hours. It wasn’t their longest trip, or the furthest they’d
flown, but on those trips Fry hadn’t been trying to avoid
anyone. Now she wasn’t sure if there was anyone on the ship she
could even talk to. Bender was still trying to work out whether he
wanted to accept her, Hermes wasn’t talking, LaBarbara was
talking too much and Leela was... busy. About an hour after take-off
she’d put Amy in charge – Amy! - and disappeared into the
bowels of the ship with Samuel for what she claimed was going to be a
right,” Fry muttered. She stared at the wall of her cabin –
adorned by a poster of some hunk Amy was lusting over, plus a few
pictures of Kif and some other flotsam. Amy was probably the
only person she could talk to and conversations with her were usually
quite limited, as she’d found out during the first few days of
sharing her cabin. What had seemed cute and familiar to Fry as a man
was just boring and repetitive to Fry as a woman. “To hell with
stood up from the bed and crept out into the corridor. Empty. Fry
walked toward the flight deck, her stockinged feet silent on the
composite decking, and paused at the entrance. Amy was slouched in
the captain’s chair with her feet up on the control column,
snoring. Beyond her, Bender was still lounging on the couch, though
the haze of cigar smoke was gone and a bottle of cheap liquor was
propped up on the arm.
crept around the edge of the flight deck until she could see Bender a
little better. He was reading. She peered at the book, which seemed
to be another “how to talk to women” instruction manual.
Fry shook her head and smiled at the thought of Bender actually
trying to learn something. Perhaps he wasn’t such a bad friend.
She edged back out of the flight deck and padded along the corridor,
looking for somewhere quiet that wasn’t her cabin.
passed down through the galley, paused for a moment and wondered if
she should get herself a snack, but then decided against it. It would
only end up on her- Fry shook her head to try and clear the thought
out. She quickly left the galley, returned to the top deck and
carried on toward the aft, where there were a few nooks and crannies
to be found in the engineering spaces.
before the ‘brain’ room Fry found a small access panel
open. She peered in; a short crawlspace lead into a larger chamber
right up against the inner hull. It seemed quiet enough, so Fry
crawled in and shuffled along until she was able to stand almost
chamber was quite long, taking in a fair portion of the ship’s
aft section. Further along Fry could see more access ports. She
stooped along the chamber, looking for somewhere to curl up for a
Fry heard voices echoing from an access hatch up ahead. The hatch was
unsealed and left partly open, letting a sliver of light shine down
into the crawlspace. Fry edged toward the hatch and peered through
the gap left at its edge. Her stomach bucked; she could see part of
Leela’s cabin; the voice was Samuel’s. Fry shuffled into
a more comfortable position, her heart racing even as she tried not
to think about what she was doing. She put her head back against the
bulkhead and listened.
still haven’t told me what’s between you and Philippa,”
Samuel said, his voice sounding a little sleepy. There was a rustling
of bedsheets and a momentary silence that Fry’s mind filled
with all sorts of disturbing mental images. She bit her knuckle again
in an effort to keep silent.
it’s a long story,” Leela eventually said. More rustling,
and then a thump as someone got out of bed and started pacing. A
shadow passed across the hatch.
turn again. “We have plenty of time, you know,” he said.
are a lot of things we could do with that time,” Leela
replied with a husky voice. Fry tried to think about something,
Pancakes pancakes pancakes... and coffee... damnit!
me a break, Leela, I’m worn out...”
poor Sam.” More sheets rustled, and then another lengthy
silence followed. “All right, even if I tried to explain
everything you wouldn’t believe me. I still don’t
understand all of it myself.”
me. Come on Leela, seriously, I’m all ears.”
Leela said. Samuel chuckled. More silence. Fry almost imagined she
love her, don’t you,” Samuel said suddenly. The sheets
rustled again and someone, presumably Leela, suddenly paced to the
far side of the cabin. “Oh come on Leela, it’s obvious
that there’s something between you two. You’re more than
This ship is complicated. The Espresso machine in my shop is
complicated. This...” A second set of feet thumped against the
deck. “Leela, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
it’s ok. It’s fine. It’s just difficult to
all right. If you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll
understand,” Samuel said. “After all, who am I to judge?”
a good man,” Leela replied. She let out a sigh, and the bed
creaked as they both sat down again. “The truth is, I did have
feelings for Fry, and she had feelings for me at one time, after a
fashion... I... I sort of blew it. Something changed, I can’t
really say what. I didn’t know how I felt. I still don’t
know now but she was... oh, it’s too complicated.”
seems to have gotten over it pretty well,” Samuel said.
she has. She’s a good friend. In fact she’s the best
friend I’ve ever had, always so quick to forgive me and forget
mistakes I’ve made, but I only noticed recently. These last few
months have been the best of my life in a lot of ways. I feel...
free, around her, like I can tell her things that I can’t tell
some things man was not meant to know,” Leela replied
playfully. More silence. “Wow, how did you know about that...”
Leela giggled and the bed creaked again.
did you two ever-”
really none of your business.”
Well. Are you ever going to explain this to me or will I just end up
with the word ‘complicated’ tattooed on my forehead?”
might do that anyway,” Leela said. “Or perhaps down
here... hey, I thought you said you were worn out!”
shuffled out of the crawlspace and moved as far down the chamber as
she could, her palms sweaty and her heart still racing. She hunched
up at the far end of the chamber, near to where she had originally
crawled in. Best
friend? Best friend had always been part of what she’d wanted
‘before’, though not all. But, then, priorities change.
As far as Fry knew, Leela had never talked about her like that
before. A tear trickled down her cheek but she ignored
it, preferring to concentrate on the warm feeling just underneath her
crawled out of the access and sealed it up. She dusted herself down,
looked about to see if anyone had seen her, and then crept back to
a while she just sat on the bed with her chin resting on her hands as
she stared at the wall. A faint smile would brush her lips every now
and then. Eventually, though, the boredom set. Fry looked around the
cabin; her eyes came to rest on the dress hanging in the half-open
closet, still wrapped in plastic. Taunting her.
walked up to the dress and looked at it. The plain white material
shimmered as she lifted it, like silk, but somehow lighter and with
more intensity. She peeled back the plastic and lifted the dress from
its hook, then carried it over to the mirror, where she wrapped the
airy cloth over her front and posed a few times. For once Amy had let
sense override her random shopping urge. The dress was perfect.
Echo Sierra zero zero one, Eridani Orbiter Control, you are cleared
for pre-entry orbit at level one three two zero azimuth delta
Leela said, concentrating on her readouts. “Level one three two
zero. Estimate perigee in... fifteen minutes.”
papa echo, set transponder to niner zero seven two and contact entry
control on seven seven five point five, good day.”
niner zero seven two, goodbye,” Leela said, snapping her
fingers at Fry, who quickly dialled in the transponder code and new
contact frequency. “Damned Eridanis, always so uptight about
following the rules,” she said, before activating the comms
again. “Hello entry control, this is Papa Echo Sierra zero zero
one on alpha delta, uh, fifteen, level ahh... one three two zero
perigee zulu thirteen, requesting vectors for entry to Fort Baker
Papa Echo Sierra this is entry control, level one three two
acknowledged, please maintain your present orbit and await
I mean, copy that.” Leela turned off the comms and set the
autopilot to stabilise their orbit. She twisted sideways in her seat
and glared at the planet over Fry’s shoulder. Fry sat back in
her seat and smiled at Leela until the other woman noticed. “What?”
nothing,” Fry said, still smiling. She turned back to her
console. “Looks like you gave Samuel a very thorough tour of
the ship considering the amount of time you took.”
swallowed and looked away. “Well, it’s got a lot of
interesting features,” she said, blushing slightly. She looked
up at Amy who just shrugged, then back at Fry, who was smiling again.
“You seem to be in a very good mood.”
yes, most definitely,” Fry said, widening her smile a little.
She put her arms over the back of her chair and spun it a little.
“Wouldn’t you be? I’m going to what promises to be
a great party on another world with my best friends. Why wouldn’t
I be happy?”
you put it like that...” Leela rubbed her nose thoughtfully,
her earlier moment of embarrassment forgotten. “It’s just
a bit sudden. When we left you seemed about ready to jump out of an
airlock, especially when Samuel came on board.”
shrugged. “I prefer being in a good mood,” she said. She
sat a little more upright and smiled again. “I was jealous of
you two, in fact I think I still am jealous, but I’m happy for
you as well. If I can’t be happy for my best friend...”
gave Fry a quizzical look. “That’s good to hear, Phi, but
it’s still a little odd. Normally you’re only this happy
when you’re about to do something stupid.”
jumping out of an airlock?” Fry winked at Leela. “I’m
just happy,” she said glancing at Amy and then back Leela. They
both looked at her with doubtful expressions. “Really!”
shrugged and turned back to her console. “Be that as it may...
oh what the hey, if you’re happy then you’re happy. What
the hell is keeping these people?”
know,” Amy said, “we could always try and use your
connections to get our slot bumped up.”
mean call Zapp? No way!” Leela folded her arms. “I
wouldn’t call that self-impressed blowhard for help if I was
stuck in a hole and he had the only rope in existence.”
nodded, satisfied that she’d made her point, just as the comms
crackled to life again.
Echo Sierra zero zero one please adjust orbit to holding level two
two zero zero, delta zero and acknowledge when complete. Estimated
holding time eight hours. Over.”
and Fry stared at Leela. She put her hands up. “All right...”
So, we meet again. The game is a on the other foot.” Zapp’s
face filled the viewscreen as he leaned forward and smiled
benevolently. Leela folded her arms and glared at him. “To what
do I owe this highly arousing pleasure?”
understand this is purely a business call,” Leela said,
maintaining her glare. Zapp raised an eyebrow and then tilted his
glass in acknowledgement.
certainly a very erotic
business call,” he said.
it Captain. You’re going to call up Entry control and tell them
to give us a priority landing slot.”
lowered her head for a moment, resting an hand on her forehead. She
let out a frustrated sigh. “You don’t get anything, Zapp.
If we’re stuck up here for the next eight hours we’ll
miss the conference.”
tut tut Leela, every fair turn deserves another scratch on the back!
This is business after
all... spend the evening with me.”
the evening,” Zapp persisted, putting his drink down.
Leela’s voice remained firm. Zapp walked toward he viewer, an
almost anguished expression on his face. He seemed about ready to
plead with Leela, but at the last moment he looked aside. Leela
cocked her head. “Emotional blackmail won’t work twice,
Zapp,” she added.
Well.” Zapp’s composure returned almost instantly. “How
about one dance?”
wouldn’t even consider it.”
I’m afraid you’re in orbit for the next eight hours,”
Zapp replied formally. “Good evening Captain.” He leaned
forward to switch off the viewer.
hell, wait!” Leela glanced at Fry and Amy. “All right,
one dance. But you don’t touch me anywhere except the hip,
shoulder and hand or I’ll have your balls as earings. Got me?”
why yes,” Zapp said, a leering smile creasing his lips. He gave
Leela a mock salute. “I shall see you within the hour.”
screen blanked out. Fry let out the breath she’d been holding
for most of the conversation. Some distant memory had twinged at her
in oddly familiar ways after Leela’s last threat. She’d
almost felt sorry for Zapp.
are you going to tell Samuel?” Amy asked, glancing toward the
back of the flight deck. Leela shrugged.
He’ll understand, and hopefully this is the worst that will
happen on this trip.” She strapped herself in, waiting for the
radio call. “Fry, go let everyone know we’ll be landing
soon,” she said.
Fry said with a cheery smile. She turned to leave, but Leela grabbed
her arm and pulled her close enough to whisper.
isn’t in his cabin. I was, uh... showing him my diary.”
you were,” Fry said with a wide smile. She patted Leela’s
arm. “I won’t tell anyone.”
it was pretty obvious really,” Fry added as she reached the
flight-deck door. Leela scowled at her and tried to get up, but her
seatbelt yanked her back into her seat.
push your luck,” she growled at Fry.
Baker Spaceport was barely worth of the name, consisting of a pair of
landing pads with two huge hangars behind them and a few auxiliary
buildings a short distance away. Snow sputtered across the sky and
drifted up against buildings as the evening drew in, but otherwise
failed to make an impression on the landscape thanks to the constant
easterly wind that blew across the tundra to the east. The Planet
Express ship wobbled slightly as Leela fought against the wind, but
settled down perfectly on the pad. She was towed into the hangar
almost before her engines were shut down.
ships were arrayed across the hangar floor, mostly the transports of
visiting dignitaries not quite important enough to warrant a landing
slot and welcome at Fort Abel in the Eridani capital. The crew
surveyed the ships as they were towed into place near the back of the
hangar, wondering who they belonged to. Leela peered at the wall
directly ahead before completing her final shut-down.
right, time to leave,” she said to the assembled crowd. She
glanced around the bridge as the crew and their passengers trooped
out, then slipped the keys out of the control column and dropped them
in her pocket.
loading bot was waiting for them at the foot of the gangway. “Come
on, hurry up people, I don’t have all day,” it yelled,
flapping an irritated crane arm at them. “Bags go in the back,
heavier gear goes in the middle and no riding!”
and Fry looked at each other and quickly lifted their feet from the
bot’s deck. Fry chuckled and pinched at her arm. Hermes cleared
listen up you lackadaisical laggards,” he said, pulling a
clipboard from his ever-present briefcase as the bot slithered away.
He consulted the papers on the board for a moment. “Our cars
will be arriving in precisely ninety seven seconds which gives me
just enough time to tell you the followin details. We’re stayin
in the same hotel that is hostin the conference, thanks to your
Captain Brannigan, Leela, and
we have passes for the after-conference dinner only,
which means no wanderin around the city and no tryin to sneak out of
the dining room or into other parts of the building. Especially you
two,” he added, pointing at Leela and Samuel, who both gasped
and tried not to look guilty. Hermes looked up at the sound. “Oh.
I meant you two.”
shifted his accusing finger to Bender and Zoidberg. Bender threw up
his hands in disgust. “Oh come on, what fun is a place like
this if I can’t rifle through other people’s belongings?”
aren’t here to have fun! And Zoidberg, I had to promise you’d
stay away from the kitchens before I could even requisition the forms
to apply for the permission to inquire about extending your visa, so
you make sure you stay in plain sight at all times, you hear me? No
kitchens, and no rummaging in the garbage.”
Zoidberg slouched and made a sad bribbling noise.
was a loud tooting outside, accompanied by the sound of a pair of
hovercars pulling to a noisy stop. Hermes looked at his watch. “Ooh
right on time. I love this place,” he said with a distant
smile. LaBarbara rolled her eyes.
pair of limousines were waiting for them outside. Amy almost squeaked
with joy at the luxury of their interiors and pushed her way to the
front of the group, where she leaped into the first limo and spread
herself out on one of the seats. “Wow, this is incredible,”
she said, fingering a bottle of what turned out to be a local and
very expensive sparkling wine.
sure you get this all the time when you’re at home,”
Leela said, climbing in opposite Amy. She cuddled up to Samuel as he
sat down. Fry consciously looked away, glancing out of the door,
where Bender was protesting at having to sit in the same car as
Zoidberg. Their car pulled away a moment later.
don’t get this sort of thing back home, mom and dad are pretty
spartan when it comes to cars,” Amy said, peering into
cupboards and hatches. “Neat, a Ninplaybox three-thousand!”
let me see that,” Fry said, pushing herself along the seat.
“Does it have Space Invaders?”
I don’t think so,” Amy said, poking at the controls with
an unsteady finger. Fry grimaced and sat back.
I forgot, you don’t have that any more...” She put her
arms over the back of the seat and sighed sadly. “It’s
strange what you miss most,” she added with a slight shrug.
Leela gave Fry an odd look.
sat forward a little and peered at the Ninplaybox. “Space
Invaders. Isn’t that an old videogame?”
I was one of the top scorers on it when I left the twentieth
century,” Fry replied. She closed her eyes and thought back to
when she would spend hours on the arcade machine in Pannuci’s.
“I used to be a hotshot at that game, played it all the time
when I wasn’t on deliveries. One time I got my name on every
single score slot, until some punk kid tried to beat my top score. I
showed him a thing or two... of course then Mr Pannuci turned off the
power and wiped it all.”
thought most twentieth century women weren’t in to that sort of
I wasn’t a...” Fry’s eyes snapped open. She tried
to hide her sudden acute embarrassment behind a cough. “That
is, I was-”
wasn’t an average woman,” Leela said, putting a hand on
Samuel’s shoulder. She wrinkled her brow and tried to look
me guess,” Samuel said, slumping back in his seat.
shrugged and leaned his head back. He took a deep breath, let it out
and smiled a little. “A riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an
enigma,” he said quietly, then glanced out of the window. “Oh,
I never thought I’d see one of those in my lifetime.”
had pulled up at a checkpoint manned by a nervous pair of local
militia who were being watched over by a hulking Ruklisk. The terror
stood a little apart from the militia, paying little heed to the
humans as it watched the passing vehicles. Now and then it would
shift an insectile leg or shuffle its spiky bulk as it craned its
torso for a better view of the road. The alien’s spines were
slowly wafting up and down around its face and neck, concealing part
of its face from view every so often, apparently, a sign of agitation
and boredom. He flicked a clawed hand at the car and grunted
something unintelligible to the senior militiaman. The militiaman
nodded and waved the car through the checkpoint.
Zapp stabbed one of those
things?” Leela peered through the back window at the receding
checkpoint. “He’s braver than I thought...”
long as you don’t get any ideas,” Samuel said, taking
Leela’s hand with both his own. They smiled at each other. Fry
managed to suppress her almost involuntary urge to make a retching
noise. “He can have his dance if he wants it, but you’re
saving the last for me.”
come off it you two! All this sweetness is making my teeth rot.”
but when you’re flinging yourself at Lieutenant Kroker it’s
all okay?” Leela frowned at Amy, but mixed it with a wicked
smile. Amy primped her hair and looked away. “Not that you’ll
get much of a chance,” Leela added, a look of doubt creeping on
to her features as she looked out at the city. Ruklisk occupiers
seemed to be standing on every other street-corner, whilst very few
of the locals seemed to be out. Those that were on the streets were
either pressed against the walls, too timid to even cross the
streets, or had a strange glazed look in their eyes as they plodded
about their business.
hate to ask a stupid question, but did anyone actually think about
what was going to happen to Eridani when the Ruklisk take over?”
Leela looked around the car. Nobody answered. She turned back to
watch the streets, where a small group of locals were trailing behind
a Ruklisk like tame animals, all of them wearing the same turgid look
on their faces. “Zapp, what have you got us into?”
sat on her bed and watched the wall. It was an interesting wall. For
starters it wasn’t Amy, and it wasn’t naked. She twiddled
her thumbs and traced a pattern from the floor to the ceiling.
on Phi, it’s not like you haven’t seen it before,”
Amy said from somewhere over Fry’s shoulder. Fry shrugged.
circumstances,” she said.
you’re a woman now!”
didn’t particularly like seeing naked men when I was a man,”
Fry replied, closing her eyes as Amy skipped into view. She risked a
look. “Oh, underwear at last...”
can’t help it if I’m a free spirit,” Amy said,
lifting a gown from one of her bags. She hugged it to her chest and
spun around. “What do you think? Green or violet?”
blue,” Fry said, pointing at the hem of a dress that was
hanging from another bag. She shrugged. “I like blue.”
I’ll try it, but I was leaning toward the green myself,”
Amy said. She pulled a few more dresses out and laid them on her bed,
then stood and stared at them. Fry turned and looked at her dress,
once again hanging in its plastic cover. She sighed.
peeked around the door and frowned. “You two had better hurry
up or we’ll be late.”
keep your hair on,” Amy said. She closed her eyes and started
to ip dip the dresses
on her bed. Leela scowled at her and then looked at Fry.
you can’t be having trouble deciding too,” she said with
a wry smile. Fry shrugged and stared at the dress again, then looked
be honest, it’s a little odd.”
been wearing women’s clothes for six months, how is this any
different?” Leela walked over and sat down next to Fry,
resplendent in a long black ballgown that glittered and sparkled like
the night sky. She put her arm around Fry’s shoulder and
squeezed her a little. “Still, if you need help with
looked at Leela, wondering if now was a good time to mention the
decisions she was going to make. There were so many things... then a
thought crossed Fry’s mind. “Actually there is something
you can do,” she said, and gave Leela a nervous smile.
tip-toed down the hall, moving from doorway to doorway the way he
imagined soldiers and criminals did when they wanted to remain
hidden. He reached the end of the hall and laughed quietly to himself
as he started to unlock the door he found there.
a moment the lock click and the door slid open. Bender peered in
expectantly, his eyes scanning around for anything worth stealing.
“Aw... crud. Another bust. Doesn’t anyone have anything
worth stealing around here?”
turned from the room, making sure the door closed before he left, and
made his way further down the corridor. “Perhaps there’s
something on the ground floor... ooh, they have safes in these
places!” Laughing, Bender made his way to the elevators and
took a car to the lobby. A concierge behind the desk gave him a
are not allowed out without an accompanying owner,” he said
sternly, pointing at Bender. “Do you have an owner?”
but I wasn’t planning on going outside either,” Bender
replied. He walked over to the front desk and leaned on it. “Have
you got safe around here? My... ‘owner’, thinks I need to
be put in secure storage for a bit. I’m very valuable to her.”
concierge looked down his nose at Bender as if not quite able to
tolerate Bender’s presence. He consulted a small book, which he
then tucked into his waistband just inside his jacket, and smiled
briefly and formally at Bender. “This way.”
followed the concierge into a room toward the back of the hotel. A
large safe door filled most of one wall. A row of eight combination
locks were equally spaced across the door, though the concierge
didn’t seem to bother with them when he opened it. He simply
slipped a key into a slot hidden behind one of the locks, twisted it
twice and then pulled on the door-handle.
safe door swung back silently. Air gusted past as the pressure
equalised, and Bender couldn’t help rubbing his hands together
with almost undignified glee. He glanced at the concierge. “So
I just go in there, right?”
When will your owner wish to retrieve you?”
you can just come and let me out in about, oh, eight hours,”
Bender said, shuffling forward. He almost skipped across the vault’s
threshold and paused inside. Bright lights bathed the safe, which was
painted a stark white inside, lined by hundreds of compartments and
drawers. Larger items were piled here and there on the floor. Bender
laughed quietly and crept forward.
was just opening the first drawer when he realised that the safe door
hadn’t been closed. He turned and looked over his shoulder.
“Hey, what’s the-”
loud, alien growl echoed through the safe and Bender’s voice
faded. He crept back toward the door and peered around it; a pair of
Ruklisk were standing over the cowering concierge, who seemed to be
I will do anything, just... just let me go.”
of the Ruklisk reached out and grabbed the concierge by his neck,
lifting him from the floor. “You think we would let a perfectly
useful slave go running away?”
doesn’t matter what you are now, Hu-mawn,” the second
Ruklisk said, fluffing its spines menacingly. Leather creaked as the
creature reached back and plucked one of its spines from its back,
with barely a gasp of pain. “These creatures make such squishy
slaves,” it continued, eyeing the spine. It took out a knife
and started whittling the end until a spit of bright green fluid
began to ooze from it.
are not as squishy as the koslety in
charge of their Democratic Order of Planets.” The first
Ruklisk laughed and held up the concierge again. “Do you have
family, hu-mawn? Friends?” The concierge nodded. “Well
say goodbye to them. I would say they might miss you, but by now they
probably don’t even know who you are.”
concierge struggled against the grip around his neck, legs flailing
uselessly as he tried to wriggle from the Ruklisk’s grasp to no
avail. The second Ruklisk held up the spine and peered at it with
satisfaction. He glanced at the first Ruklisk, who turned the
concierge around and held him so that he was leaning forward. The
second Ruklisk held the spine up and quickly stabbed it into the back
of the Concierge’s head. The man shrieked in pain and fell
limp. Then he shrieked again as the spine’s poison began to
leech under his skin. The Ruklisk dropped him to the floor.
is the part I always love,” he said, taking out his knife. He
started to trim his claws while the concierge writhed on the floor,
foaming at the mouth. After a while the man’s thrashing died
down and he lay still. The Ruklisk examined his nails and put the
knife away. “Wake up, slave.”
concierge opened his eyes and sat up. His eyes were glazed and
unblinking, his face slack and devoid of emotion. He pushed himself
up and stood a little unsteadily, then slowly turned to face the
Ruklisk. The alien pair seemed satisfied with this and turned to
it so convenient that these slave species always put themselves at
our mercy,” one said. The other grunted in agreement.
tried to back into the safe. He almost made it, but tripped over a
group of statues that clattered to the floor with a horrendous
Bender scrabbled at the floor and tried to find somewhere to hide,
but it was too late. One of the Ruklisk peered around the door and
saw him. Bender sat up and looked back at the alien. “Uh...
Ruklisk didn’t bother answering, but simply raised a gun and
fired at Bender, blowing him apart.
bathroom was cool and surprisingly dry, and quite spacious, though
Fry had chosen it simply because she was about to do something that
needed no distractions, which in turn meant getting away from Amy.
She leaned over the sink and stared at the mirror.
drew out her lipstick and held it out to Fry. “Now I don’t
know what experience you have with these things, and frankly if it’s
more than a year old I don’t want
to know.” She lifted the cap and twisted until the applicator
appeared. “Hold it close to your mouth and then move it slowly
out from the middle.”
took the lipstick and stared at it for a moment. It was a hot pink,
which looked quite attractive on Leela but might not work for her,
though obviously she wouldn’t know unless she tried. With great
care she held the applicator near her bottom lip and pouted. Her hand
hovered for a moment. “I’m not sure I can do this.”
give it here,” Leela said, grabbing the gloss. She lifted Fry’s
face and looked at it. “Your lips are quite thin, perhaps we
can just plump them up a bit,” she said as she waved the gloss
over Fry’s mouth. Fry felt a momentary greasy sensation as the
gloss was layered on, which disappeared as it cured and bonded.
“There, now make a kissy face again.”
pressed her lips together and then licked at the gloss. It felt
almost invisible. She looked in the mirror. Leela had done a
surprisingly good job, filling out her lips just a little without
exaggerating them. Fry turned her head this way and that, admiring
the way the gloss brightened up her face without making her look
slutty. “Wow, look at me.”
you want I can put on a little foundation and-”
no this is fine,” Fry said, touching her cheeks for a second.
She licked her lips again. “I figured I should make an effort
but I don’t want to go overboard.”
girl.” Leela dropped the gloss back in her bag. “Now, go
get changed so we can hit the party. I think Amy will be done by
nodded. She put her hand on the door handle, then paused and turned
to look at Leela again. “Thanks, Leela. You’re the best
friend I could have right now.”
blushed and smiled.
stood in front of a full-length mirror and admired herself again. The
dress was more than perfect, it made her look good,
even if she did say so herself. She twisted this way and that, making
sure she wasn’t snagged or wrinkled in an embarrassing way,
even though she knew Amy was behind her somewhere, fuming at Fry for
taking so long to change. Leela had gone off with
Samuel several minutes ago and Amy was eager to get into the party.
Fry didn’t care. She was enjoying the moment.
right, you’ve seen yourself some more, now can we go?”
Amy stalked over to the door and pulled it open a little too
violently. “I’m missing all the fun!”
sighed and looked heavenward. She gave herself one last look in the
mirror and blew herself a kiss. “Why didn’t you just go
ahead and leave me?” Fry said as she joined Amy in the corridor
and they started to walk toward the elevators.
miss the chance to see everyone drooling over you like idiots?
Imagine how they’d feel if they knew,” Amy said with a
salacious grin. She smoothed down her own dress – orange, Fry
noted – and grinned again. “This party is going to be so
much fun. And I’ll finally
get to see Kiffy! Isn’t that great?”
Great,” Fry said, examining her nails. Perhaps she should have
coloured them. She glanced at Amy’s fingers and saw she was
even wearing some sort of extensions. They paused in front of the
elevators and waited for a car to arrive. “I’m not sure I
like the idea of people drooling over me. It’s making me
nervous,” she said.
I wouldn’t know about that,” Amy said brightly. Fry
looked at her.
must have been nervous at your first party though?”
Amy smiled at Fry again and hopped into the elevator as soon as the
doors slid open. Fry followed her cautiously, reasoning that
cheerful had to be dangerous.
had to be attitude, she realised as the elevator began its slow
descent to the ballroom where the after-conference party was being
held. Amy assumed that everyone liked her, and so more often than not
they did. She was shallow, but not in the vindictive sort of way,
which meant she just didn’t notice when people thought badly of
her. Fry wondered if she could ever manage to be like that. Before
she’d just not cared
what people thought but now, changed, she had become very conscious
of other people’s attitudes toward her. It permeated everything
a woman was so complicated!
elevator came to rest and opened at the head of a long, banking set
of stairs that widened out on to the floor of a huge ballroom. Here
and there a diplomatic Ruklisk stood by a wall or in a corner,
ignoring the assembled species that thronged the ballroom floor as
they swept their rolling black eyes over the assembly. A small
orchestra was just completing the final segue of
Strawberry Fields to
polite applause from the few guests who had actually deigned to
dance. Fry spotted Hermes and LaBarbara near the orchestra
chatting to a strange looking alien – obviously trying to get a
lead on a contract. All work and no play. She crept forward and
started down the stairs, keeping close to the rail.
suddenly ran past her, waving her arm in the air and staring at a
knot of diplomats near a buffet table. “Kiffy!”
Amphibian detached himself from the crowd and ran across the
ballroom, meeting Amy just as she reached the bottom step. They flew
into a hug. “Oh Amy,” Kif said, almost smiling. “I’ve
missed you so...”
little Kif,” Amy replied, stroking Kif’s head. She swept
the slender alien up in another hug and spun him around. “Kif,
I want you to meet someone,” she said as she put him down. Fry
was just reaching the foot of the stairs, grumbling under her breath
about how stupid her shoes were. She kicked her heels against the
don’t know how the hell you walk in these things,” she
grumbled, staring at her feet. Her calves were already starting to
ache from the unaccustomed position. “I swear I will never make
a joke about high heels again...” Fry looked up and found Kif
and Amy staring at him. Amy raised an eyebrow but didn’t say
anything. She turned to Kif.
this is Philippa. She’s-”
cousin,” Fry said, and then screwed up her face to think.
“Hubert Farnsworth’s, um, cousin. Uh... a hundred and
twenty times removed or something.”
looked Fry up and down with a vaguely confused air, then peered
closely at her face. “You look a lot like Amy’s ex,”
he said slowly, then seemed to snap out of whatever stupor he was in.
“Uh, excuse me, I’ve been on tour with Brannigan for the
last eight months. You tend to lose social skills.”
okay,” Fry said. She leaned against the stair-rail and lifted
one of her legs in the air with a pained sigh, twisting her ankle to
relieve the pressure on her calf. “Oh man, it’s like
being a giant Barbie doll...”
watched her with puzzled fascination until Amy noticed and batted him
on the shoulder. He swayed under the impact but didn’t seem
particularly pained. “Ah, excuse me. Sorry Amy. I should get
Zapp’s voice echoed across the ballroom. Kif started trembling
and looked wildly about, trying to find Brannigan; Fry spotted him
making a bee-line for their little coterie, a determined look on his
face. “Kif, you’re supposed to be attending to me while I
entertain these fine people,” he said as he drew close. Zapp
clamped a hand on Kif’s shoulder and turned him around. “Why
are you cowering over here like some kind of- why,
realised this sudden change of attitude was aimed at her. She put her
foot down and looked up at Zapp. The captain was sweating slightly
and seemed a little the worse for drink but, under all that flab, he
did almost seem handsome. Something about his personality was-
apart from being very erotic what do you do for a living?” Zapp
wiggled his eyebrows and Fry saw him tucking a little brown book into
his pocket. She groaned.
gave an ostentatious bow with a flourish of his hand, and then took
Fry’s hand and kissed it. Fry shuddered. “Please don’t
but I must,” Zapp said, licking a knuckle. Fry squeaked and
pulled her hand back. She suddenly had to lean further back as Zapp
cast himself toward her, leering and grasping for her shoulders.
There was a stink of cheap spirits on his breath, mixed with
expensive wine and too much greasy food. Fry gagged and almost
stumbled backwards under the onslaught.
almost as erotic as Leela... say, where is
Leela?” Zapp straightened up and looked around the room.
hiding!” Fry said, pushing Zapp away. She backed up, ready to
fend off Zapp’s advances again but he wasn’t interested
overbearing idiot grabbed Kif’s shoulder again and pulled him
up so his head was at Zapp’s height. “Kif, I have to find
her. She promised me a dance, and if I can time it right I might be
able to convince her to take a look at my royal suite.”
sighed and let himself hang limp. It was easier. “Is that a
mind, sir...” Kif peered over his shoulder at Amy. “I
don’t suppose you know where Leela has gone?”
shrugged and looked around the room. “I guess she’s
probably beating up some head of state to get a contract out of them
somewhere,” she said, eyeing Zapp’s arm and hefting her
purse. Kif saw the motions and quickly shook his head to warn her
perhaps you should try the buffet,” he said, pointing to the
far side of the room. Zapp nodded thoughtfully.
thinking, Lieutenant. The way to a man’s bed is through his
stomach. If she wants me, she’ll be there.” Zapp put Kif
down – dropped him, more accurately – and straightened
his uniform. He swayed slightly as he walked off toward the buffet.
sighed and sat down on the stair. “I don’t know how he
ever managed to convince Leela to sleep with him,” she said,
massaging her ankles. Amy looked up from her place at Kif’s
side and shrugged. “He’s an idiot. An ugly
well Leela has a bit of a soft-spot for idiots.” she said.
was an idiot and I never noticed
Fry’s brow crinkled as she tried to figure out what she’d
just said. It felt like she should be having one of those epiphany
things right now but all she could think about was getting drunk.
“Forget it, I’m going to get something to eat,”
she said, standing up. Fry looked down at her feet and frowned, then
quickly pulled her shoes off. “I really don’t know how
you manage in these things.”
shrugged again. “You get used to it I guess,” she said,
helping Kif to his feet. She put her arm around the alien’s
slim shoulders and gave him a quick cuddle. “If you try hard
enough you can get used to anything.”
smiled at Amy, the genuine smile that Fry had never seen him use
around anyone else. She tied her shoes together and, giving the pair
a final glance, slung the shoes around her neck and wandered over to
the buffet table. Of course she was careful to avoid Brannigan, who
was at the far end of the table stuffing a handful of canapés
into his mouth. Fry loaded up a plate with snacks – what the
hell, one night wouldn’t ruin her figure, would it? - and
meandered across the floor until she found an empty table. She sat
down at toyed with her food, then sat back to watch the crowds moving
flash of purple bobbed through the throng toward her and Leela
finally emerged, trailing Samuel behind her like a lost puppy. They
sat down next to Fry; Samuel stole a few items from Fry’s
plate. “Turnabout is fair play,” he said with a wink. Fry
place is giving me the creeps,” Leela said as she glanced over
her shoulder. “Have you seen the number of guards they have
hadn’t really noticed,” Fry said, rubbing her hand. Even
though it made absolutely no sense she was sure she could still feel
Zapp’s tongue on it. She shivered. “Zapp is looking for
you by the buffet.”
saw, that’s why we haven’t eaten yet,” Leela
replied, looking at Samuel, who smiled briefly before stealing some
more of Fry’s food. He didn’t wink this time. “Have
you seen Bender or Zoidberg since you got here?”
I haven’t seen them since we got to our rooms.” Fry said,
turning to look at the buffet. Normally the Decapodian would have
been hovering, for want of a better word, around the largest supply
of food in the room. Perhaps that was why he was missing. “I
guess they didn’t want him hogging the buffet. I hope we’re
not eating him.”
wouldn’t mind so much if Zapp had the decency to go missing
with them,” Leela said, glaring at the man who, it seemed, was
still managing to entertain a small group of dignitaries. The laughed
and applauded as he finished some embellished tale with a flourish of
his arms. Leela growled. “I’m going to find Bender. In
case that idiot asks, tell him I died or something.”
lips are sealed,” Fry said around a half-eaten scotch egg.
Leela screwed up her face at Fry’s lack of manners but didn’t
say anything. She stood up and turned to Samuel.
like I have anything better to do,” he said with a smile. Sam
paused half way through standing and leaned toward Fry. “Thanks
for the food.”
made a beeline for the doors at the far end of the ballroom and were
swallowed up in the crowd. Fry sat back in her seat and resumed
watching the crowds. There seemed to be a small commotion as someone
made their way through the gathering toward a podium set up opposite
the stairs. A security team started to move up around the podium,
gently ushering people away from it until there was a respectable
distance. Then, to rising applause, President Glab made her way up
tot he podium, followed by Zapp and a an arrogant looking Ruklisk of
some indeterminate but high rank. She held out her hands for silence.
good friends, we reach, tonight, a culmination of a process that has
brought peace to our galaxy after a century of hostility. Thanks to
the efforts of our gallant Captain, we have finally ended our cold
war with the Ruklisk.” Glab held up a glass, which was quickly
filled by a waiter. She inclined her head to the man and held the
glass higher. “To peace,” she said, taking a large swill
from the glass. The gathering joined her toast with varying degrees
put down her glass – obviously not her first of the night, as
she swayed just a little – and looked out at the gathered
leaders. She smiled benevolently. “Thanks to the efforts of our
diplomatic teams the Democratic Order of Planets can now welcome the
Ruklisk as equals. This new era of peace means that we no longer need
to maintain our fleet at its current level. Last week I authorised
the decommissioning of ninety-five percent of the fleet. Those ships
not already docked are returning to their home ports even as we
room erupted, with some delegates yelling their disgust, whilst the
rest either cheered, congratulated each other or tried to calm
everyone down. Around the edges of the room the Ruklisk shifted on
their feet and looked at each other. Zapp looked up at Glab, his face
paling as he clenched his fists. He set his jaw and frowned at the
floor. Glab, unable to find a gavel, started banging her fist on the
podium for order with little effect. “Be quiet! All of you!”
the crowd settled down, with one or two leaders sporting minor
injuries, including a few bite marks. Glab held out her hands. “The
DOOP council are in the process of finding a new purpose for the
remaining ships. Our militarism was a necessary response to the
threats we faced in the last century, but
that threat no longer exists. Now we are truly an organisation of
peace, and to that end I am promoting Zapp Branigan to the rank of
Ambassador General. The Ambasador will now give his thoughts on what
we have achieved.
give you Zapp Brannigan.”
rose from his seat, wobbling and sweating profusely, shaken but
unbowed. He pulled himself upright and walked up to the podium to a
smattering of applause, lead by President Glab, and put his hand out
to quiet them. “Thank you, thank you all. You know, I often say
that history is made by putting the right man in the right place and
letting, uh... history do the talking.” There as an
uncomfortable silence. Zapp scratched his side and peered at the
crowd. He tapped the mike in front of him. “Is this thing on?
Never mind. Today, I come to you not as a Captain, or an officer, but
as a man. A man with needs, a man with desires. A ship. A crew. A
woman at my side...”
gripped the sides of the podium and bowed his head. “I come to
you as a man with victory in his hands, carrying the torch of peace
through the dark valley of the shadow of war. I am not, by nature, a
violent man but I always pull through when the chips are falling like
flies to the slaughter. The loss of my fleet is a hard blow to my
staying the course, however.
have prepared a few words of verse to commemorate this event...”
Zapp reached into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of paper.
brother,” Fry said, putting her head in her hands. It was going
to be a long, long night.