1RL03 2006 May 5
This is the third fic in my Eight Hours to Earth series.
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.
"Good news, everyone." Farnsworth said, oblivious to the collective groan that ensued. "We've received a very lucrative contract to deliver a load of cargo to Cortlandt 2.".
"Professor!" Leela said, "That system is a week's flight away, and it's in the middle of a civil war.".
"Oh, my, yes." replied Farnsworth, "that's what makes it so lucrative."
"All right, peoples," Hermes chimed in, "da' cargo will be delivered here early dis afternoon. You'll leave as soon as it's loaded. Now ya got the rest of the morning to get home and pack. Be back here by noon.".
"No problem." Bender said, "there's a liquor store just down the street.".
Fry and Leela walked out the door together.
"Tell you what, Fry, let's go to your place first. I don't have time to find anyone to watch Nibbler so he has to come with us. I'll need some help carrying everything.".
"Ok." Fry said, "it won't take me long to pack.".
They went to the Robot Arms, and Fry tossed a couple of changes of clothes and his Holophoner into a old grocery bag.
"Do you still play that?" Leela asked him.
"Yeah, but I wouldn't call it playing. I still suck.".
"You didn't suck at the opera. Will you play it for me on the trip? I'd really like to hear some more.".
"Sure, if you want. Can I sit naked on your couch?".
"Fry! You know very well that the only couch on the ship is on the bridge, and that just wouldn't be appropriate. You'll have to sit on my bed instead. Just remember though, I better not ever find any strange fibers on your butt.".
Fry gulped, and made a mental note to take a shower as soon as he could.
Fry had stashed his bag in the compartment he shared with Bender, and was standing by the desk in Leela's room holding Nibbler while Leela unpacked her suitcases.
"I don't know why Hermes is always after us to update a 'next of kin' form." Fry said, "He knows mine never changes.".
"That's the bureaucrat's way." Leela said. "I assume you put down the Professor on yours?".
"Me? Why, me? That doesn't make much sense. For one thing, I'm not your legal relative.".
"I've only got two things of any real value in my life," Fry said, "my Holophoner, and you. They're kind of a set, and I'd like to keep them together. The legal relative thing is easy - we could get the Captain to marry us.".
Leela stopped and looked at Fry. She smiled.
"That's sweet, Fry. You are a persistent bastard, aren't you?".
"Gotta be. I figure I'm makin' up for lost time, about a million years worth.".
"A thousand, actually." Leela said, unable to resist making the correction.
"Whatever. So what about it?".
"Not yet, Fry. But hold on to that thought and keep being persistent.".
The intercom buzzed. Hermes' voice came through: "The cargo is here. Where's Fry?".
"I'll send him right down." Leela replied.
Fry sat Nibbler on the bed.
"Time to go to work. See ya later.".
They were two days into their outbound flight. Fry was on duty on the bridge, leaning back in the pilot's seat with his feet up on the edge of the console.
The door swooshed open and Amy walked in.
"Hey, Fry" she said.
"Hi, Amy. 'sup?".
"Not much. You?"
"I'm bored, bored, bored, bored.".
"No duh. Give it a few days, we'll be wandering into the middle of a war, that should liven things up. How's #3 been behaving?".
"Ok, I guess.".
Amy studied the instruments. Converter #3 still had a small fluctuation in it's output. She grumbled in Martian.
"What?" Fry said.
"Oh, nothing. I can't figure out where that variance is coming from. It's gotta be the governor, but everything checks out fine.".
Fry was starting to reply, but was interrupted by the bridge chronometer cuckooing the hour.
"That, I believe, is the end of my watch." he said instead.
Amy was looking at the chronometer.
"Why is it doing that? Is everything on this ship going nuts?".
"No." Fry said, "I was bored and I thought it'd be cool to have a cuckoo clock, so I figured out how to reprogram the chime on it."
"Great." Amy said. "Ok, Fry, I relieve you.".
Fry got up, saluted, and, grinning, said "Thank you sir.".
As Amy slid into the pilot's seat, Fry moved over the Engineering station and sat down.
"So, what do you hear from Kiff these days?" Fry asked.
"Nothing!" Amy said, her face darkening. "After Leela sent Brannagan packing to the far side of the galaxy, I probably won't see or hear from him for a long time.".
"Ooops." Fry thought. "Stuck your foot in it that time.".
"Sorry." he said.
"Guhhh. Easy for you to say. Leela won't let you out of her sight. If she so much as has to go to the moon without you along she takes it out on the rest of us. I hope you know how lucky you are.".
"Oh, I do. Believe me, I do.".
"Good. She's a much nicer person as long as you're around.". Amy sat back in the seat and sighed.
After a few moments she turned back to Fry and said "How did you do it, anyway?".
"Do what?" Fry asked.
"Get Leela to fall for you like that. She spent like forever holding you at arms length, then all of a sudden she does a complete 180 and she's practically Mrs. Phillip J. Fry. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I never would have believed it.".
Fry shrugged. He didn't think Leela had gone quite that far overboard, but it was a nice thought.
"Beats me. She must'a changed her mind or something.".
Amy slumped back into the seat, exasperated. She just couldn't get a good story out of either of these two.
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. Finally Fry got up.
"Well, see you later.".
"Yeah, later." Amy replied.
Fry wandered down the corridor. He felt like walking; usually he'd walk around the perimeter of the cargo bay, but this trip it was too full. He tried the engine rooms, even though they were cramped, hot, noisy, and smelled funny. He could get about 20 feet of run if he didn't mind stepping through the hatch between the reactor and converter rooms and wandering amongst all the machinery. On his second lap, he tripped on a pipe and decided that was enough. He limped back up the corridors to his cabin, crawled into his hammock, and went to sleep.
A few hours later Fry wandered on to the bridge. Leela was on duty now.
"Hi, Fry." she said.
He sat down and rubbed the sore spot on his leg.
"What's the matter with your leg?" Leela asked him.
"I tripped over a pipe in the engine room after my last shift.".
"What were you doing down there?".
"Trying to find a place to walk. I was going to hang out up here for a while, but I think I pissed Amy off.".
"Oh? I wondered, she didn't seem like her usual sunny self. What happened?".
"I was just trying to make conversation, and I asked her if she'd heard from Kiff. I think she blames us for getting him exiled to the far side of the Universe.".
"By 'us' I assume you mean me." Leela said. "Fry, I feel bad for them too, but she knows what the situation was. She and Kiff have choices they can make. I didn't have that luxury.".
Fry nodded slowly.
"Besides," she continued, "we haven't seen the last of Zapp Brannagan. DOOP isn't going to let their biggest and best"; Leela made quote marks in the air with her fingers; "wander around the backwaters of the galaxy forever. Sooner or later he'll be back. We'll cross paths with them, and Amy and Kiff will get to see each other. And then we'll have to be very careful; Brannagan will either be as docile as a brain slug, or he'll be hatching some devious, back stabbing plot aimed at extracting painful revenge on both of us. Which he does will depend entirely on which of his heads is in charge at the moment.".
Fry looked up. "Us? I can see why he'd want to get back at you, he's not the kind of guy that would like getting beaten up by a woman ... twice. Well, Ok, maybe he would, but not the way you did it. But, anyway, why me?".
Leela smiled at him. "'Cause you took something from him that he wanted very, very badly, and you know how small children can get when they don't get their way.".
Fry smiled knowingly.
They sat in silence for a moment.
The bridge chronometer mooed.
"Fry, do you know why that thing is making that stupid noise? Yesterday it was doing some kind of bird call, now it sounds like Nixon with a bad case of hemorrhoids.".
"Uh, that's a cow mooing. I was bored on my last shift so I changed it to sound like a cuckoo clock. I don't know where the cow came from.".
"Well, it's really annoying. Make it quit. That's an order from your Captain.".
"Yes, Sir." Fry said grinning. He turned to the computer console.
Amy walked in a few minutes before Leela's watch was due to end.
"Leela, I want to run some more tests on #3. May I take it off line?".
"Go ahead, but remember that we're heading into an iffy situation in a few days, so don't start tearing it apart or anything.".
"Guh. I know that, I'm just going to run some simple tests.".
Just then, the clock mooed again.
"Fry!" Leela said.
"Sorry. I'm trying.".
Leela suppressed the urge to use some of her choice Captain's language.
"Keep working on it. It's your watch.".
They were two days out of the Cortlandt system when Leela called a staff meeting on the bridge.
"We don't really know what we're getting into here ..."
She was interrupted by the bridge chronometer 'chiming' the hour, except that today it was barking like a dog.
"Fry, can't you reprogram that thing back to normal?".
"Sorry, Leela, I've tried. It won't let me for some reason. I even asked Amy to see what she could do with it.".
Amy nodded. "It's like totally hosed. We'll have to put up with it until we get back and I can do a hard reset on the subsystem.".
Leela scowled at them, then turned to Fry.
"What I want to know is how you changed it in the first place? You don't have root access to any of the subsystems, and - don't take this wrong, Fry - but you don't seem like the computer programmer type.".
Fry looked a little uncomfortable.
"Uh, well, I, ahh, had a little help.".
Leela and Amy exchanged glances. They looked at Bender.
"Hey! What? I don't know what he's talking about. I was playing Alterian Hold-em with Fry's stereo at the time. You can't prove anything.".
"I wondered where all my CDs went." Fry said.
"Bender," Leela said, her eye narrowing, "fix the clock by the end of Fry's shift or I'm going to let Amy take your head down to the engine room and use it as a keeper on the field magnet of converter #3 until we get back to Earth.".
"Yeah, whatever." Bender mumbled.
"All right, if everyone's done being stupid, let's get back to business.".
Leela touched some controls and brought up a holographic representation of the Cortlandt system.
"Our delivery is to planet #2. They're at war with planet #4, apparently over mining rights on planet #3. According to the computer, planet 3 is the only source of a mineral used in the production of something called Vyagra, which is highly prized on both planets.".
Leela picked up a pointer stick and indicated the route they were going to take.
"This is our approach. It keeps us as far from planets 3 and 4 as possible. We'll rendezvous with an escort ship here at 1830 the day after tomorrow. We go straight in, make our delivery, and straight back out the same way.
From 1600 that day until we clear the system again, everyone will be on duty the whole time, so get as much sleep as you can before then.
Also, from 1600 on, we'll be in a potential combat situation, so we're going to do everything by the book. I don't want any screw ups.
Amy, I want ... Fry!".
She smacked him between the shoulder blades with the pointer stick.
"Ow!" Fry said, sitting up quickly.
"Wake up, I meant when the meeting is over. Amy, I want all converters on line the whole time, just in case. How is #3?".
"It's running fine. It still has that variation in the output, but I don't think it'll be a problem as long as we don't load it too severely.".
"Ok. Any questions?" Leela asked. She looked around, everyone was sitting there quietly looking back at her.
"Hearing none, we're adjourned. Fry, two hours until your watch.".
The bridge chronometer squealed like a pig.
"And Bender, you've got 8 hours to fix that clock or you'll be singing folk songs for the next week .".
Fourteen hours later Leela arrived on the bridge for her next watch.
"Did Bender get the clock fixed?".
"Well, it's not making animal noises anymore." Amy said, glancing at it.
Leela looked up. A rag was folded up and duct taped over the grille where the speaker was.
The chronometer clicked over the hour, and muffled through the cloth and tape came the sounds of burping.
"It seems to be on bodily functions now." Amy said.
Leela keyed the intercom. "Bender, report to the bridge.".
Fry had Nibbler on his leash and was walking him through the corridors of the ship. They went to the reactor room where one of Nibbler's litter pans was. As they entered, Nibbler scampered over to the pan. Fry turned away and braced himself against the door frame. A moment later the ship lurched to one side and a new odor wafted through the compartment.
"Phew." Fry said, waving his hand in front of his nose.
Nibbler was at the hatch that led back to the converter room. He was scratching the door and making excited chittering noises.
"What is it, boy?" Fry asked. "There's nothing back there. It's just hotter, noisier, and smellier. Ok, maybe it isn't smellier right now, but it usually is.".
Nibbler continued his excited bouncing and chittering at the door.
"Look, I'll show you.". Fry pushed open the hatch and looked in.
Bender's body was chained to a cooling pipe. His head was missing, his arms and legs were flailing around. An access panel was open on one of the converters, and Benders voice emanated from within.
"I've been working on the railroad all the live-long day. I've been working on the railroad just to pass the time away. I'll kill you Leela and Amy Can't you hear the whistle blowin? Rise up so early in the morn' Can't you hear the captain shoutin'. "Dinah blow your horn?"".
Fry crept up to the converter, being careful to avoid Bender's arms and legs. He got down on his hands and knees and poked his head inside. There, lodged between the pole pieces of the field magnet, was Bender's head.
"On top of old Smoky, all covered with snow, I lost my true lover, By court-n to slow. Fry, Oh your God am I glad to see you. Well, courtin's a pleasure, And parting is grief. Help, it's awful. But a false-hearted lover, Is worse than a thief. Get me outta here.".
Fry squated down and pulled, but the magnet was too strong and he couldn't get Bender's head off of it.
While Bender continued to sing and curse everyone on board, Fry called the bridge on the intercom. Leela answered.
"Leela, can we take this converter off line for a minute so I can get Bender's head out of it? Nibbler dropped a steamer and I need Bender to clean it up.".
"All right, Fry, but after that he's confined to quarters until I say otherwise.".
Fry went back to the converter and reached in, grabbed Bender's head, and started pulling. The converter spun down, and a few seconds later there was a loud clunk as the field contactor dropped out.
"Yahhhhghh!" Fry hollered in surprise as Bender's head suddenly came loose and Fry did a backwards somersault, loosing his grip and tossing the robot's head across the compartment.
"Fumble!" Bender's head said. "Lemme guess - you never played football, right?".
"No. Stupid fingers, remember?" Fry said, wiggling his fingers. He picked Bender's head up and shot it toward Bender's body. "Basketball was more my speed.".
Bender's body made a grab for his head, but missed it; his head rolled around on the floor.
"Nice catch, idiot." Bender's head said.
Fry picked it up again.
"What I don't get" he said as he screwed Bender's head back onto his body "is how they did this to you. You must outweigh the two of them together at least a couple of times over.".
"Hey, you've wrestled with both of them, meatbag, you ought to know that Robot Hell hath no wrath like a seriously pissed off female of your species.".
"Something on the scanners." Amy reported. "Right at the edge of detection.".
Leela glared at her.
"Oh, yeah, designate contact #1" Amy added.
"All right, everyone. Stay alert." Leela ordered. She turned to Amy "We've still got aways to go before we reach the rendezvous point, what do you suppose it is?".
"Not a clue." Amy said. "It's too far away to get any kind of signature on. It's not a derelict 'cause it seems to be keeping up with us."
She paused for a moment, then added significantly "And non-combat ships generally don't run alone in a war zone.".
"Keep an eye on it.".
They continued on course. Half an hour from their scheduled rendezvous the shadow suddenly changed course and speed.
"Leela, contact #1 just changed course and is closing at a high rate of speed. Estimating 20 minutes to intercept.".
"It might be our escort," Leela said, "but it's coming from the wrong direction.".
The scanner bleeped. Amy studied it for a moment.
"Another contact, designate #2, right about where the rendezvous point should be. That's our escort. I bet contact #1 is an unfriendly.".
"That's my guess too." Leela replied. She pushed the throttles open more.
"Amy, transmit the recognition signals in the direction of the rendezvous area.".
The seconds ticked by.
"Getting a reply. Transponder signatures match, yup, contact #2 is our escort.".
"Advise them of our uninvited guest.".
Amy quickly composed and transmitted the message.
The scanner showed contact #2 accelerating.
Another message came in. Amy read it.
"They advise that contact #1 is a planet 4 battleship, and ask us to fall in on their wing once they pass.".
"Acknowledge it." Leela said. "Fry, power up the gun, full charge. Amy, shields up.".
The escort ship turned out to be a large battle wagon itself, massive and blocky, but surprisingly quick despite it's size and appearance. Leela swung around behind it and fell into formation on it's port side, slightly above and back.
They closed directly at the other ship.
The minutes ticked by as the distance closed. The bridge chronometer ripped out a muffled set of greasy sounding farts.
The planet 4 ship suddenly turned away and put on a burst of speed.
"Message coming in." Amy reported. "We're advised to resume course and speed to planet #2.".
"Ok." Leela replied.
The remainder of their run in to Cortlandt 2 was uneventful. They landed at a run down landing site, where their cargo was unloaded by a group of lethargic workers who took two hours longer to unload them than Fry and Bender could have done alone.
They sat for another 3 hours waiting for clearance to leave.
Once they were well clear of the planet, and satisfied there was nothing within scanner range that shouldn't be there, Leela sent Amy to her cabin to get some sleep.
By the time they were back to the rendezvous point where their escort turned back, she and Fry had been on duty over 20 hours.
Leela called Amy to the bridge, and she and Fry trudged back to their cabins.
Leela was awakened by an incessant buzzing. She sat up and slapped the button on the intercom.
"What?" she said groggily.
"Leela!". Amy's anxious voice came over the communicator. "I've got 4 ships on a high speed intercept course that just showed up on the scanners. They're still to far away to get a good make on, but I think they're the same type as that one we encountered on the way in to Cortlandt 2".
"I hope this is a dream and that I'll wake up soon." Leela thought.
"How long to intercept?" she asked.
"About 18 minutes." came Amy's reply.
"Sound the alarm!" Leela ordered while struggling out of bed. As she grabbed her clothes, a glance at the clock showed she'd had about 5 hours of sleep.
Alarm horns were blaring though the ship as she raced for the bridge. As she entered, Amy jumped up and moved to the engineering console. Leela dropped into the pilots seat and pulled the seat belts around her.
"All converters on-line" she ordered, even as a glance at the status board showed her that Amy already had them warming up.
Just then the bridge door swooshed open and Fry stumbled in with Bender right behind him.
"What's goin' on?" Fry asked.
Leela killed the alarm.
"4 bogeys inbound. Fry, get to the gun mount; Bender, engine room."
Fry and Bender scrambled back out through the door. They both recognized that tone of voice - there was no doubt who was in command.
"All converters on line" Amy reported.
"Do we have anything on those ships yet?" Leela asked.
"Yup, scanner signatures match inbound contact #1 to 85%. No transponder returns.".
Leela pushed the throttles full open and, keeping a sharp eye on the load meters, notched the stick shift out. The ship surged ahead - Leela pushed the engines to accelerations the artificial gravity generators couldn't entirely compensate for.
Fry and Bender made their way through the corridors of the ship, partially running, partially falling, and partially sliding, depending on what the gravity was doing at the moment.
Fry grabbed a pipe just in time to keep from falling as the floor twitched out from under him.
"One of these days, I've got to get Amy to teach me how to swear in Martian. It seems to help.".
"I'll teach ya binary." Bender said, "It's easier .. Whoaaaa."
The ship rolled out from under them again; and for an instant they had the sensation of standing on the wall until the gravity caught up.
"010001110111011001100100 ..." Bender was saying.
"Takes too long. See ya later." Fry said as he climbed the rungs to the gun mount.
Leela keyed the intercom circuit open. "Report." she snapped.
Fry's voice came over: "Ready on the laser".
Bender's voice was next "I'm in the engine room. It's hot in here.".
Leela was pushing the engines hard - many of the instruments were quivering close to their yellow zones.
"They're still closing." Amy said. "Estimating 8 minutes".
Leela considered for a moment. They'd bought a little time, but it was obvious they'd need something more. She reached down under her console and pushed open a small panel. She'd practiced this maneuver before, never expecting to need it. Feeling inside, for she couldn't see it from a sitting position, she found the three toggle switches.
"Amy, go to minimum ballasts on the converters and get ready to switch to manual controls. You're going to have to squeeze every erg through those things you can.".
Amy starting setting controls, but she was worried. Under normal circumstances, the converters were nice reliable devices. But under extreme loads, they could become finicky and unstable. And she still hadn't figured out for sure what was wrong with #3.
Leela snapped the first switch over.
Flashing red text popped up on a screen "Warning: Converter protection overrides engaged".
Leela snapped the second switch.
Another line, again in red "Warning: Reactor safety limiters off".
The third switch.
"Warning: CD player volume compensation in Battle mode.".
They were pushed back in their seats as the full power of the drive system was unleashed. The ship sped ahead. Amy was busy monitoring the converters, trying to keep them all balanced and stable. She watched with growing concern as most of the indicators were rising at a noticeable rate, many already into the yellow zones on their scales.
The ship was beginning to vibrate and make noises they'd never heard before.
Leela had the stick notched further forward that she'd ever had before. The load meter was pushing towards the red line. The odor of ozone and hot insulation was beginning to permeate the bridge.
Leela glanced at the scanners. Their pursuers were still closing. Maybe 5 minutes now and they still couldn't out run them. Leela considered - 4 to 1; very poor odds. It wasn't likely they could out gun them either.
"Shields up." Leela ordered.
The minutes ticked by.
"They should be within weapons range any ..." Amy started to say.
One of the approaching ships opened fire. Laser shots streaked close by on the port side. The ship was buffeted. Indicators showed that the shields had absorbed part of the blast. If there was any doubts about the intent of their pursuers, they were gone now.
Leela pushed the yoke forward and twisted it hard right. The PE ship spun away of the laser bolts.
They could hear the electric thud as Fry opened return fire. Over the intercom came his voice, a kind of excited Zoidberg-like whooping sound.
The other 3 ships opened fire now, filling the void of space with bright streaks of deadly energy, all trying to find one little target.
Leela sent the ship spinning through all kinds of wild maneuvers.
The crew was thrown around in their harnesses as the gravity compensators became hopelessly confused. It would have been better to just turn the gravity off, but no one could be spared to do so now.
Leela yanked back on the yoke to avoid laser blasts directly below. Tortured servo systems screamed in protest. Somewhere in the ship something broke loose, clattered metallically across a deck, and banged into a bulkhead - every crew member involuntarily glanced in some random direction, trying to discern the source of the noise and judge how fatal it sounded.
In the gun turret, Fry spun around, trying to get a target lock on their pursuers, but Leela's increasingly wild and unpredictable maneuvers made it hard to hold a target.
Leela, bathed in sweat, was running out of ideas. All of her instruments were at or in the their red zones. It was only a matter of time before their perusers got them, if their ship didn't blow up on it's own first.
The ship bounced violently as their shields took a direct hit. A loud BANG from behind them made Leela and Amy jump involuntarily. The artificial gravity failed and the lights went out. The air on the bridge smelled acrid, a blue haze hung over head.
From deep withing the ship, a new noise intruded on the cacophony of sounds already assailing them.
"Leela!" Amy cried "Runaway on converter #3, I can't control it, I've got to shut it down.".
"No!" Leela said as she wrenched the yoke around. "We need the power or we're all dead. Control it by loading it.".
Amy muttered in Martian as she manipulated the controls.
"It's still off the scale. We've got 3, maybe 4 minutes before it melts down if it doesn't ..."
She was interrupted by an explosion somewhere aft. Main drive dropped off. There were red lights all over the status board.
".. blow up first." Amy finished.
"Bender, Report!" Leela called.
"Something just blew up down here. It looks like the morning after a pretty wild robot party.".
Leela was at the end of her rope. With one converter gone they had no hope now. The others wouldn't stay together long at this rate, and as the enemy ships closed it was only a matter of moments before a laser blast would overwhelm the shields.
She had one more idea in her bag of tricks..
"Hold on everybody" she said. "Fry, watch for targets".
She suddenly backed the power off , spun the ship end for end, and hammered the power back on.
Leela was pressed back into her seat - her vision blacked down into a tunnel - there was a screaming noise in her ears, but she tuned it out.
She concentrated on aiming for the opening between the 4 oncoming ships.
She rolled the PE ship to give Fry a shot on the nearest ship.
Fry opened up, pumping shot after shot straight at the bridge window of the rapidly approaching ship. Just as they were about to pass, his last shot locally overwhelmed the enemy's shields and punched a hole in the hull just behind the window.
Out the window ahead Leela saw the 4 ships shooting past them - she spun the ship around again and shoved the throttles hard against the stops. The drive systems screamed in protest.
The two lead enemy ships, concentrating on closing with the PE ship, were aimed at the same point in space. One command crew was out of action, victims of Fry's shooting. The other, realizing that a collision was imminent, tried to change course but were too late - the ships collided - one ship's bow penetrating the engine room of the other. The ruptured ship exploded, taking the forward third of the other with it.
Leela twisted the steering yoke hard left, trying to avoid the fire ball mushrooming up before them. Pieces of the wrecked ships banged against the PE ship's hull, making ominous noises and bouncing them around.
The other two ships, being slightly behind and somewhat more spread out vectored away from the collision point.
Leela recognized what was happening and, spying one ship almost directly over head, pulled back on the yoke to stay under it. The other ship's greater momentum and speed capability would quickly carry it beyond the range of the PE gun.
"FRY!" Leela screamed "FORWARD 11 O'clock HIGH! FIRE!".
She heard the electric thud of the gun as Fry opened up - out the window she saw the bright orange streaks find their target. Fry put three successive shots into the other ship, the last one blowing open a hole in the hull, starting an explosive decompression. His 4th shot went inside through the widening hole - the whole rear half of the ship burst into a fireball.
"Holly cow!" Fry yelled. "Did you guys see that? He didn't even have his shields up! Woo Hooo".
"Shut up, Fry." Leela barked.
Leela backed off on the power and turned away. She looked at the scanner; 3 ships down, where was that 4th one? She found it - turning away and running back the way they'd come from, too far way for a shot and too fast to catch.
Leela backed the power down more and set course for home.
She sat back in her seat and took a deep breath. "Full ballasts and automatics," she said to Amy, "but keep all the converters on line for now. Then see if you can get gravity back.". She reached down to the hidden panel and reset the switches.
"Ok everybody" she said into the intercom "3 kills, one running for home. If this crate stays in one piece, we might live to tell the tale. Stay at your posts for a little longer until we clear this area.".
After a moment, she added "Good job, everyone.".
In the background, the bridge chronometer noisily chimed off a string of belches. Sometime during the battle, the duct tape had let go.
A short time later, the only thing still visible on the scanners were the remains of the 3 derelicts, and they were about to drop out of range.
"Ok, Amy, back to normal cruising - two converters."
"Aye, Aye" Amy said, busying herself at the board.
Leela keyed the intercom. "Fry, Bender, you can secure now".
Amy said "I'm going to the engine room to see what kind of mess we have down there.".
She leaned back and closed her eye. The door whooshed behind her as Amy left.
"That was too close." she told herself.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, she looked up. Fry was standing there.
"Hi" he said.
"Hi, Fry." Leela said.
She released her harness and climbed out of the seat. She swayed unsteadily, and grabbed Fry for support. The stress of the battle had left her drained.
She pulled Fry close and they hugged each other. They stayed this way for a couple of minutes.
"Fry, do you ever think that we should find some other line of work?"
"Um, no. Why would we want to?"
"Oh Fry, it's only been a few months since I realized how much I love you. I was hoping we'd have a long time together to enjoy that. We could have lost it all today."
"Leela, we could get run over crossing the street. Out here, we're much safer. I know you'll never let anything happen to us.".
That was just like Fry she thought. To him, space battles weren't really real - they were just another video game. That, and an almost childlike faith that she could protect him. She smiled to herself - at one time that would have annoyed her - now it was just a cute part of the man she loved. And maybe he was right; she'd done pretty good so far.
"Besides," Fry went on, "where would we go? You wouldn't be happy back at a desk job, and I could never be happy being an earth bound delivery boy. To me, the future has always been about space travel - this is where we belong.".
Leela smiled again - there was that boyish charm - by now these delivery flights should have been as exciting as riding the bus, but not to Fry; even the routine ones were an adventure to him. She had to remind herself every so often that he was still a product of the 20th century, when humans were only taking their first tentative steps into space and real space travel was the stuff of dreams and fiction.
It occurred to her that her love for Fry was much the same. One day, the stuff of dreams and fiction, then something happened and all of a sudden it was real and tangible.
Leela let out a happy sigh and squeezed Fry harder. For some reason she didn't understand, she felt like crying.
"This is stupid." she thought. "I've just kicked some alien butt. I'm holding the man I love. I feel happy. Why the hell do I want to cry?".
Leela and Fry held on to each other. Leela's eye watered a little, but she managed to keep from having a full blown cry. Fry might take it wrong, and she didn't want Amy or Bender to wander in and see - it would be awkward. Captains were supposed to be strong.
Finally she pulled herself together and pulled back, holding Fry's hands, looking him in the eyes.
"Ok, Fry. We stay."
"All right!" Fry said, smiling.
"At least if we die out here we'll die together." Leela added.
"That's not going to happen to us, Leela. We're the best crew Planet Express ever had. We've out lived them all and we're going to keep doing that.".
"I wonder how long that's going to last?" Leela thought.
She turned and looked at the instruments, thinking ....
"Fry, are you tired."
"No. I mean I only had a few hours of sleep, but I'm still too wound up.".
"Yeah. Me too. Keep quiet for a minute, please.".
Leela turned, sat down, and keyed the intercom.
"Here." came Amy's voice.
"How's it going down there?".
"Bender was right - it looks like a junk yard down here."
"Hey" came Bender's voice from the background. "I said party, not junkyard. There is a difference you know.".
"What ever" Amy sighed, a trace of exasperation in her voice. "Anyway, #3 really disemboweled itself this time. It's junk. Nothing we can do until we get back. If you don't need me back up there right away, I'd like to run some system checks - we were really beating on things pretty hard for a while there.".
"Ok. How long to you think you'll need?".
"Can you let me have two hours?".
"All right, I can last that long.".
Leela switched off the intercom. She turned to Fry.
"It looks like we've got a couple of hours, and there's a couch. Go get your Holophoner.".
. -. -..