Fan Fiction

Futurama: The Fifth Season
By Craig Williams

Episode Four - "Pieces of Amy"

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fan fiction includes Leela. Honest!

Lucy Moon whistled happily as she walked the last quarter mile of her journey to work. To date she'd only been working at Planet Express for three weeks, but so far it was a huge improvement over the lowly supplies job she'd had at the hospital. Last week she'd joined the crew for her first trip into space since she'd been unfrozen, delivering heat lamps to Titan. She still remembered the feeling of wonder she'd had when the ship's orbit took it around the side of Saturn facing away from the Sun, and she'd seen the planet in crescent, casting a shadow over its rings.

Then there were her co-workers. At the hospital they'd mostly been cocky doctors and hassled nurses, none of whom gave Lucy the time of day. Her Planet Express co-workers were a much livelier bunch. Amy had made her feel welcome from the moment she started working there, while Bender was a great guy to hang out and watch TV with. Angie seemed a little uptight at times, but Lucy figured it was because as ship captain she was in a greater position of responsibility, especially in light of the recent upsurge in raider activity. And then there was Philip. Lucy couldn't believe how much he'd changed from the sixteen-year old nerd who spent most of his free time down the arcade. Granted, he still had his flaws, he was still lazy, TV obsessed, and prone to bouts of extreme idiocy. But at the same time he'd always been very sweet and likeable, and now he also seemed a lot more confident and sure of himself than he used to be. It was just a shame that he was so taken with that Leela woman, otherwise Lucy might've asked him out herself. Oh well…

When Lucy arrived at the Planet Express building she saw that the sliding door was stuck open. Entering the lobby, she watched as a man she hadn't seen before set up a stepladder next to the door, then climbed up and began poking at the door mechanism with a screwdriver. He had a thick moustache, and wore a dark blue boiler suit and a brown cap.

"Hi," said Lucy. "I'm Lucy Moon… You work here?"

"Uh-huh," replied the man, his attention still fixed on the door. "Scruffy. The janitor." Scruffy tapped the glass of the jammed door. "Door's broke."

Lucy watched Scruffy continue to struggle with the mechanism. "Maybe there's a penny stuck in there," she suggested helpfully.

Scruffy turned his head to look at her, a frown on his face. "Why a penny?"

Lucy shrugged. "I don't know."

Scruffy's frown deepened. "You stick a penny in there?" he said accusingly, indicating the mechanism with his screwdriver.

Lucy began to worry. Why did this guy think she'd deliberately jammed the door? "I'm just making small talk!" she said defensively.

Scruffy pointed the screwdriver directly at Lucy. "Scruffy finds a penny in there, he's taking you down." With that, Scruffy turned back to the door and started working on the mechanism again. Lucy crept away to the safety of the elevator. Okay, so maybe ALL her co-workers weren't that great…

Lucy entered the conference room to find Fry, Bender, Amy and Angela sitting round the table, waiting for the morning staff meeting to begin. Bender and Fry were arguing over the results of the weekend's football games. Actually 'arguing' wasn't quite the word. Bender had placed Fry in a headlock and the delivery boy's face was turning purple. "Admit it Fry, the Packers suck! Brett Favre XVI is the worst quarterback since Brett Favre XV!"

Angela was asleep, her head and arms resting on the table, while Amy watched her, a concerned look on her face. Lucy sat down next to Amy. "Is she okay?" she asked.

"I don't know. She hasn't been getting a lot of sleep recently. Says she's having nightmares and stuff, and waking up in the middle of the night."

"Has she told you what these nightmares are about?"

Amy shook her head. "We tried asking her a couple of weeks ago, but she refused to tell us."

"It sounds like something personal she doesn't want to discuss with her friends. But maybe I should ask her about it later on. I mean, I know a couple of therapists she could talk to. At the very least I might be able to give her something to help her sleep."

Lucy and Amy continued to watch as Angela's slumber became increasingly fitful, and she started muttering in her sleep. Suddenly she woke up with a startled cry, causing the other four to jump, and Bender to release his hold on Fry. Briefly disoriented, Angela looked around for a couple of moments before remembering where she was.

Amy placed a hand on Angela's shoulder. "Angie, you okay?"

"Y-yeah," stammered Angela, her heart still racing.

"Was it another nightmare?" Amy added. Angela nodded her head in reply, just as the Professor and Hermes walked in. In his hands Hermes held an extremely large jewellery box.

"Good news, everyone!" announced Farnsworth. "You'll be making a delivery to the planet Securisphere, the most well-protected planet in the known universe!" Farnsworth pressed a few buttons on the console set into the table. The lights dimmed, and above the middle of the table appeared a transparent hologram of a large silver ball. At the centre of the ball was a smaller sphere that shone a bright yellow.

"As you can see," began Farnsworth, "the Securisphere is, in fact not a planet, but rather a gigantic Dyson Sphere."

"Hey!" yelled Lucy indignantly, "Tyson fears no-one!" Seeing the puzzled looks on her co-workers faces, Lucy sunk down in her chair and grinned sheepishly.

Farnsworth looked annoyed at having being interrupted. "I said DYSON SPHERE, moron!"

"Oh." Lucy giggled nervously. "I guess that'll teach me to wash my ears out."

Angela tried to get the conversation back on track. "Professor, what IS a Dyson Sphere?"

"I'm glad you asked that. A Dyson Sphere is-"

Fry cut across the Professor. "A Dyson Sphere is a massive metal sphere built around a star. The inside surface of the sphere can be used to live on, with the star itself providing an unending source of light, heat and power." For a few moments everyone sat in silence and stared at Fry in disbelief.

Hermes was the first one to find his voice. "How in de name of Ja do you know dat?"

"It was on that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. You know, the one where that ship's crashed on the outside of a Dyson Sphere and they find Scotty inside a transporter beam." Fry sat back smugly. "Now that's edutainment!"

Lucy pondered Fry's explanation. "So what, this Dyson Sphere's like the Death Star, or something?"

Fry held his hands up. "No, they're totally different!"

Amy cut in. "Is it anything like the Near-Death Star?"

"No! The Death Star and the Near-Death Star are both the size of a small moon, but-"

"Ahem!" Farnsworth cleared his throat and glared at Fry, displeased to have his thunder stolen. "As I was saying, this particular sphere was built to provide a secure environment for the galaxy's most priceless treasures." Farsnworth's tone lightened as he began to describe the wonders inside the Sphere. "Van Gogh's paintings, the Crown Jewels of Betelgeuse VII, the Xyphon Pearls, the complete DVD collection of Home Improvement, all of these are safely stored inside the Securisphere. The hull of the Sphere consists almost entirely of Tri-Dolomite, the toughest substance known to exist. Nothing - lasers, phasers, even Fry's early morning breath - can cut through it."

Farnsworth pressed another button, and the hologram focused in on one particular section of the sphere, where a small opening had begun to appear. "The only way in or out of the Sphere is through this hatch. Only ships that have registered their I. D. with the Sphere's controllers, along with the purpose of their mission, will be granted access inside. Once you enter, the hatch is closed. You conduct your business inside the Sphere, then you have to be granted clearance before you can leave again."

Farnsworth pressed a final button, the hologram vanished, and the lights returned to normal. "And that, everyone, is what a Dyson Sphere is. Thank you for your time." The Professor stood up and began to leave the room, leaving the others looking at each other, confused.

"Professor," called Angela. "What about the mission?"

Farnsworth stopped in his tracks. "The wha?"

"The mission! To the Sphere?"

"Oh yes, the mission!" Farnsworth returned to the table and sat down again. He took the jewellery box off Hermes and opened it for everyone to see. Inside was a large green gem that sparkled in the light, drawing 'ooh's and 'aah's from the assembled crew. "This is what you'll be delivering to the Securisphere. The priceless Quantum Gemerald!"

"It's beautiful!" remarked Amy.

Angela was mystified. "Hold on a minute, wasn't the Quantum Gemerald stolen from the Museum of Natural History last year by those superheroes turned evil?" Fry blushed and tried to look nonchalant. Bender just sat there, silently recalling the memory of his biggest ever heist.

"Oh my, yes," replied Farnsworth. "However somebody anonymously sent the police a tip-off that the New Justice Team had handed the Gemerald to the Zookeeper, along with a map showing the location of his secret hideout. After the military carpet bombed his hideout for ten days, he surrendered and they were able to recover the Gemerald." Fry wondered who'd tipped off the police. He'd thought about doing it, but had been distracted by the All My Circuits marathon on TV. And there was no way Bender would've done it. Must've been Leela. Good for her!

"After the Gemerald was returned," continued Farnsworth, "it was decided that it was too risky to keep it in the Museum. So they've arranged for it to be stored in the Securisphere, and you're to deliver it today."

"What about raiders?" asked Angela. "We've come under attack from them three times in the last month."

Farnsworth smiled. "Not to worry. I've made plans for just such an eventuality." He began tapping buttons on the console. Again the lights dimmed, and another hologram appeared. This one was of the Planet Express ship. Attached to the top of the ship was a large black gun, similar in appearance to a large laser cannon, but with several scanning devices and electronic boxes added on.

Farnsworth indicated the cannon. "After the last attack I began designing an anti-raider weapon. It's tied in to the ship's sensors, you see. When the sensors detect a raider vessel approaching, it immediately activates the weapon, which targets the vessel, then fires a short, high yield laser pulse." A triangular raider ship appeared in the holographic field. Within a second the cannon had directed itself at the raider. A short burst of light emanated from the cannon, and the raider ship blinked and disappeared from the image, drawing murmurs of approval from the crew.

"That's great if there's just one or two ships," said Fry. "But a couple of weeks ago we ran into a whole fleet!"

"That's no problem. Since the cannon is tied into the sensors, it reacts instantaneously to any raider ship. And the recharge on the cannon is less than two seconds. Observe." Around fifteen raider ships now appeared in the hologram. The cannon moved quickly, systematically picking off raider ships, one every couple of seconds. "As you can see, the cannon is able to defeat large numbers of raider ships. I estimate that you could face as many as twenty-five ships at once and still come away unscathed!"

"That's brilliant, Professor," said Angela, now smiling. "I just hope we don't have to put that to the test."

"Don't worry. Nothing can go wrong!" Farnsworth closed the box and handed it to Angela, along with a small plastic card.

Angela examined the card. Printed on it was the company name and address, along with an itinerary of the mission. "Do we need this to get clearance to enter the Sphere?" she asked.

"Oh my, no! That's all been taken care of by the museum. No, THIS is to get you through Wiseman's new security checkpoint for cargo vessels! The bill was passed two days ago."

"Oh." Angela sighed as she examined the card. Since being swept into office on a wave of global paranoia two weeks ago, Wiseman had made sweeping changes, all in the name of 'global security'. Within days of his inauguration Wiseman had withdrawn Earth from the DOOP, and placed Earth's military space fleet - previously under DOOP command - under his direct control. In addition, he was using the money previously earmarked for DOOP contributions to tighten security at Earth's spaceports to frightening amounts. This had the effect of dramatically cutting alien immigration, but it had also had the side effect of damaging Earth's tourist industry, as alien tourists were dissuaded from visiting by the increased and intimidating security. So far Wiseman hadn't acted on his threat to detain aliens who'd served in Earth's military. However Angela silently believed it was just a matter of time, although she hadn't wanted to say anything for fear of upsetting Amy.

Satisfied that everything had been dealt with, Farnsworth stood up. "There you go then. Lift-off is in half an hour." Farnsworth left the table, followed by Hermes and the crew. As Lucy left the conference room a movement caught the corner of her eye. She turned her head to see Scruffy, holding a penny in his right hand, and glowering darkly at her. Lucy gulped, and trotted off quickly in the direction of her office.

Fry waited until everyone else had left the room, then went over to the videophone and picked up the receiver. He had arranged to go over to Leela's house during his lunch break, but now he wouldn't be able to thanks to this latest mission. Fry muttered to himself as he punched in Leela's number. He was becoming annoyed by the number of times he'd arrange to meet Leela, only to have it fall through because the Professor decided to spring a surprise mission on the crew. Today was especially aggravating as Fry had a surprise for Leela, and he'd hoped to tell her in person.

After dialling the number, Fry watched as the Sewercom logo flashed up on the screen. A few seconds later it was replaced by the image of Leela, sitting in her parents' living room. Fry opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when he saw Leela was attaching a cable from the videophone to her speech/text translator. The translator had trouble picking up sounds from the receiver, so it was easier to plug it directly into the videophone system. Once she'd finished, Leela gave him the thumbs up and looked up at the screen. "Hi. Couldn't wait till lunch break, huh?"

Fry nervously rubbed the back of his neck. "Er, yeah. About that. Look, the Professor's sending us on this mission that's gonna take up most of the day. I-I won't be able to meet you for lunch. Sorry."

The disappointed look on Leela's face made Fry's heart sink. "You're kidding. Again? That's the third time this week!"

"I know! I'm really sorry I can't make it. But I can make it up to you!"

"You can? …How?" asked Leela suspiciously.

"I was gonna tell you this over lunch, but I guess now is as good a time as any. After paying Amy's fine I still had some money left over from my lottery win. I've got a reservation at Elzar's for tonight, and I was hoping you'd join me for dinner. You know, just the two of us." Fry put on his best puppy-dog expression. "So will you come? Please?"

A look of uncertainty crossed Leela's face. "I dunno," she said hesitantly. "Thanks for the invite, but I don't know if I'm ready to come back up to the surface yet."

Fry groaned. "Come on Leela, you've got to return sometime, it might as well be tonight! You've got the translator now, so you won't have any problems talking with people. And I'll be there to keep you company."

Leela thought about what Fry had said. She DID want to go with him, but for some reason the thought of returning to the surface just freaked her out. In some ways it still felt to her like there was nothing left for her up there, now that whatsername - Alesia? ANGELA! - had her job, and the lease on her apartment had run out. On the other hand both Fry and her parents had spent weeks trying to persuade her to return, even if it was just to visit everyone at Planet Express. And she knew how disappointed Fry would be if she turned her down.

"Okay," she said eventually, "I'll go with you."

Fry smiled. "That's great! I'll pick you up around seven."

"I can't wait." Leela returned Fry's smile. "So what's the mission?"

"The Professor wants us to deliver that Quantum Gemerald thingy to some place called the Securisphere."

Leela looked mystified. "The Quantum Gemerald? I thought the Zookeeper still had it."

"Nope. The police got your tip off, arrested him, and got the Gemerald back."

Now Leela was really puzzled. "MY tip off? Fry, I didn't give them any tip off. For one thing we never actually found out where his hideout was. And I'd be too scared of what the Zookeeper might do to my parents. As far as I was concerned our involvement ended when we handed him the Gemerald."

A voice behind Fry piped up. "You handed him the WHAT?" Fry jumped, then spun round to see Angela standing over by the door. "How long have you been standing there?" he enquired defensively.

"I just came back to get my jacket. But long enough to hear what you just said." Angela walked over to the videophone and sat down next to Fry. "How could you two have given the Zookeeper the Gemerald?" she asked, puzzled. "The New Justice Team stole it in front of everyone in broad daylight!"

Angela looked at Fry, then at Leela, neither of whom were forthcoming with any answers. Then she remembered that Clobberella was a cyclops, and the pieces fell into place. "Wait a minute… Were you guys the New Justice Team?"

"That's right!" said Fry proudly. He sat back and waited for Angela to tell them how impressed she was.

"I can't believe the two of you! You pass yourselves off as superheroes, then steal a priceless gem and hand it over to one of the world's most notorious villains! Don't you realise that you guys were role models to kids everywhere?"

Leela's eye narrowed. "Let me guess. You must be Angela," she said icily.

"I am, but that's not the issue. Why did you steal the Gemerald in the first place?"

Leela gritted her teeth, and resisted the urge to tell Angela where she could stick the Gemerald. "The Zookeeper abducted my parents! If I didn't steal the Gemerald he was going to feed them to his mutant piranhas!"

"How on Earth did he know they were YOUR parents? I thought superheroes were supposed to keep their identities secret." Angela saw Leela flinch at her last comment, while the other side of the room suddenly fascinated Fry. "You DID keep your identity secret, didn't you?"

Leela cursed under her breath. Somehow she'd managed to talk herself into a corner. "Never you mind!" she said, a bit too abruptly for her own liking. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. The Museum got the Gemerald back, the Zookeeper's in prison, everybody's happy. Now why don't you get back to whatever you're supposed to be doing, and let Fry and me finish our conversation."

"With pleasure," said Angela huffily. She left the room shaking her head, leaving Fry and Leela alone again.

"Wow, what a self-righteous bitch!" snapped Leela after Angela left the room.

Fry tried to cool things down. "Actually she's really quite nice… at least when she's not being preachy."

"Yeah. And I'm sure that steel rod up her ass is just to help her posture." Fry and Leela both burst into laughter at the joke. As he laughed, Fry wondered what Leela would say if she knew Amy had made virtually the same joke about her a couple of years ago.

"There's one thing I don't understand," commented Leela after the laughter subsided. "If neither of us tipped off the police, and Bender didn't, then who did?"

Fry thought about it. "Was it your parents? They're the only other ones who knew what was going on. Maybe the Zookeeper held them prisoner in his hideout before meeting up with us."

Leela shrugged. "Maybe. I guess it must've been them."

Just then Bender's voice crackled over the intercom. "Hey Fry, get your ass down to the ship! Angie wants us to start the pre-launch checks, and she's really on my case!"

Fry sighed. "Duty calls. I guess I've gotta go."

Leela smiled. "Okay. See you at seven."

"See you." Fry put down the receiver, and the screen turned blank. As soon as it did, he leapt off the seat and pumped the air with his fist. "Yes! She's going out with me!" After doing a victory lap of the conference room, Fry stopped to catch his breath for a couple of minutes, then headed for the hangar bay.

Two hours later, the Planet Express ship had lifted off and was on course for the Securisphere. At his seat in the control room, Fry was busy working out how long they'd be in space. "Okay. We lifted off at quarter to ten, it'll take three and a half hours to get there, and three and a half back, and the delivery itself will take about an hour getting in and out of the Sphere. That means we'll be back on Earth by-" Fry did a quick mental calculation. "-Quarter to nineteen! Oh God, I'll be nearly twelve hours late!"

Behind him, Cubert laughed obnoxiously. "Moron. First of all, there's no such thing as 'quarter to nineteen'. It's quarter to seven in the evening. Secondly, you're out by an hour. We'll actually be back by a quarter to SIX. Idiot!"

Bender groaned. "Who keeps inviting this brat along, anyway?"

Fry sighed with relief. "Who cares? I'll be back in plenty of time for my date!"

"As long as nothing goes wrong," murmured Amy.

Fry snorted. "Jeez Amy, stop being so pese… pesa… stop being so gloomy! The museum's arranged everything with the Securisphere, we've got a security pass to get back to Earth, and we've got the Professor's new laser thingy to deal with raiders! What could possibly go wrong?"

"How about that?" said Bender, pointing at the cockpit window. Everyone turned to follow his finger. Outside they could see around a dozen vessels converging on their position.

Angela turned to Fry. "Are those what I think they are?"

Fry looked at his sensor readout. "Crap! It's raiders! Thirteen of them!"

Cubert rolled his eyes. "Wow, who didn't see THAT coming?"

Angela flipped a few switches on her control panel. "Okay, let's see if the Professor's weapon works. Bender, input the activation sequence!"

Bender typed a lengthy series of numbers into his console. A green light came on to indicate that the code had been validated. "Activation sequence inputted!"

"Amy, transfer engine power to the weapon!"

Amy hit a few buttons on her console, and everyone felt the ship slow down as power to the engines diminished. "Power transferred!"

"Activate laser!" Angela looked around the control room. No one was doing anything. "I said activate laser!"

Lucy leaned over Angela's chair and pointed at the control console. Angela followed Lucy's finger and saw a big red button marked ACTIVATE LASER. Angela blushed. "Just testing." Angela pressed the button. There was a sound like a huge generator starting up, and the lights in the control room flickered and dimmed. Outside, the massive laser began to move.

Fry continued to study his readout. "The laser's targeting the nearest vessel. It-" He was cut off when a blinding light from outside filled the control room. When it faded, the raider ship had disappeared from the readout. "Target destroyed! Laser targeting the next-" Again a blinding flash cut him off, again the raider ship in question vanished off the sensors.

Amy was astonished. "Wow, it's actually working! And we didn't need to fine tune it, or hit it with a wrench, or anything!" For the next few minutes the crew continued to watch as one by one, the raider ships were all wiped out. After destroying the final one, the laser returned to its original position, cut its motors, and the lights in the control room returned to normal.

"All raider ships destroyed!" announced Fry happily. "And we didn't even take one hit!" Amy, Bender and Lucy cheered the news.

"That's great," said Angela as she resumed course for the Securisphere. "And we've hardly lost any time. If we-" She was cut off by a sudden urgent beeping from Fry's console. "What's going on?" she asked.

Fry looked at the readout again. "There's another ship approaching, at high speed."

"Is it another raider?"

"I don't think so. It's the wrong shape."

Angela slowed the ship to a crawl. "We'll wait for it to get closer." The crew watched as the ship closed in on them. At first it was only a speck in the window, but as it moved closer they could make out more and more details. Soon it became all too clear what the ship was. Its shape was similar to that of an old Earth galleon, complete with sails and everything. The only major differences were the protective bubble over the upper deck, and the bristling lasers positioned all along the hull.

Angela became tense. "Uh oh, It's space pirates! Let's get out of here!" She increased power to the engines, and the Planet Express ship shot into the distance, pursued by the pirate vessel. Angela looked over at Fry. "How far away is it?"

"About five hundred metres, but it's still closing. We need to go faster!"

"We're already at full speed! How long before they're within weapons range?" Angela's question was answered as a couple of blasts rocked the ship.

"Why don't we use the Professor's laser?" asked Amy.

"The power drain's too big! If we use it again we might stall the engines!"

"It won't make any difference! They're catching up with us anyway!"

Angela nodded. "You're right. Bender, input activation sequence." Fry, Cubert and Lucy watched as the other three went through the laser operation procedure again. This time the ship ground to a halt when Amy transferred power to the weapon. Angela spun the ship around to face the pirate ship, now large in the window. "Firing laser!" she yelled, and pressed the button. Nothing happened. Angela pressed it several more times. Still no success.

"Erm, Angie…" Angela looked up at Fry, who was pointing at a message on his sensor screen: COMMAND INVALID. TARGET IS NOT A RAIDER SHIP.

"Damn that Farnsworth!" yelled Angela. "Amy, get us moving again!" Amy began to transfer power back to the engines, but before she could finish her task, laser fire from the pirates tore into the ship. It rocked violently, and Amy was sent hurtling towards Bender's seat. She cracked her head on the console, and slumped to the ground, unconscious. The crew sat stunned for a moment, before Lucy came to her senses and kneeled down to examine Amy's injury.

Angela forced her gaze away from the injured engineer, and looked over at Bender. "Can we use regular lasers?" she asked.

Bender studied his console readout. "Nope. That idiot Professor took them all offline when he installed his piece of junk."

Suddenly everything went quiet. "Hey, the lasers have stopped!" yelled Fry. "Does that mean they've given up?"

Angela watched as the galleon moved alongside their ship. "I don't think so. It looks like they're preparing to board us! Bender, break out the blaster pistols!" Bender stood up, opened an overhead locker, and pulled out four holsters. He passed three around to Fry, Angela and Lucy, then tied the final one round his 'waist'. Lucy and Fry carried Amy away from the door, while Angela ushered Cubert behind her.

For several minutes the crew waited in silence, before a loud metallic clang reverberated through the ship, indicating that the pirate ship had docked. Another minute passed, before the control room door slid open, and three pirates entered. One was well built and wore a red bandanna round his head; another had an eye-patch and a goatee beard. The third was distinctly taller than the others, wore a lot of expensive jewellery on his fingers and around his neck, and had an air of authority about him. Obviously the captain, thought Angela. All three were armed with old style cutlasses and modern blaster pistols.

The leader took two steps forward from his compatriots, and began flicking his cutlass around in a complex and bewildering series of parries and thrusts. Angela looked at Fry and Lucy, and could see from their faces that his party tricks had them mesmerised. Angela wasn't about to be intimidated. Coolly she drew her blaster, aimed it at the pirate, and pulled the trigger.

A pathetic stream of water shot out of the barrel, landing in a small puddle on the floor, a good six feet short of its intended target. For a moment everyone stared at the puddle in silence. Then the pirate leader came to his senses, drew his own blaster, and pointed it at Angela's head. "Drop your weapons. All of you!" Her hand shaking, Angela let go of her 'blaster', while the others untied their holsters and dropped them at the feet of the pirate. Cubert examined the blaster Angela had dropped. "So that's where my water pistol got to!" he exclaimed.

Down in the sewers, Nibbler lay curled up on Leela's bed, watching with quiet satisfaction as the young cyclops rummaged through her wardrobe, looking for the perfect dress to wear for her date. It had taken several years, but things finally seemed to be going right between the Mighty One and Leela. Of course, there'd been various obstacles along the way, such as the various romances the two of them had had with other people. Fry's various brief encounters hadn't concerned Nibbler too much, with the exception of that time he'd been forced to sabotage Fry and Michelle's attempt to freeze themselves until the year Four Thousand.

Leela on the other hand, was a different story. She hadn't been in as many relationships as Fry during the past five years, but when she was in one, she went into it heart and soul, fully committed. She and Adlai had gone so far as to consider adopting a child, while she'd even been willing to marry the abusive Alcazar when she thought the survival of her race depended on it. On those occasions Nibbler had wondered whether Leela really was the 'Other' spoken of in the Third Prophecy. But over the past year she'd warmed to Fry considerably, especially since she'd woken up from her coma.

Other romances besides, there'd been other complications, several of which had occurred since Leela found her true parents. The incident with the Zookeeper was one such example, and that was all down to Leela revealing her superhero identity to her parents because she didn't want them to think she was ashamed of them. If the police had somehow discovered Leela and Fry were involved in stealing the Gemerald (and knowing Leela's father's tendency to gossip it wasn't out of the question), both would've been imprisoned, and there would've been little Nibbler could've done about it. So instead he sent the police the tip off and the map, hoping that once they had the Zookeeper and the Gemerald, catching the New Justice Team wouldn't be a priority anymore.

Then most recently Leela lost her hearing, and her captaincy. This created no end of problems. Leela was becoming depressed and out of touch with what was happening on the surface, and her relationship with Fry was suffering badly due to a combination of his inability to learn sign language and Leela's impatience with him. There was also the problem of Leela's absence leaving Fry unprotected during Planet Express's often hazardous missions. Fortunately the replacement captain - what was her name? Aurora? ANGELA! - had a good head on her shoulders, and was doing an adequate job keeping Fry from harm. And since Fry got Leela the speech/text translator their relationship had improved again, which in turn had lifted Leela's flagging spirits.

"So what do you think, Nibbler? The black one or the pink one?" Nibbler looked up. Leela stood next to the bed, holding two dresses in front of her. One was the long black formal dress she'd worn to Fry's opera, the other the short pink dress she'd worn when she and Fry had kissed following her break up with Chaz. Nibbler gibbered and grunted unintelligibly. The pink one!

"I think we'll wear pink tonight," remarked Leela. She laid the black dress down carefully on the bed, then took the hangar off the pink dress. "If Fry wants an eyeful of cleavage, he's gonna have to work for it."

The Planet Express ship hung dead in space, the pirate ship still docked, while the pirates used a couple of one man pods to tow the laser cannon from one ship to the other. The pirates had searched the ship from end to end, but besides the cannon and the Gemerald had found little of value. In the control room the captain and the bandanna-wearing pirate were still holding the crew prisoner. The latter approached Lucy, who was looking after the still dazed Amy. When she saw the pirate approach she tried to back away, but found her way blocked by a console. The pirate drew his cutlass, and sliced it through the air a couple times, dangerously close to Lucy. The top two buttons of her blouse popped open, exposing her bra and an ample portion of cleavage.

Despite the situation, Fry couldn't help but be impressed. "Wow! How did you do that? OW!" he yelled, as Angela kicked him in the shin.

"It's all in the wrist," said the pirate. "Watch." He flicked his cutlass a few more times, and the remaining buttons popped off Lucy's blouse. The pirate swung his cutlass one more time, and the front of Lucy's bra burst open, leaving nothing to the imagination. Lucy squealed and held one arm across her breasts, glaring at both the pirate and Fry.

The pirate with the goatee entered the control room and went up to the captain. "The anti-raider cannon's on board, Captain Vans. We're installing it right now. And the Gemerald's safely stashed away in the hold."

"Good work, Seth." Vans surveyed the control room. His eyes came to rest on Bender. "You might be worth something on the black market. People are always looking for extra servants."

Bender crossed his arms and stared back at Vans. "Bite my shiny metal ass! Anyone who tries taking me gets their arms and legs removed. I did Ultimate Robot Fighting, you know!"

"Violence won't be necessary, I assure you." Vans reached into his pocket and pulled out a remote immobiliser. He pressed a button on it and Bender suddenly seized up, the lights in his eyes and mouth fading. Vans signalled to the bandanna-wearing pirate. "Douglas, take the robot to our ship and put him in the hold."

Angela took a step towards Vans. "Hey! You can't just abduct my-" She cut herself off as Vans pointed his cutlass directly at her throat. "Douglas," he instructed calmly, "the robot."

"Aye, captain." Douglas walked over to the prone Bender, and picked him up effortlessly, drawing gasps of astonishment from the Planet Express crew. Douglas tucked Bender under one arm and indicated Lucy with the other. "All right if I take the wench as well?"

Vans nodded. "Go ahead. I've seen the looks the crew has been giving each other recently. You could all do with some female company." Douglas grabbed Lucy, and ignoring her protests tucked her under his other arm, before leaving the control room.

Seth walked over to Amy. "I think I'll take you along while we're at it. You look like you know how to have a good time." He moved to grab Amy's arms, but each time she slapped his hands away. Losing patience, Seth swung his arm in a vicious backhanded slap that caught Amy square across the face. Her head spinning, there was little Amy could do as he slung her over his shoulders and marched out of the control room.

Vans turned to Angela. "It seems our business here is concluded. I suggest you don't try to follow us. Our sensors have a much longer range than yours, and without the anti-raider cannon you're no match for us."

"You won't get away with this!" yelled Angela as Vans turned to leave the room. "The space police won't stop looking until they find the Gemerald!" Vans waved a dismissive hand as he stepped through the door. Angela's voice began to quaver. "Doesn't anyone want to abduct ME?"

Vans paused for a moment, and laughed. "Are you kidding? Have you seen yourself in a mirror lately?" Without another word Vans left the room. The door shut behind him, leaving Angela shaking with fury. About half a minute later, the ship rattled as the pirate vessel disconnected, and Angela watched through the cockpit window as it flew off into the distance.

Fry's head popped up from a box he'd been rummaging through. "Hey, a sword! We've finally got a weapon!" He looked round and saw that only Angela and Cubert were there. "Where'd everybody go?"

Angela furiously grabbed Fry, and pulled him so close to her their noses were practically touching. "You know where you can stick that sword, Fry. Here's a hint - it's the same place they stuck my steel rod!" Angela stormed out of the control room, while a speechless Fry watched her exit.

Cubert had watched the whole incident, slack-jawed. "Wow. You really pissed her off this time." Cubert took a step back, half expecting Fry to lunge for him.

Instead, Fry continued to stare at the door. "You're right," he said softly. "I'd better go and apologise. You try and fix the engines, I know you know how." Fry left the room, and this time it was Cubert who was left speechless.

Angela was furiously pacing up and down the length of her quarters when there came a knock at her door. "Go away!" she yelled angrily. The person didn't go away. Instead the door slid open and Fry walked in.

Angela stared at him in disbelief. "I said 'go away'! How the hell did you manage to get in here without my permission, anyway?"

"The security lock doesn't work. Bender deactivated it so I could look through Leela's underp- I mean, because it was a fire hazard." Fry sat down on Angela's sofa. "Look, I came to apologise."

Angela stopped pacing and glared at him, arms crossed. "Do you even know what you're apologising for?"

"Yeah, that steel rod crack. Although it wasn't me who said it, it was Leela. In fact, I was actually trying to defend you!" Fry's tone became harsher as he realised he hadn't done anything wrong. "Wait a minute, I've got nothing to be sorry for! None of that would have even happened if you hadn't been listening in on our conversation! And in the control room just now, I was trying to find a weapon to fight the pirates, and all you did was jump down my throat! Shouldn't you be apologising to me?"

Angela was silent for a moment, as she desperately tried to think of a way to shift the blame back to Fry. "You-you were ogling Lucy's boobs!"

"So were half the people in the control room!"

Angela knew she was beaten. She sat down next to Fry. "You're right. I'm sorry I went off at you like that. It's just that I'm having a really crappy time at the moment, what with these nightmares and all."

"Yeah. And with what Captain Vans said to you just now."

Angela's head dropped. "And with what Vans said to me just now," she said in a low voice.

Fry moved closer to Angela and put his arm around her shoulders. "Look, who cares what that guy thinks? You shouldn't let it get to you."

"I can't help it," said Angela, a lump beginning to form in her throat. She pulled back her hair so that Fry could see the full extent of the scars running down the right side of her face. "I've had to live with this ever since I was a kid. The Orphanarium was the worst. I had six years of snot-nosed kids picking on me and calling me 'Scar Face'." Bitterness began to tinge Angela's voice. "Then there were all those times adoption agencies sent couples to the Orphanarium looking for kids to adopt. I kept hoping against hope that one of them would take pity on me and take me away from that place. But no, they all went for little Betty Blonde Bitch because 'she has such a pretty little face', while old Scar Face Angela gets pushed off to one side."

Fry silently listened; trying to think of something - anything - he could say to ease Angela's pain. The irony was that Leela had told him similar stories about her experiences as a child. In many ways Leela and Angela were much alike. If they could put this morning's argument behind them they might actually end up being good friends.

Angela continued with her story. "As soon as I was old enough I left the Oprhanarium. I moved to New New York and I got that delivery girl job at Mom's. Thirteen years I spent there, and in that time do you know how many times I was asked out on a date?"

"Two hundred and eleven?" asked Fry hopefully. Like anything else, it's either really large or really small.

"None. No I tell a lie. One. One of the girls set me up on a blind date with this guy. Probably told him I had 'inner beauty' or some such crap. Of course, when he actually sees me for the first time he realises that I'm lacking in the 'outer beauty' department, and that was the end of that." Angela's voice tightened. "And now I find out that I'm not even good enough for a bunch of sex-starved pirates. It just makes… makes me so… so…" The end of Angela's sentence broke off as she began sobbing pitifully, her head in her hands. For several minutes they sat there, the silence broken only by the sound of Angela crying. Fry began to feel uncomfortable, but he stayed with her, his arm still round her shoulders.

"I'm sorry, Fry" gasped Angela, as the sobs began to subside. "I'm not normally like this. I guess that guy got to me more than I thought."

"It's all right, Angie. Everyone goes through a rough patch sometimes. Leela went through one after she lost her hearing. And I went through one too. It was called the Nineteen-nineties."

Angela looked up at Fry, her eyes red and her face tear-stained, but with her lips curving into a slight smile. "Thanks, Fry."

The two of them sat in silence for several more minutes while Angela regained her composure. Finally she stood up. "Well, I guess we'd better figure out how to save the others and get the Gemerald back."

"How? They must be light-years away by now!"

"Don't worry, I have a plan. It's time to see if that brat Cubert can put his money where his mouth is. Follow me!"

"Okay, guys. I think I've figured out a way to sneak on board the pirate ship, get our crew and the Gemerald, and escape. Now the pirate ship's got about fifteen minutes head start on us, and judging from their last known heading their destination appears to be the Mas Mosely spaceport, a well-known wretched hive of scum and villainy. It's likely that they'll try to sell the Gemerald once they get there, so we'll have to make our move before they arrive. Now the first problem is actually catching them up. Cubert, did you manage to fix the engines?"

The three remaining crewmembers sat in the control room, Angela at the navigational console, Fry at his sensor grid, and Cubert at Amy's engineering console, smiling smugly. "Engines fixed, Captain. And now that dumb laser's been disconnected, we'll be able to provide more power to the engines, so the pirate ship won't be able to out run us again."

"Good. Now we need to figure out a way to sneak up on the pirate ship without them detecting us."

Fry snapped his fingers. "I know! What we need is something to make ourselves invisible."

"Invisible? But that's IMPOSSIBLE!" scoffed Cubert. "Look around, you moron. This is the real world, not some magic fairy story elf land!"

"You smug bastard!" yelled Fry, leaping up from his seat. "I'll kill you!" Fry lunged at Cubert, who fell off his seat with a squeal, cracking his head on the floor.

Angela quickly dashed over and checked Cubert's head. "Fry! That was totally irresponsible! Luckily he doesn't seem too badly hurt." Fry sat back in his seat, muttering under his breath. Yeah, right. How come when Amy injures Cubert it's funny and cool, but when I do it it's 'totally irresponsible'?

What does 'irresponsible' mean, anyway?

Cubert groaned and opened his eyes. "He's coming around!" exclaimed Angela. "Cubert, are you okay?"

Cubert suddenly sat up quickly, a triumphant smile on his face. "Better than okay. I've just figured out that we can use the ship's navigational deflector beam to make ourselves invisible and sneak up on the pirate ship!"

Angela scratched her head. "But I thought the beam was only used for deflecting space dust and small objects out of our flight path at high speeds."

"Normally, yes. But we can alter the frequency of the beam, so it also deflects light rays and sensor beams around the ship. They won't be able to see us coming, and we won't appear on their sensors!"

"I've got to admit, it sounds impressive. But can you actually do it?"

Cubert quickly tapped some buttons on the console, and sat back, the smug expression back on his face. "It's done."

"Great!" Happier now, Angela sat back down at her console and fired up the engines. "Now let's go and knock the Jolly out of their Roger." She pushed the throttle to maximum, the engines burst into life, and the ship was finally on the move again.

On the other side of the control room, Fry was looking round, bewildered. "Navi-what?"

Even with their new found speed advantage, it took the Planet Express ship nearly two hours to catch up with the pirates. On the positive side, Cubert's modifications to the deflector beam seemed to be working, as they'd managed to creep up alongside the pirates without being noticed. Fry had made a sensor scan of the interior of the galleon, and now the three of them were studying the schematic.

Angela pointed at one of the larger rooms on the ship. "This is the ship's hold. The Gemerald will be there, and probably so will Bender. Fry, once we're on board I want you to go down to the hold, re-activate Bender, and find the Gemerald. Then get back to the ship as quickly as possible."


Angela sighed. "It means turn him on." Fry and Cubert snickered at the unintentional double entendre. "I mean SWITCH him on! For crying out loud!"

Diverting their attention back to the schematic, Angela pointed at a series of small rooms on one of the upper decks. "These are the crew quarters. Amy and Lucy were most likely taken here. I'll find them and bring them back to the ship." Lord, let them be all right.

"What about the anti-raider cannon?" asked Fry.

"We'll have to leave it. We don't have the manpower or resources to move it from one ship to the other."

Fry banged his fist against the palm of his other hand. "To hell with manpower and resources! Why don't we just use the winch-magnet thingy to yank it off their ship?"

Cubert snorted. "You IDIOT! Don't you realise that if you get it wrong, you'll tear a gaping hole in their hull and depressurise their ship?"

Fry and Angela stared at each other for a long moment.

"So it's settled," said Angela finally. "We use the winch-magnet to grab the cannon. Cubert, you stay on board and protect the ship until we get back. Fry, do we have any blasters left?"

Fry looked in the overhead locker. "Just two."

"You and Cubert take them." Angela picked up the sword Fry had discarded earlier. "I'll use this."

Fry pouted. "Aw! Why can't I use the sword?"

"Because I took basic sword-fighting as part of my captaincy training and actually know how to use one. Besides, I don't want you decapitating someone trying to cut their bra open."

"HEY!" yelled Fry indignantly. "How'd you know that's what I wanted the sword for?"

In the control room of the pirate ship, Captain Vans paced up and down impatiently, while several pirates sat at various consoles.

"Fernandez!" snapped Vans. "How long until we reach Mas Mosely?"

"One hour and thirty-five minutes," replied Fernandez, a reasonably well built man in his mid-twenties. "Five minutes less than when you last asked."

Vans scowled, and turned to another pirate. "Any sign of pursuit, Tanner?"

Tanner, a sixteen year-old kid who'd joined the crew after running away from home, glanced at his sensor readouts. "Still nothing, Captain. It's been over two hours. I think it's safe to say that no-one's-" He was cut off when the ship shook slightly, knocking Vans off his feet, and a clanging sound went echoing throughout.

"What was that?" exclaimed Vans as he stood up again.

"I dunno," replied Fernandez. "It sounded like something striking the ship."

Vans spun to face Tanner. "I thought you said we weren't being pursued!"

Tanner continued to watch the readouts, a confused look on his face. "We're not! There's nothing showing up on the instruments!"

While Vans and his crew continued to puzzle over what had happened, on the Planet Express ship Angela rubbed her hands with satisfaction. "Docking complete."

Fry pumped the air with his fist excitedly. "Brilliant! And they still can't detect us!"

"Don't celebrate too soon. Deflector beam or no, they'll be able to detect us once we open the airlocks between the two ships. We'll have to be quick." Angela turned to Cubert. "I'll signal you to open the airlocks once Fry and I are down there. Wait until we're in the pirate ship, then close the doors again, and don't open them until we return. And keep your blaster with you. If any pirates manage to get on board, shoot first, ask questions later. Got it?"

Cubert gulped, then nodded. Angela picked up her sword, then headed out of the control room. "Come on, Fry!" With a last anxious glance at Cubert, Fry followed her out of the control room. They hurried down a short corridor to the elevator, dropped down a level, and then another short corridor brought them to the airlock.

Angela pressed the intercom button by the airlock door. "Cubert, we're in position. Open the doors!" Cubert signalled his acknowledgement and opened the Planet Express ship's airlock, followed soon after by the airlock of the pirate ship.

Up in the pirate ship's control room, the intruder alarm suddenly sounded, taking everyone by surprise, not least Vans. "What was that?" he yelled.

Tanner glanced at the internal sensors, and his eyes grew wide with alarm. "We have two intruders near airlock three!"

Vans was dumfounded. "WHAT?! Where did they come from?"

"I-I don't know. The internal sensors say there's a ship docked with us, but the external sensors still read nothing there!"

Vans turned to Fernandez. "Fernandez, take some men and see what's going on down there!"

"Yes, Captain." Fernandez stood up from his console and snapped his fingers at two men who were manning low priority stations. Glad to be given something more interesting to do, they stood up and followed Fernandez as he left the control room in search of the intruders.

As Fry and Angela cautiously made their way down the corridor, in the distance they heard the sound of the airlocks closing behind them. Ahead of them, the corridor split in three, one going left, another right, and the third straight ahead. Angela indicated the corridor to their left. "Okay, Fry. That corridor leads to the hold. Follow it until you reach a staircase, then go down to the bottom level."

"Can't I use the elevator?"

"Better not to. They probably know we're on board by now. If we take the elevator it'll make it easier for them to trap us. Now go!"

Fry took one last look to make sure the coast was clear, then he darted off down the corridor. Angela took the right-hand corridor, in search of the staircase that ascended to the crew quarters.

It didn't take Fry long to find the staircase, and he started descending. Halfway down the staircase levelled out, turned one hundred and eighty degrees, then went down the rest of the way. Fry stopped where the stairs turned, and took the opportunity to look out over the hold. Most if it was filled with gold bullion, but in one corner sat a huge pile of gems of various shapes and sizes, some of which were set in rings, crowns, and various other pieces of jewellery. On top of the pile sat the box containing the Gemerald, and laying on the floor next to it was the deactivated Bender. Fry scanned the room again to see how many people were guarding it. All he saw was one pirate casually sitting against a wall reading a magazine, his cutlass on the floor next to him. I guess not many people try to raid their hold. Fry decided to make his move while he was still on the stairs. He drew his blaster, aimed it at the pirate, and pulled the trigger.

The shot struck the wall, a good metre wide of the pirate, who jumped up in alarm. He looked the see where the shot had come from, and spotted Fry on the staircase. The pirate drew his blaster and fired, the shot harmlessly striking the banister in front of Fry. For a couple of minutes the duo traded fire. The pirate was a sitting duck, but Fry's poor aim meant he kept missing the target. The pirate had much better aim, but the banister and the stairs themselves were giving Fry better protection.

Finally one of Fry's shots struck the pirate in the shoulder, and he dropped to the ground, unconscious. Fry ran down the rest of the stairs, disarmed the pirate, then ran over to reactivate Bender. Opening his chest compartment, Fry saw a big red button marked RESET. He pressed it, and Bender's internal mechanism sprang to life. A second later his eyes and mouth lit up, and he levered himself to a sitting position.

"Bender? You okay?"

"Yeah. Damn that Vans! I oughta-" Seeing the treasures all around him, Bender broke off. He took a moment to take in the entire room. "Wow. Did we die and go to heaven?"

"Nope. We're in the hold of the pirate ship. Now come on, we've got to get back to the ship!"

Bender wasn't listening. He rubbed his hands gleefully, and began cramming gold bars into his chest cavity. Fry began getting impatient. "C'mon Bender, get a move on!"

"Just a minute!" Bender crammed the final available space of his chest compartment with gold and jewels, then picked up the Gemerald box. "Okay. Cheese it!" Fry dashed off up the stairs, all too glad to be getting out of there. Bender followed, the contents of his chest rattling loudly with every step.

The two of them climbed the stairs, then ran down the corridor towards the junction where Fry and Angela had split up. Fry turned right, towards the ship. Bender stopped him and handed him the Gemerald. "Here, take this!" Bender turned left and started off down the corridor.

"Where are you going?" called Fry. "The ship's this way!"

"I've had an idea! I'll catch you up later!" Bender scampered down the corridor, turned a corner, and was gone. Shrugging, Fry set off back to the ship.

Several decks above, Angela was making her way carefully along the crew quarters deck. Fortunately most of the pirates were on duty, which meant that the deck was all but deserted. She'd tried the doors to all the quarters she'd been past, but most of them were locked, and the ones she'd peered inside were empty.

A large thump sounded from several doors further ahead. Angela ran towards the sound, but this door was also locked. From inside she heard several more thumps, and a cry of pain that was unmistakably Amy.

"AMY! I'LL SAVE YOU!" Angela tried the door again, but it wouldn't budge. She took a few steps back, then barged the door with her shoulder. It gave slightly, but not enough. All the while she could hear various bangs, thumps and cries from inside the room. She tried the door again, still no luck.

She was running up for the third attempt when the door suddenly swung open. She ran straight into the room, tripped over something on the floor and fell down. Clutching her knee, she turned round, and saw a furious Seth lying hog-tied on the floor. Blood was streaming from his nose, and from a cut above his right eye. Debris from broken furniture and pottery littered the floor, along with Seth's blood stained cutlass. Looking up, Angela saw Amy standing by the door. She seemed mostly unharmed, except for a bruise on her forehead, and where blood was seeping through her sleeve from a cut on her arm. "Hi, Angie."

Angela stood up and brushed herself off. "Hi. What the hell happened here? How'd you manage to overpower a guy twice your size?"

"Leela and I used to practise hand-to-hand combat for just such an emergency. After four years fighting against her, this was nothing!"

"I'm impressed. You'll have to show me your moves sometime." Angela examined the injury to Amy's arm. There was a deep cut there, and it was starting to bleed badly. "We'd better get this bandaged. Take off your top."

Amy suspiciously eyed Seth, who was loudly grinding his teeth. "In front of him?"

"For heaven's sake, Amy! I'm not asking for a striptease, I just want to fix up your arm! Now sit down!"

Amy sat down on the edge of Seth's bed, unzipped her jacket and slipped the injured arm from its sleeve. All the while she kept her gaze focussed on the pirate, who was glowering furiously back at her. Angela tore a strip off a blanket on the bed and tied it tightly around the wound. "There. That should slow the bleeding down until we get back to the ship."

"Thanks." Amy jumped off the bed, and straightened out her jacket. "Have you found Lucy?" she asked, looking out into the corridor.

"Not yet." Angela picked up Seth's blaster and tossed it to Amy, then headed for the door. "We'd better move. Come on!"

"Just a moment!" Amy kneeled down so her face was inches from Seth's, and smirked at him. "You're right. I DID have a good time." Amy stood up and followed Angela out of the room.

Seth's rage was fuelled by the humiliation of his predicament. "YOU BITCH! WHEN I GET OUT OF THIS I'LL FIND YOU AND TEAR YOUR HEAD OFF!"

Halfway out the door, Amy paused to turn and wave. "Buh-bye!" Amy shut the door behind her, leaving Seth howling with rage and fury. Nobody noticed the small plastic card lying on the floor a few feet away.

"Are you sure it was a good idea to antagonise him like that?" asked Angela as the two of them continued down the corridor.

Amy wasn't concerned. "Smeh, what's he gonna do? Anyway, where are Fry and the others?"

"If they paid any attention to me they should all be back at the ship by now."

Amy looked askance at Angela. "In other words, they're in big trouble."

"I know. We'll help them out when we get back. Right now we've got to find Lucy, she's in the most danger."

Angela and Amy continued trying doors. Soon Amy came to one that was unlocked. She carefully pushed it open, and she and Angela peered inside. What they saw made their jaws drop. Douglas was lying in bed, sound asleep, the blanket covering him up to his waist. His left hand was up behind his head, while his right arm was wrapped around Lucy, who was snuggled up to him, her head resting on his chest, a contented smile on her face.

Angela and Amy glanced at each other. Amy was trying not to laugh, while Angela just rolled her eyes. She raised her fist to her mouth and coughed loudly. Both Douglas and Lucy woke with a start, and for a few moments they just lay there in bed, with all four people in the room staring at each other, no one quite sure what to say.

Angela was the first to find her voice. "Doesn't anyone need rescuing round here?"

Lucy groaned and rubbed her eyes. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We're here to save you!" announced Amy brightly.

Lucy was still not totally with it. "Save me?"

"Yeah! From this awful, harrowing…" Amy looked at Douglas more closely and a dreamy look crossed her face. "…handsome, well-toned, muscular ordeal!"

Angela groaned loudly. "Well, at least you're safe. I guess that's the important thing. Now get out of bed and make it quick! We've got to get back to the ship, Vans is bound to know we're here by now." She looked at Douglas, who was half sitting up in the bed now, still trying to cover his modesty. "What about you? Aren't you going to try and stop us escaping?"

"I would, but I'm not exactly decent under here. Have you ever tried sword fighting naked? One guy tried it a couple of years ago, and cut off his-"

Angela hastily interrupted him. "NEVER MIND!" Her gaze returned to Lucy. "Now get a move on. We don't have much time!"

"All right, all right! Just gimme a minute to get some clothes on, won't you?"

With a final shake of the head Angela stepped out into the corridor, closely followed by Amy. For a minute they waited outside, Angela anxiously glancing up and down the corridor, hoping that the pirates wouldn't choose that particular moment to make an appearance.

The door opened, and Lucy emerged from Douglas's quarters. "Don't laugh. I had to borrow this from Douglas to replace my blouse." Amy glanced at her, and sniggered. The shirt was several sizes too big for her. It completely swamped her, reaching down almost to her knees, while the sleeves kept coming down over her hands, despite her best efforts to roll them up to a more comfortable position.

Angela shushed the both of them. "Right, Can we get out of here now?" she hissed. She began to stride back down the corridor to the stairs, followed by Lucy, then Amy.

Fry cursed as he peered round the corner of the corridor. Three pirates stood by the airlock, blocking his route to the ship. They'd removed a panel from the wall and two of them were tinkering with the mechanism, trying to override Cubert's lockout, while the third kept watch.

"How's it going?" the lookout asked the other two.

One of them looked up from the exposed panel. "Almost done, Fernandez."

Clutching the blaster in his hand, Fry briefly wondered whether he should try to take out the pirates. But with Bender who-knows-where and the others still not back, a three against one fight would be a short one.

Fry's dilemma was solved when he heard footsteps from behind, and he turned to see Angela, Amy and Lucy running down the corridor towards him. "What's the situation?" asked Angela as the three crouched down next to Fry.

"I've got the Gemerald," said Fry, indicating the box, "but Bender went off for some reason. And we've got pirates trying to open the airlock."

Angela popped her head round the corner, and a quick glance confirmed what Fry had told her. She ducked back again, and turned to the others. "Looks like they're almost finished. We'll have to be quick. Fry, give me your blaster." Fry passed it over, and Angela leaned round the corner again. She took aim at one of the pirates working at the mechanism, and fired. He fell to the ground, while the other pirate jumped back in surprise. Fernandez quickly drew his blaster, and fired back, blowing a chunk out of the wall next to Angela's head. The other pirate now drew his blaster, and the two of them peppered the corridor with shots, causing Angela to quickly duck behind the wall.

In the pirates' control room, Tanner signalled for Vans' attention. "What is it now?" demanded Vans, clearly angry that their latest heist wasn't as straightforward as it should've been.

"I'm getting reports of a firefight down by the airlock. One of our men is down."

Vans sighed loudly. "That's it. I'm going down there. If you need a job doing properly, do it yourself. Tanner, you stay here and monitor what's going on. And if Seth or Douglas deign to make an appearance, tell them to get their asses down there too."

Vans stormed out, while Tanner breathed a small sigh of relief that at least he could get some peace now. His attention returned to his readouts, and he became so engrossed in them that he failed to notice another figure enter the room. A moment later a hard metallic fist caught him across the chin, and everything went dark.

Down by the airlock, the crew were pinned behind the corner by the relentless fire coming from the two pirates. Angela looked back up the corridor. "I wonder if there's a way to get to the airlock from the other side?"

Amy's attention was still fixed on the pirates. "Hm?"

Angela stood up. "Amy, keep shooting, draw their fire. I'm going to see if there's a way round, to come at the airlock from the other corridor." Angela left the group and started back up the corridor, taking the first left at every turn and junction she could. Finally she turned a corner and saw the airlock, and the backs of the pirates as they continued to shoot in the direction of Amy and the others. Carefully Angela took aim at the back of one of the pirates. It didn't feel right to be shooting him in the back, but right now she didn't have much choice. The shot hit its mark, and Fernandez fell to the ground. Startled, the third pirate spun to face Angela, and was consequently shot by Amy.

Angela activated her wrist communicator. "Cubert, we're here. Open the airlock!" Almost immediately the doors opened. Amy emerged from her hiding place and sprinted towards the ship, followed by Lucy. Fry lagged behind.

"Fry!" yelled Angela. "Hurry up!"

"I'm waiting for Bender!"

"There's no time! We've got to go now!"

Fry crossed his arms. "I'm not going without Bender!" Just then a door slid open further along the corridor. Fry turned, expecting to see Bender running towards them. Instead, he saw Vans pounding down the corridor. Angela saw him draw his blaster, and suddenly it seemed as if everything was happening in slow motion. Angela's feet started to move, and then she was running full pelt, covering the yards that separated her and Fry. Vans raised his blaster, and aimed it squarely at Fry's head, while the delivery boy just stood there, frozen in fear. Angela put her hands out, and shoved Fry to the floor just as Vans fired. The shot caught the taller Angela in the shoulder, and with a yell of pain she fell to the ground, clutching her injured arm. She looked up to see Vans now pointing the blaster at HER head, and she heard a series of short beeps as he increased the shot power to maximum. Angela shut her eyes, waiting for the end.

There was the sound of a blaster shot, but the end never came. After a few seconds Angela opened her eyes, to see Vans running away from her, shots at his heels. Looking back towards the airlock, she saw Amy firing wildly in Vans' general direction. Vans dived through a door, and almost crashed into Bender, who was running the other way, back towards the airlock. The last thing Angela remembered was being lifted off the floor by Bender and carried towards the ship, before the pain overcame her and she drifted into unconsciousness.

Cubert already had the engine fired up and ticking over by the time Fry, Bender and Amy piled into the control room. Cubert was about to move over for Amy, but she motioned for him to stay where he was, and instead took the wheel. Fry dumped the Gemerald box on the floor and took his station.

Cubert looked around. "Where are the others?"

Bender waved a hand in the direction of the door. "Angie got shot. Lucy's treating her in sickbay."

Genuine concern registered on Cubert's face. "Oh, God! Is she okay? What happened?"

Fry's head was buried in his hands, still not quite able to believe what had just happened. "She saved my life. She took a shot for me!"

Cubert raised an eyebrow. "After the bust-up you two had earlier? Why'd she do that?"

Bender shrugged, and pulled out a bottle of beer. "Beats me. The only shot I'd take for any of you guys would be tequila."

Amy piped up. "Will you guys cut it out? We're supposed to be escaping here! Disengaging airlocks!" A shudder was felt through the ship as it disconnected from the pirate galleon. Amy gradually applied the power, and the ship began to move away.

Back on the pirate ship, Vans stormed into the control room to find Tanner picking himself up off the floor, a bruise starting to appear on his chin. "What the hell happened here?" boomed Vans.

"I-I dunno. I was just watching the readouts, then there was this shadow, next thing I know I'm on the floor."

Vans sighed. "Just get back to your station!"

Tanner returned to the sensors. "The good news is, just before I got knocked out I think I figured out a way to cut through their sensor interference."

This brought a rare smile to Vans' face. "Good work! Where are they?"

Tanner hit a few controls. "They've detached themselves from our vessel, and they're moving away, picking up speed."

"Take the helm, go after them!"

"Yes, Captain!" Tanner quickly went over to the helm, and moved to fire up the engine. A puzzled look appeared on his face as he noticed something was amiss.

Vans saw the same look. "Did you hear me? I said get after them!"

"We're not going anywhere!" Tanner continued to stare at the helm. "Someone's stolen the bloody ignition key!"

In the Planet Express control room, Bender whistled happily as his twirled the key in question around his finger. Amy brought the ship round in a huge arc, and started to fly over the pirate ship. "Cubert, activate winch!"

The ship's cargo bay doors opened, and the magnetic winch lowered. After years playing arcade games, Cubert was just as adept at using the winch as Amy or Angela, and it took him less than five seconds to grab the laser cannon. Amy moved the PE ship away, and the cannon tore away from the pirate ship, sending debris flying in all directions, and causing emergency doors to slam down to prevent the entire ship from decompressing. Amy waited until Cubert had the cannon safely aboard and the doors closed, then flew off at full speed, leaving the pirates stranded.

Several hours later, the delivery to the Securisphere was complete, and the Planet Express ship was well on its way home, Cubert at the wheel. In sickbay Lucy was putting a fresh bandage on Amy's wound, while Fry, Bender and Angela sat on the bed, Angela's arm in a sling.

Lucy finished tying Amy's bandage and cut off the excess. "There you go, all done! It's not fantastic, but it'll do until we get back to Earth."

"Thanks, Lucy." Amy looked over at Angela and Fry. "And thanks to you guys as well. If you hadn't come after us I don't know what we'd have done."

Angela recalled the memory of Seth tied up and helpless in his quarters, and smiled. "Somehow I think you'd have managed. Besides, I ought to be thanking YOU. If you hadn't chased off Vans I'd have been dead for sure."

"You're the real hero here, Angie." This time it was Fry who spoke up. "You took that shot for me! And after I said all those things about you too."

"But you didn't say-" Angela was cut off as Fry gave her a big hug, taking care to avoid her injured arm. "Thanks, Angie."

Bender let out an agonised cry that silenced the room. "Alright, enough of this inspiring camaraderie! It's sickening! I think we're all forgetting the important thing here, which is that I came away with THIS!" Bender opened his chest compartment, allowing everyone to see the treasures he'd taken from the pirates' hold.

Angela's jaw dropped in astonishment. "Wow Bender, that's fantastic!"

Bender hadn't expected Angela to be so excited by the news. "It is?"

"Yes! Not only have we dropped off the Gemerald at the Sphere, but now we'll also be able to return the gold and jewels to their rightful owners!"

Bender realised he'd just made a huge mistake by bragging about his exploits. "Rightful owners?"

"Of course! Fry, help Bender unload that stuff in the hold. We can keep it there until we get home and hand it over to the authorities."

The cry that Bender let out as Fry led him out of the room easily beat his effort of a few seconds earlier. As the two of them walked down the corridor to the hold, Bender was muttering out loud. "Stupid Angie and her 'principles'! What's with these religious types, anyway? I bet you LEELA would never have-"

"LEELA!" Fry stopped suddenly, frozen in shock as he remembered their date. He turned and sprinted back towards the control room. Smiling, Bender turned and headed for his quarters, wondering how to explain the treasure's 'disappearance' to Angela.

Leela sat in her parents' living room, her gaze alternating between the front door, and the clock on the wall. Ten minutes past seven. Paranoid thoughts were just starting to run through her mind. Is this some kind of stupid joke Fry and Bender have cooked up between them? No, Fry wouldn't do something like that anymore. Would he?

Next to her on the sofa, Morris and Munda were counting up their scores at the end of a board game.

"So how much do you have?" asked Munda.

Morris finished tallying up his money. "Seven thousand, five hundred and seventy dollars, two thousand, eight hundred and forty-five dollars in title deeds, sixteen houses, six hotels, and a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. You?"

"The same." Munda sighed and threw the notepad down on the table. "That's our seventh draw in a row. I think I'm starting to figure out why someone threw this Communist-rules Monopoly in the sewer."

"Well I like it," said Morris happily as he tidied away the contents. "Everybody wins! But if you insist…" Morris put the box down on the floor and picked another up. "How about Communist Cluedo?" He began laying out the board and pieces. "Who do you want to be? Miss Scarlet? Professor Crimson? Colonel Maroon?"

A red light began flashing on their videophone, accompanied by a beeping sound. Although Leela's translator couldn't pick up the beeping sound, the flashing caught her attention, and she got to the phone just before Munda, who was hoping to save herself from the clutches of yet another dire board game. Leela picked up the receiver, and plugged in her translator while the Sewercom logo appeared on the screen. Soon the image switched to Fry. The fact he was still sitting in the control room of the ship gave Leela a clue that this wasn't good news. The look of utter dejection on his face clinched it.

"Fry? Is everything all right?"

"We got attacked by pirates," said Fry sadly.

"Oh, God! Is everyone okay?"

"We're fine. Angie got shot, and Amy hurt her arm, but Lucy says they'll be okay. But we're gonna be a few hours late getting home." Fry struggled to get out the last sentence. "I won't be able to make it tonight."

"Oh." Leela's heart sank further, but she tried to put a brave face on it. No point making him feel worse than he already is. "Don't worry, Fry. It wasn't your fault. We can go out another time."

At Leela's last comment, a slight smile appeared on Fry's face. "Thanks, Leela. I'll give Elzar's a call, see if I can make another reservation. And if I get up early tomorrow, I can come down and meet you for breakfast before work."

Leela smiled. "That'd be great. I'll see you then." Fry and Leela said their goodbyes, then hung up. No sooner was the connection cut than the smile fell from Leela's face. She trudged sadly out of the room and went upstairs to her bedroom.

Nibbler looked up curiously as she entered, wondering why she hadn't left yet. Then he caught the sad expression on her face and realised things hadn't gone according to plan. Leela unclipped her earrings, placed them on her dresser along with her pearl necklace, then she sat down on the side of the bed, and tried hard not to let the disappointment she felt turn to tears.

Nibbler climbed up on the bed, scampered over to Leela, then nestled in her lap. Seeing the furry little object sitting there helped ease her sadness, and a smile crossed her lips. She picked him up and cradled him in her arms. "Who's a fuzzy lickle cutie?" Nibbler chattered excitedly in response. I might not be able to solve all the problems facing the Mighty One and Leela, but at least I know how to lift her spirits. And with the time of the Third Prophecy approaching, even the small things can make a difference.

"Ooh! Someone's done a poopie!"

On the Planet Express ship, everyone watched as Earth loomed large in the cockpit window. No matter how many times Fry saw it, its beauty never diminished, and he found himself wishing Leela was there to share it with him, like she had been before in the lunar lander.

Two huge Earth cruisers broke from their orbits and descended on the ship. "Looks like the welcoming committee's here," commented Amy. "Angie, I'll need that security card."

Angela reached into her jeans pocket. "Sure. It's… uh oh." Her hand moved to her other jeans pocket, then to the pockets on her jacket. "I can't seem to find it! Oh Lord, it must have fallen out somewhere on the pirate ship!"

Amy began to worry. "But without clearance, we won't be able to get past the checkpoint!"

Fry looked from one to the other. "What does it mean?"

"It means we're boned," said Bender dryly.

Angela watched the ships approach. "Any ideas?"

Inspiration struck Amy. "I know! We'll call Kif! His security clearance is high enough that he should be able to get us through. And he's not far away either! Luckily the Nimbus is in drydock for refitting."

Amy pressed a button, and the ship's videophone dropped down from the ceiling. Quickly she dialled Kif's number, and waited while the system placed her on hold. About fifteen seconds later Kif's face appeared, lighting up when he saw her. "Amy! What a pleasant surprise! How was your trip to the Securisphere?"

"Actually it didn't go so well. We got attacked by space pirates-"

"Oh, dear!"

"-and now we've lost our security clearance card! Kif sweetie, do you think you could contact the patrol ships and ask them to, you know, just let us through?"

An uncertain look crossed Kif's face. "I'd like to help, really I would. But ever since Earth left the DOOP Wiseman's put pressure on the fleet commanders to lean on alien crew members. We're having to toe the line a lot more than usual."

On another day Amy might have paid more attention to what Kif was saying. But right now she was tired, sore, and all she'd had to eat that day was Bender's Hypnotoad in the Hole. It had tasted vile, but for some reason she'd felt compelled to keep eating it.

"Kif, you know I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't an emergency. But without clearance we won't be able to return to Earth, and I won't be able to get my arm treated. Look!" Amy rolled up her sleeve, and showed Kif the bloody bandage around her injury.

It had the desired effect. "Good gracious! Well in that case of course I'll signal the patrol vessels. They should contact you in a couple of minutes."

"Thanks, Kiffy." Amy blew a kiss at the screen, and chuckled as Kif's camouflage reflex activated, the alien turning virtually invisible just before the screen cut off. Amy sat back. "Now we wait."

Everyone sat back and waited for a signal from the patrol vessels. One minute passed, which soon became two, then three. Lucy began to get jittery. "Do you think he's called them yet?"

"He must have by now," said Amy as she stared out the window. Everyone fell quiet again, as another minute passed.

The silence was shattered by the videophone beeping. Amy picked up the receiver, and on screen appeared the image of a man in his mid-forties, wearing an Earth fleet uniform. "This is the patrol vessel Amiga. Permission granted to dock at Planet Express headquarters. Have a safe journey." The man hung up before Amy had a chance to thank him, and cheers erupted from the entire crew as the ship flew past the patrol vessels and set course for New New York.

"What time is it?" asked Fry as the crew disembarked in Planet Express's hangar bay. Farnsworth was already in bed and Hermes had gone home, leaving the building's automated systems to help guide their landing.

Angela checked her watch. "About eleven o'clock."

As soon as he was off the ship, Cubert darted for the nearest set of stairs. "I'm off to bed. G'night!"

"Cubert!" called Angela. Cubert stopped halfway up the stairs and turned to face her. "You did a good job today."

And to everyone's surprise Cubert smiled, a smile free of his usual smugness and contempt. "Thanks, Angie." Then he ran up the rest of the stairs and was gone.

Bender looked around. "What the hell was that?"

Fry shrugged, and walked over to the videophone. "I'm calling a cab. Bender, are you coming?"

"Might's well. Wiseman's alien curfews are killing the night life round here."

Amy turned to Angela and Lucy. "What about us? Both of your apartments are on my way home, we can all share a cab."

"Not so fast," interrupted Lucy. "You two have a date with my office so I can treat those injuries properly. We'll call a cab when I'm done."

Half an hour later, Fry and Bender had left, and the cab for the three women sat outside the building, honking its horn. As soon as Lucy gave them the all clear, Amy and Angela dashed out of her office. "Lucy, are you coming?" called Amy over her shoulder.

"Just a minute." Lucy packed away a few loose folders, wondering how that Zoidberg guy had made such a mess of his medical notes. She turned off her office light, and quickly trotted downstairs. As she walked through the lobby to the main door, she saw Scruffy sweeping the floor. He muttered something unintelligible as she walked past.

Lucy turned her head. "What did you say?"

And walked smack into the door.

As Lucy lay on the floor, dazed and clutching her nose, a familiar gruff voice said, "Door's broke again."


First of all, thanks to Leandro and the team at TLZ for keeping the site up and running after their recent problems, and generally for everything they do all year round.

Cheers to Doug Hilliard for beta reading.

And thanks to the following people on PEEL and TLZ for your support and comments: Arkan, Chelseaguzom, Fryismyhero, Nasty Pasty, Ol' Coot, Ralph Snart, Ramon 51, Rye Guy, Spacedal 11 and Venus.

My Monopoly set contains £15140 (£10000 in £500 notes, £2000 in £100s, £1500 in £50s, £1000 in £20s, £400 in £10s, £200 in £5s and £40 in £1s), and £5690 in title deeds. It's impossible to divide the title deeds equally (in terms of value) between two players, as £5690/2 = £2845, and all property values are multiples of 10.

November 2005