Background Noise, Part 2
By Dave Vincent
Revenge, Brannigan Style
(Brannigan could be as spiteful as any spoiled child. - Living in History's Shadow: Memoirs of a Staff Officer by Kif Kroker, Rear Admiral, retd. DOOP Naval Institute Press, 3055.)
(…Presidential Directive #024771gives you authorization to expand the military forces of the DOOP with the objective as providing for the security of the DOOP member worlds from attacks, raids and invasions. You are to understand that the main focus of this objective is the prevention of invasion by the Kingdom of Omicron Persae. Pursuant to this directive, the President has authorized reinstatement of the draft… - President Nixon's head's Presidential Papers edited by the staff of the Nixon's Head Library, 3101.)
New New York
Planet Express Building -
Zoidberg was sitting on the sofa in the employee lounge watching TV. Another All My Circuits marathon was on. As he watched, Zoidberg was thinking about his agreement with DOOP Intelligence. He'd made a deal with them to keep watch on Nibbler, Fry and Leela. And they were going to pay him actual money. Over the last month, he had wondered when he was going to be contacted. Nibbler had just left for Eternium for a few weeks. Zoidberg thought that there was time to make secure arrangements if they'd only contact him. While Zoidberg admired the Eternians as a race, he disliked Nibbler. When he had been in telepathic contact with the he could feel the grandeur of the Eternians and understood the necessity of their plan. He had been swept up by it and was genuinely honored when they made the offer to him. But Nibbler couldn't hide his feelings. It was obvious that Nibbler held him in more than mere contempt. Zoidberg felt Nibbler's hate for him. Zoidberg couldn't understand the hatred since he'd done what Nibbler had asked. It wasn't the usual disgust that everyone around him showed but something that seemed to be a part of Nibbler himself.
"But that means he doesn't keep that close an eye on what I'm doing. Won't he be surprised someday when Zoidberg shows Lord Runty Runt what's what. Then Zoidberg will laugh." Zoidberg thought with a satisfied nod. He was happy with the thought that Nibbler had not picked up on his contact with the humans. Zoidberg doubted Nibbler would understand the necessity of the deal. The humans had too much information on what the Eternians were doing to keep them out of it. Zoidberg had realized that and had agreed to the human's deal. He didn't think the Major or his superiors would harm Leela and Fry and suspected the humans would simply watch so as to keep an eye on the Eternians. Eventually there would be trouble. There always was, in Zoidberg's experience. But, that would have to be dealt with when it came looking for him. He suspected that Nibbler would see his deal as betrayal. Indeed, he had felt fear every time he came near Nibbler. He was contemplating what Nibbler enraged would be like when the door bell rang. He sat waiting for Hermes or Scruffy to answer it. No one did and it kept ringing.
"All right. All right." He muttered as he got off the sofa and headed for the door, "don't break your finger, already."
Opening the door, he saw a short solid looking man in an ill-fitting black suit and tie. The man had a small briefcase in one hand and was fanning his sweaty face with a black fedora in the other.
"Greetings friend," the man said in heavily accented English. "Hot enough for you?"
Zoidberg stared at him and said, "No, its air conditioned in here."
"Ah, well then, maybe you should invite me in so we both can share in the cool air?" The man said with a large grin. Zoidberg looked him over and saw a man who was short and stocky. He had short cropped gray hair and very bright black eyes.
"And you are?" Zoidberg asked.
The man smiled and raised his briefcase, "I'm Sergey Bondarenkov. I work for Smith Pharmaceuticals. I'm here to offer you a great deal on all your pharmaceutical needs."
Zoidberg smiled and said, "Of course, please come in. I've never heard of your company but I'm always happy to make new friends. Especially ones offering me great deals. I'm Zoidberg, Doctor Zoidberg."
"I know who you are, Doctor Zoidberg," said Bondarenkov, the joviality dropping away, as he stepped into the room. "I also know you are the only one here right now so we'll have time to talk without interruption."
Zoidberg felt a sudden chill of fear. Maybe this was some robber come to burgle the Planet Express. Maybe he was after the company safe or, Zoidberg thought with horror, the refrigerator. He moved to block the stranger's way. Bondarenkov simply pushed Zoidberg down the hall to the meeting table. Zoidberg was stunned by the man's strength.
"Look, Zoidberg…" Bondarenkov began as he made Zoidberg sit down. Zoidberg puffed up in anger.
"What's with this familiarity? You only just got here and now I'm Zoidberg to you. I am a doctor. Show some respect."
Bondarenkov laughed loudly, "Oh, Zoidberg. Smith told me you were a character and a pretty good actor, but didn't say you were a comedian too."
Zoidberg, still angry, "How dare your company treat me in such a manner. I'm sure you have nothing I want. Good day to you, sir."
"Major Smith sent me." Bondarenkov said with good humor, "you may remember him, yes?"
Zoidberg peered craftily at Bondarenkov and said in a conspiratorial whisper, "Ah, Major Smith, yes. My new friend from DOOP. You are my contact?"
"Da, sure. Why are you whispering?"
"Well, this is a secret meeting, no?"
"Okay, but there isn't anyone here to hear."
Zoidberg said in a miffed tone, "Alright, so you don't care about security. We can talk as loudly as you like."
Bondarenkov grinned, "Don't worry Zoidberg, we won't be having any security problems"
Bondarenkov thought to himself, "Tovarish, this isn't even an official operation yet. I got Bert's report on you lot just yesterday. I'm here to verify the story. I'll get official approval later. This thing is so hot that I had to sneak away from Mars to keep it quiet."
"So, since this is our first meeting, let's set up the protocols." Bondarenkov said pleasantly. And then, he set out the arrangements for their meetings and what Zoidberg was to report. After having Zoidberg repeat it all back, he debriefed Zoidberg on what had been going on since his return from Epsilon Eridani 3.
"You are sure that the Eternian has left? And for two weeks you say?" Bondarenkov asked. "I saw him leaving the building this morning."
"Yes, he felt I could handle the job while he went for consultations with his leaders."
"Hmm, has he left like this before?"
"I don't know. Sometimes he seems to be underfoot all the time and sometimes you don't see him for a while." Zoidberg said with a shrug.
"Okay, keep a close eye on him. I don't like it when the routine is broken. I'll be in touch. Here are some samples in case anyone noticed me visiting," Bondarenkov said and handed Zoidberg a handful of pill samples from his briefcase.
"What are they?" Zoidberg asked, eyeing the colorful packages with a hungry look.
"Sugar pills," Bondarenkov began and gasped as Zoidberg tore them open and gobbled them all down, "Holy Mother! Those are for cover not your stomach."
Zoidberg smacked his lips and said, "More, more!"
Bondarenkov shook his head and showed the empty briefcase. Zoidberg sighed sadly and snuffled around the empty containers seeking some crumbs. Bondarenkov stood and moved towards the door, "As I said, I will keep in touch. Here is my number, if you need to contact me." Taking out his wallet, he handed Zoidberg a business card that listed him as a sales representative of Smith Pharmaceuticals. "Only call it in an emergency. And it had better be a real one or I'll gut you myself."
Zoidberg put the card in his top pocket. "Ahem," he said with a cough, "I believe we still have the matter of my honorarium to resolve."
Bondarenkov frowned and said, "What honorarium?"
"Major Smith promised me a salary commensurate with my risk. I expect that you will fulfill that obligation."
Bondarenkov pulled out his wallet and looked into it. He had two tens and a twenty. He thought for a moment and then pulled out the twenty and handed it to Zoidberg. After watching Zoidberg grab the bill and gleefully wave it about, he grumped at himself for not giving him a ten. "Should have trusted your judgment," he thought. "Probably could have gotten this idiot for a lot less. Spaceliner tickets, cab fare, this costume and now this barak's salary. Oy, I sure hope the Admiral signs off on this so I can file for expenses." Bondarenkov walked out the door and into the very muggy day. A few minutes later, Zoidberg came out and turned the opposite way intent of feasting at an all-you-can eat buffet.
Fry's Apartment -
"Phillip J. Fry, you are the most disgusting man I have ever met. I cannot believe that I allowed you to talk me into this. I won't do it. I might get some sort of disease," Leela cried in outrage.
"Aw, come on, Leela, you promised," Fry whined, "and it won't be that bad."
Leela said dubiously, "Alright but if I get anything horrible on me, I'm leaving."
Leela pulled on the latex gloves and Fry broke out in a beaming smile. "Great," he said, "let's do it."
Bender, who had been watching, said disgustedly, "If you two are actually going to go through with this, I'm leaving. I'll be at the strip club." He walked out of the apartment slamming the door as he left.
Leela shook her head and looked at the mess that was Fry's apartment. Empty food containers, clothes and assorted trash were strewn about as if an explosion had occurred. Leela said, "Okay, I'll begin with the garbage. I'm not touching any of your clothes. That's your job. So, you start gathering them up and I'll help you wash them at the laundromat later."
Fry grinned and began picking up the clothes and putting them into a large sack. Gingerly, Leela began tossing trash and food items into her garbage bag. It was a real mess, but soon they could start to make out the floor of the apartment. Although she had to bully Fry occasionally, Leela found it pleasant after a while. Fry could actually do useful work when supervised correctly. She found herself liking the way Fry smiled at her when she made a noise about some horrible thing or another she found on the floor. While Fry was stripping his bed, Leela looked at one corner of the room where a large pile of envelopes, catalogues and mailers were sitting.
"Really, Fry, don't you even look at your mail? What if there's something important in this stuff?"
"Ah, if anyone wants me, they can always call. And Hermes has set me up so all my bills are paid automatically including my taxes. That stuff is mostly junk mail. Funny, you'd think the 31st century would have put an end to it."
Leela started to sort through the pile of mail and agreed with Fry. It was mostly advertisements, weird charitable organizations begging money, strange catalogues and AOL diskettes. She was about to toss the lot into the garbage sack when she noticed the official looking envelope. She pulled it up and saw that it was a registered letter that Bender had signed for. The letter was nearly a month old and the return address was hard to read due to a large stain. Bender must have had something in his hand, she thought, and then went "eewwww" at the stain's rank odor. She didn't want to guess what Bender had been holding. She looked over at Fry who was stuffing unmatched bed sheets into the bulging sack. Curious, she tore open the envelope and read the single page letter. She gasped, "Fry, do you know what this is?"
Fry looked over at her and shook his head. Leela began reading out loud, "The President of the Democratic Order of Planets to Phillip J. Fry. Greetings, you are hereby ordered to report for induction into… Fry, this is a draft notice. You've been drafted."
"Cool. Is it a basketball team? Coz, I still gots some moves." Fry enthused, making an imaginary hook shot.
"No, dummy. You've been drafted into the military. And your reporting date is tomorrow." She held the paper up before Fry's face.
At first, Fry stared blankly at the piece of paper. Then he shouted, "What? The military?" Fry choked as the realization of what it meant hit him. He began in a panicked voice. "Oh man, what am I going to do? They'll make me cut my hair so I look like a dork. And I'll have to do push-ups. And make my bed every morning. Oh no, oh no, oh…"
"Calm down, Fry. We'll talk to Hermes. Surely we can get you out of this as you aren't really from this century and are technically too old to be drafted." Leela said, trying to be calm even though she didn't feel it.
Down the street from Planet Express -
Nibbler was up on a roof looking down at the human who had left the Planet Express building two blocks back. He was angrier than he could ever remember. Zoidberg had betrayed him. Zoidberg did not realize that once an Eternian telepathically linked with someone, they could pick up strong thoughts and feelings. The link worked best with species like the humans which is why Nibbler had no trouble understanding Leela and Fry. Decapodians were difficult but he could read and understand that Zoidberg was afraid of something that affected his relationship with the Eternians. The word "betrayal" seemed to be a strong thought in Zoidberg's mind. Curious, Nibbler had pretended to leave so that he could see what Zoidberg was up to. While this human had been meeting with Zoidberg, he had been hidden in the ceiling listening with increasing rage. Zoidberg had sold them out to the humans. He despised Zoidberg as a useless waste of life. After he discovered that Zoidberg was investigating Leela and Fry, he had contacted the Eternian High Council for permission to eliminate Zoidberg. The council had found the idea shocking and had admonished Nibbler. They said he had been in telepathic contact with the emotional humans too long and was becoming deranged by it. The council thought Zoidberg could help with the romantic problems. Nibbler had vehemently argued against recruiting him, but the council had overruled him and ordered him to proceed. At first, Zoidberg had been useful but, like most Followers, he had proven weak, easily corrupted and treacherous. Nibbler could not wait to throw Zoidberg's treason into the council's faces but that joyful moment would come later. Now was a time for action to seal the breach in security before the council could overrule him again. He would take care of the stocky human and then wait for his replacement. Once he had rolled up the humans' network, he'd take his revenge on Zoidberg. That thought made him smile savagely, baring his fangs with pleasure. All that mattered was protecting Leela and the Mighty One. He began feeling a rush of joy at the thought of the upcoming feast.
He stared down at the human on the street below. Looking about, he quickly assured himself that there was no one else in sight. If he was quick, he could strike and be gone before anyone was the wiser. He quickly went down the side of the building and onto the street a few yards behind the human. The human was walking along a row of parked cars swinging his briefcase as he moved. Nibbler rushed towards him in a swift loping manner and leapt into the air at the human's back. The human must have sensed the attack coming for he turned and pulled out a pulse pistol from a back holster with an incredible swiftness. If Nibbler had been larger, the shot would have burned away his left side but, as it was, it grazed his arm and inflicted a nasty burn. The hit threw Nibbler's timing off and saved the human from instant death. Instead of landing on the human's back, Nibbler landed on the arm and front shoulder. Swiftly, Nibbler broke the end of the pistol off rendering it useless. With his other hand, he clawed at the man's throat but only managed to rake down his chest, tearing away his shirt and superficially slicing the man's skin. The man screamed and fell backwards against one of the parked cars. He grabbed Nibbler's throat with his left hand to hold back the ravenous fangs while he used the useless pistol as a club in the right. He smashed it onto Nibbler's head against his left eye stalk. Nibbler let out an enraged bellow and slashed at the man again while bringing his deceptively considerable weight down on the man. The man fell back against the hood of the car. He let go of the pistol, grabbed Nibbler's clawed hand to prevent him from slashing at his eyes. Nibbler realized that he had underestimated the human's skill and fighting ability. But, Nibbler knew that his strength was far superior to the human's and it was only a matter of time. The man seemed to recognize this, for he relaxed a second, pulling Nibbler closer to him and then, using his short powerful legs, kicked off from the car propelling them both into the air. The man landed on top of Nibbler in the street. Nibbler screeched as the man's body came down hard on him. He slashed again at the man's chest but the man arched his body and Nibbler only tore his skin again. The man screamed again and turned sideways. Nibbler raked at his back but caught his claws on the holster. Nibbler snarled, ripped the holster off and shook it away. The man turned and smashed at Nibbler with his fist but the blow was weak. Nibbler felt the man's blood dripping down onto him and recognized the moment had arrived. Nibbler raised his claw to deal the death blow to the man's chest. Suddenly he heard a loud rumbling sound. The human looked to the right and gasped, "Holy Mother!" He grabbed Nibbler and rolled to his left. Caught off guard, Nibbler had only a microsecond to realize he was now in the path of a large vehicle and to hear the hissing of its brakes before it slammed into him and the human. Nibbler felt himself and the human fly into the air like two feathers before a gust of wind. Then darkness took him as the truck hit him again.
The truck driver had called the police after he had stopped shaking. The human and the little alien were two unrecognizable bloody rag dolls. The driver couldn't look at them without retching and went to sit in his truck until the cops arrived. Before he could climb into the cab, he fell to his knees and began to vomit. While the driver was being ill, someone stole out from a side alley and robbed the human of his wallet, communications device, and watch. The thief also picked up the briefcase. When the driver looked up, the street was empty again save for the two bodies. The ambulance arrived first and the two Emergency Medical Technicians went over to the human. After stabilizing the man, they got him on a stretcher and into the ambulance. One of the EMTs went over to Nibbler and checked him out. Realizing he was still alive, he yelled to his partner, "Hey Ahmed, any idea what kind of critter this is?" Ahmed walked over and looked down at Nibbler. He shook his head and turned to his companion, "Dunno, Danny, never seen his kind before. Maybe it's this guy's pet?"
Danny stared at Nibbler for few moments as the police arrived and began talking to the shaken driver. "Nah, it's wearing a cape. Maybe it's one of those new species that recently joined the DOOP." One of the cops walked over and nodded to the two EMTs. Danny asked the cop if recognized the alien but the cop shook his head. Ahmed asked the cop if they could get going. The cop said, "Where you taking them?"
Ahmed said, "Couldn't find no ID on the guy so he goes to Charity. As for the critter, it looks like it's a sentient, so we'll take it to Charity's Alien Ward. Don't expect either of them to make it though. Pretty smashed up."
The cop nodded and said he'd let the missing persons bureau know of the two in case someone inquired after them. In a town filled with suicide booths, none of the men expected any one to ask. The two EMTs loaded Nibbler into the ambulance and sped away to the hospital.
New New York Charity Hospital -
The human had been rushed into the operating room and underwent the minimal surgery allowed by a charity hospital. The tired and overworked surgeon had performed a miracle that saved the man's life but he had take off the man's left arm and left leg below the knee. He would live, but the doctor acknowledged that he would be in a coma for a long time maybe forever. If he was lucky, he would die since the care at Charity was second rate at best. Certainly there would be no regeneration of his lost limbs and if it wasn't done quickly, there was no chance of it being done. The doctor shook his head at the state of affairs at Charity. New New York felt minimal obligation to help the helpless. It was truly a brutal society the doctor thought and then forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. He had the man wheeled into the dismal Intensive Care Unit and called for the next emergency case.
New New York Charity Alien Ward -
Ahmed wheeled Nibbler into the surgery. The tall Neptunian surgeon put down his coffee cup, looked at Nibbler and said angrily, "What the hell is this thing?"
Ahmed said tiredly, "Beats me. We found it run over in the street."
The surgeon groused, "How am I supposed to operate on some xeno without knowing what it is?"
Ahmed shrugged and said, "You guys have got a better xeno database than we do in the ambulance. Why don't you look it up?" And he headed out for his next call.
The Neptunian turned and spoke to his Kiashhu nurse, "Look at 'GTs' and see if this thing is in there."
The tall gray Kiashhu nurse turned to a terminal display and opened a program titled 'Graham and Teral's Exobiological Medical Encyclopedia'. She put in Nibbler's description but nothing turned up. She looked at the doctor and said in her hissing voice, "Ssssorry, Docttttor Blogov, butttt tttthe alien doessss notttt appear tttto be lissssted."
"Well, damn. Let's stabilize it, put it in ICU and hope it comes out of the coma," the doctor said. After some surgical repair, Nibbler was wheeled out of surgery and into the ICU ward. The Kiashhu nurse looked as Nibbler was wheeled out and hissed, "Docttttor Blogov, I tttthink you did a wonderful job with tttthat being. Your work may have ssssaved itssss life."
Blogov, used to the Kiashhu way of ceremonial flattery, shrugged, "Hell, Shassmorss, all I did was plug the holes and fill it up with universal plasma. It's lucky I didn't kill it. Have someone run a DNA on it. Maybe we can identify its species that way." Taking a swallow from his cup, Blogov walked off muttering about finding some hot coffee.
Planet Express Building -
Hermes shook his head and said sadly, "Leela, I don't know if I've got de bureaucratic power to get dis changed. Someone has put the gris-gris on Fry. He's already been assigned to a combat unit that's going to be leaving in three months for Da Nang 4. I've tried every contact I know and they say de fix is in. Fry's going to war."
Fry, who had been sitting with his head in his hands, began moaning, "Oh man, this is not happening, this is not happening."
Leela looked down at him and felt a sudden surge of despair. She didn't know why but it was making her depressed to think Fry might be headed into mortal danger. She turned to Hermes, "Have you tried everything you can think of? Every contact?"
Hermes nodded, "Leela, someone wants Fry on Da Nang 4 as a soldier. I don't know who it is but dey's someone really powerful. I don't know how to stop it."
Fry suddenly brightened up and said, "My old high school art teacher ran away to Canada to avoid the draft. Maybe that's what I can do. But not Canada, it's too far away. Maybe I can go to Acapulco or, maybe, hide out in the forest and live in a treehouse. That'd be cool."
Hermes and Leela looked at Fry and shook their heads. Leela reached over and slapped him on the back of his head. Fry yelled "Ow! What was that for?"
"For being an idiot. They can track you anywhere through the career chip and if you did take it out, they'd still hunt you down. There isn't any place you can hide and the penalty for avoiding the draft is pretty stiff. You could end up doing a ten year hitch in the DOOP Peace Corps teaching wretched poverty stricken aliens who haven't had enough to eat how to sing folk songs."
"Mon, you sure don't want to be doing dat. No, no," Hermes said, shaking his head. "Peace Corps is one dangerous job. You don't want to know how many of dem get eaten every year."
Fry looked shocked and then put his head back in his hands again and started moaning, "This is not happening, this is not happening."
Hermes watched Fry for a few seconds and then said, "You know, Leela, dis might not be de worst thing dat could happen. Jah knows, de boy could use some straightening out. And de military could do dat for sure."
Leela frowned. "No, I don't want Fry to go. I don't know why but I just feel that something bad would happen if he went where I couldn't help him. According to the news, the war on Da Nang 4 has been getting worse. Fry could get seriously injured or killed. Maybe I should go along to the induction center and volunteer to go along to serve with Fry. That way I could keep my eye on him."
Hermes chuckled. "Fry's going into de Army. Dat's clear enough, for sure. Dey don't accept women as combatants. You could go as a nurse or some sort of administrative specialist but I doubt you'd get anywhere near Da Nang 4. You'd have a better chance with de Navy. Dey let women take any job available. But not de Army, no sir."
"I thought they changed that stupid rule. I'm clearly a better fighter than Fry. Better than a lot of men. Why should they turn me away? Maybe I'll disguise myself as a man again."
Hermes marveled at Leela's determination to be with Fry. "Why can't dey both see what's so obvious to anyone wit two eyes and half a brain," he thought amusedly.
"Leela, dey've tighten things up since de last time you pulled dat off. Dey require physicals now and dey are pretty strict on dat."
"I have to do something to stop this," Leela cried. "If necessary, I'll take Fry outside of DOOP territory. We can find some peaceful planet to live on."
Hermes suddenly became angry and spat, "Oh no you don't. Turanga Leela, if you try to help Fry illegally avoid de draft order, I'll have to report you. I have a sworn duty to uphold de law as a member of de DOOP bureaucracy. I got no problems fiddling with it but I won't aid outright violation."
Leela looked at Hermes with shock. It was clear he meant what he said. Leela felt helpless. Fry was going to go to war and she couldn't help him. While they were sitting around the table, Bender walked in counting some money. He was muttering to himself, "Well, only twenty bucks but I should be able to pawn the other crap once I get the blood off it. Have to steal some BloodOut." He opened his chest plate and pulled out a beer. When he noticed the trio sitting around the table, he took a drink from the beer and asked, "What's with all the sad faces? Somebody died?'
Hermes explained the situation to Bender who walked over to Fry and put his hand on his shoulder. "Man, I'll miss you buddy. Can you put me down as your next of kin?"
Leela got up and began pacing. "There has to be a way around this. There is always some angle. We're just missing it."
Hermes shook his head, "Leela, it would take someone high up de ladder to do dis and dat means you'd need someone close to dat level of the bureaucracy to get dis cancelled. I don't know if it can be done.
Bender, now sitting at the table and smoking a cigar, chimed in. "Why not ask Morgan Proctor? She's way above Hermes in the bureaucracy and has the hots for Fry."
"No way," Leela yelled, "We're not asking that slut for anything."
Hermes slapped his forehead. "Leela, Bender's right. I'd forgotten about Morgan. She's moved high up in de bureaucracy. Don't know if it will enough, but it's all we've got. And I'm afraid it will have to be you. If I axs her, she'll file a report because it's de law and that would put a hex on what we want to do. She wouldn't see Bender and obviously, you don't want Fry to axs her, do you?"
Leela, trying not to show any jealousy, said quickly, "No, we won't let Fry get close to her again. But why would she see me?"
Hermes smiled, "Perhaps she wants to see her rival beg?"
Leela looked at Hermes and thought about what he had just said. "I'm not her rival but she's bad for Fry." She stopped and looked over at Fry who was staring at the floor in despair. Leela felt herself getting angry and said, "Alright, I'll go. But I won't beg. Not to her."
Fry gave a weak smile which tugged at Leela's heart. "I have to find a way to help him," she thought.
Bender walked over and put his arm around Fry. "What you need, Fry, is to let your old buddy, Bender take you out for your last night on Earth as a free man. You have your credit cards right?" Fry nodded and Bender whooped, "Let's go get hammered.
Fry looked at Leela. She motioned for him to go with Bender. After they had left, she asked Hermes to arrange an emergency meeting with Morgan. Surprisingly, Morgan agreed without hesitation. Leela headed over to the government building Morgan worked in.
Central Government Bureaucracy building -
Leela arrived at Morgan's office which was on the 108th floor of the 110 floor building. Leela walked into the outer office and spoke to a thin young blond man named Allen who was Morgan's secretary. He called over the intercom and Leela heard Morgan's voice telling him to send her in. Leela walked into a large office with a great view of the city. "Morgan has come up in the world," Leela thought and turned to face Morgan. Morgan was smiling and obviously relishing Leela's discomfort.
She hadn't changed much but she showed some wrinkles around her eyes which made Leela feel happier. "Hmmphf," she thought cattily, "at least the witch isn't invulnerable to aging."
Morgan looked at her for a few moments and said, "So what do you want, Leela?"
Leela knew that Hermes had told Morgan why Leela was coming. "I'm here to ask you to help Fry."
"Really? Why should I do that? After all, you and Fry nearly caused me to lose my job."
"Because you liked him once and he's in real trouble."
"I don't think the DOOP military thinks of Fry as being in real trouble." She smiled wickedly at Leela. Leela realized there was no way around it. Morgan held all the cards here.
"Do you want me to beg, Morgan?" Leela asked, feeling ashamed of the question.
Morgan laughed with some bitterness. "Believe me it's tempting, very tempting to make you crawl. You took Fry away from me and then nearly caused me to lose my job. But that's not the reason I'd like to see you beg. I worked hard to overcome that mistake. Now, I'm only a few floors from the top here. Another two or three years, I will be sitting in the office on the top floor. What really irritates me is that you think you can look down your snooty nose at me, Turanga Leela, like you are somehow superior to me. Well, now you can see that you aren't any different from me. I let my desire for a man nearly cost me my career. You have to face the fact that you'd give up your pride for him." Morgan stopped, her eyes flashing angrily, then sighed and looked sadly at Leela. She began in a soft voice, "Beg, oh yes, once I'd have liked that very much. But, things are different in my life these days. I don't need revenge on you or anyone else. Guess I'll just enjoy the thought that you have to live with the fact that you'd beg if I asked. And all for Phillip J. Fry."
Leela bit off an angry retort as Morgan's words sank in. She would beg if it that would save Fry. Somehow things between Fry and her were becoming too confusing, she thought. "Does that mean you aren't going to help?"
Morgan shrugged and said, "I'll do it for Fry." Leela stiffened with anger but noticed that Morgan was watching her with a sly smile. Morgan then pushed her intercom button telling Allen to come in. The young man walked in and Morgan's face lit up with a smile. "Oh ho," Leela thought, "what do we have here?"
Morgan stood up and motioned the young man to sit down in her chair. "Leela, this is Allen. He's the best computer guy in the whole central bureaucracy. He's the one who can save Fry if anyone can." Allen smiled and put on a virtual reality helmet and gloves to interface with the computer. Allen was a tall thin blonde kid with a nice tan and white teeth. Leela thought him too scrawny but noticed that Morgan eyes were shining when she looked at him. "Guess that explains why she seems so happy," Leela thought with a twinge of jealousy.
Allen said, "Morgan, I'll need to use your password. It could be traced back to you."
Morgan smiled and said, "Go ahead. As long as I don't violate the letter of the law, I can't get into trouble."
Allen nodded and said, "I'll try to be as lightfooted as possible." Leela watched as Allen began to move his hands about and talk rapidly.
"Okay, Selective Service records. Ah, here are the files. Phillip J. Fry. Here we go. Hmm, Fry's file shows that whoever did it locked the thing tight. I can't cancel the draft notice. Can't change anything on it, either. "
Leela felt crushed. Fry was going to war. Allen was still muttering words and suddenly whooped, "Wait. Well, not directly anyway. But we can make some additions. Whoever did this was too arrogant or maybe too stupid to think that we might add a few extra letters or words. Okay, let's see what's available. Ah, here are our options. I can add Mars to the unit assignment. Fry would end up on Mars with the Mars National Guard. He'd assigned to help train the Guard after his bootcamp. Hmm, what are the other choices, Delta Pavonis or Epsilon Indi. Doesn't look like I can do any better than Mars. What else can we change? Ah, I can add some letters to change Fry's assigned specialty from combat infantryman to combat engineer, combat specialist or combat medic. What's your choice?"
Leela wasn't sure what those were so Allen muttered some more words and said, "Well, the engineers seem to handle explosives and work very close with the infantry. The specialist looks to be an infantryman trained to use larger weapons. Doesn't seem to be much on medics. Hmmm, hold on. Let's do a quick search. Okay, here's an article on the Mars National Guard medical detachment. Okay, if Fry becomes a medic and we can get him to Mars, he'll probably end up treating soldiers for sprained ankles and sexually transmitted diseases. Looks to be a lot safer than the other two."
Leela thought it over. Hermes words about Fry shaping up in the army came back to her. If Fry had to go into the army, it would be better if he was safe on Mars and close at hand. In that case, she ought to get him some useful training. Medic training sounded like a good field for Fry and it would reduce their reliance on Zoidberg's shaky medical skills. She told Allen that's what she wanted.
"Okay, it's done. I've sealed it so no one else can change it."
"Can you find out who did this to Fry?' Leela asked.
"I can try. Let's see, follow the chain of approval back. Hmmm, seems to be blocked. Okay, let's try… no that didn't work. Okay, here we go…wait, wait, wait, whoaaaaaa!" Allen screeched and tore of the headset. "Wow! That was a really nasty security protocol. Oh, man. That's some high grade stuff. We're talking way up the chain. Probably military or intelligence related. I don't think we should try again. I just barely avoided getting caught."
Morgan had rushed over and put her hand on Allen's shoulder when he had cried out. She patted him with a real familiarity and said, "Okay, Allen, you did really good as it is." He smiled at her, basking in her approval. Leela thought, "Oh my, these two are really into each other."
Beaming, Allen went back to the outer office. Morgan turned to Leela. "We've done the best we could for Fry. I doubt you can get anything better for him without finding out who did this." She looked at Leela for a long moment. "You must really love him."
"No, we're just good friends. I want to help him."
"Uh-uh. Well, you certainly seem to know what Fry wants since you just made a major life decision for him without asking him. It's nice being the dominant partner, isn't it?"
"Fry will be okay with this," Leela began, but seeing Morgan's cynical smile, blushed furiously.
"Thought so. Well, I guess you are about to find out for sure. Take a tip for me. Love is really wonderful. Try it and see."
Leela nodded and thanked her for their help. She left the building more concerned and confused than when she had arrived. And she didn't like it.
Fry's Apartment -
Leela had gone back to Fry's apartment after calling Hermes. He had said Fry hadn't come back to the Planet Express Building. Leela knew Fry's access code and let herself in. The place was just as they'd left it upon finding the draft notice. Leela finished cleaning up and then took Fry's laundry down to the laundromat. She spent an hour and a half cleaning and folding all of Fry's laundry. Her emotions were all over the place -confusion, concern, fear, despair. It made her feel better to have something to do. She used the time to rehearse what she had to tell Fry. Hopefully he wouldn't be too sober.
She got back to Fry's apartment at 6 pm. She was surprised to find Fry sitting on the couch drinking a beer. Leela thought he looked calm but sad. He thanked her for the laundry and began putting it away.
"Where's Bender? I thought you guys were going to party."
"We ran into some robot babes and he ditched me."
Leela frowned and said quietly, "Your last night as a civilian and your friend ditches you?"
"It's okay. He was acting kind of strange and I needed to think. I walked about a bit. I figured I wasn't going to get out this and from your expression, I guess you had no luck, huh?'
"Well, a little. We've managed to change your assignment to Mars and your specialty to medic but you'll still have to serve."
"Well, that's better I suppose. I'll have to adjust the best I can. Any idea who did this to me?"
"We tried to find that out but it's too well protected. Someone really high up in the government did it. Have you made anyone in the government mad at you?"
"Well, I suppose the president still resents our attempt to stop him from being elected but I would think he would target you instead of me."
"Maybe he did," Leela thought sadly and then said, "Come on, Fry. I'll take you out for dinner. Might as well have a good meal before you go. And I promise I'll come visit you on Mars as often as I can."
Fry smiled. "Okay, I think that I would like that."
Leela's Apartment -
The next day, Leela had gone down to the armed forces recruiting station with Fry and watched him be sworn in. Since Fry had two days before reporting, Leela decided she needed to cheer him up. So they went out together and did things that Fry liked to do. They'd spent two days going to a rap concert, lunch and dinner, spending time at the video arcade and drinking. Sometimes Bender was with them but usually it was just the two of them. Leela found it exhausting but enjoyable. Fry was unusually quiet but seemed to have fun. Leela noticed that he looked at her a lot and smiled. Towards the end of the last night, Leela realized that Fry was trying to cheer her up. He became more positive and talked about being able to help Planet Express after his two years were up. She hadn't realized that Fry had picked up on her own unhappiness over him being drafted.
Later, Leela had laid in her bed thinking about that. She had never thought of Fry as a sensitive type but she started to remember times when he seemed to know how she was feeling. She wondered how Fry was doing and almost called him. She had picked up the phone twice but she couldn't go through with it. Although she liked Fry a lot, she didn't see him as the man she wanted as a boyfriend. He was just too immature. She knew he had feelings for her but she didn't want to give him any false hopes. She didn't want to hurt him. It was confusing. She wanted Fry to stay very badly but couldn't bring herself to think of him as anything more than a good friend. She tossed and turned for a while but eventually fell into a troubled sleep.
The next morning, Fry and Leela were standing at the gangway going up into the Navy transport. Around them were hundreds of other young men with their families, all saying goodbye.
"Well, this is it," Fry said in a breaking voice. "Leela, I want to thank you for the last two days. It was the best time I ever had in my life."
Leela smiled. "Don't worry, Fry. We'll be able to do it again. And once your boot camp is over, I can visit you on Mars. It's only a short flight away."
Fry looked at her shyly, then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. His eyes were moist and he said in a choking voice, "I love you, Leela."
Leela blushed and said in an exasperated tone, "Fry, please don't be silly." Then she embraced him with a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. Fry gave a sad smile and began walking up the gangway. Leela yelled, "I know you can't call me from boot camp but send me e-mails on how you are doing. I'll see you in two months."
Fry nodded and waved as he walked into the ship. Leela watched as the transport left the ground and rushed into space. She stood on the loading dock for a long time and looked at the white contrail. After a while, she realized her face was wet with tears. "Oh, Fry," she thought, "please keep safe and come back to me."
Planet Express Building, New New York -
Leela, Bender and Amy walked off the Planet Express ship. Leela felt exhausted. It had been a long three day delivery made worse by Bender's behavior. He had been sulky, refusing to do things and, on the planet, had disappeared for nearly half a day delaying their departure. Amy thought it had to do with Fry being gone. Leela had tried to talk to him but Bender had told her to butt out with a few choice epitaphs about nosey one-eyed captains. Leela wondered if Bender was jacking on again and resolved to keep her eye on him. As soon as they arrived, Bender had left with a stream of cursing. Hermes had looked quizzically after him but Leela told him not to bother. After handing Hermes the delivery receipts, she left the building.
She went to her apartment and opened her e-mail. There were two MilNet e-mails from Fry. One was from the day he arrived. It told about what the camp looked like, the other men in the company and his drill sergeant, Jubal. It seemed mundane enough. The second e-mail dated three days later was very different. Fry was obviously homesick. He wrote that he didn't know if he could take it and wanted Leela to come get him out. Leela was upset by the message. She didn't like the idea that Fry would just quit so easily. She wrote back that Fry should try and give it a chance.
She took a shower, then sat and wrote in her diary. As she wrote, it began to occur to her that something was wrong. She thought about it and was suddenly struck with horror. She hadn't seen Nibbler at Planet Express where she had left him while she was with Fry. Although he sometimes disappeared for a few days, he had always shown up. She hadn't seen him for a while now. She had been so wrapped up in Fry's problems that she had forgotten about Nibbler. Leela quickly got dressed and rushed out to see if she could find him.
She tried the Planet Express Building but no one had seen Nibbler. Zoidberg told her not to worry, that he'd probably be back before she knew it. Zoidberg hinted that maybe Nibbler was out scrounging some company. Leela looked at Zoidberg with disgust and walked out to search the various animal hospitals and pounds. It was nearly 11 pm when she finally came home and cried herself to sleep.
The next morning, she got up and looked at her e-mail again. There was a message from Fry saying he would try to keep at it but it was so hard. She sent back a few words of encouragement. As she got ready to go out searching for Nibbler again, the Professor called. He had another delivery. Leela wanted Amy to take it but the Professor insisted that it was too dangerous for Amy. Leela, torn between her pet and her duty, gave in and went in to work.
Armstrong Spaceport, Mars -
The policeman was chatting up the counter attendant for Mars Quickliners on the main concourse. He'd been sent out to ask all of the spaceliners if anyone had seen a stocky Russian that DOOP Security Forces were looking for. He'd talked to several of the other lines' agents but had no luck. He figured they'd probably end up finding the guy dead out in the wastelands or in some brothel. The current agent was quite attractive and the policeman was enjoying himself by flirting with the agent as she looked at the Russian's picture. She was concentrating on the picture and trying not to smile at the brawny cop. She suddenly said, "I do remember this guy. He had a really bad fitting suit with some stupid looking hat. Left here about two weeks ago, I think."
The cop asked her to check the records. She soon found a Sergey Bondarenkov which was one of the aliases listed for the guy. "He left for New New York on July 18th. Return date was July 20th. Doesn't look like he used his return ticket."
The cop grinned and called in the information. Figuring he had earned some comp time, he stayed and continued to chat with the agent.
New New York -
Planet Express Building -
Leela was angry. It had been a long delivery that had nearly gone bust because Bender had tried to rob a local temple of some hideous golden idol. Leela and Amy had to bribe several officials to get him out of jail. Leela was determined to ask the professor to take a look at Bender or ground him. He was becoming a hazard to their safety. The professor wasn't in and Bender took off again. Hermes told Leela that he had to track down Bender for the latest delivery because he had stopped showing up for work. Hermes didn't bother to mention that Zoidberg had gone missing too.
DOOP Pentagon, New Washington -
Zoidberg had come to the Pentagon to see if he could find Sergey Bondarenkov but no one knew that name. Zoidberg had called the contact number a dozen times after he had learned of Fry being drafted. Frantic that no one had returned the call, Zoidberg decided to go straight to DOOP's military headquarters. Finally, after pestering a contemptuous Public Affairs officer who refused to believe Zoidberg had a relationship with DOOP Intelligence and who wouldn't answer any of Zoidberg's questions, Zoidberg decided to go home to New New York. He'd used up the last of his money to get a ride down and now he was going to have hitch hike back. Naturally, no one would stop for him. Zoidberg resigned himself to a long walk. He hoped Nibbler would return soon.
Leela's Apartment -
Leela had returned to four e-mails from Fry. All of them were distressing. Evidently, two of Fry's company had beaten him up after the company got extra physical training because Fry's bed didn't meet standards two days in a row. Leela was shocked that this was allowed. Fry was depressed and begged Leela to help him get out. He really felt he couldn't make it. She resolved that she would go to Mars and see what she could do about it.
Syria Planium Military Base, Mars -
The next morning, Leela went to Planet Express and borrowed the ship. She arrived at Mars and set the ship down next to the giant military base at Syria Planium. Leela went to the main gate and asked to speak to someone in charge about one of the new recruits. Leela waited for fifteen minutes in the chilly summer morning until a young lieutenant drove up in a hoverjeep. He signed Leela in and got her a security pass. He then asked her to come with him. Leela thought the officer looked all of twelve years old but got in the jeep. He drove her past marching men and endless rows of buildings. Finally, he pulled into a large complex near the recruit training area. The lieutenant led her into an office where an older officer was sitting at a desk. The sign on his desk identified him as Captain DeLaine. Leela explained what she was after. The lieutenant told him which company Fry was in. DeLaine looked at Leela for a few moments and told the young lieutenant to get Sergeant Jubal. DeLaine had Leela wait in a small room with a table, two chairs, a DOOP flag and a picture of President Nixon's head on the wall.
About twenty minutes later, the door opened and an immense black man walked in. He was six foot seven and looked to be carved out of solid muscle. He was wearing khaki coveralls with sergeant chevrons. Leela eyed him appreciatively but sighed when she noticed his wedding ring. The sergeant gave a quick look of surprise at Leela's eye but made his face impassive very quickly. He sat down on the inadequate looking chair and smiled at Leela. He introduced himself as Sergeant Jubal and said he was in charge of Fry's company. Leela explained what had happened to Fry.
"Is it normal army policy to allow assaults on new recruits?" Leela demanded.
"No ma'am. Army policy is quiet clear that physical violence towards the recruits is not allowed," Jubal said in a deep bass voice.
"Well, Phillip Fry was attacked by two thugs in your company and I want to know what you are going to do about it."
"I've already disciplined the two men," Jubal said calmly, cracking his large knuckles, "and it shouldn't happen again."
"So you say, but I don't think you can be there all the time. I want Fry to be released from this hellhole."
"Yes, ma'am. Can you answer some questions first?" Leela nodded. "What is your relationship to Recruit Fry?"
"I'm his friend. He sent me e-mails about his mistreatment here."
Jubal laughed, "Mistreatment? Ma'am, aside from being punched a couple of times by those two idiots, the only mistreatment Recruit Fry has experienced here is being made to act like a responsible adult."
"I don't care. I want him out of here. How do I do that?"
"Fairly simple, ma'am. You just see the battalion exec, Captain DeLaine, and fill out a form. It goes through the process but it's unlikely it will be approved unless there is a compelling reason. But before you do that, please hear me out." Leela looked at him and said okay.
"Ma'am, are you prepared to have to take care of Fry for the rest of his life. Tell him what to do and not do. Tell him how to behave; how to dress; how to live?"
Leela was caught off guard at this and shook her head.
"Because that's what you'll have to do if you take him out of here. Ma'am, I've been training new recruits for nearly ten years. Mostly they're youngsters, no more than eighteen years old. And mostly, they're really immature. We deal with it. Sometimes we use kind words and sometimes we just scare them. But in the end, we turn them into soldiers and men. Most of the time, anyways. Usually when we get an older recruit, we give them some responsibility since they're generally more mature. Fry's not. He's an arrested adolescent. He may be twenty six but he acts like he's still sixteen years old. If you take him out now, he'll probably always be sixteen. Is that what you want, ma'am?"
Confused, Leela shook her head again.
"Good. I see something worthwhile in Fry. I think he can become a man you'll be proud of. Let him stay here and we can make him into that man."
Leela thought about it for a while, "I don't know. He seems in so much anguish."
"It will pass, ma'am. Believe me, it will pass. When I first joined up, I thought about going over the fence for the first three weeks. But I grew up and learned to adapt. Fry's just not happy about having to grow up and take responsibility. That will pass."
"You promise me that there will be no more attacks?"
"I can't promise that, ma'am. I'll certainly not allow them while I'm there but I can't watch him twenty four hours a day. Fry will have to learn to overcome that on his own. And we'll teach him how."
Leela felt uncertain. She wondered what the right thing was for Fry. Hermes' words about the army shaping Fry up came back to her. She looked in Jubal's dark eyes and thought she saw sincerity there.
"Can I see Fry?'
"We don't allow the new recruits outside contact other than monitored e-mail until training is completed. Wouldn't be fair to the other recruits if I let you visit him."
"Monitored e-mail?" Leela asked in alarm.
"Yes ma'am. We keep a close eye on our troopers' use of the MilNet. We only allow e-mail and we sure don't want them in the chat rooms. Saves us all sorts of surprises. How'd you think I found out about those two idiots punching Fry?"
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Don't worry ma'am, we're very discreet." Leela blushed and Jubal smiled again. "What do you want to do about Fry, ma'am?"
"Okay. I'll trust you and leave him here but if I find he's being mistreated, I'll come back and tear you a new one."
Jubal smiled broadly. "Ma'am, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day."
Leela's Apartment -
Leela had returned to Earth and composed an e-mail to Fry. In it, she told him that he needed to stick it out and to do his best. She wrote that if anyone attacked him again, he should tell her right away. Leela ended the message by telling Fry that she knew that if he finished this, he would earn her respect. Then she got up and went out to look for Nibbler.
The next day, an e-mail arrived from Fry. He was going to do his best to finish so that Leela would be proud of him. Leela smiled and thought of how Fry was always trying to impress her. Soon, Hermes called and she was on her way to Planet Express.
Planet Express Building -
Hermes sat talking to Leela and Amy. "The professor has scored a big fat delivery contract with de DOOP military. We're going to be making regular deliveries to a Navy base on planet Maug. The first one will be two months from now."
Leela groaned, "Hermes, that's over 8 days away at best speed. We're talking more than two weeks of traveling. How regular are these deliveries?"
"We'll be doing dem eight times a year," Hermes said cheerfully.
"What about our other deliveries? Won't we lose money if we don't keep our regular customers?" Leela asked.
"The DOOP contract is for big money and we'll have specials for our regulars.'
"What are we going to do for a delivery boy? Bender's gone most of the time now and he's nuts too" Leela said.
"Well, Amy and you will have to do it until we can find someone to fill de role."
"How about Scruffy?" asked Amy.
"No, no. Scruffy's in de union and he's not allowed to work other types of jobs."
"Well? Are we going to hire someone else then?" Leela said angrily.
"We're trying. The draft is sucking up a lot of people and it's an employees' market. We don't make enough profit to offer great wages."
"Tell me about it," Leela said sarcastically, "maybe we'll see some bonuses with this big military contract."
Hermes shrugged. The overhead at the company was pretty high with the ship maintenance and the professor's useless money eating inventions. If wasn't for Nibbler's supply of dark matter pellets, the company would probably go bankrupt.
Amy said tiredly, "We need some help."
Leela agreed, "I won't be willing to keep this up for much longer."
Hermes said, "Okay, okay. I'll try and track down Bender and see if he'll come help us. If not, I guess it will have to be Zoidberg if he ever brings his sorry butt back."
Leela rubbed her eye and groaned. A crazed robot or Zoidberg were their choices. "Let's hope you can talk Bender into it," she said sadly.
Zoidberg had managed to catch a ride with a couple of musicians who thought he was "cool" looking. They were headed to Boston but after an half hour of Zoidberg's chatter, had dumped him out in Baltimore. Zoidberg wandered about, eating out of trash bins and talking to anyone who'd listen. Eventually, he found a ship home ported in New New York and talked his way on board as a temporary doctor. Once the ship was at sea, the skipper informed him that the vessel was headed south first and he probably wouldn't reach New New York for a couple of weeks. Zoidberg was dismayed at first but he thought about how long it would take him to walk to New New York. He decided to enjoy himself. He hoped that when he arrived in New New York, Nibbler would have returned or he'd have a message from Bondarenkov. At least, he thought, I'll be fed regularly.
New New York -
Planet Express Building -
Leela and Amy had been making deliveries by themselves for the last couple of weeks. Both of them were tired and needed some time off. They started to complain to Hermes and he finally called a meeting with the professor. As they sat, around the table waiting on the Professor, Leela asked Hermes about Bender.
"I'm still trying to get him to come back to work. He seems to be spending a lot of time drinking and partying. More than he usually does. Where he gets de money, I don't know. I'll keep after him."
The professor arrived in a good mood and sat down. Leela and Amy started in on him right away. The professor told them that he'd see what he could do about getting some help and then he shocked them by giving them a small raise. He grinned at their stares. "The new military contract will allow us some leeway on the pay situation."
Hermes choked and began to sputter about the overhead but the professor just waved his hand at him. He looked at the two young women and told them to take some time off.
Leela and Amy couldn't believe their ears. Hermes looked as if he was going to fall over from shock. The professor smiled and then began rubbing his forehead. He excused himself saying he had to go to the restroom. The two women were ecstatic. Hermes kept shaking his head and groaning about the overhead. Ten minutes later the professor walked back into the room. He stopped and looked around blankly for a few seconds. Blinking like he had just woke up, he slurred, "Wha…where am I?" He saw the trio sitting at the table and walked over and sat down. Turning to Amy, he said, "Amy, I want you to put the new drive engine in so we can overhaul the current one. I like having a spare just in case. I want it done before our next delivery in two days."
Leela said, "You just gave us a couple of days off."
"Balderdash," yelled the professor, "next thing you'll be saying I gave you a raise in spite of our high overhead."
"You did!" Leela yelled back and looked at Hermes who grinned. "Well, we'd better get that raise or I'll quit."
Hermes nodded and said he'd take care of it. The professor who had drifted away again, suddenly leaned forward and said, "Amy, I want you to put the new drive engine in so we can overhaul the current one. I like having a spare just in case. I want it…"
"I heard you the first time," Amy shouted and began cursing in Martian as she walked down towards the ship. Leela told Amy she was going home first but she'd come back later to help her. Amy nodded and said she'd need her when it was time to do the test run. Leela looked over at the professor who had gone to sleep. She stared at Hermes and said in an icy tone, "You better have Bender working for us on the next delivery or hire someone. And don't forget the pay raise. Otherwise I'm going to go twentieth century on your ass. "
Hermes gulped and nodded. He quickly headed out the door. Leela looked at the sleeping professor. He was slumped backwards in the chair. His head was thrown backwards and a small trickle of viscous liquid was running from mouth and nose. Leela muttered, "Gross!" and then took a napkin and wiped the professor's face. Then she headed out to her apartment.
Leela's apartment -
Leela arrived to find some more e-mails from Fry. They were more upbeat and it made Leela feel good to see Fry say that he thought he was getting the hang of it. He told her that he would be starting the sleep learning part of his medical training in a couple of weeks. He finished the last e-mail by asking if she would come to see him graduate in September. Leela e-mailed back that she was proud of him and that she wouldn't miss his graduation. Without thinking, she ended the message with "Love, Leela". She was about to hit the send button but stopped and quickly deleted the word "Love" before sending it. She sat in shock at how she close she had come to doing something irreversible. She wondered what was happening to her. Rather than sit and try to think it out, she decided to go looking for Nibbler. Even if it was hopeless, at least she didn't have to deal with her emotions. She had learned to keep them bottled up and she wasn't going to let them slip loose now.
Street outside Planet Express -
Leela was walking about the Planet Express Building holding a ham and calling Nibbler's name. Amy put her head out the door and asked Leela what she was doing.
"I'm trying to see if Nibbler has come back yet. He's not around my apartment so I'm hoping he'll come back here."
"Leela," said Amy with pity, "you are going to have to accept he's gone."
Something inside Leela suddenly broke and she began crying. "I can't. First, Fry leaves and then Nibbler. It's like everyone important in my life has been taken from me."
Amy thought about that for a moment and said, "Fry's not gone forever. He'll be done with boot camp soon and you'll be able to see him on Mars."
"I know but it's getting to be so hard. E-mail is fine but I want to talk to him and hear his voice. I miss him."
Amy was stunned. She thought she had just heard Leela come very close to admitting she had feelings for Fry. "Maybe we should go somewhere and talk," she said putting her hand on Leela's shoulder. Leela nodded sadly and tossed the ham into the dumpster. Amy took Leela over to O'Zorgnax's Pub. As they left, a small dark shape staggered out from behind the dumpster. It shook its head violently and slumped against the dumpster. After a few minutes, it was standing in a more stable stance. Quickly looking around with its three eyes, it leapt into the dumpster and devoured the ham. Then, it loped away into a darkened alley.
O'Zorgnax's Pub -
Leela and Amy sat in a booth drinking beer. Leela was the first one to speak, "So, how's the engine replacement coming?"
"Spl'uh-uh! Leela, if you think I've come into this dive to talk about drive engines…"
"I want to hear about Fry." Amy said eagerly. She was hoping that Leela was going to finally admit what everyone at Planet Express knew. Well, she thought, what Hermes and her knew.
"I don't know when it started. I just thought he was too much of an immature jerk for me. But, Fry's always been really nice to me even when I haven't been nice to him. When he got drafted, I really started to think about all the things he's done for me. I feel really bad. I haven't always treated him fairly."
"That's not true. You've always been there when he needed you. You've saved his life many times."
"Yes, but he's nearly given his life for me. He helped me find my real parents. And he's gone out of his way to help me when I couldn't admit I needed help. I knew he had feelings for me but I didn't want to acknowledge them. I didn't want to hurt him. But when he got drafted, I started to get scared that I might never see him again. When he left for Mars, I couldn't tell him how I felt. How his leaving was one of the worst things to happen to me. I couldn't tell him that I really lo…" A tear formed in her eye and Amy gave her the napkin on the table. Leela tore the napkin in half and began dabbing at her eye. "I'm so scared, Amy. Scared that I'm going to make a mistake and end up unhappy and alone forever." Leela stared down at her beer bottle, gently swirling it around.
Privately Amy couldn't see why Leela was so stuck up. She felt that a one-eyed big boned Amazon spinster like Leela should be happy to have a cool guy like Fry. Not that she'd tell Leela any of that. Amy thought to herself, "She really needs someone to tell her it will be okay. Someone to tell her to trust her own heart and stop listening to her fears. But, she's so much older than me. I don't know if she'll accept my advice. I know she thinks I'm shallow and vain but I've got a lot more experience with men that she does. I'll just do my best and see what happens."
Amy took a long pull from her beer. Then she started by talking about how Leela had to operate under the handicap of being a mutant but Fry never cared about that and he just loved her. That started Leela into a new outburst of fresh tears. Amy got flustered and moved away from the subject of Fry. She rambled a bit about Leela's own failed relationships which didn't improve matters. After taking another long drink, she began talking about all of her relationships and how they'd started and when they went wrong. Feeling that she was simply saying whatever came into her head, Amy suddenly found herself talking about Kif. She told Leela about how she had felt that he was the right man for her but lately something had changed. Kif had promised to transfer and Amy had hoped he'd get out of the service and take a job for her father. But recently, Kif had informed that he could not keep the promise and wasn't really interested in working for Mr. Wong. Kif had told Amy that he planned to make a career out of the Navy and that he wasn't going to request transfer to one of the naval bases near Earth. Amy had been upset by the news because she rarely got to see Kif and felt long distant relationships were tough to maintain. Pretty soon, Amy was crying too with Leela trying to comfort her.
"We're a fine pair," Leela said, "both of us crying over two servicemen."
The large Plutonian bartender walked over at that point and spoke to them. "Ladies, if youse plans to stay, keeps youse weepings to youse selves. Youse is depressing the other customers."
Amy, feeling that she had let Leela down, got up and said, "Well, I think they have more than enough to be depressed about if they drink in this dump."
"Heys. No needs to insult the establishment," the bartender grumbled. When Amy made an obscene gesture, the bartender shrugged and went back to the bar.
Leela and Amy walked out and went back to Planet Express. Leela told Amy she'd come in and help with the engine. At the door, Amy stopped and turned to Leela, saying, "You are always the one who is brave and strong. Now you are letting fear control you. I know you have feelings for Fry. Listen to them and not your fear. Love is really wonderful. Try it and see."
Leela was taken aback by this repeat of what Morgan had said to her. She stopped at the door and looked seriously at Amy, "I can't do it. Not yet. Maybe in the future but not now. I have to be sure."
"Sure of what?"
"Sure that I really lo…care for Fry. That he is the right man for me."
Amy sighed and gave a muffled curse as she went in the door.