Futurama

Fan Fiction

Married With Children, part 2
By Ramon_51

Planet Express Conference Room, June 18, 0730.

When Sarah entered the conference room, she saw that the room had been reconfigured. Instead of the single circular table, a “U” shaped table sat in its place. She counted a total of fifteen seats, each with a name card in front of it.

She walked over to the table and examined the cards. There were cards at the head of the table for the Professor, Amy, Hermes, Zoidberg, and Melissa. Along the left side of the table were places for Sarah, XT, Cosmic F, Brad, Caitlyn, and Chelsea. The right side of the table had seats for Leela, Fry, and Bender. One seat had a name card that read “Consultant”. The last seat had no card in front of it at all.

Sarah looked up when she heard a sound. Leela had entered the room, carrying an electronic tablet, “Good morning, Sarah. I see you’re here early.”

“G’day Leela, I just like to stay on top of things. We’ve got a lot to do, so I needed some planning time.”

“How’s the old ship?”

Sarah paused for a few seconds before answering, “We worked most of the weekend to get her spaceworthy. XT is one hell of an engineer. Melissa has lots of talent in that arena as well. CosmicF is…well…CosmicF.”

Leela smiled, “He reminds me of Fry when I first met him. Go easy on him. He’ll improve, I think.”

Sarah looked doubtful, “He can be so darned smart at times and the next second…Oooh!”

Leela chuckled, “Yup, that’s Fry a few years back.”

“What changed him?”

Leela’s brow furrowed, “A lot of things I guess, but it all came together in the hedgerows of Normandy.”

Sarah looked puzzled and Leela said, “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later.”

Just then Amy came into the room, “Hey! Did you hear the news about the mutant who blew himself up at Central Station last night? He killed a dozen people and injured another hundred or so.”

Both of the other women gasped. Leela spoke first, “Lord! Why would anyone do that?”

Amy shrugged, “I don’t know. But Mayor Poopenmeyer was on the tube saying that the New-New York Police Department was going to start enforcing the anti-mutant edicts of 2207 if this keeps up.”

Leela was forming an answer when Hermes strolled in. When he saw that only the three women were present he cried, “Great Boa of Western Samoa! We’ve got a priority mission this mornin’. Are you da’ only one here?”

Sarah shot back, “Hold on there mate, don’t get your knickers in a wad! What in blue blazes are you yammering about?”

“Didn’t da’ Professor call you last night?”

All three women shook their heads.

Hermes head dropped forward as he shook his head, “That senile old honkie. We’ve got an urgent order from DOOP to haul two shiploads of turbidium as soon as possible. That means both ships fly outta’ here dis’ mornin’.”

As Hermes was speaking, Melissa came into the room, followed closely by Brad, Chelsea, and Caitlyn.

Hermes looked at the clock. It was a quarter to eight. In an impatient tone he growled, “Where in Jah’s dreadlocks are de’ rest of de’ people?”

Fry, Bender, CosmicF, and XT came in as a group. Hermes shouted, “Where da’ hell is Zoidberg?”

Bender shot back, “How the hell should I know? It’s not my week to watch him. Did you have a fight with LaBarbara last night or something?”

“No! Just shut up and take your seats.”

Zoidberg scuttled in, “So was somebody looking for me?”

“I was, you windy barnacle! Now take your seat while I go find da’ Professor.”

Hermes left the conference room for a moment, returning with the Professor and a person no one at the table had seen before.

“Good news, everyone!” the Professor announced, “We have a security consultant who will help us meet DOOP Department of Defense Security standards for our very lucrative contract hauling turbidium.” He gestured toward the tall, red haired stranger.

“Hello,” the stranger said in a calm, level voice, “My name is James Martindale. I’ve been asked to provide you with a bit of advice on how to secure turbidium. I’m looking forward to working with all of you.” Then he walked to the seat next to Bender and sat down.

Once James took his seat Hermes began, “Okay people! We’ve got to haul two loads of turbidium from Pollux 6 to the Syria Planitia Naval Yards on Mars. Both Planet Express Ships will take part in the mission, along with all three fighters. We can’t afford to screw dis’ up! Our fee will allow us to give everyone a thousand dollar bonus for dis’ trip, so let’s look sharp.”

Everyone looked satisfied, but Bender blurted out, “This has got to be a really dangerous mission or why would DOOP pay us that sort of money?”

The Professor reacted angrily, “Shut up Bender! “ Then his tone moderated, “You all have only an hour to get read, so…shoo…shoo.” Then the Professor stood up abruptly and shuffled out of the room, shaking his head and muttering, “The poor devils…”

Hermes rolled his eyes, “You heard da’ Professor. Meeting’s over. Let’s get da’ ships ready to go.”

Somewhere in New-New York, June 18, 0800

Zapp Brannigan stood admiring himself in a mirror. How could any woman resist him?

Hearing that Leela was going to marry that hairball Fry had nearly sent him over the edge. So, he had gone on vacation to Tergon 5, the pleasure planet…to score (it was impossible not to score on Tergon 5).

While he was there, he had met a Xindi trader. The six armed, four legged beast had offered him the “chance of a lifetime.” When Zapp asked to see it, the Xindi held up a necklace with an oddly shaped, glowing green stone.

“Only 200 dollars and it is yours!”

Brannigan had looked dubious, “What can it do for me?”

The Xindi said, “It will augment your personality. Whatever your strengths are…they will become stronger. You cannot lose.”

“I’ll take it.”

When Brannigan put on the necklace, he felt a sudden flush run through his body. Then, the necklace seemed to disappear from around his neck. He turned to where the Xindi had stood only seconds ago. “Where did that dirty Xindi go?” he roared.

Staggering like a drunk, Zapp made his way back to the hotel. He barely made it to the room before passing out.

When he arose the next morning, he felt great. He was also aware of a growing feeling of anger and betrayal. Thoughts seethed in his brain, “Leela was his woman! How dare she prefer Fry to him! He would have his revenge, not just on her for abandoning him…but on all those filthy mutants.”

That thought brought him back to the present. His face froze in a bitter and frightening smirk. Phase One of the Final Solution to the Mutant Problem was going well. He must not hurry. Let them marry and settle into their new life. Then he would strike in earnest. Soon…yes…soon they would all pay.

New-New York Central Station June 18, 0900.

Mike Wigglesworth pushed his glasses back into position as he straightened up from looking under a bench on the “B” platform. They often got out of position when he was working a crime scene. There were those who swore he was a contortionist when they saw the odd positions he could get into, looking for evidence.

For ten solid hours, Mike had worked the scene with a few of his most favored technicians. Some said that watching Mike work was like watching paint dry. Others compared it to watching parking meters violating themselves. No one ever doubted that he was the finest crime scene investigator in New-New York and one of the best in the world.

As he straightened up, he saw Captain LeBlanc approaching, flanked by two legends of the New-New York Police Department (NNYPD). On her right was Detective Sergeant Salvatore “Sal” Sanchez. Sal was only 5’9” tall, but he made up for it with a toughness that frightened even experience mobsters. He had dark hair and eyes, as well as a dark complexion. Mike liked him because he was one of the most meticulous investigators he had ever met.

On her left was a tall, red-haired, hard-bitten cop in a raincoat.  Detective Sergeant Anthony "Lip" Lipford rarely had an unsolved case. Beneath his raincoat he carried a 40 gigawatt sawed off plasma rifle in a special holster, in addition to his service pistol and two backup guns. The man was a walking arsenal with a very keen mind.  No one who had ever drawn a weapon on him ever survived.

Mike made his way to the edge of the crime scene, “Good morning Captain, what’s the news?”

Froggy shot him an impatient look before exploding, “Good morning? Good morning? Hell, half this freakin’ town is unhinged. I’ve got the press, assemblymen, the mayor’s freakin’ aide, and the feds breathing down my neck! How does that add up to a good morning?”

Mike listened patiently until she was obviously done, “Well, I have a few new pieces of the mosaic.”

Sal, who knew Mike very well said, “Don’t keep us in suspense, Mike. Fill us in.”

“Okay, first I’ve confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt that the explosive was T-4, an exclusively military grade of plastic explosive. It’s only manufactured at the Syria Planitia Naval Yards and the DOOP Arsenal at Jackson Hole, Montana. The marker chemicals definitely establish that it originated in the Syria Planitia Naval Yards.”

Lip looked puzzled, “How in the world would a bunch of mutants get military explosives like T-4 from Mars? Heck, they hardly make it out of the sewers!”

Mike nodded, “Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. But even odder are the traces of theflazine I’ve found in some of the larger tissue samples. I mean…”

Froggy cut in sharply, “Theflazine?! Why would a bomber take a drug that practically turns you into a zombie?”

Mike shrugged, “I don’t know Ma’am. You guys are the detectives.”

Sal smiled as he ventured a guess, “Maybe he wasn’t as bright as me and you?”

Lip shook his head, “Maybe he didn’t want to do it.”

The others looked at him. When he didn’t elaborate, Froggy asked, “What do you mean?”

“Maybe someone was using him for a dupe. I mean, crap Captain, I worked the Mutant Village for six friggin’ years. In all that time, I never saw a mutant commit a violent crime on a surface person. This just doesn’t make sense. Theft…maybe, burglary…maybe, but murder? Forget about it!”

Froggy looked grim, “We can’t just forget about it, however much we’d like to. We have to find who did this and bring them to justice.”

Turbidium Loading Area, DOOP Department of Defense Spaceport, Pollux 6, June 19, 1900.

The trip to Pollux 6 had gone without a hitch. During the trip, the crews had selected galactic registry names for the ships. The ship piloted by Leela was registered as the Planet Express Ship One, Pathfinder. Sarah’s ship was registered as the Planet Express Ship Two, Resilient.

Aboard the Pathfinder were Leela, Fry, and Bender. The Resilient had a larger crew since this was a shake-down cruise. Sarah was the pilot, while XT, Amy, and Melissa attended to ship systems. CosmicF manned the turret. James was aboard, observing and formulating recommendations to improve security of the shipments.

Alongside the two larger ships flew Brad, Chelsea and Caitlyn. Their nimble Raptor fighters gave the two ship convoy an edge if they met space pirates or other criminal scum.

The two Planet Express Ships touched down in the turbidium loading area at the extreme edge of the spaceport. A huge berm surrounded both ships as a means of redirecting the blast upward, should an accident occur. The Raptors landed on the closest parking apron, half a kilometer away.

Signs hung everywhere that admonished anyone who could read, “No Smoking, No Use of Radio Devices During Loading, and Handle Crates With Care!” Everyone had been briefed on the highly sensitive nature of turbidium. Heat, sudden impact, or electrical current could set it off.

Inside its special crates, it was relatively safe. However, chemically turbidium was highly reactive…meaning that it sometimes corroded through its packing and…BOOM!

Once the ships arrived, the crews shut down all systems. They then proceeded to the nose of their ships to wait for the loading crews.

Bender reached into his chest cavity and pulled out a cigar, “Ah! Now for a well-deserved smoke.”

Leela frowned, “Bender, you idiot! Don’t you dare light up! Can’t you read?”

Bender struck a match, “I can read, Big Boots. I just don’t see any turbidium, that’s all.”

Just as Bender finished his sentence, an alarm went off…Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Then a robotic voice announced, “Unauthorized flame in turbidium loading area. Deluge system activated.”

“Deluge system?” Bender said in a puzzled voice.

Without any further warning, a series of poles shot out from the ground and began to spew jets of water over every square inch of the loading area.

The water struck with such force that everyone lost their footing. It was like being struck with a dozen fire hoses, all at once, from different directions. Muffled shouts and yells mingled with the roar of the water. Once everyone was thoroughly soaked, the deluge abruptly ceased.

As Leela got to her feet, her voice quivered with rage, “Bender! You moron! This is a heck of a way to get started with a new client!”

Bender thought of making a snappy comment, then reconsidered when he saw the look on Leela’s face. Instead, he merely said in a somewhat sullen tone, “How was I to know this would happen?”

Fry stepped in between the two. The last thing he wanted was his fiancée beating the daylights out of his best friend. He stuck his arms out in an almost pleading gesture, “Killing each other in front of our new client definitely won’t help, either.”

Sarah and the rest of the Resilient crew came up. They were all obviously irritated.

“Bender, if you ever pull a stunt like that again and endanger my ship or crew, I’ll have your electronic innards on a platter,” Sarah nearly shouted when she approached.

Leela walked over to Sarah and stood almost toe to toe.

Leela frowned, “He’s my crewman. I’ll handle him.”

“You’re the senior captain. But I swear, if he causes me any trouble, I’ll push him out an airlock.”

The two women stood there locked in a battle of wills for what seemed like an eternity before James spoke, “Much as I like to see two women fight, the ore haulers are here. Let’s just chalk this one up to experience. We’ve got a lot of work to do. What do you say, captains?”

“Fine,” Leela growled.

“Suits me,” Sarah snarled.

Without giving an inch, both women turned simultaneously to their crews. Within seconds, both crews were back to the business of loading the most valuable and hazardous cargo in the galaxy into their holds.

Bob’s Mutant Boy Restaurant, The Mutant Village, New-New York, June 19 2000.

“Sal” Sanchez and “Lip” Lipford stood outside the entrance to the restaurant. Sal had a dubious look on his face, “Lip, are you sure you’ve eaten here before?”

Lip scratched his head before replying in a somewhat sarcastic tone, “Yeah, I think so. What do you mean, have I eaten here before? I spent six years working this beat. Lenny, the manager, is a great guy. He’s also one of my snitches.”

Sal still looked doubtful, “Okay, but I’m just getting coffee.”

“Suit yourself.”

As they walked into the entrance, they were greeted by what appeared to be two gigantic ears attached to a relatively normal human, “Detective Sergeant Lipford, how nice to see you! Oh and you’ve brought a friend!”

“Yeah, Lenny. Good to see you too. This is my partner Detective Sergeant Sal Sanchez. Do you have a place where we can talk?”

“Sure, just take your usual booth. I’ll be back as soon as I can get Carla to cover the front.” With that, Lenny vanished behind two swinging doors into what Sal supposed was the kitchen. At least, it had some sort of vaguely food-like odors emanating from it.

“C’mon, Sal,” Lip headed for the rear of the restaurant. He slid into a large booth that gave them a perfect view of the entrance and everyone else in the restaurant. Sal sat next to him.

After Sal had sat down Lip looked over at him, “So what, are we engaged?”

“Shove it, Lip. You know interview procedure.”

“Yeah, I know. I just love jerkin’ your chain is all.”

“Just keep it up, funny man. Just keep it up.”

A waitress came over to the table. She was solidly human female in shape, except for her eye stalks and hooves where feet should be. Her flaming red hair was absolutely gorgeous, looking like a molten lava flow as it cascaded down her shoulders.

Before she spoke, Lip greeted her, “Hey, Judy! I’ll have the usual. My friend here just wants coffee.”

Judy nodded, “Good to see you Lip. Been kinda lonely without you around. Do you want rat feces on your Sewerburger?”

“No thanks, I’ll just have it plain.”

“What? Are you on a diet?”

Both laughed at what was obviously an in joke. Judy headed for the kitchen by the longest route possible, giving Lip a good look…reminding him of what he was missing.

Sal suddenly realized what was going on, “Mama Mia! Lip! Have you…?”

Lip smiled, “She’s a great gal, buddy. Besides, I never kiss and tell.”

While Sal was digesting this, Lenny came up to the table. He knew the drill, so he slid into the booth opposite the detectives.

“So, Lenny,” Lip began, “what is the word on the street?”

Lenny kept his voice low, “The word is that Smith Robert…the guy who blew himself up…he was a regular runner to the surface. You know the drill.”

Sal cut in, “Let’s pretend I’m new here, so fill me in.”

Lenny looked at Lip for confirmation. When Lip nodded, Lenny continued, “Ever since the Mutant Edicts of 2207, we’ve been banned from the surface in New-New York. In spite of our pretending to be self-sufficient, we have runners…people who can pass for human at night…who go onto the surface to get stuff we need. There are also some surface dwellers who bring stuff down here. That’s how it works.”

Sal looked puzzled, “What do you use for money?”

Lenny gave a short, bitter laugh, “The only place that still bans Mutants on the surface is New-New York. Lots of Mutants immigrate to other places. They send money to us here in the sewers.”

“Let’s get back to Smith Robert,” Lip said with a touch of impatience, “was he known for being violent or have any anti-social behaviors?”

Lenny held both of his hands up, “By the Alpha and the Omega, he was a solid citizen. That’s why his family is so devastated.”

“He had a family?” Sal asked.

“Yeah. His wife’s name is Jasmine and he has two boys…Carl and Ike. They live down by the secondary sewer inlet, right next door to Turanga Morris.” He turned to Lip, “You know the place?”

“Yeah, I know it. Do you have anything else?”

“No. I’m telling ya’ the guy was as clean as a whistle.”

Judy walked up with their drinks just as Lenny finished speaking. She set the steaming cups of coffee in front of both detectives. Sal couldn’t help but notice how she brushed against Lip as she did so.

When she was out of earshot, Lenny asked Lip, “Are the two of you still an item?”

Lip nodded, “Yeah, when I’m not chasing some friggin’ homicidal maniac…which ain’t often.”

Sal gingerly sipped his coffee, which was surprisingly good. He looked at Lenny, “Hey this is as good as Starbucks!”

“It should be, I collect the grinds daily from the sewer outlet right beneath the store just down the road.”

Sal sprayed his mouthful of coffee across the table, “Oh Jeez!” he said in a disgusted voice, “Don’t tell me…”

“Nah, I’m just messin’ with ya’. I have a runner who brings it to me from the docks. It’s pure Columbian.”

Sal’s face darkened, “If you ever jerk my chain like that again, you’ll find that I’m an unpleasant little dago when messed with.”

“Sorry.” Lenny got up, “If you need any more information, Lip…I mean Detective…just let me know. Nice to meet you Detective Sergeant Sanchez.” He turned and headed back into the kitchen.

Judy brought Lip’s Sewerburger and set it down, “Here you go, Lip.”

“Thanks, darlin’. I’ll see you later this week.”

She smiled and winked at him, “I’ll be waiting.”

Lip turned to Sal and smiled, “Looks like we’ll be working this beat for a while.”

Sal shook his head, “Just finish your burger. We’ve got a family to interview.”

Enroute to Syria Planitia Naval Yards, aboard the Resilient, June 20, 0200.

The village was on fire. Children ran screaming to and fro as soldiers in DOOP uniforms fired at them. Bodies lay everywhere, twisted in strange positions, silent, dead.

James Martindale stood staring in disbelief as their blood became a raging torrent, a rushing river that swept his feet from under him. He was flailing in a river of blood, trying vainly to stay afloat.

Skeletal hands came from beneath the surface, pulling him under. He was drowning…drowning in a sea of blood. Then a skeletal face loomed before his before morphing into the face of his lost love, Christina Wilson. He could hear her sobbing as she said, “Why did you do it James, why?”

He reached out to touch her, but she receded into the distance. He screamed, “NO!” until he thought his lungs would burst. Then…

James sat straight up in his bunk, perspiring heavily. He looked around, briefly disoriented before he realized where he was.

He swung his legs out of the bunk and onto the deck. “Damn it,” he said out loud, “damn it to hell.” The madness, the fury he always felt after one of these dreams came crashing in on his psyche. Lashing out, he punched the wooden dresser next to the bunk with his right fist.

The wood splintered from the blow. In a flurry of kicks and punches, he reduced the dresser to kindling.

Coming down from the crest of his anger, James sank to the deck…utterly exhausted. He looked at the wrecked dresser and said, “What a mess! Well James, old boy, you’ve done it again.” He flexed his hands experimentally, “Nothing broken,” then he felt the pain, “but I’d better get some ice.”

Wearily, he stood and made his way to the galley. When he entered, he went to the refrigerator and took out some ice, which he wrapped in a towel. He was so absorbed in his task that he didn’t hear Sarah enter the room.

“So, what has you up this late?” she asked.

James spun around, “Nothing. Well, I slipped and hurt my hands.”

“I wouldn’t think a big agile guy like you would be clumsy. Let me help.”

James backed up, “No thanks. I can handle it. I don’t want to trouble you.”

Sarah came forward, “Bloody hell, it’s no trouble at all. I’ve done my share of patching blokes up.” She looked at his hands, “Here now, you didn’t fall. That is unless you fell on your knuckles. What’s all this, then?”

James had half a mind to tell her to mind her own business, but something in her voice and a tendril of her perfume that wafted through across the short distance separating them, made him change his mind.

“Bad dreams, Sarah…bad memories.” He searched for words, “It happened years ago, but it still returns to haunt me.”

“What?” she asked with genuine concern in her voice.

He shook his head, “I’m not ready to talk about it. Some things are just too terrible to talk about.”

For the first time their eyes met. For both of them, it was as if an electric current had passed between them. One moment, they had been mere acquaintances. Now, there was…something.

Sarah led him to a chair, “Park yourself there, mate. I’ll have you shipshape in no time.” She busied herself with wrapping his hands with ice to reduce the swelling. Within a few moments, it was done.

“Thank you Sarah,” James said in a grateful tone as he looked her in the eyes, “you’re a great nurse besides being a first class pilot.”

Sarah felt herself blushing at the compliment, “No worries.”

“I’d like to repay you somehow, would you like to go to Elzar’s when we get back to Earth?”

“You don’t owe me a thing for this patch job,” she said with a smile.

“Please.”

“Sure, why not?”

“Great! I’ll pick you up at 2000 the first night we are back.”

“It’s a date.”

Enroute to Syria Planitia Naval Yards, aboard the Pathfinder, June 20, 1800.

The trip had gone well, Leela reflected as she paced the bridge of the Pathfinder. They were less than two hours out from the Naval Yards. Still, she refused to relax her vigilance.

She had cat napped on the bridge, giving the autopilot orders to awaken her if anything unusual occurred.

During the 20 hour flight she had allowed for one fighter to dock with the Pathfinder while the other two patrolled. Thus the pilots were able to relax a bit, even catch a few hours of sleep. She had gotten to know all three better as she sat and chatted with them during their break from operations.

Surprisingly, Leela had liked all three of them very much. Caitlyn’s “in your face” attitude had reminded her of Bender. Chelsea struck her as being generous, if a bit stubborn. Brad had impressed her with his keen analytical mind and obvious experience.

She took her seat at the helm, checking all of the instruments with her expert eye. The sound of the door opening behind her caused her to turn and see Fry ambling onto the bridge.

“Hey, Leela…Wassup?”

Before she answered, Leela looked him over for a few seconds. She judged that he was pretty well healed…he looked almost too good to resist. When she realized that Fry was waiting for a reply, she spoke, “Only two hours out from landing, nothing much to report. Do you want to fly her?”

Fry grinned his best boyish grin at her, making her feel weak in the knees.

“Sure! I’d love to.”

She stood up, gesturing for him to have a seat. He approached the chair, but before he sat down, Fry gave her a hug and a peck on the cheek.

Leela surprised even herself by what she did next. She spun Fry around, causing both of them to tumble onto the couch. Leela had Fry almost pinned to the couch, their bodies pressing together.

Before Fry could speak, she began to cover his face with kisses. Once he recovered from the shock, he returned them…gently.

She almost growled, “I can’t stand it Phil. I just want you so much.”

Fry could feel his self-control ebbing away with each kiss, “I love you too, Leels. But we…”

He never finished the sentence because Bender’s voice boomed out, “You organisms are so disgusting! Can’t you control your animal passions?”

They both sat up on the couch like two teenagers caught making out by their parents. Fry spoke first, “Hi Bender! I had something in my eye. Leela was just getting it out.”

“Really? How could putting her tongue in your mouth get something out of your eye?”

Leela stood up, obviously embarrassed, “Okay Fry, you can take the helm now.” She left the bridge and almost ran to her room.

Once the door was shut behind her, she began to cry, to reproach herself. How could she show so little self-control? Wait until after the wedding…then we’ll be together forever…she told herself.

After a few minutes, she regained sufficient composure to return to the bridge. Bender was asleep on the couch, while Fry was at the helm, piloting the ship. She walked up and placed her hand on his shoulder.

For fifteen minutes, she stood there without saying a word. Then she bent over and kissed him softly on the cheek. She whispered softly in his ear, “I’m sorry Fry. I don’t know what came over me.”

Fry reached up and touched her hand, “Don’t worry. Only ten more days until we are married.”

“Yes,” she replied, “only ten more days.”

Detective Captain Shannon “Froggy” LeBlanc’s Apartment, 1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 606, June 21, 3004, 0500.

Froggy had only been asleep for a couple of hours when the phone rang.At first, the ringing had not registered on her sleep deprived brain. Finally, she picked up the phone and snarled into the receiver, "Either somebody is dead, or somebody's gonna be!”

“Froggy, this is Lip. You wanted to know if we had any breaks in the case.”

She sat upright in the bed instantly alert, “Talk to me.”

“Sal and I ran down some leads. We’ve got a suspect besides Smith Robert.”

“And?”

“His name is James Willis. A witness put him with Smith Robert less than two hours prior to his death. Human male, former DOOP Navy, a real bad actor. This boy knows a lot about turbidium based explosives. He has numerous arrests on everything from assault with a deadly weapon (ADW) to burglary. Only one conviction in 3003, plea bargained down to probation by a slick lawyer…you know the drill.”

“Yeah. So where is this scumbag now?”

“Sal and I are staking out his apartment. He’s got a girlfriend that lives on the Lower East Side.”

“So where are you?”

“Sorry, Captain. We’re outside the Glenview Condos, 1405 East 55th Street. He lives in apartment 5B.”

“Do you have enough uniform backup?”

“Sergeant Stevens has the area locked up tight. We’ll get him.”

“Okay, I’ll be down. But don’t wait for me. When he shows, cuff him and stuff him.”

“WILCO, Froggy.”

Froggy staggered to the washstand and splashed water on her face.  She shook the sleep from her head. Finally, a break in the case!

She pulled on a wrinkled set of clothes that were on the floor. Stuffing her shield in her pocket, she crammed her pistol into her waistband, and headed out the door.She blasted through the thin early morning traffic, using her red light and siren until she got close to the stake out.  It wasn't exactly procedure, but she thought, "Screw procedure."

She parked her car and approached Lip and Sal as they crouched behind a hedge. Sal turned to look at her, “Morning, Captain.”

“Morning, Sal…Lip. What’s the situation?”

Sal pointed toward the Condo, “Our boy lives over there. A patrol unit just signalled his approach. You just got here in time.”

“Who’s going to make the collar?”

“We’ll let the uniformed boys do that.”

Froggy nodded by way of confirmation.

A tall, spindly white male wearing dark baggy clothing came walking down the street. It was Willis. Froggy noticed that had a slight limp. Just before he could go up the steps into his Condo, a uniformed officer stepped from the building and said, “Mr. Willis?”

Willis snarled, “Who wants to know?”

It was at that moment that Willis realized that the barrel of a pistol had suddenly poked itself in his ear. The voice of Sergeant Danny Stevens fell on his unstoppered ear, “Nice and easy Willis. Put your hands up.”

Willis complied.

Stevens spoke to another officer who had approached, “Okay, Lott. Frisk him.”

Willis whined, “Isn’t that illegal search and seizure, officer?”

Stevens snarled, “If you don’t shut up and cooperate, I’ll do an illegal search and squeezure of your friggin’ neck.”

After that, Willis remained silent…and cooperative.

The search yielded two illegal pistols, a knife, and a set of brass knuckles.

Stevens smiled, “Well, well, well! You look like you’re back on the way to the stony lonesome! Cuff him, Lott. Take him back to the precinct and book him for four illegal weapons charges, probation violation, and see if he has any outstanding warrants while you’re at it.”

“Right, Sarge!”

Once the police cruiser containing Willis had left, Froggy, Sal and Lip walked over to Stevens,

Froggy smiled, “Great job, Danny. You sure you don’t want to transfer to Detectives?”

Stevens shook his head, “No, Captain. I love what I do.”

Froggy turned to Lip and Sal, “Okay. Let’s get back to the precinct. We need to work this lead…hard.”

Planet Express Conference Room, June 22, 0800

The entire crew was assembled, waiting for Hermes and the Professor. Amy had already spread the rumour that there was “something” between James and Sarah. She had seen them talking on the bridge the day before. There was a certain way they stood, a certain look in James’ eyes that gave the secret away.

As a result, everyone was covertly watching them…and they knew it.

Finally, Sarah had enough, “Crikey, it’s enough to make you go growling in the grass, the way you all stare at us. It’s not as if we’ve been doing anything. We’re going on a date tonight if you all must know! So stop eyeballing us…especially you Bender!”

Bender shot back, “Why would I watch you two Sausage Links? Human mating rituals have no interest for me.”

Sarah stood up, “Mating, is it?! I ought to kick your shiny metal arse, you mankey git.”

Leela was ready to intervene when the Professor entered, followed closely by Hermes. Hermes waved his clipboard as the Professor took his seat, “People, I have great news. Not only do all of you get a $1,000 bonus, but the Professor is taking us all to Elzar’s tonight for dinner. We meet at eight o’clock. It’s a great tax write off.”

Everyone around the table cheered, except for James and Sarah, who just looked at each other.

Hermes waited for the cheering to die down and then he said, “You all have the rest of the day off. But first, let me pass out your checks.”

Each person got their envelope. Fry just handed his to Leela, “This will go for our wedding expenses.”

The Professor stood up, “Now all of you go home…shoo…shoo. Oh my, yes.” Then he wandered out of the room toward the lab, muttering happily to himself. In his mind, he was already building a fantastic new race of atomic monsters.

Within a few moments, everyone had drifted out of the room headed for their apartments. Everyone was excited about the big dinner.

Elzar’s Restaurant, June 22, 2000

Elzar himself met the Planet Express party as they entered the restaurant. No one had been late, as the prospect of a free meal at Elzar’s had been too much to resist.

“Bam!” Elzar said in his most exuberant manner, “I hope you folks came hungry, because I am going to whip you up a terrific banquet tonight!”

A murmur of approval rippled through the crowd.

“Right this way, folks. I’ve got the special private dining room all set up. Food, drinks, and dancing for everyone!”

As they entered the private dining room it was easy to see that the Professor…usually so stingy…had spared no expense to arrange this dinner.

Leela felt a sudden twinge of alarm. What if the Professor wanted them to pay for it? She turned to Hermes, “Hermes has the Professor already paid for all this?”

Hermes laughed, “Great Judah of Bermuda! Do you tink I’d be here if he hadn’t? Washing dishes isn’t my line of work!”

Relieved, Leela followed Fry to the table. To her great surprise, Fry pulled her seat out for her. Once she was comfortable, he sat down on her right.

“Fry, honey, I’m impressed! Where did you pick that habit up?”

Fry blushed, “Well…I read about it in your issue of Cosmo that you left on the bridge.”

Leela began to giggle, “Cosmo! Oh Fry…you really do love me!”

Amy, who was sitting to the right of Fry giggled also. She had brought Kif with her. She nudged him, “Oh Kiffie! Isn’t that sweet of Fry?”

Kif smiled nervously, “Yes, it certainly was very gentlemanly.”

Across the table from Fry and Leela sat Sarah and James. Both were somewhat nervous, as they had been out of the dating scene for a while.

To Leela’s left sat Hermes, who was flanked by LaBarbara. The Professor sat at the head of the table with Melissa, who enjoyed talking to him. He reminded her of her grandfather.

Brad was seated with Chelsea, while Caitlyn sat with XT. CosmicF and Bender were the two bachelors. They were already engaged in a drinking contest. Bender claimed to be training for some sort of sport, while CosmicF just wanted to forget that Amy had a boyfriend.

“I can out drink any Meat Bag in existence,” Bender had bellowed.

“Not me,” CosmicF had said quietly.

Dinner was absolutely wonderful. Elzar outdid himself in making every dish perfect. When the dishes were cleared away, a robot DJ rolled into the room. The lights dimmed and soft music began to play.

“What kind of crap is this?” Caitlyn asked. “Our grandmother listens to this stuff!”

Chelsea stood up and walked over to the DJ, “Hey, can you play some real dance music?”

The DJ said, “Sure, lady, as soon as this number is over.”

Meanwhile, James had coaxed Sarah out onto the dance floor. She draped her arms around his neck as they glided across the floor. As they swayed to the rhythm of the music, Fry led Leela out onto the floor as well.

James looked into Sarah’s eyes. He hadn’t really noticed how lovely and green they were before. “You have lovely eyes,” he blurted out.

Sarah blushed crimson, “Thanks, I don’t hear that often. I think you’ve got quite nice eyes too.”

Now it was James’ turn to blush. Then he laughed, “You know, Sarah, if we both get any redder, somebody will think we’re having heat stroke.”

She laughed as well, “Right! Well, we can’t have tongues wagging for nothing, can we?” She surprised James by planting a light but passionate kiss on his lips.

Emotions he had though forever dead sprang forth. He actually felt light headed. Then he thought, “I’m no good for any woman. Sarah will end up like Christina…dead because of me.”

Sarah could sense the sudden change that seemed to sweep over James like a rain squall. “What is it James?”

“Nothing. I’m just no good for any woman.”

“Maybe not, but let me be the judge of that.”

He led her off the dance floor to their seats. As they sat down, he told her about the loss of Christina and how it had convinced him that he was a jinx to women.

She lightly touched his cheek, “Here now, Jimbo…don’t fret. I’m a big girl that can take care of herself. Don’t let the past rob you of a future.”

He smiled, “No, I wouldn’t want to do that.”

The slow dance came to an end. The DJ put on “The Anti-Gravity Dance” and everyone got up to dance, except the Professor and Bender. Melissa went over to CosmicF and said, “You look like you could use some cheering up. Come on.”

Unfortunately, four tequila sunrises and five beers had upset CosmicF’s equilibrium just a bit. He staggered around, bumping into Sarah.

Everyone expected Sarah to belt him, but she laughed merrily, “So the bloke’s a bit pissed! Who cares? As long as he doesn’t do the Technicolor yawn on me, no worries!”

The Planet Express Crew parties hearty for the rest of the evening. It was two in the morning before they left…ushered out by a tired, but considerably richer Elzar.

The Mutant Village, the Turanga Residence, June 23, 1400

Leela and Amy stood in front of the door to Leela’s parent’s house, laden with packages. They had been shopping like mad for the wedding and the reception. Their hands were so full that neither of them could open the door.

Amy whined, “Leela, these packages are getting heavy!”

Leela kicked the door, “Mom...Dad…will somebody get the door?”

The third time Leela kicked the door, it opened to reveal Munda. She smiled, “Come on in sweetie. Oh, and you brought your friend…Amy, isn’t it? Welcome to our home.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Amy answered politely. “Thank you for welcoming me into your home.”

“Such manners! Your parents must be very proud!”

Amy blushed slightly, “Thank you, Ma’am.”

“Call me Munda. My husband Morris is out fishing. It’s just as well. He goes out every Saturday morning.” Munda ushered them in to the living room, where she began to take their packages and place them on the rickety coffee table or on the well-used rug.

A tone of real affection came into her voice, “He’s a wonderful man, but he doesn’t understand ‘girl’ stuff.”

“Mom, has Rabbi Liebgott been here yet?”

“No dearie, he’s not due until four thirty. He did visit your father and me earlier this week. What a nice man!”

“That’s why we chose him,” Leela said with a smile.

Munda looked at her watch, “Leela, could you go into the kitchen and get me the scissors? We need to cut some of these packages open.”

“Sure, mom. They’re in the drawer next to the sink…right?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

Leela went into the kitchen and rummaged through the drawer before she finally found the scissors. When she walked into the living room, a shout of “SURPRISE!” greeted her.

Her mouth fell open as she saw that LaBarbara, Inez Wong, Sarah, Chelsea, Caitlyn, Melissa, Wanda (the green skinned girl from down the street) and a group of three other mutant ladies she knew were relatives but that she didn’t know very well were crowded into the living room. The coffee table and couch were also piled high with presents.

Amy was almost dancing with joy, “Got you, Leela! Oh, I wanted this party to be a surprise. You didn’t suspect a thing, did you?”

All Leela could do was shake her head, because she was afraid that she would start crying. She went forward to give Amy a hug. “Thank you,” she whispered “this means so much to me.” Then, in spite of all her best efforts, she began to cry.

Amy patted her back, “There, there Leela, don’t cry. This is a happy day.”

Leela straightened up to look Amy in the face, “This is a happy day…these are some of the first tears of joy I think I’ve ever had.”

Amy stepped back, “Well dry your tears and let’s get this party started!”

One by one the ladies filed by Leela to give her a hug. First was Inez Wong…which surprised Leela.

As Inez hugged her she said, “You and Fry come to visit us on ranch for honeymoon. We have guest cottage that Leo always complains nobody uses.” Then she winked, “The beds are really comfortable.”

Leela blushed and stammered, “Th..Thank you Inez. I’ll ask Fry, but for my part, I’d love to come.”

Inez hugged her again and moved off to let the other ladies greet her.

LaBarbara didn’t speak, but hugged Leela warmly.

Sarah’s hug was quick, but sincere. “Leela, I’m sorry about the dust-up we almost had on Pollux 6. Let’s be mates.”

At first Leela was confused by the word ‘mates’, then she realized that Sarah was saying that she wanted to be a good friend, “No need to apologize, Bender is an idiot.”

“Bloody well right!”

They both laughed as Sarah stepped aside to let Melissa take her place.

“Good luck,” Melissa said as she gave Leela a quick hug.

Chelsea was next. She punched Leela in the shoulder affectionately, “You’ve got a good man there.” Then she gave her a quick hug before Caitlyn came up and hugged Leela silently.

Wanda snorted, “Oh Leela, you are going to love married life. Just make sure that jerk robot friend of yours doesn’t ruin your wedding dress.”

Leela remembered how Bender had dumped toxic waste into the sewers, ruining Wanda’s wedding dress…among other things. She said apologetically, “Sorry about the dress.”

Wanda just snorted and laughed, “No biggie! He didn’t ruin the wedding night!”

Munda brought the three mutant ladies over to introduce them.

“Leela, these are your cousins Judy, Carla, and Betty.”

Judy was a tall, well proportioned red head with a great figure marred only by her eye stalks and hooves where feet should be. Carla was of average height and figure, with dark hair, three ears, and tentacles for arms. Betty was short, with light brown hair, dark eyes, and a bulging forehead. All were about Leela’s age.

Each of the girls came forward and hugged Leela in turn.

Chelsea produced a boom box, which played several tunes as the ladies snacked and chatted. One in particular seemed to capture the spirit of the affair:

Come Mr. DJ song pon de replay, Come Mr. DJ won't you turn the music up? All the gal pon the dancefloor wantin' some more what, Come Mr. DJ won't you turn the music up? All the small thingsTrue care, truth bringsI'll take one liftYour ride, best tripAlways, I knowyou'll be at my showWatching, waitingCommiseratingSay it ain't so, I will not goTurn the lights off, carry me homeNa na na na na na na na na naNa na na na na na na na na naNa na na na na na na na na naNa na na na na na na na na na

Laughter filled the room. Then Inez Wong said, “We need to give Leela her presents. Bad luck if we wait too long.”

Amy shrugged. Her mom was always taking charge. Still, she usually meant well.

Inez took a long, cylindrical package from the pile, handing it to Leela. “This ancient Chinese secret. You open now. It set the tone for rest of your life. ”

The package was heavy and Leela was very curious as to what it was. “Thank you, Inez…” Then as she ripped the package open she realized it was a wooden blernsball bat! She began to laugh when she saw that the words ‘ATTITUDE ADJUSTER’ had been burned into the wood.

Inez smiled, wagging her finger at Leela, “Sometimes man need to know who is boss. Fry get outta line…wham! You adjust attitude pretty quick!”

Leela held the bat up to where everyone could see it. Laughter filled the room, taking several minutes to finally die away.

Leela dug into the presents in earnest. By the time she opened the last present, Leela realized that she had everything she needed to begin her married life.

As the guests left, she hugged each of them, thanking them over and over. Once they were all gone, she stood in the living room with Amy and Munda, smiling.

She turned to Amy, “You know, for the first time, I’m absolutely sure that I’m really getting married.”

Amy gave a short laugh, “You’d better. I’m not going through returning all these gifts if you don’t.”

The Robot Arms Apartments, Apartment 00100100 June 23, 3004, 2100 (9 p.m.)

Bender checked his internal chronometer, wondering where Fry was at the moment. He had been due back at the apartment at eight o’clock. Now it was nine, and the girl in the cake was starting to protest, “I’d better get a bonus. I charge by the hour!”

“Be quiet, meat bag. Just be glad I remembered to bake the cake first!” Then he paused, “Wait, I think I hear him coming.”

Everyone in the room hid as they heard Fry singing,

Sometimes you win, Oh some times you don’t

That’s how love goes

Sorrow runs deep, joys you will keep

That’s how love goes

You get lost, you fall down

Still you find your way

That’s how love goes…

Goes where the wind blows

The door slid open and Fry stepped through. He peered into the darkened apartment and called out, “Bender! Where are you?”

When there was no answer, Fry though about leaving. He changed his mind, deciding to just wait for his friend.

As he stepped into his room, he sensed that something was different. Before he could figure it out, the lights came on, everyone sprang up, and a shout of “SURPRISE!” filled the room.

The shock was such that Fry almost turned and ran from the apartment. The sight that met his eyes kept him rooted to the spot. All of his guy friends were there, Bender, the Professor, Hermes, CosmicF, XT, Brad, Zoidberg, Kif, and James.

They were all standing around an enormous cake that sat on a raised dais in the center of the room. Bender had scrounged some card tables which stood against the walls. They were piled high with food and drink…lots of drink.

Bender walked up to Fry, “Welcome to your bachelor party, Fry. I know you said you didn’t want one…but I figured if we held it long enough before the wedding, you’d be able to sober up.”

“Bender, old buddy…what’s with the cake?”

“Glad you asked,” he said in a mysterious tone. “Come on out!” he shouted at the cake.

The top of the cake popped off. Slowly, a woman rose from the cake, a stunning dark haired beauty wearing only a micro-thong, pasties, and a smile. Fry’s jaw almost hit the floor at the sight. In truth, every human male in the room was watching her as she stepped out of the cake and began to slink toward Fry.

“Hello,” she purred, “What are you doing tonight, handsome?” she said with a slight eastern European accent.

Fry felt weak in the knees as he stammered, “Um…I’m…well…getting married.”

“Right now?” the lovely brunette asked.

Everyone but Kif laughed at Fry’s obvious embarrassment.

“No…not tonight…but I’m engaged.”

She stuck her lip out as though she were pouting, “A stud like you would be engaged.” She stepped so close to him that her breasts grazed his chest, “Would you like to see me dance?”

Fry, who would have seized any opportunity to get some distance between them said, “Sh..Sh..Sure!”

“Oh, Oh Kay!” she said with a wicked grin. She glanced at Bender, who turned on a boom box. Out of it’s speakers flowed the almost eerie, wailing music of the belly dance.

Everyone except Kif, who hid his face in his hands, erupted in a series of cat calls and whistles as she began to dance only inches away from a heavily perspiring Fry. She shimmied and undulated her body in ways that made every man…except Kif…begin to feel aroused.

As Fry attempted to retreat and put some space between them, she would follow, always maintaining the distance. Just before Fry made a decision to run screaming from the room, the music stopped.

They stood there, inches apart. Both were breathing heavily. The lovely brunette kissed an astonished Fry lightly on the cheek, “Your fiancée is a lucky woman. There are very few men who behave as you did. May your marriage be long and happy.”

All of the men applauded. James shouted, “Way to go, Fry!”

Bender reached into his chest cavity and pulled out a wad of cash, “Way to go, Katrina. You can find your own way out?”

She smiled, “I’ll dress in your closet and be on my way.”

Brad stepped forward, “I’ll walk you to your car.”

She looked at him for a moment. Then she smiled seductively, “Very well, I have no car but I do need to take the tube home and it is a very dark night.”

Brad waited politely as she dressed in Bender’s room. When the door slid open, she was dressed in a simple black dress. From where Brad stood, it certainly did justice to her figure. He hadn’t noticed before how dark her slightly almond shaped eyes were.

They walked to the tube station mostly in silence. He could catch whiffs of her perfume as they walked along…a light jasmine scent. Brad did find the courage to ask if she danced all of the time. Her tone was almost sad as she replied, “I dance to pay for my college. I do not do anything wrong. Soon, I will be a doctor…then all of this dancing will cease.”

When she got ready to enter the tube, she turned to hand him a piece of paper. She smiled, “If you ever want to have some conversation, here is my number.” Before he could reply, she stepped into the tube and was whisked away.

Brad walked back to the party in a semi-daze. When he entered the apartment, Kif, who was closest to the door, asked, “So, did you enjoy your walk?”

Brad merely smiled and nodded.

The rest of the night was devoted to drinking, eating nachos and other ‘guy’ food, and watching old war movies. It was four in the morning before the last guest left. Several, like James and Zoidberg crashed on the floor.

Fry surveyed the wreckage of the apartment. Bottles were strewn everywhere, snack bags, trash, uneaten food, and several piles of what looked like barf were all over the floor as well. Bender came up and threw his arm across Fry’s shoulders, “Did you enjoy it, old buddy?”

Fry smiled at Bender, “I sure did. Thanks Bender.”

Bender sounded sad, “I’ll miss you buddy. We’ve only a week to go.”

Fry responded with real sadness in his voice, “I’ll miss you too, Buddy.” Then he brightened as he said, “Only a week to go.”

The Robot Arms Apartments, Apartment 00100100 June 24, 3004, 1000 (10 a.m.)

Leela stood outside the apartment door, listening. She had knocked lightly several times, but there had been no response.

“I wonder if Bender set his door to open with my career chip?” she muttered. Well, there was only one way to find out. She held her hand over the opening pad.

The door slid open right away, revealing a snoring, pyjama clad Bender. Leela smiled at the sight…a robot in blue and white striped jams. Deciding not to wake him, she slipped past him into the apartment.

As soon as she entered, she felt a sudden urge to clean the whole place at once. It was absolutely trashed! And the smell…ugh!

James was almost dead center in the room lying on his back, snoring lightly. Zoidberg was curled up in a corner, fast asleep as well.

Something about Zoidberg looked odd and made Leela do a double take. Someone had used a marker to give Zoidberg a full head of hair and bizarre handlebar moustache. Leela stuck her fist into her mouth to suppress a laugh, her face turning red from the effort of suppressing it.

To keep from choking, Leela turned her back to Zoidberg. It was then that she could hear the shower running and Fry singing, “I’m Walking on Sunshine” at the top of his voice. As she moved toward the bathroom, James sat up.

His eyes were bleary and his hair was disordered…sticking up like an unruly hayrick. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, “Leela…what time is it?”

“It’s a little after ten.”

“What day is it?”

“It’s Sunday, the 24th of June.”

He shook his head like a bull worrying a toreador, “Damn. I’m supposed to meet Sarah at noon.”

“Well, I’d get cracking if I were you.”

“But I need to help clean up.”

Leela laughed, “How sweet. Don’t worry, this will keep.”

James stood up, walked over to Zoidberg, and leaned over to poke him in the abdomen, “Okay, Zoidman, let’s go.”

Zoidberg sat up, looking totally out of it. He sounded confused as he said, “Alright officer, I’ll move along.”

“Come on, John…let’s go. The party is over.”

“Oh my good friend James. Is the offer of a place to crash at your apartment still good?”

“You bet. Come on, we need to go. I’ve got to meet Sarah in less than two hours, and I don’t want to look…and smell…like this.”

Zoidberg sniffed James briefly, “Now that’s a stink gland!” he said appreciatively. “Oh how I would have done during the Frenzy smelling like that. If you want my advice, don’t change a thing!”

James took Zoidberg’s arm, leading him toward the door, “Zoidman, the only problem is that Sarah is a human female. They tend to gag at these kinds of smells.”

As they left the apartment, Leela looked around for someplace to start cleaning. Before she had done more than pick up the food bags, Fry came into the room.

He managed to look both pleased and surprised at once, “Leela, hey! I thought you weren’t coming until eleven?”

“I wasn’t, but I thought I might come over and help you clean up.”

“Don’t worry,” he said with his best boyish grin, “Bender has a robot girlfriend who is a cleaning system. She does it once a week for free.”

“Philip J. Fry, how can you let Bender take advantage of someone like that?” Leela demanded.

Surprised by the sudden heat in her voice, Fry looked sheepish as he said, “Well…Bender does give her something in return. She doesn’t complain.”

Leela could feel her temper rising. Men! How could Fry and Bender be so calloused about an obvious expression of love?

Seeing the telltale signs of a “Leela Explosion,” Fry resorted to his sure-fire response, “I’m sorry Leela. You are right. It’s all my fault. I’ll make sure Bender stops exploiting her.”

It worked. Leela’s tone became softer, “Okay Fry. Now let’s get to work cleaning up. We have to be at my parent’s at noon. The rehearsal is at three this afternoon.”

“Okay Leela, I’ll go get the mop and bucket.”

For the next hour they worked cleaning the apartment.

When they finished, Leela smiled, “There! Isn’t that better?”

“Much better! Now let’s head for your parent’s house. We don’t want to be late.”

The Mutant Village, the Church of the Alpha and the Omega, June 24, 1500

“Lunch went well,” Leela reflected as the entered the church. Morris and Munda had treated Fry and her to lunch at Bob’s Mutant Boy.

There they had met Detective Sergeant Lipford, who had chatted pleasantly with them as he waited for Judy to get off shift. They had invited him to the wedding and the reception, as Judy’s date. He had accepted, with the usual policeman’s disclaimer of, “I’ll be there unless I’m called out on a case.”

As they entered the sanctuary, they could see Rabbi Liebgott standing at the altar, talking earnestly to Amy. Everyone else in the wedding party had already arrived. They were milling around close to the altar, chatting and laughing. The only exception was Hermes, who was seated at the church’s ancient organ, checking the keys and pedals.

The sight should have calmed Leela’s nerves, but it didn’t. “Everything will go fine. Stop worrying!” she told herself.

Sarah, Caitlyn and Chelsea had just finished setting their instruments and were ready to go. Amy had talked them into playing during the ceremony.

Rabbi Liebgott caught sight of Leela and Fry and called out, “Now that the Bride and Groom are here, we can begin. Leela, you stand here and Fry…you stand there.”

Like the military chaplain he was, the Rabbi got down to business. He snapped out a rapid fire string of orders, “Let’s do the end of the ceremony first. We can work on the rest later. Amy, you stand here next to Leela as maid of honor. Melissa and LaBarbara move over here as bridesmaids.”

He turned his attention to the men, “Bender…stop fidgeting…you look like you have shpilkes. As the best man, you stand next to Fry.”

“Like I’ve got what?”

Shpilkes…it means ‘ants in your pants’ in Yiddish.”

“Professor and Kif you are the groomsmen. So you stand to this side of Bender. Bender, stop fidgeting!”

“James, Zoidberg, CosmicF, XT, and Brad stand over there as the ushers. Mr and Mrs Turanga, please, sit in the first pew, to the right of the center isle.”

Everyone took their places. Liebgott looked at Amy, “So where are the flower girl and the ring bearer?”

No sooner had the words left his mouth than Mr. Vogel from the Orphanarium entered the sanctuary, puffing like a steam engine, with two children in tow, “Sorry I’m late. It’s just so confusing finding your way around down here.”

Leela recognized the children immediately. The little girl, Sally, was obviously of mutant extraction, with a third ear in the middle of her forehead. She had come very close to adopting her once, to spare her the life of a mutant orphan. That hadn’t worked out, so Sally was still trapped in that hellish life, she reflected with a touch of sadness.

The little boy was Albert; a portly little fellow…who she remembered had poor reflexes and coordination. She could see he was terribly nervous, so she winked at him. He smiled back, but still seemed nervous.

Smiling, she stepped from the altar to hug Mr. Vogel, “Thanks for making it here. Are all of the children coming to the wedding?”

He blushed and laughed, “We…I mean they…wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Leela gave him an affectionate peck on the cheek and hugged both the children before she turned to resume her place at the altar. In spite of her outward calm, she was still very nervous inside.

The run through of the ceremony began smoothly, right up to the moment Leela looked at Zoidberg. He had obviously scrubbed his carapace thoroughly. Unfortunately, a slight shadow remained…enough to trigger the memory of how silly Zoidberg had looked with a full head of hair and moustache scribbled on his head. That provided a trigger to relieve Leela’s pent up nervousness.

Leela bit into her lower lip in an attempt to cut off laughter. Her face began to twitch as she fought to control an outburst. Tears began to well in her eye as well. She had nearly brought it under control when Fry asked, “Leela are you okay?”

Instead of answering, Leela doubled over with laughter. “Ha…ha…ha…ha…ha! He had a moustache,” she gasped, pointing at Zoidberg. “Ha…ha…ha! I’m so sorry but I just can’t…ha…ha…ha!”

Everyone stared at her in amazement. Except for James, who realized what was going on. He stepped between Leela and Zoidberg, cutting her line of sight. He looked at the bewildered Rabbi, “Don’t worry, she’ll be okay. She just remembered something funny.”

James then told the wedding party how Zoidberg had been the victim of a prank at Fry’s bachelor party. Everyone…including Zoidberg…joined in the laughter.

Finally, Leela brought her merriment under control. She wiped her eye and said, “I’m okay. Sorry. We can go ahead now.”

The rest of the rehearsal went well. After about an hour and a half, they went into a meeting room just off the sanctuary to have some finger foods.

Bender was disappointed when he found out that finger foods didn’t include any real fingers.

CosmicF had asked, “Why would you want to have real fingers? I mean, that’s like…so gross.”

Bender gulped down a glass of fortified wine before responding, “Well, I thought there might be some rings on those fingers. You know, kind of like a prize.”

CosmicF shook his head as he walked away, “Dude, that is so sick.”

Bender shrugged, “Whatever floats your boat, flesh wad.”

XT was listening to the conversation. The thought of anyone eating a real finger made his flesh creep. He liked Bender, but sometimes he found him hard to tolerate.

Brad walked up to XT, “Hey XT, I’d like a little advice.”

XT smiled, liking Brad greatly. They had formed a close friendship during the past few weeks, so he was glad to help in any way he could. He answered, “We have a special on advice today, my friend. How may I help you?”

Brad looked nervous, “I want to ask if I can bring Katrina to the wedding, but I don’t know how to ask.”

XT’s brows flew upward, “The one who danced at Fry’s bachelor party?” He stroked his chin thoughtfully before answering, “Ask Amy. She will say yes, I am sure.” A sudden thought occurred to him, “Have you even spoken to Katrina about this? She might find it awkward to be at a wedding with former…how do I say it…clients.”

Brad shook his head, “I’ve dialled her number a dozen times, but hung up before it rang.”

“You are backing the Camel into the stall. Call her first,” XT said in a soft voice, “then ask her for coffee. When you are enjoying coffee, ask if she will go to the wedding. But you must make haste, my friend. Fortune favors the bold!”

Brad nodded, “Right. I’ll lose no more time.”

Somewhere in New-New York, June 25, 0800The light from the hypnowheel played across Zapp Brannigan’s features as he twirled it idly.  “A marvellous device,” he reflected. “It is almost as effective as a hypnotoad.  Pity it can’t get someone to do something totally against their nature.  Still…”His reverie was interrupted by the chirping of a communications circuit in his Wristamajigy.   He punched the touch screen a few times, “Hello.”“Is Mr. Jones there?”“Yes, this is he.”“Your package will be delivered this afternoon.”“Excellent.”Zapp jabbed the off button and smiled.  “The city is starting to calm down from the last attack.  Time to kick it up a notch, as Elzar would say,” he thought. An evil smirk crossed his face.The thought of achieving his revenge was so sweet!  Zapp leaned his head back, laughing an evil, maniacal laugh.James Martindale’s Apartment, 1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, June 25, 3004, 0900.“Time to check the dead drop,” James thought.  He poured himself a cup of coffee and went to his computer.  Once it booted up, he connected to a router that stripped his IP address from his communications, substituting a different address.  Then he logged onto an internet service provider that offered anonymous web surfing.   From there he made four similar jumps before arriving at a gardening web page.He examined the page, noting from the color of the flowers in the upper right hand corner of the page that there were messages for him.  He clicked on the shopping basket, logged in as a returning customer, and input his password and id.Instead of displaying a shopping basket, the web page was a simple web mail page.  He checked his mail, including the urgent one from Ramon asking for a meeting at the earliest possible time.  “I’ll see you soon, old friend,” he muttered with a smile.After backing out of his web mail and covering his electronic tracks, James Martindale shut his computer down.  He went to the closet, stepped inside…and vanished!In reality, James had entered a tesseract, a fourth dimensional space created for him by the genius of Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.  Within the tesseract James could store all of his gear without any fear of discovery.  The tesseract was biometrically coded, so only he could enter…to emerge as the Big Red, the Red Shadow…the scourge of the criminal underworld.New-New York Police Department Headquarters’, Commissioner’s Office June 25, 0930.The computer in Ramon’s office began to chirp, pulling Ramon’s thoughts away from the dead end they seemed to have run into with the Mutant “terrorist” attack at Central Station.He got up from the couch where he had been lying with his eyes closed, trying to ward off a migraine.  Sitting behind the computer, he performed the necessary keystrokes to check his mail.  “Gracias a dios!” he said out loud.  Big Red had finally gotten around to answering his urgent email.  The monitor screen flickered for a second and Ramon knew he was no longer alone.  He reached over to his communications panel and said, “Mrs. Marple, hold all of my calls please.”“Yes, Commish!” was the instant answer.Without turning around, Ramon spoke, “Dígame, Big Red.”A voice issued from the couch as Big Red slowly appeared, “I have a few thoughts on the matter, but first…did they really release Willis?”Ramon’s face flushed bright red, “Yes.  That stupid hijo de puta of a judge cut him loose on bail.  Of course, Willis has vanished.  That leaves us with less than nothing.”“Perhaps not, did you record the data on his career chip?”“Of course.  That’s standard procedure.  But those tags are only meant to be scanned close up.”“I have friends in low places, Don Ramon.  Maybe I can help find our boy.  Will you send me the information on his chip?”Ramon turned to his computer, made a few entries, and turned back with a smile, “Dicho y hecho!  It’s in your in box.”“Don Ramon, do you think this is really the work of Mutant terrorists?”“No,” he shook his head vigorously, “none of my best detectives think so either.  Only that stupid Cabron Poopenmeyer and his gang seem to think so.”Big Red began to fade from view, “I’ll be in touch, Don Ramon.”“That’s a neat trick,” Ramon thought as Big Red faded from view.  As he opened his liquor drawer, he muttered, “I need a drink.”

Dominic’s Deli, Time Square, June 25, 3004, 1215 (12:15 p.m.)

The crews of the Pathfinder and Resilient had decided to go out to lunch, so they headed for one of New-New York’s finest delicatessens, Dominic’s at Times Square. The deli was done in early 21st Century style, with wooden four-person booths scattered throughout the deli, as well as tables on the sidewalk outside. The floors were of black and white linoleum squares while the walls were covered with black and white ceramic tile.

Amy had wanted to sit outside, but CosmicF and XT had persuaded her that the summer heat might ruin her makeup. So they had settled into three booths at the back of the deli and began to enjoy themselves.

A tall Neptunian dressed in the usual deli uniform of white coat and apron took their orders. “Your number is 106,” he said in a heavy Bronx accent. Fry took the number and they took their seats to wait for their food.

Leela, Fry, Bender and Amy sat in the booth closest to the counter. Sarah, CosmicF, XT, and Melissa had sat in another booth directly behind them, while Brad, Caitlyn, and Chelsea had parked themselves in another booth, across the aisle from the first two. It was a great arrangement for conversation. As they sat waiting, the talk turned to the upcoming wedding.

Amy was obviously relishing her job as a wedding planner. Leela was a little amused at how excited she was when she spoke, “Leela…your gown is so drop dead gorgeous! One of my old boy friends, Armando Cruz is going to take the wedding album photos, and I’ve laid on a spread from Elzar’s catering.”

With a touch of alarm, Leela asked, “Elzar’s? Isn’t that a bit on the pricey side?”

Amy laughed, “You just need to know how to use leverage. When he realized that my dad and mom are the Mars Wongs, he suddenly became much easier to deal with.”

Leela joined in Amy’s laughter, as did Sarah.

The Neptunian behind the counter called out, “Serving number 106!”

Fry stood up and CosmicF…who wanted desperately to impress Amy somehow…stood as well. “I’ll lend a hand,” he said.

When they reached the counter, out of earshot of the booths, CosmicF asked Fry, “Are you nervous?”

Fry shook his head, “I’m only nervous that Leela will realize that she’s getting the raw end of the deal and dump me.”

CosmicF patted Fry reassuringly on the back, “Don’t worry, she knows she’s getting a really good man. She won’t dump you.” CosmicF hesitated, then asked, “Fry do you think Amy and Kif are really a solid couple?”

Fry was taken aback by the question, “Solid couple? Gee, I guess so. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason.”

Although he knew better, Fry decided not to press the issue.

It took two trips, but Fry and CosmicF brought all of the food to the booths. Everyone ate in a leisurely fashion, relaxing in the knowledge that they would not be hauling any more turbidium until after the wedding.

Brad glanced at the clock, noting that it was already 12:45 p.m.

Times Square, June 25, 3004, 1245 (12:45 p.m.)

Times Square was jammed with pedestrians and vehicle traffic, as it was during every weekday lunchtime. People flowed down the sidewalks in a multi-colored river of humanity with a generous sprinkling of aliens. Hovercars crept past, crawling at the slow pace of lunchtime New-New York traffic.

It was a warm, cloudless day. The sun had heated the asphalt and concrete well above the air temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The winds were calm, making the humidity seem even more oppressive.

Officer Timothy O’Malley was on foot patrol, mingling with the crowd, providing a visible assurance to everyone that New-New York’s Finest were there to keep everyone safe. Members of the O’Malley clan had served on the New-New York force for over 900 years. Tim was known by all as an “up and comer,” the father of two small boys, and a devoted husband. He was also a dedicated, observant cop.

As he passed in front of Dominic’s Deli, he waved at Fred, the Neptunian counterman. He liked Fred, even if he was known to run numbers occasionally. He stopped in the shade of the awning for a moment, letting his eyes roam over the crowd. It was then that he saw him.

A middle aged mutant, a runner by the name of Rodgers Roger, was shuffling along the sidewalk as if he were sleepwalking. O’Malley was surprised, as he had never seen Rodgers out during the daylight. “Kind of like seeing a racoon during the daytime,” O’Malley thought to himself, “there must be something wrong.”

Then it hit him, Rodgers was wearing a long trench coat! “Holy Mary, Mother of God!” he thought, “It’s a bomb!”

O’Malley cleared his positron pistol from its holster, leveling it at Rogers. He remembered his training from the police academy, aiming the pistol directly at Rogers’ head. His shooting instructors had always said, “Put two shots in the head of suicide bombers. Avoid hitting the body or KABOOM!”

“Halt! Police!” O’Malley roared.

Rodgers stopped, swaying as if he were drunk.

“Hands in the air, Rodgers!”

Rodgers complied.

O’Malley shouted at a passer-by, “Go inside the Deli and call the cops. Tell them we’ve got a possible suicide bomber.”

As soon as the words escaped his lips, people began to stampede out of the area, screaming and shouting.

Before anyone got too far, Zapp Brannigan, who had been monitoring the entire affair from across the square, pressed the ‘talk’ button on his Wristamajigy. It called the cell phone in the suicide vest worn by Rodgers. At the first ring, the vest detonated.

Forty four pounds of T-4 explosive detonated with a deafening roar. The nails, bolts, and nuts that were embedded in the vest were hurled out at a speed of over 17,000 feet per second.

Officer O’Malley died instantly, not knowing that…even if he had fired…the vest would have detonated anyway. Thirty-four other people on the street died instantly as well.

Windows shattered at the overpressure generated by the blast. The storefront of several stores, including Dominic’s Deli vanished…blown to powder by the force of the explosion. Dust kicked up by the explosion created an impenetrable man-made curtain.

When the roar of the explosion died away, the air was filled with the groans and cries of over two hundred wounded. Inside Dominic’s Deli, a sheet of flame erupted as the gas line that fed the pizza oven ruptured.

Hell had come to lower Manhattan.

Dominic’s Deli, Time Square, June 25, 3004, 1245:30 (12:45 p.m. +30 seconds)

The explosion caught everyone by surprise. As the blast wave pulverized the front of the deli, Leela, Amy, Brad, XT and Sarah – all of who were facing the street – had mere microseconds to react.

Leela collared Amy and Fry, dragging them under the table with her. XT and Sarah did the same with CosmicF and Melissa, respectively. Brad hauled Chelsea and Caitlyn out of harm’s way. Only Bender failed to move.

The blast wave struck first, the overpressure causing Bender’s hydraulics to go wild. Everyone, even those with their ears covered, felt their ears pop…quite painfully. The accompanying concussion rattled everyone’s teeth as well. Nanoseconds later, flying debris sliced through the air.

“Ow!” Bender managed to say as several small chunks of concrete slammed into his head. Before he could say anything else, a nail drove in his head, smashing several circuit boards and shorting him out. His body twitched convulsively before falling forward across the table.

On the heels of the projectiles came the blast of pulverized concrete dust that filled the room, making it practically impossible to breathe.

It took what seemed like an eternity, but was in fact only a few seconds, for those in the room to begin to process what was going on. First to recover was Leela, who sat up, gasping and choking. She surveyed the front of the store, which seemed to be covered by a sheet of flame.

Temporarily deafened, no one could hear the roar of the burning natural gas, but the heat from the flames and the attendant depletion of oxygen was oppressively apparent to all.

Sarah and Brad sat up, spitting concrete dust from their mouths. Brad was the first to speak, although what was meant as a voice of command came out as a hoarse croak, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Leela pulled Fry to his feet. He had a few minor cuts, as did Amy. “Out…let’s get out,” she managed to say.”

Fry pointed at Bender, “He’s hurt!”

She looked into the deli, but could see no signs of any survivors. All she could see was a rapidly approaching wall of flame. Leela turned to Sarah, “Let’s meet out back, head North along the alley until you hit the first street.”

Sarah nodded, “Right-o mate.” She yanked those under her table to their feet and said, “Move your arses! Out the rear door and turn left.”

Chelsea and Caitlyn needed no urging, following Brad like the professionals they were.

Amy and Leela got Bender’s arms, while Fry grabbed his legs. Choking and gasping for breath as the heat increased and the oxygen level decreased, they somehow managed to drag Bender out the rear door.

The humid summer air that met them as they emerged form the raging hell of the ruined deli seemed icy cold. They paused for a few seconds before resuming their task of dragging Bender to rendezvous with the rest of the Planet Express Crew.

When they reached the street, they all huddled around Bender in a group. Everyone was bleeding from a variety of minor cuts. They had been coated with dust, giving them an odd look, almost like minstrels in blackface.

Everyone was spitting to get the concrete dust out of their mouths. Their hearing was returning, because they could hear the screams and moans from Times Square. The wail of police, fire, and ambulance sirens rose in a strident chorus that seemed to approach from all directions.

As emergency services units whizzed past, Leela motioned everyone over. When the group had gathered close enough to hear her voice over the rising Babel of sirens, shouts, and screams, Leela shouted, “We need to get Bender back to the Planet Express Building so the Professor can have a look at him. But first, we need to make sure that everyone is okay.”

Chelsea and Caitlyn, who were both trained combat medics, did a rapid assessment of everyone on the spot. Caitlyn said, “No major visible injuries. I think it’s safe to head for the barn.”

Chelsea nodded in agreement, “I agree.” The she added, “Shouldn’t we let the cops or somebody know what we know.”

CosmicF gave a nervous laugh and said, “All I know is that Sarah grabbed me, shoved me under the table, and the deli freakin’ blew up!”

“How’d you like your butt kicked?” Chelsea hissed.

Sarah and Brad both stepped in. Sarah said soothingly, “Easy now, we don’t need this kind of action. Chelsea’s right. We need to go talk to the coppers, right Leela?”

Leela nodded, “Let’s head to the corner and at least give them our contact information. Brad, Fry, XT, and CosmicF, lend a hand with Bender.”

Without further comment, the group picked Bender up and headed toward Times Square.

Times Square, June 25, 3004, 1250 (12:50 p.m.)

Converging from different points in the city, Captain “Froggy” LeBlanc, Detective Sergeant “Lip” Lipford and “Sal” Sanchez arrived within seconds of each other. Froggy took one look at the situation and took charge.

She knew from her training that bombers sometimes left a little ‘surprise’ behind…a second bomb intended to kill first responders…cops, fire-fighters, and paramedics. “Damn,” she thought, “I’ve seen better organized riots!”

She collared Lip and Sal, “Push the cordon out at least two blocks. Get everybody who isn’t absolutely essential the hell out of here!”

Both veteran Sergeants responded with a “Yes, Captain” and waded into the crowd. Shouting orders to first responders and civilians alike, they began to restore order. As they herded people out of the area, Lip noticed Leela and Fry.

“You’re Judy’s cousin Leela…right?”

“Lip! What can we do to help?”

“Are any of you badly hurt?” Lip asked as he cast a quick eye over the group.

Fry spoke up, “Just Bender…he took a nail in the head.”

“Sorry about that.” He turned his attention to Leela, “Just let me know where I can reach you guys.”

Leela said, “We work at Planet Express.”

“Okay, I know it. Somebody will interview you soon. Get out of here as quickly as you can. This joint ain’t safe.”

Leela and the rest of the crew made their way toward the Planet Express building.

As they labored down the street, a figure in a dark cape lined with dark red silk flitted across the roof top, invisible to those below. His Mobile Tesseract Generator (MTG) was functioning perfectly.

Big Red could move in a mobile, roving segment of 4th dimensional space. As such, he could see those in 3rd dimensional space perfectly, but they could not see…or even sense…him. That is, of course, unless they could detect the electromagnetic fluctuations caused by the MTG.

He surveyed the street below, noting the damage and the movements of the emergency personnel. Although he could have gathered much of what he wanted from his access to the web cams throughout the area, his military training and experience had taught him the value of putting “eyes on” a problem area.

The shattered store fronts, the litter of bodies, and the still smoking spot on the pavement spoke volumes to his trained eyes. His heart skipped a beat when he saw that Sarah was walking down Madison Avenue towards 42nd Street along with the rest of the crew. None of them seemed to be badly injured except Bender, he noted with some relief. With an effort he forced his mind back to the problem at hand.

It was time to get back to his office and do some investigating, he decided. He turned on his heel, moving swiftly away.

Meanwhile, Mike Wigglesworth rolled up on the scene. He sprang from the CSI van, as did his assistant, John (call me Duncan) Kriebel. In contrast to the short, somewhat stocky Wigglesworth, Kreibel was 5’11” tall and a lean 175 pounds. He also had a dense mop of sandy hair, blue eyes, and a ready smile.

They hurried over to where Froggy was giving orders to some uniformed personnel.

When they approached to within speaking distance, Froggy turned to them,” Mike…Duncan, we’ve got sixty two dead and God knows how many injured. We’ve got to get some answers. Clear?”

Mike nodded, “If it’s here, Captain, we’ll find it.”

‘Failure is not an option!”

“Check.”

Duncan went to the van and pulled out his bomb investigation backpack. He had everything he needed for evidence collection packed into a small bag.

Already a legend in the bomb disposal community, he was a careful and meticulous investigator. Before he even approached the bomb site, he carefully scanned the area for any other possible explosive devices.

Finding nothing, he went to the site of the detonation. He worked outward from the site of the explosion in an ever expanding spiral. He took photographs, collected samples, and performed preliminary tests.

Three hours later, he was finished. Mike was sitting on the curb taking a breather near the van.

As Duncan walked up Mike raised an eyebrow, “Well Duncan, what’s the provisional hypothesis?”

Duncan flopped down next to Mike, “Provisional hypothesis my ass! It was forty-two to forty-four pounds of T-4 from the Syria Planitia Naval Yards that drove another twenty-odd pound of nails, bolts and nuts into the bodies of over three hundred people.”

Mike grinned, “Duncan, are you getting too old for this s**t? Lord, you are grumpy!”

Duncan shook his head, “No mom,” he said with a heavy touch of sarcasm, “I’m not getting too old for this. The genetic material I gathered confirms our boy was a mutant. Not only that, he had near lethal levels of theflazine in his body…at least in the small pieces I could find.”

Mike looked grim, “Sounds like we’ve got a pattern. Did you find rayon fibers as well?”

Duncan nodded, “Yeah. I figure they came from the bomb vest he had to be wearing.”

Mike massaged his temples with his forefingers, “Well, we’d best get back to the lab. The Commissioner is going to want some answers on this one.”

Apartment 1I, June 25, 3004, 2000 (8 p.m.)

“It’s been a hell of a day,” Fry said as he and Leela walked into her apartment.

“Thank goodness we’re all okay,” Leela responded. “I’m glad they were able to help Bender at Cedars Sine Wave Hospital.”

“Yeah, he was really ticked that they kept him overnight for observation.”

Both of them began to laugh at the thought of how Bender had raised the roof when the doctor told him he had to spend the night in the hospital.

“I’m glad you’re staying the night, Fry. I feel safer with you here.”

Fry thought it funny that Leela…who he considered the bravest person he knew…would find his presence reassuring. “Still, you take what you can get,” he reflected.

Rather than sit on the couch and get it dirty, Fry sat on the floor…glad to get off his feet.

“Do you want to you shower first?” Leela asked.

“My mother always said ‘Ladies first’,” Fry replied, flashing his trademark boyish grin.

Leela returned his smile, leaning over to kiss him lightly on the cheek, “Thanks. I won’t be long.”

Fry watched her as she walked across the living room into the bedroom. Even covered in concrete dust, she made his heart beat faster every time he looked at her.

He heard a click as the shower door opened, a click as it closed, and then the shower turned on. One part of him wanted to be in the shower with Leela, but another part knew that he only had a few more days to wait.

Looking for something to occupy his mind, he glanced around. Right on top of a pile of magazines laid the latest issue of Cosmo, which had a banner headline of, ‘What Every Woman Wants.’

“Hmmm.” Fry thought, “What does every woman want?” His curiosity got the better of him, and he muttered, “Well, I may as well find out.”

He skimmed through the article, then settled in to read it word for word. He was so absorbed that he failed to hear Leela finish her shower.

She padded up softly, her thick purple hair still in a large fluffy white towel and her body wrapped in a green cotton robe with a blue silk border. She smiled when she realized that Fry was so engrossed in the magazine that he hadn’t heard her approach.

Her smile turned to an impish grin. She got as close to Fry as she could before whispering in his ear, in as sexy a tone as she could muster, “What I really want is a clean man.”

Fry rocketed to a standing position, the Cosmo magazine went sailing through the air, and he began to stutter, “L..L..Leela, I…I was just…just looking at the advertisements.”

Struggling to keep from bursting into laughter, Leela replied as seriously as she could, “Don’t worry, Phil. I’m not calling your sexual orientation into question.” Then she giggled as she pecked him on the cheek, “I love you.” Then she shoved him away while wrinkling her nose, “Now, just go take a shower. Oh, and some of your clothes are in my closet, I just washed them last night.”

Fry grinned as he headed toward the shower, “Thanks! I love you too.”

“Oooh!” she thought, “That grin drives me crazy…and he knows it.” She busied herself with straightening the living room up before she headed back into the bedroom.

She stood before her bureau, looking into the mirror. She slowly unwound the towel from her thick purple hair, letting it fall loosely to her shoulders.

Picking up a hairbrush and dryer, she began to slowly dry her hair. Before she was halfway done, Fry emerged from the shower. She caught a brief glimpse of his naked body in the mirror before he wrapped a towel around his waist. The sight sent her mind galloping bedwards.

“Steady, Leela” she scolded herself mentally, “don’t get any crazy ideas.”

Fry brushed past her on the way to the closet, nuzzling her neck as he passed. “Am I clean enough now?” he asked playfully.

He was unprepared for the reaction. Leela spun around and literally shoved him onto the bed. Like a tigress, she leaped on him. Then she began to cover his face with passionate kisses.

His arms went around her, pulling her closer. She panted, “Oh God. I’m not going to make it to our wedding day. I’m just so crazy about you.”

His breath was labored as well as he replied, “Leels, I’ll do anything you want, but…” his voice trailed off.

She embraced him fiercely, “Just shut up and hold me, Phil! I promised we wouldn’t snu-snu, but I need to be near you. It calms me in a way I can’t explain.”

“Me too, Leels…me too.”

James Martindale’s Apartment, 1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, June 25, 3004, 2200 (10 p.m.)

James rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, trying to maintain his focus on the information displayed on his computer screen. He had fed the data gleaned from NYPD Records provided by Ramon, Open Source accounts as well as his own observations into the customized relational database he had designed.

While still incomplete, his analysis did not point to mutants as the cause of the explosions. Three key pieces of evidence pointed to someone else as the perpetrator. First, eyewitness accounts of the odd behavior of the bomb carriers who almost everyone described as ‘sleepwalking’ – not the behavior of a crazed bomber. Second was that the massive amounts of Theflazine found in the genetic samples of the mutant ‘bombers’ tended to reinforce the idea that they were doing it under compulsion. Third, every cop with an ounce of street smarts and experience in the Mutant Village said that mutants simply weren’t violent people.

The key to the whole puzzle was James Willis, who had vanished shortly after he was released on bail. James had cross referenced every bit of information on Willis, including his service record, in an attempt to discover possible accomplices or places he might hide.

He had boiled his list down to a dozen addresses…addresses that the NYPD reports or his criminal record did not suggest.

“Tomorrow,” James said softly to the empty tesseract, “I’ll begin the hunt tomorrow.”

Almost as if on cue, a buzzer sounded. It was Zoidberg, ringing the intercom. James hit the speaker button, “Yes Zoidman, what’s cooking?”

“Why?” Zoidberg asked in a puzzled voice, “Are you hungry?”

“No, that’s just an expression for ‘what’s up?’”

“Oh…I get it. Well, Sarah is at the door. Should I let her in?”

His heart skipped a beat, “Um…sure…let her in. I’ll be out in a minute.”

Zoidberg released the electronic security lock, allowing Sarah into the apartment. “Sorry that it took so long, I had to ask James.”

Sarah gave a forced smile, “Now worries, I understand.”

Zoidberg gestured to the couch, “So sit! James will be out in a minute. Can I get you anything…a beer, Slurm, or Soylent Cola?”

Sarah shook her head as she sat, “Not just now, thanks.”

Zoidberg plopped down in the lounge chair and turned the TV on to an ‘All My Circuits’ rerun.

James strode into the room, “Sarah, what brings you out at such an hour?”

“Crikey Jimbo, the night’s still young,” she said with a forced laugh.

James sat next to her on the couch. As he looked into her eyes, he could see that she was under tremendous stress.

“Quite a day, eh Sarah?”

“Oh Lord, you have no idea. I just can’t get the sights, sounds and smells of today out of my mind. I’m going off my bloody nut.”

“Let’s me get you something to drink and we can talk.”

“Righto, if you’ve got a Foster’s that would be grand.”

James smiled, “My two favorites are Moulson and Foster’s. One Foster’s coming up.” He stood up and walked into the kitchen. Once there he called out, “Zoidman, could you help me out.”

Zoidberg got up from the lounger. He scuttled into the kitchen, looking expectantly at James, “What can I do for you my friend?”

James dropped his voice, “Zoidman, I need you to go into your room until tomorrow morning.”

At first Zoidberg looked puzzled, then his face brightened, “Oh…the human female Sarah! I understand that you humans need privacy for your mating rituals. Fry told me all about it, he did.”

“Zoidman! Please keep your voice down. I just need to talk to her.”

Zoidberg slapped his forehead, “Such a dummy I am! Mating is on the third date! What was I thinking?”

James couldn’t help smiling. Zoidberg had proven to be a perfect room mate. He kept the place spotless and respected James’ privacy absolutely. Rather than get into a long discussion, James simply said, “I’m glad you understand.”

As Zoidberg passed through the living room he said, “Good night Sarah, I’m going to bed.”

“Good Night Doctor Zoidberg,” she replied.

James came into the room carrying a full-sized can of Foster’s and a bottle of Moulson. He set the can along with a frosted mug on the coffee table in front of Sarah. “Service with a smile!”

To his surprise, she upended the can. In a few quick gulps, she finished half of it. Then she said, “Thanks. I needed that. Although I’m going to need a few more to get good and pissed.”

James took a swig from his Moulson, “Jeez Sarah, slow down or you’ll pass out before we can talk.”

Sarah began with, “I’ve seen death before, Jimbo. But I’ve never seen anything like that. For a moment, I thought we were all goners.” For the next hour and a half she talked and talked, with James as the perfect listener.

She had polished off her fourth can of Foster’s just as she finished her story. She smiled…the first real smile of the night…and said, “One more for the road?”

James shook his head, “You don’t need another beer. You need sleep. You shouldn’t go anywhere in your condition.”

“I’m fine,” Sarah protested. She stood up, swayed like a tree in a high wind, then she fell forward…out cold.

James leaped forward, catching her in his arms. He scooped her up, carrying her to his bed, where he laid her on her stomach in case she got sick.

He went to the door and set it to remain open, in case Sarah woke up and needed to use the bathroom.

Then, he went to the closet and took two blankets out, one of which he spread over her. Then he tenderly planted a kiss on her cheek.

After throwing the other blanket on the floor, he stretched out on it. Within moments, he was fast asleep.

Just before sunrise, Zoidberg quietly crossed past the open door on his way to answer the call of nature. He saw James stretched out on the floor, snoring lightly. Sarah was on the bed, curled up in the blanket.

Zoidberg scratched his head with his claw thinking, “I really need to study human mating rituals. Obviously there’s a lot Fry didn’t tell me about!”

Buddies