Futurama

Fan Fiction

Learning Curve
By Red_Line

1RL02 2006 March 31

This picks up where Eight Hours to Earth left off. It will make more sense (if it makes any at all) if you've read that first. This story was originally published under the name One Zapp Beyond.

Disclaimer: The Futurama name, characters, and settings belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a work of fan fiction which has no commercial intent or value and was created soley for my own amusement and for that of other Futurama fans. The author would appreciate it if this work is not placed on websites or reproduced in any form without his express consent.



The bridge chronometer showed they still had an hour to go before they reached Earth.

Fry and Leela sat on the couch at the font of the PE ship's bridge wrapped in each others arms.

Fry had never been so happy. Leela loved him - it didn't seem possible. This was a night he'd remember for the rest of his life.

They were both suddenly startled out of their revere by a loud, metallic crash.

From outside the bridge door, they heard Bender's voice "Hey! What's goin' on here? Open up."

More metallic banging sounded as Bender pounded on the door.

Leela sighed. "Do you suppose we should let him in?".

"I'd rather not." Fry said, "I'm happy right here."

"I know. Me too. But if we don't he's liable to break the door, and then we'll be stuck in here.".

"I could think of worse things than being stuck somewhere with you.".

They kissed. Bender continued to beat on the door.

"You better get back to the controls and unlock the door." Leela said, "that's getting annoying.".

"Ok" Fry sighed. He got up, stumbled on the steps in the dark, landed on the floor with a crash, scrambled back up, and made for the pilots seat.

He brought the lights back up, waited a few seconds until his eyes adjusted, and found the button that unlocked the door.

With a whoosh the door opened.

"What the hell is going on in here?" Bender demanded as he walked through the door.

Fry turned around and looked at Bender.

"Sorry Bender" he said grinning, "I must have accidentally locked it, and then I couldn't figure out how to unlock it".

Bender's eyes narrowed as he looked around the bridge suspiciously, but he couldn't detect anything too unusual. Fry was at the controls, which was not unheard of; and looked like he'd just woken up. Bender suspected he'd been sleeping on the job.

"Where's the boss lady? It ain't like her to leave you to look after her precious ship by yourself.".

Leela sat up on the couch.

"Hi Bender" she said. "Fry took over so I could rest.".

She stood up and walked back to where Fry was sitting.

"Thanks for the break Fry" she said, "I'll take over now.".

"Sure thing, Leela, any time." Fry said as he got up and moved over to the Engineering console and sat down.

Fry guessed that Leela had got her boots and wrist comm back on in the time it took him to get to the pilot's seat and open the door. She must have got her scrunchy back on while she was lying on the couch out of Bender's sight. If her hair was still a little messed up, Bender failed to notice it.

"Hey, Fry" Bender said after a few moments, "wanna go get a few beers when we get back?".

Before Fry could answer, Leela, in her best Captain's voice, said "Sorry Bender, but Fry's got things to do when we get back.".

"I do?" Fry said, confused.

"Yes, you do." Leela said sharply.

Bender looked at Fry. "You're boned.".


The ship sat down in the hanger of the PE building. It was just after 3 in the morning.

Bender was the first one down the ramp and out the door. He had a momentary thought to hang around and see what "work" Leela had for Fry, but it passed quickly. They'd been in space for two days, and he needed to go recharge with some fresh alcohol.

Inside the PE building, Fry followed Leela down the ship's steps.

"Umm, Leela?" he said, "What is it you want me to do? Can't it wait ...".

Leela cut him off. "That was just to get rid of Bender. You're going to ..." she paused, "I'm sorry, Fry. Let me try that again. I was hoping you'd see me home.".

"Oh. Ok." Fry said, still a little confused, but smiling again.

Leela laid the delivery paper work on the conference table where Hermes would find it in the morning. She scribbled out a note telling him what time they got back and not to expect them in. She also left a note telling Amy about converter #3.

She turned to Fry, took his hand, and said "come on, let's go.".


They stood at the bottom of the steps in front of Leela's apartment building, both feeling a little awkward.

Finally Leela said "Call me when you get up tomorrow. Ok?".

"Uh, sure." Fry said, a trace of disappointment in his voice. "I just thought maybe ..." his voice trailed off with growing uncertainty about what he'd been thinking.

"Fry" Leela said softly. "I know what you were thinking. I love you, you know that. But this is a big step for me, and I still have some adjusting to do. Ok? So we're going to take this slow and keep it simple. This ... you and I ... is the most precious thing I've ever known, and I don't want to mess it up. So please don't be upset with me, Ok?"

She smiled and tilted her head slightly to one side.

Fry smiled and took her hands.

"I understand, Leela. I love you, and I'll always be there for you, no matter how long it takes.".

"Oh, Fry" Leela said, pulling him into an embrace, "I love you so much.". Her eye was moist. Saying goodnight was getting more difficult by the moment. With a trace of regret, she forced herself to release Fry and step back.

"Good night, Fry." She gave him a quick kiss, then turned and mounted the steps to her building.

Fry stood there on the sidewalk, watching her until the door closed.

Smiling, he turned and walked off into the New New York night.


It was past noon the next day when Fry dragged himself out of bed. He stood in the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror.

He had a head full of memories that seemed too good to be true. Maybe he'd been dreaming again; but they seemed too real. Dreams tended to be fuzzy and indistinct, memories were more solid and bold. He remembered Leela saying she loved him; not once, but several times. He remembered holding her, kissing her, running his fingers through her hair ...

He stood there, eyes closed, enjoying the sensations those memories filled him with. If this was what true happiness felt like then it was wonderful - much better than how he usually felt. All the hurt, the doubt, the uncertainty of the past years was fading away - already a faint memory receding into the distance.

No longer would he have to stand here, getting his nerve up to go to work and face the pain of being around her all day, so close, yet so far away; or, on his days off, the pain of not seeing her.

Work?

That word triggered another train of thought - what complications would this new situation have at work? He recalled the words of a friend back in the 20th century - "Don't dip your pen in the company inkwell.". Back then, he hadn't really understood what it meant. Of course, back then, he hadn't really grasped the concept of a steady job either. Well, he'd just have to talk to Leela about that. If he knew her, she already had it all figured out.

Leela?

Oh, yeah, she wanted him to call when he got up.

"Better get your behind in gear, Fry" he thought to himself.

Fry showered, dressed, and went to the kitchen to find some food. He was sitting on the couch eating a bowl of cereal when the door slid open and Bender peered in.

"Hey Fry" Bender said "you're up. What did the cyclops make you do last night?".

"Please Bender, her name is Leela. I walked her home.".

"Oh Ho - makin' time, eh skintube? So what are you doin' here? What'd you do, dine and dash?". Bender laughed at his own joke.

"No, Bender, It wasn't like you're thinking. I love her, and she loves me. Show some respect, will ya?".

"You humans and your emotions. I'm glad I don't have to put up with that stuff.".

"Hey Bender."

"What?".

"Bite my pasty, fleshy ass.".


Fry listened to the telephone ringing. It clicked on the second ring and he heard Leela's voice.

"Hi, Fry".

"Um, Hi Leela.".

Fry didn't quite know what to say next, he still wasn't 100% convinced that yesterday hadn't been a dream.

Before he could think of something to say, Leela said "So, are you coming over?".

Fry smiled. "Try to stop me. I'll be there in 15 minutes.".


Fry and Leela spent the afternoon out. They took a stroll through a nearby park and sat in the late summer sunshine. They walked the streets, stopping into shops as the whim struck them, they watched a couple of street performers, and just generally hung out.

It was early evening when they found themselves near the little sidewalk coffee shop across the street from the Planet Express building. They sat down at a table and ordered a pot of coffee.

"Do you remember the last time we were here?" Leela asked.

"Yeah, I do." Fry said. "I had the worms. It was right here where I first told you I loved you.".

Fry looked sad, his eyes downcast. "That seems like it was so long ago.".

Leela didn't quite know what to say, so she sipped her coffee.

Fry looked up at her. His face brightened. "But it all worked out in the long run, didn't it? I love you, you love me, that's all that matters.".

Leela mentally breathed a sigh of relief, and smiled back at Fry.

She took another sip of coffee, then set her cup down. She studied the PE building across the street.

"Fry, there are a couple of things we need to talk about."

"Ok. What?", Fry said.

"First, Fry, I love you. Don't ever forget that. Ok?"

"I won't."

"But we need to talk about how we're going to handle our relationship when we're at work.".

"Ok.".

"When we're away from work, we're on an equal footing. But at work it's different. I'm still the captain, and you're still a member of the crew. When I give an order, I expect you to jump. You aren't going to get any special treatment. Do you understand that?"

"Yes".

"Good, because some day not just our lives, but the lives of others may depend on you following my orders without regard to our relationship. Do you understand?".

"Yes, Captain, I do.".

"Good. Now let's test you. What was the first rule?".

"Um, I love you?"

"Close enough".


Monday morning was cool and drizzling rain as Leela stepped out of her apartment building to go to work. Fry was waiting at the bottom of the steps, the collar of his jacket turned up and his shoulders hunched against the chill. He was half soaked.

Leela touched the button on her umbrellatron and the shield formed over her. She came down the steps and stood next to Fry, holding the umbrella over them both.

"Fry! What are you doing here?".

"I wanted to walk to work with you.".

"That's sweet of you, but you should have just met me there. You're soaked. You'll get sick.".

Fry shrugged, or at least as much as he could seeing as how his shoulders were almost as high as they would go anyway.

Leela put her arm through his and said "Come on then. Let's get to work and find out what kind of suicide mission that old crackpot has for us today.".


Hermes had been droning on at the daily staff meeting for almost an hour. The staff had long ago given up any pretense of paying attention, except for Zoidberg who tried to follow Hermes' every word. Fry and Leela had amused themselves for a while by playing footsie under the table, but even that had grown old.

Finally, Hermes got around to the only business item that actually interested anyone other than Zoidberg - the day's deliveries. They were routine, or at least as routine as things ever got at Planet Express.

Just then the Professor shuffled in from his lab.

"Good news everyone".

Everyone groaned.

"We're boned." Bender said.

"Today Fry doesn't need to go on the deliveries. I need him to stay here and help me with an experiment in my lab. Amy, you can go in Fry's place.".

"I was going anyway." Amy said. Everyone ignored her.

"I was wrong." Bender said, "Just Fry's boned."

Leela and Fry exchanged worried glances.

"Professor," Leela said "what kind of experiment is this?".

"Oh, it's nothing much. Nothing much at all. Just a new invention I want to try out.".

"Couldn't you get someone else to help you? I really would prefer Fry was with us. He is the delivery boy, after all. Dr. Zoidberg should able to help you, he doesn't have anything to do.".

"Oh my, No." the Professor said. "I need a human subject . . uh assistant. Now off you go. Come Fry, I'm anxious to get started.".

The Professor turned and shuffled back toward his lab, mumbling to himself. Leela though she heard something that sounded like "mind control".

She was worried. The professor's experiments didn't always turn out the way he planned them. In fact, they usually didn't. She turned to Fry.

"Please be careful, Fry. Don't let him do anything to you.".

"Don't worry, Leela. I'll be fine. See you when you get back."

They looked at each other for a moment, then embraced and hugged.

"I love you, Fry." Leela whispered in his ear. "I'll miss you. You make sure you're right here when I get back.".

"I will. I love you too." Fry whispered back. "Hey, not that I'm complaining or anything, but what happened to the 'no special treatment at work' rule?".

"I'm a woman. I can change my mind, especially when the Professor wants to point one of his inventions at you. Don't get used to it.".

"Don't worry. I'll see you soon.".

They kissed, gave each other a final squeeze, and parted. Leela sighed and turned toward the hanger.

She suddenly became aware of Amy standing there watching them, a surprised look on her face.

A few minutes later, Leela sat at the helm of the PE ship. Inside the hanger, warning lights flashed and a klaxon honked as the elevators lifted the nose of the ship skyward. Aft, the blast deflector swung up from it's recess in the floor.

Amy immediately recognized the signs and tightened her harness. Leela usually liked to show off her ship handling skill by lifting the ship straight up out of the hanger using only it's Z axis thrusters and then bring up the main engines once she was clear of the building. But when she was mad or upset, she tended to use the elevator and blast out in a straight line with all the acceleration she could push out of the engines. After the first three or four times this had happened Amy had wired in some additional limiters on the converters, throttling the amount of acceleration Leela could get on takeoff. Amy surreptitiously cut those limiters in.

Amy closed her eyes. Seconds later she was squashed back in her seat, but it was tolerable. Not like the first time when she was gagging on her eyeballs and her belly button was squishing her bladder against her spine.

Once they were clear of Earth and settling in to a normal cruise, Amy switched off her special limiters. There were times out here when you had to put up with a certain amount of bone crushing G force to avoid getting killed. One of these days maybe she could convince the Professor and Hermes to pay to upgrade the artificial gravity to something that could keep up with Leela's wilder moments - assuming there was something that actually could, of course.

Now that there was relative quiet, it was time to satisfy some curiosity.

"Hey, Leela. What was that little scene with Fry? Are you guys an 'item' all of a sudden or something?".

It was a calculated risk - Leela didn't like people asking about her personal life and her response might be anything from a cold look to a violent tongue lashing. So it surprised Amy all the more when Leela just smiled and said "Yes. I guess we are.".

"So, come on girl, talk - what happened?

"Nothing happened. I just realized how much I cared for him, that's all.".

"Spluhh. That's an awful lot of nothing. So when did this happen?".

"Last trip. Thursday - you remember - when the #3 converter fried.".

"Oh yeah, I haven't forgotten that.". Amy rolled her eyes - she'd spent all weekend on it and finally got it working again, sort of. Until she got all the bugs out of it, it looked like she'd become a regular on every flight and spend all her time on that one stupid converter, at least until something more important broke. She didn't really care all that much about Leela and Fry, but as long as Leela kept talking she wouldn't be down in that hot, smelly engine room waist deep in the converter.

Leela went on. "We were on our way home, and Fry and I spent 10 hours together right here. We talked. We watched the stars, and .. I don't know ... It just happened. It just felt right.".

Amy sat quietly, waiting to see if Leela had any more to say, but it didn't seem like she would. She was about to get up to head for the engine room when Leela continued, more to herself than to Amy:

"I do love him. It's stupid when you think about it; he used to be so annoying, always asking me out and hanging around like a lost little puppy, and all I wanted, most of the time, was for him to go away and leave me alone. Now, I just want to be with him all the time, and it doesn't bother me at all. I don't know if he changed, or I changed, or maybe we both changed. I guess the trick is not to think about it, just enjoy it.".

She paused, a far away look in her eye.

"I wonder what he's doing right now? I'm worried about what the professor might be doing. I wish I was there to keep an eye on them.".

Amy was trying to think of some appropriate response when the bridge door swooshed open behind them and heavy foot steps clomped in.

Leela snapped back into Captain mode.

"Bender, do you have all the cargo organized for the deliveries?".

A voice behind her said mechanically "I am not programed to respond in that manner. Beep!".

"FRY!". Leela spun around, a look of surprise on her face. She forgot that the ship was still on manual control, and used the steering yoke for leverage for her turn. The yoke spun the opposite way, throwing the ship into a violent rolling turn. The artificial gravity generators didn't keep up with the sudden change, and Fry, standing behind Leela with a big grin on his face, suddenly felt the deck slide out from under him.

Fry's grin changed to a startled look of surprise and he let out a yell. Before he knew what was happening, he was flat on his back sliding across the floor, coming to rest on the wall behind Amy, who was hanging out of her seat by the harness, arms and legs flailing, cursing in Martian.

Leela got the ship back on course and this time engaged the autopilot. She got up and rushed over to Fry, who was trying to untangle himself.

"Fry, are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.".

"You surprised the hell out of me. Wait! What are you doing here anyway?".

Fry stood up, rubbing his left hip. "I didn't like the looks of the Professor's experiment. It looked too much like an electric chair.".

"What's an electric chair?" Leela asked.

"Guh! It's one of those things with heat and vibrating fingers." Amy said.

"Umm, No, it isn't." Fry said. "Anyway, I told the prof I had to go to the bath room first. Then I told Zoidberg the professor needed his help in the lab; you know how Zoidberg gets when he thinks he can be useful, he's all over it; so I told him to go sit in the chair with all the wires on it. Then I went to the bathroom, but you took off before I got done.".

"Why did you use the one in the ship? There's one right outside the lab?" Leela asked.

Fry just grinned.

Leela looked confused for a second. Then realization dawned, and she laughed.

"Ok, Fry. Good one. So where have you been for the last half hour?".

"In the laundry room, drying my pants. I was still on the can when we took off.".

They all shared a laugh.

"You know what Fry? It really makes me happy to see you right now.".

She gave him a hug.

"Now, I hate to go all Captain on you guys, but we have work to do. Amy, you've got a sick converter to look after. Fry, you'd better get down to the cargo bay and get the deliveries organized. And if I know Bender, he's down there trying to pry open containers to see if there's anything worth stealing. We'll be at our first delivery in a little over an hour.".

Amy got up to leave, pausing at the door waiting for Fry.

Fry gave Leela a quick kiss, then scampered for the door before she could react.

"Fry!" Leela said softly as the door whooshed closed behind their departing backs.


"Three down, one to go." Leela said as they cleared the planet.

"Where's the next one?" Fry asked.

"We rendezvous with a ship called the Leviathan out of Beta Lugosi 3 about 10 parsecs from here.".

She consulted the navigation display on her console.

"We're going to have to burn some dark matter to make it on time. Fry, get those other converters on line.".

Leela keyed the intercom and called Amy.

"Amy, we need to make time, so Fry's warming up the rest of the converters. Can #3 take any load?".

"No. It's still not stable and I'm trying to figure out why. I've got it idling on the secondary systems buss. Please try not to shake things up too much."

So long as nobody was shooting at them Amy wasn't about to give that crazy woman any more power that she had to.

"Will do. Out." came the reply.

With a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth and a twinkle in her eye, Leela pushed the throttles open. Fry watched her; he could see that she liked it when she got to push the ship hard. She would have made one hell of a fighter pilot or race car driver back in the 20th century he thought.

When they neared the rendezvous area Leela backed off the power and called Amy back to the bridge. She didn't like these meets in space. Most of the time they were OK, but if there was going to be trouble, this is where it would most likely occur.

The scanner showed one ship near the rendezvous point, and Leela steered toward it.

"Are we getting a transponder reply yet?" she asked Amy.

"Coming into range now ....". Suddenly Amy gave a happy cry. "It's the Nimbus!".

"Oh, God, No!" Leela exclaimed. "What are they doing here?".

"I'll get to see Kif" Amy squealed excitedly, almost bouncing in her seat.

The communicator beeped, showing an incoming call from the Nimbus. Leela groaned. Reluctantly, she pressed the button to connect the call.

Zapp Brannigan's face appeared on the screen, and his voice came over the speaker.

"Leela, my sensuous fellow captain, fancy meeting you here. What brings you back to the Zapper?".

Leela groaned again and rolled her eye upwards.

"Nothing does, Zapp. We're supposed to meet a ship called the Leviathan to deliver some cargo. Why are you here?".

"We're investigating reports of smuggling operations in this area. The Leviathan is currently in our landing bay under our, er, protection. What kind of cargo are you delivering?".

Leela consulted the manifest. "Machine parts, chemicals, specialty foods, some general cargo, and an antique rocking chair.".

"Hmmm, sounds suspicious." Zapp said. "I'm ordering you to dock. I need to inspect your ...... cargo and make sure you aren't smuggling anything.".

Leela ignored the implication.

"Oh for Gods sake, Zapp, all the stuff we've got is on the unrestricted list for this quadrant, except the chair and we've got the clearance forms for that.".

"Never the less, I'm not taking any chances. You are to come aboard immediately. I'm sending escorts.".

Amy motioned to Leela to mute the comm circuit.

"We've got 4 fighters inbound." Amy said

Leela acknowledged with a slight nod. She reopened the comm circuit.

"Very well, Zapp." Leela said with poor grace, and closed the circuit.

"I've got the beacon for their landing bay - it's on the nav board." Amy said.

Leela nodded and set course for the Nimbus.

"The last thing I needed was to run into that clown again.".

"Leela. Can I talk to you for a minute?" Fry asked.

"I'm kind of busy right now, Fry. Can it wait?".

"Yes. Well, maybe; No.".

Leela sighed. "Amy, take over. Fry, come with me."

They went to Leela's quarters.

"Ok, Fry, we don't have much time, so make it fast. What is it?".

"I know you don't like Zapp Brannigan, and I want to help protect you from him.".

"Thanks Fry, but I can handle him. But what did you have in mind?".

"Well, I figured if he thought we were married, that might keep him from, ah, bothering you as much.".

Leela thought about it for a moment. It sounded like a good idea - after all it was basically the same thing she'd done on the Titanic. Fake fiance, fake husband. Why not, it couldn't hurt. Only one thing occurred to her.

"What about rings?" she asked. "It won't be convincing without rings. Even a dimwit like

Zapp would question that.".

"I didn't think about that. Do you have any rings, like that one you used to wear on you pinky finger?".

"Or your wedding ring?" Fry thought to himself.

"Not here. It's at home somewhere.".

"Oh. So much for that idea. Now what?".

"Hold on a sec." Leela said, "Amy has a jewelry box in her quarters. Let's see if she's got anything. Wait here.".

Leela left, and was back in a moment carrying a large, expensive looking jewelry box. She opened it up. They both whistled, looking at the collection within.

"Wow" Fry said "Don't let Bender find out about this.".

They rummaged around in the box and found a ring with a small diamond on it and a relatively plain gold band.

"These will do." Leela said, "but what about you? There's nothing in here that's anything like a man's ring.".

"How about this?" Fry reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a small tube. He unscrewed the cap and pulled out a wad of tissue paper. Inside, he took out a gold wedding band. He slid it on his finger; it fit perfectly.

"Where did you get that?" Leela gasped.

"Ummm, it's mine. From the time slips. I kept it." Fry said, a hint of sadness in his voice.

"Oh! ... look Fry, I'm really sorry about ...".

Fry put a finger to her lips.

"Never mind that now, Leela. That's ancient history. Forget it.".

"Ok, Fry.". Pangs of guilt and sadness ran through Leela. She just wanted to take hold of Fry and make it all up to him somehow. But there wasn't time, so she took a deep breath, pushed all those feelings down deep, and soldiered on.

"If I agree to go through with this, is it understood that it's only for the purpose of fooling Zapp Brannigan and that I'm not committing to anything?".

"Yes" Fry said. Then he smiled; "unless you change your mind.".

"Ok, Fry, it's worth a shot." She handed the rings to Fry and stuck out her left hand.

Fry slid the rings on her finger.

Leela held her hand out in front of her and looked at the rings. She clamped down hard on the emotions that were trying to well up inside her. She allowed only one little one to slip out.

"Maybe you should kiss the bride, Fry.".

Fry did so.

They were interrupted by the ship bumping as it touched down in the Nimbus' docking bay.

"It's show time." Leela said, "Let's go.".

The crew gathered at the top of the stairs.

Leela turned to Amy and Bender. "There isn't time for any explanations, so no matter what I say, play along.".

Leela led the way down, followed by Fry, Amy, and Bender.

Zapp was waiting at the bottom.

"Ahhh, the lady Leela ...".

"Before you get started Zapp ..." Leela interrupted. She stepped off the bottom stair and stood to one side so Zapp could see she was holding Fry's hand. She held up her left hand.

"In case you have any ideas, I'm married now. You remember Fry?".

Zapp's eyes narrowed, shifting from Leela to Fry and back.

"Indeed I do." he said slowly.

Zapp shifted his gaze back to Fry.

"Congratulations would seem to be in order, Mr. Fry. Perhaps we'll have have some time to chat later and compare notes.".

His expression was one of contempt, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Fry tried to keep from wincing as Leela's grip tightened on his hand.

Summoning up what for him was an inordinate amount of courage and eloquence, Fry looked Zapp straight in the eyes and said "I doubt we'd have anything in common to talk about.".

"Zapp!" Leela said, her voice hard. "I question the legality of your detaining us. But we are here, and we'd like to get home as quickly as possible. So can we get this over with?".

"Yes, of course. Kif, escort our guests to the waiting area, and have their logs and cargo checked.".

Zapp turned and strutted off.

Kif sighed. "This way please".

Fry and Bender were placed in a small room with no furniture or windows, there was a force field instead of a door. It was depressingly similar to a previous time they'd been detained by Zapp Brannigan.

Leela and Any were taken further down the corridor.

Fry was worried. He wished Leela was with them. He sat in a corner, hands behind his head and legs stretched out in front of him. He was prepared for a long wait.

"Don't get too comfortable skin tube" Bender said "Leela will just go a couple rounds in the sack with Brannigan and we'll be on our way in no time.".

Fry stared at Bender in shock.

"Leela wouldn't do anything like that." he said.

"She did last time." Bender retorted.

"Well, things are different this time." Fry said with more conviction than he really felt.

He pulled his knees up under his chin, folded his arms around them, and put his head down. He was really worried now.

Leela sat in a similar room by herself. Amy had gone on with Kif..

"Some waiting area.". She thought, fuming. "Prison cell is more like it.".

She touched the controls on her wrist communicator. She was able to establish a link to the PE ship's computer. The ship's systems appeared to be normal.

"Good" she thought. "It hasn't occurred to Zapp or his people to shut down the computer or comm system. They didn't even confiscate my wrist comm. Idiots.".

A plan was forming in her mind. It would depend on Zapp being his usual jackass self, so that seemed like a safe bet. Leela, working through her wrist comm, instructed the PE ship's computer to lock out access to the bridge and engine rooms to anyone but herself, and to disable all computer access in the unsecured areas. A few more simple commands and the rest of her plan was in place.

That done, there was nothing to do now but wait.

She studied the rings on her finger. "I wonder what Fry is doing right now. It was great how he stood up to Zapp. I bet he's worried. I wish he was here.".

4 hours and 33 minutes later (there wasn't anything else to do in the cell except play Tetris and watch the clock on her wrist comm), Kif and a guard appeared at the door of Leela's cell. The guard deactivated the force field.

"The jackass wants to see you." Kif said.

Leela got up and followed Kif down the corridor, the guard bringing up the rear.

They passed the cell where Fry and Bender were being held. At the sound of their approaching footsteps, Fry had gotten up and was standing at the door. Leela looked in as she passed. She saw the concern in Fry's eyes.

All she had time for was to silently mouth "I love you" as she passed. She hoped that would sustain him.

It didn't take long to figure out where they were going. They stopped before the door to Zapp's quarters. The last time she was here, she had naively taken the initiative and knocked on the door. This time, she just stood there, arms crossed, waiting, staring at Kif, who was obviously uneasy.

Kif fidgeted. Finally he sighed and pressed a button on the wall.

Zapp's voice came through a speaker. "Yess?".

"You guest is here, sir." Kif said.

"Send her in.".

The door swooshed open. From inside came Zapp's voice "On-tray-vooze". Kif gestured Leela in.

Leela shuddered as she walked into the room. Zapp was running true to form, laying on his heart shaped bed amid a sea of velor, a bottle of cheap champagne and two glasses at the ready.

Leela stole a glance at her wrist comm and was reassured to see the link back to the PE ship was still up - her whole plan depended on that link. She mentally measured the distance to Zapp and noted the position of the champagne bottle.

"Leela, you're looking as sensuous as ever. Care for some bubbly?".

"No thank you, Zapp.".

"I thought you and I might get reacquainted.".

"I remind you Zapp, I'm married now. That implies certain commitments I've made, and that I intend to keep."

"Oh come on, Leela. You can't tell me you're happy with that pipsqueak when the Zapper is available.".

Leela controlled her anger with effort. She had to maneuver Zapp just right.

"Actually Zapp, I'm very happy with him. He's kind, considerate, caring, and 100 times the man you are.".

Zapp's eyes narrowed.

"Ahh, Yes. Well it may interest you to know that we have completed the inspection of your ship. Everything was in order, except for a small item we found in a pigsty that appears to be used by your precious Mr. Fry and his robot friend. I'm quite certain that neither you or Ms. Wong knew anything about it, but it wouldn't surprise me if the other members of your crew end up doing 20 years hard time in a penal colony for possession of controlled substances."

So that was Zapp's game. Leela wasn't surprised - it was one of the oldest tricks in the book.

"Ok" she thought "let the fun begin".

"No!" Leela gasped, trying to force as much sincere surprise and concern as she could. "I'm sure Fry had nothing to do with it." she continued, "It's got to be that robot's doing. I've always said he's bad news.".

She held her breath, waiting to see if Zapp would take the bait.

"Well, as a distinguished space Captain, your word on that matter would carry a lot of weight as I judge the evidence and decide who to arrest and who to let go. If there were only some way you could convince me ...".

Leela stared at Zapp for a moment, then let her shoulders sag as if in defeat. She unclasped her wrist comm and laid it carefully on a table. Then she reached back and pulled the scrunchy out of her hair.

"Perhaps we might be able to reach some mutually acceptable arrangement .... Zapper.".

Zapp stood up, a leering grin on his face, and turned to pick up the glasses. As he was turning back toward her, his mind registered something that sounded like someone running. An instant later his mind registered the sight of the bottom of Leela's boot, 3 feet in the air, heading straight for him.

The impact caught him square in the chest before he could react, sending him sprawling backwards into a column. Zapp's head banged the column, knocking out a chunk of plaster. He saw stars, but before he could recover, he felt claws sink into his throat, lifting him off the floor. Somewhere off in his mental haze he heard breaking glass. He tried to scream, but all he could manage was an inarticulate gurgle.

Leela held Zapp by the throat against the wall. She held the broken champagne bottle by the neck in her free hand. Zapp struggled and made choking noises. Leela tightened her grip on his throat.

"I kicked you ass once before, Zapp, and I'll do it again if you force me too. If you want to live to see another day, you'll hold still and listen to me.".

Zapp quit struggling.

"See this?" Leela said, waving the broken bottle in front of his face.

Zapp nodded, his eyes bulging.

She thrust the bottle into his crotch, not hard, just enough to make her "point".

"Personally, I think I'd be doing the Universe a favor by using this bottle to do a scrotal lobotomy on you. However, against my better judgment, I'm going to let you decide. So if you want to retain your male components, you're going to answer some questions. Do you understand?"

Zapp let out a whine and nodded.

"Good, you're learning. Now, you didn't find any controlled substances on our ship did you. You either made that up or put them there yourself, didn't you?".

Zapp didn't respond.

Leela pressed the bottle in a little harder.

Zapp nodded vigorously.

"So you tried to frame us, didn't you?"

Zapp nodded.

"And you did it to get me in bed, didn't you."

Zapp nodded.

"And you don't have anything on the Beta Lugosians, either, do you? I think you learned they were meeting us and you fabricated this whole thing just for your own perverted ends, didn't you?"

Zapp nodded.

"All right Zapp. In a minute I'm going to let go of you. You are going to announce that both ships and crews are all free to go. You will expedite the transfer of our cargo to their ship, and our departures. Then you will take your ship and your sorry ass and get the hell out of my sight as fast as your engines will carry you.

As for me, I'm going to head back to Earth as fast as I can go and spend the next week screwing my husband senseless and I just hope it's enough to get your ugly face out of my mind. Meanwhile, you're going to go in the opposite direction. There will be no pursuit, no reports to headquarters, no attempt to contact any of us. You will forget we exist.

And if you ever attempt to annoy me or any of my friends again, I will personally see that you end up worse than dead."

She twisted the bottle for emphasis.

"Do I make myself clear?"

Zapp whined and nodded.

"And in case you get any ideas in your pointy little head about pulling a fast one, see my wrist comm over there? It's recording this whole thing and sending it to the computer in the PE ship, which is in turn sending it to Earth. If Fry, Amy, Bender, and I aren't back on our ship in 5 minutes, all of this gets broadcast to your whole crew, the whole DOOP hierarchy, and the whole Internet. I think you're just barely smart enough to figure out where that will leave you.

Do we understand each other?"

Zapp sagged, defeated, and nodded.

Leela held on for a few seconds longer, just for effect. Then she withdrew the bottle and relaxed her grip on Zapp's throat.

She let go and quickly stepped back, keeping bottle in front of her as a defensive measure, just in case.

Zapp slumped to the floor, gasping for breath.

Leela backed off, picked up her wrist comm, and clamped it back on her arm. She slipped her scrunchy onto her other wrist.

"Now, Zapp, get up and get moving. You have orders to give.".


Leela stood at the top of the steps of the PE ship, a blaster in each hand and a hard, determined look on her face. DOOP personnel were off loading the cargo for the Leviathan.

Fry and Bender were being escorted across the hanger bay by 2 guards. Amy was following some distance behind with Kif.

Fry and Bender climbed the steps. Fry's face was a mask of confusion and concern.

"Leela ..." he began.

"Hang tough just a little longer." Leela told herself.

"Not now Fry" she said coldly. "Get to the bridge, lock yourself in, and don't let anyone in but me. Get the ship powered up. Bender, engine room, same thing. Make sure we've got dark matter to burn.".

"But .." Fry tried again.

Leela felt terrible. She could see that Fry was worried sick and had a thousand questions on his mind, but they were still in a more perilous situation than he could possibly imagine.

"No, Fry. Go."

Fry hung his head and turned to go. He looked like he wanted to cry. Leela's heart cried out inside her, she wanted to take Fry, hold him tight, and reassure him everything was all right. But that would have to wait until later, they weren't out of this yet.

Amy and Kif were at the bottom of the stairs, talking quietly.

"Amy!" Leela shouted. "Get up here now.".

Amy looked up, startled. "But Leela ...".

"NOW!" Leela shouted, pointing both blasters directly at Kif's head.

Kif turned semi-transparent.

Amy scurried up the steps and ran toward her quarters crying.

Leela lowered the blasters.

"Sorry Kif. I don't hold it against you, you just work for the bastard. We're leaving now. Tell the big fat idiot that he's got 30 minutes before I start broadcasting. He'll know what I mean.".

Leela turned, closed and locked the hatch, and headed for the bridge. She stopped at Amy's room and knocked.

Amy opened the door, her eyes red from crying.

"What do you want now?".

"Sorry I had to do that, Amy, but you don't know the whole story. I'll explain later. Right now I need you on the bridge - we're getting out of here.".

"Ok. I'll be there in a minute.".

Leela went to the bridge, got Fry to let her in, and sat down in the pilots seat. Fry was sitting morosely at the Engineering console.

"Fry, get top side and man the gun mount. Heat it up and build up a full charge as fast as you can.".

Fry gave an involuntary start. He looked at her, even more confused.

"Move it, Fry! The rule is in effect.".

Fry knew that tone of voice; he jumped and ran for the door, nearly colliding with Amy as she walked in.

Leela lifted the ship smartly, spun it 180 degrees around, and out through the air lock in one smooth movement. As soon as they were clear she pushed the throttles open and put some distance between themselves and the Nimbus.

A dozen klicks away she brought the ship to a stop.

She keyed the intercom. "Fry, target their bridge."

"What?" came Fry's surprised reply.

"Do it, Fry. Release all safetys except for the command interlock.".

Fry moved to comply.

"Leela, what are you doing?" Amy cried. "With their shields down, a full charge hit on the bridge from this distance will kill everyone up there. And if they return fire, we're toast.".

"Relax, Amy. There won't be any shooting. I'm just reinforcing a message to make sure a certain double crossing jackass doesn't get any funny ideas.".

"Full charge." Fry reported. "From this close I can see right in the window. I've got a solid target lock dead center on the Captain's chair."

"Good." Leela said, "Is Zapp in it?".

"No, Kif is."

Amy made a whining noise.

"That figures." Leela said, a disgusted tone in her voice.

A few minutes later, the Leviathan departed from the other docking bay.

The Nimbus slowly turned and began moving away.

"Fry" Leela called, "release your target lock, and engage all safetys, but stay at full charge and stay alert. Keep the gun pointed at the Nimbus and away from the Leviathan".

Leela punched up a comm link to the Leviathan The image on the screen resolved itself to show a humanoid with pasty, death white skin, long, nearly pointed ears, and an oval head topped by a high hairline of thin black hair.

"Captain Leela, I presume." the head said. "I am Commander Goliz. I understand we have you to thank for our release.".

"Greetings Commander. I am happy to have been of service. Planet Express is well known within DOOP, so I was able to have a word with General Brannigan to expedite matters. We have other deliveries that press our time, and I'm sure you have your own schedule to keep, so we won't detain you. I trust the shipments were in order.".

"Yes, Everything appears to be satisfactory. Thank you.".

"Then on behalf of my crew and Planet Express, I wish you a safe and quick journey. Good bye, Commander.".

Leela cut the connection, twisted the steering yoke, and pushed on the power. Amy felt her belly button contract as she hung on to her seat.

When the gravity caught up and Amy was able to breath normally again, she said to Leela "That was a deep load you fed the Commander.".

"It's called Diplomacy. Now they'll think PE has the inside track. When he gets back home and tells the story, we should get as much of their business as we can handle. And Zapp Brannigan isn't likely to show his face in this quadrant again for a long time. Plus there isn't anyone out this way that's wanted us dead lately.".

The scanners showed the Leviathan getting underway, and the Nimbus was already a long way off, going away quickly.

Leela keyed the intercom. "Ok, Fry, you can secure and come back down here. Have I got a story for you.".


They were all gathered on the bridge. The ship was on autopilot heading back to Earth.

Leela explained everything that happened and played the recording she'd made. When it got to the "as for me" part, everyone turned and looked at her with varying degrees of surprise on their face.

Leela turned slightly pink, smiled, and shrugged. "That was for Zapp, I was really on a roll.".

"It's always for Zapp." Fry said. He was trying to look sad, but not doing a very good job. Leela could see the barely concealed smile trying to break through.

When the recording ended, everyone laughed and clapped.

"Man, you really showed Zapp who was boss." Fry said.

"See, meatbag" Bender said to Fry, "I told you she'd go a couple of rounds with Brannigan and we'd be out in no time. Bender's right again. Oh Yeah.".

Fry and Leela both shot Bender an angry look. Both wished Leela still had the blasters in hand, but not bad enough to want to clean up the mess that would result.

Leela turned to Amy.

"Amy, Kif probably had no idea what was happening. I'm sorry, but I don't trust Zapp Brannigan and I wanted you safe and secure before he got any ideas.".

She turned to Fry, and took his hands. "Are you OK, Fry?".

"I guess so." he said. "I was so worried about you ...". His voice trailed away, he couldn't bring himself to continue.

"Fry, It's Ok. You've got to learn to trust your wife.". She smiled and tilted her head slightly to one side.

Fry smiled back. He was beginning to figure out that she was feeling especially fond of him when she did that head tilt thing.

Leela turned back to Amy.

"Amy, I owe you another apology. I entered your quarters without permission and borrowed your belongings. As Captain I can legally do that, but I don't unless absolutely necessary. Here.". She handed the rings to Amy. "It was necessary at the time to preserve the safety of the ship and it's crew.".

Amy nodded.

"That's Ok, that's just my old stuff anyway. I'm glad you could use it. May I go to the engine room now?" she asked. "I've still got that converter to fix."

Leela nodded, and Amy left the bridge.

"You two meatbags probably want get all hormonal with each other now" Bender said, "and I understand you like to be alone to do that."

He sat down at the tactical console.

Leela rolled her eye upward. "Ignore it, it's just a machine" she told herself. "Just like a copier or a toaster.".

She turned to Fry, embraced him, kissed him. Fry put his arms around her and relaxed into the kiss. After a moment, Fry whispered something in her ear. They both started making sloppy, sucking kisses.

"Yuuuckk" Bender said, "humans are so disgusting. You two sound like Zoidberg in the dumpster.". He got up and clomped off the bridge.

Fry and Leela laughed.

"We win." Fry said.

"Are you sure you're OK Fry? You're not upset about the marriage thing or anything?".

"Nah, I'm fine. We'll see if the third time around sticks." Fry grinned.

Leela felt his hand. "You've still got your ring on, Fry.".

"Uh huh.". He looked at it for a minute, then smiled, pulled it off, and returned it to the tube in his pocket.

"I was thinking of leaving it on." he said. "I don't know how I could ever be any more committed to you than I feel right now. There just isn't anyone else I could ever be happy with. But I decided that it would be more special the next time I got to put it on if I didn't.".

He patted his pocket when the ring lay.

"Oh Fry" Leela said, hugging him again. "I love you".

"I love you, Leela. Now, let's get home. I want to see if the professor fried Zoidberg with his electric chair thing. Speaking of which, I'm getting hungry. How about we go find some nice quiet little cafe somewhere, just the two of us.".

"Ok, Fry. That sounds nice.".

Leela sat down, turned to her controls, and put the ship back on manual control.

Fry dropped into the seat at the Engineering console, strapped himself in, and pressed a button.

Down in the engine room, an alarm sounded. Officially, it was called the Maneuvering Alarm. Unofficially, the crew called it TLA, which stood for "The Leela Alarm" - either way, when it went off it meant grab on to something solid and hold on tight.

"Oh, no! Not again." Amy exclaimed. She braced herself in a corner behind converter number three. She listened to the growing roar from the reactors and to the rising whine as the converters spun up. The flow of coolant in the pipes, normally a muted hiss, rose to a rushing howl. The air was alive with electric charges as hums and buzzes emanated from the electrical cabinets and the first wisps of ozone permeated the air. She felt the acceleration beginning to squeeze on her body. She watched as all the tools and loose parts from the converter that she had carefully laid out on the deck began to slide toward the back of the compartment.

She cursed loudly in Martian.

The drive systems screamed as Leela pushed the throttles wide open, a smile on her lips and a sparkle in her eye.

. -. -..

Buddies