Ghost of Xmas Past, Part 4
He shouldn't have been angry or surprised. But, as it turned out, he was both. She really had moved on, just like he wanted. But it still hurt.
He was in the cargo bay assembling his armor. According to the treaty that ended the last DOOP/Mandado conflict ten years ago, all Mandado's, regardless of standing, had to report and register with the DOOP when they were planning an extended stay on any DOOP planet. If not, they were 'detained' and more often than not, never seen again. If he was going to be living on Earth again, he had to do this. He had enough headaches; he didn't need to add being hunted by the DOOP to his list.
He had just strapped on the twin gun belts when Amy entered the bay. He was dressed in a generic black coverall, with pockets concealing any number of small electronic gadgets and weapons. There were green and blue armored plates up and down his body, covering his shins, thighs, chest and back, and one black plate covering his left shoulder. The plate on the left side of his chest, over his heart, was grey. His red sash, a badge of honor and office among the Mandado's, was attached to his armor across the front, from right shoulder to left hip. He knew that she was there, and they both knew that he didn't feel like talking at the moment, so she just stood watching him and he went on getting dressed.
With him dressed like that, she thought, he's the one man army everyone expects a Mandado to be. "Going to war," she asked as she sat down on the floor near where he was working.
"Something like that," he said evenly, his voice devoid of as much emotion as he could make it. "I gotta let the DOOP know that I'm here so that they don't try and kill me at first sight." As he strapped on his jet pack, he wondered how far it would be to the office, hoping he could walk it relatively easily. The armor was kind of heavy, and he had had a long day.
"What's with the multi-colored look?," she asked.
"Each color has its own significance. Blue for reliability, green for duty, black for justice, red to honor your father, gold for vengeance, and gray for mourning a lost love," he said tapping the left side of his chest. He didn't need to explain to her who the lost love was. "Mandado's are big on symbolism. Our leader is mostly a figurehead. You'd expect a chief of state to live in a palace or something. The man lives in a small four room shack on his friend's farm."
Putting on his helmet, he turned to her. The helmet, mostly black, had the traditional T-shaped visor, with stripes of blue and green around it. Fully armed, he looked much more like a machine than the man he was. He said, "None of you could have told me she was married and had a kid?" The synthesized voice that came out over the speaker was even, lifeless, and slightly menacing.
She got up and walked over to him, putting a hand on his right shoulder. "It wasn't our story to tell, Phil. She asked us not to do it. She said she'd tell you when she was ready. She must not have been ready by the time we got here, I guess."
"When it was obvious that I would find out without her saying a word. I've got to go, Amy." While he was walking out of the bay, Vyr walked over.
"Buir," she said. "The bureaucrat wants to see you. He wouldn't tell me what it was about. I think it has something to do with declaring you alive again."
Great. "Vyr, I'm going to deal with him and then go deal with the DOOP. Stay here and help with the Actiss. I'm going to go flex some muscle and see if I can get anything done. I'll call you when I'm done, ad."
As he walked around from the back of the ship, everyone got a real good look at the new Philip J. Fry. Leela, Cubert, and Jeff's jaws dropped and eyes opened wide. Bender turned around, making surprised sounds, a small pile of bricks falling beneath him. Thankfully, Renee was nowhere to be found. He hated scaring children with his outfit. To him, it seemed to be against the point of things when he was supposed to be protecting the weak, and they were terrified of him.
"Sweet Zombie Jesus," Cubert murmured as Fry walked over.
"No kidding," Leela said, just as stunned.
"Where's Hermes," he said, the synthesized voice sounding full of menace.
"Off-, off-, office," Cubert stammered.
Without responding, Fry stalked away. Choke on that, jerkwads, he thought to himself, a smile on his face.
Without bothering to knock, he walked into Hermes' office. The bureaucrat gave him a quick double-take, and then handed him a pile forms. "Fry, you need to fill these out so that you can get your inheritance from the Professor."
"Oh," he said, looking at the pile.
"We declared you dead when you were missing for 5 years. This will make you un-dead."
Laughing at the joke, he began filling out the form. "So Hermes," he said while writing on the edge of his desk, "how much do I get."
With a shrug of his shoulders, he said, "You get 50 million, give or take, and half of Planet Express."
Stopping mid sentence, Fry looked up. "Oh," was all he said.
"The Professor left all of the staff something. You and Cubert got the most cash, and being his only surviving relatives, the two of you got Planet Express. Cubert doesn't really want his share, or at least he's not interested in running the business. He's only kept it open because it was a family business, and the Professor didn't think you were really dead."
"That old skin-flint cheaped out on us with all those upgrades and our salaries all these years, and he was made of money?"
"Why do you think he was made of money? He cheaped out on all those upgrades and your salaries. Stuff's expensive, mon."
He went back to filling out the form, trying not to think about all the money and all of responsibility that was just added to his shoulders, and all the new people that depended on him now.
Hermes sat silently, stamp in hand, waiting. "What are you going to do, Fry," he asked when he finished filling out the forms.
"I don't know. Probably keep the business open. Maybe buy Cubert out. That doesn't really seem right to me, though. Anyway, we'll keep the business running as usual until I decide what's going to happen. Let Cubert know that he can go back to wherever he was hiding until the Professor died and go back to his science. Right now, though, I need to go to the DOOP. When will this all be official?"
"I'll have Jeff bring the official legal documents over tomorrow morning and then you sign them and I'll stamp and file them. You should be officially the co-owner of Planet Express and a multi-millionaire by dinner tomorrow."
"Good. See you in the morning, Rasta."
Leela was waiting for him in the lobby as he walked toward the door. Here it comes, he thought.
"I'm sorry, Fry. I should have told you." She looked really guilty now. Fry was struggling with the temptation to yell at her. It wouldn't do anything but drive her away, and if he was going to keep the shop open he still needed her to fly the ship.
"Yeah, you should have."
Holding up a gloved hand, he said. "Forget it, Leela. I'm not that person anymore. Neither of us are. You've moved on, and so have I. I'm glad that you have what you've always wanted, Leela. You have a family now, with a normal, nice guy. I'm happy for you. Really. I'd really like us to be friends again, Leela. You were my best friend for a long time, and we both did and said some pretty stupid things. Forgiven?," he asked, holding out his hand.
"Forgiven," she said, shaking his hand. "Alex turned out to be a jerk, anyway." She laughed and said, "You do see the irony of the two of us being on opposite sides of this particular conversation, don't you?"
"The thought had crossed my mind," he said, smiling under his helmet.
Still holding his hand, she said, "What did Hermes want?"
Looking at her funny through the visor, he pulled his hand back. "The inheritance," he said. "I'm now half owner of the company. Well, I will be tomorrow after meeting with your husband," he said.
"Oh," she said. Her anxiety that had fallen from where it was before this conversation spiked right back up.
"He's coming by in the morning with the official paperwork. Cubert doesn't really want his share, but I'm still planning on keeping the company open. Can't throw your baby out into the street, can I? She really is a little cutie. You do good work."
"Thanks," she said. "For everything, Fry." She came close and kissed the side of his helmet where his cheek would be. "Anything else?", she asked.
What the hell?, he thought. "Just get the Actiss out of the cargo bay tonight before you guys go home. I'm going to try and get her repaired, and I don't want to hold up the deliveries while I do."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Fry, sir," she said, saluting.
Shaking his head, Fry walked out into the coming night.
It was well past dark by the time he left the DOOP offices. The dark didn't bother him, though. He was in a fully sealed, armored suit, with a HUD that had, among other things, night vision and infrared scanning. He was a walking tank, and no one even looked at him sideways as he walked unerringly to his destination.
He was rich, or at least he would be tomorrow. That would be good. He could get the ship fixed and… And what? He was still a Journeyman Protector. He still had a job to do on the other side of the universe. But he was still on leave, so he could worry about that later. He had other things on his mind right now, like the Actiss. Maybe he could get Amy to help him to fix it.
Amy. There was another one of his headaches. As it was turning out, though, she was quickly becoming his favourite headache. Something was going on there. She had been coming on to him on the ship that much was clear. What he couldn't understand though, was why. They had been together once for about a week ten years ago, and that was that. She never had shown anything to him beyond friendship. This was going to have to go slowly, if it were going to continue.
But if it did continue, the good news was that Vyr liked her. It was good for both of them, because the girl needed a mother, and Amy was doing very admirably in a role that she was thrown into headfirst. Also, Fry got a woman to help him deal with a changing 12 year-old girl who was going to start having difficult questions that he didn't really have the answers to. Any relationship between the two of them would be icing on the cake.
Coming Vyr, he was surprised to hear Amy's voice through the speaker. "She's sleeping, Phil," Amy said. "After we got the ship out, I took her to dinner. The poor thing was falling asleep at the restaurant. So, I took her back to my place. I didn't want to leave her at the office alone, waiting for you. She's disoriented as it is, and I didn't want her waking up in a strange place."
"Thanks, Aim," he said. Not quite sure how to advance the conversation, he said, "Did Hermes tell you guys that I own Planet Express now? Half of it, at least."
"Yeah. He told us after you left. That, and we're going to be staying open for the time being."
"I need a favor, Aim," he said. "Cubert is going to be leaving soon, and I'm going to need you to stick around. Purely in a professional capacity," he added quickly. "You're the only other person who knows how to fix the engines properly."
Too quickly, she thought, smiling. "Of course I'll stay. For purely professional reasons, of course." He thought he could hear her smirking. "See you in the morning, Phil."
Women, he thought, shaking his head.
He was up the next day before dawn. Dressed in a pair of cargo shorts and a t-shirt, pockets bulging with tools and diagnostic equipment, Fry sat drinking his coffee, going through yesterday's newspaper, and writing on a pad of paper. At precisely 8 AM, Hermes walked in.
"Morning mon," he said. "Have you processed the overnight drop offs and printed the delivery schedule yet?"
"Nope. I was leaving it for you, mainly because I don't know how to do those things, and I want the business running as smoothly as possible. Since you know the business, I'll leave it in your hands."
"Thank you, mon. The professor would be proud of you. If he could remember who you were, that is. I'll introduce you to the rest of your employees at the meeting."
Leela walked in about half an hour later. She looked like she hadn't slept. Pulling out her mug, she poured about half a cup of coffee, and drank it straight and black.
"Wooohaaa," she said, shaking her head. "That'll get you going." She poured herself another cup and added her usual milk and sugar. Walking over, she asked, "What cha doin', Fry?"
"Therapy," he said, not looking up. "Never underestimate the mind clearing power of writing a list, Leela." Looking up, he said, "Junk dealers. I'm looking for parts for the Actiss. I need her repaired, the sooner the better."
"What are you going to do until it's fixed?"
"Not sure. I'll probably get another one. Once your husband gets here, I'll be rich, so I can afford it." He went back to work on his list and said, "Hermes has today's schedule. He didn't think it was very much. I'll see you at the meeting, Leela."
Shrugging off the dismissal, she went to the hanger to perform the pre-flight checklist.
"OK people," Hermes said, "on to new business." That was his cue.
"GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE," he yelled, bursting into the room. Leela groaned, her hand over her eye and shaking her head, Amy laughed, and Bender fell over, spilling his beer. Vyr and the two other people at the table looked confused. He had always wanted to do that.
"DAMN IT, FRY," he yelled. "THAT'S ONE MORE FOR YOU. You're getting this close to going on the enemies list, buddy."
"Everyone who's not Leela, Amy, and Bender," Hermes said, "this is Philip Fry, new co-owner of Planet Express and this is his daughter, Vyr," he motioned toward her. "To everyone who is named Fry, this is Steve Reynolds, delivery boy." Steve was very brown. He had tanned skin, short brown hair, and wore a lot of brown, in several different shades: worn leather work vest and boots, dark brown pants, and a light brown shirt, faded to almost pink for some reason, like it had been washed with something red and left that way.
"And this," Hermes continued, "is Doctor Winifred Scott." She was a very pretty, and very well dressed, Neptunian with long black hair. Much more professional looking than Zoidberg ever managed. She even smelled good.
"Call me Fred, please," she said. "Everyone does."
Fry noticed that she only had three arms above the table and one of Steve's, who was sitting next to her, was also under the table. Smiling, Fry said, "Nice to meet you both. Apart from my name being added to the tax forms, and Cubert not being around very much, nothing is really going to change. I do have a day job on the other side of the universe that will keep me pretty busy, but Leela and Hermes will run the company in my absence. I know that they can easily handle it, since they've been unofficially doing it for years, anyway. Anything else, Hermes?"
"Dat's it, mon."
"Well, off you go, then. Vyr, I need you to see Fred about a physical. You need to have one on file before you go into space again."
"But dad," she whined, "I've been going into space since right after I was born."
"Right, but you still need one on file with the Central Bureaucracy. Come see me when you're done. I've got a project for you."
An hour later, Fry was sitting in the conference room, reviewing his list, finishing the last of his coffee.
"Well," Vyr said, walking into the room, "aside from some mild anemia, I'm healthy enough for space travel. Happy?"
"Of course. Here," he said handing her his list. "This is the best list that I can come up with for places that might have parts or a mostly operational Actiss-class starfighter. Check with them and see what you can get. Oh, and try and find me a TY-24."
"Why? That production line is older than I am. Almost as old as you, buir."
"Cute," he said. "For one, we need a new ship. And two, I want one. I've wanted one for a long time, and now I can afford to get one." Looking at his watch, he said, "Right on time," as the doorbell rang.
"Jeffery. We'll get the paperwork signed, stamped, and filed, and then we'll have money and a business to run."
"What does that mean for Concord Dawn?"
"For now, just a commute. That's why I want the TY-24. When my tour is up, I'll retire and go into the reserves. And when you test, you can have the Actiss, if you want it. Anyway, we both have work to do."
"Be nice, buir," she said.
"Hey," he said, turning around, smirking and pointing at himself, "it's me!"
Fifteen minutes later, Fry walked back into the conference room, shaking his right hand. "I cannot believe that idiot," he said.
"What happened, buir?"
"We signed, stamped, and filed everything quickly enough. Then I brought up my working with Leela again, and how good it was for the two of us to be friends again, and how I looked forward to us having the same kind of good working relationship that we had before. He overreacted, and accused me of wanting to steal his wife."
"I see," she said, almost guessing what was coming next.
"Yeah. I told him that's not what I meant, and he kept blowing it out of proportion. Then he took a swing at me."
"Ouch," she said, wincing. "Journeyman Protector versus uppity corporate lawyer."
"Pretty much. He had a pretty good left, but I slapped him down with a right to the jaw. He went down like a ton of bricks. Has a hard head, though," he said, flexing the fingers on his hand and making sure none were broken.
"So what do we do now?"
After getting a can of Slurm from the refrigerator and drinking half of it, he said, "Nothing. We pretend it didn't happen. We still need Leela to fly the ship. We'll let Hermes handle him when we have to. What about the ships?"
"We've got three possible yards. They're expensive, though. I've sent them the list of what we need."
"Good girl," he said. "What about a TY-24?"
"There's one dealer that has a newer model that has most of the features that you're going to need. "
"How do you know what I need," he asked. She made a gesture that would have been a raised eyebrow, if she had any, and he conceded, "Fine, after eight years, you know what I'll need. Put in an offer."
"I already did, but I think that you should take Amy and me with you."
"For starters, I have things I need to buy, and if you think I'm going shopping for girl stuff with you, you've got another thing coming. Second, we'll need a ride, and I don't think you want to take the company vehicle. And third, pleeeaassseee?"
"Since you put it that way, I'll ask her. And you're right, I want as little to do with you being girly as I can."
"Thank you, buir," she said smiling. As he left the room, she picked up the phone and called Amy. "He's all yours," she said, smiling.
A sleek black starfighter slid into the Earth's atmosphere undetected. The ship had made the same insertion many times in the last eighteen months, and this one was no difference. The woman was paying him well to deal with the Target and the girl. She also told him that it was up to him to determine what he wanted to do about the mutant, if she got in the way. Free of charge, he had told her. He'd make sure that she interfered. He had a grudge with her, and, knowing what the woman had planned for the girl, he thought that the mutant needed the same treatment.
He had a contact in New New York, and he had begun coming up with a plan to get at the Target and the women. This was going to be fun. He'd waited a long time to get the mutant, and her time was rapidly running out.
Two days later, Fry sat at the controls of his new ship, the newly rechristened Fryrish Rover. Vyr and Amy were back in the engineering compartment, fine tuning some part of the engines. He had wanted a TY-24 since he hoped on one to take him away from Earth eight years ago. The ship was the smaller cousin of the TY- 13, an almost infinitely convertible and upgradable trading ship. Like the TY-13, the TY-24 had a saucer shaped cargo bay/living section and an offset cockpit. The TY-24 lacked the TY-13's huge power plant, cargo capacity, and the mandibles that extended from the front side of the center of the saucer section. It all looked very familiar to him for some reason, but he had never been able to put his finger on why.
He and Amy had compiled a list of upgrades that would be needed, and she assured him that most of them could be completed before they left for Concord Dawn at the end of next week. Smiling at the thought of spending so much time around her for the next week and a half, he barely heard the proximity alarm going off.
The ship shook as something slammed into the upper hull. Checking the scanners, he found three attack craft were pursuing and closing fast. The lead craft was the one doing all of the firing.
"What was that," Amy asked, worry in her voice.
"Friends," he said. "Vyr, get topside and give them something to think about. Aim, I need you to stay in engineering and make sure that we still have power enough to protect the ship and get out of here."
A pair of 'Rogers' echoed though the com as Fry began to maneuver away from the three ships. A steady thumping from above and behind him told him that Vyr had joined the fray. Good girl, he thought, proud of her steadiness under pressure. With Amy at the engineering station, he could concentrate on flying. She'd handle the shields and power redistribution, and he could worry about living. Much better than their last space combat operation, but he knew that there was more on the line, now. And Leela would be nowhere near them, helping to save his butt at the last moment again.
For all Amy's magic, however, the fighters kept closing on him, with the other two opening up now. I've got to lose them, he thought. Checking the scanners, he decided, Yeah, that'll do. That'll do nicely. "Hang on everyone, he said. We're going down."
Amy yelped in surprise as the shipped dipped into a nearly 270 degree drop, right into the tail of a passing comet. Fighting the trailing debris and incoming fire was proving to be too much for the shields, however. Amy cursed in Mandarin, and Fry heard alarms going off and fuses blowing all over the ship. Please hold yourself together for a little while longer, Aim, he thought.
"How's it going up there, ad," he asked.
"I got one when we entered the tail. The other two are flying close enough together to overlap their shields. I'm having some trouble getting clean hits."
"Keep it up. It may distract them enough to let us get away. Aim?," he asked. He was seeing red lights flashing everywhere as the power system was starting to get overloaded.
"Right as the mail, Phil," she said, plainly terrified. "Whatever you're planning, now would be a great time for it. We're losing non-essential systems right and left back here. I can't keep us going much longer."
Scanning the debris field ahead, he got an idea. "How's this?," he said, firing their one concussion missile into a large chunk of debris, and then pulled away from the explosion. The fighters weren't as lucky. The right one was hit full on by several large fragments, and Vyr quickly took out its partner. Doing a quick check of the scanner to make sure they were still alone, he set the auto-pilot for the trip to Earth, and headed back to give the women a hand in fixing the ship, .
The man sat in the back corner of a small café in Paris. Sipping his coffee, he smiled thinking of the effect it would have on his informant. He knew that his face was scarred and no longer as handsome as he used to be, but the smiling made the scaring look even more malevolent. He enjoyed making the worm squirm.
"You're sure," the man said, "that this is accurate?"
"I have an unimpeachable source that tells me that this is his schedule for the next month. He leaves in a week and will be back on or around July 25th. Nothing is going to happen to my family, is it? That's the deal, right? Our standard agreement, right? One percent of the bounty and nothing happens to my family?"
"Of course," the man said. He hated this worm, but he had been reliable so far, and that's what he needed right now. "I'll give you plenty of notice before we come and visit. You and your family will be able to clear out in plenty of time."
The worm nodded and left. The man smiled, knowing what was coming and enjoying it already.
Two weeks went by quickly. Fry, Amy, and Vry had completed most of the Rover's upgrades, and even given her a new coat of dark green paint. There were still a few more things to be added, but they could be gotten at the Mandado bases out on Concord Dawn over the next month while they would be gone.
Now, it was the night before they were going to be leaving, and he had, at his daughter's insistence, asked Amy out for dinner. He was still trying to take this slowly, but he was slowly being out maneuvered by the two women. To his surprise, he found that he didn't really mind it happening.
He had taken a day trip out in the Rover the other day, a shakedown cruise, he said. He had actually flown only as far as Titan to pick up a truly unique gift for Amy. A thank you present, he insisted, for all everything that she had done for them in the last two weeks: a pair of Connemara marble ear rings. The marble was rare in his time, and it had been completely mined out of the quarries in Ireland six hundred years ago. It was worth its weight in platinum. The stones were the size of the finger nail on his index finger, and in perfect condition. Now he just had to get up the courage to give them to her.
"Are you sure you'll be ok?," he asked Vyr as she lay on the couch in her pajamas watching TV.
"Will you get out of here," she said. "You're going to be late. Buir, I'll be fine. You've got the keys, and I'll set the security system after you leave. Go. Have a good time. I'll be fine," she said emphatically.
"Alright, alright," he said. "I'm going, I'm going."
He took a tube to Amy's, since he was already running late. He was sure that Vyr was on the phone with her right now, plotting against him. The two of them had been running rings around him over the last two weeks. He didn't know how they did it, since he was with one or the other most of the time. Shaking his head, he eventually decided to accept it and let them have their way. It would be safer for him in the long run, he knew.
Popping out a block from her apartment, Fry checked on the ear rings, making sure they were still tucked safely where he had left them. Finding the box right there, he whistled an old song from when he was young and stupid, and walked up to her door and rang the bell.
She was actually waiting for him when he got there. He was surprised that she hadn't made him wait, as was her habit. She was in a light blue dress with a shawl. She looked him over, in his simple green shirt and black pants and boots and smiled.
"It's always simple and easy with you, isn't it?," she said smiling.
"Nothing good has ever come from me dressing up. Here," he said. Now or never, he thought. Handing her the box nervously, he said, "A little something for you."
"Oh, you didn't have to get me anything," she said, a smile on her face. She opened the box and her breath caught. "Phil," she said slowly, at last, "is this what I think this is?"
"Yep. Mined right out of the quarries in County Galway over 800 years ago," he said smiling.
"Fry," she said, looking up, trembling a little, "these are worth a fortune. You didn't have to do this."
"I know what they're worth, and I damn well had to do it. You're more than worth it. With everything you've done for us these last two weeks, it was the least I could have done."
She quickly changed her ear rings, putting in her present, her hands trembling a little bit as she did so. She walked over to a mirror that was hanging on a wall to get a look at them. She reached up with her left hand, and then quickly dropped it, guiltily, seeing the glint from the rings on her third finger. "They're wonderful," she said, turning around and walking over to him, giving him a short kiss.
"Shall we," he said, smiling, opening the door for her.
Because it was a warm night, they walked the few blocks to the restaurant. They had their arms twined together and Amy was resting her head on his shoulder as they walked. He looked sideways at her and thought, She is beautiful. What did I ever do to deserve this?
"I've gotten used to having you around, Aim," he said. "I'm really going to miss you while we're gone."
"I wish you'd reconsider about Vyr, Phil. Her safety would be one less thing for you to worry about, and she'd be one more reason to come back home."
He looked over at her, smiling. "No, she has to complete her training. And I've got one good reason to come back," he said with a smirk. "Someone has got to run Planet Express," he said laughing.
"Jerk," she said, laughing and punching his shoulder.
They walked separated for a few minutes, and then they reached out their hands to each other. He noticed that she was still wearing the wedding rings that Kif had given her years ago, at their fonfonru commitment ceremony.
When he asked her about them, she said, "I do it so I remember him. I've had a very hard time of these last two years, Phil. Until you told me, I didn't even know how or why he died. The rings are almost all I have left of him. I don't even have a grave to mourn over."
"You could always visit the site of the wreck," he suggested. "It's wild country, but if you know the right people, it's as safe as anywhere."
"No, I couldn't. Not yet. I'm not ready to face that, Phil. It would be too much. Could we just drop this, please?"
"Sure, Aim. Whatever you want," he said, squeezing her hand.
The restaurant wasn't very busy, this early. There was an outside deck where tables were set up. Being such a lovely night, Fry and Amy sat outside. There were a few tables and speakers, playing whatever romantic music that the diners inside would be listening to. After placing their orders, Fry and Amy were left alone with their drinks.
Impulsively, Fry looked around. He got up and moved the other tables and chairs out of the way and walked back to their table. She smiled as he held out his arm and asked her to dance. She smiled and quickly put her arms around him.
They spun and dipped gracefully across the makeshift dance floor. Fry was surprisingly agile as he twirled her around. Amy was much less clumsy than he remembered, gliding gracefully and not tripping or stepping on his feet once. After a few songs, and noticing they were still alone, they turned their faces toward each other and stopped dancing. Amy, her arms around his neck, and Fry, one hand on her back, the other running through the short black hair on the back of her head, kissed. Fry was fighting the urge to do much more than kiss her, public be damned. It was longer and much more passionate than any of their previous kisses, and both of them were quite flustered when their waiter coughed and broke them up when he came with dinner. Smiling meekly, they went back to their table. The waiter winked, and hung a 'Private Party' sign on the door leading to the deck.
They were holding hands again as they made their way back to her apartment. He barely noticed her wedding bands this time. It doesn't really matter, he thought. If I treat her well, Kif will understand and approve. Against all of his plans, this relationship was growing much faster than he had originally wanted. He had wanted to take it very slowly, not really wanting anything serious, maybe a little something like their last relationship. They dated for a week, had lots of sex, broke up and still were friends. That was what he had initially thought of. But he quite suddenly realized that he loved her, and wanted to be with her for the rest of their lives. He laughed at himself and she looked at him questioningly.
"I was just thinking about how, no matter how carefully you plan anything, live throws you curve balls. I've lived in three millennia, and I thought that I'd never find love once. After Leela dumped me, I was ready to accept a relationship like my parents had, spending my life with someone that I tolerated enough to have a few kids with and complain about with my buddies. Now, I'm thinking differently."
"My parents married for money," she said sadly. "Dad was loaded, heir to the Wong fortune and half of Mars. Mom was the daughter of yeye's, my father's father, accountant. They were both rich, and when they married and everyone died, they became more rich. They love each other in their own way, I guess."
They got to her apartment and Fry walked her upstairs. Holding each other's hands, they just looked at each other. "What I was trying to say outside, Aim," he said finally, "is that I think I love you."
"Think or know," she whispered, tears welling in her eyes.
"Know," he said, touching her face and using his thumb to wipe a tear away, and bending down to kiss her.
"I, I.… I can't, Phil," she said, crying fully now. "I'm sorry, but I just can't yet. Please know that I feel very strongly for you, but I just can't. It doesn't feel right yet. Thank you for a wonderful evening and the ear rings. I'll see you in the morning." She quickly turned around and shut the door in his face, locking the deadbolt.
He stood there for a few minutes, looking at the door. Shrugging his shoulders, he walked away to prepare for tomorrow morning.
She sat, her back against the door, listening to him walk away. She somehow made her way to the couch and buried her head in a pillow, murmuring "I love you, too" over and over as she cried.
Fry sat in Hermes' office with the accountant and Leela, going over what needed to be done in the next month. Leela had been avoiding him for most of the two weeks, and any time they were together, it was very awkward for both of them. She kept looking like she wanted to tell him something, but couldn't work up the guts to actually do it. He knew the feeling, and didn't press her. He couldn't help but remember her comment two weeks ago about the irony of the two of them being on opposite sides of their old conversations.
He was irritable this morning. The way that last night's date with Amy ended bothered him. He was competing with her dead husband, and he wasn't sure of the rules of the game. Sighing, he interrupted Hermes ranting about something unimportant.
"Hermes, I've still got a few things still to take care of. Is there anything else critical that I'm needed for? Anything that you two can't work out for yourselves?"
"No, mon. We can deal with it," he said.
"Good, then do it. I'll be back in a month, take care of the shop, eh? And don't forget those changes I want. We can afford them. Leela," he said, nodding to her as he got up and walked out.
"Fry," she said as he was barely halfway down the hallway. There was a time that her voice would be enough to stop him dead in his tracks. Now it was just becoming irritating. There was something odd about it these days, almost desperate.
"I just wanted to say goodbye," she said.
"Don't worry, Leela. I'm not leav-." He was interrupted by her putting her hands on the sides of his head and kissing him. Kissing him the way she used to, a long, long time ago. Kissing him the way she should be kissing her idiot husband.
Pulling back, she was smiling. "Be safe, Phil," she said. "I'll miss you."
She walked away, swaying her hips seductively. He blinked a few times, completely speechless, still not entirely sure what had just happened
The sounds of the engines winding up on the Rover greeted him as he walked outside into the warm summer sun, her dark green hull gleaming. Duty, he thought. Sometimes it was all you had. Amy was sitting on the ramp waiting for him. She smiled weakly and got up when he came close, her eyes red, like she had cried for a long time last night. He noticed that she was still wearing her ear rings.
"Ready to go?," she asked.
"Just one thing left," he said, reaching out for her. She was stiff of a second, and then she melted comfortably in his arms. They stood there in each other's arms for a long time, until Vyr, from the top of the ramp, yelled "Get a room," and ruined the mood. The pair separated, laughing.
He stepped onto the ramp, still holding her hand. "Remember what I said last night?"
"Yes," she said, tearing up again.
"I still mean it," he said, pressing her hand to his face and then kissing it before heading up the ramp.
"Come back safe, Phil," she said as she backed away from the ship, the ramp closing behind him.
As she watched the Rover fly into space, she whispered, "I love you, Phil."
The month passed quickly for some, and agonizingly slowly for others. Finally, one warm summer morning, the Fryrish Rover entered New New York airspace. She was battered and her paint job was streaked from blaster fire, but she was unbroken.
Leela stood on the back deck of the Planet Express building, watching the Rover descending, regretting many of the decisions that she had made in the last eight years of her life. Her marriage was becoming of the latest in a long series of regrettable relationships. The last six weeks had transformed it from something that was joyously stable, to something monotonous and tolerated for Renee's sake, and then finally to something that might be best left broken and buried. They were both to blame. Jeff had latched onto, and jealously twisted, a comment that Fry had made about being glad that he was working with her again. And she had fed it somewhat, by sometimes living a fantasy life, where they never broke up and all of this was some horrible nightmare that she'd wake up from, or that she was really Amy and Fry wanted her. She wiped her eye and nose and put on a face that she had perfected over the many years of disappointment in her life. She would give Fry and Amy a few minutes, and then meet them inside to say hello, her face masking completely the hell that she felt inside, and hiding her shattered heart.
On the opposite side of the building, Amy watched the Rover wobble as it touched down. The ship had barely touched down as the ramp lowered, revealing Fry in his armor, minus his helmet and jet pack. He had shaved the beard, and had his arm behind his back, hiding something. Smiling, he walked down the ramp and held out a bouquet of two dozen pink Martian roses. Cheap, he knew, but he knew that they were her favorite flower. Her family had grown them on one of their properties for over 200 years. Her smile grew, as she threw her arms around his neck and held him close for a few minutes.
As the ship powered down, he turned her to the ramp. Coming down, dressed in a red and green flight suit, similar to Fry's black one, was Vyr. She also was armed, a blaster similar to Fry's Predators on her right hip. Around her neck, in a platinum setting, was a pink star sapphire, the stone as large as her thumbnail.
"She qualified last week," Fry said. "She picked the red for me and the green for duty. The pink sapphire she picked out for you. There's no real color for a mother figure in Mandado traditions, but she knew you loved the color and she wanted to honor you, too. She's ge'verd now. She can take the warrior tests when she turns 13 next spring."
Speechless, Amy stated at the girl. Young woman, she corrected herself. Her eyes watering, she stepped over and embraced her. Vyr was crying and they were talking over each other. Fry walked away, letting them have their moment, going to put Amy's flowers in a vase of some kind. He did hear one thing that gave him a slight pause. Before he entered the building, he heard Vyr call her Buira. Mother.
"Good news, everyone," he said, walking into the conference room, still armored. "We're having dinner as a family tonight, extended and multi-specied as we are." They had genuinely become more of a family since Fry had taken over. He authorized pay raises and better insurance for everyone, and even some upgrades to the ship that weren't government mandated. Everyone, Bender excluded, actually enjoyed coming to work these days. "Reservations are for 8, so everyone get out of here and meet at Elzar's then."
Leela grimaced. Great. Another fake family dinner with a happy, smiling man I love, and who doesn't love me and an idiotic jerk for a husband. This is going to be fun.
"I've got a surprise for the two of you," Amy said. She led the group over to a corner of the hanger where the pile of junk that had once been the Actiss was parked. There was a black curtain hiding something. She pulled it down, and there it was. The Actiss had been fully restored and repainted, completed with Mandado logo on the right wing and Bender's head on the left.
Fry was speechless. "How?," he asked. "When?"
"Everything came in this past week," Leela said. "Amy and I did the refit, and Bender and Steve did the respray."
"What do you think, buddy?"
"Every time I chase someone down, Bender, they'll know what the score is."
"Damn right. With this paint job and you being gone for most of July, you owe me an even 100 months. I expect payment by the end of the week, or I'll sell the rest of your crap and break your kneecaps."
"Sure buddy," he said, running his hands over his rebuilt baby. "No problem."
"And you're sure about this?," said the man, now in golden Mandado commando armor. "Of course, the deal still stands. Have I ever lied to you before?"
He hung up, fully intending to kill the worm. His usefulness was at an end.
He dialed another number. After a few rings, he said, "Gorm. Bring the boys and wear your Sunday best. We're going to dinner tonight."
Fry paced the floor in Amy's apartment, his boot heels thunking solidly on the hardwood floor. He knew that she usually liked to make her dates wait, but it was already 7:45 and they were going to be late. He turned back to pacing after briefly toying with the idea of knocking on her door and reminding her of their 8 PM reservations. The sound of her clearing her throat stopped him. Finally, he thought turning around.
His jaw dropped. All he could do was stare at them.
They were both standing there in traditional Mandarin gowns: Amy's was white with pink trim and light pink Martian roses embroidered all over it; Vyr's was plain red with black trim, and the Mandado symbol at her throat on the right side. They were both wearing low heels and minimal jewelry: Amy only wore the ear rings he had bought for her, her wedding rings still sitting on her nightstand in her room; and Vyr only the star sapphire, and pink ribbons wrapped around each of her lekku, held in place by small diamond studs.
He was stunned. THAT was his little girl? Four days ago she had qualified as ge'verd, nearly a warrior, ready to take her final tests. She wasn't girly! The young woman standing before him was someone he had never seen before. She was girly!
"You don't like it," she said, disappointedly. "I told you he wouldn't like it. I'm going to change."
"Don't you dare," he said. "You're gorgeous. Both of you are. I'd stand here, gaping like a fish for a while longer, but we're late and I need to be seen in public with the two of you."
Leela contented herself by drinking. Jeff was making an ass of himself, but she didn't care. She was feeling no pain long before the soup arrived. Fry had looked over at her, concerned several times before she glared hard at him and he stopped. She was happy about that, and disappointed in herself, all at the same time. I don't need you pity, she thought angrily. I need your love. And that's gone, now.
Before their entrées arrived, Fry rose, clinking his glass. "Everyone," he said, "I've been thinking about something since I came back to Earth last month. I had thought to put this off for a while, but I've decided that you, my family, should know first. I'm-"
A noise interrupted him. Three armed men and a fourth in golden Mandado commando armor walked into the restaurant, and came right for their table.
"Oh, don't mind me," said the Mandado. "I'm here for business. You keep on with your toasting, Fry. You're doing so well." He pulled a wicked looking weapon from a holster on his left hip. Seeing it made Fry feel very naked.
"Who are you, arvetii," he asked, getting no reaction out of the man. "An imposter, perhaps? Whose grave did you rob to get that suit, cha'kaar? I doubt a piece of osik like you earned that armor."
"Don't worry about who died, runt. Just hand over the one-eyed freak and the tail head, and we'll be on our way."
"That wasn't part of the deal," Jeff said, rising unsteadily to his feet.
"I've altered the deal," he said firing, hitting Jeff square in the chest, dropping him.
Leela and Amy shrieked as Bender yelled, "Cheese it!" and flipped the table over, giving them some cover as the goons opened fire. Vyr ripped the side of her dress, causing Amy to wince. Custom made, he thought suddenly. Wonder what that cost? She reached up her dress and pulled a small blaster from a holster on her thigh. She stood up and fired at the goons, dropping one with a shot between the eyes.
Raising an eyebrow at his daughter, who just grinned and popped back up and fired again, Fry turned to Bender. "We need that goon's guns, Bender."
"What's in it for me," he asked?
"Get 'em and you can kill some humans."
"Kill humans, you say?," he asked. "You drive a hard bargain, Fry," he said as he stretched his arms out carefully, reaching the goon. He took three guns and his wallet.
Fred was working hard over Jeff. Fry looked at her, and she shook her head.
"Wasn't supposed to be like this," he murmured. "He only wanted Fry and the girl. We were going to get a cut of the bounty and be left alone. That was always the deal before"
"You sold us out, you son of a bitch," Fry said angrily. He popped up and hurled a plated right into the visor of the Mandado, staggering him as he was setting up a shot, buying them a few more seconds. Bender handed him two rifles and kept a pistol for himself.
"Right. Leela," Fry said, her face was blank as she watched her husband die. "Leela," he said, slapping her hard across the face. That got her attention. "Unless you want Renee to be an orphan, get off your ass and kill them. You and I will take goldenrod, Bender you go right, Vyr go left."
"No," Amy wailed. "She's just a child."
"No, she's ge'verd," he said, pride in his voice. "She's been trained to do this, Amy. She can do this," he said. "Ready? Break."
Fry and Leela popped up over the table, laying down covering fire for Bender and Vyr. Bender quickly took out his goon with one-handed pistol shooting and his Extendomatic arm, robbing him in the process. Vyr went left, leaping on her goon with her empty pistol in one hand like a club and a steak knife in the other. She swung the pistol hard, shattering the goon's left eye socket and stabbing him deep in the side.
Fry and Leela had less luck with the armored man. Seeing his advantage fading, he took a risk and fired an explosive dart from his left gauntlet into the table, shattering it. Fry took a large chunk of the table between his eyes, knocking him out the window that was behind them and into the alley. His falling distracted Leela enough for the armored man to shoot a cable around her and begin to reel her in. When she was close enough, he hit her in the jaw with a stiff left, knocking her down.
Vyr leapt to the attack again, this time stabbing the Mandado in the leg, behind the armored plate. Growling, he reached out and grabbed her by her lekku. She shrieked in pain and flailed as he shook her. She quickly blacked out from the pain and he threw her over his shoulder.
His goon, with his one good eye trained on Bender and holding his side from the stab wound, layed down covering fire and came to his side.
"Thanks for the lovely evening," the gold man said. "Tell the runt when he comes to that Kama will meet him again. He'll know the place."
They backed out of the restaurant, and into a waiting van, hostages in tow.