Fan Fiction

Background Noise, Part 3
By Dave Vincent


(The tourist city of Utopia is the major attraction on New Eden. The city is overflowing with lush gardens; wonderful artwork; entertaining street performers; and fascinating shops. The quality of the restaurants is top notch. Even Elzar has admitted that it is some of the best food in the galaxy (outside of his own place, of course!). But, for all Utopia's beauty, the tourist should be careful not to get entangled with the legal system. - Out and About in the DOOP Federation - A Tourist's Guide to the Best of the DOOP by B. B. Theta, University of Mars Publishing, 3000)

(The ultimatum from the Kingdom of Omicron Persae arrived in September of 3000 following their raid on Earth. President Nixon, who had just won the recall election over disgraced President MacNeil, immediately sent an embassy to find a peaceful resolution. The embassy's spaceship was found a month later, adrift near the outer most colony of Greendale. The only remains of the embassy were their heads. - Dealings with the Kingdom. The DOOP Federation and the Kingdom of Omicron Persae - an editorial review from the DOOP Diplomacy Newsletter, March 3091)

(Early in the second year of the Da Nang War, it is suspected that the native Clxx'ct (pronounced as Klikcit) made an alliance with the nearby Kingdom of Omicron Persae. The Persae supplied the Clxx'ct with advance weaponry and sent stealth raiders to attack DOOP convoys from Maug. It is surmised that the Persae sent the asteroid that shattered Da Nang's small moon. The destruction of the moon generated a huge electro-magnetic pulse that permanently distorted the atmosphere of Da Nang. The planet's axis tilted nearly a thousandth of a degree. Huge tsunamis and earthquakes were generated that broke up or flooded most of the land mass. Da Nang became a planet of archepelegoes. The destruction of the moon resulted in the once tropical atmosphere of Da Nang becoming a stormy soup of electromagnetic storms, humidity, heat and torrential rains. The moon's destruction created a vast field of debris in the planet's orbit. The DOOP Navy took a beating in the orbital approaches trying to keep Da Nang supplied. The Clxx'ct, using Persae equipment, started sending kamikazes into orbit to suicide into the Navy vessels. The electrically charged atmosphere prevented detection of kamikaze launches. The orbital debris allowed the kamikazes to lurk undetected until they struck their target. The DOOP Navy and the Da Nang War by Professor Arne Gupta Singh, University of New Hebrides, Delta Pavonis, 3085)

(Early October, 3002) New New York -
Things had improved a few days after Leela and Amy had gone to O'Zorgnax's Pub. Hermes had gotten Bender to come back to work. He was still crabby and angry but managed to be somewhat helpful. He told Amy that he needed money for his nightly drinking expeditions. Leela and Amy began taking turns on deliveries with Leela piloting the more elaborate ones. This allowed the two women to take some time off. Hermes had kept the raise the Professor had given them intact and talked about the possibility of bonuses. Fry was e-mailing every day talking about his medical training, his upcoming graduation and how excited he was that Leela was going to be there. The graduation ceremony was only a week a way and Leela had to threaten everyone to get them to promise to attend. They had one more delivery that week and Leela decided everyone was going so they could stop on Mars on the way back for the ceremony.

Atlantic Ocean -
Zoidberg had enjoyed his sojourn as ship's doctor. The ship's sickbay had a book on human medical care. Zoidberg had studied it with interest. He was shocked at some of it. "Pfui! Primitive superstitions. How can they even pretend to be practicing medicine? Where's the information on shell rot? And the bone saws? How can you pretend to be a doctor without the bone saws!" he thought but he got a chance to actually use it. Treating some broken bones, a few cuts from fights in the ports and alcohol poisoning hadn't been a strain. He'd even had to do an emergency appendectomy and, wonders of wonders; the patient lived and even recovered albeit with some other parts missing.

"Who knew that the humans were full of useless organs?" He had thought later. "It will certainly make my medical practice at Planet Express much easier."

He had his own cabin and the food, ah, the food, had been wonderful. He'd eaten whatever was set before him and was sure he had gained weight. Best of all, he could be himself; no pretense.

He stood on the deck watching as the ship slowly drove towards New New York only three days away. He wondered if Nibbler had returned and recovered Fry or if Bondarenkov of DOOP Intelligence had finally called. They were all problems that could be dealt with later. Looking out at the ocean, he decided that this was the way to travel. If it wasn't for his friendship with Professor Farnsworth and the promises to the Eternians and DOOP, he might consider doing this permanently. "Life is good," he thought and gave a contented belch.

Hall of Eternity, Eternium -
The high council of Eternium was conducting an emergency meeting. The room was dark with the exception of spotlights on robed figures seated on high chairs set out in a semicircle. In the center of the semicircle, single spotlight shone on an Eternian who was dressed in a space suit. In the background were other dimly seen robed figures. The council and the space suited one were engaged in telepathic conversation.

"Lord Nibbler and the Mighty One are not on Earth," said the space suited Eternian.

"You are sure of this," asked one of the council members wearily.

"Very sure, my lord. I investigated the Planet Express Building but, per my instructions, I did not contact any of the humans there. I could not pick up any of Nibbler's telepathic trace on the planet. Nor was the Mighty One's distinctive brain wave pattern in evidence. The Decapodian was also missing. From the hybrid I picked up strong emotional thoughts. Evidently the Mighty One has left her and she is suffering great remorse. Her emotions were very intense and nearly overwhelmed me. But through the emotional clutter I discerned that he had left Earth. If I had been permitted to touch her, I might have found out where he went. Lord Nibbler must be traveling with him for his spacecraft is still in its hidden location."

"It could mean that Fry has decided to reject Leela and find someone else away from Earth," said another member. Other councilors began nodding in agreement.

"Yes, this could be the way of it. Nibbler would go to protect the Mighty One if he decided to leave Earth. And how long could the Mighty One wait for the hybrid to become his mate?"

"It does not seem right. Zoidberg reported through Nibbler that Fry was in love with Leela. I do not think he would leave her permanently."

"Perhaps he is trying to force her hand by pretending to leave and make her realize what she will be losing."

"It is unlike Nibbler to not report any movements. I would have expected to hear from him by now."

"Yes, that is odd. Perhaps the Mighty One departed suddenly and Nibbler has not been able to make contact yet."

"Fellow councilors," said the head of the council, "We are not getting anywhere with this conjecture. We need more information. And, we have another graver issue to deal with. Captain Snuggler, tell what else you saw on your mission."

Snuggler straightened and reported in somber tones, "My lady, I'm afraid what you have feared is true. There will be war. The humans intend to defy the ultimatum of the Kingdom of Omicron Persae."

"Well, what choice have they?" A councilor said. "Total disarmament? One third of their federation and a crushing tribute? They'd have to be totally spineless to accept."

Snuggler nodded. "Everywhere I went; the humans were making weapons and ships. They have called a large number of their citizens into their military. Before returning, I visited some of their outer colonies. They are being fortified and garrisoned. In my travels along their frontier, I noted that it appears they are massing their ships to oppose any approach of the Persae fleet."

The council began chattering amongst themselves. The head of the council finally demanded order. "Snuggler, what else have you to say?"

"Just this; the humans have changed the leader of their military. Through their cloned head program, they have brought back a warrior from a previous age to lead them. He seems to have led one of their nation-states' forces during one of their many civil wars. He served under the current cloned head who is their elected leader. The warrior is named Aae-brums or something like that. The barking noise that passes for their language is still unfamiliar to me. But he has evidently made significant changes. The reports I read prior to this mission said the human military was incompetent. Yet, everywhere I went; the humans are behaving differently, very differently. I do not believe the Persae will find them an easy target."

"The humans have shown themselves to be inept in every confrontation with the Persae. We can expect little else now." The thought was harsh and angry. The other councilors winced.

"My Lord, it is different now. The humans look…. Snuggler hesitated over the thought, "prepared. I cannot explain it but I felt they were moving with great purpose."

"Pfah! Your time in human space was too short to make such judgments. These observations are without merit."

"Lord CuddlySoft, there is no need to insult our Captain. He gives his observations in good faith," said the head of council. "Fellow councilors, we have heard Captain Snuggler's report. Now we must decide what to do."

"Lady Lambsy," said CuddlySoft, addressing the head of the council. She acknowledged him with a nod. "Fellow Councilors, as you know, Eternia has weakened over the many cycles. Some of us here feel this is because we failed to do the First's bidding and guide the Follower Races to their destinies. Some believe it because we created clones as a solution to our slow reproduction and were punished for it. Many believe the First is punishing us with the scourge of the Swarm."

"Total nonsense. The First made no objection to what we did. Never has," said one of the others.

Lord CuddlySoft's thought dripped with contempt. "Forget not the saying of the First - if you do it right, no one can ever be sure that you did anything at all."

"The First also told us to watch over the Followers. He said nothing about guiding them or ruling them. That is your secret lust, CuddlySoft," another said angrily.

"I interpret the direction to watch over as providing guidance. I have no desire to rule. I want to protect the humans and others from making the same mistakes. If we provided guidance, there would be no concern about the Followers going to war."

"I was here then just like you, Lord CuddlySoft," said Lady Lambsy, intervening to prevent an old argument from diverting the council. "The fault was ours alone. We could not accept the idea that we could not reproduce like the Followers. We attempted to overcome that handicap through cloning. But, recall that we mistreated our clones and came to view them as inferiors. Eventually we enslaved them. When they rose against us in the great Clone War, we were nearly destroyed. I believe that all Eternia went insane. It was a long and bitter war that saw whole stars extinguished. In our madness, we exterminated the clones. Alas, much that was fair was lost. And the empire was weakened by the loss of so many Eternians. When the Swarm came, we were already exhausted. We could not face them. Our greatest scientists were dead. Our military sadly reduced. Once we could cover the stars with fleets of warships. Today, our fleet is the merest shadow of its former self and what is left, hunts the Swarm's birthing place. We are barely able to send single agents to a few worlds. Our ability to influence is now limited to behind the scenes. So weakened are we, that Captain Snuggler here had to be recalled from the Watch to go to Earth when we lost contact with Nibbler."

Lord CuddleySoft's added softly, "Punishment for our disobediance."

Lady Lambsy pretended not to hear. "Where once we were the greatest power in the known universe; now we must keep our existence secret. We know what would happen if the Followers learned of us. We'd be besieged by them asking our support and our technology. Eventually, we'd have to fight those that thought they could take it by force."

She paused as the council muttered at the thought of the weakness of the eldest race. "Eternia is dying. We have not had a new birth in one hundred million cycles. More of us wish to return to the Place of the Beginnings. If it was not for the prophecy about the Mighty One, we would have long chosen to leave as so many wish to do. All of us here swore the great oath to find a way to permanently defeat the Swarm. We've had our first victory through the aid of the Mighty One but we know that is only temporary. Now the universe's fate stands poised on the edge of a knife. The future may well turn on what is decided here."

She paused again, allowing the thoughts to settle. Turning to Lord CuddlySoft, she began calmly, "I understand your desire to guide the humans as we once did, but even if the council accepted this, we no longer have the strength. Most of what is left of our fleet is assigned to the weary task of the Swarm Watch. We cannot weaken that effort. We know the prophet said that the Mighty One would provide the means to defeat the Swarm but we cannot take it for granted that it means we should do nothing."

She watched the Council nod in acceptance of this truth. She knew CuddlySoft's heart in this matter but he was always more daring than the rest. His way held too many risks for the universe. The age of Eternian imperialism was ended; killed in the devastating Clone War and by the slow attrition of fighting the Swarm.

"The prophecy does not mean we should do nothing." She reiterated. "We must determine what is to be done about this potential war between the humans and the Persae."

One of the other councilors sneered, "Only the Mighty One matters. All else is meddling."

"Lord LoveyDovey," growled Lord CuddleySoft, "your desire to do naught but sit on your haunches and feast is well known."

Lord LoveyDovey looked enraged, but Lady Lambsy held up her hand and demanded silence. Lady Lambsy sighed and began quietly, "I know from our agent on the Persae home world that the Persae Fleetlords have determined that the humans are a threat to them. They are preparing to attack the humans and their allies whether the ultimatum is answered or not. They would have followed up the ultimatum with an attack but several of their subject worlds rose in revolt. Currently, they are involved putting these down. Our agent believes that this should take them till the end of this cycle. It is his estimation and mine that we can look for a major attack on the humans in the early months of next cycle. So they let the humans attempt to negotiate while they prepare. A cruel race. Additionally, our agent reports that the Persae have sent out stealth raiders to attack the humans in the area of Da Nang. Evidently the Fleetlords have decided to bleed the humans at Da Nang. They are secretly shipping in advanced weapons to the natives." She stopped and turned to Snuggler. "Captain Snuggler, have you determined why the humans are on Da Nang?"

"No lady, but I believe they are there to hold the attention of the Persae. It is my thought that the humans hope to tie down some of the Persae fleet at Da Nang. It will reduce the odds against them elsewhere. When the Persae do come, they have to take Da Nang for they cannot allow it to remain in their rear as a base for the humans. I believe that the humans will be able to hold it for quite awhile. The Persae are not noted for their infantry skills."

One of the other councilors agreed, "The Persae were unable to destroy the humans in their previous attacks because the Persae could not occupy the planet. They are strong but clumsy. The humans were limited by the lack of spacefaring technology but they fought valiantly enough to save themselves from annihilation. The Persae simply bombarded their home world leaving it in ruins and using plague bombs to kill off two thirds of the population. Alas, they came back nearly two hundred cycles later to punish them some more. In that, we failed the humans."

Lord CuddleySoft barked, "Truth! But the Swarm had come again and we were committed to saving as many as we could. There was nothing to spare for Earth. Fortunately, Lady Lambsey was on Earth inspecting the protection of the Mighty One's long sleep. She managed to secretly aid the humans in their recovery. The Persae and their xenophobia were unforeseen by us. Now we have an agent amongst them." Lord CuddleySoft thoughts were sad. The cost to get that agent in place had been high. The Persae had killed the first two agents out of hand. Not for being agents, just for being non-Persae and edible looking.

Lady Lambsy nodded. "We have come to the moment of great decision. We must choose what is to be done. A major war between the Persae and the humans will be immensely destructive and devastate the galaxy for many centuries to come. We could even lose the humans if the Persae decide on genocide."

Snuggler interjected, "My Lady, I'm not so sure that the Persae could accomplish that. The humans look to have come very close to evening the technological disadvantage. If the council would see fit to aid the humans…"

At this the council went silent. Snuggler stopped as he felt the disquiet build in the council. Below the disquiet, Snuggler sensed an ancient bitter anger.

Lady Lambsy spoke with sorrowful tones, "I remind the council that our primary goal is the destruction of the Swarm and for that, we must have the humans. I ask us to discuss the possibility of secret intervention to save the humans."

"Lady Lambsy," said Lord LoveyDovey in cold tones, "the council is divided on this as you well know. Eternia knows too well the cost of becoming involved with the Followers. Have you forgotten the disaster of our last intervention before the humans came into being? How we used the Followers of Sirius to fight the Procyons? You and I were there too. We justified the intervention as a means of protecting the humans' birth world from the expansionist Procyon Empire. We sought to use the Sirians as a bulwark to protect the humans, but the Procyons proved stronger than we thought. That war too spun out of control. The Procyon's brutality provoked an unforeseen response from the Sirians. The Sirians' hearts were hardened and we could not influence them to prevent what happened. We were horrified as chemical, nuclear and even biological weapons were used. In the end, the Procyons were destroyed but so were the Sirians. We made a horrible mistake that resulted in the extermination of two Follower races. From that day forward, Eternia has not intervened in the affairs of the Followers." He paused to look at the other council members and then turned to Lady Lambsy again. "Your fear of a devastated galaxy is unfounded. You are too attached to the humans to see clearly. As CuddlySoft stated, the humans have proven militarily inept since they came out of their home system. I doubt they will prove any better now despite young Snuggler's observations. They will collapse and eventually surrender to the Persae. The Persae will take them into their empire as subjects. This will accomplish our goal of preserving the humans without intervention other than preserving the Mighty One. If you truly fear destruction of the humans, then we can save some and still fulfill our mission. I and my fellow councilors will support taking the Mighty One and the hybrid into our protection but we will not support any other intervention. It is the return to Eternian Imperialism so desired by CuddlySoft and his supporters. We say no! Never again shall Eternia impose her will on the universe. It violates the trust of the First."

Lady Lambsy bowed her head and acknowledged the truth. She did not have the votes to win. The humans were on their own. She sighed and said, "Then let us debate on whether to gather in Fry and Leela for their protection. Captain Snuggler, I must ask you to search the human worlds for Nibbler and Fry."

Snuggler saluted and was escorted out of the chamber by one of the Council's recorders. Outside, Snuggler released from the telepathic tension, gasped to the recorder, "SnookyPoo, is it always so hostile?"

The darkly robed recorder snickered and said, "No, today was a mild day. My dear captain, you must remember that we are relatively young compared to the councilors. Neither of us has seen more than three hundred million cycles. Many members of the council are at least five billion cycles old. Some are more than that. Over that long a period, one tends to become a cranky opinionated curmudgeon. There are bound to be disagreements. Oft times, the council spends hours debating old faults and mistakes. It makes for some lively but pointless meetings."

SnookyPoo smiled at Snuggler's shocked look and said, "Facing the council is hungry work. Come and feast before you leave."

They retired to a room in the rear of the building. In the center of the room was a huge table with many different animal species sitting placidly on plates. Each animal was held in a telepathic trance to prevent a struggle. Snuggler's mouth watered at the sight. Several other recorders walked in and nodded politely at Snuggler. SnookyPoo waved everyone to a seat around the table. Uniting telepathically, he called for the blessing of the First. All the others bowed their eyes. The recorder nodded and then said, "Let the feasting begin." All of them set to devouring the creatures in a feeding frenzy.

One of the recorders asked Snuggler about the Swarm Watch. A Watch veteran of fifty million cycles, Snuggler told them of the long tedious years of hunting through the endless stars; looking for the birthing place of the Swarm. "It is a long and grinding task. Everything must be checked. After a time, the joy of new discovery fades as each world, asteroid, comet, or star proves another dead end. There are just too many stars and too few of us." Snuggler ended sadly. The others nodded, knowing that in time they too would serve in the Watch.

Later, after the others had left, Snuggler and SnookyPoo were drinking a farewell cup. Snuggler thought it was a good opportunity to ask some questions.

"SnookyPoo, can you tell me what is happening here?"

SnookyPoo smiled indulgently and took a long drink. "I forget that your long cycles with the Watch have left you out of touch with events on Eternia. You have become part of the great mission, young captain. It is the most important mission in all of Eternian history. And if we successfully complete it, it may be the end of the Eternians."

He paused to drink again. "Eternia is tired. Though many desire to return to the Place of the Beginnings, the council has directed that all must serve until the universe is safe from the Swarm. The great Adoy himself made this ruling nearly one million cycles ago when the short lived Prophet came and gave Eternia the vision of the Mighty One. Adoy ordered that all Eternians would serve in the cause of ensuring the future. Spreading the Mighty One's genetics throughout the human species became the primary goal of our race. Giving the Follower races a means to defeat the Swarm will allow the universe to evolve. If the Swarm is not stopped, the universe will constantly cycle between birth and destruction. All will be caught in the cycle without hope of any advance. We will be damned for all time to fight and lose to the Swarm over and over."

Snuggler respectfully lowered his eyes at the mention of Adoy. "No one has heard from Adoy in over four hundred thousand cycles. Does he yet live?"

"He was the one who led us to aid the Sirians. He regretted that mistake so greatly that he laid down the staff of high councilor and departed the chamber. Some say he went to the Place of the Beginnings but there are those who say he roams the universe communing with the First. It is even whispered that someday he will return. What this would mean, I do not know."

SnookyPoo audibly sighed. "We thought we were the ultimate creation of the First but Adoy saw that we were only the tools designed to help shape creation. Once we have fulfilled our purpose, we will depart. Most are tired and wish to leave. Some, like CuddlySoft, are bitter and resentful of the fall of the Firstborn. He dreams of the days when we ruled an empire. Others like LoveyDovey believe the prophecy is enough and Eternia should not intervene. His personal hatred of CuddlySoft causes him to oppose anything CuddlySoft proposes. It diverts the council from providing leadership. Nothing good has come from it. Nonetheless, now that the Mighty One has arrived in this time, we must enable him to fulfill the prophecy by reproducing. The hybrid was engineered to provide him a genetically suitable mate. With a galactic war looming, we must ensure their survival."

Snuggler asked, "Will the council do something about the upcoming war between the humans and the Persae?"

SnookyPoo stared darkly at him, "Captain Snuggler, the council is hopelessly divided. It will do nothing. It has done nothing since Adoy resigned nearly four hundred thousand cycles ago. The only thing they can agree on is the Mighty One. After a long and no doubt tedious debate, they will decide to take the Mighty One and the hybrid into some sort of protective custody and let the galaxy burn."

Snuggler was aghast. "Can something be done to change their minds? An appeal to the First?"

SnookyPoo laughed bitterly. "No one has heard from the First in nearly a hundred million cycles. The council has sent appeals but the messengers return without contact. The First has turned away." He shook his head. "No, it is up to us. It will take something drastic to shake the council out of its lethargy." SnookyPoo grabbed Snuggler's arm and spoke with great seriousness, "You must find the Mighty One. All depends on him."

New New York -
Tasked with hunting down Persae agents, DOOP Counterintelligence had put the search for Bondarenkov on the backburner. Finally, someone in Counterintelligence got around to checking the hospitals. A quick search of the various databases revealed a male who resembled Bondarenkov. Two agents were dispatched and found the comatose Bondarenkov in Charity's Pauper Ward. They called a private ambulance service and had him taken to a military hospital. Talking to the ambulance drivers who brought him in, they found out about the strange alien as well. Going over to Charity's Alien Ward, they met with Doctor Blogov. He took them to the ward where Nibbler lay.

"Strange creature; it's been in a coma since it arrived but other than that it seems to be perfectly healthy. It is immensely strong but having a multi-ton vehicle smash you doesn't do anything good for your health." Blogov joked.

The agent, a tall bald man, looked down at Nibbler who was hooked up to an IV drip. "Any idea what it is?"

Blogov smiled and took a drink of coffee, "None whatsoever in the world. We ran a DNA scan on it but the results were too confusing. Its DNA is more advanced than anything I've ever seen. Surprisingly, the closest likeness is humans."

"This thing is related to humanity?" The younger blond agent said in disgust. "Damn. I am having a hard enough time adjusting to my ape cousins."

Blogov laughed. "Well someone once said that we are all related somehow."

The agents claimed Nibbler and took him to a special base in New New York.

New New York -
Zoidberg had arrived in time to find Planet Express in the act of departing. No one asked him where he'd been. Leela was directing everyone to get on the ship and when Zoidberg walked in, Leela told him to get onboard too. Scruffy and Hermes had not wanted to go but Leela browbeat them into it. Bender, who Leela had thought would be more of a problem, had acquiesced with a sinister, "Yeah, I'm kind of hot right now. It'd be a good time to go somewhere else."

Satisfied that she was getting her way, Leela got the ship ready and blasted off.

Zoidberg asked Amy what was happening. She told him that they were going on a quick delivery trip to Barnard's Star and then heading to Mars for Fry's graduation. Zoidberg quizzed Amy about Fry and was relieved to find that Leela had gotten him assigned to Mars. He was troubled by Nibbler's failure to reappear but thought that Eternia was a long way from Earth and perhaps Nibbler was delayed. When he got back from this trip, Nibbler should have returned. The lack of communication from Bondarenkov was troubling but with the grim news about the war, Zoidberg felt other things more immediate may have DOOP Intelligence's attention. They would eventually contact him, he was sure. Relaxing and watching the stars, Zoidberg felt that things were starting to settle back into normality.

New New York -
Morbo sat in front of the camera as the makeup women dusted his forehead. Linda was sitting beside him studying her lines for her human interest story. Morbo despised human interest stories. He had some real news that the show should devote more time too but the producer said that Linda's stories made watching the news easier for humans. Morbo thought Linda's human interest stories were a waste of air time but he wasn't in charge..yet. The director waved his hand and everyone cleared off the set. Morbo watched as the little red light went on and the director pointed at him.

"Welcome back, puny humans. Morbo has delightful news. Today, the Nixon administration announced a new diplomatic effort to open negotiations with the Kingdom of Omicron Persae. Following the Persae ultimatum of two years ago, the DOOP has been trying to bring the Persae to the negotiating table. So far, those efforts have proven futile. The Nixon administration is attempting to use an unnamed species to act as intermediaries for the DOOP. Our own confidential sources hold out little hope for this effort and predict a definite crisis within six months. In other news, the Nixon administration announced that the DOOP is federalizing all National Guard units. The announcement was given at the Ministry of Defense which further stated that several National Guard units from Earth, Mars and Europa would be assigned to duty on Da Nang 4." Morbo paused and leaned out over his desk, roaring. "Inferior Human Scum! Morbo's people will sit and watch in great joy as your puny empires drain their strength in battle. Then Morbo's people will come and smash the survivors." He shook his fist at the camera. "You will feel the terrible wrath of Morbo's people in due time." Morbo stopped and smiled ferociously. The director pointed away from the set and Morbo sat back down and spoke in a calm tone. "Now here is the weather forecast with our own Muffin."

The director signaled stop and pointed to the weather girl over on another set. The beautiful blonde woman smiled and began talking about the weather. Linda, who had been watching Morbo with an insincere smile, said disgustedly, "Aren't you ever going to give up that stupid shtick act? Who the hell believes you when you start ranting about your people conquering anyone?"

Morbo lit up a cigar and smiled. "Toots, that shtick has made me rich. Who gets asked to do more appearances? Who has the higher recognition rating? In poll after poll, the viewers say they watch the news because of me. You're just here for T&A and you are getting older every day. Your last botox injection ain't cutting it, Toots. I'll give you odds that the weather girl is doing your job next year." Morbo laughed harshly and blew smoke into Linda's distraught face.

Utopia, New Eden, Barnard's Star -
The crew had made the delivery in record time. Leela decided there was enough time for everyone to eat at one of the famous Utopia restaurants. They were all seated about a heavy ornate table except for Scruffy who had gone to the restroom. They were looking at the menu when a large robot rolled up to the table. It had a notepad in one hand and the other was covered by a large towel.

"Can I take your orders?" the robot said in a stuttering electronic voice.

Zoidberg started to ask about one the menu items when the robot said, "You are the robot bending unit known as Bender E. Rodriguez?"

Bender looked up from the menu and said, "Who wants to know?"

"I have heard of you. You were once a great wrestler."

Bender sat up straight and put his hand to his chest. "Well, I did rule the ring for a while but I'm retired now. I guess you're looking for an autograph."

"Something like that. So you are the famous Bender E. Rodriquez?"

"That's right. And my autograph ain't free, pally."

"Thanks. I have a message for you from the Robot Mafia."

Leela looked up from her menu to see the robot reveal a large pulse pistol from beneath the towel. She shouted a warning and dove under the table. Amy joined her as the robot began firing wildly at Bender. Quickly, Zoidberg was on the floor next to them. The pulse pistol sent packets of energy into Bender knocking him back into his chair. Some of the packets splintered the table and others ricocheted off Bender. Amy screamed as the professor dropped to the floor, blood oozing from his right shoulder. Hermes fell next with a head wound. The other patrons were scrambling and screaming.

Amy crawled over to Hermes and worked to stop his bleeding. Leela was going through her purse trying to find something to fight back with. Zoidberg looked about and then grabbed a fork on the floor. He crawled forward and came up behind the robot. The robot was blazing away at Bender and the table. Zoidberg jammed the fork's handle into the robot's diskette port. Sparks flew out of the port and the robot began swaying about.

"Disk sum error!" It intoned as it dropped the pistol. It turned and swatted Zoidberg over the nearest table. The robot tried to extend its arm in an attempt to reach the fork. Leela crawled from beneath the table grabbing the pistol. She stood and calmly shot the robot in the back of its head. It went down in a loud crash.

Scruffy came back from the restroom and stared in surprise at the mess. The table was burning from the hits it had taken. The large robot, its head a smoldering ruin, was laid out part on the table and part off. Bender was still in his chair but not moving. His chest plate was full of smoking holes. Under the table, Hermes had a napkin pressed to his head and Amy was holding another against the Professor's shoulder. Leela was in a crouch, sweeping the pistol back and forth around the room checking for other threats. Zoidberg was getting up woozily from behind one of the other tables.

"Hmphf! Scruffy always misses the good stuff," he groused good-naturedly as he took a fire extinguisher and sprayed the table.

Soon they could hear police sirens. Several large robot peace officers came rushing into the restaurant. Leela pointed at the dead robot and said, "Here's the one who shot our friend."

One of the robots stopped in front of her and took the pistol. He asked in menacing tone, "Did you shoot him?" Leela nodded. The robot nodded to the others. Two of them came over to Leela and took her hands to place handcuffs on her.

"You're under arrest….," the first robot began.

Leela was stunned for a moment. Then she began shouting. "Why are you arresting me? That waiter tried to kill us. He probably killed our friend."

The robot waved the other robots over and they began handcuffing all the others. An ambulance arrived with more robots. They put Hermes and the Professor onto stretchers and took them away. Others picked up the waiter and Bender and put them into another vehicle. Zoidberg asked the robot peace officer where they were being taken.

"Since you are accomplices of the culprit here, you are going to the Calming Center. Your injured accomplices are headed the Center's hospital. The robots will be taken to a robot repair station."

Leela yelled, "What's the charge? We were only defending ourselves."

The robot waved a metal hand at her and said, "Culprit, do not compromise yourself any further. Anything you say is considered evidence in front of the court. You are under arrest for violation of New Eden Penal Code, Section 34, Article 1. An attorney will be appointed to represent you and the others at your trial."

With that, they were hauled out and put into a police transport.

Syrian Planium Military Base, Mars -
Fry was paying scant attention as Captain DeLaine announced the federalization of the Mars National Guard. The other men of the company were either shocked or excited at the news that they would be going to Da Nang 4. Sergeant Jubal walked over after the battalion had been dismissed and gathered the company around to explain what would be happening.

"All right troop, listen up! After the graduation ceremony, you'll have two days leave to see your families or do whatever you'd like." Some of the men groaned while others cheered. Jubal smiled and continued, "That means from the end of the ceremony at 1200 on Friday until 0800 on Monday, you'll have a pass. The Navy has laid on some transportation for Earth and the outer planets. They depart at 1400 hours on Friday. The transports will return at 0400 hours on Monday. Anyone missing the 0800 muster on Monday will find that life is not so pleasant. Captain DeLaine has informed me that deserters will find themselves doing some extremely nasty duty on Da Nang 4. So don't think that going AWOL will get you out of going." Jubal paused and looked over the assemble men. He noted Fry was staring off into the distance. Jubal bellowed, "Fry, eyes front and center! Quit your skylarking and pay attention."

Fry shook himself back into reality and looked at Jubal who was grinning ferociously.

"Sarge, I'm a regular not a Guardsman. What will I be doing?" Fry asked in an unsure voice.

"Sorry Fry, but you are deploying with the Guard." Fry looked surprised. Jubal smiled, "All of you are deploying with the Guard. I don't know your assigned units yet but that will be given to you once you're on the transport to Da Nang. Any questions?"

Fry raised his hand and Jubal nodded. "Any chance of getting a transfer? I'm not supposed to be going to Da Nang. It has been arranged. Leela said so."

Jubal roared with laughter and the rest of the men joined in. Fry reddened. Jubal gasped between laughs, "Fry, no one is going anywhere but Da Nang. They're going to need medics as much as they need infantrymen and specialists." He sobered. "They sure the hell will."

New Eden, Barnard's Star -
Leela and Amy had spent the night in separate cells in the women's section of the Utopian Calming Center. During the afternoon on the next day, they were re-united in a larger cell. They were now sharing an extremely hygienic cell with two beds, a table and three chairs. Amy said she never been anywhere so clean before.

Leela stared at the off white room and muttered, "You know, before I joined Planet Express, I'd never seen the inside of a jail cell. Nowadays, I'm beginning to see them as a second home."

Amy began giggling. She took a deep breath and said, "I don't understand why we're here. After all, you only fired in self-defense."

Leela grimaced and was about to speak when they heard the robot guard knock on the door. "Entering!" it said and the door opened quietly.

The robot guard stood aside and a short pudgy red faced man entered. He smiled and held out his hand as the door shut behind them.

"Marston, Algernon Marston. I'm the DOOP consul here on New Eden." Leela and Amy both shook the man's hand and made eyes at each other over its squishy softness.

"I assume you've been briefed on the charges?" Marston asked.

"Hell no!" Leela said angrily. "They said we were arrested for murder but the case is clearly self-defense. That is not a crime in the DOOP."

Marston blinked in surprise. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face. "Oh my stars. No one has told you anything at all?"

Leela and Amy shook their heads. Marston breathed heavily and sat on one of the chairs. He indicated Leela and Amy should sit. They pulled the chairs away from the table and sat down across from Marston.

"My goodness. Well, first off you'll need to understand that New Eden is not an official member of DOOP."

Leela and Amy both began speaking at once. Leela stopped as Amy said loudly, "Not a member of DOOP? But it is right in the heart of DOOP territory!"

"Quite right. Many tourists make that mistake. We try to keep people informed but no one ever stops by the consulate for the brochures explaining everything. Really, you'd think people would take advantage of the government services. After all, the fee is very reasonable." Marston said with obvious disappointment.

"It should be free and it should be required to be given to every vessel landing on this planet." Leela, feeling an urge to throttle the little fat man, asked heatedly. "What the hell does it have to do with me then?"

"New Eden is an associate member of DOOP. That means that the DOOP provides protection and runs foreign policy. In return, New Eden pays taxes, but the DOOP has no say over New Eden's internal affairs. It is the usual initiation ritual for new DOOP members. The natives get the benefit of protection by the DOOP and gain time to adjust to the idea of full membership. Over time they usually become full members. New Eden likes the arrangement as it is and DOOP hasn't really felt the need to change things. The consulate and the main space port are the only official DOOP areas on the planet."

"Still doesn't explain why my crew and I are here under arrest." Leela said, her voice growing angrier.

"Well, you must understand that New Eden's legal code is much different from the DOOP's. On New Eden, all violence is forbidden. Even in self defense."

"What sort of morons would make self-defense illegal?" Leela exploded and raised her fists. Amy reached out and put a restraining hand on her as Marston recoiled in fear.

"Careful. All conversations are recorded here. Anything you say will be used in the trial." Marston whispered. Leela and Amy stared about the cell looking for hidden cameras or microphones. Marston sighed, "They are well hidden. They are everywhere on New Eden."

"Well, then, there you go." Amy said, "They should have a vid of the robot attacking us and Leela having to defend us from all being killed."

"Unfortunately, the robot disabled the surveillance system just before it came to your table. There is no record of the shooting. As far as the New Eden legal authorities are concerned, Ms. Turanga brought the weapon in and attempted to kill the robot known as Bender and killed the waiter as part of her plan. The other crew members are part of the conspiracy."

Leela jumped up and yelled in rage, "That is the most….the most….the most…..I can't even think of a word to emphasize how stupid that is. While Bender can be a pain in the ass, I don't want to kill him. And everyone else at the table can testify to what happened. And why would I shoot Hermes and the Professor?"

Marston had shrank back into his chair and then put up a hand in warning. "Please, Ms. Turanga, remember the surveillance. Anything you say or do will be part of the trial."

Sitting down, Leela calmed herself and stared angrily at Marston. "What are you doing here? Do you plan to help us?"

"Goodness, no. The DOOP cannot intervene in internal affairs of an associate member. Actually, I expect that you will see your court appointed attorney tomorrow. He or she spent a few hours reviewing the case and will enter your plea at the trial."

"What? How can there be a trial or plea without us being present?" Amy said in disbelief.

"Oh, it's all quite civilized. In truth, it is a fairly expeditious legal system. No waiting around for months to go to court. No, the New Edenites get them over with quickly. Quite admirable, if you ask me."

"But still, shouldn't we have a say in our defense?" Amy asked as she grabbed Leela's hand and whispered for her to calm down. Leela made a visible effort at restraint.

Marston smiled, reached over and patted Leela's knee. Leela's eye narrowed and she said "Move it or lose it!"

Marston hastily pulled his hand back. "Please, Ms. Turanga, all these violent emotional displays are only adding to their case against you. Try to remain calm and I will explain what will happen."

Leela took a deep breath and nodded. Amy felt Leela's hand tightening on the chair armrest. Marston, oblivious, began to talking in a pedantic tone.

"You see, New Eden's legal system is quite efficient. Innocence or guilt is determined by a review of the facts aided by the surveillance system vids. The three judges listen to the prosecutor present the case. Then the defense attorney will explain the client's role in the event. If the evidence is clear that the client is guilty, the defender will submit a guilty plea and the case moves onto the penalty phase. Now here the defense attorney will use all of their skills to get the minimum sentence possible. I've watched some vids of several cases and, believe me when I tell you; it is the most exciting 30 minutes of lawyering I've ever seen."

"That's insane, not to mention, totally unconstitutional." Amy cried.

"Well, it's in accordance with New Eden's constitution." Marston stood to leave. "I'm sorry but I have to meet with the judicial procurator to discuss how to pay any fines. I'm going to be sending Ms.Guarani over to meet you later. She's our resident legal person and will assist in ensuring that you are treated fairly. She'd have come with me but she had to attend your trial as the DOOP representative."

Leela exploded. "That's it? You aren't going to do anything more for us than give us some legal hack to explain why we're getting screwed. We're DOOP citizens for crying out loud."

Marston paused and looked at Leela. "But that doesn't count on New Eden, Ms. Turanga. My role is to explain your position as DOOP citizens on New Eden." He stopped and said sadly, "You should have stopped for the brochures. They are really quite reasonably priced." Marston knocked on the cell door and left.

Two hours later, the cell door opened and a tall heavy set woman entered carrying a small briefcase. She was a buxom fortyish platinum blonde wearing a dark suit with a pearl necklace. She strode into the room silently and sat down at the table. Opening a small briefcase, she looked at Leela and Amy with tired eyes. She waved at the chairs with tobacco stained fingers and said, "I'm Bambi Guarani. Don't ask and don't say a word. The Edenites are major snoops. Under the terms of federation membership, they're not allowed to but they do it anyway."

Leela and Amy sat down. She smiled, showing discolored teeth. Leela and Amy could smell the tobacco on her.

"Hate coming to this damned place. They won't let me smoke around here. Self-righteous bastards!" Bambi growled. "Okay. Fat boy Marston probably told you I'm your legal contact with the DOOP. Yes?"

Leela and Amy nodded.

"Well, let me clue you in right now. I won't be able to do a damned thing for you other than let you know what will happen."

Leela opened her mouth to speak but Bambi waved a hand at her. "I'll do all the talking for now. There'll be time for questions later. Understood?"

Leela nodded. Bambi smiled again and pulled some papers out of her briefcase. "Your trial was held this afternoon at one o'clock. Turanga Leela was found guilty of an act of violence and manslaughter in relation to the death of the robot designated Z-1289G. That's the waiter. You were also found guilty of an act of violence and assault on the robot designated Bender E. Rodriquez. Amy Wong was found guilty as a primary accessory. Your other friends were found guilty as secondary accessories."

Leela and Amy sat in horror as Bambi calmly read the verdicts. She looked at them and said quietly, "That's just the verdict. They don't need you for the trial. They never do. You'll be sentenced tomorrow."

Leela asked, "What will the sentence be?"

Bambi looked grimly at her, "For Ms. Wong, it will be a stay here at the Calming Center until an unseemly large fine is paid. For you, it will be a life sentence on one of their Re-education farms."

Leela felt faint. Amy started crying. Bambi looked at them for a moment. "Truthfully, you are the first non-Edenites to be charged with a capital crime in over a century. Most of the tourists who violate the non-violence statute are merely fined and released since they usually commit minor infractions. You have been charged with something that hasn't occurred since the Navy stopped making port of calls here ninety years ago."

She paused to look down at her papers again. "Your friends were fined and released to the DOOP consul's office. They have been returned to your ship."

Leela took a deep breathe and said, "Amy, stop crying." Then, looking at Bambi, she asked, "Everyone was released?"

"Yes. Hubert Farnsworth, Hermes Conrad, Percy Scruffington and John Zoidberg were all turned over to the DOOP representative, meaning me, about ninety minutes ago."

"How are Hermes and Professor Farnsworth?" Leela asked trying not to giggle at Scruffy's real name.

"Conrad had a minor wound but a bit of a concussion. He's got a bad headache but should recover. Farnsworth had to be operated on due to his age. He'll be fine. He'll just need to rest for a few days. However, he had traces of an illegal narcotic in his blood but since he wasn't carrying anything, the Edenites just doubled the fine on him. Fat boy has taken the liberty of automatically docking your company, Planet Express, for the fines and the court fees. And the lawyer fees, of course. They always get paid first."

"The professor? An illegal narcotic? N'uh-uh. Not the professor," said Amy as she dried her face.

"Sorry dearie, but he had traces of Forget-Me-Not in his blood. It's on the DOOP restricted drug list. New Eden uses the same list. If Farnsworth had been carrying, he'd be in a cell next to you."

"What about Bender?" Leela asked.

Bambi looked at the paper. "Hmm, the robot, Bender, was deemed too damaged for further use. He and the deceased robot you plugged will be recycled."

"Anything on why the waiter attacked us?" Leela asked.

"Evidently your robot friend stole some money from the Robot Mafia. They put out a contract on him and this Z-1289G took the opportunity to collect."

"The waiter was a Mafia hit-robot?" Leela asked in alarm.

"No. It was just a waiter. It seems the Robot Mafia sent the contract out via the Robotic Internal E-Mail Web. I guess the waiter saw Bender and decided to take a chance on making some money."

Bambi reached into her pocket and brought out a small device that looked like a voice recorder. She turned it on and smiled.

"Okay, now we can talk freely. If they're watching, they'll see a vid loop of us sitting around. If they notice the deception, we'll have about five minutes before the guards come. More likely, they won't be watching as the human wardens are lazy lot. Now, listen carefully. This place is a hellhole. The ruling elite are the descendants of the original colonists. Everyone who settled here later is treated like serfs. They keep Utopia and some beach resorts as tourist attractions but won't let anyone out into the other areas. We have only sketchy reports of massive slave-labor camps and extensive repression. The Edenite elite are devout pacifist lawyers and have ruled that there will be no weapons here. The robot cops carry stun guns mostly to defend the elite from the serfs."

"If there are no weapons here, how'd the waiter get one?" Leela asked.

Bambi laughed. "Dearie, there is no such thing as a perfect system. I can think of at least a dozen places to purchase firearms in Utopia alone. God knows, how many are out in the hinterlands."

Bambi shook her head. "Anyhow, the elite act like as if they're some purebred nobility and mistreat the serfs badly. They won't let them live in Utopia; only out the hinterland under the eyes of the robots. The elite don't work much except as lawyers or judges. They live off the proceeds from the tourist trade and selling serf-made products. But they're corrupt as hell. The only reason Wong is going to be locked up is because they found out she's the daughter of the rich Mars Industrialist. They're going to get a big ransom for her before she can get out. Ms. Wong, would your father ransom Turanga here too?"

Amy gasped. "No, daddy won't spend a dime if he doesn't have too. I'm not too sure he'll get me out. We aren't on the best of speaking terms right now. He and mom are mad that I won't churn out some grandchildren."

"Hmm, too bad. They're also keeping your robot because they plan to collect on the Robot Mafia's contract." Leela and Amy looked shocked and Bambi laughed. "I did say that they were corrupt bastards."

Bambi looked at her watch. She waited for two minutes and said, "Guess they're not watching. Okay, looks like we go for plan B."

"What's plan B?" Leela asked.

Bambi smiled and said, "Just be ready to move. Sleep with your clothes on tonight and be alert."

Leela stared hard at her and then said, "Who the hell are you?"

"Dearie, you don't need to know. Stay calm and be ready." Bambi reached over, turned off the device and placed it back in her pocket. "Do either of you have any questions about your trial and sentencing? If you have any messages you would like to send to your family, inform the guards and they will deliver them to us after reviewing them."

Leela and Amy shook there heads. Bambi winked at them and left the cell. Amy turned to ask Leela something but Leela shook her head and put her finger to her lips. She said quietly, "Let's get some rest. It's going to be a long day tomorrow."

Fort Thunderbolt, Da Nang 4 -
Major Smith was happy. After nearly three months, he and Rand were finally able to work on their real mission on Da Nang. They'd spent two weeks at Maug Naval Base waiting for a convoy to Da Nang. When they finally got one, it had taken nearly three weeks to get there although Da Nang was only two weeks away. The endless course changes due to fear of "stealth" raiders had added a whole week to the trip. They had arrived at the asteroid naval base in Da Nang's system where they transferred to a Navy lander. The lander gingerly picked its way towards Da Nang. The orbital approach, known as Scrapyard Alley by the sailors, was littered with debris from the destroyed moon and wrecked ships.

Smith's lander had come through safely enough and had deposited Rand and him on a huge mountainous plateau on a large island called Souvema. The gigantic military base on the plateau was known as Fort Thunderbolt and housed large underground chambers that the Army was filling with supplies. Smith knew about the plan to withstand a siege here and did not envy the lot of the troops who would man this place. The Persae had used biological weapons on Earth in their past attacks and, if the reports were true, they would be out to kill as many humans as they could this time around. It would be very grim time here when the war started. He hoped he could complete the mission before that happened.

On arrival, Smith had found a message from the Chief of Staff, General Abrams, informing him that his mission was on hold while a new diplomatic effort was being made. "We don't want to do anything to tip the applecart while the striped pants set are trying a new approach. Probably won't amount to anything but we will make every effort to reach an honorable peaceful settlement with the Persae. That means you wait. Sorry, Bert, but in the meantime, you can have fun interrogating the Da Nang natives and getting yourself use to the wonderful weather. - Abrams, CoS"

So Smith waited and acclimated himself to the atrocious weather on Da Nang. It was hot and humid. The atmosphere was mostly overcast and the sun shone as a dull glow in the sky. It rained a lot; mostly as a misty drizzle but sometimes there came torrential downpours. The islands were jungle covered with a few mountains and hills. The weather was so bad that only the big Navy landers could fly safely. Another factor was the electromagnetic effect. Nothing electronic functioned very well here. It was a miserable place for the groundpounders out in the jungle bases around the plateau trying to keep the bugs out while the engineers prepared the redoubt. That had evened the odds for the natives against the high tech DOOP military. It also meant that robots couldn't function there without shielding around their positronic brains. Since that was too costly a modification, the military did without. This had caused Smith some trouble as the Navy didn't want to take Rand onto the planet but he had shown letter from the Chief of Staff directing everyone to assist Major Smith without any questions and gotten Rand onto the lander.

The war was a throwback to ancient times. The troops patrolled the jungle looking for bug infiltrators. They were without air support since the light craft could rarely fly and the Navy landers were barely armed. None of the high tech sensor equipment functioned with any reliability so a lot of the fighting was line of sight which wasn't far. The radios that the troops used were the old fashioned large backpack types that had too much static and were short ranged. "All in all," Smith thought, "a really bad place to fight a war but the Persae couldn't ignore it and the Army intends that the Persae come down into the mud with them. We could tie up a large force here for quite a while."

One of the beneficial side effect of the atmospherics was that it slowed his chameleon chip cycle time. He took longer to change shapes and he found that his human form was the one generated most often. He thought if he had time later, he'd get someone to check the chip and see why it was happening. He figured it was the electromagnetic interference. If that was the case, some scientist might be able to find a way to disable it. Something to think about later, he hoped. Right now, he had to focus on the mission and the bugs.

The bugs were a purplish semi-humanoid species. They had normal humanoid upper bodies but their legs were hairy and bent at strange angles. They had two antennae on their heads causing the DOOP soldiers calling them bugs.

Smith spent a lot of time interrogating bug prisoners about the alien allies they called the Bzr'cka (Barcha). That was the term he'd discovered when reviewing interrogation reports from Da Nang while on Earth. The bugs couldn't describe the Barcha because they had to wear full containment suits when on the planet. If the Barcha were Persae, as Smith believed, then there was something about Da Nang's screwed up atmosphere that was poisonous to them. That meant if the humans could isolate it, they could possibly develop a biological weapon against the Persae. Such a weapon could be the means to force the Persae to negotiate with the DOOP. At least, that was Smith's proposal to the Chief of Staff. General Abrams had been horrified at the idea of using biological weapons but the desperation of the DOOP for a means to avert the looming war was so great that the general had no choice but to approve Smith's plan.

At least the time spent on interrogations had proven useful. Several bugs had confirmed the existence of the Bzr'cka and the fact that they wore containment suits which the bugs referred to as 'outer skins'. One bug prisoner, a clan chief named Trll'zch (Trelck) had given Smith valuable information. Trelck had been quite cooperative with Smith. He had talked at length as to why his people, the Clxx'ct were opposing the humans on Da Nang. Trll'zch said that the Klikcit were extremely xenophobic. They hated outsiders and wanted the humans gone from Souvema. Any act was allowed to drive the humans off Da Nang. Unfortunately for them, Da Nang was in a very valuable strategic location in relation to the Persae. That meant the humans had to stay so the DOOP had tried to negotiate. The Klikcit had rejected any offer for Souvema and the DOOP decided to stay by force. At first, it had been fairly easy. The marines under Brannigan weren't hard pressed to hold Souvema. After the moon was destroyed, everything changed for the worst. After heavy casualties, Brannigan was recalled and sent back to the Nimbus. The Army was given command on Da Nang.

Trll'zch said that his people tolerated the Bzr'cka because there were so few and they promised to leave as soon as the humans were driven off. Trelck had been a prisoner of the humans for more than a year and had found he liked them. He had learned some English and was able to follow Smith without the aid of a translator. He had recognized Smith's uniform insignia indicating that he was Special Forces. Trelck said he had been captured by human troops bearing the sign of the sword with crossed arrows. He thought it an honor to be captured by the humans' elite forces.

The Navy Intel liaisons were desperate for information on bug kamikaze launch sites but the chief said that information was held only by the high chiefs. He did not know where the kamikazes launched from. Although the chief had no information that could help the Navy, he had given Smith what he wanted. Trelck said that he had seen several Bzr'cka in the Ashowa Valley near the foot of the Myshonko hills. Now Smith knew where he needed to go. He only needed permission.

Now, after two months at Fort Thunderbolt, that permission had come. Smith and Rand were headed to Fire Support Base Aberdeen near the Ashowa Valley. They would train up with a Special Forces team for a few weeks and then head into the Ashowa to hunt Barcha.

New Eden, Barnard's Star -
Leela was lying awake in her bed at two in the morning. The cell lights were on in a dim mode that allowed the spy devices to continue their monitoring. Suddenly the lights went out. In the faint distance, Leela could here a klaxon sounding. There was muffled bang out in the hall. Leela woke Amy and, grabbing a mattress, pushed her under the table. She jammed the mattress between them and the door. Amy tried to speak but Leela said, "Keep your mouth open and cover your ears." Amy complied with a puzzled look.

There was an explosion outside the door and it bent inwards until its hinges broke. It crashed onto the floor with a bang. Leela peeked out from behind the mattress but could not see anything in the dusty darkness. Suddenly a light shone in from the door and she could hear a voice saying, "Hello, is anyone at home? Perhaps you'd like to go for a ride or maybe even see some new places?"

Leela crawled out from under the table and smiled. "Zoidberg!"

Zoidberg was hovering in the air just outside the cell door with the aid of a rocket pack. He had two others in his hands. Behind him, down the corridor, there was a large hole in the ceiling.

"Yes, it's Zoidberg. And who else were you expecting? The Space Pope?"

He handed Leela and Amy the two rocket packs. As they put them on, Leela asked, "Where are the robot guards? Or the human ones?"

Zoidberg smiled, "Well, they seem to have all decided to take a nap. Now hurry, we are running out of time." He turned and moved out through the hole in the roof.

Leela and Amy followed him and were surprised to see the Planet Express ship hovering over the prison. Quickly they were on board and removed the packs. Zoidberg was smiling foolishly at them as he closed the hatch. He turned and said, "Hurray! Zoidberg's good friends have returned safely."

Leela began to push by him but Zoidberg stopped her and said. "We need to wait for a moment; Hermes is going to go recover…."

He didn't finish as the ship suddenly zoomed away from the prison. All three of them tumbled to the deck. Zoidberg ended up lying underneath them both and laughed.

"Are you two coming onto Zoidberg?"

Leela and Amy both went "Eeeww!" and scrambled up quickly. Zoidberg rose up to a sitting position and said, "As I was saying, before you both jumped on me, Hermes is going to recover Scruffy."

Suddenly the ship lurched to a halt. This time they were able to keep from falling over but Zoidberg laughed again. "We need to move off the hatch opening or Hermes will drop us out. Yes he will."

They scrambled away and, sure enough, it opened to allow Scruffy to fly in. He was holding Bender's head. The hatch closed and Scruffy put Bender's head on the deck. He began removing his pack. Zoidberg eyed Bender and asked, "Where's the rest of him?"

"All there was. Scruffy thinks the rest of him has been recycled. Reckon that they kept his head to ensure they could collect the Robot Mafia's money."

Amy looked at Bender's head in horror. Leela made a low growling sound and raced up the ladder to the bridge. The others followed as quickly as they could. Leela found Hermes, a bandage around his head, sitting in the pilot's seat. He was directing the ship into orbit. Leela made Hermes get out of the chair and she took over the ship. She turned it back towards the planet.

"Crazy woman! What are you doing?" Hermes shouted. "We're trying to escape from dis messed up planet!"

Leela smiled evilly. "I want to make sure they remember us."

Hermes blanched and cried, "Now, Leela, we don't want to be using any weapons here. That would set de entire DOOP after us. I'm not going to lose my job because you want revenge."

Leela grinned and turned the ship in the direction of Utopia. She ran the engine up to maximum and flew right over the residential district at low level. The intense sonic boom shattered every piece of glass in the city.

"How's that for an act of violence, you miserable sons of bitches!" She shouted. Cackling gleefully, Leela drove the ship into space.

Soon they were headed out of Barnard's Star's system. Leela turned to Hermes. "Alright, out with it. What happened while we were locked up?"

Hermes grinned. "You'll have to axs Scruffy and Zoidberg. I was asleep until a few hours ago."

Leela and Amy looked over at Scruffy who shrugged. "Scruffy just followed directions."

The two women stared at Zoidberg who laughed. "Yes it was all Zoidberg's doing. And why not, he is a doctor, you know."

Leela sighed. "Let's hear it."

Zoidberg danced about happily. "It started when Miss Guarani came to arrange Zoidberg's release. She had already had the professor and Hermes taken back to the ship. Once we arrived on the ship, she explained your situation to me because I'm a doctor as you know. She recognized that I was a professional. Maybe my doctor's clothing gave it away." He patted the tunic he was wearing. Leela scowled and Zoidberg stopped talking, then smiled again. "She said unless Amy's father paid ransom, neither of you would be getting off the planet for a long time. My experiences with Mr. and Missus Wong told me that waiting for ransom money was not the ideal solution and told her so. She then laid out the plan for getting you out. She was a marvel she was. She knew everything about the prison. Even drew us a map, she did. She told us that the New Edenites don't trust their rohbut protectors, so they have a manual shutdown device installed in all rohbuts and they had a control switch in the prison. There was also a secret tunnel from the prison, so the New Edenites could escape in case the prisoners got loose. Miss Guarani did not think too highly of the New Edenites. Cowards she called them and lots worse. Words, I cannot repeat in front of you ladies. Oy vey, such a potty mouth you've never heard."

Leela snapped, "Get on with it."

"She said it would be easy to break you out. We waited until two o'clock as she told us to do, then Scruffy flew over by rocket pack and entered the tunnel. He found the main control center. After knocking out the human on watch there, he shutdown the prison's power. The rohbut shutdown switch was in the same room and, Vi-ola! All the rohbuts took a nap. The other humans ran out the tunnel like scared scuttlefish. I had gotten Hermes awake and he flew the ship over the prison. I made a hole in the roof and you know the rest."

"She seems rather well-informed." Leela asked bemused. "Who is she?"

"In my opinion," Zoidberg said seriously, "she may be a member of DOOP Intelligence."

"You don't know nothing about it!" Sneered Hermes. "What would a crackpot like you know about DOOP Intelligence? A woman that smart could only be a member of the DOOP bureaucracy. She's not a muscle bound dimwit like most of dose Intelligence types."

Zoidberg looked blankly at Hermes. "Know nothing about what?"

Hermes smiled in contempt. Leela stared suspiciously at Zoidberg. He looked back at her and waved his mouth tentacles at her. "Zoidby is very happy his good friends are safe. But aren't we supposed to be somewhere?"

Leela grimaced and looked down at her Wrist Computer. "Fry's graduation. It's today at noon. We'll have just enough time to make it."

Amy looked about and said, "Where's the professor?"

Hermes said, "He's in Leela's cabin. He was hurt badly enough for dem to do surgery. It's not good for a mon his age to get shot. They gave him some pain medication that has him out cold."

"Bambi said something about him using an illegal narcotic. Forget-Me-Not, wasn't it Leela?"

"What? That's crazy talk. The professor would never use drugs. Besides, he has everyone in the company tested randomly. No way, he'd be using narcotics. No, no." Hermes said firmly, shaking his head. "Oww. That hurts." He put his hand up to his head and touched the bandage. "My head is aching. I'm going to lie down myself for a while." Shaking his finger at Leela, he said angrily. "I wish I'd never let you talk me into dis." And then he went aft.

After Hermes left the bridge, Leela looked at Zoidberg and asked, "Do you think it's true? You do take care of the random drug tests for the company."

Zoidberg shook his head. "I do the tests but the professor has only done it once and I let him just bring the specimen in. It wouldn't be too hard to substitute. But Professor Farnsworth, a drug addict? I can't believe it."

"What is Forget-Me-Not?" Amy asked.

Zoidberg shrugged. Scruffy, who'd been standing next to the bulkhead smoking his pipe, spoke up. "It's a drug for forgetting things. It's not cheap but it helps dull painful memories. Long ago ones mostly. It also makes you giddy. A euphoric is the word they use to describe it. But it can make you a bit wacky upstairs. Addictive too."

They all stared at him in shock. Scruffy smiled. "Scruffy is an educated man. Knew someone who took it. It helped him get over making a mistake that killed a lot of folks. Eventually he went into a suicide booth. Couldn't deal with the side effects."

"What would the professor want to forget?" Leela asked. No one answered and she turned her attention back to piloting the ship.

She boosted the power up to maximum and set course for the solar system and Mars.

DOOP Naval Vessel Nimbus -
Zapp had called Kif to his quarters. Kif prayed it wasn't another grooming task. He stopped at the cabin door and brushed some dust off his dark blue coveralls. He raised his green hand and knocked tentatively on the door.

"Enter." Zapp's voice boomed out over the door's comlink. Kif sighed as the door opened. Zapp was sitting on his heart-shaped velour covered hoverbed. He was, as usual, naked save for his bathrobe. Kif groaned softly and walked over to the bed. He came to attention and saluted. Zapp gave a half wave that passed for part salute and part direction for Kif to sit down. Kif sat down. Zapp was mouthing the words of a piece of paper that he was reading. Kif knew that Zapp was not very well educated. His family had bought him a degree and then arranged a commission. Zapp quickly tired of the task and handed Kif the paper. "Read this new order, Kif, and tell me what you make of it."

Kif looked the order over. He looked up again at Zapp who was staring at the photo of Leela on his nightstand. Kif began reading aloud. "From ComSec Four to CO, Nimbus: Captain Brannigan, you are to move to sector Episilon Four 37/25 and assume command of Task Force 237. Your command will patrol the listed sector to hunt for the raiders that are preying on our convoys to Da Nang and prevent any unauthorized vessels from entering the sector. Task Force 237 will consist of the Nimbus, light cruiser Sobutho, destroyers Wales and Harding, and frigates Gamling, Chi-Ling, Seahorse and Cossack. See attached file for rules of engagement and security protocols. It's signed by Vice Admiral Y. T. Tsing, the commander of Sector Four. As I recall, Sector Episilon stretches from Da Nang to Maug. Well Captain, it seems we are going to be seeing some action."

"Ah! A Task Force command! Do you know what that means, Kif?" Zapp asked excitedly as Kif quietly read the attached file.

"More work for me," Kif thought cynically. He saw Zapp looking expectantly at him. "Er, no sir."

"It means that the brass is thinking about giving me my stars. Think of it, Rear Admiral Brannigan. By the planets, I like the sound of that."

Kif recalled that Zapp's great aunt was a Vice Admiral in charge of the Naval Bureau of Personnel so it was a possibility. "God forbid." Kif whispered under his breath.

"Alert the crew." Zapp said as he rolled out of his bed. He slid out of his robe causing Kif to turn away disgustedly. "Get the ship headed for the new sector."

Kif headed for the door, thankful to get out without losing any dignity. Zapp was headed for his personal shower when he stopped and said. "Kif, see if you can secretly spread the word about me getting my stars. It will boost morale."

"Yes sir." Kif said knowing quite well that it was unnecessary since Zapp would be telling everyone he saw.

"And Kif, before you go, I need your help with a private matter…."

"Not the ointment. Please God, not the ointment." Kif prayed silently.

Zapp continued. "..concerning that special ointment for my boil."

Kif shuddered over the thought of applying ointment to Zapp's boil especially as it was located right on his butt. "God must be testing me," he thought sadly as he turned to face Zapp who already had his naked back to him. He winced at the sight of Zapp's butt. Sighing, he reached for the ointment.

Planet Express Ship -
Leela sat alone on the bridge. It was nearly six o'clock in the morning and everyone else was asleep. She felt exhausted. She hadn't slept too well the night she was arrested on New Eden and then had lain awake all night waiting to see what Bambi's Plan B was. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small compact with a mirror. Looking at herself, she tried to brush a few strands of loose hair back into place.

"Ugh, what a sight. Fry will probably run screaming when he sees me." She thought as she saw the redness of her eye and the dark ring under it. She sniffed. "And I could use a shower."

Deciding that a shower was what she needed the most right now; she looked down at the Wrist Computer on her forearm and linked to Amy's com. She had to let it beep for a full five minutes before Amy's sleepy voice came on.

"Amy, I want you to come up and take the controls. I need to get some rest."

"Leela, why can't Zoidberg or Hermes do it? I've hardly been asleep more than two and a half hours."

"Hermes is injured. And there's no way Zoidberg is flying my ship. You've had nearly three hours of sleep. You're young. You'll be able to function on a little sleep. I just need to get a shower and a few hours sleep."

Amy grumbled but finally said she'd be up in a few minutes. Twenty minutes later, a sleepy-eyed Amy came onto the bridge.

Leela, feeling irritable at the delay, got out of the pilot seat and was telling Amy about the course and speed. Amy looked at the indicators and said, "Leela, have you been running at max power all this time?"

"Yes. If we're going to reach Mars in time for the ceremony, we need to scoot. At maximum power, we'll reach Mars about ten o'clock. Enough time for all of us to get cleaned up and get to the stands."

"Yeah, but this engine is that relic that the Professor bought. I don't know if it can run at max drive power for extended periods. Look how close all the indicators are to the alert level." Amy said with a concerned voice.

Leela felt her frustration level rising. She snapped at Amy, "You're the damned engineer. Keep it running. I don't care how. Use spit and duct tape, but get me to Mars by ten."

Amy looked hurt as Leela turned to head back to the cabins. Amy muttered under her breath in Martian, "Crazy one-eyed cow. One day, you'll get us all killed because you can't admit you love Fry!"

Leela had only just gotten back to the shower when the alarm began sounding. Leela raced back to the bridge to see Amy over at the engine consol.

"What is it?" Leela shouted over the klaxon alarm as she slid into the pilot's seat. The computer spoke first. "Warning. Engine shutdown imminent." Leela looked down at the console. The engine indicators were fluctuating.

Amy said in a frantic tone, "The modulator for the flux capacitor is failing. If it goes, we'll be without any power but the batteries. I'm trying to ramp down the drive engine's power level."

"Warning. Engine shutdown imminent." Leela cursed and ordered the computer to shut off the alarm. The bridge went quiet and then the lights flickered and went off. Battery lights came on. Leela stared down at the darkened pilot station and then looked over at Amy. "Well?"

Amy was staring at the engine panel. "It's gone. The drive engine just shutdown."

Zoidberg, Scruffy and Hermes arrived on the bridge at that moment. All of them began talking at once. Leela yelled for them to shut up. She looked over at Amy who was shaking her head.

"Okay, Amy, tell me the damage."

"I won't know until I can check the modulator. If it's not damaged too badly, I might be able to get it working at some level of control. It means a spacewalk. I'll have to go outside to check it. Meanwhile, all we've got is battery power."

Hermes demanded angrily. "What is de modulator and why is it broken?"

Amy turned to him. "It's the processing unit for the flux capacitor. The flux capacitor is the main controller for the drive engine. No modulator, no flux capacitor, no drive engine."

"Why isn't dere a redundant unit?" Hermes continued in his angry tone.

"Because it's an ancient piece of crap the Professor bought cheap. They couldn't afford redundant modulators in those days. Just like we're too cheap to have a new engine." Amy said spitefully.

"So we're dead in space?" Asked Zoidberg.

Leela looked out the bridge window. "No, we're still going at some speed towards Sol. Without correction though, we'll probably miss it by several light days. Then we'll just keep going on unless we run into anything. Of course, we might be slowed by gravitational pull from any objects we might encounter. Then again, we could just plow into something. In other words, we're going to need to fix it."

Leela took a breath. "Okay. Here's what we need to do. Scruffy, you help Amy get suited up. Zoidberg, you can help too. Hermes, you and I are going to start shutting down all unnecessary power usage. We need to conserve the batteries since they are powering our air recycler. If that goes, we're in serious trouble."

"Why can't the ship's computer control de drive engine?" Hermes asked.

"It does. It uses the modulator. But with the engine down, the computer is in minimum power mode to conserve battery power. It can only keep environmental going." Leela said.

Hermes responded quickly. "Why not radio for help?"

Amy said sadly. "We've only got one long range radio and it's been on the fix-it list for a while now. No money for parts to fix it."

Leela looked at the assembled crew. "Get going!"

Amy, Zoidberg and Scruffy headed for the cargo hold. Leela began shutting down lights on the bridge as Hermes took the various cabins.

Thirty minutes later, Leela and the others were listening as Amy went out to inspect the engine.

"I'm pulling open the drive's inspection hatch now."

"Roger." Said a suited-up Scruffy. Leela had him standing by in a spacesuit in case Amy needed help or rescue.

"Aieee!" Amy began shouting in Martian. "Useless piece of antiquated crap. The insane Gweilo professor should be sent to the hell of cheap devils!" She reverted back to English. "It's fried! The whole damn modulator is toast. We are so boned!"

"Alright, let's not panic," Leela said calmly. "Come on back in and we'll try and figure out how to jury-rig it."

"Leela, we are going to need an advanced computer to run the flux capacitor." Amy said as she headed towards the airlock.

"Let's use de useless piece of junk that pretends to be de ship's computer." Hermes said.

'We can't. It's too big and, any way, we'll need it for environmental control. Without it, we'd have a hell of a time surviving." Leela responded.

A few minutes later, Amy came in through the air lock holding a charred electronic device about the size of a toaster. The others stared at it. Leela could see the beginnings of panic setting in. She spoke calmly. "Okay, what can we do to repair it?

"Nada." Said Amy just as calmly. "It's totally frelled."

"Very well. The next question is; can we replace it?"

"Well, we could if the professor would keep an inventory of spare parts." Amy said sarcastically.

Hermes rounded on her. "Stupid girl! Inventory costs money. Planet Express ain't gots any money for inventory."

"Okay, okay. Let's not get off onto tangents here." Leela said forcefully. "Amy, can we use something else in its place?"

"Well, if we had something that we could program to replace the modulator. It's not a simple computer though." Amy said. "We'd need a really powerful computer and about eight hours for me to program it. Maybe one of the portables….oh, spluh, not enough memory."

Zoidberg spoke up. "How about we cannibalize all the available computers for memory and put it all into one?"

"Shut up Zoidberg." Hermes snarled.

Amy thought about it for a moment and then shook her head. "Might not be enough. The modulator is a specialized controller. It's not just a computer. It's a sensing device that takes feedback from the flux capacitor and provides tuning. The flux capacitor controls the fusion drive. Without it, the drive engine would just run up to overload and explode. We'll need a really high capacity computer with a buggalo load of memory and some sort of feedback loop."

"Okay. It doesn't mean we should do nothing." Leela said crisply and gave orders for everyone to bring every electronic device they could lay hands on.

After a noisy and destructive search by the crew, Amy found herself in the cargo hold looking at a table with two personal computers, a portable, Leela's Wristcomp, a coffee maker, and some video equipment. Leela and Amy spent next hour trying to adapt various computer parts but finally Amy threw up her hands and said it was useless. "Like I said, we're boned."

Hermes came over and confronted Leela. "So what are we going to do now?"

"I don't know." Leela admitted. The crew suddenly looked deflated. Leela gave them a defiant look. "Don't give up hope yet. I need to think on it for a while."

The crew perked up a bit. Leela decided some busy work was in order. "Okay, Hermes start going through whatever lockers there are and give me an inventory ASAP. Scruffy, you start cleaning up this mess. Get it in some logical order."

Hermes and Scruffy nodded and started on their tasks. Zoidberg looked expectantly at Leela. "Something for Zoidby, maybe?"

"Yes, I have a very important job for you." Leela said with a serious look. "I want you to go up to the bridge and keep watch for any potential hazards ahead of us."

Zoidberg's face fell for a moment but then he smiled and said, "Zoidberg won't let you down, Captain." He turned and headed for the bridge. Amy grinned at Leela and winked. Leela motioned for Amy to follow her into the cabin. The professor was lying on the bed in a drugged state with a bandaged shoulder. Leela checked on him for a moment and then turned to Amy. To Amy's horror, Leela started crying.

"Leela, what's the matter? You've been in tougher spots than this."

"We're not going to make it to Fry's ceremony. I promised him I would be there. I can't bear the thought of how hurt Fry's going to be when I don't show up." She sobbed.

Amy grimaced and then said angrily, "Fry's ceremony? You can't be serious. We're stuck on a ship running on batteries with the possibility of all of us dying a horrible death and you're worried that you'll miss an appointment. Will you wake up?"

"I can't help it. I feel like I'm letting him down."

"Look, it's not like Fry's going anywhere. He'll still be assigned to Mars. So you miss the graduation; you can make it up to him later. Fry's a forgiving type. Now, concentrate on getting us home first. We can figure out how to square it with Fry later."

Leela nodded, dried her eye and thanked Amy. "Okay. I'm better. Let's go. We'll just have to make something out the pieces-parts and hope it works."

They went out to help the others scour the ship for something to help them replace the modulator.

Six hours later, they were sitting around the table in the cargo hold looking at a huge assortment of machinery. Amy was soldering a circuit board into the side of a jury-rigged computer. Several other parts were stuck onto it, giving it a very distorted shape. She turned off the solder gun. "Well, I don't know if this will work but it's all we got." She said tiredly.

Leela looked about at the crew. They were all showing signs of exhaustion. Leela said, "Amy and I will go out and install it. Everyone else is to try and relax."

Forty minutes later, Leela and Amy were back, taking off their spacesuits. Amy was cursing in Martian. Zoidberg looked at them and said sadly, "Buptkus!"

Hermes and Scruffy sagged into their chairs. Amy threw her spacesuit helmet against the wall in frustration. Leela barked at her. "Knock it off!"

Hermes looked a Leela. "What are we going to do?"

Everyone was staring at her. Leela felt empty. She didn't know what to do. Then an idea occurred to her.

Leela turned to Zoidberg. "Okay Zoidberg. Wake the professor up. We're going to need a genius to figure a way out of this."

Hermes said, "No. We don't want to be doing that. He's been hurt badly. And letting this crackpot touch him could kill him."

Leela gave Hermes a stern look. "We need the professor. Or we die. It's that simple. Get going Zoidberg."

Syria Planium Military Base, Mars -
Fry couldn't believe that no one had shown up for his graduation ceremony. "But Leela promised," kept going through his head. Sergeant Jubal, seeing that Fry was alone after the ceremony ended, walked over to him.

"What's the matter, Fry?" he boomed.

"No one came to watch my graduation. Leela promised she would." Fry couldn't keep the hurt out of his voice. Jubal grunted, recalling the one-eyed woman who'd had threatened him a couple of months ago.

"Have you called them? Maybe something came up?"

"I called but no one answers. I called Planet Express, Bender, Amy and Leela. No one is home."

"Maybe they had an emergency. Perhaps you should go home to New New York and wait for them. It's not good to ship out without seeing your friends and family."

"Maybe they didn't want to come. Maybe she found someone."

Jubal looked down at Fry. Jubal thought, "Fry's a good kid. Not too bright but he had worked hard to get his medic quals. He has some good qualities about him." Jubal guessed that the others missing the ceremony didn't matter as much to Fry as much as Leela not showing.

"Listen, Fry. When you got your ass whipped back in October, that one-eyed gal came here to get you out. I spoke to her and convinced her to not try it. She cared about you then, I doubt she's changed." Jubal felt saddened. Nothing worse could happen to a trooper than getting "Dear Johnned" just before deployment. He hoped that wasn't the case.

"Look, Fry, my missus and me have a little place outside the fence. You're welcome to come home with me and spend your two days with some friendly faces."

"Thank you, Sarge. But I think I'll go to New New York and see what has happened to everyone." Fry said, tears welling in his eyes. Jubal shook his head as he watched Fry walk towards the hoverbus for the Navy transport and thought. "Sweet Zombie Jesus, I hope he doesn't go and miss the deployment on Monday."

Planet Express Ship -
Rousing Professor Farnsworth had not been easy. Zoidberg had looked through the meager medical cabinet and then decided on shaking the professor while shouting at him. Hermes had been outraged but the professor woke up.

"Wha…, where am I? Zoidberg, what are you….Are you in trouble with the king again?"

Zoidberg smiled. "He thinks we are back on Decapodia. He's remembering the time he met me. He saved Zoidberg that day."

"Shut up, you fake." Hermes shouted. "And stop shaking him. He's awake now."

The professor looked around at everyone and then, noticing the bandage, touched his shoulder. "Owww. How did this happen?"

"Don't you remember?" Zoidberg asked. "You were shot by that crazed rohbut."

"Bender shot me? That ungrateful…"

"Not Bender. Some waiter. Look, we'll explain it all later. We've got a more immediate crisis." Leela said.

"Crisis? What crisis?" He reached up and touched his forehead. "Oooh, my head. I need to go to the restroom first."

Scruffy whispered to Leela, "Scruffy thinks he's going to get his stash."

Leela grabbed Hermes and said, "You and Scruffy go help him and make sure he doesn't take anything. We need him alert."

Hermes' eyes widened but he helped the professor up. The professor tried to wave them off but finally relented and went into the restroom with them. They came out twenty minutes later. Hermes was shaking his head and muttered, "I hope I dies before I gets that old."

The professor tried one more time to go back to the restroom but Leela insisted that he pay attention. She explained what had happened to the modulator and what they had tried to do. During the explanation, the professor kept eyeing the restroom and an irritated Leela reached over and grabbed his face. "Professor, we really do need your undivided attention on the problem at hand."

"Oh, very well. I understand you've damaged the ship again and can't fix it. Show me what I've got to work with."

They took him to the cargo hold and showed him the table of electronic devices. He walked along it, pausing now and then to pick up an item or turn one over. This took a considerable amount of time. The crew looked expectantly at him as he reached the end of the table.

"Well, I must say you have certainly gotten an unusual collection together but there isn't anything here that can be of any use. Now if you don't mind, I'd like a few moments alone in the restroom." He headed back towards Leela's cabin.

Leela grabbed his arm and said angrily. "We know about the Forget-Me-Not. So you can forget it. No restroom trips for you until you get us out of our fix."

He stared at her. "You know? How…oh, yes the hospital. They'd run blood tests. I guess you want an explanation?"

"Not right now. What I want is for you to show us why you have a reputation for being an insane genius. We need something to get us out of this fix or we're all going to die."

"Okay. Let me ponder it. Is it okay if I go to the restroom? I do my best thinking there."

"Not a chance. You do your thinking right here." Leela said pointing at the chair.

So the professor sat down and stared off at the bulkhead. Leela and Amy sat next to him. The others sat on the floor around him. The professor was mumbling to himself in a droning tone. Pretty soon the crew began dropping off to sleep one by one.

Leela awoke to find everyone asleep and the professor gone. She cursed and jumped up. Racing down to her cabin, she found it was empty. She headed to the bridge to find the professor sitting in the pilot's chair. He was chuckling to himself and writing on a pad of paper. Leela looked over at the ship's chronometer. Five hours had passed.

"I've slept for five hours. Oh my God. The professor has gotten his fix and we're all going to die." She thought, angry at herself for falling asleep.

The professor hearing Leela's footsteps turned and smiled. 'Good news. I think I've got a solution to the modulator."

Leela looked at the professor with surprise. "What is it? Some new invention that you haven't even invented yet?" Then remembering how useless most of the professor's inventions were. "Is it something that will actually work and can be built with what we have on board?"

"Oh my, yes. It's really quite simple. The modulator is a very complicated device like a brain. To replace it we need another very complicated device. Like a brain for instance. I thought about using Amy's but we really lack the necessary equipment." He sighed. "Too bad, I really would have liked to see if I could use a human brain to interface with a flux capacitor. I must remember to investigate that once we get home."

Leela silently thanked God and said, "So what did you come up with?"

"Well, once I eliminated using a human brain, I thought about the ship's computer. It's partially positronic but that was a non-starter. It's too large. It would be difficult to synthesize a working modulator from it. Too large for what we need. And, of course, the inevitable crisis with environmental control would be another problem to be resolved. Needless to say, I was stumped. I walked about for a bit until I hit on the solution."

Leela suddenly realized what the solution was. "Bender?"

The professor reached down below the chair and picked up Bender's head. He smiled. "Yes. Bender. I found him in the other cabin. What happened to the rest of him? Why is he shutdown?"

Leela explained what had happened on New Eden. They had rescued Bender but left him shutdown until they could determine how much damage had occurred to him.

"Remarkable!" The professor said. "I wouldn't believe that Bender could get himself into so much trouble."

Leela asked hesitantly. "Will this damage Bender in any way?"

"Well, a little. His positronic programming will be affected. He might even lose his developed personality."

"I don't know about this. We ought to ask him if he's willing to do it. After all, he has rights too. It's in the constitution."

"Hmmm, perhaps you're right. By the way, you could really use a shower."

Planet Express, New New York -
Fry had searched everywhere. He had been to Leela's, Amy's and Bender's and his apartments. No one was home. He searched Planet Express from top to bottom. He was sitting at the table when he realized that the ship wasn't in the hanger.

"Wow. I must be whacked out from too little sleep. I guess they went somewhere. How do I find out where?"

Fry sat and thought for quite a while. He ordered some pizza. He sat and ate the pizza and washed it down with a six pack of LoBraus. While lying on the couch watching TV, it occurred to him how to find out.

"La Barbara would know." He shouted and raced to the vidphone. Quickly calling La Barbara Conrad, he waited for the phone to pick up. It connected but the screen remained blank.

"H'lo?" A sultry voice asked. "Who be dis?"

"La Barbara? It's me, Fry. I was trying to find out where Leela is." Fry said excitedly. The screen came on, showing Hermes' wife.

LeBarbara answered just as excitedly. "Fry mon. I didn't know how to reach ya. Is Hermes wit ya?"

"No. No one is here. I just got in from Mars. No one came to my graduation. I was hoping you would know."

"Hermes went out wit the others for a quick trip to New Eden and den on to your graduation. When they didn't get back last night like he promised, I called the Planet Express. No one answered. I panicked and called Space Rescue and dey is out looking for dem."

"You think something happened to the ship?" Fry said, suddenly feeling ill.

"Maybe. We can't know until we know. Just do like I'm doing, Fry mon. Pray."

Planet Express Ship -
Leela and the professor went back to the cargo hold and woke up the others. Leela explained what the professor planned to do. She asked if they should wake Bender.

Hermes said. "He's always been a shirker and freeloader. The heck with waking him up. Stick him on it now."

Zoidberg said. "Bender is my friend. Sure he's mean to me. But at least he pays attention. I vote no."

Scruffy added. "Scruffy's union. Robots steal work from my union brothers."

Finally, Amy said. "This isn't right. Bender should be allowed to choose. We can't sacrifice his personality for our own safety."

Leela glanced over at the professor. He smiled and said. "Oh my, no. I'm Bender's employer. It wouldn't be right for me to vote on what to do."

Amy looked at Leela. "You're the deciding vote. You can vote to use Bender without his permission or trust in his love of his friends."

Hermes laughed. "Ha! That green snake only loves himself. Wake him and we're zombie bait."

All of them stared at Leela expectantly. She closed her eye and then said quietly, "Bender can be a real pain and he did get us into this mess. On the other hand, every living thing has a right to have a say in what happens to it." She sighed and rubbed her eye tiredly. "Oh, dammit. Wake him up."

The professor reached behind Bender's head and opened a small port. He pushed the button there and Bender suddenly opened his eyes.

"Hey, whoaaa, whoaaa. I'll give you the autogr… Hey, where am I? And where's my body?"

"The rohbut mafia had you shot. The people on the planet melted your body down. And we're stuck on the ship with no power." Zoidberg said quickly.

"What? The robot mafia? Melted my body?" Bender said in an agitated voice.

"Look, Bender." Leela said, unsure on what to say. "We are in a bad fix. We need to attach your brain to the engine's flux capacitor or we're all going to die of lack of oxygen."

"You might but I won't. No way." Bender snapped. He paused for a moment then said. "Hey, wait a minute. Isn't the flux capacitor that old model the crackpot bought?"

Amy nodded. Bender suddenly looked lustful. "Wow, those old flux capacitor broads were hot and steamy. A little interfacing might not be too bad."

"Um, Bender, we'll have to shut you down while you're connected. And reprogram you." Leela said, ignoring Hermes trying to hush her.

"Reprogram me? Not a chance. I'm not letting anyone reprogram me. You can forget it."

"Bender, we're going to die. Don't you care?" Leela asked.

"Bender, we're going to die. Don't you care?" Bender mimicked sarcastically. "I'm the one who's getting reprogrammed. All you meat tubes have to do is to learn to do without air."

Amy leaned forward. "Bender, we can just shut you down and do it anyway. Leela felt we should give you the opportunity to volunteer to help your friends."

Bender went quiet and then, "You'd do that to me." Hermes shouted, "Yes!"

Leela reached down and picked up Bender's head. "No, we won't. But we need your help. Bender, we've been your friends for over two years. We need you now. I promise you we'll fix you back the way you are."

Bender looked at her. "No way. I mean it. Stop it. Stop looking at me like that. Ahhhhh, crap. Let's get it over with. I'm only doing it for you since Fry likes you so much. If it was just the others…."

Leela smiled. "Thank you, Bender. I promise that we will get you back."

Amy said, 'We'll make you better."

"Like hell you will. I want to be exactly the way I am right now. Damn you, Amy, you better not change one thing about me."

Amy smiled as the Professor leaned over and switched Bender off.

Aboard the Nimbus -
Zapp had called together the ship captains of his new task force. Kif had read the order and all the associated files. The captains had asked a few questions that Zapp had let Kif answer. Now Zapp intended to give a speech to set the tone for Task Force 237.

"Now that my first officer has explained our mission to you, I'm going to give you my expectations for this command. First, I've decided to change the Task Force name. 237 is so uninspiring. From now on, we'll be known as Task Force Brannigan."

Kif groaned silently. The assembled captains were quiet. Never having served under Brannigan, they only knew him by his reputation as a heroic leader.

"We're going into dangers way. It will be a hard and dangerous task but I will not abide any shirking of duty. I'm going to run Task Force Brannigan like a fine tuned piano and play it until sings like a chorus. The cunning enemy is out there waiting for any mistake, any sign of weakness. And I intend use all my trumps in what will be a well played chess match."

Kif realized that Zapp was about to go onto one of his longer mixed metaphor rants. He decided it wouldn't do to confuse the others right away. He had to shut Zapp up before he completely revealed himself as a fool. If this task force was to perform its function, they needed the assembled ship captains to believe that Zapp knew what he was doing. Kif leapt up out of his chair and began clapping his hands. The other captains surprised, stood also and joined him. Zapp stopped in mid-speech and waved his hand in delight.

Kif said, "Thank you, Commodore. A truly inspired speech. I'm sure I speak for all the members of Task Force Brannigan when I say we're going to take your words to heart."

Zapp beamed and said, "Thank you Kif. That was my intention."

Determined to stop Zapp from going on, turned to the officers and said, "You've got your orders. You know the mission. And Captain Brannigan has given you his vision. Now, you have only to go out and fulfill that vision." He turned to Brannigan and saluted. "Sir, with your permission, I'm sure the commanders need to return to their ships to implement your orders."

Brannigan nodded and brought himself to full attention. He saluted. The officers saluted back and filed out of the wardroom to head for the shuttle bay.

"By the planets, Kif. I'm going to really enjoy this new command. Let's set course for danger and spit in it's ear."

Kif nodded, thinking of what needed to be done next. "By all means, Commodore."

Giving Brannigan the empty title that came with task force command was a stroke of genius, Kif thought, he'll be happy the rest of the day. It occurred to him, that he now had the key to handling Brannigan.

Planet Express Ship -
The Professor and Amy began working on Bender's programming. Leela had everyone else put into induced sleep to reduce the amount of oxygen being used. She covered them up with every available blanket. She wanted to take a shower and sleep herself but the batteries were slowly being drained and she shut off everything but environmental control and the lights that they needed to program Bender. The ship grew cold. The professor did not seem to notice it but Leela and Amy had to wear several layers of clothing. Leela spent most of her time on the bridge watching the stars.

After a few hours, Amy called Leela down to the cargo hold and said that they had run into difficulties.

"Bender's programming is a lot more complex than we thought. He's got several different programs built into him. The professor says it something he's never seen."

The professor looked up from Bender's head. "Yes. When I worked for Mom, I did some work in robotic programming. The original positronic programming schematic was created by a truly mad genius named Gysberg. He hated humanity and created the initial "Kill All Humans' subroutine. We've never been able to create a positronic brain without that initial subroutine built into. Oh my, I always feel inadequate when I think of Gysberg. Imagine being able to build something no one can live without but will kill them given the chance." He shook his head in admiration.

"So what did you do?" Leela asked.

"Hmmm, what? Oh they went ahead and used the program. They had little choice since no one could replicate positronic brains without it. But Wernstrom's great grandfather came up with the bypass program. By Jove, he never ceases to brag about his great grandfather." The professor said angrily. "Now, they overlay Wernstrom's bypass routine onto each positronic brain. The bypass only allows the "Kill All Humans" routine to run while the robot is shutdown for recharging. Basically it only runs while the robot is asleep. Ingenious. Too bad it was a Wernstrom."

"Professor; the problem?" Leela said, her teeth chattering.

"Oh, yes. Bender has another subroutine built into his programming. This subroutine required him to be at a certain place at a certain time. A suicide booth, I believe. And it had a protect function with it. Unfortunately the protect function is hampered by Wernstrom's bypass because it is very similar to the "Kill All Humans" routine. We're unable to determine what purpose the protect function fulfills since the bypass seems to have scrambled it. I'm surprised Bender is able to function at all with these programs running. He seems to have developed a schizoid personality based on the mismash of the conflicting programs."

"Interesting but can you reprogram Bender to run the flux capacitor."

"Yes, but it's going to take a while. Perhaps a day and half." Amy said.

"A day and half!" Leela gasped.

Planet Express Building, New New York -
Fry heard the phone ring. It had been two days since he had contacted La Barbara. He'd had called almost hourly after that until La Barbara told him that she'd call him if she heard anything. Fry was too nervous to do anything but pace or drink beer. He slept fitfully. He never before had worried so much about one person. Now here it was, Sunday night at eleven o'clock and the phone was ringing.

"Please God, let it be good news." Fry prayed. It was something he hadn't done since his father had told he was old enough to decide whether he should to go to church on Sunday. It had disappointed his mother but Fry hadn't been interested in religion. Now he was hoping God didn't hold it against him. He picked up the phone. It was La Barbara. She was practically screaming joyfully into the phone.

"Dey found dem. Dey found dem." She yelled as the view screen came on. Fry could see the tears in her eyes. "Dey lost dere engine but managed to get it fixed. Dey will be back on Earth tomorrow afternoon. Fry? Fry? Mon, did you hear me? Dey's coming home."

Fry felt tears welling up in his eyes too. He silently thanked God and, clearing his throat, said, "Thank you, La Barbara. That is good news."

"Good news? What's wrong wit you, mon? It's fantastic news. Everyone is safe and dey is coming home."

Fry gave a sad smile. "La Barbara, I'm shipping out at 0400. I'll be on a troop transport to Da Nang by 0800."

"Boy, call dem Army folks up and get a delay. Tell 'em you needs an extension cause you gots a relative that was just rescued."

"I tried. They're not giving extensions without proof of death. I'm stuck."

"Fry mon. Don't go. Take de French leave. Wait for Leela, mon. She would want you to, I know."

"No. I can't. I want Leela to be proud of me. If I go AWOL, I'm just the same slacker she's always despised. Besides, I took an oath. It's time such things started meaning something to me." Fry said, shaking his head.

"Mon, my Hermes could arrange someting for you. Don't go, Fry. Look, I'll be over tomorrow afternoon wit Dwight and Cubert. Wait for us."

"Sorry, La Barbara. I can't. I'm going to be leaving Leela a package. It will be in my locker. Can you let her know it's there?"

"Sure Fry. I really wish you'd stay. Leela will be wanting to see ya."

"Thanks, La Barbara. I'll see you in a year."

"I'll pray for ya, Fry mon. You keep safe."

Fry hung up. He went over to his Army duffel bag and pulled out a large brown envelope. Sitting down at the desk, he took a pad of paper and began writing. He went through several pieces of paper before he got what he wanted. He put the paper in the envelope and stuck it in his locker. He looked around the Planet Express building regretfully. He walked over to the wall by the lockers. Taking his pocket knife, he scratched "Philip J. Fry was here." Then he added a small heart with a PF + TL inside it. Satisfied, he called a cab. When it arrived, he gave the address for the space port.