A Red Letter Day (ver 1), part 2
Webmaster's note: This is the completion of Corvus' fic
A Red Letter Day (ver 1), part 1. You need to read that first.
Disclaimer: The animated series Futurama, its characters and its scenes are all the property of their respective copyright holders. This story is written as fan fiction, solely for the enjoyment of its authors and other fans, without any commercial intent. Please obtain the authors’ explicit written permission if you wish to publish this story or post it on another website.
Part 3 - Meeting
The intense blue light slowly faded. Rana gasped for air.
She found herself face-down in an alley, in an older part of New New York. Looking up, she saw two shadowy human figures several meters away leaning over a large table, talking in a foreign language. One was tall and muscular with a heart-shaped tattoo on one arm; the other short, scruffy, and wearing a too-large overcoat.
The short one noticed her first.
“Fresh teenaged organs! Get her!”
Rana became fully alert. Now I’m glad my mother pushed me to take Arcturan kung-fu…
She feigned tiredness. When the large one was about a meter away and leaning over reaching for her, she leapt up and back and dropped him with a roundhouse kick to his head followed by a left-hand blow to his solar plexus. The short one ran, then turned around and threw a scalpel that Rana barely dodged.
Still shaken up, she hurried out of the alley into a cloudy early morning. She’d told the chronotron machine to deposit her near her parents’ apartment at 8 AM exactly 18 years ago.
Something was a little off; she knew this area from old videos.
So this is what Little Neptune used to look like before the urban-renewal lasing! Cubert’s stupid machine got it wrong! This is nowhere near our apartment! I’d better get out of here. Planet Express is on the other side of town. And the tubes will be jam-packed and jelly-tight at this time of the morning.
She took off at a quick trot.
Rana arrived across the street from Planet Express about twenty minutes later. She instinctively looked at her wristamajiggy, then realized she’d left it at home. After all, it was Ferris Bueller Day; she didn’t have to be in school until the afternoon.
Then she remembered that the chronotron machine had placed a bracelet around her left wrist. It looked similar to the ones worn by hospital patients, but slightly thicker. She lifted a small cover on it. Inside was a time display.
The numbers were counting down.
It took her a minute to do the math. I have five days. That’s all the machine would let me have and still return me on the same day I left. Five days to meet and get to know my father – if he’s not off on another planet battling evil aliens. And Cubert said that in order to return, you have to go back to the same spot where you arrive. At least I think that’s what he said.
What the hell am I going to do?
Well, I’d better start by disguising myself. She pulled her pink Colorator from her pocket and combed her hair from purple to jet-black.
Rana slowly walked across the street to the entrance of the Planet Express building. Rain started falling.
Everything was happening so fast. She needed some time to think.
Ten minutes later, lost in thought and soaked to the bone, Rana turned around at the sound of a familiar voice. Fry and Leela were less than 5 meters away walking across the street, nonchalantly holding hands under a hoverbrella and talking on their way to work.
Her eyes grew wide; she exhaled every bit of air in her lungs, gasping out “What…the…!?!” They’re young! She took a half step toward them, but dizziness took over. Her eyes rolled up and her legs gave out. Fry and Leela watched her fall to the sidewalk as if in slow motion.
Fry picked her up and rushed her inside to the couch in the Planet Express building’s break room. Both of them were puzzled by the lovely, enigmatic smile on Rana’s face.
She looked up. Tending to her she saw her parents, 18 years younger and in the prime of life. Her father was alive – ALIVE!, she thought – and her mother was heavily pregnant.
Leela asked, “Who are you?!”
Rana reached limply toward Fry. “You’re my…,” she stammered, “you’re my…”
One of the words Cubert had said, almost an hour ago but years from now, floated into Rana’s mind: causality.
She choked down the words and sat up, with a tear in her eye.
Leela touched Rana’s shoulder. “Are you OK? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
Rana shook her head back and forth to clear it. Her parents, Amy, and Bender stared at her.
“Do you faint like that all the time? Neat!” said Bender.
“I’m OK. Just a little dizzy. Got into a fight about an hour ago. Maybe I’m just hungry. The adrenaline rush must’ve worn off.”
“Who are you?”
Hoo hoo! Hoo hoo!
“I really wanna know…Phil, could you please shoo that owl out of here?”
“I’m on it, Leela.”
“I’m Rana. Rana…uh…Cook.” D’oh! Good one, you knucklehead!
“What are you doing here in such lousy weather?”
Her eyes darted from side to side. “I was…I was…looking for someone I know…I’m just waitin’ on a friend. He didn’t know I’d be here, so…um…it’s OK if we don’t meet up. But I really want to see him.” Be careful, you dummy!
“Do we know you?” asked Fry. “You look…um…like someone I know.”
“No! I mean no, not as far as you, I mean, I know. Um, would you happen to have something to munch on?”
“Here,” said Amy, “have a Bachelorette Bar.”
Bachelorette Bars!, thought Rana, Those were banned years ago by the Central Bureaucracy because they were filled with too much creamy, nougaty, nutty goodness!
She tore into it like a hungry Decapodian.
Professor Farnsworth shuffled in. “Good news, everyone! We have a very important cargo to deliver today. Oh my, yes.”
And Professor Farnsworth is still with us! Rana sat up. “Where to, Professor?”
“Dog Doo 7. They’ve completely run out of small brown plastic bags.”
“Professor Hubert Farnsworth. I’ve always wanted to meet a living legend.”
“Wha…Who are you?”
“I’m Rana Cook. My mother was in the audience last time you won a prize at the Academy of Inventors. Do you mind if I stay here for a while and follow you around?”
“Come to think of it…I could always use a new test subject. I mean, assistant. Say, what blood type are you?”
“Hermes, that’s a lot of cargo. We can’t possibly fit it all on board.”
“Leela, don’t worry - be happy. I’ve rented another ship.”
She winced. “From where, what kind, and how decrepit is it?!”
“It’s a good old reliable Mark 2 Mod 5.”
“I trained on one of those when they were antiques! It’s got to be at least sixty years old!”
“Well…the price was right.”
“We’re going to need another pilot. I need Amy to look after the converters and the new oxygen generators. You’d better call the union hall.”
Hermes gasped and shuddered at the thought of spending extra money.
Rana touched Leela’s shoulder.
“Leela, my mother…uh…taught me to fly when I was twelve. I have a pilot’s license.”
“Unlimited tonnage atmospheric, near-Earth, and interstellar, plus communications and infrared.”
“Let’s see it.”
Rana retrieved her license from her wallet, deftly covering the expiration date and her surname with her index finger.
“There’s just one small problem, Leela. I don’t have the right career chip.”
“Dog Doo 7 can’t wait for the Central Bureaucracy to get its…um…act together. Don’t worry, the Professor will take care of you.”
“OK, you’re in. As usual, you have some paperwork to do.”
Hermes recovered his composure and smiled. Stampin’, filin’…
Rana walked out of the hangar bay toward Hermes’ office, thinking hard.
Causality. I can’t let them know, or else the whole future is boned, kaput, over.
How am I going to get out of this one?
Leela stood near the ship with Fry, Amy, Bender, Zoidberg, and Rana.
“Here’s the plan. Rana, can you fly the other ship alone? Its autopilot is a certified teetotaler.”
“YES! Um, I mean, yes, Leela, I’d like that.”
“All right, then. You can pick it up at Enterprise Rent-A-Ship.”
“The one over in Bayonne?”
“New New Jersey? Yecch - no way. The one up at the Westchester Municipal Spaceport. When you get back with the ship, park it in the vacant lot across the street and help us load this ship. Then you can fly that one into the hangar bay and we’ll help you load.”
“When we get into space and clear departure control, we’ll link our ships’ computers so we can use the same navigational program. Interstellar, you can trail us by a few thousand kilometers. And keep below us. We don’t want your electronics in the wake of our exhaust.”
“Gotcha.” My mom…always in control of the situation…
“I’ve already bunkered and provisioned the ship. Amy, I think there’s still something wrong with the converters. The rest of you, let’s get busy…Bender, where are you going?”
“I need to get some stuff before we leave…Captain.”
“You’re not coming. This is going to be a long trip, and we need someone to coordinate the Professor’s bodily functions. That’s your full-time job while we’re gone.”
“Aw, crap.” Bender trudged away from the ship, muttering to himself.
Part 4 - Voyage
Rana returned with the rental about half an hour later.
Leela, Amy, and Fry were in the hangar bay loading the ship. Zoidberg was confined to his quarters for trying to eat the cargo.
Leela was breathing hard; her skin was pallid.
Fry stopped his hover-dolly. “Leela…let the rest of us finish this. You don’t look so good.”
“I just have to sit down for a minute, Phil. The baby’s kicking up a storm.”
“Maybe you ought to sit this one out. The converters aren’t running that badly. And we can carry enough oxygen. Amy and I can fly.”
“No! What about our promise, the one we made when we were married?”
Fry lowered his hover-dolly; one corner landed on his right big toe. “OUCH! Leela…I worked so hard to get you to marry me. You know I’ll be with you until the end of time and space, no matter where we go.”
You’re still so sweet.
“We have plenty of time before the baby is due. I’m going, Phil.”
“You like shiny things, right?”
“Gee…how did you know?”
“I got you a souvenir from the Westchester Spaceport.” She handed him a keychain with a small flat shiny steel plate about 8 x 5 cm, on which was an enameled picture of a Mk 2 Mod 5 cargo ship.
“Gee…thanks a lot, Rana.”
“It’s the least I could do. Thank you for helping me this morning. Here’s one for Leela, too.”
Fry slipped both of the keychains into his front pants pocket.
“Are there any more Bachelorette Bars around here?”
Leela held a last-minute briefing before both ships took to the sky.
“Listen up, everyone. A new addendum to the weekly Notice to Spacefarers just came out. Looks like the Omicronians and Decapodians are having their usual biennial space battle a few weeks early. They’re fighting it out near our flight path. I think if we just scooch over a few parsecs to the left, we can avoid any trouble.”
Liftoff and departure were uneventful. Both pilots got their ships squared away for the 2-day trip to Dog Doo 7. They stayed in communication via the computer data stream.
“Rana, are you there?”
“Read you S-9 plus 20, Leela.”
“How good are you at docking with a moving ship? Want to join us for dinner tonight?”
“But I don’t have a thing to wear.”
Leela giggled. That’s just what I would’ve said...
The Planet Express ship’s computer brought the rental ship within a few meters; but inside that distance, position detection got fuzzy. Rana had to close the gap in manual control. She sidled up to the docking tube and hooked up without any hesitation.
Amy volunteered for the first night’s kitchen duty. She prepared windy shrimp salad, barbecued leg of buggalo, baked hover-potatoes, and roddenberry pie for dessert.
Rana inhaled her food. “Amy, that was delicious. I didn’t know you could cook like that.”
“Sheesh, that was nothing. You ought to taste what my parents’ food synthesizer can whip up.”
“Speaking of talent...most pilots would have gotten jittery on a manual final approach to a moving vessel. You just slid right on in.”
“It’s all my mom’s training, Leela.”
“She must be a great pilot.”
“Sometimes she’s a pain...but yeah, she is the best at anything she tries.”
Fry asked, “What does your father do for a living?”
Rana looked down. “Um...he died before I was born. My mom never told me how or why.” She couldn’t help glancing at Leela.
Fry blushed. “Oh...I’m very sorry.”
Later in the evening, Rana undocked and returned her ship to its position aft and below, then set the autopilot for the night.
Fry and Leela sat in their cabin. Leela had a faraway look on her face.
“Leela, what’s wrong? I sense a disturbance in the force.”
She chuckled. “Oh, stop that. I’m fine.”
“You’re thinking about our newest crew member.”
She pouted. “I can’t fool you at all any more.”
“She’s been on my mind, too. Something about her is…a little too familiar.”
Leela swiveled her seat around and looked out at the stars. “Don’t ask me how I know, Phil. Call it…an educated guess. Rana is important to us.”
“Somehow, I know you’re right.”
Early next morning, Amy came up to the bridge.
“G’uh, Leela, it took a little while to figure it out, but fixing it was pretty simple. That’s what’s good about all this older technology.”
“What was wrong?”
“I checked our maintenance records. The last major overhaul, realignment, test, and reinstallation of the six power converters was done by three separate shops. So I started pulling on wires and fiber-optic cables. There were a few loose connections in the converters’ control cable harnesses, and their cooling systems’ PID controllers were all set different. The converters’ electromagnets were being cooled unevenly, so their permeability changed unevenly. That affected the power distribution between the on-line converters. So that’s why you kept getting all those power alarms and spikes. When I redid all the connections, set the parameters the same on all six controllers, and let the system distribute the heat evenly for a while, the converters started ramping up and down together at the same rate. The problem didn’t show up until just last trip because the heat exchangers were clean, so all the cooling regulating valves were almost completely bypassing. We need to acid-wash the insides and pressure-wash the outsides of the heat exchangers when we get home. The controllers’ proportional and integral settings are OK, but I need to fine-tune the derivatives to dampen the cooling temperature over- and undershoots. We can do that when we slow down and on the way home.”
“Impressive. You’ve earned your pay for the week, Amy. Now, how about those oxygen generators?”
“Spleesh, Leela, you’re such a slave driver.”
Leela sat down in the pilot’s chair, turned off the autopilot, and keyed the announcing system. “Slight course correction coming up, everyone. The big battle is going on about a hundred parsecs directly in front of us.”
“Coming slightly to port.”
“No, Phil, I can put the turret in remote if we need it. You don’t have to go up there if you don’t want to.”
“But it’s fun!” Fry took off his jacket, threw it on the front couch, climbed into the turret, and put on his fire-control helmet. “Bring it on, Omicronians and Decapodians! P’yeow! P’yeow! Whoosh!”
“Phil, you have to put on your harness. You know the drill.”
“In a second, Leela. They’re not gonna get the drop on us, not as long as you’re in the chair.”
Leela smiled. He really does trust me.
“I’m charging up the gun.”
“Wait a second…please don’t do that yet.”
“Aw, don’t worry, Leela.”
Part 5 - Attack
Leela sat alert in the pilot’s chair, but her mind was elsewhere. In particular, back in the Planet Express employee lounge.
She keyed the turret intercom. “Phil, do you remember a couple of days ago, when Rana woke up on the couch? Do you remember what she said?”
“Yeah…she reached toward me and said, ‘You’re my…you’re my…’ I wonder what that meant?”
Leela was thinking hard. “You know what? She also knew who the Professor was when he first walked into the room!”
“And how did she know I like shiny things?!”
“Huh?...Anyway, we need to have a talk with her.”
The Omicronian commander was sly. When he was growing up in the 2980s he saw the Earth movie “Tora, Tora, Tora,” so he knew how to deal with Earthicans. Take them by surprise…
The battle with the Decapodians was raging just a few parsecs further ahead and to starboard of them, so he ordered his three ships to approach the two mysterious freighters from behind and to port.
His bridge crew was busy analyzing the two ships.
“Commander, our delta brain wave scanners indicate no activity on the second ship. A data link is operating between the two, so the second must be under remote control. Also, analysis indicates the presence of a Decapodian and two Earthicans aboard the first ship. And its primary weapon is charged and ready.”
“Earthican mercenaries…Weapons, I want a firing solution on the first ship NOW!”
“Firing solution set, sir!”
“One missile only. FIRE!”
Out of the corner of her left eye, Rana saw something small and pointy flash past high over the top of her ship. A missile!
She keyed her data transceiver. “Leela! Incoming! Incoming! Dive, get the hell outta there!”
The panic in Rana’s voice was palpable. Leela turned off the autopilot, hit the gas and pushed the wheel forward as hard as she could. The missile exploded a few hundred meters above and behind the ship. Shrapnel rained down all over the top, cracking the gun turret dome.
The Planet Express ship computer’s metallic monotone erupted on the bridge panels of both ships.
“Emergency. Rupture in Planet Express ship transparent skintanium covering on gun turret. Seventy-nine kilogram life form mass ejection.”
Fry felt a violent blast of air push him tumbling upward, then…nothing. No sound, but he caught a glimpse of the ship receding below him. And a million stars all around.
His eyes felt like they were about to explode. The air was sucked out of his lungs. Oh hell…
Phil! Leela hit the intercom button. “Phil, are you there? Phil!”
The skintanium automatically reconstituted itself. Leela slid back the airtight hatch below the turret.
Fry was gone.
She rushed back to the bridge. The chart recorder showed the point where the gun turret’s cover ruptured. With a lump in her throat, Leela pushed the wheel forward, trying to loop around to get underneath Fry.
But there was one small problem. The Omicronians would soon be in her way.
Rana remembered that Fry normally manned the gun turret. She immediately felt sick.
Now I know how he died!
Something turned on inside of her head. Her rational mind started ramping up to hyperdrive. Maybe I can do something…but what?
My physics homework…something about bodies in motion...force vectors and relative velocity...
“Computer! Manual control!”
“Manual control initiated.”
The Omicronian commander was pleased; the first ship was off course and damaged.
He told his communication officer, “Break the data link between the two ships.”
“Right away, sir.”
“Leela, get out of here! I’m going after-“
The data link broke; Rana’s and Leela’s viewscreens turned themselves off. Rana had the Planet Express ship’s course on her chart recorder right up to the break in the data stream, so she knew about where Fry was drifting. Accelerating and moving steadily “up” with her main engines, she called up the cargo bay controls on her computer screen.
A few seconds after, she passed through the group of Omicronian ships that had just come in from her port side. A fraction of a second later she rolled her ship and dumped her cargo, then finished the roll and pushed her wheel forward.
Thousands of small brown plastic bags burst forth and covered the Omicronians’ optical, infrared, and ultraviolet sensors, temporarily hiding both ships from them.
The Omicronian commander went from pleased to pissed off in the space of two seconds. “WHERE are those two freighters?!”
His first officer said, “We can’t find them, sir…all our sensors are inoperative. The problem is in the hull-mounted probes. We’re sending out some technicrafts to fix them.”
The commander believed he knew what the freighters were doing there. Treacherous Earthicans…They’re trying out some sort of new weapon on us…
“Computer! Atmospheric flight simulation mode!”
“Atmospheric flight simulation mode engaged.”
Rana had practiced this a million times in that antique airplane…what was it called…that’s right, a “JAS-39A Gripen,”when she was twelve. She knew her target was slightly overhead and moving just below Leela’s ship’s original course. But it was too small; she couldn’t see it yet on infrared or from the freighter’s cockpit. “Use your best judgment, dammit! Your mother taught you everything you need to know about how to fly a crate like this,” she thought to herself. “They’re both depending on you, even if they don’t know it yet.”
“Please hang on, Dad…I’ll be there in a New New York minute.”
Rana pulled hard on the wheel while cutting back on the main engines, then pushed the Z-axis thruster control down. The ship’s computer interpreted this as an attempt to stall; it flipped the ship 90 degrees nose-up, but stayed on course. Heading in the relative direction of “down,” which was almost the same as the two ships’ original course but slightly “below,” the old craft’s open cargo-bay doors were now facing Fry. Rana turned on the belly camera in infrared mode, and all of the cargo lights.
Leela finished looping around and was back on her original course.
“I don’t have anything on infrared except the Omicronian ships right in front of us and their exhaust all around us, Leela. Plus, about a million squares of some flexible material.”
“Keep looking! We have got to find him, NOW!”
Leela moved over to the infrared scanner and pushed Amy out of the way. She fiddled with the enhancement controls. The Omicronian ships’ heat signature filled the screen in every direction. She tried the visual and the ultraviolet scanner. Nothing.
“Phil. Phil! No, no, no, no! NO! NOOOO!”
A stabbing pain in Leela’s lower abdomen made her fall to her knees. She felt a tide of wetness flow down her legs.
“Amy...I’m sorry…I think my water just broke.” She couldn’t concentrate. The contractions were too severe. Her eye started to roll up.
Amy put her arm around Leela, lifted her to her feet, and guided her to Dr. Zoidberg’s examining room.
Searching...Against the background of faraway stars, a wisp of infrared signature showed up about 1500 meters away.
Rana finessed her Y- and Z-axis thrusters to match course and velocity. Gotcha!
She reeled out the magnetic cargo lift at maximum speed. Come on…come on…
The lift’s magnet attracted two pieces of steel in Fry’s front pants pocket.
“Magnetic lift engaged.”
The lift reeled in. Dad…
Fry, close to delirium and unconsciousness, felt rather than saw bright lights. Does this mean…NO! Never give up, never give in…Leela…our baby…
“Magnetic lift stowed. Closing doors and pressurizing cargo bay.”
Rana shut down all systems and had her ship play dead for a while, hoping the Omicronians would forget about her. She did the right thing; they missed the small, apparently uninhabited and neutralized freighter with uncharged weapons. She told the computer to move the ship off slowly on a perpendicular course.
“Where are those two freighters?!”
“Commander, another ship is approaching. It is not a freighter.”
“Give me visual, if you can.”
The Omicronians all looked at their main viewscreen.
This situation is outside of Lrrr’s orders...“Set course to join the rest of the fleet. Flank speed.”
Rana rushed off the bridge with a medical kit. Fry lay in a heap on the closed cargo bay doors.
She removed his helmet. There was a large dent and a crack on its left side. His skin and face were swollen and mottled with broken blood vessels. A red froth seeped out of his mouth and his breathing was shallow and irregular. He was hardly recognizable.
But he was alive.
Come on, Dad! Stay with me!
I love you…
She whimpered. Fry’s eyelids fluttered.
Rana turned him over on his stomach to stop him from drowning in his own blood. What the hell else can I do?
“Computer! What the hell else can I do?”
“Attention. We are being hailed by a DOOP warship.”
Rana ran to the bridge.
She heard the arrogant voice of Captain Zapp Brannigan on the radio. Her mother had told Rana almost, but not quite, everything about him.
“You are under arrest,” he said.
Oh crap! Rana took out her Colorator and quickly combed her hair from black to blonde, put on the lime-green pilot’s coat that came with the rental, then turned on her viewscreen.
“Please help! My...uh...brother is hurt!”
Brannigan regarded the fair visage he saw on his screen. Oh ho, a damsel in distress...
Part 6 - Escape
Dr. Zoidberg did all he could to help. But Leela needed an obstetrician and a real hospital. There were no human-, or even humanoid-, friendly planets in the area.
Rana and her ship were nowhere to be found.
Amy made the command decision to make best possible speed for Earth.
Don’t worry Hermes, I’ll buy you another sphere of dark matter, Amy thought as she turned the ship around and brought engine power up to the red line.
Rana moved her ship in and docked on Nimbus’ port side.
“We need help! I have a medical emergency on board!”
Nimbus’ medical corpsmen quickly removed Fry to sickbay.
Two guards and an ensign appeared. “Miss…Captain Brannigan has ordered you to be placed in the brig.”
Rana asked the guards several times when she would be released.
“Sorry, Miss. This is a war zone. Captain Brannigan has ultimate authority.”
One day…two days?, I’ve been cooling my jets here. Might as well face it…I’m stuck here forever. I don’t even have Tetris on this bracelet. The food stinks. All they have is regular Slurm. They won’t even let me see my dad. Please let him be OK…
“Bring the prisoner to the bridge. I want to interview her.”
The ensign sighed. For a female prisoner, Zapp’s “interview” was always the same….
Zapp quickly stuffed a small black book in his tunic and turned around.
“Well hello, Miss…uh…”
“Hilton. Paris Hilton.”
“Captain Zapp Brannigan, at your service. Has my fame preceded me, or was I too quick for it?”
“Not at all.”
“You’re an impressive piece of captain. Beautiful and deadly…a potent combination…”
Rana sighed inwardly. Mom was right. This guy is utterly pathetic.
“…I’ll need to interview you in my in-space cabin.”
The bridge watch crew looked at each other with furrowed brows as the captain and his prisoner departed.
Zapp led Rana off the bridge and down one deck to a medium-sized red-painted office, furnished with a large day bed, desk, mood lighting, and several ostentatious paintings on velour.
He dimmed the lights and sat down on a corner of the desk.
“I’m charging you with trespassing in forbidden space.”
Rana was alarmed. “There was nothing about any new forbidden areas in the latest Notice to Spacefarers!”
“Nonetheless, I am the law here. And Brannigan’s law is like Brannigan’s love…” Zapp stood up and slowly walked toward Rana, a leering grin on his face.
There’s only one way for me to get out of this, she mused.
She placed her hands softly on his upper arms.
“What is it, my young heartthrob?”
Her eyes narrowed. “This is for my mother.”
Rana grabbed onto Zapp’s arms and planted her left knee firmly upward into his crotch. He doubled over in agony. She caught his face with an explosive punch that sent him sprawling on the deck three meters away, unconscious. She quickly fished his master electrokey out of his tunic and stuffed it in her pocket. The bigger they imagine they are, the harder they fall, Rana thought as she hurried out into the passageway.
Rana looked at the bracelet on her left wrist as she made her way toward her father.
Less than seven hours to make it to Earth, or I’m trapped in this time. Impossible in that old tub I’ve been flying. To get there on time, I’d need a...
She stopped in her tracks and whispered to herself. “Wait a minute...I’m on board a DOOP warship…and I have the key to everything on it!”
Dr. “Veins” McGee was personally attending to Fry when Rana walked into Nimbus’ sickbay.
No time to waste. She palmed an electrosyringe of Comatonin from a nearby tray and set it to “horse.”
Dr. McGee looked up when he heard Rana approach.
“Doc…please, how is my brother doing?”
“Well, you got him into a pressurized area of your ship just in time. Any more high vacuum exposure, and he would’ve been a goner. He’s mostly stable now and under heavy sedation, but he needs to spend some time in a real hospital.”
“Thank you for saving his life. I’ll never forget this.”
“Don’t mention it, young lady.” Dr. McGee turned toward his patient.
Rana quickly gave the good doctor a shot of Comatonin and laid him down on a nearby bed.
Sorry Doc, but we have to run.
Fry was still extremely groggy.
Rana put her arm under his and helped him get up.
Come on Dad, we’re leaving.
Rana found what she was looking for on Nimbus’ hangar deck: a brand-spanking-new Mark 48 Mod 1 fighter. Inscribed on the side of the cockpit was “Zapp ‘The Zapper’ Brannigan.” His own personal state-of-the-art fighter, courtesy of our tax dollars! Huh! He probably doesn’t even fly the thing except to impress his girlfriends.
Rana gently placed Fry into the copilot’s seat of the fighter and strapped him in.
She slid into the pilot’s seat and placed Zapp’s key into a slot on the fighter’s control panel. Navigational, weapons, life support, and engine systems started energizing themselves.
She turned to her unconscious father. “Wait here a second, Dad. I have a quick errand to run.” She lightly caressed his left cheek.
She hurried to the old freighter, gave some instructions to its computer, and grabbed two small boxes.
A buzzer sounded in Nimbus’ Combat Decision Center. The CDC watch officer looked at one of the panels arrayed around the room.
The watchstander sitting at the panel said, “Captain Brannigan’s fighter’s engines are spooling up. He’s opening the door.”
Another watchstander chimed in. “Delta brain wave scanner indicates no one on board.”
One of the senior enlisted men whispered to no one in particular, “Well, this wouldn’t be the first time the jackass has sent that thing to pick up his date.”
Rana left Nimbus’ hangar in a hurry. As soon as she was clear she set course for Earth and ramped up all four engines to war emergency power. When the fighter reached max cruise speed she checked the engines’ operating temperatures and pressures, broke open a Bachelorette Bar, and checked her arrival time on the electronic chart display information system. She caught a glimpse of herself in the rear view mirror. I look hideous as a blonde. She whipped out her Colorator and combed her hair back to its natural deep purple hue.
The engines are straining, but they’re doing OK. Six-plus hours to Earth, according to the ECDIS. This is gonna be close...
At the same time Zapp’s fighter left carrying Fry and Rana, the old Mk 2 Mod 5 freighter lit off all four of its engines, quickly undocked from Nimbus, and accelerated away.
The CDC watch officer, who was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, was slow to notice it leaving. He called Captain Brannigan’s in-space cabin.
“Captain, the prisoners’ ship has undocked and is moving away. Do you want us to bring it back in?”
“Captain, are you there? Captain?”
The old freighter moved as fast as it could out of Nimbus’ sensor range.
It then changed course and headed for the scene of the Planet Express ship’s confrontation with the Omicronians.
When it arrived, it plotted a course to intercept the last of its cargo that was still moving through space.
The ship moved slightly past its plastic bags.
“Auto destruct sequence initiated. 3...2...1...”
Part 7 – Return
Amy was tired. She’d been on the bridge almost continuously since getting underway for Earth, stepping away from the pilot’s seat only when she absolutely had to.
She eased off the throttle slowly as the ship passed the Kuiper belt. In the past day or so, Dr. Zoidberg had hovered over Leela like a concerned grandmother. Her contractions had come and gone then come again several times. Right now she was resting – more or less.
Amy set the transponder to squawk the medical emergency code; Earth approach control put her at the head of the line.
She very gingerly set the ship down in front of Taco Bellevue Hospital. Leela was rushed into maternity. Amy and Dr. Zoidberg followed close behind, telling anyone who would listen that Leela was more than a week premature. The OB/GYN-bot on duty saw her condition and immediately began inducing labor.
Zapp’s Mk 48 Mod 1 fighter sped past Proxima Centauri, and in a few minutes Rana took manual control and started slowing down inside the orbit of Eris. She came in above the ecliptic to avoid most of the traffic. She put on the space brakes a little more heavily than she should have, this close to the Sun. Dodging a few stray asteroids, she dropped the ship neatly into the HOV lane of the inbound traffic pattern for New New York. Five minutes to go…
Earth’s approach control computers noted the fast-moving presence of a DOOP military craft and alerted their human supervisors.
One of them said, “That fighter’s coming in red-hot, it’s squawking Zapp Brannigan’s personal code, and he isn’t even slowing down to boast to us about his latest exploit. Must be some hot date he’s going on.”
The other supervisors nodded and laughed.
It took a couple of minutes to find the right alley in Little Neptune. Rana carefully guided the craft to roof level and put it in quiet hover mode. The sudden appearance of a heavily armed DOOP fighter above their heads scattered various and sundry human and alien scum from the streets and alleys nearby.
She gave specific guidance instructions to the fighter’s computer. Then she pushed a button which lowered the cockpit seats to ground level. She checked the display on her time-return tag. Less than a minute left…
“Hey! You there! Smuggling Bachelorette Bars without a smuggling license, eh?”
Two NNY policemen, one human and one robot, walked up the alley toward Rana and Fry with their light nightsticks at the ready.
She took one bar out of its wrapper. “Guilty as charged, officer.”
The blue light started coalescing about 3 meters away.
Rana quickly stuffed the bar in the human officer’s mouth then tripped the robot onto his back.
She jammed the remaining Bachelorette Bars in the pockets of her cargo pants and grabbed Fry out of his seat.
Rana held on tight to her father as she stepped into the blue light.
Zapp’s fighter reeled in its cockpit seats, sealed itself up for atmospheric flight, and made a beeline for DOOP’s Earth headquarters in San Francisco’s Presidio.
A few minutes after Rana departed, Leela gave birth to a 3.1-kilo girl.
She cradled her small daughter in her arms. She has her father’s face, all right.
Oh, Phil…I miss you so much. And I always will. But now I have a little part of you, right here.
I’ll be with you until the end of time and space, no matter where we go…
Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker was appointed as officer-in-charge of the investigation of the incident with the Omicronians. He paid a visit to Planet Express a few days after Leela returned to work.
Kif stood at the head of the conference table and solemnly spoke.
“The DOOP laboratory has examined the data from your ship’s sensors. It seems your second ship dumped its cargo in front of the Omicronians’ ships, temporarily blinding their sensors and allowing you to escape. Then it apparently tried to take on the Omicronian ships alone. We found its wreckage and some remaining cargo a few parsecs from the battle site.
“For her bravery in saving your ship and the lives of everyone on board, the DOOP has decided to award Rana Cook a special posthumous medal of merit. We haven’t been able to track down her next-of-kin, so it will be delivered here tomorrow.
“I’m terribly sorry, Leela. We couldn’t find any trace of Phillip’s or Rana’s bodies.”
Everyone around the conference table looked down at the floor. Amy moved over, put her arms around Leela and hugged her. Leela’s lower lip trembled and a tear formed in her eye, but she forced herself to retain her professional demeanor.
She decided on a name for her beautiful two-eyed, purple-haired daughter.
Leela whispered, “Thank you, Kif.”
“Amy, were there any other ships around before or after you were attacked?”
“No, not that I saw. Why, Kif?”
“I’m telling you this in strictest confidence. Soon after you headed for Earth, a small cargo ship docked with Nimbus not too far from the battle. One of its crew was hurt pretty badly. Captain Brannigan locked up the other for a couple of days, then they escaped with their ship and were not seen again. Zapp interviewed the pilot, but he didn’t scan the ship’s computer, so we haven’t been able to verify the crew’s identities or the ship’s registration. We think they’re gunrunners for the Omicronians or Decapodians.”
“There are a gazillion old ships tramping around in the outer fringes of the Universe, Kif. I don’t think you’ll ever find out who those people really were.”
Every one of the previous 16 times Leela took the ship with its scheduled yearly delivery to Mars, she made up an excuse for Rana. This year Cubert had not given her enough time to tell her daughter anything.
That tone of voice...Something’s wrong. Leela gritted her teeth. “Yes, Mr. Farnsworth?”
“Today’s delivery will be the last yearly one that you will make to Mars.”
You sawed-off, stinking runt! After Phil was lost in space 18 years ago, at Amy’s urging Leo and Inez Wong gave a few hectares of their land on the slopes of Olympus Mons to Leela. On it, she built a small memorial to her lost husband. She planned to bring Rana there in a few years and tell her the whole story; but she wasn’t ready yet, and she didn’t think Rana was either. In fact, she sometimes despaired for the future of her seemingly aimless daughter. Every once in a while when Leela was in a melancholy mood she’d stop by her land on Mars to sit and think…and remember. Every year until he passed away, Professor Farnsworth had her deliver her favorite plants and flowers - an anonymous donation from Planet Express - to the site. He specifically instructed Cubert to do the same every year without fail.
Fry, Leela, and Rana were part of the family, after all.
Leela felt her blood pressure start to rise.
“WHERE is my daughter?? You know, the one who was here when I left?! Her jacket is here - but where is she!?!”
Cubert replied in an even tone. “Now now, Mrs. Fry. There’s no need to let emotion get the best of you. We both know she has a habit of wandering off.”
Part 8 – Renaissance
A high-pitched whine and bright blue light emanated from Cubert’s laboratory. Leela, Amy, and Hermes, followed by Cubert, rushed upstairs.
The light around the chronotron machine faded.
A blue bar on the machine spoke:
“Chronoshift complete. Thank you, and have a nice day.”
I am going to give that daughter of mine a tongue-lashing she will NEVER forget!, thought Leela.
Out of the machine tumbled Rana…and Fry.
A flood of memories suppressed for 18 years washed over Leela. Her eye almost bugged out of its socket. She covered her mouth with her left hand; her head moved slowly back and forth. “What…the…Phil. Rana. You were…You’re really… Phil! Is that really you!?!”
Fry’s eyes fluttered open; he croaked out, “Leela?”
Leela’s eye rolled up and she fainted dead away.
Hermes gasped out, “Sweet pigeon of Hell’s Kitchen! Somebody call an ambulance!”
The ER doctor at Taco Bellevue administered sedatives and painkillers. Then he put tens of thousands of nanobots to work inside Fry.
“...so, if it wasn’t for your Auntie Amy, you would’ve been born in space.”
“For you to tell me more about Dad.”
A smile crept across Leela’s face. Rana, you’ve changed. You’re more than ready, she thought.
Mother and daughter, now reconciled, talked long into the night.
Leela did not want to leave the hospital. While Phil slept she looked at him, talked to him, read to him, told him how much she missed his touch, and smiled her secret smile just for him.
As the days passed and she began to realize it wasn’t all just a dream and Phil was here to stay, she began to feel like the young girl she hadn’t been in 18 long years.
The ice that covered her heart was melting. Emotions she thought she’d never again feel in her life came flooding back – desire, longing, passion, adoration, hope.
At night, she dreamed sweet dreams of what life would be like when he came home.
He continued to sleep and get stronger every day. Sometimes he would stir into semi-consciousness and say her name. She lived for those moments, and kissed and hugged him often.
She took note of when the nurses and doctors made their rounds. One night she sneaked into the hospital at about 1 AM, kicked off her big boots and climbed into bed with him. Though he was still dead asleep, she could feel his heart beating. She snuggled up close to him with her head on his chest and arms around him, and immediately fell asleep.
The nurse made her round at 2 AM. She smiled and pulled the curtain shut around their bed.
Fry awoke a couple of days later. The nanobots were almost finished. Even though she hated hospitals, Rana happily came with Leela to visit her father.
Leela sat down on the bed beside Fry. “Phil…remember Rana?”
“Sure I do...Why does she have purple hair?”
“She was our daughter. I mean, she is…I mean she always has been our daughter, since 18 years ago. You know what I mean. She traveled back in time, saved your life, and brought you here.” Back to me...
Fry stared at Rana with his eyes wide open. “Rana…So that’s why you knew so much about us. And that red jacket - where did you get it?”
“It’s yours. Auntie Amy hid it on the day you disappeared. I found it on the ship behind the main buffer panel when I was seven.”
“Well, now it’s yours. I’ve missed a lot in the past few days...do you have time to tell me the whole story of what happened?”
Rana sat down on the edge of the bed opposite Leela. “Anything for you, Dad.”
She recounted her travel back in time, the whole rescue in space, dealing with Zapp Brannigan, and stealing the DOOP fighter.
“I missed you every day when I was growing up. I just had to bring you back, Dad. For all three of us.”
Fry was overcome. He looked down at his blanket-covered feet. No one except Leela had ever cared or done that much for him.
He took Rana’s hands in his and looked deep into her eyes. “My baby…my daughter…for a few seconds in space, I thought I might never get the chance to know you. I’m so proud of you. So is your mom. We both love you. You’re the best thing we ever did with our lives.”
A tear of joy appeared in Leela’s eye.
The tension and emotion of a narrow escape from death caved in on Rana and Fry.
The three of them hugged each other, tears streaming down their faces.
“Leela…you did a good job raising her.”
She wiped the wetness from her cheek. “Couldn’t have done it without you, my dearest.”
“Leela, this is Hailey, the nurse who’s been looking after me since I got here.”
“I’m so glad to meet you. Thank you for taking such good care of my husband.”
“Don’t mention it, honey. My pleasure. You should hang on to him – he’s a keeper.”
“Trust me…I will.”
Fry asked, “Hailey, were you able to make that appointment for me?”
“Sure, sweetie. My sister-in-law’s friend Morgan set you up.”
Fry was discharged the next day. Leela and Rana walked with him toward home. It was a typical bright sunny New New York day; everything was right with the world.
Leela said, “It’s such a beautiful day outside. But we should be on our way.”
She purred quietly into Fry’s ear, “...because I’ve been waiting 18 years to get you home alone with me.”
Fry’s face beamed with his trademark grin. “Hold on, beautiful. We have one last stop to make. I have to check something.”
Leela and Rana looked at each other quizzically and scratched their heads as they walked with Fry into the Central Bureaucracy.
Nibbler landed his craft and strode into the Hall of Forever on Planet Eternium, 16 kilometers from the exact center of the Universe.
“Welcome, Lord Nibbler.”
“Welcome acknowledged. I bring very good news indeed. The Mighty One and The Other are reunited.”
Gasps rose from the Nibblonian counselors.
“Furthermore, in accomplishing this feat The Mightier One has proven her worth.”
The Nibblonians talked excitedly among themselves.
Fiona asked, “Lord Nibbler, will The Mightier One have a sibling to share her burdens?”
“That cannot be determined at this time. But perhaps it will happen soon.”
“Thank you for your report. Let the feast of a thousand hams begin!”
Zapp was found unconscious by a 4-man security detail that had to break into his in-space cabin. The entire crew and even some of the officers of the Nimbus joked for a long time about him getting beaten up by a teenage girl.
His fighter landed at DOOP’s Earth headquarters in San Francisco, with his master electrokey but without him. This piqued the interest of some senior DOOP admirals and generals. A discreet investigation was launched. It was found out that during the recent arrest of an attractive but potentially hostile young lady Zapp had neglected to scan her ship’s computer, contrary to DOOP regulations. Testimony from some of Nimbus’ crew about Zapp’s “interviews” and some of the women he regularly brought aboard, plus his abuse of military resources in doing so, raised the ire of senior DOOP leadership to the boiling point.
To avoid the scandal of another court-martial, Zapp was “persuaded” to take his pension. He was also “advised” to get out of DOOP space for a few years in order to let the whole affair blow over.
After searching the outer parts of the Universe he eventually settled at “Incense and Peppermints Farm,” a small commune on Kesey 3. There he found happiness and contentment making vegetarian candles and cruelty-free love beads...and chasing young, nubile hippie chicks.
Fry, Leela, and Rana sat in the office of Perry Scope, a grade 5 senior bureaucrat in the Wills and Testaments Section of the Central Bureaucracy.
Mr. Scope pulled up a document on his computer and read it carefully. “Mr. Fry, you are technically correct - the best kind of correct. Professor Hubert Farnsworth’s latest will was filed in 3000, and names you as his sole heir.”
Leela’s eyelid shot up. “Phil...does this mean you own Planet Express?”
“No. It means WE own Planet Express.”
Fry and Leela strolled up the sidewalk in the warm late morning sunshine, arm in arm, occasionally stopping to steal a kiss.
They reached the front of their apartment building.
Rana spoke up. “Um...Mom...Dad...some of my friends are going party-boarding this afternoon. Do you mind if I go with them?”
Fry and Leela looked into each other’s eyes and smiled. Fry pulled out his wallet and said, “Here’s fifty dollars. Take all the time you want, honey.”
“Thanks, Daddy!” She kissed Fry on his cheek and grinned. “I promise I won’t be back ‘til late! ‘Bye!”
They climbed the stairs to apartment 1-I. Leela unlocked and opened the door. Fry scooped her up into his arms and carried her across the threshold. She let out a contented sigh and rested her head on his shoulder.
“I love you, Phillip J. Fry.”
“Leela my love...welcome home.”