledge of the universe. Handed down by each generation since the creation of all life, approximately 33 minutes after they themselves were created.”

Leela and Dave looked at each other, clearly confused by all that they heard Nibbler speaking about.

“And now that the Sacred Lexicon has been found, we finally have the upper hand in stopping the tyranny that these evil beings bring forth, and the googolplexes of slain civilizations they will surely leave in their wake.” he explained

“Philip J. Fry will also be brought to this location, but he is still needed elsewhere.” Nibbler said, as he zoomed in on a section of the floating spherical map overhead.

The map sphere began to clear into a sharper image of a dark location. An object moving in the upper corner of the sphere caught the camera’s eye. Slowly, the image of Fry, crawling amid rocky piles of rubble, his bright red jacket came into sharp contrast against the black debris surrounding him.

Fry!” yelled Leela.

Much like your primitive Earth television, he cannot hear you Leela!” Nibbler explained, Leela glaring at him angrily.

Another movement caught the camera’s attention. A lone figure dressed in clothing as dark as it’s surroundings followed Fry, pausing behind rubble every now and then, to avoid detection.

There! Fry has almost succeeded in drawing it out.”

Leela became more incensed. “Nibbler! Are you using Fry as bait? He could be in real danger!”

Nibbler calmly assured her that he would not come to any harm. “As long as the Capture-Sphere works, he’ll be unharmed.”

Leela started to chew him out again, but Nibbler silenced her, as movement on screen caught his attention

There, Look!”

Fry walked to bright spot of light shining on a seemingly bare patch of concrete. A pile of broken cinder blocks sat in the middle, Fry immediately noticed something out of place. A shiny metal object, smoothly tapered, with it’s small screen & keyboard. Fry gasped, instantly knowing who it belonged to.

A small note, hastily scribbled, was tied to one end of Leela’s wrist communicator.

FRY, DO NOT WORRY, SHE IS SAFE!

YOU MUST NOT FAIL US,

PRESS THE “RED” BUTTON”

“Huh? What the-” Fry didn’t have time to finish his thought. He didn’t even hear the person following him through the darkness of the sewers. Now he laid dazed and confused on the ground, as he tried to figure out what, or who just tackled him!

The thing from the darkness came out of nowhere, pouncing on Fry’s chest. He scrambled for the wrist communicator. He knew whatever it was, he kept hearing a voice in his mind, telling him he had to depress that button!

Fry’s attacker succeeded in landing on him again. He rolled over, the thug’s face softly illuminated. “You!” Fry gasped, pushing the red button inadvertently at the same time.

A bright yellow ball of light engulfed Fry and the figure in drab. It suddenly contracted, then extinguished, taking Fry and his mystery assailant with it.

He has done it! “The One” has succeeded!" boomed Nibbler’s voice.

What did he do?” Dave asked.

“We have been trying for some time to capture the Fu-Kiru spy that made it to Earth some time ago. They knew that we had identified the final “Other”. They sent a scout ahead to make sure we did not succeed in bringing you here David. Come now! We must get to the containment facility!” Nibbler said, as he hopped down from the table.

“But you still haven’t told us what were supposed to do?” Dave shouted at Nibbler’s back, as they hurried down a long corridor.

“There will be time to explain that later! Time is of the essence, if we are to learn of the enemy’s intentions from this captured foe!”

The threesome exited the corridor into a large atrium “this way!” yelled Nibbler, as he veered right down another long hallway.

Finally, they stopped at a doorway. Two interlocking force-fields of red laser barred their way. Nibbler leaped up, slapping a rectangular button, causing the lasers to dim. “It is safe, let’s go!” he ordered.

Two more laser barriers later, they stood inside a rectangular room, it’s walls glowed with the same red laser meshed force-field as the doorway. Two unconscious figures laid on a bare metal riser in the room’s center.

“Fry! Are you alright?” Leela shouted, as she forced her way towards him. Even as fast as she sprinted, Leela was passed by five Nibblonian guards. The guards began to subdue the shadowy-clothed figure with strange looking catchpoles. Slowly, they lifted the angry, writhing, semi-conscious creature a few inches into the air, and backwards, until it was further subdued by the red laser grid covering the walls.

“We have the entire room covered by this grid. No chance of escape!” said Nibbler, a small grin spread, revealing his canines.

Fry had come to his senses enough to stand back with his friends. The captured Fu-Kiru scout snarled as Nibbler began the questioning.

Just as it had on earth, it’s face slowly began to illuminate. Minute wisps of smoke and flame curled out from under it’s hood.

“NEK’ A’HOK! ANH GROSH! YOU WILL ALL DIE!” hissed the creature. One of the Nibblonians, catchpole in hand, yanked back the captive’s hood.

The room collectively gasped. Nibbler approached it again, only this time with his Eternian interrogation device at the ready. He waved it teasingly in front of the spy’s face, which stopped hissing, and slowed it’s breathing as it studied the device.

That’s better. You know what this is for, don’t you?” Nibbler said coolly.

The spy replied in a much quieter manner. “Yesss, I do, but I will not give you what you seek, no matter how many times you use that damned Freez-R on me!"

“Fine, have it your way!” said Nibbler, as he lunged forward, jabbing the spy in it’s leg with the device. A large cloud of steam, a sharp yell of pain, and loud sizzle sound reverberated around the room, as Nibbler repeated his question.

In between roars of pain, and Nibbler’s coercion by torture, everyone in the room finally heard what they wanted.

“It is too late! My Lord, All-mighty Malaan d‘Gansh has already deployed for their galaxy! In two week’s time, it shall belong to HIM!” the spy said, as it finished it’s confession with a strange incantation, no doubt genuflecting upon it’s leader.

Nibbler walked over to Fry, Dave and Leela. “I trust you now understand what your galaxy, and so many others are now facing?”

The three of them collectively shook their heads, as Dave spoke.

“I only understand that there’s an unseen enemy poised to invade our planet, you still haven’t told us what the hell exactly we’re supposed to do!”

Nibbler looked up at him, stone faced. “We have prepared battle plans in the adjoining room. Come with me.”

The restrained spy suddenly screamed, as it’s body strained upward against the restraints. The smoke and flame grew larger, and it’s screams became more horribly human. “Take cover!” shouted a Nibblonian.

A fire, brighter than burning phosphorous engulfed the floor and wall where the spy was held. The screams of pain increased, a woman’s scream, more terrifying than anything they had heard filled the room again. The intense fire suddenly consumed itself, strangely, giving off no heat, as the room temporarily became voided of oxygen.

Fry coughed noisily, as did his companions, they slid around on the cold grey floor, feeling for the exit, when the conflagration ended.

The space of wall that once held the prisoner, now only displayed a crumpled heap where it met the floor. A few of the Nibblonians approached the mass, nervously poking it with their catchpoles. Satisfied that no movement occurred, Nibbler, Fry, Dave, and Leela approached.

The mass of clothing appeared to be robes of some kind. The fire had done no damage to them, yet they were not made of asbestos, Nomex, or any other fire-resistant cloth Dave had ever known. Leela was busy scanning the clothes with her wrist-device, while Fry’s curiosity got the better of him, as he slowly turned over a fold in the robe.

He instantly froze in shock. His mouth opened but uttered no scream. Dave’s heart dropped, as looked upon the pale, lifeless face of someone Fry, and everyone at Planet Express had known all too well.

Leela kneeled down beside Fry, but her comfort was unwanted. Fry pushed her hands back, as he crawled back to Jeannie’s body.

Nooo, no, this isn’t happening! How, how could this beee? How could I have been so stupid!”

In a slightly choked voice, Dave assured him. “Fry, this wasn’t your fault! You didn’t do this to her!”

“Yeaaa, yea I did.” Fry cried, “They did it to her, because of us, because of ME!” his sobs becoming louder. Leela finally took charge, she sat him up, pulled him closer, hugging him tightly.

“Fry, listen to me. There wasn’t anything you could have done. They would have probably killed you too, if you discovered her back on Earth!” Leela paused for a moment, to try and let some of what she said sink in. “I know you loved her Fry.” Leela said, as her eye filled with tears. “Don’t ever forget her. I’m sure she wouldn’t forget you.”

Fry straightened up, wiping his face on his t-shirt. “We have to take her home. We have to take her back to Hawaii, where her family is. That’s what she’d want.”

Nibbler pulled Leela aside, as Fry still clung to Jeannie. “Here, we haven’t much time.” as he handed her a navigation disk. “The coordinates to the location of The Sacred Lexicon are on this. Please acquire it before it is too late!”

Leela took the disk, Her sense of duty would have made her leave on the spot to retrieve it, but looking at Fry, she had already made her decision. “We’ll get the book, right after we take her back to Earth, and raise the alarm about the invasion!”

Nibbler’s crestfallen expression returned. “I tell you, they will not listen! Please, I implore you, not to waste any more time!”

“We have to try! Listen Nibbler, we know people high up in DOOP, they can be trusted! We’re gonna need all the help we can get, both of our planets!” Leela pleaded.

A group of Nibblonians appeared in the doorway. “Lord Nibbler! Their vessel is ready!” Nibbler nodded in compliance.

Go, now! Back the way you came in. Our largest, fastest conveyance awaits!” shouted Nibbler.

Fry began to wrap Jeannie’s body tighter in the scorched rags that surrounded it. He began to lift her up by the shoulders. Without saying a word, Dave and Leela lifter her from the cold floor, as Fry gained a better hold. “Thank you” was all he managed to squeak out.

A spherical-shaped craft awaited them on the landing pad. This was the largest class of ship in the Nibblonian fleet, yet the cabin was barely bigger than Dave’s hover-truck.

Two more Nibblonian soldiers waited at the aft cargo door on the vessel. Fry’s face screwed up into an angry scowl. “NOO! She rides with us! No way she gets stuffed in a cargo hold!” he said, as the two soldiers promptly closed the hatchway, and scurried away in fear.

As they seated themselves inside, Leela glanced behind the Captain’s seat, heartbroken as she saw Fry still holding Jeannie’s cold, lifeless hands.

Nobody said a word during the return flight. The hum of the engines, and an occasional passing spacecraft broke the eerie silence that all onboard seemed to enjoy, after what terrible course of events had taken place mere hours ago.

(DOOP Central Command Complex, 03/04/3009 - 1125 NNY time)

Fry found little comfort in the DOOP Chaplain’s office. He and the others sat, as two Lieutenants from the Inspector General’s office wrote down their statements.

Major Garrote, the officer in charge of investigating Jeannie’s disappearance had dropped by for a word with the Planet Express crew as well. “The three of you are well known around here. Word traveled quickly, when someone mentioned that she’d been found. These cases don’t usually have a happy ending. Lt. Sims will be missed, she was an outstanding officer, and a fine member of the Judiciary Corps!”

One of the Lieutenants pulled the Major aside, showing him notes he’d written, while speaking barely above a whisper, as he pointed at the three Planet Express crew.

Sitting back down in front of Fry, Major Garrote wanted to be sure of something.

“Mr Fry, are you sure you didn’t notice anything, reeeeally weird about her behavior over the last several weeks?"

Fry looked down at the table, then back up at the Major. “Well, yah, but she just said she was having a hard time at work, alotta stress n’ stuff. Said she’d been sick a few times too.”

The Major squinted, cocked his head slightly, as he replied “Sick? What kind of sick? Cold? Neptunian Flu? Flesh-loss? Ronald Reagan Syndrome?”

“Nooo, not really. She just kept her heat at her home way up, built little fires n’ junk. Hated to have anything cold near her. I thought it might have been that Ann Coulter’s Disease I‘d heard was going around, but her behavior otherwise wasn’t that crazy.” Fry said.

“Thanks for your time, Colonel Rudess from Graves Registration will be here shortly.” Major Garrote said, as he picked up his cap, tucked it under his left arm, and followed the two Lieutenants out of the room.

The late morning sun beamed in through the slatted window shades, and the Terraformed tree landscaping showed leafy green signals that Spring was coming. Fry certainly didn’t seem like his normal self. He seemed dazed, like time itself had stopped, and was waiting for him to give it the okay to resume.

“All right Professor, I’ll tell him.” Leela said, as she pressed the “end call” switch on her wrist computer. “Fry, Professor Farnsworth, and the others send their condolences. They’d all like to come along to say goodbye, if it’s okay with you.”

Fry sat up a little, turned and looked at her, as if to say something, but instead nodding a silent yes.

A quick knock on the open door, as a sincere-looking Colonel Rudess stared briefly at them, as he entered the office.

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” The tall, balding man with a wispy white goatee said, as sat next to where Dave and Leela were seated.

Thanks” mumbled Fry, Leela & Dave.

“I’ve made the arrangements to have Lt. Sims’ remains brought to Planet Express this afternoon. The Honor Guard will be escorting the Lieutenant to Hawaii shortly thereafter. I wish all of you the best in this time, and The Chaplain would like you to know that he will be here for you, if any of you need counseling, or just to talk.”

(Planet Express Headquarters, 03/04/3009 - 1351 hours NNY time)

Shortly before 2pm, a long white DOOP hoverhearse pulled into the delivery bay beside the gleaming, newly-repaired delivery ship.

Six DOOP soldiers, in sharp dress red uniforms, entered the side door, and lined up at the hearse’s rear door. A loud hydraulic motor whined, as the Planet Express ship’s lift platform descended from it’s belly.

Amy Wong, Dr. Zoidberg, and Hermes all joined the other crew beside the lift. All were dressed in various styles of black clothing, Zoidberg in a tattered, and smelly old suit, Hermes in standard bureaucratic-issued funeral attire, and Amy, looking the best of the three, in a very revealing jet black cocktail-style dress & matching veiled hat.

Dave, Leela, Fry, and Bender, who applied a finishing coat of black spray paint to his backside, waited, and watched from the other side of the lift. Dave and Fry both wore suits with black armbands, Leela, always modest, wore a floor-length black dress, her hair now tied back, and down her back, flowed from under a black wide-brimmed hat.

The leader of the escort detail barked a series of orders, as the casket extended automatically from the hearse. Each soldier grasping a handle, as the casket, draped in an Earthican flag, was lifted free of the hearse.

Heels clicked in unison, as the escort slowly marched towards the rear of the delivery ship. The casket was gently placed on the lift platform. The soldiers stood back, clear of the lift, as their commander sharply saluted Lt. Sims’ casket.

Dave stared at the casket. He’d attended military funerals before, for his comrades, and his own Father. Although Dave did not fear death, he hated the agony he always felt, seeing how much someone’s passing made his family & friends hurt.

Dave turned to Fry, he too wasn’t taking his eyes off of the casket. “Jeannie’s death will not be in vain Fry. Soldiers sometimes die in the line of duty, that’s the risk they take-” Fry cut him off with his reply, “The bastards’ll get theirs! She didn’t deserve to die, not like that.” he said, his voice drowned out by the lift motor, as it ascended, the escort detail commander keeping his salute up, until the lift was locked up in place.

Fry kicked the ship’s ground power umbilical cable, as everyone boarded. The overhead hangar doors screeched as they slid open in their tracks.

The ship gave a little bump, as it’s landing gear oleo struts extended, the full weight of the ship, now off the ground, climbing higher into the sky, joining the escort procession, as Leela pointed the nose westward, for the 10-minute flight.

Buddies