Fan Fiction

By SoylentOrange

Futurama is brought to you by Ezekiel’s human flavored breakfast cereal, the only cereal made with the taste of authentic free range human. Ezekiel’s human flavored cereal: it’s tragically malicious!

Part 1: A Dangerous Cargo

It was another normal morning, or at least, as normal a morning as a man that lives in a robot’s closet ever sees. Phillip J. Fry awoke with a start to the sound of loud, off-key singing. He looked at the clock on his wall and groaned. “4am. That stupid robot is singing at 4am.” Fry flopped back down on the bed with a groan, red hair smashing up against his face. The young man tossed and turned in the hope that he could somehow block out the noise and eventually get back to sleep. It wasn’t working.

Finally Fry gave up and struggled to extricate himself from his blankets, which had a death grip on his legs. Tripping over some unknown article of food left over from who knows when, he worked his way over to the light switch, which, in a shower of sparks, informed him that the owls had gotten into the building’s wiring again. They tended to do that during the winter. Fry thought it had something to do with them hunting out warm roosting places.

When Fry had woken up in the year 3000 from his millennium-long cryogenic sleep, he had expected a cliché futuristic utopia, only to find that technology was just as unreliable as ever. That had been quite a day, the still-groggy redhead thought to himself. Fry was originally from the 20th century, but in a freak accident he had fallen into a cryogenic freezer tube in the very first moments of the new millennium. The next time he took a breath was 1000 years in the future. For most people such an occurrence would have been a nightmare, but Fry soon realized that it was his one big chance to get a fresh start; to make something of himself.

“And I did make something of myself” Fry thought to himself. “I’ve got a low paying job as an interplanetary delivery boy. I rent my own room from a crazed, egotistical bending robot. I even have a few normal friends!” Being Fry, the irony of everything he had just said passed approximately forty-six feet over his head.

Having by this point found his clothes, and having properly put most of them on, the delivery boy worked his way to the door. The loud singing coming from the adjacent room had stopped a few moments before, so when Fry opened the door he was not surprised to find that Bender was no longer there. There was still four and a half hours or so until the start of work. “Good old Bender,” Fry thought to himself, “not even 5am and already out on the town trolling for swag.”

Fry was by this point completely awake. “I guess I’ll head on down to Planet Express. I can watch television for awhile and then clean myself up in the chemical burn shower.” After ducking back into his room to snag a jacket and the remains of a donut he had spied lying under a chair, the red head took one look around the apartment for things his robotic roommate had stolen from him during the night, and headed out the door.

Unlike Fry, Leela was used to getting a full night’s sleep, and this last night had been no exception. At exactly 8:07 the alarm clock robot next to her bed activated. The sudden noise invariably startled the sleeping woman, resulting in a savage blow aimed at the poor mechanical thing. This new alarmbot was a tad smarter than its unfortunate predecessors however. As soon as it sent out its alarm pulse it hurtled itself under the bed, with only milliseconds to spare.

Leela had been Fry’s second friend, and first enemy. During the hapless defrostee’s first few hours of life in the 31st century it had been Leela’s job to implant him with his career chip, a process that included a needle the size of a large ice-cream cone. Needless to say, the idea hadn’t gone over that well with Fry. In fact, Leela spent a good deal of her New Year’s Eve afternoon chasing Fry through the streets of New New York. Eventually she did manage to catch up to him, but surprised herself by being unable to complete the implantation. Turanga Leela’s life had changed irrevocably at that moment. In a sudden epiphany she had seen the injustice of forcing someone to embrace a career that he detested. Instead of installing Fry’s chip, she removed her own; a crime punishable by death. Jobless and penniless, Leela, Fry and Bender (the robot ha become fast friends with Fry while the redhead was being chased through New Manhattan), had played the one card they had: Fry’s one living relative, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.

The professor had taken them in and given them jobs as the crew for his interplanetary delivery business. This had promoted Leela from the belittling job of cryogenics councilor to pilot of an intergalactic spaceship. It had also made her financially well off enough to buy her own apartment, not to mention an endless supply of replacement alarmbots.

The first thing Leela saw this particular morning was her pet Nibbler flying at her face at what seemed like a significant fraction of the speed of light. He had gotten off the bed at some point during the night, and having sensed his companion stirring, wanted back up. Now, Nibbler could not actually fly, although he was a rather good jumper. Neither was he particularly close to Leela’s face. Leela had never been very good with depth perception for a blatantly obvious reason. The first thing anyone ever noticed about Leela was her face, or more accurately, her eye. Where you would usually expect to see two eyes separated by the bridge of a nose was one large elliptical orb. It wasn’t at all unattractive mind you, but also definitely not normal. It was also very sensitive, and Leela started to hold up her arms in protection, only to find Nibbler inexplicably 3 feet away at the end of her bed. Leela had been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, and had grown up with the assumption that she was an alien. It had not been until just recently that she had discovered her true heritage.

The purple haired cyclops was actually a human mutant, a class of beings that were not tolerated well by society. Leela had to be very careful to hide her nature from the public

She sighed. Her eye was a constant source of anxiety for her. Everyone she happened across either stared at it or pointedly ignored it, which was just as bad. “In fact”, her mind silently said to itself, “The only person I’ve ever met who doesn’t mind my eye is Fry.” Ever since their first meeting Fry and Leela had been good friends. No, ‘friends’ isn’t quite the right word, thought the cyclops. She knew that Fry had vastly deep feelings for her. “Love?” she wondered idly to herself as she slid out of bed. Unfortunately, Fry’s feelings for her were the only aspect of the delivery boy’s mind that could be described as ‘vast’. Most of the time Fry was dull, and sometimes he was a down right idiot. “And he’s so childlike. I love his boyish charm, but I can’t stand his childishness.” “Oh well“, she sighed. “It’s too early to be thinking about this.”

The cyclops pushed her thoughts down and away from herself. It only took five minutes to get ready for the day. She took a quick shower and forced her violet hair into its customary ponytail. Nibbler was familiar with the morning routine and waited patiently by the door for the ‘its time to go out’ signal. As soon as Leela shoved a foot into one of her large black boots however, the fuzzy 3-eyed creature went into a frenzy. “I’m coming Nibbler, sit still for a minute will you?” said Leela. Cute little gibberish noises were the only answer she got. Boots on, Leela walked briskly over to the door, snatched up the leash that was hanging from the brass doorknob, and smiled down at her furry black and white friend. “Who wants a walk?” she asked. Nibbler made it pretty obvious what the answer to that question was. In one fluid motion, oddly accurate for a woman who couldn’t judge a foot from a furlong, Leela had the leash attached to the fuzzy creature’s collar. Warbling with glee, Nibbler waited for his moment, and when Leela had the door open sufficiently, he went barreling off down the hallway. Or at least, he tried to go barreling off down the hallway. The leash stopped him after the first couple of feet. Laughing at her pet, Leela bent down and cooed: “Aww poor schnoockums hurt himself on his mean leash. I’ll tell you what, you adorable thing, on the way to work we’ll stop by the ham stall and…” The rest of Leela’s statement died in her throat as she was forcibly dragged out the door by her ecstatic pet, who had understood the word ‘ham’ and would not stop running until he had eaten one.

“Stupid humans, what do they make these things for anyway?” Bender B. Rodriquez had not been having a very good day so far. In fact, it down right blew. “All I wanted was to loot a business or two, and maybe mug a few orphans before work. Is that really too much to ask?” Sitting next to a human toilet as he was doing at the moment, flushing hundreds of dollars in merchandise was definitely not part of his plan for the day. He had woken up to his meat-bag roommate Fry snoring. Fry was his best friend true, but the snoring thing really got under the bending robot’s nerves. Well, technically robots don’t have nerves, but still, if Bender had had nerves, snoring would have gotten under them. With his sleep simulator deactivated, Bender decided to go out for an early morning walk, by which he meant pulling a few heists. The robot got his burglar’s kit in order while singing quietly to himself.

“Who’s great? B-e-n-der!”“Who’s awesome? B-e-n-der!”“Who’s better than you? B-e-n-d-e-r!”“Oh! Yeah! Bender!!”He had gotten about halfway down πth Street before he found a target. It was a small two storey brick building. The darkened sign read “Qzork’s Friendly Appliance Co.” It sold your standard ware: televisions, microwaves, carbon nanotube circuitry for various computerized gadgets. More importantly, however, was what it didn’t have: a good security system.

It was easy enough to get in. Then again, Bender was an expert at such things. The door was obviously a Ronco, which any amateur knew was prone to resonant oscillations. Grabbing the doorknob with both hands, the robot started to vibrate at a frequency of 359 megahertz. One of many things within a quarter mile to fall apart was the shop’s locked door. Stage one complete, Bender walked through the opening and began to whistle calmly to himself. He strutted through the store to the beat of the little tune, pilfering as he went.

Bender was too distracted by his own greatness to notice the brown form meander out from between two shelves. A small mewing noise alerted the self absorbed manbot “Huh?” he muttered as he looked down toward the source of the noise. A shaggy tabby cat was staring quizzically up into the glass cylinders that served as Bender’s eyes. “Aww how cute”, said Bender, as he reached down to touch the cat. The adorable little creature purred and leaned toward the robot’s outstretched hand. Then it bit him. HARD. More startled than injured, Bender let out a loud girlish squeal and started to flail about the room. “Get offa me you stupid mammal! Get offa me!” He wailed as his arm sailed through the air, pulling the cat around with it. Things crashed to the ground as he careened around the dark room, desperate to get this thing off of him. Eventually Bender happened to crash into the checkout counter, sending bits of wood, plastic, and cash register flying amidst curses and unhappy cat noises. At this point the tabby decided this just plain wasn’t worth his trouble and let go with a hiss. Before the disoriented manbot could recover his dignity, his assailant was gone.

Meanwhile, the janitor in the adjacent building was calling the cops. Sal had been a janitor at this particular place for only a week, but he knew enough to realize that the noises he was hearing through the wall should not be coming from a closed appliance store at 5:30 in the morning.

Bender got up and brushed himself off. “Stupid jerk” he complained at the long-vanished cat. “If I caught him robbing my owner’s store in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t have bit him on the hand.” Bender was too distracted by his unjust treatment to notice the sirens that had been steadily getting closer, and so he was completely oblivious of officers URL and Smitty of the NNYPD who were walking from their hover squad car to the hole that had once been a shop window. “Freeze Baby, Oh yeah”, Ordered URL.

Bender’s arms pin wheeled in alarm. Smitty eased himself over the window pane laser at the ready. “Alright punk, turn around. We don’t want any trouble.” The grey robot turned obligingly, but instead of putting up his hands and surrendering, Bender made a break for it. He pushed Smitty out of his way and ran through the open doorway. URL was too surprised to remember the laser pistol holstered to his waist.

For the next hour and a half Smitty and URL chased Bender through the city. At first Bender had tried to simply outrun his pursuers, but that had proven impossible Who would have thought a scrawny guy like Smitty had such endurance?. A different tactic was in order. The robot ducked into a bakery that had just opened for business. After barreling past the startled shopkeeper, Bender made straight for the bathroom. Unlike humans, robots are not all different in appearance.. If he could get rid of the few items he had managed to swipe before his bout with the deranged tabby, Bender could simply walk away from this heist-gone-wrong. The cops would have no way to prove he was the robot they’d found at the scene.

Muttering to himself about the unfairness of it all, the manbot opened his chest cavity and pulled out the swag. One by one he flushed high-priced electronic gizmos down the toilet. “I don’t have any idea what this toilet thing is for, but that hole is too small to flush anything I can think of. Good thing I didn’t have time to swipe that tv.”

Finally the last of the loot was down the crapper. Done with his task, the robot swaggered haughtily out of the bakery, leaving behind a very confused baker to wonder what a bending robot would possibly be doing in a bathroom.

The ham stall was about a half mile run from Leela’s apartment. Nibbler nearly got there fast enough for the people he passed to experience a sonic boom. Leela couldn’t remember if she’d run behind her pet or been dragged, but if the bruises on her butt and legs were any sign, it probably wasn’t the prior. Knowing that her pet wouldn’t settle down until he had his treat, Leela dusted herself off and walked up to the man behind the counter. The large man gave her a grin and asked, “You mentioned ha… err… that word again didn’t you?” “Yes. You’d think I would have learned by now”, replied the cyclops with a sigh.

“Go ahead and give me a medium.” “You want cheese on that?” was the response. “huh, what? Uhh no that’s ok” said Leela, more than a little confusedThe man laughed and started to hand her a raw dripping chunk of meat. Before Leela had a chance to accept it however, Nibbler jumped up and locked his teeth around the squishy red mass. It was gone in one swallow.

A few minutes later Leela and her pet arrived at Planet Express. First assuring that the security system was off, Leela walked through the door. She took off her coat and threw it onto the couch in the lounge. She let Nibbler go. He could he trusted to take care of himself during the day.

As she was walking through the building she caught the sound of gurgling and bits of a song. “gggarrrgle-king on sunsh-garrgllle” sang a disembodied voice. “Well, Fry’s here.” Leela thought to herself. “Bender must have forced him out early this morning.” Sure enough, the chemical burn shower was occupied. The cyclops could see the outline of a body with Fry’s haircut. The hair was always a dead giveaway.

Leela walked out of the room to give the delivery boy some privacy. Silently she hoped that Fry wouldn’t try and dry his hair with the spaceship’s rockets again. The radiation was bad for him true, but Leela was thinking about the hours of engine calibration that it would cause. The cyclops shuddered.

Leela set off to look for Professor Farnsworth, who was bound to be sleeping somewhere in the building. Captain Leela liked to find out the destination of the day’s package as early as possible so she had as long as possible to come up with a flight plan. The professor always provided a flight plan of his own, but the old genius tended to try anything to cut down on gas expenditures during flight. Invariably this led to flying through quadrants of space like “the nebula of despair”, or the “zone of no return” in order to save a quarter on dark matter fuel.

Eventually Leela found the professor asleep in the smelloscope room, bent over his universal translator. The translator could understand any form of verbal communication. Unfortunately, for some reason its ancient inventor couldn’t discern, it only gave output in an incomprehensible dead language. It looked like Farnsworth had been up late working on his invention, so Leela decided not to awaken him. Professor Farnsworth was famous for having an awful temper if not allowed a full night’s sleep. It would be better to let someone else wake him up. Leela closed the smelloscope room’s door and headed back down to the meeting room.

By this point, Fry had finished his shower and started on breakfast. If there was one thing the future had that Fry was glad of, it had to be Bachelor Chow. It tasted suspiciously like dog food, but somehow Fry just couldn’t get enough of it. Hermes, the staff accountant, didn’t much like Fry eating the stuff in the building what with it attracting owls, but, as Fry thought to himself smugly “Hermes isn’t here is he?” That was a mistake. Fry had never been good at thinking, but trying to think and eat at the same time was just too much processing for his mind to handle. The cereal spoon in Fry’s left hand slipped from his grasp and fell to the table. Instinctively, the delivery boy snatched at the rogue silverware, missing the spoon but managing to knock the bowl containing his cerealesque breakfast over onto his lap.

Of course, this was the precise moment that Hermes walked through the door. “Fry mon, wot did I tell ya about eatin that stuff in here? Clean yourself off and git your butt into the meeting room. “Hermes yelled in his thick Jamaican accent.

“Sorry Hermes” said the guilty party

“I said git!”

When Fry walked into the meeting room there were only two other people present. The professor’s engineering student Amy Wong sat hunched over to Fry’s left. Amy’s parents were some of the wealthiest humans on the planet and owned an entire hemisphere of Mars. Leela was sitting to Fry’s right. The meeting room had always been Fry’s favorite part of the Planet Express building. It was on the second storey, overlooking the sleek Planet Express Rocket ship. The employees sat around a rather unremarkable green table. Imbedded in that table, however, was a hologram projector right out of Star Trek.

A giant yellow green ball was currently displayed over the table. Leela and Amy were staring intently at the image of a distant planet, completely mesmerized by the shifting yellow clouds of sulfur-dioxide. Fry sat down next to Leela and waited for Hermes to fetch the professor.

Some time later Farnsworth shuffled into the room with Hermes in tow. “Good news everyone!” the old man announced. This was immediately met with a collective groan. The professor had some unusual ideas about what could be considered ‘good’.

Farnsworth continued. “Our government has instituted a tax on doomsday devices. Now, I have several dozen instruments that could conceivably bring about the apocalypse, and I can’t afford to pay the tax. Therefore I am cutting all of your salaries.”

“Umm, professor,” Leela spoke up, “wouldn’t it make more sense to have us ship some of your extra devices off planet? That way the government can’t tax you for having them”

“Huh-wha? Oh ok if you want. Either that or cutting your pay. It doesn’t matter to me. What do you think Fry?”

Fry considered for a moment. Leela never ceased to be amazed at the delivery boy’s stupidity. “Hmm, it’s tempting,” said Fry, “but I vote we move the doom-thingies. After the last time you cut our salaries I didn’t have enough money to pay Bender my rent so he made me give him my spleen.”

“And you’ll get it back when I get my money,” interjected the robot.

“But, I thought you couldn’t live without your spl…”

Farnsworth cut off Amy’s statement before it could be completed. “Anywho, since we’ve decided not to keep the devices on Earth, you’ll have to deliver them… here.” The professor gestured to the rotating hologram before him. The sulfur planet shimmered and was replaced by an orb of striking greens and blues. Wherever the crew was headed, it was definitely habitable. “The planet’s name is Isat 6, the public storage planet. It’s way on the other side of the universe in an area of rather shallow space-time, so it will take awhile to get there. Plan on a week each way.

Amy spoke up again. “But professor, is all of this safe? Some of those machines of yours look pretty volatile.”

“Oh my, you’re right,” agreed the professor. Amy, you’d better go along and make sure nothing gets damaged.”

“I’m a bit more worried about us getting damaged,” grumbled Leela.

Sensing that the briefing was over, Hermes stood up and addressed the group. “Alright people, you heard da professor. Fry, you go find Zoidberg and tell ‘im to get his lazy ass in here. I think he’s out eating garbage behind da pizza place across da street. Amy, you help da professor load his death rays while Leela gets the ship ready.

“What are you going to be doing Hermes?,” Fry asked. He wasn’t being smart, he was genuinely curious.

“I ‘ave to requisition da professor some permits for da devices he doesn’t want to git rid of. Then I ‘ave to stamp dem, collate dem, lose dem, find dem again, notify the bureau of requisitions of my intent to send dem, and den finally send dem in several days late. Ahh the cycle of bureaucracy…”

The robot member of the PE crew finally got to work about half an hour after the staff meeting. He had had no trouble with the police since he had flushed the loot. Smitty and URL had lost track of their suspect when he ducked into the bakery. Dumping his loot had been unnecessary after all. There was really no particular reason that Bender wasn’t at work on time. It just never occurred to him to not be ‘fashionably late’.

Fry was sitting in the employee lounge watching cartoons, and from the two empty beer bottles sitting next to him, had been doing so for quite awhile. The delivery boy had found Zoidberg almost immediately after the meeting had broken up. Planet Express’s alien doctor had indeed been digging in the garbage. The man-sized lobster creature had never made any money in his profession mainly due to his complete incompetence. Once back at the PE building Fry had tried to make himself useful, but just managed to get in the way. Finally he’d given up and plopped down on the couch.

“Yo chump, where is everybody?” asked Bender.

Fry shrugged “Leela’s in the ship. She ran out of things to do to keep herself busy so now she’s watching the autopilot’s hard drive defragment. Amy and the professor are loading the ship, and Zoidberg’s around here somewhere. What have you been up to all morning?”

“Oh nothing.” Bender flopped down on the couch next to his friend. His body fit snuggly into an indentation the size and shape of his body. It was pretty obvious the robot did a great deal of sitting on that couch.

The robot didn’t have long to relax however. Leela came strolling through the door with her hands on her hips. “Are you guys going to sit here on your asses all day?”

“Yes,” Bender answered.

Leela responded by walking behind the couch, gripping it near the bottom with both hands, and heaving upward. The robot and the delivery boy went tumbling across the floor. “Come on you bums, we have a job to do!”

Fry followed Leela and Bender into the hanger. The Planet Express Ship never failed to take his breath away. It had always been a secret dream of his to be an astronaut back in the 20th century, but he had never had the grades or the stamina. Every time he saw the ship’s sleek green body it was like witnessing one of his dreams materialize in front of him. Fry only wished that his jaded coworkers could understand his feelings about the machine. To them it was just another boring tool.

Amy and Farnsworth were resting on the ship’s cargo elevator, which descended out of the vehicle’s undercarriage. Several large wooden crates occupied most of the elevator. Large hazard labels adorned the crates like ornaments. An eerie green glow emanated from a crack in one of the crates; another one emitted a low hum.

Leela: “Is everything ready Amy?”

Amy: “Yes captain, we’re all set.”

Fry smiled when he heard Amy’s voice. He had always liked the native Martian. The two of them had even started dating at one point, but the relationship quickly fizzled out when Amy had started to cramp what Fry generously considered his ‘style’.

Fry shook his head to clear it. He could daydream about past romance during the trip.

Farnsworth stood up and shuffled over to face Fry and Leela. “Now, I want you to take good care of my precious inventions. If anything is damaged it will be coming out of Zoidberg’s pay, got it?” There were no objections. “And Bender, you stay out of those crates. There isn’t anything worth stealing in there, and if you were to accidentally set something off you could destroy an entire galaxy cluster. Now you’d better get going. The HOV lane between Mars and Jupiter changes direction in an hour, so if you don’t hurry you’ll end up stuck in beltway traffic.” With that he turned around and shuffled off.

Fry wandered over to the cargo elevator and hit the button to raise it. The rest of the crew boarded the ship. Zoidberg appeared out of nowhere and gave a dejected look at the delivery boy, who was probably the closest thing the doctor had to a friend. “Why didn’t anybody tell Zoidberg that we were about to take off?” asked the crustacean. “I dunno, maybe they didn’t want you to come.” shrugged the red head. Zoidberg visibly slumped. “Aww…” he moaned. Fry couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor creature, so he pushed the elevator button again. Zoidberg climbed onto the descending platform with a warble of joy.

The captain of the Planet Express Ship went through her preflight. Normally the process only took a few seconds but a long trip such as the one they were about to embark on required combing over every subsystem in the ship. It could take days for a tow truck to reach the PE ship if she were to break down in intergalactic space. Spending several days on a drifting ship in the middle of nowhere was not an idea Leela relished, even if she happened to be stranded amongst friends.

Her check complete, Leela took one last look around to make sure nothing, and no-one, was forgotten. Nibbler had figured out that a mission was underway long ago and was currently curled up on Leela’s bunk. Fry had just boarded the ship a moment ago and had joined Amy on the bridge. Bender was in the crew cabin. That took care of people. The ship’s stores were also in order, although the supply of olives was low again. All in all, good enough. The single open crate in the cargo bay containing a certain red lobster went unnoticed. Leela returned to the bridge and sat in her chair. She gave Fry a nod. Her friend had always enjoyed doing what he called the ‘countdown’. Counting backwards from 10 seemed to be an ancient 20th century ritual of some kind, but what it was supposed to represent was a mystery to the purple haired captain.

“Ten… Nine… Eight…

Leela put the ship into gear and a low hum gradually permeated the cabin

“Seven… Six…

The hangar doors above the ship opened, exposing the bright January sky.

Five… Four…

Both engines started to pick up speed. The low humming became a dull roar. The air began to vibrate with expectant energy.

Three… Two… One…”“Blastoff!”

The delivery ship surged into the waiting void.

Part 2: Pursuit

It was still there. Fry watched the bright speck of light shift lazily against the stellar background. Amy had first spotted the white dot, or the Snark as its discoverer had termed it, as Leela was piloting their ship through the Kuiper Belt. At first everyone had assumed they were only seeing the nucleus of a particularly reflective comet. It had the same grayish color through a small telescope and was drifting in a stable orbit that would take it around the sun once every few hundred years. But then it had started to move. As the Planet Express ship left the solar system, the point of light had followed them. It had been tailing them for almost four days now, and Fry was worried.

“This isn’t right” he though to himself. “We should be doing something about this.” The delivery boy slumped his shoulders and rested his chin on his hands. He was in the laser turret, which was mounted on top of the ship’s hull and reached by a long ladder. The Planet Express ship was designed for speed and cargo capacity rather than for fighting and so it did not boast a large armament. Still, the ship was not defenseless. The turret that Fry currently occupied contained a medium range neon-cadmium laser. It could cause some serious damage up close, but had a rather awful rate of fire. The ship’s only other defensive option lay in the two class-B torpedo tubes mounted under the bridge. Unfortunately the ship only had three torpedoes.

Fry had been the first to notice that the ‘comet’ was not behaving as a mindless ball of rock would be expected to. He had mentioned it to Leela, but the captain had simply shrugged and said: “The ship’s computer probably got the orbit wrong. Don’t worry about it Fry”. Leela had always known more than Fry about practically everything, so Fry had taken her advice and forgotten about the icy dirtball entirely.

When Fry woke up on the first ‘morning’ of their trip he put on his clothes, took his shower, and joined Leela on the bridge. The captain had been awake since takeoff almost a day beforehand. Normally an interstellar vehicle would be controlled by the autopilot for most of the trip, but the PE ship’s autopilot was an infamous drunk. No one trusted it behind the controls unless it was an absolute necessity.

Fry felt sorry for Leela. Since he had nothing to do anyway he might as well be piloting the ship. “Hey Leela, why don’t you take a break? I can handle the ship for awhile. I’ve been practicing.” Leela started. Presumably she had been dozing off and had not heard Fry enter. She turned around to look at the delivery boy.

The cyclops gave Fry a skeptical look. “Are you sure? The last time I let you take the controls you piloted us right into that flock of space-chickens.”

“This from the woman that crashes into half a dozen billboard signs a week”, thought the red head. Of course, he would never have dared to say it aloud. “I’ll be good, I promise. Please Leela? You look like you need some sleep. There’s no reason for you to torture yourself in the pilot seat for the whole week. If you don’t want me to drive, at least let me get Amy in here. She can fly the ship as good as you can.”

Leela smiled. “Maybe you’re right. I am a little tired.” In fact she looked like she was about to collapse. “Thanks for trying to look out for me.” Leela stood up with a stretch and squeezed Fry’s hand. “I’ll be in my room if you need me”. Then she was gone.

Fry slid into the chair that had been occupied by his captain. Leela’s scent still clung to the air near the console. As Fry went through a quick system check he thought about his recently departed friend. “She’s so great.”, he thought to himself. “If only I could express my true feelings for her.” In fact, Fry had been successful in showing Leela how he felt toward her on several occasions. One time he had been infested by intelligent tapeworms that had overhauled his entire nervous system. Leela had fallen in love with the new him, but Fry had soon realized that she was really in love with what the worms had made of him, and he had disposed of the parasites. Another time Fry had made a deal with the robotic version of the devil to win Leela’s heart. Fry had been practicing the holophoner since soon after he had moved in with Bender. The delivery boy and beelzebot had literally exchanged hands. With the new robotic hands Fry was able to express the incredible music talent that his slow hands had kept bottled up inside of him. During the following months it had finally dawned on Leela that there was more to her friend than met the eye. Unfortunately for Fry, the robot devil had not been so happy with their trade, and had forced the delivery boy to take back his horrible hands. Fry was understandably devastated. He expected Leela’s new affection for him to immediately evaporate. To the red head’s surprise, however, it hadn’t. Leela by no means felt as deeply for Fry as Fry felt for her, but it was a start, and there was hope.

The next few hours passed quickly. Fry loved being alone on the bridge. Only alone could he truly appreciate the silent majesty of the universe that he was sailing through. The delivery boy daydreamed while monitoring the controls. There really isn’t much to piloting a spaceship. The truth is that space is BIG. It is so unbelievably, mind-numbingly big that the chances of hitting anything are too small to express with words. The main concern for the pilot is monitoring the engines and the ship’s trajectory. The ship could easily meander off course if the dark matter engines were to fail. Even worse, power could be lost. Without power there is no life-support or communications. That is the other consequence of the vastness of space. The chances of coming across a ship that has drifted off course and cannot send out a distress signal are depressingly slim. A pilot then is more a damage control officer than anything else. He must be ready to respond to a crisis aboard his own ship and fix it before it gets out of hand.

Suddenly Fry was aware of another presence in the room. Fry whirled his head around to see Amy smiling at his from over his shoulder.

“Hi Fry, watcha doin?” asked the intern. “Oh Hi Amy. I’m flying the ship. Leela looked tired so I gave her a break a few hours ago”, said Fry.

“Oh Ok.” Amy fidgeted. After a few moments of awkward silence Amy asked:

“So has the ship tried to send us a message yet?”

Fry was confused. “What ship?”, he asked.

Surprised, Amy said “You haven’t seen it? Its been following us all night.”

In a sudden leap of insight that was rare for the red head, Fry realized what she was talking about. “You mean that comet that I said looked like it was following us yesterday? Leela said not to worry about it.”

“Yeah but its not really a comet. Comets either orbit a star or move in a straight line between stars. The thing that’s behind us is following us. It must be a ship”


“Because we’ve been turning upward for the past hour, and that thing behind us has been turning with us.”

That bit of information gave Fry a scare. He had had a bad premonition about the thing when he had thought it was a comet. Now that Amy had told him it was a ship, that premonition was back more insistent than ever.

“What’s wrong Fry? You don’t look so good.” There was a hint of worry in Amy’s question.

“Ohh, umm its nothing. I just need to go check something. Will you fly the ship for awhile?”

Fry didn’t wait for an answer. He had to see their stalker for himself.

At first Fry didn’t see what he was looking for. The only rear facing window on board the Planet Express Ship was the laser turret bubble, and Fry had rushed straight there. The delivery boy had spent several minutes scanning the space behind his ship, but there was nothing there. “Maybe the ship isn’t behind us anymore”, he muttered. He swung around in his seat to look over the bow of the ship, and gasped. A huge cloud of interstellar gas and dust swept into his view. Somewhere on the other side of the cloud was a bright star, for the dust was lit throughout with reds and yellows. Filaments of atomic hydrogen spread out from the cloud in all directions like smoke in a breeze. As Fry sat mesmerized by this view he saw that the ship’s upward turn was taking it on a course through the nebula. In a matter of seconds, the outer bands of dust enveloped the ship like a terrestrial cloud would swallow an airplane. A low whisper filled the ship as trillions of charged particles slid across the smooth hull. For the next minute Fry could see nothing but a dim brownish murk outside his window.

Slowly the light began to increase and the haze grew thinner. A bright circle appeared near the bow of the ship and the delivery boy turned just in time to prevent his eyes from being blinded by a brilliant white star. Fry was too awestruck to move for a long time.. Thoughts of the sheer beauty of what he had just seen drove everything else out of his mind, and finally he began to head back down the ladder. While on the top rung however, he happened to take one last look at the nebula that had so moved him, and his spirits suddenly fell through the floor. Between himself and the nebula was a bright white dot.

The silent grey vessel had been following the Planet Express Ship all along. The reason that Fry had not seen it was very simple, no light had been reflecting off of the Snark for Fry’s eyes to see. When the nebula had been in front of the PE ship it had blocked most of the light coming from the nearby stars on the other side. If Fry had stopped to think about it he would have realized that someone on the Snark looking back at Fry would not have been able to see him either. There simply wasn’t any light. When both ships had cleared the nebula however, the light from the nearby stars was no longer blocked out, and the presence of the ship that was following Fry and his friends was revealed in a burst of reflected electromagnetic radiation. “And” thought, Fry, “If this thing is as bad as I think it is, we just lost our one good chance to get away from it when we left that nebula.”

Leela had been in her quarters since Fry had relieved her and so was oblivious to the nebula and Fry’s reactions to it. She was sitting at her desk calmly writing in her diary when the delivery boy burst into her room. More annoyed than surprised, Leela turned to face her friend and asked dryly, “Don’t you ever knock?” Fry looked confused. There was obviously something bothering him.

Leela’s irritation was replaced by worry. “What is it Fry. Is everything alright?”

“Somebody’s following us!” exclaimed Fry

“What? Who?”

Leela would have had no way of knowing about their pursuer. The PE spaceship did have radar, but it generally only sent out pulses in the forward direction as an attempt at energy saving. The only way an object that was following the ship could be spotted was visually, and, having assumed the Snark was just a ball of ice, Leela had not seen a reason to look.

“That comet I saw yesterday! Only its not a comet it’s a spaceship and its been following us since yesterday and I saw it through the window a minute ago and its so bright and close and…” Fry was left gasping for breath.

“Slow down Fry.” Leela said gently. “That comet you saw yesterday is still back there? Hmm, it must be a ship then. And you said it’s close to us?”

Fry nodded

“That is a bit strange”

“I don’t like it Leela. There’s something about that ship that just gives me the shivers. Its up to no good, I know it is.”

“Now don’t go overreacting. Maybe they’re just going to the same place we are. Still, if it’ll make you feel better I’ll call them on the vidphone, ok?”

The red head nodded again.

Fry and Leela worked their way through the ship to the bridge. Amy was still at the controls, and Bender was sitting on the couch at the bow. Putting on her most convincing air of command, Leela walked over to the video phone near the pilot’s seat. She set the transmitter for all bands, all frequencies and began to speak.

“This is the Earthican space ship Planet Express Ship to the vessel that is positioned…” She paused and looked at the radar screen, which Amy had switched to rear-sweep only a second ago. “… 180 million miles to our stern. Please identify yourself.”

The only answer was static.

Leela tried again. “This is the Earthican space ship Planet Express Ship to the vessel that is following us. Please identify yourself”

Still, there was no response.

The Planet Express Ship’s captain tried several more times to reach the ship, but the response was always the hiss of interstellar space. Whatever this thing was that had followed them from Earth, it had no intention of talking to them.

That night, dinner was tense. Fry, Leela and Bender ate their meals without saying a word. Each of them was thinking about their friend the Snark. Even Bender was relatively subdued. After 20 minutes of silence Fry had had enough. “So what are we going to do about it?” he asked. Leela sighed.

“I don’t know”, she said. “It hasn’t done anything yet, and we don’t know what it wants. Maybe it will just go away” Fry rolled his eyes and replied angrily: “But what if it doesn’t ‘just go away’? It could be waiting for a chance to catch us by surprise.”

Leela sat back and crossed her arms. “But what would you have me do about it? We’re flying through a channel of normal space between clusters of giant stars. If we change course now and try to loose it we’ll end up flying into a well of space-time. Time will slow down so much that when we finally make it home hundreds of years could have passed. None of us can afford to pay three hundred years of back-rent!”

Fry just stared blankly at Leela. He hadn’t understood a word she had just said. “So, umm, that’s bad right?”

The cyclops just ignored that. “What do you think Bender? What should we do about this?” asked the captain, gesturing in the robot’s direction.

Bender took on a haughty air: “I was wondering if you were going to ask for my opinion. Stupid humans, always ignoring the robots. I don’t see the problem. Don’t we have several hundred pounds worth of doomsday device onboard? If they start shooting at us or whatever, we can launch one of the professor’s little toys at them.” Bender pictured the resulting explosion to himself. “Hehehehehe.”

Suddenly a high pitched warble was heard throughout the ship. Several seconds later Dr. John Zoidberg came running into the room amidst a string of odd noises..

Leela jumped to her feet at the sounds, but immediately relaxed when she saw the red lobster in the doorway. “Dr Zoidberg?! What the heck are you doing here? I thought we left you, I mean, I thought you stayed back on Earth?”, asked the cyclops, adrenaline still coursing through her.

“No, Zoidberg came on this mission, no thanks to you!”, responded the space-crab. He waved a claw at Leela, Bender, and Amy. Leela noticed that Fry wasn’t singled out, but let it slide.

Fry asked: “So what’s wrong Dr. Zoidberg? Why all the screaming?”

The red alien paused for a minute to think. All of the commotion had pushed everything out of his head. “Well, it’s a long story, but since you’re all sitting here with Zoidberg standing in the only escape route, I’ll tell it anyway”

Zoidberg started in on what everyone present could tell would be an unnecessarily longwinded speech aimed at keeping it’s speaker at the center of attention for as long as possible. “After my good friend Fry let me climb on board the ship, I hid in the cargo bay. I knew that anybody saw me for the first few hours that you’d turn around and leave me behind. All was well for…”

Bender cut him off before it could continue any longer. “Shut up you stupid lobster. We don’t want to hear your damned story.”

“Awww…” The dejected red creature sighed and started to walk mournfully out the door.

“Wait Zoidberg!”, cried Amy, “Why were you screaming just now?”

Zoidberg perked up when he realized he was still the center of attention. “Well, I haven’t eaten any real food in two weeks, so I was digging in one of those food crates that are in the cargo hold and…” The monologue was cut off before it could continue further with a loud “WHAT?!” from Fry, Leela, and Bender.

Leela gave the doctor a disgusted look. “You idiot! Those aren’t food crates, those are weapons of mass destruction!” A confused “Huh?” was all she got from Zoidberg.

The cyclops rolled her eye. “We’re carrying a shipment of the professor’s doomsday devices. They’re extremely dangerous!”

“Oh… Well then that would explain this.” The lobster reached into his lab coat and brought out a large biohazard sign. He had ripped it off of one of the crates.

By this point, the robotic member of the crew was thoroughly tired of this discussion: “If you don’t tell us why you were screaming in the next sentence you speak, I am going to shove this fork up your crustacean ass.” Zoidberg squealed. There was no doubt as to the sincerity of the robot’s threat.

“Ok Ok, please don’t hurt Zoidberg!”, the alien pleaded. “I was eating out of a crate, when this thing made a horrible noise and bit me.”

Leela and Amy exchanged glances, and Amy said icily: “So you broke one of the professors doomsday devices?”

Zoidberg cringed, but nodded. Then Leela spoke up, following Amy’s train of thought. “And this device, which has the ability to vaporize a significant chunk of the universe, has been sitting, for the past few minutes, damaged in the cargo bay next to other devices that could also destroy significant chunks of the universe?” Again the lobster nodded.

The whole crew stared at each other while this information sank in. Then, as one, they all jumped up and bolted out of the room.

Amy was the only one of the group that knew enough about Farnsworth’s inventions to assess the damage. The rest of the crew had to wait nervously while the engineering intern looked over the broken piece of machinery. After a quick inspection Amy stood up and chucked. The tension in the room evaporated. “Its ok,” she said. “Zoidberg didn’t do any real harm. He broke some wires and the short circuit zapped him. Its not going to explode or anything.”

“Ok good,” said Leela. “But can you fix it?”

The intern shrugged. “I dunno, maybe. I’ll have to call the professor to make sure I have all the tools I need.”

Leela nodded and started to dress down the guilty lobster for causing such a panic. Amy headed off to the bridge to call Farnsworth. It was not long however, before the intern was back.

“So,” asked the cyclops, “what did the professor say? Can you fix it?”

Amy looked puzzled. “I don’t know. I cant get ahold of him. Every time I try and call him I keep getting this weird noise.”

Leela wasn’t particularly worried. Amy was known for being a bit absentminded at times and probably didn’t have the vidphone set right. The cyclops gestured to Amy to follow her up to the bridge. The rest of the crew, sans Zoidberg, followed the two women.

Leela watched as Amy placed the call. As far as the PE ship’s captain could tell Amy was doing everything right, but instead of the normal ring tone, a high pitched squeal blasted out of the speaker. All of the humans covered their ears, and Bender turned down his volume. Fry dashed over to the machine and turned it off. The audile assault immediately died away, leaving echoes in the crew’s ears.

Fry cried out in a pained voice: “What the hell was that?!”

The PE captain visibly slumped. She walked over to the pilot’s seat and slowly eased herself into it. The cyclops held her face in her hands for a moment. When she finally looked up at her crew there were deep lines of worry in her face. “That, my friends, is a the noise a vidphone makes when it is being jammed. I’m afraid out friend the Snark doesn’t want us making any phone calls.”

Fry thought about all that had happened in the past four days from his perch in the laser turret.. With his head resting in his hands, the delivery boy watched The Snark transit one of the stars in the binary system the ships were passing through. For a moment the white spark disappeared into the glare of the much brighter star. Leela had not been able to get a transmission through to Earth since the communications blackout had been discovered. It had been decided that the Planet Express ship would stay on course and keep the same speed so as to not alarm their pursuers. Leela no longer thought it was likely that the vessel that was following them was indifferent. She hoped that by keeping constant course and speed that the Planet Express crew could get closer to their destination without forcing the Snark’s hand.. If Leela could get the PE ship within a dozen or so parsecs of a populated star system she could make a break for it. The professor’s ship had engines that could outrun almost anything, but only over short distances.

Fry had not been satisfied with the solution. There were too many ‘iffs’ in it. Everything would work out ok IF the Planet Express ship could get close enough to an inhabited planet, and IF the Snark didn’t attack them and IF they could outrun their pursuers. The delivery boy new that there wasn’t really much of a choice. They couldn’t run and they couldn’t attack without provocation, and, he reminded himself, whatever was behind them could probably beat them in a fight anyway. Still, waiting felt too much like not doing anything.

Sitting in the bubble dome staring into space was just making Fry feel worse. There just simply wasn’t anything that he could do, and he knew it. The delivery boy got up with a sigh, banging his head on the low ceiling in the process. He slid down the ladder and headed for his bunk. Maybe some sleep would help clear his mind.

Fry awoke to the sound of klaxons. Either Bender had burned something in the microwave and set off the alarm again or they were under attack. It was the latter. The delivery boy rushed onto the bridge. The rest of the crew was already there, and they were all staring out the front window. One star, a red supergiant by the looks of it, dominated the view. It took Fry a moment to discern what everyone was looking at, but at last he spotted the swarm of tiny motes emerging from the star’s limb. A small fleet of vessels had been hiding behind the star, waiting for the PE ship to blunder into their trap. The vessel that had been stalking Fry and his friends for so long had been a threat after all. Its job had been to monitor the PE ship until it could be sure of its course. Then it had radioed ahead to its friends, who had picked a suitable star system along the flight path and lain in ambush.

There wasn’t anything that could be done. Leela throttled back the engines and waited for some sort of communication from her adversary. The Planet Express ship might be able to fend off one of these attackers, but the three dozen blips that appeared on radar represented more than could be dealt with.

The cyclops did not have long to wait. The vidphone switched on with a click. The head and shoulders of a caucasian human male appeared on the screen.

“My name is Ivan”, said the man. A jagged looking scar ran down the left side of his face. It moved as he spoke.

“You are carrying a cargo that is of great interest to me. You are surrounded and outgunned. If you power down your ship and surrender the cargo to me, then I will let you live.”

The Planet Express crewmembers looked at each other. Ivan was talking about the professor’s doomsday devices of course. Suddenly the thoughts of what could happen if such things were to fall into the wrong hands raced through their minds.

Leela made a decision and she made it fast. Any man that would surround a civilian vessel and demand it hand over its cargo on pain of death could NOT be allowed to get his hands on the professor’s stash.

“Understood Ivan, we are preparing to surrender. We will power down the ship and await further instructions.” Replied Leela as sincerely as possible.

The cyclops captain switched off the monitor before Ivan could respond. Fry started to say something, but Leela cut him off.

“Alright people, this is what is going to happen. Amy and Bender, I want you to man the torpedo tubes. Fry, you go man the turret. Keep it powered down until I give the signal. Zoidberg… “

Zoidberg began to jump up and down and clap his hands. “Hurray, I’m helping!”

“… get out of everybody’s way,” Leela continued.

“Aww…” The lobster sighed.

The bridge became a swirl of motion as everyone hurried to do their part. Zoidberg followed them mournfully out the door.

Leela got ready. Her plan was to let the attackers close in. When they had gotten near enough Leela would spring a little trap of her own. The neon-cadmium laser would be a most devastating weapon if the attackers got within a few miles of it, and Fry would be able to take several of the out before… well best not to think about that last part.

Once again Fry found himself in the laser turret, only this time there was more than a distant point of light to greet his eyes. Fry could see the enemy ships clearly now. Each ship was vaguely reminiscent of a grey stingray, with a large bulbous bridge riding at the bow. Two vertical stabilizers extruded from a long barb that served as a tail. Two barrels protruded from the leading edges of each wing. The delivery boy could just barely make out human figures aboard the vessel if he squinted hard enough.

Leela’s face appeared on the monitor by his left hand. “Fry, I’m going to power up the dark matter reactors in 30 seconds. The people on those ships will be able to see you as soon as the lights come on in the turret. Start shooting as soon as you have power.” Said the captain. Leela was trying as hard as she could to mask the tension she felt, but Fry had known his cyclops captain for long enough to recognize that, under the cool exterior, Leela was just as terrified as he was. That was comforting in a strange sort of way. It is easier to deal with a difficult situation when you know that someone else is as scared as you are.

“I understand”, Fry whispered. “Leela, if we don’t get through this, I… I just want you to know….”

“Its alright Fry, I know” Leela smiled.

The lights came on. The Planet Express ship hurtled forward and down, hoping to throw its adversaries of balance. A pulsing throb filled the turret, and Fry put his hands around the joystick. He fired.

The first ship exploded in a burst of radioactive sleet, and cheers rang through the PE ship. It did not take long for the enemy fleet to recover. The stingray vessels began to back away from their suddenly ferocious prey. If they could get far enough, Fry’s weapon would have little affect on them and they could shoot down their prey at their leisure. Leela did not intend to let that happen.

Bolts of death crisscrossed the void, coming dangerously close to hitting their mark. A grey form appeared in Leela’s view. She rolled to port, narrowly avoiding a collision. As the stingray passed underneath her ship Leela rolled 180 degrees, bringing the laser to bear. The blip of light on her radar representing the enemy ship fizzled and went out. Fry was doing well.

It was all Fry could do to keep breathing. The sky tilted crazily overhead as Leela pulled the ship through complicated evasive maneuvers. Red tracer fire and newly formed nebulae lit up the battlefield. If he had not been fighting for his life Fry would have been impressed by the beauty of it all. The green PE ship shuddered under him. It had taken a glancing hit. A black streak ran its way down one green flank. If a shot like that were to intersect with the turret bubble… Fry kept firing.

Ship after ship gave up its crew to the cold vacuum of space. The commander of the stingray fleet had not counted on the tenacity of this tiny little mote that had dared to resist him. He ordered his remaining ships to break off and withdraw at full speed. His opponent had been aggressively engaging his ships in order to keep them close. It was time to put a stop to that.

Leela couldn’t keep up the attack any longer. Her ship had sustained damage and could no longer keep up with her assailants. The engines began to sputter and then finally died with a mournful ‘whump’. The once proud spaceship was now nothing more than a projectile obeying Newton’s first law. Leela watched helplessly as her enemy passed beyond her range. They had never really had a chance, but now the proof of it was laughing in her face. Still, they had done rather well. She had seen at least nine separate fireballs light up the sky. Through the front window she could see the remains of one of her foes, its scorched carcass still venting fuel forlornly into space. Leela shook her head to clear it. There was still one thing left to do. Leela’s plan was about to enter its final stage.

Fry felt the engines cut out. The Planet Express ship began to drift through space. Leela’s face again appeared on the monitor, but did not show the signs of defeat that the delivery boy had expected. “Fry, come on down to the bridge. You’ve done everything that you can from up there.”

Fry, Leela, and Zoidberg stood on the bridge and watched the two ships approach. This time there was no escape. The dark matter reactor had detected a coolant leak and shut itself down. Without power the laser was useless and ship could go nowhere. The attackers came on slowly, and with weapons bared. They had been fooled once and were not about to let it happen again. The first ship took up station a few hundred yards in front of the bow. The second one moved toward the stern. Leela sighed. She had hoped to get rid of both opponents. One would have to do.

The cyclops activated the vidphone one more time. “Bender, can you hear me?” she asked. Bender’s face appeared on the screen. He gave his captain a thumbs up. “Ok then. Do it.” “You got it, chump” came the answer. Leela looked at her friends and gave them a wink. “You might want to put on your seatbelts.”

A port in the Planet Express Ship’s green underbelly slid open. Bender pushed the long cylindrical object out the hole and watched it sail away from him. Once he was certain it was headed in the right direction he closed the port and knocked on the hatch in front of him. The hatch slid open. Bender nodded at Amy and the two of them braced themselves as best they could.

Leela had come to the decision that the stingray ships were too maneuverable to be taken in by one of the PE ship’s outdated torpedoes, so she had held them in reserve, counting on her enemies equating a powerless ship with a defenseless one. A torpedo could not be fired without power for a simple reason. There were two doors in the torpedo tube. One door would close when a torpedo was loaded into the tube, and then the other would open a short time later. This served to keep the ship pressurized during the process. The first door could be opened manually, but to open the second one would spell certain death to anyone that required an atmosphere to live. Bender however, did not fit into that category.

While the laser battle had been going on about them, Amy and Bender had been loading the tube per Leela’s instructions. When they had finally wrestled the blunt weapon into its place Bender had crawled into the tube with it, and Amy shut the inner door. Then they had waited.

The torpedo floated through space for what seemed an eternity. Bender had aimed well. The deadly projectile would pass too far beneath the enemy ship’s bridge to be spotted visually, and no other windows adorned the hull. The other enemy ship’s view was blocked by the hull of the Planet Express Ship itself. Since the torpedo was small and powered-down it would not be picked up by any save the most powerful sensors. The Planet Express crew, however, could plainly see the weapon glide toward its hapless target.

The stingray was caught completely off guard. The torpedo’s sensors registered the collision with its target. The change in momentum was deemed enough.

The Planet Express Ship’s cabin lit up with the birth of a ferocious new star. A chain reaction tore through the enemy vessel as the shockwave from the torpedo’s fusion warhead passed through the ship’s delicate innards. Small gouts of flame escaped from the hull like living things. The bridge lost its pressure in a flash. Shards of glass, furniture, electronics, and biological remnants rushed into the waiting vacuum. The doomed ship shuddered one last time and finally succumbed to its fate. It’s existence ended in a massive fireball, which suddenly vanished into blackness, deprived of its oxygen. All of this had taken less than five seconds, and had been completely silent.

The shockwave triggered by the stingray’s explosion hit before Fry and his companions could even register their victory. The bow of the Planet Express ship was flung sideways in a manner that a blernsball would be familiar with after recently coming into contact with a bat. Leela had just enough time to worry that the torque would rip the ship apart before she lost consciousness.

It was several hours later when Leela awoke. She opened her eye but couldn’t see anything more than a grayish blob for awhile. Having been knocked around many times before, the cyclops knew the routine and waited as her vision slowly returned. A particularly close blur of grey coalesced into Fry, who was leaning over her. Something had torn a gash down his left cheek, and minor scrapes crisscrossed his forehead. The cyclops suddenly realized that he had been calling her name for quite some time.

Leela could feel her strength returning and tried to speak. “Unghhh, Fry? Where are we?” Fry looked visibly relieved. He turned his face to speak to someone out of Leela’s field of view. “Hey everybody! She’s awake!”

Leela propped herself up on one elbow and looked around her. She was in the PE ship’s laundry room. The rest of the crew was also there. Amy had a nasty looking bloody patch on the left leg of her pink sweat suit, and a dark welt in the middle of her forehead. Nibbler was curled up asleep in the corner. He looked uninjured. Bender, being made of a metal alloy, had survived basically unharmed, though you wouldn’t know it by his complaining. The lobster member of the crew was also unharmed due to his hard outer shell. The one eyed captain looked herself over. She had faired better than she felt. There were some minor scratches and a bruise or two, but she would be fine.

“Hold on”, asked Leela, what happened? Why are we in the laundry room?” Amy was the one to respond. “We all blacked out when that missile thing exploded. When I woke up, we were all in here.” Leela got up off the floor and sat down on the edge of a washing machine next to Bender. She was relieved that everyone had passed out. It would have been too embarrassing to have been the only one to loose consciousness.

“Bender woke me up as that other bad guy was docking with us,” said Fry. “We didn’t have a chance to do anything before all these guys with laser pistols came running onto the bridge. They made us carry you and Amy into the laundry room and then they locked us in here.” Bender crossed his arms and pouted. “I thought we could take ‘em,” complained the robot, “but Fry wouldn’t let me use Zoidberg as a shield” Zoidberg grumbled in the background.

Leela rolled her eye at the robot. He was always trying to use one of his crewmates as a shield for something or other. “Well, the important thing is that nobody is hurt,” remarked the cyclops. In cases like this it was a good idea to take the optimistic stance and concentrate on the future rather than the past. Pessimism has its place, but it also tends to get you killed. The PE captain forced her thoughts toward what was going to happen to them next, and that depended on their captor. “Has Ivan been in here yet?”, asked Leela..Fry was puzzled. “No, why would he be? He just wants the professor’s stuff. We aren’t important to him.” Amy broke in before Leela could explain it to him. “Spluh,” said the intern. “He’s a stereotypical science fiction bad guy. Don’t you know how this works Fry? We fight him, he takes us prisoner, and then he comes to our cell and gloats.” Fry nodded his comprehension. “Ok, and then what?”, he asked. Leela and Amy looked at each other and frowned. The cyclopes whispered: “And then he kills us.”

The Planet Express crew was therefore not surprised when Ivan paid them a visit a short time later.

The laundry room door opened with its characteristic creak. It had needed oil for months, but no one had ever gotten around to it. Mean looking pulse rifles appeared in the opening, followed by meaner looking men. Two of the soldiers walked into the room and took up position flanking the door. Ivan entered the room a moment later. The scar was a dead giveaway to his identity.

“Which one of you is the captain?”, demanded Ivan.

Leela stood up and glared at her captor. One of the soldiers fidgeted with his weapon. “My name is Leela. This is Fry, Amy, Bender, and Zoidberg. I’m the captain and I demand that you get off my ship. I sent out a distress signal before you attacked, and a fleet of DOOP ships will be here in minutes.” DOOP, or the Democratic Order Of Planets, was the largest interstellar government in existence. It also had the most powerful navy.

The scarred man just chuckled. “Don’t waste your breath captain. I’ve had your radio jammed for days. There isn’t anyone coming to your rescue.” Ivan strolled over to the room’s single table. He lowered himself into a sitting position. “I must say,” he continued, “I am very impressed. You cost me ten ships and over thirty crewmen. If I wasn’t so sure you would say no I’d ask all of you to join my organization.

“And what exactly is your organization?” The cyclops was having trouble focusing on her opponent. The scar was so damned distracting.

“Lets just say I specialize in the transportation and sale of devices that certain military institutions would find immensely interesting.”

“So you’re an arms dealer?”, asked Fry.

Ivan turned to face the new voice, and nodded affirmation. “Exactly.”

Fry pressed further. “And you want the stuff in our cargo bay so that you can sell it?”

“That’s right! People will pay a pretty penny for what that professor friend of yours has built over the years.”

The Planet Express crew let out a collective gasp.

Leela addressed her captor. “But Ivan, those inventions are too powerful to be trusted in the hands of any military. Billions of people could be killed if even one were to be used!” Leela paused for a moment. “Hey, how did you know about the professor’s doomsday machines anyway?”

Ivan shrugged. “Its not my problem how the weapons are used. I just deliver them, their future owners decide whether or not to use them. As far as how I knew about them, every arms dealer in the universe knows about them. Farnsworth mentions them every time he makes a public speech. He’s always flaunting them in front of people”

Fry chuckled. “Yep that’s the professor for you. He loves his weapons of mass destruction.”

Leela ordered Fry to shut up. “So what are you going to do with us?”, asked the cyclops. “You cant keep us locked up in our own laundry room forever.”

“You are exactly right Leela,” replied Ivan. “Originally I was just going to let you go. I must say you have earned my respect after the impressive bit of captaining you pulled earlier. It would sorrow me to put such a worthy opponent to death. Unfortunately for you however, my men are demanding they get their revenge for the ships you destroyed. I think I have come up with a rather clever compromise. My ship’s crew will finish unloading your cargo bay and then set the timers on the two warheads you still have onboard this ship. If you are as clever a captain as I suspect, you will escape from this room and disarm the torpedoes. If not”, the man shrugged, “the nuclear warheads will vaporize your bodies into clouds of gas.” Ivan stood up and left his captives to digest his last statement.

Leela looked around her for something to use. Ivan had only been gone for a minute and she was already looking for a way to escape. She felt certain that her crew would find a way out of their makeshift cell before the bombs went off, but Leela had no intention of waiting long enough for the warheads to be set. That arrogant bastard Ivan had invaded her ship, injured her crew, and was making off with her cargo. That was unacceptable. Leela would not be satisfied unless she had the satisfaction of kicking her strutting captor in the genitals before he left.

But how were they supposed to get out of the room? The door was locked from the outside, and was much too strong to break down. Leela’s eye scanned the room. “Lets see”, she thought to herself, “table, stool, laundry basket, dirty clothing, mechanical washing unit, detergent, dryer, more dirty clothing…” The one-eyed captain grinned. “That’s it!”

“It is not!”, Bender added helpfully.

Leela ignored him. “When Ivan walked into the room the door slid open automatically right?”

Amy shrugged. “spluh. So what?”

“For the door to open automatically the ship must have normal power again. The lights work on emergency power, but the doors have to be opened manually.”

“So?”, asked Fry, too slow to catch on.

Leela smiled deviously. “You’ll see. Bender, I want you to move that dryer out from the wall.”

Bender shrugged. “Ok you’re the boss.” What was really meant by the expression was “I’m bored with this conversation and I’m only doing this because I’m too lazy to argue with you worthless sacks of meat.”

The robot sauntered over to the machine and gave it a tug. Wires ripped from the walls. Several sparks escaped from the back of the dryer.

“Ok,” said Leela, “now pull on that red wire. Careful, its live.”

Bender didn’t have to be told. He knew a live electrical wire when he saw it. The robot pulled on the wire with both hands. It came away from the wall in foot-long sections. A dark gash was left in the drywall where the wire had once been.

Leela gestured Bender to stop after a good ten feet of wire was sitting on the floor. “Alright good that’ll do it. Everybody except Bender back away to the other side of the room. Bender, I want you to jam that wire into the door control mechanism when I give you the signal ok?”

“Sure, whatever you say big boots”

Leela gave the signal as soon as everyone was a safe distance away. Bender jammed the live wire into the control panel, generating a current of a few thousand amps. Sparks flew from the control panel in all direction, and the lights flickered for a moment. The door opened with a whoosh and Leela seized her moment. There were two guards standing in the hall outside the room. The first guard was never even aware that anything had happened. The second guard had just enough time to see a blur of motion reduce his companion to a heap before he was rendered unconscious by a karate chop to the side of the head.

Fry caught Leela’s arm before she could continue down the hall in her destructive frenzy. “Wait Leela, don’t do this. You’ll just get yourself hurt. Its not worth it.”

Leela visibly slumped. “I know Fry. It’s just, I cant let Ivan get away. Not after he hurt you and the others.”

“But getting yourself hurt isn’t going to fix that. Why don’t we sneak onto Ivan’s ship? That way when he gets to his home planet or whatever we can call the DOOP and tell them where he is. We might not be strong enough to beat up all of these guys, but the DOOP can.”

The cyclops captain gave her friend a long look. “You know what Fry? You’re right. Amy and Zoidberg gasped. “Alright everybody,” continued Leela, “new plan. Amy and Zoidberg, I want you two to wait here until Ivan leaves, then head down to the torpedo bay and stop the timers. You should have plenty of time since you wont have to break out of here first. Go straight home as soon as all of the ships are gone and tell the professor what happened. Oh, and Amy? Take care of Nibbler for me. As for Bender, Fry, and me, we’re going to try and sneak aboard Ivan’s ship.

Time was of the essence, so the friends said quick goodbyes to each other and went their separate ways. Amy and Zoidberg went back into the laundry room to wait. Bender and Fry followed their captain down the hall toward the cargo bay.

The trio met no more guards until they had come to the bay itself. Two lightly armed men were carrying a crate through the hatch. What looked like a sort of elastic tube was connecting the two ships. Fry, Leela, and Bender ducked back around the corner and peered into the room.

Leela: “It’s no good. We’ll be spotted as soon as we enter that tube.”

Bender: “Wait, didn’t that idiot lobster open a crate awhile back?”

Fry: “Hey yeah! Maybe we could climb in there and hide.”

Leela: “Hmm… That might work. We’ll let those soldiers carry us through the tube, and we can hide out in the crate until the coast is clear.”

The two men that had been carrying the box reappeared before the three friends had a chance to look for the crate. Thirty seconds later the men disappeared into the tube with another crate.

Fry, Leela and Bender rushed into the room to look for the crate. They only had a few seconds before the two soldiers came back for the next crate. Bender was the first to come across what they were looking for. He gestured to his crewmates and jumped into the box. Amy had emptied this particular crate after Zoidberg had broken its contents. The device was currently sitting in the storage closet in several pieces. Fry and Leela managed to squeeze themselves into the crate, but it was by no means a comfortable fit. Bender used his extending arms to reach out of the crate and grab the lid. He carefully moved it into place.

For several minutes the two humans and the robot were aware of nothing save heavy breathing and two loud heartbeats. Then there was the sensation of motion. Leela realized with sudden terror that the soldiers were using the PE ship’s magnetic winch to raise the heavy crate. If Fry and Leela had been its only contents this would not have been a problem, but Bender’s presence made it a catastrophe. Magnets invariably screwed up Bender’s inhibition unit. In the past Bender had started to sing bad folk music when his inhibition chip malfunctioned. Singing would give away their position. Something had to be done, and fast.

Leela grabbed the robot and shoved his face into Fry’s stomach. Fry was just about to blow the trio’s cover with an angry remark when a poorly done rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Mercy Seat” made it to his ears. Just enough noise was escaping into the crate’s interior for Fry to hear, and to understand why Leela had done what she did.

The men loading the crate remained oblivious to the singing robot and his companions. One of the soldiers operated the winch while the other pushed a hover dolly into the bay.

“What do you think’s inside it?” Asked hover dolly guard.

“Boss says its some kinda big bomb” replied his companion.

“Well whatever it is, its sure heavy.”

The crate was slowly lowered onto the dolly. The soldier operating the winch turned off the electromagnet and joined his friend by the crate. Both men got behind the dolly and began to push. The dolly passed through the cargo bay of the Planet Express ship, into the tunnel, and finally into the belly of the other vessel. Fry, Leela, and Bender were now stowaways on the ship of a dangerous criminal, cut off from everyone they had ever known.

Part 3: Talora

Bender was not a happy robot. He had been stuck in this stupid container, barely large enough for his ego let alone his body and those of two humans, for hours. The small space didn’t bother him so much; his apartment was only a few cubic meters in volume after all. Then again, he didn’t have to share those few cubic meters with two whiny mammals. Every ten minutes it was “I’m hungry” or “There’s no air in here”, or “Bender get off my larynx, you’re strangling me to death.”

Things had been relatively quiet after he and his human friends had stolen aboard this ship. The two crewmen who had unwittingly assisted the three stowaways had simply put down their crate and moved on to the next one none the wiser. The tube linking the two ships had been withdrawn when all of the crates had been transferred over to their new owners’ vessel. Fry, Leela, and Bender had watched a portal in the ships hull through a crack in their crate as the Planet Express ship shrank away into the distance. They could only hope that Amy and Zoidberg would be able to defuse the warheads.

There had been one minor flaw in Leela’s plan. Now that they were on the enemy ship, there was nowhere to hide. There was always at least one crewman stationed in the ship’s cargo hold, and leaving the crate without getting caught would be impossible. The three stowaways would just have to wait in their box and hope that a bored crewman would not become curious as to what was inside.

Unfortunately for the robot and his two companions, they had a long flight ahead of them. At least Bender had had the foresight to bring along some extra beer. Robots, unlike humans, require alcohol to survive. The chemical energy powers their systems and keeps them rational. Ironically, a robot that has not had enough to drink behaves in much the same way as a human that has had far too much. As Bender sat with his back to one wall of his temporary prison he grabbed another spare beer from his chest cabinet. It occurred to him that this represented yet another reason why robots are superior to humans.

:”Stupid meat-sacks. How do they expect to survive without any way to store stuff for later? They’d just better not think they’re getting their greasy hands on my precious booze stash.”

Their crate dropped two feet with a jarring thud. The ships engines ceased their roar, and the sound of airbrakes could be heard through the hull. Leela tried to extricate herself from Bender’s legs and pressed her face up against the one crack in their prison’s wall. She could see blue sky through the ship’s porthole. Fry, Leela, and Bender were once again on the surface of a planet. But which one?

The three stowaways presently found themselves being loaded onto another hover dolly. Fry and Leela had plenty of warning this time to make sure Bender remained unheard. One by one the crates were hauled out of the bay, down a ramp, and into glaring sunshine. Leela had been worried that the surface of whatever planet they were being transported to would be inhospitable. It would have been painfully ironic to come all this way only to die from atmospheric poisoning. The cyclops took a tentative breath. “Hmm,” she thought, “I’m not dead. That’s a good sign I guess. The wristo-majig I wear on my arm reads 73% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 6% trace gases. Looks habitable to me.” Actually, it was downright pleasant. The temperature was about 25 degrees Celsius, there was a light breeze, and the distinct smell of the ocean was in the air. It was almost like they’d flown all the way across the universe only to find that they’d landed in San Diego.

Leela watched their progress as best she could through the little crack. She was hoping to spot something she could use as a landmark in case they needed to get back to the landing site in a hurry. No such luck, the view was just too limited. The close up image of the crate wall was combining with the distant surroundings to confuse her eye. Leela cursed her lack of depth perception for what must have been the millionth time.

If Leela had had a convenient window to look through she would have seen a sprawling metropolis. Skyscrapers towered on either side of a busy two lane road. Ground traffic whizzed by at breakneck speed, while flying vehicles arced over the rooftops. Pedestrian transport tubes twisted in and out of the cityscape like demented snakes. It was actually much the same scene as you might expect in a Terran city of the time period. This planet was definitely not Earth, however. In fact, it technically wasn’t even really a planet. Hanging over the city like an offer of imminent doom was the silhouette of a monstrous brownish-red gas giant. The three stowaways were on a moon.

The crates were loaded into a hover-truck and driven through about a quarter mile of city. Finally they were unloaded and hauled into a giant warehouse by burly, rough looking men that the three stowaways had not seen before, and then left alone.

It was dark in the warehouse, as there were no windows and the door was shut. Nothing had moved or made a sound for hours. Now was the time to act. Bender pushed upward with all of his might. The crate’s lid flew twenty feet in the air and landed ten feet away with a clang. The three stowaways were out and running before any would-be assailant could have a chance to react.

Fry paused behind the cover of a pile of boxes. The sounds from their escape faded into echoes. The building was utterly quiet; no one had detected them. With alarm, the delivery boy discovered that his legs were shaking like twigs in an earthquake. It was no wonder either, as the poor man had lost circulation in them hours before. There was a whisper in the darkness “Psst. Fry. Where are you?”

Fry tried to respond as quietly as possible, but it still seemed painfully loud in the silent building. “Over here Leela.” the delivery boy waved. Leela caught the movement and vectored in on him.

“did you see anybody?”, asked a Leela shaped silhouette

“Nope. You?”


“Relax chumps, there’s nobody home.” Fry and Leela jumped halfway out of their clothes. Bender had suddenly congealed out of the darkness to Fry’s right.

Leela motioned for the robot to quiet down. “Shut up you idiot, she whispered through clenched teeth, “How do you know?”

Bender rolled his eyes and then pointed at them. “Umm hello? Infrared eyes?”

“Ohh… right…” Leela blinked. “Ok then Mr. I’m-So-Superior-To-Everyone, use those eyes of yours to find a door. We shouldn’t stay here any longer than we have to.”

“Alright fine, but if we come across any cats in this spooky place, its every man for himself.” That got an odd look from Fry and Leela, but they both decided it would be better not to inquire.

Bender sauntered off into the inky blackness. Fry and Leela followed close behind.. The robot had no trouble seeing in the dark, but the two humans had to whisper to each other now and then to keep track of each other. Fry lost Bender entirely on two occasions, but the manbot always came back to collect him. It was fairly obvious that Bender didn’t want to be alone in this place in the dark, a fact that clashed with everything Fry knew about his roommate. The delivery boy again wondered what a cat could have possibly done to have this affect on the robot.

Bender eventually found the door. The crew was relieved to find that the locking mechanism, a simple deadbolt, was on their side of the door and would not need to be forced. The last thing they wanted was to leave evidence of someone trying to escape the warehouse. Leela was pretty sure Ivan would fill in the blanks and be on the stowaways’ tails immediately.

Bender ducked his head out the door. A quick scan of the surroundings yielded a quiet street corner. Even though it was ostensibly the middle of the night, light reflected from the monstrous planet hanging in the night sky yielded enough to see by. It probably never got darker on this side of the planet than it did on Earth at dusk. The robot signaled all clear to his fellows. Fry, Leela, and Bender dashed out of the warehouse and took off down the street. They wanted to be as far from the scene as possible just in case they had been spotted.

Leela came to a halt after about a quarter mile and waited for her fellows to catch up. There had been no shouts; no signs of pursuit whatsoever.

Fry came to a stop next to his captain and leaned on a handy light pole. “We… made… it!”

“Yeah! That’ll show that jerk Ivan,” agreed Bender. He and Fry gave each other a high-five, but Leela still looked worried. The cyclops gestured to her companions to keep walking. “Now hold on you two,” she warned, “this isn’t over yet. We’re still stuck on some alien dirtball in the middle of who-knows-where with no way to get home. Also, a crazed lunatic has hold of almost every explosive thing the professor ever made.”

Reality suddenly crashed down on the robot and the delivery boy. Fry was the first to speak. “Oh yeah.... Hey I have an idea, why don’t we go back to the warehouse and smash all of stuff in the crates? Then Ivan can’t sell them to anybody”

Leela sighed and shook her head. “I already thought of that. Amy’s the only one that knows how Farnsworth’s things work. If we go in there and bash them up they might explode. I guess I probably should have taken that into account before I sent Amy home…”

“But the professor knows! Why don’t we just find a phone somewhere and call him?”

“And blow our cover when Ivan’s picks up the transmission? Don’t be stupid Fry.”

Fry was confused. “Why would Ivan be listening? It’s not like he knows we’re here.”

“We’re not the only threat to him Fry. We probably rank somewhere in the ‘minor nuisance that can be squashed under a boot heel whenever the hell I feel like it’ range. Ivan will be listening in on every phone call that he can pick up, just in case someone else is plotting something against him. If my hunch that this planet is Ivan’s home base is true, then I’m sure that every satellite flying overhead has been bugged.”

“So you’re saying that Ivan’s got some guy sitting around listening to a million phone calls all at the same time? Yeah, Riiiight…” The delivery boy rolled his eyes.

“Don’t be stupider than usual, Fry. Its easy to build a computer program that listens in to a bunch of conversations at once and picks out key words and phone numbers. The FBI could even do it back in the stupid ages, uhh, I mean back in the 20th century. Trust me, if I call the professor, Ivan will know about it.”

“Then call Hermes, or Amy, or your parents. Its not like Ivan would know their phone numbers or their names.”

“Yeah, and a phone call to Earth from the planet Ivan is currently on, plus someone saying ‘Hi Leela’, is gonna start a little red light blinking on somebody’s desk. We might not be that big a threat, but Ivan’s still going to be watching out for us.”

“Oh…” The delivery boy scratched his head. “uhh then should we tell the cops?”

That got a forceful shake of the head from Leela. “No. no cops. For all we know, this whole planet could belong to Ivan. The police might work for him”

“Well why don’t we just steal them?” Of course that would be Bender’s input.

“Hey, yeah!”, exclaimed Fry. “But, how? The boxes are too heavy to carry, and we’d need some sort of giant pickup truck to hold them all.”

“Sheesh, what part of ‘Bender is a robot’ are you not getting? I’ve got superhuman strength.“ Bender walked over to the curb and picked up a parked hovercar, managing to get it over his head.

Leela thought about the idea for a moment while Bender twirled the car in circles over his head, and couldn’t come up with any particular flaw in the plan. “Hmm, you know, that could actually work. All we have to do is find a hovertruck that will carry everything.” The cyclops paused as something dawned on her. “But wait a minute, how are we going to get the doomsday devices off this planet? We don’t have a ship.”

Fry shrugged. “So? The whole point was to get the professor’s stuff away from Earth so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on it, right? Maybe we can find a place on this planet to hide it.”

“All we need to do,” added Bender, “is find someplace dirty and uninhabitable where no one would ever want to go, you know, like New Jersey. There’s probably a place like that on this planet somewhere.”

“There must be,” reasoned the cyclops. “Where else would the people that live here dump their trash? Anyway, the important thing is that we have a plan.”

“But what do we do now? Walking the streets isn’t helping much” Fry neglected to add that he was about five minutes from collapse. His body was worn out from hunger, fear, and long periods of forced inactivity, and was currently engaged in an all out rebellion against him.

Luckily, Fry was not the only one to feel this way. Leela gave a loud yawn and said: “Its too late to worry about doing anything tonight. Lets get some food and some rest; We’ll worry about this in the morning.”

There was no complaint.

Fry woke up the next morning to the discovery that he couldn’t move. The three friends had rented a motel room for the night. Unfortunately the only one they could find had two beds; a number, Bender had explained to Fry, that is one less than the number of people that needed to sleep in the room. The delivery boy had been forced to share a bed with Bender, but had been knocked onto the floor within half an hour. The hard concrete surface combined with the aftereffects of a day in a tiny little box were enough to send his muscles into all out revolt. They screamed their hatred at him as he slowly tried to sit up. This feat accomplished, he proceeded to attempt standing, but immediately fell back onto his ass with a wince of pain. “Better to wait a minute”, he thought.

Leela emerged from the motel room’s tiny bathroom a moment later. “Sleep well?”, she asked. “Umm, yeah I guess so”, Fry lied bravely. He didn’t want to seem like a wuss in front of his captain. Leela walked to his side and looked down at him. “Uh-huh. Sure you did. That’s why your back looks like a pretzel.” She bent down and placed one hand on each of his shoulders. “What are…” the delivery boy began, but his words were cut off. Something happened involving Leela’s hands, Fry’s spine, and a loud resounding ‘Crack’. “Better?” asked the cyclops. Fry once again experimented with standing, leaning on Leela for support. He was amazed to find that all of the pain was gone. “Wow, thanks Leela. That’s much better.”

“No problem”, his friend laughed.

Bender sauntered into the room just in time to miss everything that had just transpired, but early enough to still see Fry’s arm around Leela’s waist. “Hello, what’s this?” he asked.

Leela pushed Fry’s arm away as fast as possible. “Umm nothing,” she insisted, “Nothing at all.”

“Suuure. But then again, its doesn’t concern me, Bender.” The robot didn’t buy it. He had watched from the beginning as the relationship between Leela and Fry blossomed, and knew there was much more there than either human admitted to him. Besides, it was much more fun to assume scandal.

Fry tried to change the subject. “So, uhh, what have you been up to Bender?”

The tactic worked. With the center of attention now placed on himself, the robot completely forgot about the embarrassing moment he had just witnessed.

“Well, I figured we’d need some money, so I went out and got us all jobs”

“WHAT?!”, Fry and Leela exclaimed in unison.

“Heh-heh, just kidding. I did get us some money though.”

The robot reached into his chest cabinet and pulled out a wad of cash. Neither human wanted to question where Bender had gotten that much dough that fast. It would be safer to just take it and not think twice.

“Oh,” continued the robot, “and I found a nice rental place where we can get a hovertruck.”

Leela couldn’t believe how helpful the robot was being. The idea that he had gone out to look for a rental place all of his own accord just didn’t sit right with the woman. “And then to offer us money…”, Leela pondered. “That’s got to be a first. Usually he’s stealing it from us. He must be trying to get on my good side, just in case I’m still pissed enough to carry out some of those threats I made back when he tried to steal Fry’s wallet while we were in the crate.” Whatever the reason, she was grateful for the help.

“Alright then.” The PE captain stood up. She had made a plan, and now it was time to carry it out. “Good job Bender. We can use some of the money you, uhh, ‘procured’ to rent a truck.”

“Oh, you want to PAY for the truck?” The robot was genuinely surprised. It had never occurred to him that anyone would suggest that. What could possibly be the reason? He shrugged. “Uhh, I guess that works too.”

“Yes we’re going to pay for it! I refuse to be part of any stealing“ Leela’s eye couldn’t help but dart to the wad of cash that still resided in Bender’s hand, “… that I can’t pretend didn’t happen”

Bender blew a raspberry. “Sheesh, calm down chump. Its not like we’d really be stealing it anyway. We’d leave it on the side of the road when we were done with it. There’s a chance the owners would find it someday.”

“Hey wait a minute.” Fry had been listening intently to the exchange of words between his captain and his roommate, and thought he saw a flaw in what Leela and Bender were planning. Usually when this happened it turned out that he was simply too dumb to understand some nuance, and Leela always let him know in a condescending voice. Thus, it had taken this long for him to build up the courage to speak up. “Are we talking about doing this now? Wont there be people around to stop us? I don’t think Ivan is just going to let us barge in and walk away with all of those crates while he just stands there.” The delivery boy was relieved when Leela didn’t roll her eye.

“Of course not.” The cyclops’ eye narrowed in advance of the coming scheme. “That’s why we’re going to break in tonight.”

The rest of the day was spent in preparation. Fry was worried about the possibility that the weapons would be gone by the time that he and his friends were ready to retrieve them. Leela couldn’t prove to herself that the delivery boy didn’t have a point, so she sent him off to watch over the warehouse. If any trouble were to arise, he could contact Leela and Bender with the small wrist communicator they had bought for him in one of the many shops lining the city streets. Leela could then pick up any transmissions that the delivery boy sent on her own wrist com while she and Bender were elsewhere.

Leela and Bender had no trouble procuring a hover-truck. The man behind the service counter was a little leery of renting to someone with one eye, and at one point Bender almost had to step in and volunteer to be classified as the driver. Before he had a chance, however, the man made a comment about cyclops drivers being worse than female drivers. Leela made a disgusted sound and slapped the man’s glasses off of his face. The man bent over to pick up his shattered lenses. “Well, I guess that proves you have depth perception. You can drive.” Several minutes later, Leela and her robotic companion were out the door. “You meant to knock that guy’s head off didn’t you?” asked Bender. Leela nodded.

There really wasn’t much else to be done until nightfall. Leela guessed that left another eight hours until dark, based on how fast the planet’s sun was moving across the sky. Whatever planet they were on had much the same rotational period as Earth.

The cyclops and the robot spent the remainder of the day wandering though the city. Leela now sported a pair of sunglasses and a blernsball cap. Purple-haired cyclopes are not exactly a very common sight; Disguise was a must.

It was really very relaxing for the PE captain to finally get a chance to not be in charge. Events would work themselves out when the time was right, but for now Leela could pretend that she was simply on vacation on another world. She planned to waste some time, view a couple of tourist attractions, and not think about anything else for awhile. The only thing she hoped to accomplish before nightfall was finding out the name of the planet they were on. That way when she eventually contacted their friends back on Earth, she tell them where to find the three lost members of their crew. Suddenly thoughts of her coworkers flooded through the cyclops’ mind. Leela had not had much of a chance to think about anyone but herself, Fry, and Bender since being marooned on this stupid dirt ball. “For all I know, Amy and Nibbler are dead.” She though miserably to herself. A solitary tear trickled down her left cheek. But no, now was not the time. There was absolutely nothing that she could do for Amy or her pet -oh and Zoidberg either- right now. “My responsibility is to the two friends are right here with me”, she said to herself. Not for the first time it occurred to her how lucky she was to have such friends. Leela knew that Bender had come along mainly because Fry had, but Fry had come simply because Leela had asked him too. No, that wasn’t quite it, the PE captain realized. Fry would have come even if Leela had forbidden it. “He’s always watching out for me, and I’m so cold to him.” Some massive, unnamable emotion moved deep inside the woman. For the briefest of moments the barriers that Leela had put up over the years to keep her emotions at bay came crashing down, exposing her true feelings to her conscious mind. The stunned woman had only a moment to interpret this new part of herself before it was yanked away from her again, but that moment had been enough. Leela suddenly discovered that she was crying

Meanwhile, near a certain downtown warehouse, a certain Phillip J. Fry awoke with a start. He had been watching the building for hours now with nothing to report. There had been some activity, but not much. Wiping the sleep from his eyes Fry peered out of his hiding spot in a dumpster across the street. The warehouse door stood open. The entire building had been emptied while Fry was dozing off. Crying out in alarm, Fry reached for the communicator and jammed in Leela’s number. The captain’s face appeared on screen after just two rings.

“Leela! The warehouse, its empty!”

It took a moment for Leela to comprehend what her friend was saying. Her mind had been far off in a distant place and was having trouble switching tracks. “What, what do you… oh ok…. Wait, WHAT?!” Reality crashed home.

“I know, I know. I’m really sorry Leela. I fell asleep, and when I woke up everything was gone.”

Leela practically exploded. “You fell asleep?! You idiot! How could you let that happen?! You had one job! One! Cant I trust you to do anything?!”

Fry felt like he had been slapped. He’d never seen Leela act this way after he screwed up, and he screwed up often

“Wait, hold on, that’s not fair.” The delivery boy tried in vain to defend himself. “I was the one that suggested we watch the warehouse anyway. If I hadn’t said anything, we wouldn’t even know the crates were gone until we tried to steal them tonight.”

Bender’s disembodied voice came over the communicator. “Yeah, come on Leela. Fry screws up all the time. What are you so upset about?”

Leela’s face took on a haggard look. She knew she couldn’t explain it to them.

The cyclops let out a sigh. It almost seemed to Fry that she was shrinking in on herself. After a few moments of quiet, Leela spoke up again. “I- I’m sorry Fry. I didn’t mean that. Its just, I’m just under so much stress, and nothing has been working out right, and you’re all counting on me to fix this and…”, she sighed, “I guess the important thing is that we’re all still ok. How long were you asleep Fry?”

“I dunno, maybe an hour.”

“Alright, then we might still have a chance. Fry? Hail a cab and meet us at the spaceport. That we saw this morning. It’s the only place anywhere near here that you could park a spaceship, so that’s where Ivan will be. That is, if he hasn’t left already.”

The spaceport was a sprawling mass of low lying buildings and concrete runways. The only thing that kept Fry from thinking he had returned to the 20th century and ended up at LaGuardia International Airport was, of course, the lack of jumbo jet aircraft. Instead, house sized vehicles of every shape and description flew overhead. Fry could see the Earthican flag emblazoned on the wings of some of the larger ships.

It took the three friends no time at all to find Ivan’s ship. The distinctive stingray shape stood out starkly against the other ships, which were mainly of the traditional Roy-Rogers design.

“Well, Its still here.” Fry had a profound ability to state the obvious.

“Yeah,” remarked Bender, “but so what? The crates aren’t”

And they weren’t. From their position on the tarmac, Fry, Leela, and Bender could see into the ship’s hold. It was completely empty. Fry walked a dozen paces over to a tall spaceport employee, Neptunian by the looks of it, who was busy sorting luggage.

“Umm, excuse me”, said the redhead. The alien grunted and continued his sorting. Fry continued anyway: “Do you know, is that ship over there supposed to take off today?” Sensing that this stranger was not going to go away, the Neptunian looked up at the delivery boy and asked “What ship?” Fry pointed. The purple alien’s demeanor changed immediately. He stood up straight, and crossed his arms; all four of them.

“That’s Ivan’s ship. What business do you have with it?” Leela jumped into the conversation before Fry could give anything away. “We’re, uhh, acquaintances of Ivan’s. His ship was carrying some cargo that we’re interested in, but we noticed that its gone. Do you know what happened to it?” The cyclops hoped she sounded less suspicious than she felt. The Neptunian’s eyes narrowed. “Are you friends of Ivan’s?” Leela had to think that one over. Something told her that to give the wrong answer would be very, very bad. She looked long and hard at the alien standing not five feet away, hoping for a clue. Nothing. “Oh well,” she thought, “if I say the wrong thing I can always beat him up later.”

The PE captain decided to tell the truth. It was easier than making up some complicated lie. “No, we aren’t his friends. He stole out cargo, wrecked ours ship, and tried to kill us, and we plan on making him pay for it.” Fry and Bender looked at their captain. They hadn’t expected such a direct response..

The Neptunian looked at Leela for a long time. His gaze bored into the cyclops like he could see directly into her soul. It creeped the hell out of her. Leela was just getting to the point where she was too uncomfortable to care whether the Neptunian could help her or not, and was mulling over various ways to beat the tar out of him, when the alien smiled. “Alright, good enough.” He said. “There’s something about you that says I can trust you. The Neptunian looked around him quickly. “Ok, I cant talk for long without raising suspicion but I’ll do my best. The truth is, you picked the right person to talk to. My name is Izar. I’m part of the resistance group here on Talora”

“Talora?” Leela thought for a moment to herself. The name seemed familiar.

“That’s about a three day flight from Earth isn’t it?” she asked Izar.

The alien nodded.

“Wait a minute,” demanded Bender. “You said you’re in a resistance group? You’re fighting some sort of war?” “That’s right. Ivan has started a campaign of blackmail and murder against our government. Most of the ranking politicians are on his payroll now. The police, secret service, and the military are all under his direct command. It’s only a matter of time before he controls the entire planet.”

Fry nudged his captain. “Good call on not telling the cops about the professor’s stuff Leela.”

Izar raised an eyebrow. “What stuff?”

The existence of the doomsday weapons could not be admitted at all costs. Leela would have to give away just enough that Izar didn’t suspect that she was hiding something dangerous if she wanted Izar to trust her. “Fry means the cargo that Ivan’s ship was carrying,” explained the PE captain. “He stole it from us, and well… lets just say that having it fall into the wrong hands would be a very bad thing for everybody. We have to get it back, but its not at the warehouse where we lat saw it, and it isn’t here. Do you have any idea what could have happened to it?”

The alien looked pensive. “I might. When Ivan lands here he usually empties his ship into a warehouse as fast as he can. The imports inspector is under Ivan’s sway, but Ivan doesn’t have quite enough power yet that the inspector can just neglect to search his ship at all. Ivan usually gets two or three hours to clear his ship, but that’s it. Once the stuff is in the warehouse, Ivan usually brings in a fleet of small aircraft to haul it to his compound. I’d guess that’s where your cargo is.”

“Compound?” Fry asked nervously. He suddenly did not like the direction that this particular conversation was turning.

“Its about three hundred miles due East of here. If you want to get your things back, that’s where I’d go.”

Leela cut right to the chase. “Ok, so how do we get in?”

Izar laughed and shook his head. “You don’t. Ivan owns everything within 200 miles of his fortress, and he shoots down anything he doesn’t recognize once it enters his land. You could probably make it to within fifty miles before you were detected if you went by ground car, but then you’d have to walk the rest of the way, through barren desert…”

Suddenly Leela was aware of two men in dark jackets and sunglasses standing some distance off. They were currently attempting to look as inconspicuous as possible, and failing miserably. The Neptunian began to fidget.

“We’d better leave before we cause you trouble,” said Leela. Her tone became a little more urgent. “One last question. Would your resistance help us? If we don’t get this cargo back, well, like I said, it could be really bad for everybody.”

Izar’s answer was firm. “I’m sorry, but no. There aren’t enough of us yet to take any risks. We can’t afford to be discovered until we can be sure that we have a chance of challenging Ivan successfully. You have about two weeks before Ivan leaves Talora again, so if you do plan to do something, you’ll have to do it by then.”

Leela acknowledged the alien with a smile and a nod. The cyclops found herself admiring this unexpected ally. She was confident that he would one day prove a valuable asset to his people. “I understand. Thank you for helping us.”

“Think nothing of it. I hope to see you all again under better circumstances.” Izar gave the PE captain a small salute, disguised as a scratch of the forehead so as to not interest the two men in suits.

The four conspirators did not want to draw any more attention, so Fry Leela, and Bender walked away without another word. Fry wanted to shake this brave alien’s hand, but to do so might alert someone that there was more than an idle conversation taking place here.

Izar went back to his sorting, trying as hard as he could to be as nonchalant as possible. The Neptunian finished his chore and headed to a nearby ship to fetch another load. He disappeared into the cargo hold. The two men in black jackets and sunglasses walked slowly over to the ship that the purple alien had just disappeared into. Without a word they walked up the ramp and into the vessel’s cargo bay. There was a flash. The two men walked out again.

Men in suits had tailed Fry, Bender, and their captain from the spaceport. It had only been by using the city’s pedestrian tube system that they had thrown the men off of their trail. Over and over they jumped into the tubes at random. It was actually the most fun Fry had had in weeks. He loved the sensation as suction hurtled him through the clear plastic tubes, sending him twisting and diving over the urban landscape at breakneck speed.

When Leela was finally satisfied that there was no longer anyone following them, she gestured for her friends to follow her into a restaurant.

It was early evening by this point, and the place was almost empty. A green scaly creature was sitting at the bar staring dejectedly into a cold mug, and two signoids were standing by a pool table arguing over something, but the building was otherwise deserted. Fry assumed there were employees somewhere in the back room.

The three main Planet Express crewmembers slid into a booth near the back of the room. A small humanoid robot immediately appeared to take their order, and was gone.

“So, “ Fry asked, “what are we going to do now?”

“I vote we go kick that Ivan guy’s ass,” Bender immediately responded.

Leela shook her head. “We can’t! From what Izar said, we won’t even be able to get near Ivan’s compound before we get blown to bits.”

“Well,” Fry tried again, “then what do you think we should do Leela?”

The cyclops exploded. “I don’t know ok?! We cant take back the professor’s things by force. We cant get close enough to steal them. There’s no one here that can help us. What do you want me to do, pull some magic plan out of nowhere and save the day single-handedly?!”

Fry and his roommate exchanged glances. That had been exactly what they were hoping Leela would do. That’s what the cyclops always did.

There was silence around the table for the next few minutes while Fry, Leela, and Bender thought things over to themselves. The same droid that placed their orders came by, dropped off some nondescript food, and vanished again. Leela began absentmindedly picking at it with her fork.

In a bizarre twist, Fry was the one to come up with an idea. “Hey wait a minute. Didn’t Izar say we would be ok if we walked?”

Bender and Leela just stared at him.

Fry ignored the looks and continued. “Why don’t we just walk to Ivan’s base?”

Leela sighed for the thousandth time since she had left Earth. “Fry, the base is three hundred miles away. We cant walk that far.”

The delivery boy shook his head. His friend was missing the point. “But we don’t have to walk that far. We rented a truck right? Izar said we could get within fifty miles if we took a car remember? Why don’t we just drive the truck as far as it’ll go, and then just walk the rest of the way?”

Leela was unconvinced. “That’s a nice idea Fry, but it still leaves us with a fifty mile walk, you’re out of shape, and none of us have any experience with desert survival. It would take days to walk that far through rough desert if it’s as bad as Izar made it sound.”

Fry nodded. “Yep, your right, it probably will take days, but Izar said that Ivan won’t be leaving Talora for at least two weeks!”

That little bit of reasoning was enough to cause the starship captain to sit up straight in her chair. “I… I forgot about that. Geez Fry, you might actually have had a good idea!”.

Bender gasped in the background. “That makes two in three days!”

“If we start now we would have plenty of time to get to Ivan compound and kick his ass before he left. This could actually work…”

“Eh-hmm,” said Bender in an attempt at mimicking a throat-clearing noise. “I hate to ruin your parade, but how are you two meatbags going to live in the desert for a week? Don’t you need food and water or something?”

Leela turned to look at the manbot. “Your stomach closet thing is waterproof right Bender?” the manbot cautiously nodded assent, not liking the direction this conversation was headed. “If we filled you up with water, that would give Fry and me more than enough to drink.”

“Yeah, and Leela and I could get some backpacks and carry food and stuff. It’ll be just like those days when I was in Webelos, before I was kicked out for eating firewood.”

Bender crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. “Suurreee, make the robot carry sixty pounds of water that he doesn’t even need. Do it yourself skinbags. That is, do it yourself unless there’s something in it for me, Bender.” The offended expression vanished from the robot’s face. He didn’t really care about the weight; it was insignificant to him. What really mattered was whether or not there was a profit to be gleaned.

The robot’s two companions each reached into there pockets with a grumble, and pulled out whatever money happened to be there. Bender snatched it before the two humans could think twice. It disappeared into his chest cabinet faster than the eye could follow.

The three friends had wasted no time. From the restaurant they had gone straight to a nearby mall to search for the few items that they needed. They would be packing light; nothing more than food, water, a couple of tents, and a few odds and ends for cooking and personal hygiene. It was then a simple matter of jumping in the truck they had rented for the day and heading out of the city. When the vehicle ran out of gas, or could go no further, it would be left on the side of the road. Leela tried not to think about her unwillingness to do exactly that when Bender had suggested it back in the hotel.

The trip itself was an excellent chance for the PE crew to unwind. They had been tense for so long that it was getting to the point that they couldn’t remember being any other way. The simple pleasure of watching the scenery go by with the knowledge that no one was following them with murder on their minds was a nice change of pace.

Leela drove while Fry rode shotgun. There were only two seats in the hovertruck, so Bender rode in the bed of the vehicle. He could talk to his friends through an open window in the back of the truck’s cab.

All signs of civilization vanished abruptly as soon as the truck passed the city’s outer perimeter. On the left Fry could see an ocean, complete with sparkling white sandy beaches. On his right was a range of impressive looking mountains. The gas giant took up a significant fraction of the sky overhead. Although it was at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level, some of the taller mountains still sparkled with freshly fallen snow. Between the sea and the mountains the land was fairly temperate, and palm trees mingled with strange looking alien vegetation. There were no roads. Evidently the Talorans didn’t come out this way very often. The hovertruck could only hover a meter or so off the ground. Leela had to spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to find an eastward route that didn’t abruptly end with the truck bottomed out on some stump or boulder. It was quickly becoming apparent that this was going to be a long ride.

Clouds began building up overhead as the day wore on, and the gas giant hanging overhead disappeared from view. By the time the three travelers were deep into the foothills, the sky was a depressing gray. It started to rain, and Leela was suddenly glad that she had picked the truck with the closed in cab. Eventually the lousy seeing conditions combined with a setting sun were more than Leela could handle. After an especially loud yawn she pulled into a little secluded clearing and stopped the truck. It settled to the ground with a low hiss. Tents were pitched and dinner was nuked, literally. Even though the cloud cover presented the only likely chance that the three travelers would have for an undetectable campfire, the wetness quickly forced everyone into their tents, and the rhythmic plop of rain on canvas soon lured them to sleep.

The alarm in Leela’s wristamajig woke the trio reluctantly back into consciousness. Leela didn’t even remember falling asleep to begin with. It was raining harder than the night before, and Fry wondered why they hadn’t simply slept in the truck. Now all of their gear was wet. “Oh well,” thought Fry, “might as well enjoy the water while we have it.”

The truck climbed higher, and rain switched to snow. Soon Fry, Leela, and Bender found themselves immersed in a thick cloud layer. This was both a blessing and a curse. Nobody with ill intentions in mind would see them in the pea soup fog. Then again, there was also the very real possibility of being surprised by some inconveniently placed chasm. Fry just hoped that his captain knew what the heck she was doing.

Several close calls later Bender noticed a change in the ambient light. “Hey, I think its clearing up”, he remarked. Fry had just enough time to nod his head before the truck blasted through the clouds and into the sunlight.

It was only a short drive further to the top of the pass. Two peaks rose up another ten thousand feet on either side. The land beyond the mountains was basically as Leela had pictured it from the start. A rugged brown wasteland stretched all the way to the curving horizon. A gleam of metal could be seen in the far distance; Presumably it was their destination. The distant landscape shimmered as if it were being seen through a body of water. Although it was below freezing outside her window, the cyclops had no doubt that it was blistering hot where she was headed.

The drive down into the desert was uneventful. The mountains gradually sloped down into dusty flatlands intermingled with boulders and dry riverbeds. Fry became so bored with the inactivity that he began experimenting with the power window. He played with it for half an hour before it finally shorted out. Unfortunately his head was stuck between the sill and the glass at the time, and Leela had to stop the car and pull him out.

Leela had only been driving through flat desert for an hour before the ground became impassible for their vehicle. Jagged rocks poked up out of the ground every dozen feet or so and threatened to tear the guts out of the PE crew’s transport. It was time to get out and walk. Still, the GPS built into the truck said that they had come more than 250 miles; just about what Izar had predicted would be possible. The cyclops landed the hovertruck in a sandy area relatively devoid of rocks and jumped out. Fry bolted out after her, ecstatic to be doing something again. Bender emerged from the rear of the vehicle with an armload of gear.

The three friends loaded their packs and set off in a general eastward direction. Leela took one last look at the truck she had ‘borrowed’, and hoped silently that its owners would eventually see it again.

Four days were followed by four nights, and still the three travelers had seen no sign of their destination. The days had been hot and cruel; the nights cold and uncomfortable. Fry and Leela were sore, hungry, and thoroughly sick of their metal companion. Bender had taken this hike as a chance to prove once and for all his superiority to all things flesh and blood. While the two humans toiled through the forbidding terrain Bender provided a nonstop soundtrack, humming and singing nonsensically to himself. That, combined with the lack of palatable food, was enough to make the hike seem more like a death march to the robot’s friends. Also, the constant sound of water sloshing around in the robot’s chest cabinet was beginning to make Fry wish he was dead. At one point Leela had become so sick of dehydrated meat-byproduct that she had gone out hunting, but was only able to zap a couple of lizards with her neutron wrist laser. They tasted like old gym socks.

The worst part had been that they couldn’t build a fire. There wasn’t enough wood lying around, and they couldn’t be sure a fire wouldn’t be spotted by their enemies even if they could get a blaze going. Now, on the fourth night since the trio had abandoned their truck, Leela and Fry hunched over the one heat source they had: a small camp stove. Bender had been sent off on a little reconnaissance mission. It would be good to let him vent some excess energy away from the campsite.

Presently, Fry stopped warming his hands over the tiny flame and looked up at his violet-haired captain. He asked: “So Leela, how far do you think we’ve gone?” Leela looked up and stared blankly at him until she came back from whatever remote mental plane she had been lost in. “Wha…” she started, and then woke up all the way. “Oh. Uhh, well, lets find out.” She fiddled with some buttons on her wrist band. “According to this thing I wear on my wrist, we’ve traveled 315 miles since we left the city.” Fry cocked his head sideways and asked: “But didn’t Izar say that Ivan only lived 300 miles from the city?” Leela nodded. “Yeah, but we haven’t walked in a straight line, and we’re probably a bit north or south of where we want to be. If I had to guess, Id say Ivan is…” Bender, who had wandered into the campsite during his companions’ conversation, broke in to finish his captain’s remark. “… exactly two miles in that direction.” The robot pointed off toward the southwest. Fry and Leela shifted their gazes to look at the robot. “Are you sure?” asked Leela. The robot snorted derisively. “Well, its either him or some other stupid human with a giant death fortress and a million cronies.” The PE captain looked startled. “And you said he’s only two miles away? Were you spotted? They might come after us!” “Nah I wouldn’t worry about that,” the robot assured his captain, “I was as silent as a fox. They never knew I was there.” Bender attempted to demonstrate his stalking prowess, but tripped over a small rock and fell head over heels with a crash. Leela just shook her head, not even slightly convinced.

“Don’t worry Leela,” added Fry, “I’m sure Bender didn’t give us away. Lets just do what we did when the crates disappeared. We’ll just sit here and think of a plan. Tomorrow we can worry about Ivan.”

Leela looked down at her lap. “Yeah you’re right, if we’d been discovered we’d all be dead by now. Lets just hang out here for the night and tackle this tomorrow. It’s not like the base will ‘disappear’ like those crates if we sit here tonight. Leela had meant that last statement as a joke, but the word disappear had come out with a level of venom that surprised the delivery boy, as well as herself.

“Wait a minute Leela,” said Fry. “You don’t still blame me for loosing the crates right? I mean, I fell asleep from boredom after staring at a building for three hours. It could have happened to anybody.” Leela’s body was a little more tense than a week in the desert could vouch for, and Fry realized that this conversation was going to end badly.

Fry was not disappointed. Leela’s eye rose to meet his, and the cyclops glared at him. “Yeah, except it didn’t happen to ‘anybody.’ It happened to you. This sort of thing always happens with you! You had one job. One! And you blew it, just like you always do.”

“What do you mean, ‘always do’? I don’t screw up all the time!”

The cyclops laughed. “Give me a break Fry! When was the last time we went on a mission that didn’t involve you getting someone injured, or the shipment vaporized, or the professor sued?”

“I can think of a bunch of times. Like, there was that one mission that… umm… uhh… Oh, I know! Wait, no… Uhh… Well, I cant think of any, but its not always me that gets us in trouble! Remember that time you got stung by space bees and almost died? Or the time that the robot mafia took over our ship? Those weren’t my fault!

Leela’s face was bright red with anger by this point. “But almost every other problem that pops up is your fault,” the cyclops shot back, “and the disappearing crates were just more of the same!”

The delivery boy was becoming angry in his own turn. “Well then why did you trust me with them huh? You could have made Bender do it, or done it yourself. Right Bender?”

Bender, still stuck on his back after his recent fall, shook his head and held out his arms as if to fend off an attack. “Uh-Uh no way. I’m not getting involved in this. You two can kill each other, but Bender is neutral.” The robot hastily rolled back in forth until he could maneuver onto his stomach. Once in this position, he jumped to his feet and jogged off toward the tents. He had no intention of becoming entangled in what promised to become World War IV.

“Don’t ask Bender to fight your battles Fry. Come to think of it, that’s your problem. You can’t ever take responsibility for anything. You always try and blame everything on me or Bender.”

“Oh right, like I even can take responsibility with you around Leela. You always take control over everything. You don’t let Bender or me do anything on our own, or even make suggestions. If you’d take my advice once in awhile, the professor’s stuff would never have been stolen because we would have turned around before it was too late. If you had listened to me when I told you I had a bad feeling about the Snark, we might have been done with this stupid delivery and back home already!”

“Fry, That’s not fair! I couldn’t just turn the ship around because of some ‘bad feeling’ you had!”

The delivery boy’s response was simple. “Why?”

Leela didn’t want to hear any more of what Fry had to say. She stood up and scowled at the delivery boy, and then walked to her tent. Fry called after her, but the cyclops didn’t pay any attention. Fry watched his captain until she disappeared behind a canvass curtain, then turned back to the tiny stove that was sitting by his feet. He turned off the little instrument, got up with a sigh, and walked dejectedly back to his tent

Leela emerged from her tent before anyone else, three hours before sun-up. She had not been able to get any sleep, and had spent the whole night thinking about the argument she had had with Fry. She was still angry at the delivery boy, but vowed to keep that emotion buried. There would be time for that if they survived the next twenty four hours. The cyclops just hoped that Fry would do the same. Leela had everything packed by the time Fry crawled out from his tent. Bender emerged from Fry’s tent a short time later, already humming. The PE captain caught Fry’s eye, and the delivery boy smiled. Good, then things would be ok for now.

The trio packed everything up and hid their backpacks in a crevasse between two large boulders. Carrying bulky camping gear into battle was a suicidal idea, but throwing it away was equally as stupid. Whether by fault of Fry or otherwise, the PE crew was used to running for their lives. If today were to become just one more such occasion, the gear could be easily found again.

Bender led his companions to the compound he had spotted the night before. Leela kept her eye out for any sign of guards hidden in the boulder strewn landscape, but no one could be seen. Everything was quiet except for the call of a few night insects.

The two humans and the robot topped a steep slope and suddenly found themselves at their destination. Leela lay down on her stomach and gestured for her friends to do the same. With everyone safely hidden from view, Leela wormed her way over the top pf the hill and gazed at what lay beyond. A hundred yards ahead was their target. The ‘compound’ was little more than a dozen rundown buildings surrounding a hangar. Squatting in the hangar’s open doorway was the silhouette of one of the now familiar stingray ships. A couple of heavily armed guards patrolled the perimeter. So much for the ‘giant death fortress’ and ‘millions of cronies’ that Bender had attested to the night before. This was going to be easy.

One of the guards passed within fifty feet of the PE crew’s hiding place, and Leela took the opportunity. She waited for the bored looking man to completely pass by and then slowly crept up on him from behind. The man sensed that something was amiss at the last minute. He didn’t even have time to turn around before he was unconscious. Fry and Bender ran up to help Leela drag the injured man out of sight. A nearby dumpster made a convenient body disposal unit. It would be no good letting one of his friends see him lying on the ground. Fry grabbed the man’s laser. The idea was to not kill anyone, but it was always a good idea to have a backup plan.

Leela waited for the other guard to pass by, and quickly made sure he met the same fate as his compatriot. She used her wrist laser to fuse the lid of the dumpster shut so that the guards wouldn’t be a problem when they woke up again. Now it was time to hunt for the doomsday devices. The PE crew made a quick search of the complex. They came across no obvious surveillance, but hadn’t expected any. Technology was deeply engrained into the lifestyle of the people of the 31st century. It would not occur to Ivan that invaders would approach his base without the aid of some kind of flying machinery. There were probably surface to air missiles hidden somewhere in the area for unlucky vehicles that happened nearby, but no need was seen for defenses or surveillance on the ground. What the three friends had expected to see however, was some sign of their missing cargo, but it was nowhere to be found. Building after building turned up empty and deserted. The entire base was a ghost town. The only sign that Fry, Leela, and Bender had come to the right place was the stingray shaped starship crouched in the hanger.

There had to be something that they were missing. Leela refused to believe that they had spent five grueling days slogging through the desert, only to come up against a dead end. She waved Fry and Bender over from their search through a bunch of empty cardboard boxes. What they expected to find in them, Leela had no idea. “Fry, Bender, let's go through all the buildings again. Double check every nook and cranny, make sure we didn’t miss anything.” The delivery boy nodded and he and the robot followed his captain from structure to structure. At first, nothing turned up, but just as Fry, Leela, and Bender were giving up hope they got a break. Fry was walking across a throw rug in one of the empty buildings and tripped over a raised area hidden underneath. When Bender slid away the carpeting a manhole became visible. There was something underground. The delivery boy slid the cover off of the new found hole in the floor, and the three friends found themselves looking into some kind of shaft. A ladder disappeared into the gloom after the first few feet. A faint light could just barely be seen at what Leela assumed to be the bottom of the shaft. Fry caught Leela’s eye and gave her a questioning look. Leela replied with a nod and sat down on the edge. She rolled over on her stomach and slid into the hole until her boots made contact with the ladder’s top rung. She started descending, and was soon nothing more than a vague shadow. Bender started down next. That just left Fry. The delivery boy stared down into the depths and gulped. He waited a few moments for Bender to get a little farther down the ladder, and slid into the hole. Leela looked up just in time to see the delivery boy haul the manhole cover back into place. The dim light of dawn went out with a clang.

When Fry reached the end of the ladder he found himself in a square room slightly larger than a broom closet. A metal door and a faint florescent light were the only signs that the delivery boy had not wandered into some abandoned well. Fry flattened himself against the wall opposite the ladder so that his friends had a little room to stand.

When all three of them were safely on the ground, Leela worked her way to the door and started turning the wheel attached to its surface. The lock popped open with an audible thunk, and Fry leaned out into the space beyond. A lit corridor led in both directions from the PE crew’s current location. There were two green arrows painted on the wall facing Fry. One pointed to the left and was accompanied by the words ‘Armory and Storeroom”. The other arrow pointed out the location of the kitchen and dormitories.

Fry signaled the all clear to his companions. Leela took the lead at this point and started off in the direction of the storeroom. Bender followed, with the delivery boy taking up the rear with his confiscated laser at the ready.

Leela led her friends down twisting corridors, always following the green arrows toward their destination. Fry found himself getting disoriented after only a few minutes. He just hoped that they wouldn’t miss any turns on the way back out. From time to time Fry thought he heard voices down adjacent hallways, but he and his friends were lucky enough to only find one person directly in their path of travel. Fortunately Leela had seen the man’s shadow before he had been able to walk around a corner and spot them. Fry, Leela, and Bender had dashed into a nearby abandoned room to avoid detection.

Corridor after corridor passed by at regular intervals. Fry began to wonder if they had been going in circles, but eventually the delivery boy and his companions reached the end of the arrows. Small red letters painted on an ordinary wooden door read ‘storeroom.’ Leela pushed open the door and a broad smile broke out on her face. She had found the crates.

The three friends went from box to box examining the contents. Every one of the professor’s doomsday devices lay untouched in their packaging. Best of all, a way existed to get them out of the compound. The roof of the storeroom was in actuality two monstrous doors. When opened, a starship could land in the storeroom just as if it were a terrestrial garage. There was currently a small one man ship occupying the far corner of the room.

“Hey Leela I think we should…”, Fry began, but he was cut off before he could finish his thought. The sound of footsteps could be heard outside in the hallway.

Fry, Leela, and Bender bolted for the shelter of some boxes that were lying in the corner. They were just in time. Six men walked into the room just seconds after Bender’s head disappeared behind cover. Four of the men brandished pulse rifles. The other two carried holstered laspistols and were in the process of having some sort of argument. One of the arguers wore a green jacket and was unfamiliar. The other one was Ivan.

The cyclops was certain that she had once again been caught in a trap, but the men seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they had company. Ivan and green jacket walked over to the spaceship and continued their verbal battle. The other four men gave each other bored expressions and sat down on the crates.

Leela looked over her options. There were two things that she could do. The first and most agreeable option was to grab Fry’s laser gun and start blasting. Unfortunately the chances of knocking out all six men before someone managed to pick her off were practically nil. With one gun the PE crew just didn’t have much of a chance. Leela had her wrist laser true, but it wasn’t powerful enough to seriously injure anything much larger than the desert lizards she had zapped with it earlier. The only viable option then was to wait the situation out. Hopefully the men would simply go away before detecting the cyclops and her friends.

Violence was impossible, so the mutant, the human, and the robot sat and waited for their adversaries to walk out the door. It was working too. The four guards were finding the argument between their boss and his underling to be quite entertaining, and so they never got bored enough to wander around the storeroom. Fry tried to hear what Ivan and green jacket were saying to each other, but all he could make out from his position was something about needing more potatoes. “Wow, we’re going to get through this,” thought the delivery boy. “All we have to do is not make any noise for the next few minutes and…” Fry’s winced as his thought was drowned out by the hiss of static, and then a loud female voice.

“Hello? Is anyone there? Hello? If anyone can hear this please…”

Fry’s head whirled around to find the source of the voice. It was Leela’s wristamajig. The cyclops was desperately swatting at it, and eventually managed to get it to shut up. It was, of course, much too late. Within moments Fry found himself eye to eye with the business end of a pulserifle.

Once again Leela found herself locked in a small room with her two closest friends, only this time she was shackled to a wall. Ivan stood three feet away, gun in hand.

“So let me get this straight,” said Ivan. “You three followed me all the way to Talora from where I marooned your ship in deep space, discovered the location of my hideout, and walked 60 miles through the desert to get here, and then invaded my compound with the hopes of getting back your cargo?” Bender spoke up. “That’s right, and we would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for your meddling guards.” Leela rolled her eye and nodded affirmative to Ivan’s question. She figured it would be smart not to clarify how she had followed Ivan to Talora. If she was lucky enough she might be able to bluff her way into making Ivan think she had backup of some kind.

Ivan ignored the robot and concentrated on Leela. It occurred to Fry that he had done the same thing during the last occasion that they had met. In fact, Ivan had ignored the rest of the PE crew as well, only acknowledging their existence when asked a direct question. “Why is Leela so important?”, Fry wondered to himself. “Is it just because she’s captain?” Not that Fry minded being ignored by this particular maniac.

“That was very brave of you, Leela.” Ivan was saying. “But it was also incredibly foolish. How did you ever expect to get away? Even if you had managed to steal a ship, I would have shot you down before you made it a quarter mile.” That thought had of course occurred to Leela on many occasions. She had hoped that by flying vertically at max speed she would be out of Talora’s atmosphere before any defenses could catch up with her. Once she was in space Leela was confident that she could handle anything short of an entire fleet of ships.

Ivan continued his monologue. “Now here you are, strapped to a wall in the middle of an army of my men, with no hope of escape. Oh, and don’t think I’ll be a good sport and just let you go again. You three have proven to be quite an irritant to me.”

Fry piped in from somewhere to Leela’s left, but head restraints prevented the cyclops from turning her head far enough to see him. “What are you going to do with us?”, asked the delivery boy nervously. As soon as he said it he realized he didn’t really want to know the answer.

Ivan turned to look directly at the delivery boy. “Why, its quite simple,” replied Ivan. “The three of you will be led up to the surface at dawn tomorrow. Once there, I will shoot each one of you in the head. Leela, you will be the last to die so you can watch what happens to your friends.”

Although the two human captives were terrified, Bender was closer to incredulous. “Hey chump,” addressed the robot to his captor, “how do you expect to kill me with a gun?” I’m a robot, not some pile of meat like these two chumps” Bender tried to gesture toward his two friends but then remembered he was riveted to a wall.. Shooting me in the head isn’t gonna do much more than hurt slightly.”

The scarred man chuckled. “Oh don’t worry my metal friend. I’m sure I can plug you full of enough holes that it does more than ‘hurt slightly’.” Bender scoffed. “Oh please, like that’s even possible.” Ivan smiled mirthlessly: “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see wont we?”

It seemed like an eternity passed before the next dawn arrived. The three captives remained strapped to the wall for the duration of their imprisonment, and they were not allowed to speak to each other. Fry had been meaning to apologize to Leela for the way he had acted the night before, but had not had a chance. Now, as he was being led up a ladder into early morning sunlight, he realized with despair that he was never going to have the chance.

Fry, Leela, and Bender were led one after the other to the side of the empty buildings that the three friends had first seen when stumbling upon Ivan’s base. Men with laser guns motioned for the trio to line up with their backs facing the wall. Ivan stepped out from the throng of armed cronies armed with an antique projectile weapon in his right hand. The scarred man looked at each one of the PE crewmembers once in the eyes.

“You three have dared to confront me after I honored you by saving your lives. In doing so, you have earned my respect, as well as my contempt. Leela, you have proven to be a worthy adversary. As such, you cannot be allowed to live. But first, you will be forced to endure the worst thing a captain could imagine: watching as the lives of your friends and crew are extinguished in front of your eyes. Err, eye. Err, whatever.”

Leela was desperate. “Please…. Please don’t do this. Please!”

Ivan just laughed. The scarred man raised his weapon and pointed it at Fry. This was the end, and Fry knew it. The delivery boy watched Ivan’s finger close around the trigger. Everything happened in slow motion. Ivan’s finger squeezed. There was a bang. A tiny glistening cylinder of incarnate death accelerated through the barrel, propelled by a puff of expanding gas. The bullet flew through the air at several times the speed of sound. Fry felt something solid hit him in the chest, and an irresistible force hurtled the poor delivery boy to the ground. Darkness began to close in, cutting Fry off from the world. “Leela, I…” He started to speak, but his body could no longer form the words. It was shutting down. Somewhere far away somebody was screaming. Fry was sinking… sinking…

Amy fired. The little figures on the ground fizzled and sparked. The intern hurtled vicious insults at her foes in Cantonese as she blasted them with the ship’s laser. Hermes rolled the ship to the right to give his gunner a better shot at a couple of men who were busy assembling an air defense weapon. Red bolts of death from the Planet Express ship cut the half finished gun to pieces. A moment later the hangar came back into view. The intern was relieved to see that Leela and Bender had dragged the fallen Fry into the shelter of a building. It looked like they were going to be ok.

Fry awoke to the sensation of Leela slapping him repeatedly in the face. “Wake up damn it!”, she was yelling. “We don’t have time for this!”

The delivery boy’s memories came back in an instant, and Fry surged to his feet. “What, what’s going on? Why am I still alive?” He was standing in a small, empty building with his two companions, each of whom brandished laser rifles.

“Amy showed up at the last second,” explained Bender. “She used the professor’s spaceship to blow a hole in the dirt twenty feet from that Ivan guy, right as he was shooting you. You lucked out buddy. The shockwave from the laser blast knocked off Ivan’s aim. He missed ya. Leela and me dragged your body into this shack here while all the bad guys were concentrating on shooting at Amy. Oh, and we picked up these babies from a couple of dead guys that didn’t need ‘em anymore.” The robot showed off his weapon.

“Oh, well that explains why I’m not dead. But wait, then why did I feel the bullet?”

Leela explained hurriedly. “You got knocked over by the shockwave and hit your head. Now we need to stop talking and get out of here. We’re still fighting Ivan.” As if to prove the point, a laser beam blasted away a chunk of wall not two feet from Fry’s head. Leela, in a casual motion, dropped the man standing in the doorway.

“But where are we going?” asked Fry. “Its probably safer in here.”

“Yes it probably is safe in here Fry. That is, until someone finds out we’re in here and decides to blow us into tiny pieces of squishy goo. Now, stupid comments aside, this is what we’re going to do. First, we’ll make our way into the desert. Once we’re far enough away I’ll use my wristamajig to call Amy and tell her where we are. Then we can get out of this awful place. Now take this.” Leela handed Fry the lasgun that had fallen by the body in the doorway. “You ready?” Asked the cyclops. Fry nodded. It appeared that he didn’t have much choice. Leela gave her two friends a long look, and ran out the door. Fry and Bender were right behind her.

Fry jumped from the safety of the building. A near miss zipped over his head, nearly singing his hair. The delivery boy’s instincts twisted his body around and fired his weapon before Fry was even conscious of it. One of Ivan’s men fell to the ground surprised. There was no time to pause and think about the death. Two men and a woman raced around the corner to aid their fallen comrade, and Fry took off, shooting randomly in the direction that the lasers were coming from. Leela, only a handful of paces in front of Fry, turned and picked off one of the men with a crack shot. Bender was now in front. He led the party through the war zone. Amy had done a fantastic job of blowing holes in things. In fact, she was still doing a fantastic job of blowing holes in things. As Fry and his companions ran they could clearly make out the Planet Express ship flying back and forth while it picked out targets at its leisure. Why there were no surface to air missiles being fired at the invading spacecraft, Fry had no idea. “I just hope that Amy can tell the difference between us and the bad guys from that far away.” Thought the delivery boy.

Fry zigged and zagged. Lasers and plasma pulses came at him from all directions. A searing line of photons came close enough for Fry to feel the heated air. Periodic explosions were a constant reminder of an angered young Martian flying somewhere overhead. A figure appeared in his line of sight, and Fry squeezed the trigger. Two men emerged from a door to Leela’s right. One of Leela’s fists connected with the first man’s forehead. A blur of motion, which Fry assumed was Leela’s other fist, connected with the second man’s chest. He went down with a plop.

Moments later, Fry followed Bender behind a corner. Leela was once again in the lead. Someone opened fire at them from a jagged hole in a shack up ahead. Bender let out a harsh laugh and pulled the trigger. The incoming fire ceased abruptly. The spaceship hanger that the three friends had seen when they first arrived at Ivan’s compound was currently to their right. The hanger doors were still open, just like the day before. As Leela, Bender, and Fry ran by the open doorway, things got suddenly worse. A lone figure with a weapon that looked like a mini radar dish stepped out of the hangar’s shadow just as the two humans and the robots ran by. The man smiled cruelly and aimed the weapon at Bender’s back. An electromagnetic pulse crackled through the air and struck the poor unsuspecting robot with a direct hit. Completely paralyzed, Bender tipped forward and crashed into Fry. The delivery boy ended up facedown in the dirt with his legs pinned down by the bulky robot. Leela turned to assist her fallen friends, but a blow to the head sent her to the ground like a load of bricks. Ivan laughed.

The scarred madman bent over and scooped Leela up in his arms. Fry tried to reach his lasgun, but it had flown out of his hand as he fell and was now beyond his reach. He could only watch helplessly as his captain was carried into the hanger and into the starship that rested there. Bender twitched. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. The shift in mass gave Fry the leverage he needed. Apologizing to his metal friend, Fry shoved the robot. Bender rolled just enough for Fry to extricate himself. The delivery boy ran toward the ship as fast as he could. He almost made it. The ship powered up and blasted out of the hangar. It raced skyward and was gone.

Fry realized immediately that Leela was beyond his help, so he returned to the side of his fallen robot companion. The delivery boy held his position as long as he could, but it would be just a matter of time before he was surrounded and overwhelmed. It was just getting to the point where Fry would be forced to retreat when a large shadow fell across him. The Planet Express ship hurtled down out of the air and landed not five feet away. Zoidberg and Amy jumped off the loading elevator before it could reach the ground. “Quick Fry, help roll the robut over here and lets get out of here!”, yelled the lobster. Fry took a couple of last minute potshots and then helped the alien and the intern roll the incapacitated Bender onto the elevator. “Drive you idiot, drive!” the professor yelled from somewhere deep in the bowels of the ship. Fry felt the acceleration as the nimble craft launched skyward.

Talora’s disk filled the view screen a short time later. Fry watched the orb float slowly by from the couch on the bridge of the Planet Express ship. Amy, Hermes, Professor Farnsworth, and Zoidberg were there with him. The professor was busy punching away at buttons on one of the ship’s instruments.

Amy sat down next to the delivery boy and took his hand. “Don’t worry Fry. I’m sure the professor will find out where they went,” assured the intern. Farnsworth’s voice broke in from behind the couch to add: “You’re absolutely right Amy. All ships leave a trail of charged particles in their wakes. All I have to do is find the right trail, and we’ll know exactly where they’re going.” Fry’s heart left the pit it had been resting in. There was hope!

“How long is it gonna take?”, Fry wanted to know. The professor’s voice answered in a huff. “How should I know? What am I, some kind of genius? Of course I am, who suggested otherwise?! Anyway, It’ll take as long as it takes.”

“Oh.” Fry’s shoulders slumped, and he sank deeper into the couch. A few moments of quiet passed until Fry’s slow mind realized that his current situation didn’t quite make sense. He turned to Amy and asked: “Hey, how did you guys get here anyway? I thought the Planet Express ship’s engines got all broken in that space battle”

“Well, it wasn’t easy. Zoidberg and I managed to stop the timers on the torpedoes before they blew up, but we were stuck floating in space for awhile. Finally the vidphone started working again and I could get through to the professor. He told me how to fix the engines when I explained what happened.” “The secret was duct tape!”, interrupted Zoidberg. “Shut up ya spineless crawdad and let ta woman finish!” That was Hermes of course. “Anyway,” the intern continued after shooting the lobster an irritated look, “I didn’t have the right tools to fix up the ship all the way, but I got the engines patched up enough to get us back to Earth. Some of the cardboard in the dark matter reactor was so bent up that I… well you probably don’t care about the technical stuff. Anyway, the professor fixed up the ship all the way as soon as we got home. We headed back out to rescue you as soon as we could.”

“But how did you know where to look?”

“Spluh. We looked up his home planet on mapquest. The professor picked up the frequency of Leela’s wrist thingy when you three were in that storage room you were talking about, and then again after you left the bunker you were being held prisoner in. That’s how we found you. If you’d been in the storage room a minute longer we could have pinpointed your location a lot sooner.”

“So then was it you guys that called Leela’s wrist thingy?”

The professor broke in: “Yes. I had Amy call Leela when we first got to the planet. That purple-haired ninny hung up on her before we could get a fix on your location.”

“She was kinda hiding from a bunch of guys with laser guns at the time” Fry said

“Well that’s no excuse for rudeness,” huffed Farnsworth.

Fry ignored that last remark. After all, the senile old scientist would probably forget the whole conversation in ten minutes anyway.

The delivery boy turned to address Amy again. “But that still doesn’t explain why no one shot at you while you were flying over Ivan’s base. Some alien guy told Leela that anything that Ivan didn’t like would get blown up before it could even get close.”

Amy and Hermes exchanged glances. They hadn’t come across any defenses of any kind during their approach. “Umm, maybe the alien that told you guys that didn’t know what he was talking about,” guessed Amy. In reality, the Planet Express ship had been quite lucky. There were scores of defenses hidden amongst the boulders surrounding the base, but they all were manned by humans. Ivan, in his limitless arrogance, had decreed that all of his men would watch the execution of the Planet Express crew. Nobody shot at the approaching vessel because there was no one monitoring the skies. Amy had managed to destroy the power grid by the time Ivan’s men had manned the defenses, so the compound had been entirely helpless.

Before Fry could ask any more questions, the professor stood up. “Huzzah!”, yelled the old man, raising his arms over his head.

Fry jumped up off the couch to face Farnsworth. “What? Did you find something?! Please say you found something!”


“Did you find out where Leela went?”

“Who?” The old man scratched his head confusedly.

Exasperated, Fry tried again. “Leela! Did you find out anything about what happened to Leela?!”

“Huh? Oh right. Yes, I found out what happened to that purple-haired friend of yours.” Farnsworth gestured for Fry to walk over to him and look at the monitor that the scientist was standing over. “See that line there?” A wrinkly finger traced out an arc on the screen. The red head nodded ascent. “This represents the path that Ivan’s ship took when it left orbit,” explained the professor.

“Then we can go after her!” An expression of hope erupted on the delivery boy’s face, but the professor didn’t respond quite in the manner that Fry expected.

“I suppose it is technically possible, but we don’t have enough spaceships to do that.

Now it was Fry’s turn to be confused. “Huh? We have a spaceship right here. We need more of them?”

“No, we only need one, but this one can’t go off looking for people that got themselves kidnapped. First we have to rescue my precious inventions.” Once I finish calibrating the lasers to fire through the ceiling of that hanger you were blabbering about earlier, we’re going right back down to the planet.”

Fry had completely forgotten about the doomsday devices. “But Leela…”, he started.

“Think about it mon. Leela is only one person. If da professor’s doodads fall into da wrong hands, millions of people could die. Den again, come da tink of it, dat many deaths would mean mountins of paperwork. Sweet Hen of Lisbon, think of the requisitions! It would be a bureaucrat’s heaven!” The Jamaican sighed. “But no, as great as it would be, its not worth it.”

“But, we cant just desert her!”

“Don’t worry,” Farnsworth assured, “We’ll look for Leela when we get back the doomsday devices and they’re safely in storage.”

“But who knows what will happen if we wait that long! Ivan might hurt her! You can’t just abandon her like this!”

“I can do whatever I want. This is my spaceship.” Farnsworth said this in a tone to suggest that this was the end of the debate, but Fry was far from finished.

By this point, Fry’s face was contorted with rage. To his knowledge, he had never in his life been so furious. How could they even consider doing anything other than going after Leela? Fry needed to find someone that would support him. Farnsworth and Hermes had already made their opinions clear. Zoidberg’s support was meaningless. Bender still lay mute and immobile in the cargo bay. That left Amy. “Amy, you agree with me right?”

The intern was still sitting on the couch near the bow of the ship. She had been facing forward and gazing out the bow window while the argument was going on, trying to sort out her own emotions on the matter. Many people could die if somebody got the idea into his head to use the professor’s weapons before the PE crew managed to save Leela. Yet, to let Ivan get away with his captive could very well be a death sentence. It was a hard choice. Amy found herself envying Hermes, who solved any problem with simple economics. If they saved Leela, millions of lives could be lost. Millions of lives are more valuable than one, and that’s that. “If only it were that simple…”

“Amy, are you listening?”

“Uhh wha? Oh, yes Fry I’m listening.” No more time to ponder morals. Fry needed an answer now. The intern turned around to face the angered red head. “I’m sorry Fry, but Hermes is right.”

Fry started to protest, but a quick re-scan of his friends’ faces revealed that the argument was a lost cause. “You guys would actually do that to Leela? Just write her off, like she’s worth less than a wad of used gum?! This is unbelievable!”

“Fry, that’s not fair…” Amy tried to reason with the enraged redhead, but Fry wasn’t having any of it. He stomped off the bridge with a snort of disgust.

Some time later, Amy found the delivery boy pacing back and forth in his tiny bunkroom. Fry crossed his arms and glared at the woman. “What do you want?”, he demanded. The intern sighed heavily. “The professor’s finished modifying our laser to burn through the storage hanger’s roof. We’re going to need to get everything on board as fast as we can once we land. I was kinda hoping you would help.”

The expression on Fry’s face didn’t change for a long time but eventually Fry was overwhelmed by the situation, and he sat down heavily on his bunk with a sigh of defeat. “Alright, I’ll help, but you promise me that we’ll go look for Leela as soon as we can ok?” The intern’s face brightened, and she nodded enthusiastically. “You bet,” she said

Once again the Planet Express ship found itself over Ivan’s compound, but this time the crew was not looking for a fight. Not a shot was fired as the green rocket ship descended. The power was still out then. Without any sensors up and running, no one from the base could see the intruder.

Amy, being the best pilot of the group, was at the controls. It only took a moment to find what she was looking for. Two adjacent metal slabs marked the hangar roof. The intern slid the ship gracefully into position, and with a nod from the professor, gave Fry the ok to begin firing. The ship’s laser went to work.

Minutes went by, and nothing seemed to be happening. The professor muttered angrily and fiddled with some controls, but still there was no effect. Amy was just about to ask the professor if something was wrong, when Farnsworth let out a loud ‘huzzah!’ of victory, and the hangar door metal began to glow. It went from red to yellow, and then white. Globules of liquid metal boiled into vapor, and the doors began to sag. In a few moments the crack between the two doors was wide enough to fly through. Amy gently nudged the ship into the hangar bay below.

There was no one in the hangar to meet them. Amy landed the ship in the center of the room. The cargo elevator came down, and the entire PE crew bolted out of the bowels of the ship. Well, almost all of the crew anyway. Farnsworth’s maximum speed was more of a ‘shuffle’ than a ‘bolt’, and Bender still lay immobile in the ship’s cargo bay. Every once in awhile the robot’s voice would come back, and a string of curses aimed at his coworkers would fill the room. The professor had not had time to fix him yet, and Bender was furious for this schism between the robot’s priorities and that of his fellows.

Zoidberg and Hermes ran to barricade the door before anyone barged in on them. All that could be done was to push a few heavy boxes in front of the door. It would only be a temporary barrier, but it would hold for a few minutes in an emergency. So far the PE crew had made very little noise. It would be quite possible to get away without anyone ever being aware of them.

Amy, Fry, and the professor started to load the ship with the doomsday devices, and Zoidberg and the Jamaican accountant came over to help once their job was finished. Fry was trying desperately to concentrate on what he was doing, but anger still seethed in him immediately below the surface. He hated himself for not being able to help his captain. No matter what logic he used, the whole situation smacked of just leaving Leela to die.

The hover dolly that Fry was pushing stopped with a jolt. The delivery boy’s mind had been elsewhere, and he hadn’t been paying attention to where he was going. Now the dolly was stuck in a narrow space between two boxes. Grumbling to himself, Fry yanked at the obstinate dolly, and it jarred loose. Fry looked around for an easy path back to the Planet Express ship’s elevator, but his eyes found something much better. He laughed, and started to run. “Why didn’t I think of this earlier?”

Amy heard Fry’s laugh and turned to look for him. He was standing a dozen paces away with a wide grin on his face. As she watched, the delivery boy took off running, jumping over and between the boxes that were in his way. With a chill in her spine, the intern realized that Fry was headed for the dart shaped fighter sitting in the corner. Amy saw Fry’s plan in a flash, and sprang after him before he could implement it. Unfortunately for the intern, Fry had too much of a head start. He was already in the cockpit before she reached him.

“Fry, wait! Don’t do this!”

“I have to Amy. I cant just leave Leela like this. I… I love her.”

Amy’s protests died in her throat as her mouth shut with a click. “Oh.” was all she could manage to say. How could she possibly argue with that? The intern took a long look at her red headed friend. Fry’s face was the essence of determination. He was going, and there was no way that she was going to dissuade him.

The other crew members began to file up one by one, attracted by the shouting. A low hum announced that the little ship’s engine was waking up. “Great muskrat of Adirondack! Fry mon, wot do think your doin?”, demanded Hermes.

“I’m going after Leela. The professor said we need another ship; Well I found one, and nobody’s going to stop me.” Fry said this as a statement of fact, beyond compromise.

“Listen you red headed dope,” yelled Farnsworth. “If you go off by yourself, nobody will be able to help you when you screw up.”

“Why do you always assume I’m going to screw up?” No one bothered to supply the obvious answer, but the professor moved in to interfere with the angry redhead’s takeoff.

To everyone’s surprise, Amy stepped in front of Farnsworth to block his way. “Let him go,” she said simply.

Hermes was incredulous. “Are you mad woman? He’ll get himself killed!”

Amy started to explain, but stopped. Explaining why she had changed her mind would be pointless. The others would just dismiss what Fry had said to her as irrelevant. The intern, however, could now see a depth to the delivery boy that had not been there before. “Or has it always been there, only I never bothered to look?”, she wondered. Either way, she knew with conviction that the feelings playing across her friend’s face were in no manner irrelevant. He would be able to take care of himself, Amy was certain of it.

With the professor’s path blocked, and the others standing around staring quizzically at Amy, Fry took his chance. The cockpit canopy closed with a snick, ending any possibility of verbal debate. Fry reached out and eased the throttle forward. A roar replaced the engine’s low hum, causing Fry’s coworkers to hit the deck. The little needle ship rose off the ground and pivoted 180 degrees, then floated forward into a shaft of sunlight. It reared back to face the sky, and Fry pushed the throttle forward all the way. A four dimensional sphere of warped space-time sprang into existence behind the ship, and the silver dart leapt into the sky.

Amy stood up, and brushed herself off. She turned to look at the hole in the ceiling that her friend had vanished into. “Good luck,” she whispered.

Part 4: Hope

Fry’s little ship was fast. Stars shot by the view screen at a fearsome rate. The delivery boy watched them morosely from the tiny window above his bunk. Stars had an almost hypnotic affect when they moved across the sky, much the same way a campfire does. The little points of light would pop into view as a glaring blue. As they moved astern, they would gradually change color until they faded into infrared and Fry’s eyes could no longer see them. It was relaxing really, getting caught up in the endless pattern. Flash, violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, white, orange, red, gone. Over and over again… Fry sat up with a start, banging his head into the ceiling for his trouble. The delivery boy cursed whoever had designed this spacecraft, which Fry had nicknamed the Minnow, for the 17th time that day. A miserable little bunk, along with a toilet and a shower that seemed no larger than a standard kitchen sink, was crammed into a crevasse at the rear of the ship’s cockpit as if in an afterthought.

The delivery boy squirmed his way back into the pilot’s seat. It was time to make sure he was on course again. A few pokes and twists of various knobs and dials brought up the now familiar charged particle detection screen. Fry had spent the last 24 hours doing little more than stare blankly at this screen. It had been easy to find the beginning of the trail that Ivan’s ship had left behind, since Farnsworth had shown him where to look. The hard part had proven to stay on the trail once he had found it. Ivan had flown a very complicated path, ostensibly to shake off pursuit, and Fry had to check the detector every few minutes to keep from wandering off the trail completely.

Currently, the screen showed that the ship had moved to the edge of the particle trail. Fry pushed the stick downward and to the left. The stars twirled slightly overhead, and the ship settled into its new course. The redhead watched the screen for a few moments to make sure he hadn’t over-corrected. Satisfied, he leaned back in his chair and tried to stretch. There wasn’t nearly enough room to do so adequately

Fry had experienced a maelstrom of different emotions since leaving Talora. At first he had simply been angry. Well, actually that would be incorrect. First he was terrified, and then he was angry. The delivery boy had flown spaceships before, but nothing like the high-powered, weapon encrusted, and incredibly agile Minnow. It was a long, nerve wracking time before Fry was confident he could fly the ship without accidentally killing himself.

When the terror finally did wear off, it was quickly replaced with anger; anger at himself, Leela, Ivan, Zoidberg, and basically the entire universe in general. When that emotion had boiled away it had been replaced with fear. “What if I find her, and its already too late?” he thought to himself over and over again. Fry felt so helpless. Even though he was racing to Leela’s rescue, he had no way of helping her right at that moment, and the knowledge ate away at him with a thousand tiny teeth. That train of thought led straight into a well of depression, and he wallowed there until thoughts of his beloved cyclops helped him climb back out again. Fry smiled when he realized that Leela, albeit without her knowledge or actually having physically done anything, was once again helping him overcome an obstacle that threatened to overwhelm him. The delivery boy silently resolved that he was going to save his captain, even if it was the last thing he ever did.

“But how?” he wondered aloud. That was the best thing about being so utterly alone, he realized, no one could give you strange looks for having a conversation with yourself.

Not for the first time, Fry found himself envying the intelligence and wit of his cyclops captain. “Leela would know what to do. Leela always knows what to do.” Suddenly enraged, the delivery boy slammed his fist into a bulkhead. “This isn’t fair! I should be the one that Ivan captured, not her! How am I supposed to rescue Leela when I can’t even think? All I’m good at is being a hostage.”

It wasn’t true of course. Although Fry was indeed very good at being a hostage, or anything else that required nothing more than taking up space, there was also one other thing in which he excelled: being there when his friends needed him most. Leela very rarely needed help of any kind, but Fry could always be counted on to come to the rescue at just the right moment. The delivery boy had saved Leela from a deadly space bee at one point. He had jumped in front of his captain at the last second and taken the stinger for her. The monstrous needle went right through him and unloaded its poison into Leela anyway. The cyclops spent 14 days in a coma, but ultimately survived because her body did not have to deal with a horrendous physical wound in addition to the poison. Fry never left her side for a moment, even though the doctors said that Leela would never wake up.

A couple of years before that, Fry had saved Leela from an unhappy marriage to the shape-shifting conman Alkazar. The alien had preyed upon Leela’s one weakness, a burning desire to discover her origins. He concocted an elaborate ruse to convince Leela that he and the PE captain were the last surviving members of a grand alien race. She had agreed to marry him in order to keep this fictional species going. If Fry had not risked his neck to uncover the truth, Leela would have been destined for an eternity of unhappiness.Memories of these two events flitted through the delivery boy’s mind. On both occasions he had done exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. He had not needed to think things through, and there had been no time even if he had had the desire to. “Come to think of it,” realized the red head, “if I had stopped to think about what I was doing, I might not have done it. If I had taken a moment to plan what I was going to do, Leela would have been stung before I could get in front of her, and she’d be dead. If I had stopped to wonder if it was right to spy on Alcazar, I might have decided it wasn’t any of my business, and Leela would be married to that jerk.”

“That’s it!” The realization came like a smack in the face. “The only time I ever do anything right is when my heart tells me what to do, not my head.”

“So then the only chance I’m going to have of saving Leela is by following what my heart tells me.”

Fry cleared his mind and tried to ask himself what his heart was telling him to do. Two answers popped into his consciousness. Step one: get to his captain’s side at all costs. Step two: Rescue Leela, and god help Ivan if he had dared to hurt her.

Leela awoke with a start from a horrible nightmare. The cyclops half dragged herself into a sitting position and opened her eye. Everything was black. Leela put a hand up to her face and touched her eye to confirm that yes, it was open. Wherever she was, the lights were out. Leela forced the inherent phobia of the person with one eye out of her head. She was not going to consider the other option, the one where she was blind.

The PE captain reached for her wristband with her left hand. It was gone. “Well, I’m not getting any light that way,” she muttered. Now wide awake, Leela slowly climbed to her feet. Her head didn’t hit a ceiling. Extending her hands out in front of her, the cyclops began walking. She came across a wall in a half dozen steps. What followed was a bump-and-go exploration of what turned out to be a small square room. Leela realized how ridiculous she must look with her arms out, walking around pseudo-randomly like some sort of confused zombie. Good thing Fry wasn’t around to see.

It didn’t take long to explore every square inch of the compartment. Confident that she had made a thorough search of the area, worked her way over to a corner and sat down. The little room was empty save for a low bench and what felt like a toilet. A couple of creases in the wall might have been the outline of a door. The PE captain was in a prison cell of some kind, probably in the brig of one of Ivan’s ships..

The last thing Leela remembered was running by the hanger back on Talora. She had heard a crackling noise and a thud, and had turned around just in time to see three things. One: Bender facedown in the dirt, immobile or dead. Two: Fry facedown in the dirt, struggling to get his legs out from under the heavy robot. Three: A scarred figure smiling wickedly as it aimed a punch in her direction. She had not had enough time to react.

Leela sat in the corner staring into space for a long time while she mulled over the events of the past week in her head. So many screw-ups.. “If only I’d listened to Fry from the very beginning, this would have never happened. Now I’ll probably never see him or anyone else I care about ever again.” The cyclops remembered the argument in the desert she had had with the delivery boy. She wanted to apologize to him for being such a jerk, but now she wasn’t going to get that chance. “He must hate me now” a cold jolt of electricity shot up her spine as she completed the thought: “if he’s still alive.”

A cool wetness on her cheeks alerted the woman to the fact that she was crying. She sat there for a moment, quietly sobbing to herself. At last, gaining partial control over her emotions again, she looked up and wiped away a tear. She began to speak aloud, as if someone was there to hear her. “I’m so sorry Fry.”, she said. “I should have done so many things differently. You’ve always been there for me, and I just took you for granted. I never even got to tell you how much I care about you, and now I might never get the chance.” Leela had never felt so helpless. She had always been the one with the means and ability to save the day, but now she was in desperate need of someone to save her. It seemed certain that her two best friends were either dead or captured, and no one was likely to find her even if they came looking. “At least Amy made it out ok,” muttered Leela. “I guess I didn’t manage to get all of my friends killed.” Somehow the familiar feel of sarcasm made life a little more bearable.

Leela harbored no delusions. The Planet Express crew’s first priority would be the doomsday devices; the professor would insist on it. Even if someone did come looking for her, it would be after Ivan had hidden her away somewhere out of reach. “I might as well accept that Ivan won. But why did he kidnap me? What could he possibly want?”

Eight thousand one hundred ninety two bottles of Slurm on the wall, Eight thousand one hundred ninety two bottles of Slurm! Take one down, pass it around, Eight thousand one hundred ninety one bottles of Slurm on the wall!” Fry sang to himself to pass the time. A young main sequence star accompanied by a light sprinkling of planets, floated into the delivery boy’s field of view, and a light blinked on the console ahead of him. The ship’s computer informed Fry that the particle trail he had been following intersected the planet.. The red head had found his destination.

Fry pushed the throttle forward as far as it would go. A tiny green dot in the ship’s path blossomed until a bright disk filled the viewscreen. Fry put his ship into orbit and checked the particle detector. The trail ended in low orbit. “Well that doesn’t make sense,” thought the redhead. “How could the trail just stop like that?” As if on cue, the answer appeared from beyond the planet’s limb.

Ivan stood on the bridge of his flagship, the Drakos, and admired the view of the planet below. He had always particularly liked this world, Gillegyn 5, for reasons he didn’t quite understand. As often happened, the scarred man’s reverie was interrupted as soon as it began. One of the bridge officers scurried over to his side, urgency plastered all over her face.

“Sir?”, asked the woman nervously.

Ivan gave her an irritated look. He had been thinking deeply and was not in the mood for interruptions. Not that he ever really was of course. “This woman had better have a good reason for bothering me, for her sake”, he thought to himself.

“What is it Lieutenant Carter?”

“Sir, we’ve detected a ship orbiting the planet with us. The identification signal lists it as one of ours.”

“Alright, thank you lieutenant.” Ivan dismissed her with a half-hearted salute.

“Yes sir, but sir, something doesn’t seem right, if you don’t mind my saying so. We weren’t expecting any ships to meet us here, and according to the identification signal… Well sir, the incoming ship’s has been identified as your personal space fighter.”

That got Ivan’s attention. He whirled to face the officer on watch. “Lieutenant commander Michaels, scan the incoming ship for weapons charge please.”

“Yes sir.” Michaels pressed some buttons on his console. His eyes grew wide. “Captain! I’m detecting multiple weapons active on that ship! My guess is whoever’s flying that thing will be in range in 30 seconds!”

“Understood. Lieutenant Carter, sound battle stations! Raise shields and charge weapons. Prepare to engage. Fire all batteries on my command!” The lieutenant hurried away to carry out her orders. Red lights and sirens came alive throughout the Drakos.

“My fighter can only hold one person, so whoever this is, he or she is alone. Its probably that idiot redhead,” thought Ivan. “He seems just the type to come galloping to the rescue by himself. It’s a pity he didn’t bring all of his friends with him to be exterminated at once, but no matter. The others will come when this cretin doesn’t report back to them. Still, I was hoping for more time to perfect my plan. Vaporizing my enemies in space is most un-gratifying. On the other hand, being rid of him will be quite a relief. I only wish that he could live long enough to see me torture his beloved captain to death”

“Sir, who are you talking to?” An ensign stood a few feet away, eyeing his captain quizzically.

“Shut up and fire!” , roared Ivan.

Fry could clearly see his adversary now. Its engines were just now finishing their power-up. The reason the particle trail had ended a few hundred miles from the planet surface was quite simple. The ship producing the particles had shut off its engines so that it could enter a stable orbit. Now the engines were being powered up again, probably for an attack run.

It was not the same ship that the delivery boy had seen Ivan escape Talora in. The scarred fugitive had merely used his little shuttle to escape to a nearby star system. Once there, he had docked with his flagship, The Drakos, which had then led Fry on a cat and mouse chase across the galaxy. The Drakos was bigger than anything Fry had yet seen in Ivan’s arsenal. Much bigger. It still had the standard stingray design, but on a scale that dwarfed Ivan’s other ships. It measured over a quarter mile in length, and had a wingspan of over half that long. There were at least a dozen decks. Even more impressive was the armament. Fifteen laser canon opened fire on the Minnow simultaneously. Six were mounted on turrets on each wing, three above and three below, and the other three were positioned under the bridge. Fry almost shouted “cool!” at the sight of all those guns, until he remembered how very, very bad they were for his health.

Fry had started to charge his weapons as a precaution the moment the Drakos came into view. He would only learn much later that the technology existed to detect weapons preparing to fire, and that this had been how he had announced his hostility to his unsuspecting foe.

The delivery boy was now faced with two choices. He could stay and fight, or run away with the proverbial tail between his legs. The first option would almost certainly end in either The Minnow or The Drakos exploding in a ball of nuclear fusion, killing either himself, or Leela if she was being held prisoner onboard the other ship. There was no way in hell that Fry was going to choose that option. The Minnow screeched into a U-turn and kicked into high boost. Fry gritted his teeth as the high gees pressed him hard against the seat.

Glancing hits scattered off of the aft shield. The rear facing radar showed Ivan steadily gaining on the Minnow. Whatever fantastic engine propelled the Minnow through space, there was an even better one on the Drakos. Running would be impossible.

In what the red head hoped was a daring and unexpected maneuver, Fry jammed the stick upward and to port. The sky tilted overhead at an impossible rate, and the surprised redhead was shoved deep into the side of his seat. By the time Fry’s mind had registered just how agile his spacecraft was, the Drakos was already in the field of view. This time the sight of fifteen separate laser cannon firing in his direction terrified the poor delivery boy, until he remembered his mission. Somewhere on that ship was the woman he loved, and no amount of firepower was going to deter him. That said, Fry reminded himself that destroying the Drakos was not an option. He would have to figure out to disable it… somehow.

A tone signaled that the Minnow had attained weapons lock. Fry pressed the triggers on his joystick. The result was fearsome.

A veritable wave of death and destruction arced away from The Minnow. Railguns clattered, lasers pulsed, and microwave emitters sent cracks and pops reverberating through the hull. Although remarkably fast when flying a straight course, Ivan’s ship could not alter its trajectory very well once it got moving. The Drakos was meant for escaping from the authorities, not for dogfights with nimble fighter craft. The full force of Fry’s barrage struck the Drakos’ shields before it could even start its turn. The enormous stingray was momentarily hidden by an orange glow as the shields absorbed millions of terajoules of energy. A moment later the Drakos came back into view. It was entirely unscathed.

The Drakos’ laser batteries returned fire. Fry pitched and rolled in an effort to throw off his adversaries’ aim, all the while trying to set up for another good shot. He didn’t have the chance. The two ships closed at a breakneck pace. The Minnow hurtled under the left wing of The Drakos, with only a hundred meters to spare.

Once again the Minnow executed a 180 degree turn. Now Fry was in a position to fire upon the Drakos’ engines, and possibly disable the vessel without destroying it.

The Drakos’ wing mounted laser turrets swiveled in place. They had been placed above and below the wing so that they could face astern and address the aft blind-spot problem that plagued the smaller stingray ships.

Fry took advantage of the few seconds that he had been given while the enemy ship’s weapons tried to reacquire their lock on him. He opened up with everything the Minnow had, but still it made no difference. The shields kept absorbing everything that he dished out.

In a matter of moments The Minnow was back in the sights of the Drakos’ gunners. Fry had to break off his attack and dodge. A few lucky shots scored direct hits on the Minnow’s shields. A flashing message on the ship’s HUD informed the redhead that his shields had been cut to 73%. Fry gulped. “Those lasers pack a punch!”

The incoming fire was becoming too accurate. Fry had to throw off the gunners’ aim again somehow. A little light bulb clicked on in the delivery boy’s normally slow brain. He pressed the throttle forward and shot past his quarry in a matter of moments. He then waited a moment and threw his ship into another turn, firing at his target as soon as his weapons came to bear. Fry was no longer worried about destroying the Drakos. The stingray’s shields were too damn strong to fail all at once. The Minnow would have to pound the shields with everything she had until they showed some sign of weakening.

With the throttle at maximum, Fry was now able to fly around his quarry faster than its defenses could track him. Shot after shot impacted the enemy’s shields. There was still no visible effect, but the redhead knew that there was a limit to the amount of energy that any shield could absorb. That shield would fail, even if it took all day.

“Alright, enough is enough,” said a disgruntled cyclops, as the room reeled around her.. Leela had stoically accepted being locked up in a little room for hours on end, but this new business was just too much. Until recently, her captivity had been relatively quiet. The lights had gone on a few hours after Leela had first discovered that she had been captured. They alternated off and on at regular intervals to allow for some sleep time. Food appeared from a slot in the wall every few hours. All in all she was being treated fairly well.

Then all of the sudden a siren had gone off. The overhead light turned from yellow-white to blood red. Leela could just barely make out voices yelling on the other side of the cell wall. A few moments later these sounds were accompanied by a dull roar and muffled thumps. Every once in awhile the room would shudder violently, throwing Leela off balance. It was pretty obvious that there was a battle of some kind going on. “I wonder who Ivan is trying to kill this time?”

A hundred feet away on the Drakos’ bridge, Ivan was also becoming very annoyed.

“You idiots!”, he shouted at his gunners over the intercom, “Shoot him down or I’ll throw each and every one of you out the airlock, and replace you with someone competent!”

The disgruntled arms dealer paced his bridge. What he had once dismissed as a harmless insect had turned out to have quite a stinger. The Drakos’ shields were at 82% and falling at a slow, but steady pace. If his ship were to loose its shields, Ivan had no doubt that his private fighter, in the hands of the infuriating redhead, would be able to convert the Drakos quite effectively into its component atoms.

It had been quite a surprise for Ivan to see the little needle ship turn to face him. “I never thought for a moment that that kid would have the guts to fight me without his captain around. What does he expect to accomplish anyway? If he brings my shields down and destroys my ship, he also kills Leela. If he somehow disables and disarms me, how does he expect to rescue his captain? He wont make it very far if he tries to board my ship by himself.” The scarred man toyed with the idea of letting his own shields down just so he could have the satisfaction of shooting Fry in the face as he came bounding out of the airlock. “No, I cant risk it. Better to kill him now than take the chance of faking shield collapse, only to end up blown to bits when that fool gets trigger-happy and does something stupid.”

“Sir, are you talking to me?” The same ensign from earlier was once again standing a few feet away with that quizzical look.

“No dammit! Now get back to your station!”

Ivan turned to lieutenant Carter, who was busy rerouting power from non-critical systems to the shields. A wise move. Almost any problem on a spaceship could easily be remedied by rerouting power.



“Prepare to fire missile tubes one through six on my mark.”

“Yes sir!” Carter gave a crisp salute and began fiercely pressing buttons at her console. Ivan watched her work. “She is a fine officer,” thought Ivan. “When this is over I will have to remember to give her a promotion.”

A few moments passed. Lieutenant Carter finished her frantic button pushing and raised her eyes to look at her captain. Ivan gestured her to wait. Fry’s ship buzzed about like some giant nuclear powered gnat. “That’s it my spiky-haired chum,” muttered the scarred man, “just a little farther to starboard and…”

Ivan brought his fist down on the arm of his captain’s chair. “Mark!”, he roared.

Six missiles carrying kryptonium warheads shot out of the Drakos’ missile tubes. The timing had been excellent. One moment Fry had been flying about practically unchallenged, and then the next half a dozen blips had appeared on radar, closing rapidly from the stern. Instinct took over before the delivery boy could process this new information. He dodged and weaved for a good five seconds before the nature of these new objects occurred to him.

A new wave of adrenaline coursed through the delivery boy’s veins. He tried every flying technique that Leela had taught him in an effort to get away from the incoming warheads, but the missiles matched him maneuver for maneuver. The strain on the Minnow’s hull sent creaks and groans coursing through the little ship as it was pushed to its limits. Fry prayed desperately to whatever god would listen that his ship wouldn’t fly apart before he could rescue his captain.

Instead of a divine miracle, Fry found himself facing another problem. His erratic evasive maneuvers had carried him away from the Drakos for long enough that the laser turrets had locked on to him again. Now he had to worry about the Minnow and the missiles being hit. If one of those things was detonated by a stray shot it would be almost as bad as being hit directly.

There was only one thing left to do, a little trick that Leela had shown him during a run in with the Tyranids of The Hive Planet. It was just a matter of time before the missiles caught up to him. Fry sent his ship into one last body-wrenching turn and pointed the Minnow’s bow straight at the Drakos’ stern. He pressed down on the triggers and sent one last, continuous wave of firepower crashing against the Drakos’ shields. The delivery boy did not even attempt to dodge the incoming fire. Fry needed every iota of engine power to propel him forward. If a few shots splashed against his shields before he reached the Drakos, well it wasn’t important. Fry doubted it would much matter how strong his shields were when those warheads went off.

It didn’t take long for Ivan to figure out what Fry had planned. The gunners were ordered to divert their fire from the incoming ship to the missiles that followed behind. All twelve wing-lasers sent volley after volley at the missiles that had just recently been an assurance of victory, but it was pointless. The warheads were too small and fast to hit save by sheer luck.

Fry’s every muscle tensed. His entire body was drenched in sweat. The Drakos was getting steadily closer. The missiles narrowed in from behind. Lasers flashed by in all directions. Time slowed to a veritable standstill. The missiles drew to within a kilometer. A klaxon blared its warning of imminent collision. The Drakos’ hull came closer, closer. “Now!”, shouted every fiber of Fry’s being. The delivery boy threw the engine into full reverse and pulled up on the stick so hard that it felt like it would snap. The Minnow turned slowly, so slowly. Six warheads vectored in for the kill. Overhead, the Drakos’ hull closed to within 40 meters. 30. 25. Impact!. Everything disappeared in an orange glare. The Minnow skipped off of the Drakos’ shields like a stone on the surface of a pond. Six kryptonium warheads collided with the shield half a moment later.

Fry’s body was pushed into his seat by a force the likes of which the delivery boy had not imagined possible. Ivan’s shields absorbed most of the energy from the explosion, but buckled before the warheads’ effects could be completely nullified. A much diminished, but still dangerous, shockwave tore into the Drakos and the Minnow. The entire tail section of the stingray, including the engines, split off from the main body and spun away crazily.

Up became left. Leela momentarily found herself airborne, until a nearby wall had a chance to remind her that her species couldn’t fly. A new vibration started to coarse through the deck, one much larger than could be explained by the throb of any engine. It became impossible for the cyclops to stand. Leela allowed herself to fall to the ground. She curled into a ball with her head between her knees and her hands on the back of her neck. If Ivan’s ship was doing what she thought it was doing, it would be a good idea to be in the most protective posture possible. The PE captain reminded herself that it wasn’t an uncontrolled re-entry that would kill you, it was the sudden stop at the end.

The delivery boy fought to control his mortally injured craft, but there was no response. The almost-forgotten planet loomed larger and larger. Soon Fry could hear the whoosh of air as the Minnow entered the atmosphere for one final flight. A red glow appeared around the falling ship, soon building to a white-hot inferno. The ground was closing in. The ship was still unresponsive. A calm, computerized voice began to speak over the ship’s comm. “This is Mike, your personal bail-out assistant. If you would like to eject, please pull the handle located under the front of your seat. Thank you.” A small red handle popped out from the deck. Fry lunged at it.

A loud ‘whoomp’ filled the cockpit as dozens of small explosive bolts went off simultaneously throughout the Minnow. An airtight bulkhead slammed shut just inches behind the pilot’s seat. Somewhere under Fry’s feet a rocket fired, propelling the cockpit away from the doomed Minnow. Drag fins deployed to slow the careening escape pod. Sensors waited for the flames of re-entry to die down, and finally signaled for the release of the parachute. There was a terrific jolt, and Fry breathed a sigh of relief to see the ground approaching at a much more reasonable rate. In the distance the delivery boy could see a small explosion as his faithful Minnow found its final resting place. Overhead and to the rear, an angry plume of smoke marked the re-entry of a much larger vessel. Ivan’s ship had also succumbed to the seductive pull of gravity.

The infuriatingly calm synthesized voice of Mike began speaking again, “In case of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device. Please keep your seatbelt fastened and your tray table in the upright position until the vehicle comes to a complete stop...”

Part 5: Retribution

The little escape pod came to rest in the boughs of what looked remarkably like a terrestrial oak. A hiss of air filled the cockpit, and the canopy popped free. Mike, who had been cheerily instructing the poor delivery boy on the escape pod’s safety features ever since the Minnow’s cockpit had been jettisoned, informed Fry that the air was breathable. “It has been a pleasure serving you, and we hope to see you again. Thanks for choosing Ivanair.” Fry scurried out of the craft as fast as he could, desperate to get away from the maddening computerized voice.

It was a long way down to solid ground. Fry spent a couple of tense minutes climbing through foliage and shimmying down the trunk. About five feet off the ground he lost his grip, and suddenly found himself falling through the air. He landed on his ass. Fry stood up and brushed himself off. A quick check of his body yielded no injuries. “Like Leela always says, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.” The redhead stretched his stiff muscles and took one last look at the remains of the craft that had ferried him halfway across the galaxy.

A few minutes later Fry was running through the forest in, so he hoped, the direction of Ivan’s crashed ship. A dense hardwood forest blocked any good view of the sky, but Fry thought he could see a plume of smoke through tiny gaps in the canopy. Before long, the panting redhead came across a broad clearing. With the trees gone, Fry could see a little more of the world he had been cast onto. A range of small mountains, little more than glorified hills really, reared their heads a few miles ahead. Two columns of smoke rose skyward, a small one to Fry’s left, and a large one straight ahead on the other side of the mountains. The smaller, and closer, plume was probably from the Minnow. The other one could only be from Ivan’s ship, or an unbelievably coincidental forest fire. “Well, I’d better get going,” Fry exclaimed with a cheerfulness that he didn’t feel. He started running again, straight for the big smoke column.

Running through wild forest is not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re clumsy and out of shape. Fry was only able to run a half mile before lack of stamina, coupled with nature’s tendency to place tree limbs at the height of the human nose, forced him to slow to a walk. To make matters worse, the sun started to go down six hours after the crash. An exhausted, not to mention scratched and bruised, Fry finally had to stop for the night when the darkness sent him blundering straight into a mass of brambles. This particular planet had no moon, and the starlight was feeble at best. There was no way Fry was going to get to Ivan’s ship before he became hopelessly lost in the dark.

This was the first time that Fry had ever had to spend a night in the woods alone. The closest thing he had ever come to roughing it was the trip through the desert on Talora, and even then there were tents and hot meals. “Ok, I can do this. All I have to do is remember what they taught me in Webelos. First, make a shelter.” Fry could just barely make out a couple of boulders that formed a tiny cave between them. “Ok check. How about water?” A quick search of the makeshift campsite yielded a face-plant in the dirt courteous of a badly placed tree root, but no water. “Nope, no water. Next up, food.” Fry looked around him. He couldn’t see more than a dozen paces in any direction, and there was no way he was going to go wandering away from his ‘shelter’. “Ooh! I’ve got it!” The redhead reached down and picked up a short stick. “It’ll be just like the old Webelos days, before they kicked me out.” Fry put the hunk of wood in his mouth and bit down. He chewed for a moment, grimaced, and spit the stuff out. “Oh man, yuck! That’s not oak, its maple!”

.One cold and lonely night later, the delivery boy emerged from between his two boulders and yawned. Fry was cold, sore in places he didn’t know existed, and ravishingly hungry. “Yep, that’s a typical campout for ya,” thought Fry as he tried to stretch out the kinks in his spine.

With the sun up, Fry continued his hike. A bush covered in tiny spherical red berries came into view after a few minutes. “Alright! Food!” The starving redhead rushed over to stuff his face, but paused before he could shove the tiny fruit into his mouth. “Wait, what was that rhyme I used to know? Red berries fuel your cells, blue berries ring funeral bells? Or was it, blue berries are good on bread, red ones will kill you dead? Hmm…” Fry pondered for a moment, then shrugged. “Oh well. Down the hatch!”

Fry started walking again. The ground became steeper and more treacherous. By the time Fry reached the summit of the mountain, he was climbing on all fours and wheezing loudly. A few feet from the top he took a moment to catch his breath. Long experience told Fry that cresting a mountain peak on an unknown planet nearly always resulted in a sight that led to a collective gasp from everyone present. He knew that if that happened now while he was out of breath, he would end up passed out on the ground.

When the delivery boy was breathing a bit more easily he stood up and climbed the last dozen or so feet. As expected, he gasped loudly.

Fry had had a good idea as to what he would find below him. In the best case scenario, Ivan’s ship would be badly damaged, at worst it would be a smoldering crater. Reality was somewhere in between. The stingray shape was completely gone now. The entire front quarter of the ship had buckled in on itself like some gigantic aluminum can crushed underfoot. Pieces of debris littered the ground all around the crash site. One wing lay upside-down a quarter-mile away. An ugly hole near the rear of what was left of the main ship still belched a thin streamer of foul black smoke. Fry could just barely make out people in brown uniforms running to and fro.

A sigh of relief escaped from the redhead. People had survived the crash. That meant there was hope that he could still rescue Leela.

“Hee-ya!” ponytailed missile flung itself at the door for the hundredth time. Leela’s kick connected squarely with the target. The door still refused to give way. ”Ugh! I am so sick of this! I want out of here dammit!” The frustrated PE captain gave up her futile assault and paced her tiny room.

The crash had been spectacular. Even though Leela hated him or her with a passion at the moment, she couldn’t help but respect the skill of whomever had been driving this godforsaken ship. Somehow the pilot had used the aerodynamic properties of the vessel to create some lift, preventing the spaceship from crashing into the ground at a deadly speed. Still, when the impact had come it had been a doosy. The ship’s bow crumpled in a fraction of a second. All personnel that had not been able to heed Ivan’s order to retreat into the center of the ship were crushed instantly. Leela had been thrown about her cell like an action figure in a washing machine. Luckily she had been in a protective body position, or things would have gotten very ugly. Leela only wished that the toilet had not been there with her. A layer of dirty water now coated every surface of the room.

Ivan had appeared an hour or so after the crash. What Leela had rightly guessed was a door creaked open with a shower of sparks. The scarred arms dealer walked into the room and pointed a very ugly weapon at the cyclops. He was obviously not a very happy person at the moment. Cuts and scrapes crisscrossed his face, there was a second degree burn on his right hand, and a purple bruise across his face, neck, and presumably chest, marked the precise instant when a restraint had saved his life.

“You survived the crash did you? Alright then, you purple-haired pain-in-the-ass, listen up. You’re red-headed friend has proven to be a bigger problem than I gave him credit for. Luckily the little trick he used to knock us out of the sky also did the same number on him. If he managed to eject before the impact killed him, he’ll most likely do the stupid thing and walk straight here.”

“Fry is here?!” Leela was astonished, partly to hear that not only had Fry survived, but also come to her rescue. Mostly however, she was astonished that Ivan would have any reason to let her know. “Wait, why are you telling me this?”

“Simple, my dear. As soon as my scouts spot Fry, I’ll have you led out into the open and tied to a tree. You’re a smart woman, you’d have realized I was using you as bait, and who was being baited. This way however, I got to see your expression when I told you that your dear friend was still alive. That will make the expression you make upon seeing Fry blown to bits so much more delectable. I told you once before that you would watch your shipmates gunned down in front of you. Unfortunately there was no time on Talora for me to carry out my promise without ending up dead myself. That is why I dragged you halfway across the galaxy, you see. Now I have another chance to get my revenge. I was hoping that your whole crew would be involved, but Fry will have to do.”

“Go f*&k yourself.”

Ivan laughed and walked out of the room. The door closed behind him with a creak.

Ever since Ivan had left Leela had been trying to escape. She knew full well that her slow-minded friend would fall for Ivan’s trick, and she had to escape before the trap could be set. “If it wasn’t for this damned invincible door…”

As if on queue, the door creaked open again. Two burly men swaggered in armed to the teeth. Leela was still in midair when thug one raised a weapon and shot her square in the neck. A tiny dart injected its toxic cargo into her bloodstream. The PE captain’s suddenly unresponsive body collided with her target.

Thug One spent the next several seconds cursing as he tried to extricate himself from his assailant. Thug Two just stood there and laughed at his companion, not even attempting to help. When Thug One could finally stand again, he walked over to the limp woman and gave her a savage kick in the side. Dignity restored, he nodded to his still-chuckling buddy. Thug Two bent down and grabbed the fallen woman around the waist. He tossed her over his shoulder and followed Thug One out the door.

A short distance away, Fry lay concealed behind a large boulder. So far, he didn’t think he had been spotted. No one was shooting at him anyway, which was a pleasant change of pace. Still, he couldn’t get any closer without blowing his cover.

Fry spent a few minutes trying to figure out what to do next. If he went barging in there right now he’d just end up shot. “What would Leela do?”, Fry wondered. “If she was here she’d come up with some perfect plan that would save the day.” Of course, if Leela were there with him then the whole situation would be moot. “Maybe if I wait until after dark I can sneak in before anyone sees me. Then I just have to search a gigantic crashed ship that I’ve never seen before for a person that’s probably being held under heavy guard…”

The delivery boy’s thoughts trailed off as he became aware of what, or more accurately who, was being led out of the wrecked spacecraft. It was Leela!

As the ecstatic redhead watched, two of Ivan’s men tied the cyclops to a tree, and then proceeded to turn around and re-enter the ship. Every other crewmember that was at the crash site followed them in to the smoking hulk a minute later.

Ivan had been accurate in his prediction of Fry’s response. The delivery boy leaped out of his hiding place without even a second thought and ran pell-mell down the mountainside toward his drugged captain. He made it almost halfway there before laser blasts drove him back into cover. At first Fry assumed he had been spotted, but another blast never came near him. Instead, a volley of laser fire pelted the crash site. It continued for a few seconds, and then ceased abruptly. When the dust cleared Fry was relieved to see that no stray shot had come close to Leela’s tree.

A moment later a familiar ship descended from above. The hovering vessel was a bright white, with two engines on fins at the bottom and docking stations on small arms on either side. A large white and black grate gave the impression of a ridiculous grin across the bow. Bold black letters painted on the ship’s flanks proclaimed its name: Nimbus.

Fry groaned. “Oh Geez. Not here. Not now. Please god, not…”

A loud booming voice rolled out from under the ship’s belly. “Hello-a. My name is Zapp Brannigan, captain of the DOOP ship Nimbus. You are all under arrest for violation of B-10.8-1, Brannigan’s law. You are trespassing on a forbidden world-a. If you don’t leave this planet immediately, I will have to put you under arrest. You have 15 seconds before I open fire. “Umm sir?”, enquired a weak voice. Lieutenant Kif Kroker addressed his captain aboard the Nimbus. Unbeknownst to either DOOP officer, Zapp had accidentally turned up the gain on his loudspeaker, thereby transmitting their conversation to everyone within a five mile radius.

“What is it Kif, old friend?”

“How are you going to arrest them if you blast them into vapor?”

“I’m glad you asked. See, life is like a box of chocolates, you can’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

“That made absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

Brannigan put on a mysterious air. “Didn’t it? Or did it make all the sense in the world?”

Kif just sighed heavily.

Fry’s gaze returned to Leela just in time to see one of Ivan’s men throw the still-limp cyclops over his shoulder and hurry back toward the relative safety of his ship. Brannigan was too busy proving his stupidity in front of his first officer to notice what was going on. The delivery boy jumped up and once again started running, but it was too late. Leela’s purple hair disappeared behind a closing hatch before Fry was close enough to do anything.

Before Fry had a chance to decide what to do next, Zapp made the decision for him. “You there, with the red hair,” boomed Brannigan’s disembodied voice, “the penalty for standing on the planet’s surface is death-a. You have damaged Gillegyn’s fragile ecosystem with your very presence. Now I will execute you in the most nature-friendly manner imaginable-a: with my main laser cannon!” On the bridge of the nimbus, Kif Kroker let out another patent sigh.

A yellow line of death chased Fry, who screamed all the while, to the shelter of some obscuring trees. The redhead dove to the side a split second before the laser could turn him into cooked hamburger.

“Now then, the rest of you have fifteen seconds to leave the planet, starting now.” There was silence for exactly the amount of time Zapp had specified. “Very well. Since you refuse to leave, you give me no other option but to send wave after wave of my own men at you.” “But sir,” Kif broke in, “wasn’t the plan to use the lasers?” “Why, yes it was-a, but I like this new plan a lot better.”

What happened next was a sight familiar to Fry, who had once been pressed into service under the command of the intolerable Brannigan. Zapp was fond of the element of surprise, only he had gotten the meaning of the phrase confused somehow. The giant Nimbus descended to hover eight feet off the ground in a small clearing devoid of rubble, about three hundred yards from the crash site. Giant doors flew open on the bottom of the white ship, sending fifty or so unsuspecting troops falling onto the battlefield. The Nimbus then proceeded to fly away from the battle, ostensibly to watch from the safety of orbit.

The fifty DOOP soldiers wasted no time getting ready. They broke up into five separate squads and dashed for whatever cover they could find. At the same time, the remains of the Drakos began to swarm with defenders. A lucky shot from one of Ivan’s men caught a DOOP soldier in the side moments before the man reached safety behind a piece of wreckage.

The battle picked up in intensity very quickly. The DOOP soldiers, although slightly more numerous, were also slightly outgunned. Evidently some of Ivan’s private weapons stash had survived re-entry. Whatever the case, this fight was showing signs of being a real meat-grinder. Fry was now in a very serious situation. Between him and the ship was a small army of men that wouldn’t think twice before shooting him. Meanwhile, another small army that wouldn’t think twice before shooting him was slowly, but steadily, closing in. If he didn’t do something soon, he could easily end up caught in the crossfire. Then again, if he tried to stand up and leave the cover of the low bushes he was crouching in, the delivery boy would be cut down before he could take two steps. One of Ivan’s people walked within a few feet of the delivery boy’s hiding place. The woman caught sight of Fry and leveled her rifle, but was picked off by a DOOP soldier before she could shoot. Fry trembled for a few moments at this latest close call. When the soldier had moved off, Fry scrambled out of his shelter and picked up the woman’s small pistol, which had fallen from her hand. He made it back to his bushes before anyone spotted him. “Now if someone wants to shoot me, at least I can shoot back,” muttered Fry darkly

Tense minutes passed. Things exploded and vaporized all around the poor delivery boy until so little cover remained that Fry was forced to leave his hiding spot. What followed was a blur of motion and raw instinct. Fry ran forward, ducking just in time to avoid a projectile of some kind. Men in green DOOP uniforms approached from the rear, zapping away with their charged positron shooters. The delivery boy knew he couldn’t shoot the soldiers. After all they were the good guys, well under normal circumstances anyway. Fry altered course and took off toward the only cover that was nearby, the tortured ruin of the Drakos’ hull.

The DOOP was gaining ground. Only a few men remained to defend the exterior of the ship. They fell one by one as Fry ran. Only two defenders were left, standing at the ship’s closed airlock. Fry shot at them wildly as he ran toward a spot downhull. The two men were forced to take shelter behind a makeshift, waist-high barricade that was propped up in front of them.

Once at the ship, Fry threw himself behind a giant twisted hunk of metal that lay propped up against the Drakos’ outer skin. The two men that had been chasing Fry broke off their pursuit to engage the men standing at the airlock. Both DOOP soldiers were promptly cut down. Fry tried to line up a shot on the two defenders, who were less than twenty paces away, but the attempt was soon proven unnecessary. A compact sphere of antimatter screamed through the air and smashed into the airlock door. An intense flash of gamma ray nullification advertised the destruction of not only the airlock, but the two men that had been guarding it.

This was the chance that Fry had been hoping for. Before whatever shred of logic that he had could instruct him otherwise, the delivery boy bolted from his hiding place and made a dash for the still-smoking hole in the ship’s hull. DOOP weapons fire buried itself in the ground and hull in an attempt to wipe Fry from existence, but failed. The remaining soldiers were too far away to get a bead on him with small arms, and antimatter cannons took far too long to reload. Fry made it into the ship with relative ease.

The interior of the Drakos was in a much better state than the outside. Bits of miscellaneous rubble lay strewn hither and thither and the deck was tilted at a slight angle, but most of the craft was more or less intact. The only signs of the ongoing disaster were the flashing emergency lights and the acrid smell of smoke mixed with fear and weapons discharge.

Fry had expected an unfriendly welcoming committee, but saw no signs of human life. He supposed that whoever had been guarding the inside of the airlock had succumbed to the same fate as their two comrades on the outside. It would not be long, however, before this hallway became a raging bloodbath.

A small hatch drew the redhead’s attention. The words “service tunnels” were emblazoned on the hatch’s surface in red letters. Fry gave it an experimental tug; it opened. Footfalls could now be heard racing toward the compromised airlock. Outside the ship, voices could be heard giving orders. Fry tucked his pistol into the inside pocket of his tattered jacket, grabbed a pipe above the hatch, and used it to swing himself feet-first through the hatch and into the space beyond. Landing with an “Ow!”, the delivery boy reached behind him and pulled the hatch closed, moments before Ivan’s reinforcements ran into the corridor.

A long, dimly lit crawlspace swung into view when Fry finally managed to get himself turned around. Many colored stripes were painted on the floor. Next to each stripe was painted a location in that stripe’s color. Amidst the tangled rainbow was an orange stripe, marked ‘Brig’. “That’s probably where Leela will be,” reasoned Fry. “If I use these tunnels, I’ll be able to stay out of the fighting. Maybe I’ll even be able to surprise the people who are guarding Leela.”

What followed was a slow, uncomfortable trek through the guts of Ivan’s ship. It seemed like an eternity before Fry found himself at his destination. The tunnel that Fry had been using ended in a hatch identical to the one he had used earlier. Fry put an ear up to the cold metal surface to listen for the sounds of someone on the other side. Everything seemed quiet. “I guess the coast is clear,” muttered the delivery boy as he cautiously opened the hatch. Before the hatch was even halfway open it was torn from his grasp. Half a moment later Fry found himself faced with the familiar sight of a laser rifle being leveled at his head.

“I’m boned,” sighed the poor redhead.

Fry presently found himself in a small square room. On one side of the compartment was a closed hatch, while the opposite end was open to an adjacent corridor. Standing in the middle of the room was a tall human male with a dark scar. Fry had finally come face to face with the man he had chased all the way from Talora. Unfortunately, the crewman that had captured him had been smart enough to search him for concealed weapons. Fry’s pistol had been quickly confiscated.

“So, my redheaded friend, what brings you way out here to Gillegyn Five?”, asked the scarred lunatic.

Fry fumbled for a believable excuse. “Umm, well see, the thing is, I was on this three hour tour right? And, well anyway, my ship, The Minnow, got caught up in a solar storm…”

“Silence! I know why you’re here, and I know it was you in the ship that attacked me. I must say I applaud you for getting this far all by yourself. Leela told me herself that she thought you were too stupid to do anything on your own.”

“No I’m doesn’t! And anyway, Leela wouldn’t say that. She’s hard on me sometimes, but she’s too good a friend to say things like that without me present.”

“Heh, maybe so, but the fact remains that you still failed miserably in the end. Lieutenant Carter? Bring in the woman”.

A tired and bruised, yet still fiercely uncooperative, purple-haired cyclops was half dragged into the compartment from her cell two doors down. The neuro-repressor had worn off soon after Leela had been locked back up in her tiny prison. The guards had had the foresight to leave the hand and ankle cuffs on her. The furious woman emitted a continuous string of curses, many of which Fry would have to look up later, before she finally caught sight of her attempted-rescuer.

Fry’s goofy grin was met with a look of joy mixed with disbelief. “Fry? Is that really you? They told me that Zapp killed you.”

“Yep Leela, it’s really me! Zapp Brannigan is no match for my boundless wit.” Several of the nearby guards couldn’t repress a collective snicker.

“Oh, Fry, you have no idea how good it is to see your face right now,” Fry’s grin broadened.

“Alright you two, that’s enough catching up. I have precious little time before The DOOP breaks through my defenses and I have to get to my shuttle. I intend to use every last moment evening out the score.” Ivan’s face gained a sinister quality. “You, crewman! Drag Leela over there.” Ivan gestured to a spot on the side of the room opposite Fry. “This time, I am doing this the short and easy way. No more slipups. No more just-in-the-knick-of-time rescues. This time I will have my revenge. You won’t distract me into giving longwinded monologues about my superior cunning, for my superior cunning will spot any attempt by you to stall for time. You will not make a mockery of me, daring to defy me by continuing to live. Yes, I will enjoy this execution more than any I have carried out in a long time. In all my life, I have never come across a pair of individuals that have caused me more trouble. Even the DOOP never came close to loosing me a prized shipment and destroying my flagship. Now I’m bankrupt, and possibly cornered, because of your tiresome meddling.” An ensign checked his watch. “And furthermore…”

Laser fire broke out all around. Several DOOP soldiers had heard a loud ranting voice down a corridor and zeroed in on its location. Fry hit the deck immediately, and was soon followed by Leela when the guards who had been supporting her were each shot in the chest.

Lieutenant Carter and the one remaining guard returned fire, killing two of the three soldiers. A positron beam hit the lieutenant directly in the chest. Carter screamed and fell to the ground, sending her laser pistol skittering across the room in the process. The remaining DOOP soldier blasted the legs out from under Ivan’s sole remaining man. Ivan shot the soldier in the head a fraction of a second later.

“Goddamnit no! This is not going to happen again!” The scarred madman stomped over to Fry, who was still laying face-up on the deck. “Fry, you die now.” Ivan raised his weapon. Leela screamed. Ivan pulled the trigger. Fry kicked him in the shin. HARD.

The kick threw off Ivan’s aim. The shot went wide, missing the delivery boy by mere inches. Fry rolled out of the way just in time to dodge the follow up shot. Suddenly there was something cold and metallic pressed up against his right hand. Fry rolled again and brought Carter’s discarded laser pistol to bear. Ivan’s eyes grew wide.

Fry grinned. “I’ve always wanted to say this. “Hasta la vista, baby!” “Why, you little son of a bi…”

Ivan never got a chance to finish his sentence. A white-hot ball of plasma struck him in the chest, and kept on going. The lifeless body fell to the ground with a wet smack.

“Whahoo! I did it! I saved the day! Take that Ivan, you creepy jerk!” Fry jumped around the room, firing wildly in celebration. Various wall fixtures, light sources, and pieces of equipment vaporized accordingly.

“Fry! Listen to me!” Leela glared up at her rescuer after a random shot singed the end of her ponytail. “First of all, stop blasting everything in sight. I really don’t feel like dying at the moment. Second, find the keys to these damned handcuffs before someone else shows up and decides to mop the floor with us.”

Fry grinned sheepishly and lowered the pistol. “Uhh, yeah, sure thing Leela.”The keys to Leela’s restraints were hidden deep in one of Ivan’s trouser pockets. It was a good thing that the plas-pistol had hit him in the chest rather than in his waist, or there might have been no key for the delivery boy to find. Still, it was a gruesome business rummaging around in a corpse’s pockets, especially when said pockets were soggy with blood. Fry was more than a little relieved when Leela’s restraints were off and he could throw the gory key away.

Leela experimented with standing up. The cuffs had cut off a lot of her circulation, and the cyclops was annoyed to discover that both of her legs were half asleep. She almost stumbled once before she got control of herself, but she prevented her body from betraying its temporary weakness through sheer will. It was already intolerable enough that Fry had been the one to rescue her, rather than the other way around. There was no way in hell that she was going to play the helpless damsel in distress anymore. Now that she was back in action, it was time that she take charge again.

“So, what now Leela?” Fry had come to the same conclusion as his captain. He knew full well that he was no hero. Sure, he’d gotten lucky a bunch of times and managed to save Leela’s ass for once, but Leela was the born leader, not he. It would be best to let her be the one to make the decisions from now on.

Leela, who was leaning against the wall but hiding it by pretending to use it as cover to look around the corner into the corridor beyond, turned to her friend and gave him a warm smile. She had known Fry long enough to be familiar with his thought process. In his own way he had just told her that he still had confidence in her, even after seeing her cuffed and helpless on the floor. She realized that being weak in his eyes would be something she couldn’t deal with. She would feel as though she had failed him.

Strength finally replenished, Leela pushed these thoughts out of her head for the moment. “Hmm…” The cyclops crossed her arms and tried to think. Presently she said: “I’ve been unconscious or locked up in a room by myself for awhile, so I don’t really know what’s going on. The DOOP is here evidently…” Leela glanced over at one of the fallen soldiers, then froze as the ramifications sank in. “Oh god, please don’t tell me that HE’s here!”

The delivery boy grimaced. Leela and Zapp were not exactly the best of friends, although the moronic captain of the Nimbus had not as yet caught on to this fact. “Yeah, Zapp’s here.” Before Leela could groan accordingly, Fry added: “but he doesn’t know I’m here, or well, he knows some guy with red hair is here because he tried to fry me with that giant laser thing on his ship, but he didn’t get close enough to see who I was. That means he doesn’t know you’re here either!’

“Oh thank god! I don’t know if I could restrain myself if I had to deal with that windbag right now.”

“But shouldn’t we let the DOOP guys know we’re here? I didn’t before because I didn’t want to take up a lot of time explaining things to Zapp Brannigan while Ivan was deciding to kill you, but now...” Fry shrugged.

There was a noise. Leela jumped behind some equipment in a corner, dragging Fry after her. Footsteps and coarse language approached from down the hall, followed by the two men that they belonged to. Two hours later the soldiers would wake up in the Nimbus brig to powerful headaches and no recollection as to what had happened.

Leela dislodged her boot from her target’s face, stood up, and brushed herself off. “What were you saying Fry? Oh right, the DOOP. No, lets not let them know we’re here unless we have to. This mission is already a candidate for the biggest fiasco of my adult life, let’s not seal the deal by getting Zapp involved ok?”

Fry nodded his agreement.

“Didn’t Ivan say something about a shuttle?”, continued Leela. “We can use that to get out of here.”

Getting to the shuttle bay was much harder than it had any right to be. It was in a part of the ship that had not faired well during the crash landing. The tormented ship’s support structure had been compromised to the extent that many corridors and compartments, as well as all of the servicing tunnels in the area, were inaccessible. To make matters worse, a full scale boarding action was going on all over the ship. Damage from high explosives was evident everywhere. Fry and Leela spent many tense minutes trying to find a path through the rubble, stopping every once in awhile to duck out of the way of the occasional DOOP patrol. The DOOP was mopping up the last of the resistance, which was making its last stand several decks away. Leela knew that she needed to get to the shuttle bay before Ivan’s men were completely overrun. Once the DOOP soldiers ran out of people to shoot, they would start to comb the ship for survivors. If they came across Fry and herself, they would either shoot first and ask questions later or send them off to the Nimbus’ brig to deal with Brannigan. She hoped they chose option one.

Leela was just about frustrated enough to give up and take her chances with Zapp when Fry disappeared from sight with a cry. He had been walking across a fallen beam that bridged a hole in the deck when he lost his balance. Soon he was lying on his ass, smiling up at an annoyed cyclops from the deck below.

“Are you alright Fry?”

“Yeah I, OW!” A few pieces of loose rubble rained down on him from above. “Yeah, I think so.”

Leela jumped down into the hole and surveyed the surroundings. They were in a compartment of some kind, though it was too damaged for its identity to be discerned. One thing did gain Leela’s attention however. Landing gear and part of an undercarriage were silhouetted behind gaps in a partially collapsed bulkhead.

It was just a short run to the shuttle’s airlock. “My god,” thought Leela, “we’re actually going to make it out of here without getting cau…”

“You there! Stop running and put your hands up-a!”

“Oh lord… Why do I never learn?” Fry and Leela stopped in their tracks. Leela did as the voice demanded, but hesitated to turn around. “Maybe if I don’t look, he’ll just go away.” Not likely.

A moment later a large male hand appeared on Leela’s right shoulder.

“My my, what have we here? Trying to escape, like rats from a burning wig? Not while I, Zapp Brannigan am in charge!” Zapp took a step back to look over his captives. From the rear they both seemed somehow… familiar. He addressed the one with the purple hair. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to be related to…” The PE captain turned around to face him. A fire capable of igniting a small star was burning in her eye.

“Leela?!” Zapp was stunned. “No, it can’t be.” Zapp crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes before addressing the woman again. “What are you, some kind of Leela android? Who are you working for?! What is your purpose!? What have you done with my buxxomy swan?!”

A sigh emanated from somewhere in the shadows behind Zapp. Kif Kroker’s green form coalesced out of the darkness and walked up to his captain’s side. “I’m sorry that we startled you captain Leela.” Kif acknowledged Fry’s presence with a nod. “But, what are you doing here? This is a forbidden planet, and we didn’t see your ship.”

“It’s a very long story Kif, and I really don’t want to go into it right now. Let’s just say we didn’t want to be here, and in a couple of minutes we weren’t going to be here anymore. I was really looking forward to that second part. Please, this has been an awful week, can’t you just let us go?”

“Well gee, Leela, I don’t know. I guess we could let it go this time but…”

Zapp butted in before his lieutenant could continue. “No! Interfering with undeveloped worlds is a violation of Brannigan’s Law, which I am sworn to protect! Since Kif and I both saw you here, I’m afraid that I will have to put the both of you under arrest-a.”

A devious look came into Leela’s face. “But you never saw us here,” Leela continued under her breath, “or at least that’s what you’ll think in a minute.”

Kif saw the change in the cyclops’ stance and decided he would simply forget the next ten seconds.

“Ah, but I’m afraid we did see you here, right Ki..?” A black boot collided with Zapp’s face, the only feminine touch the man’s mouth had seen in years. The DOOP captain practically melted under the blow, transforming into a veritable puddle of velour goo and sliding to the deck. Leela kept kicking him. There was a lot of rage to work out, and she had learned through long practice that there was no better way to dissipate excess rage than by damaging Zapp’s body. It had somehow become… therapeutic.

Fry eventually had to pull his captain away. He enjoyed seeing Zapp get his ass kicked as much as the next guy, but they still had escaping to do. When Leela regained her composure she turned to Kif. The lieutenant was staring off into a corner. He turned to face her when he noticed her gaze

“Don’t worry captain Leela, I’ll tell the jackass he slipped and fell or something.” He looked down at the limp form of his superior officer. There was no readable expression on his face, but both Fry and Leela knew that seeing Zapp unconscious on the floor was the highlight of the lieutenant’s day.

Fry had a question that had been bugging him during this whole conversation. “Hey man, wait up. Why were you and Zapp here anyway? I mean, I saw your ship fly away from here when I was outside.”

Kif sighed. “Zapp came back down here to claim credit for the battle as soon as it was obvious that we were winning. He was hiding down here in the deserted hangar to wait for the shooting to stop. He was sitting in the corner shaking when we heard voices in the next room, and then we saw you two.”

A couple of voices began to echo down a nearby corridor. Kif gestured for his two friends to get moving. “You’d better go before someone else sees you.”

Fry chuckled. “Yeah, we wouldn’t want Leela beating the crap out of any more of your crew.”

Leela rolled her eye.

“Alright, Kif we’ll get out of here. Thanks for the help!” Leela gave the squishy alien a quick hug. She and Fry turned and ran.

“Tell Amy I said hi!”, Kif called meekly after them.

Soon Fry and Leela were onboard their getaway ship. Leela slid into the pilot’s seat while Fry stood nervously behind her. This ship was a bit bigger than the Minnow, but there was still only one seat. Fry silently prayed to whoever would listen that Leela didn’t have to put the shuttle through any aerobatics. He’d been banged around enough already…

Leela powered up the ship and pointed its nose toward the hangar door. Sitting around waiting for the door to open was a bad idea, since it would give anyone on the other side ample opportunity to blow the crap out of them before they could take off. Luckily there was another way. Leela moved the joystick in a clockwise rotation and fired one of the ship’s many lasers. Before Fry could ask what she was doing, Leela jammed the throttle forward, sending the shuttle crashing through the metal cutout she had just made, and a screaming Fry hurtling backward through the length of the ship into the rear bulkhead. A few wild bolts of small arms fire were all that challenged the little ship as it arced away into the sky.

Part 6: Homeward Bound

Leela called the professor as soon as they broke orbit. There were no signs of guilt on his face. Either Farnsworth did not feel regret for abandoning her to whatever fate Ivan had planned, or he simply didn’t remember anything that had happened. It quickly became apparent that it was the second case.

“Hello?” he enquired upon accepting the call. “Who is this?”

“Professor! It’s Leela! It’s so good to see you again!”

“Leela! There you are! We’ve been looking all over for you! Why aren’t you at work today? There’s a package that need’s delivering to the politically correct people of Liberalis 12!”

Fry, who had been listening to the conversation from the rear of the ship, got up and moved to a position right behind Leela. If he cocked his head just right he could get it in the vidphone’s field of view.

“Umm, “ he began, “Leela was kidnapped by Ivan, and I went to rescue her. That was a few days ago now…”


“You know, Ivan. That guy that stole all of your doomsday devices and tried to blow up your spaceship?”

“Don’t be silly Fry. All of my doomsday devices are all perfectly safe. Why, I was tinkering with the quantum matter wave disruptor just this morning. Nothing wakes up the mad genius like the smell of tachyons decaying in the morning, oh my yes…”

By this point Farnsworth had become lost in musings of diabolical machines of death and destruction. He wandered off camera before Fry or Leela had a chance to regain his attention. Leela had just enough time to grumble something about senile old men and start to hang up, when Amy happened upon the scene.

“Umm, professor, I think you left the vidphone on again!,” she yelled from off screen. “Hmm, I wonder who he was talking t-“ She realized who was on the other end of the line. “Oh my gosh! Fry! Leela! You’re ok?! We were so worried about you!”

“Hi Amy, god it’s good to see you again. Yeah, Fry and I are fine. Fry managed to rescue me from Ivan.”

“Uhh, yeah about that Leela. The professor wouldn’t let us come after you… We wanted to, really we did, but by the time we had loaded up all of the professor’s things there wasn’t a trail to follow anymore. I’m really sorry.”

Leela smiled to diffuse her friend’s tension. “It’s ok Amy, I understand. The professor did the right thing anyway. Those weapons could have killed millions of people, there wasn’t any other thing you could have done.”

Amy was visibly relieved. She had been worried that Leela would hate her forever. “So, where are you now?”

“We’re in a shuttle headed for home. We’ll be back at Planet Express in a day or so.” Damn it felt good to say that…

“Oh, ok. Do you need us to come out and meet you half way? It looks really cramped in there.”

Fry and Leela looked at each other, and then looked over their shoulders in unison. It would be a cramped 24 hours. The two companions turned back to the vidphone. “No, its alright,” responded Leela. “Fry and I can handle it.”

“Alright, if you say so. Umm, anyway, what happened to Ivan?” Amy was almost certain she knew the answer, but she needed someone to tell her for certain.

“Ivan’s dead Amy. Fry…”

Fry interjected. “I blasted him! I was all like, rolling around on the floor and found this gun and I was like ‘hasta la vista baby!’ and he was all like kapow! Zap! Squish!” Fry’s speech disintegrated into a series of weird noises and bodily motions as he tried to explain what had happened. He finally hit his head on an extruding pipe and fell silent for a moment, finally retreating toward the stern with embarrassment.

Amy laughed. It was such a relief to see her two friends safe and acting like their normal selves; Leela frosty and pretending to be as tough as granite, Fry as composed as a six year old that had just been told he was going to Luna Park for the weekend.

Something still bothered Leela. “Amy, did the professor ever get his devices back?” Farnsworth had just told her that yes, his devices were safe, but that could just be an illusion brought on by senility. “Fry told me that Farnsworth broke into the hangar on Talora to get them.”

“Oh yeah, everything’s all taken care of. We loaded all of the professor’s stuff into the ship and took off before anyone even knew we were there.”

“So then they really are back in the planet express building?”


“But wasn’t the whole reason for this awful mission to get them away from the Planet Express building?”

“Heh, yeah, funny story. The Society for Mad Scientists threatened to stop supplying President Nixon with new doomsday weapons if they couldn’t keep some for themselves, so Nixon threatened to rampage through the Supreme Court until they declared the anti-doomsday law unconstitutional. Doomsday devices are legal again.”

“That figures. Actually, I would have been surprised if something like that hadn’t happened to us; it always does.” Leela sighed. “Alright, well it’s been nice talking to you again Amy. Here’s our flight plan so you know where to find us if there’s a problem. I’ll see you in a little bit”

Leela moved to break the connection, but Amy had one last thing to say.

“Wait Leela, there’s something else.”

Leela waited.

Amy gestured for Leela to turn the volume down so that Fry wouldn’t overhear.

“Did Fry tell you about how he rescued you?”

“No, not yet. We haven’t really had the time to sit down and talk. I can probably guess though. You found him a ship and the professor somehow figured out where I was and programmed the ship to bring Fry to me. I still don’t know who helped him once he got to the planet though…”

Amy was shaking her head sadly. “Spleesh Leela, you never give him enough credit. The professor figured out how to track you, but he wouldn’t let Fry try to rescue you. You should have seen how furious Fry was. We actually had to keep watch on the bridge the whole time he was onboard because we were afraid he’d steal the ship! Then when we were loading the professor’s doomsday devices onto the ship I saw Fry go running for the little shuttle that was sitting in the corner. By the time I got there he was already halfway through powering it up. Leela, Fry stole a spaceship to come look for you. Nobody helped him. We all tried to stop him. Everyone thought he’d just get himself killed.”

Leela was flat out speechless. She had had no idea…

“Oh.” Was all she managed.

“And, well, Leela, Fry told me something just before he took off. He’s said it before but I never really believed it for some reason. But, geez Leela, you should have seen him! There was something in his eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“What did he say?”

“He said he loved you.”

Leela sat in the pilot seat staring into deep space and mulling over Amy’s words. Fry was breathing lightly in the background. The delivery boy had told her that he loved her several times, it shouldn’t be news. “Then why is it?”, she wondered. The first time she had heard him say it, she had been flattered but hadn’t taken him seriously. After all, this was Fry she was thinking about. The only other time she had heard him say it was when he had been infested with sentient tapeworms. It had been easy to blame them for the delivery boy’s sudden deep, coherent emotions. Now Leela wasn’t nearly so sure. Fry had stolen a spaceship he didn’t know how to fly and chased Leela’s captor across the galaxy. It was even likely that it was him that challenged Ivan in orbit around Gyllegyn. Then he had broken into Ivan’s ship in the middle of a small war to rescue her, all the while risking near certain death. “And he did it without a second thought, just because I needed him.” “He’d do it again too, even if I never thank him.” If that didn’t sound like love, then Leela had no idea what did.

Presently, two weeks of stress, terror, and exhaustion began to catch up to PE captain. Leela reached out and activated the autopilot. There was nothing between their current location and home but deep space. The ship could be trusted to fly itself for awhile.

Leela stretched and stood up. She could see Fry lying on his side, comatose on the ship’s only soft horizontal surface. At first she started to sit back down, thinking to sleep in the chair, but she paused halfway through the motion. Not giving herself any chance to change her mind, she walked the few steps to her sleeping comrade and sat down on the edge of the bed. Being very careful not to startle him, Leela laid down on her side. When she was sure he wouldn’t wake she rolled over and snuggled up him. Before long an arm appeared around her waist.. Leela smiled contentedly and surrendered to the drowsiness that was slowly creeping up on her. A moment later she was asleep.