Futurama

Fan Fiction

Married With Children, part 3
By Ramon_51

Apartment 1I, June 26, 3004, 0630 (6:30 a.m.)

The sound of the coffee maker combined with the aroma of coffee wafting through the bedroom to bring Leela out of her deep slumber. Without opening her eye, she reached over to the side of the bed where Fry had slept, only to find he was already up. Blinking, she sat up, irrationally fearful for a second that Fry was gone.

The sound of movement and the smell of cooking coming from the kitchen confirmed that he was still in the apartment. She relaxed inside, pulling on her robe as she walked into the kitchen. Fry although barefoot was wearing his jeans and his tee shirt.

Fry had his back to her as she entered, engrossed in scrambling some egg beaters. She had an urge to sneak up and hug him, but she realized that could result in a ruined breakfast…or worse. Instead, she simply said, “Good morning, Fry. Did you sleep well?”

Fry looked over his shoulder, “Morning! Yeah, I slept great!”

As she stepped past him to sit down, she kissed him lightly on the cheek. She scooted the chair to a position where they could talk while Fry prepared breakfast.

“Leela, are we still going apartment hunting today?”

“We may not have to look far, Fry. Apartment 5 on this floor is open, it’s rent controlled, and it has two bedrooms, one and a half bath rooms, plus a windows and a patio.”

“Wow! Sounds great!” He paused a second before asking a bit hesitantly, “What’s the damage?”

“The cost is less than the combined costs of our two separate apartments.”

“Great! You know, I bet Nibbler would like a patio.”

At the sound of his name, Nibbler sat up in his bed. He made one of his high pitched muttering noises that indicated he was hungry and headed into the kitchen. Once there, he jumped into Leela’s lap.

She stroked him affectionately, “Aw…poor baby. Fry, he’s hungry.”

Fry turned down the stove to keep from burning the egg beaters. He opened the pantry door, hefting a can of ‘Kibbles and Snouts’ off the floor. Straining mightily, he got the can onto the can opener.

Once the can opener began to whir, Nibbler went into his usual pre-feeding antics. He ran in circles around Fry’s feet, jabbering excitedly. True to form, as the gelatinous pink mess was sliding from the upended can headed for his dish, Nibbler positioned himself directly under the pink avalanche.

Plop! Nibbler temporarily disappeared in the gelatinous mass. The sounds of his gobbling large chunks of the stuff rang through the kitchen. Within seconds, he reappeared to finish off the entire contents of the can. Then he gave a resounding belch.

Both Fry and Leela laughed because they both found Nibbler’s twice daily feeding time show amusing.

Stomach bulging, Nibbler hopped back into Leela’s lap. As she stroked his fur she smiled. “You know Fry, Nibbler likes you. I can tell.”

Right then, the toast popped from the toaster. Prone to malfunctions, the toaster occasionally sent the toast crunching into the ceiling. This time, it only forced Fry to do a juggling act to keep the toast off the floor.

“Darned toaster! I’m going to get Bender to give it a talking to!” Fry said in an exasperated voice.

Leela sat up in her chair, nearly sending Nibbler onto the floor. “Bender! Fry, we have to pick him up this morning at eight. I’d almost forgotten.”

He handed her a plate full of breakfast, “We’ve got plenty of time. Let’s eat. Then we can pick up Bender, check out the apartment, and stop by Planet Express later.”

“My, my, but you are becoming quite forceful!” she said playfully, “Yes, my lord and master, we’ll do just as you say.”

Fry laughed, “Well, I was an Emperor once!” Then he said with mock gravity, “I’m glad you are coming around to my point of view.”

James Martindale’s Apartment, 1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, June 26, 3004, 0645 (6:45 a.m.)

The insistent ringing of an alarm roused Sarah from her sleep. Opening her eyes, she was momentarily confused.

“Where am I?” she thought. The sight of James standing in the doorway smiling at her brought back the memory of last night.

She returned his smile, “G’day!”

“Good morning, Sarah. I’m sorry the alarm woke you, but I’ve got an appointment with a client at eight. Want to clean up and go get some breakfast?”

“Right! Just point me to the dunny.”

James grinned at her Australian slang, “I haven’t heard it called that in a long time. I’ve set out some fresh towels. If you throw your clothes out the door, Zoidman will have in clean in less than 20 minutes. There’s an unused toothbrush and a robe in there for you as well.”

“Thanks Jimbo,” she replied as she rose. She brushed against him as she walked past on her way to a long shower. “Yes!” she thought as she watched James’ reaction, “The spark is still there.”

James watched her as she walked across the living room, feeling emotions that he thought were long dead. With an effort, he turned his mind back to the present. As he walked into the kitchen, he arrived just in time to experience Zoidberg noisily devouring a raw squid.

When Zoidberg became aware of James’ presence, he turned to him, “So, Sarah is doing well?”

“You could say that Zoidman. Would you mind laundering her stuff?” He looked toward the bathroom door, which was now closed. A pile of laundry lay outside. “She left it right outside the door.”

“Certainly, my friend, it is no problem at all.” Zoidberg rose from the chair and scuttled off. He picked up the laundry, piled into the sonic washer, which began to emit a low hum after he punched a series of buttons.

Zoidberg waddled back into the kitchen, “So James, some work you have today?”

“I’m going to be busy in my room for several hours and may have to go out. It’s important that I be able to say that I was at home all day working.”

Zoidberg nodded his head, “Of course you were home all day, why not, I tell you!”

James patted Zoidberg on the shoulder, “Zoidman, you are my Doctor Watson.”

Zoidberg gave a start, “So who is this Doctor Watson?”

James grinned, “Just read some Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

“Reading I can do.”

The sound of the door to the bathroom caused them to look up from their conversation as Sarah emerged. She was wrapped in a white terry cloth bathrobe. Her hair had been toweled dry and hung loosely.

Zoidberg stole a look at James’ face. He saw the hunger there, the same hunger he had seen in Fry’s face as he looked at Leela. It was obvious to him that Sarah felt a need for James as well. Without speaking, he went to the sonic cleaner to get Sarah’s clothes.

“So Jimbo, what’s on the agenda?” she said in a casual tone that she did not feel.

James bit back a suggestive answer, saying instead, “As soon as you get dressed, we can get some breakfast. Then I have to get to work.”

“Just what sort of work do you do?”

“I do security consulting and a bit of private investigation, mostly.”

“Mostly. Hmmm. That sounds interesting.”

Not liking the way the conversation was going, he shrugged, “It’s dry as dust.” Before he had to think of anything else to say, Zoidberg scuttled up with Sarah’s clothes.

“So here are your clothes, Sarah,” Zoidberg said in a friendly tone.

“Thanks Doctor Zoidberg, I appreciate it.” She turned to James, “I’ll be out in a moment.”

After she vanished into the bedroom, James gave a low whistle, “That is some woman.” He knew in his heart that feelings were growing…feelings he hoped were mutual.

She emerged from the room, “Come on Jimbo, I could use some breakfast.”

James took her by the arm, feeling the warmth of her touch. He looked into her shimmering green eyes, “I know the very place. You’ll love it.”

“I’m sure I will,” she replied sincerely.

Without another word, they left the apartment, arm-in-arm.

Cedars Sine Wave Hospital, June 26, 0800 (8 a.m.)

Leela and Fry sat holding hands in the waiting room, watching the door for a glimpse of Bender. Doctors, nurses, and patients flowed past in the corridor, maintaining a continual background of sight and sound. Not that they paid much attention because for both Leela and Fry the warm pressure of their palms pressed together was the focus of their world.

Within a few moments, Bender’s voice – coming from just out of sight down the corridor – intruded on their consciousness as he bellowed, “Kiss my shiny metal ass!”

Startled, they both stood up and stepped into the corridor, still holding hands. At a glance they could see that the object of Bender’s wrath was a robot doctor. “Mr. Bender, if you don’t return for tests, we can’t be sure if the treatment is working.”

“You just want my money. I’m fine.”

“No, you are not. You have Robot-turrets’ syndrome or RTS.”

Bender went suddenly rigid. Then he shouted “FUNDERFUL!” at full volume. No sooner had he shouted than he relaxed. Shaking his head he said, “That RTS is a lot of baloney. I’d know if I was shouting random stuff.”

The doctor said in an exasperated tone, “You just shouted ‘funderful’, Mr. Bender.”

“Nonsense! I never use that word.”

Fry spoke up, “Bender buddy, you did just shout ‘funderful.’

Bender turned to face Fry, “What is this…a conspiracy? I do not have RTS!”

Leela chimed in gently, “Bender, you did shout. Please listen to us.”

This seemed to convince Bender. He said grudgingly, “Okay, so I suffer from RTS. Now what do I do?”

The doctor placed his hand on Bender’s shoulder, “Mr. Bender, RTS is the result of a dysfunctional interface between your speech processor and your cognition board. With treatment, I am sure we can eliminate it.”

“Okay Doc, but,” he bellowed ‘COMPASSIONATE’ and almost instantly resumed normal speech, “how long will it take?”

“Two to three weeks of treatments is normal for a complete cure.”

Leela suddenly got a horrified look on her face, “We’re getting married this weekend. Bender is our best man. Is there any way to control the problem?”

The doctor placed his hand under his chin, “No. Not in so short a time. That is, unless you shut off his speech processor.”

Bender shook his head, “Hell, no! I’m not shutting anything off!”

Leela felt an urge to belt him, but instead she took a deep breath. She adopted an almost pleading tone, “Come on Bender, it would only be for the ceremony. It would mean so much to Fry and I…wouldn’t it Fry?”

Fry nodded vigorously in agreement, “Come on, old buddy. Please?”

“Well, all right, I’ll do it, but don’t expect me to…FINLAND...be happy about it.”

Fry patted him on the back, “Thanks old buddy, I owe you one.”

“Darn straight, you owe me. You can start by buying me a couple of beers. All these jokers would give me was mineral oil!”

Leela covered her mouth to stifle a laugh, “Let’s go to the apartment. We have a six pack with your name on it.”

Fry added, “Yeah, and I need you to talk to our toaster.”

All three turned and left the doctor standing in the waiting room, shaking his head. When they were out of sight, the doctor headed back into the ward already processing the treatment for a dozen other patients.

James Martindale’s Apartment, 1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, June 26, 3004, 0945 (9:45 a.m.)

James shut his computer down, having finished his review of the dozen addresses that he was going to visit as, ‘Big Red’ that day. He had looked at every webcam in the area, read every police report on the area, and reviewed every approach…both above and below ground…to every address. He was ready.

He opened the door to his bedroom. Zoidberg was seated on the couch, engrossed in reading “The Complete Sherlock Holmes.” He heard James’ door slide open and looked up.

Smiling, James said in a mock British accent, “The game’s afoot, Watson!”

Surprisingly, Zoidberg replied, “Of course, my dear Holmes. Do carry on!”

Both he and James laughed. James looked directly in Zoidberg’s face, “If anyone asks…”

Zoidberg finished, “You are in conference and not to be disturbed.”

James flashed a thumbs up sign, closed the bedroom door, and strode into his closet.

Standing inside his tesseract, James began the ritual of donning his Big Red ‘uniform.’ He strapped on his body armor first. It was first class stuff, light, flexible, and resistant to any bullet or energy discharge up to and including 100 gigawatt.

Next he strapped on his Mobile Tesseract Generator (MTG). It was flexible circuitry that was powered by his body’s electrical current. It allowed him to appear and disappear at will, moving between three dimensional and four dimensional space.

Next he put on his dark shirt and trousers. He pulled on his special, low gravity boots that allowed him to leap up to 20 feet straight up in the air. He smiled as he strapped on his twin .45 caliber pistols while thinking, “All this high tech gear and I use a pair of Stupid Ages pistols.”

He buttoned on his cloak, wound his scarf around his neck, and pulled on his hat. To complete the ensemble, he snapped a Wristamajigy in place, and then pulled on his gloves. Of course, his gloves were no ordinary pieces of leather. They had sensitivity amplifiers that allowed James to feel extremely small changes in surface textures or temperatures.

He was ready.

He stepped into his room, turned on his MTG, and began his hunt for the one man who could provide him the answers he needed – James Willis.

New-New York Police Department Headquarters’, Commissioner’s Office Conference Room June 26, 1230 (12:30 p.m.)

Ramon slouched in the high backed leather chair at the head of the long, mahogany conference table, surveying those seated at it. He gave a brief smile at Captain “Froggy” LeBlanc, seated to his right. At her side were Detective Sergeants Sanchez and Lipford. Across the table were Mike Wigglesworth and Duncan Kriebel. All were looking at him, waiting for him to open the meeting.

Without further ado, he began, “I’ve got a one o’clock meeting with the press. They are clamoring for facts. What can I tell them without jeopardizing the investigation?”

Froggy cleared her throat, “Well Commish, we’ve conducted several hundred interviews. They all point to someone other than a mutant, in my opinion.”

Ramon nodded, gesturing for her to go on.

“Also, Mike and Duncan may have come up with a clue as to the identity of whoever set the bomb off.”

Ramon sat straight up in his chair, “What?”

Mike spoke up, “Sir, it was Duncan who had the idea, so I’ll let him explain.”

Duncan stood up, “Sir, as a result of my investigation, I determined that the bomb was set off by a cell phone. I’ve managed to get a list of all calls placed through the Times Square cell tower at the time of the explosion.”

Ramon looked doubtful, “That could be thousands of calls.”

Duncan shook his head, “Not really. I only had to find those made at the exact moment of detonation. I fixed the time of detonation by the time stamp from the Times Square webcams. I was able to narrow it down to a list of six calls.”

Ramon smiled, “Well done. Of course, I can’t tell this to the press.” He turned to Froggy, “Get the leads and work them hard. We want this wrapped up…quickly…before somebody decides to stir up anti-mutant hysteria.”

Froggy nodded, “Commish, is Big Red on this case?”

Ramon nodded.

“Why don’t you call him off? We don’t need him muddying the waters.”

Ramon’s eyebrows raised, “Froggy, are you suggesting that I somehow control him…that the Commissioner of the New-New York Police Department is in cahoots with a vigilante?”

“No, Commish!”

“Good. Having said that, I want to tell you keep your eyes on your target. Big Red is not the target of any investigation, nor has he committed any crime. So…keep it focused…okay mi hija?”

She nodded, “Okay, Commish.”

“Okay, let’s hit the street. Keep the pressure on until we get a break. These bastards…whoever they are…are already responsible for close to a hundred deaths. Let’s cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em.”

Everyone rose without a word, heading out to resume the hunt for the man behind the bombers.

Planet Express Building, Hangar Bay, June 26 1500 (3 p.m.)

Leela was finishing a few routine maintenance procedures on the Pathfinder when she heard someone enter the cockpit. She glanced up, expecting to see Fry or Amy. Instead, an obviously nervous Sarah was standing framed by the hatchway.

“G’day, Leela!”

“Good afternoon, Sarah. Finished with your maintenance checks already?”

“Righto. XT, Melissa, and CosmicF are still across the street in that converted strip club we call a hangar working on the communications panel. But we’ll have her shipshape in no time.”

“Well, I’m about done here. Do you need anything in particular?”

Sarah shifted nervously, “Well…I could use a bit of advice on Jimbo.”

Leela looked puzzled for a second, then she realized that Jimbo was James, “Oh…right…Jimbo. She smiled, “Is there something going on?”

Sarah smiled wistfully, “No…nothing serious…well, I don’t really know.”

Leela straightened up, “Let’s go across the street to the Café. We can talk privately without having someone else barge in.”

“Thanks.”

The left the ship, walking across the hangar bay to the exit. Without speaking, they crossed the street to the café, picked a secluded table, and sat down.

Within seconds of their sitting down, a waiter came up, “May I take your orders, ladies? Or do you want a moment to consider the menu?”

Leela spoke up, “I’ll have some Earl Greyer, hot. How about you, Sarah?”

“That’s fine.”

The waiter smiled approvingly and left.

Leela broke the ice, “So. We were going to talk about Jimbo?”

“Leela, I think I’m in love with him.”

“Really? He’s good looking, that’s for sure. But what do you really know about him?”

“I know that I go weak in the knees when we get close to each other. He’s kind and considerate. Crikey, he didn’t even try to take advantage of me when I got thoroughly pissed at his flat last night.”

“Oh, you went to see him?”

“True enough. I wound up drinking like a bloody fish, passed out, and wound up getting breakfast out of the deal.”

Both women laughed. Then Leela asked, “Do you think he cares about you?”

Sarah actually wrung her hands, “I wish I knew for sure. Most of the blokes that I know would have a go at you if they find you interesting.”

“Maybe he’s that rarest of blokes” she paused before continuing, “…a gentleman.”

“Maybe so, Leela. Maybe so.”

At that moment the waiter arrived with their tea. They whiled away another half hour, discussing every possible facet of James’ suitability as a boyfriend.

Their tea done and the bill paid, the two women rose.

Sarah gave Leela a quick hug, “Thanks. You’re a real mate.”

“Don’t mention it.” She glanced at her Wristamajigy, “Well it’s almost time for me to meet Fry. We’re going to the Orphanarium to pick up our flower girl and ring bearer. We’re taking them to get their outfits.”

“Do you want to meet later tonight for coffee?”

Leela’s brow furrowed as she thought, “Can I call you? I’m not sure how long the fitting will take.”

Sarah smiled, “That suits me. I’ll ring you up around seven…provided I can get in touch with Jimbo.”

“Great! I’ll wait for your call.”

Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium, June 26, 1700 (5 p.m.)

The Pathfinder came to rest just outside the main entrance to the Orphanarium. Fry had persuaded the Professor to let them use it by saying that they needed to perform a maintenance check flight.

Fry’s craftiness had both surprised and pleased Leela. She had dreaded the thought of an hour long tube ride in rush hour traffic. And a cab! It would have been just too expensive.

Leela smiled at Fry, “You know Fry, these kids are going to love getting a ride in a real spaceship.” A sad smile flickered across her face, “I never even saw one until I was thirteen.”

Fry returned her smile, “I just know I would have killed to ride in a real spaceship. Let’s take them on a trip around the Moon just for fun before we go shopping. What do you say?”

“Well. I don’t know…”

“Oh come on, Leela. It will give the traffic downtown time to clear up.”

“I guess you’re right.” She reached out and touched his cheek gently, “Let’s go pick them up.”

Hand-in-hand they walked up to the front door of the Orphanarium. Fry knocked on the door, which swung open immediately. Mr. Vogel was standing there, smiling. On his left stood Albert and on his right stood Sally.

“Mr. Vogel,” Leela said happily as she hugged him, “how are you?”

“I’m fine. I’m also glad you are here.” His voice raised slightly, “These two have been almost impossible to live with. They’ve been like Thuvian Jackrabbits.”

Sally burst out, “Oh Miss Leela! Thank you for coming to get us. I can’t wait to ride in your spaceship. Are we really going shopping?”

Albert jumped up and down, “I’m so excited! Can we go to the moon?”

“See what I mean?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Fry reached out and took Albert and Sally by the hand, “Come on kids, I’ll show you the ship.”

Both shouted, “Yay!” as they headed for the gangway.

Mr. Vogel waved to them as they all headed toward the Pathfinder. Then he turned and walked back into the Orphanarium.

Once aboard, the children ooh’ed and aah’ed over everything they saw. Albert wanted to fire the turret gun, while Sally was more interested in piloting the ship.

The trip around the moon gave Fry and Leela as much pleasure as it did to Albert and Sally. The sheer excitement and wonder the children showed at everything brought back feelings and memories for both Leela and Fry.

By the time they returned to the Planet Express Building’s hangar bay, a bond was forming between them. Albert had already begun to imitate Fry’s way of speaking. Sally stayed very close to Leela’s side, studying her every movement.

They left the Planet Express Building soon after landing. After a short tube ride the four found themselves in front of Alien Overlord and Taylor.

Leela turned to Fry, “Fry, would you mind taking Albert to the boy’s section? I’ll take Sally to the girl’s section. We can meet back here in an hour, okay?”

Fry nodded, “Can do, Captain.” Then he flashed her a grin, “Don’t worry, I remember what color his suit needs to be.”

Leela just shook her head, “I’ll see you in an hour.” She gave Fry an affectionate peck on the cheek. Then she steamed off for the third floor, with Sally in tow.

Once they arrived, Leela showed her usual efficiency. She had already been to the store three times, picking just the right dress for her flower girl. So they came straight to the right clothes racks.

Sally was bewildered by all of the sights and sounds of the store. She had never seen such abundance, such hustle and bustle, and it frightened her. Sally gripped Leela’s hand tightly, like a non-swimmer clutching a lifeline.

Leela pulled several dresses off the rack, “We’ll try these on, okay?”

Sally’s trembling voice was almost a whisper, “Okay.”

Memories of her childhood flooded into her mind and Leela suddenly realized how Sally felt. She knelt down and hugged her, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here. It will be okay.”

Sally returned Leela’s hug fiercely. “Okay,” was all that she said.

Once in the dressing room, Leela helped Sally out of her much patched dress. Even her underwear was patched, which obviously embarrassed Sally.

Leela remembered how she had felt shame at wearing tattered second-hand clothing. A flicker of anger ran through her, “Sally, we’re going to get you some new undies to go with your dress.”

“Thank you,” Sally said as she burst into tears.

Leela held Sally and stroked her hair for several minutes while murmuring, “It’s okay. You’ll be fine.”

Sally finally stopped crying, “I’m sorry I cried, Miss Leela. Nobody’s ever been nice to me before…except Mr. Vogel. Everybody makes fun of me because I have three ears. If they knew I had a tail, they’d really pick on me.”

“Really…you have a tail?”

“Yes. You wanna see?”

“Sure.”

Slowly, Sally extended her tail from a spot at waist level on her spine. Leela was astonished to see it apparently come from nowhere. She was even more astonished when Sally picked up a hangar with it!

“Wow,” Leela said with genuine admiration in her voice, “I could really use one of those!”

Sally smiled broadly, “Really?”

“Yes, really. Now let’s pick a dress and a few other things for you. We’ve only got a half hour before we have to meet Fry and Albert.”

Sally threw her arms around Leela and gave her a hug, “Thank you Miss Leela. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome,” Leela said as she gave her an affectionate kiss on the forehead just above her third ear.

They finally settled on a simple white dress, with matching shoes, frilly socks, and very stylish (for a six year old) Q.T. McWhiskers underwear. Their shopping done, they drifted downstairs where they met Fry and Albert. Albert was smiling and hopping from foot to foot. He was obviously excited.

When Leela and Sally got within speaking distance, Albert began to relate their entire experience in the boy’s department in a rapid, staccato manner. Once he was done, Fry looked at Leela, “Well, I guess you know it all now. What do you say we go get a MacZargnald’s burger?”

Albert shouted, “Oh boy!”

Sally managed a more dignified, “Please!”

Leela smiled, “Well, I guess one burger won’t hurt.”

“Then MacZargnald’s it is!”

The Flaming Slug, Little Neptune, June 26 1830 (6:30 p.m.)

Brad paced nervously up and down the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, scanning the street for Katrina. Like a true military man, he had arrived fifteen minutes early. He glanced at his watch…1830 hours! Where was she?

He looked up to see her rounding a corner. The sudden sight of her caused his heart to beat faster. “Steady, man!” he muttered to himself. She wore a flawlessly accessorized violet dress. Her dark hair was tied with a matching ribbon that gave her an innocent, almost childlike look.

She smiled as she approached, “Hello Brad, have you been waiting long?”

He shook his head, “No. Not at all, I’ve just been stretching my legs a bit.”

For a moment, they stood there on the sidewalk, simply looking at each other. Brad felt as though he was falling into her dark, slightly almond shaped eyes.

“Shall we go in,” she finally asked?

Brad found himself slightly startled by her voice, but he answered, “Absolutely! They have the best slug fritters in New-New York.”

He held the door open for her, catching a whiff of her jasmine scented perfume as she brushed past. The maitre de led them to a table at the back of the restaurant, where Brad pulled Katrina’s chair out for her.

“A gentleman,” she said with obvious pleasure in her voice, “thank you, Brad.”

Unable to think of anything else, he simply replied, “You’re welcome,” and sat down.

They sat in silence for a few moments. Brad cudgeled his brain for something to say, but it seemed like all of his circuits were jammed. All he could do was gaze at Katrina’s lovely face.

Katrina smiled, showing a row of perfect teeth. She reached out and touched Brad’s left hand, “You said over the phone that you wanted to ask me a question. If we don’t have some conversation, I’m afraid we’ll never get to that question.”

At the touch of her hand, Brad felt a sudden peaceful feeling come over him. He felt as though he could tell her anything…ask her anything. He cleared his throat, “Sorry. I’m just not a chatterbox. Right, here it is, would you be so kind as to accompany me to a wedding this Saturday?”

Her eyebrows raised slightly, “A wedding…for your friend Fry?”

Brad nodded, “I asked him and his Fiancée, Leela. They said they’d be delighted for you to come.”

Her lips pursed in a sardonic smile, “Will there be dancing?”

Brad felt a brief touch of panic, before he realized she was teasing him. In spite of that, his tongue felt as if it were too large for his suddenly dry mouth. He managed to say, “Yes. I don’t think they are Baptists.”

She laughed merrily, “You are worried that I might refuse to socialize with former…clients?”

“You must be a mind reader!” Brad said in a tone of wonder.

“No, but I am a Class 5 Empath.”

“Class 5 Empath, what is that exactly?”

Her face became serious, “I am one of very few such persons on this planet. I can sense emotions at a distance. In close contact, I can soothe emotional pains...even remove them…but always at a cost to myself.”

“What kind of cost?”

She forced a smile onto her face, “Please, let’s talk about something pleasant. Let us just say that it is exquisitely painful.”

The waiter arrived and took their order. As he departed, Katrina squeezed Brad’s left hand gently, “Brad, I know you bear much pain…much loss. Let me be so bold as to say that I find you very attractive. Does that displease you?”

Brad found himself blushing; something he hadn’t done in many years. Before he spoke, he took a sip of water to ease his dry mouth. A thought went though his mind, “What is wrong with me? She’s just a beautiful woman.” Then he said in as level a voice as he could muster, “Lord, no! It pleases me greatly.”

Katrina continued to gently stroke the back of his left hand, “Then let us speak no more of me. I want to know all about you.”

Over dinner, Brad told Katrina much about his life. He ranged over the horrors of the Second English Civil War, the loss of his right arm, the terrible effects of the plague, being frozen, his life as a mercenary…almost everything. His eyes almost glowed when he told her about dog fighting in space in his fighter. What he withheld was any discussion of covert operations and Katrina did not press him. On the contrary, she was the perfect sympathetic listener.

Once Brad had talked himself out, the waiter was obviously becoming impatient with their tying up a table. Brad glanced at his Wristamajigy. It was 9 o’clock!

Katrina sensed his surprise, “Would you like to go to my apartment for a cup of Russian style tea? I have a thousand year old Samovar…a family heirloom. I would be honored to fix you some.”

Brad nodded as he dropped money on the table to pay the bill, “That would be lovely.”

Brad helped Katrina from her chair, being rewarded for his gentlemanly behavior with a seductive smile and the scent of her jasmine perfume. As they left the restaurant, she entwined her right arm with his left, “Let me show you the way.”

They walked the rest of the way to Katrina’s apartment in silence, mutually enjoying each other’s presence.

202 West 124th Street, Apartment 102, June 26th 1900 (7 p.m.)

James stood at the door of Sarah’s apartment, holding a bouquet of Altarian blue roses in his left hand. As he stood waiting for Sarah to answer the bell, he reflected with some satisfaction on the events of the day.

Recapturing Willis had been almost too easy. At the fifth location he visited, a warehouse on the Lower East Side, he had found Willis snoring loudly on a moth eaten couch. He grinned as Willis’ look of surprise being replaced by one of sheer terror when he awoke to find a .45 pistol jammed against his head flashed in his memory.

Even though Willis was terrified of Big Red, he refused to ‘rat’ on his ‘boss.’ Of course, the mere fact that he admitted to having a ‘boss’ was a lead in and of itself. Using his Wristamajigy, Big Red downloaded the call memory of the cell phone he had found in Willis’ pocket.

Examining the warehouse after he had secured Willis to a support column, James found the materials to manufacture several suicide bomb vests, as well as the plans to construct a car bomb. In all, there were twenty cases of T-4 explosive secured beneath a tarp. That meant the equivalent of 20,000 pounds of TNT had been squirreled away, ready to kill and maim innocent people.

Using the call diversion technology he had access to from his days as a Galactic Intelligence Agency operative to route his Wristamajigy call, he placed a call to the NNYPD Precinct telling them where to ‘pick up the trash.’ Within three minutes, the warehouse was wall-to-wall cops.

He was still grinning over his triumph when Sarah answered the door. She smiled broadly, “Crikey! Don’t we look pleased with ourselves?”

James smiled back at her, “Yes I am. Snagging a date with you is a real triumph in my book.”

Sarah’s eyes flashed as she laughed, “You make me sound like the bloody Queen of Sheba! Oh, you are a smooth one, Mister James Martindale.”

Somewhat chagrined, James decided to change the subject, “Are we still meeting Fry and Leela for coffee at the Two Moons Café?”

“Right you are, Jimbo.”

“Well, let’s get cracking.”

They left the apartment arm-in-arm. After a quick tube ride, they entered the cafe. Fry and Leela were already seated at a table, along with two children Sarah recognized as Albert and Sally from the wedding rehearsal.

Fry and Leela were seated next to each other. Sally was on Leela’s right and Albert was on Fry’s left.

She nudged James, “Isn’t that little pudgy bloke just the cutest thing?”

For a split second, James was at a loss for words. He finally managed to say, “Sure. He looks like a little cherub.”

Sarah squeezed James hand affectionately, “Well, let’s join them.” They approached the table, with Sarah waving to Leela. Sarah sat next to Sally and James sat next to Albert.

After a short round of greetings, a short dark-blue Neptunian waiter came up and took their drink order. Albert and Sally, although still stuffed from MacZargnald’s, both had hot chocolate. All the adults had the special, Neptunian roast blue moon coffee.

As the waiter bustled away, Sarah asked Leela, “So, are you excited about the big day?”

Leela nodded, “We’ve been so busy that I only get excited when we slow down. It’s kind of hard to sleep.”

“I’d be all sixes and sevens in your shoes!”

Startled, Leela said, “What?”

“You know…sixes and sevens…bonkers…off your nut.”

“Oh. I see what you mean.”

Sally sat quietly, listening to what both women were saying. She decided she really liked Sarah, even if she couldn’t understand some of what Sarah said.

On the other side of the table, Albert was plying James with questions. What surprised James was how intelligently the questions were framed and directed. Fry felt slightly relieved that Albert had found someone else to interrogate.

James smiled as Albert asked another probing question, “You’d make a good cop, Albert.”

“Really? Do you know many cops?”

“I know quite a few, as a matter of fact.”

Albert sat for a moment, seemingly lost in thought, and then he smiled, “Could you get me a ride in a real police car?”

James laughed, “Sure. Do you want that with or without handcuffs?”

It took Albert a second to get the joke, then he laughed, “Without, please.”

The waiter arrived with their drinks, setting them down deftly before silently departing.

Leela looked at Sally, then at Albert, “Be careful with that, it’s hot.”

Both replied, “Yes, Ma’am.”

Sarah laughed, “You’ll have them square bashing soon, Leela!”

“Square bashing?”

“You know, close order drill. My word, but you’ve got a way with children.”

Leela was pleased, “Well, Mr. Vogel has to claim a lot of the credit.”

Fry took a sip of his coffee before asking James, “Who do you think was behind the bombings?”

James shrugged his shoulders as nonchalantly as he could manage, “I just know what I read in the papers, but it seems like someone is trying awfully hard to make it look like a mutant did it.”

Sarah brightened, “I saw on the telly that the cops just arrested some bloke with quite a lot of T-4 explosives in some warehouse on the Lower East Side.”

James feigned surprise, “Really? Was he a mutant?”

“Not bloody likely! He was former DOOP Navy with a bad conduct discharge…bad seed…you know the type. Apparently the vigilante, Big Red left him trussed up for the coppers to bag.”

After that, the conversation focused on Big Red for a moment before drifting pleasantly to the subject of wedding preparations.

Leela glanced at her Wristamajigy. She touched Fry’s shoulder, “It’s 8:30. We need to get these two back to the Orphanarium.”

Both of the children’s faces became suddenly sober. Leela smiled kindly at them, “Don’t worry, we’ve enjoyed this so much that we’ll have to do it again.

Both children shouted “Hooray!” in unison.

After a series of goodbyes, Fry and Leela left with Albert, Sally, and the packages in tow.

Sarah turned to James, “So what now?”

James felt his mouth go slightly dry, “Late dinner and some dancing, perhaps?”

Sarah took him by the arm, “That just suits me down to the ground.”

Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium, June 26, 2130 (9:30 p.m.)

Albert and Sally stood next to Mr. Vogel on the front porch of the Orphanarium, waving to Leela and Fry as they walked back to the Pathfinder. Fry and Leela returned their waves until they reached the top of the landing gear ladder.

Fry had noticed a change come over Leela when they had brought the children back to the Orphanarium. She had seemed to withdraw into herself.

When they reached the bridge, she had said to Fry, “Would you mind piloting the ship back to the hangar? I have a headache.” Before he could answer, she had turned on her heel and left the bridge.

Once he had lifted off, Fry programmed the autopilot to return to the hangar by the slowest route possible. Then he headed for Leela’s cabin.

When he reached the door, he knocked. At first, there was no response. He knocked again and the door swished open. Leela stood there with a handful of tissues, her eye red from crying.

Instantly Fry embraced her, “What’s wrong, Leela? Have I done something to upset you?”

In response she shook her head while bursting into tears. Fry held her, murmuring comforting words as her body shook with sobs. He guided her over to the foot of her bed, where they sat down.

After five minutes of crying, Leela finally managed to say, “I’m sorry Fry. It’s just…” then she dissolved into a shower of tears again.

Suddenly, Fry realized what was wrong. He slapped his forehead, “It’s leaving the kids at the Orphanarium, isn’t it? That’s what has you so upset!”

In response, Leela could only nod.

Fry held her closely and stroked her long, thick ponytail, “I guess it brought back a lot of memories, huh?”

Leela whispered, “Yes.”

A thought struck Fry…a real headache with pictures. After a moment’s deliberation, he asked, “What do you think about adopting one of them?” Before he could continue, Leela’s back straightened as she looked Fry straight in the face, “Could we? Oh, Phil, you don’t know what that would mean to me!”

Grinning his best grin, Fry shrugged, “Sure we could. You pick which one.” In a wistful tone he added, “You know, I always wanted to be a dad.”

His grin worked its usual magic on Leela. She gave Fry a long and passionate kiss. When the kiss ended, Leela breathed in a shaky voice, “Let’s get off this bed or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

Taking her hand, Fry stood. Leela got to her feet also…quite reluctantly. She hugged him, “Phil, I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Leels.”

202 West 124th Street, Apartment 102, June 27th 0100 (1 a.m.)

“Would you like to come in for a nightcap?” Sarah asked. “It’s been such a lovely evening. I don’t want it to end.”

James felt his heart race at the promise implicit in Sarah’s voice. He knew that he had a lot of work yet to do on the bombing case, but his tongue was leading a life of its own. So instead of declining politely, he responded, “I’d be delighted.”

Sweeping her apartment with his eyes, James quickly assessed it as having a single bedroom, a kitchen with a breakfast nook, a fair sized living room, and a large bathroom. In the living room were a leather couch, two end tables, a coffee table, an arm chair, and an entertainment center. One of the end tables had an ornate Rigellian Vase containing the Altarian blue roses he had brought earlier.

“Very nice,” he murmured appreciatively.

“Right, I’m no interior decorator, but I do like to be comfortable.” She gestured toward the couch, “Park yourself on the sofa, Jimbo.” As James sat down, Sarah went into the kitchen, “What’s your pleasure…beer, wine, or some scotch?”

“Just bring me a small glass of wine. I still have to find my way to the tube station.”

“Shiraz, okay?”

“Sure.”

He followed her with hungry eyes as she took a bottle down from atop the refrigerator, opened it, and began to pour out the wine. “She is so graceful!” he thought. Then he admonished himself, “Whoa there James! What have you ever been to women but trouble? She’s a hell of a woman…one who could do better than you by a long shot.”

Sarah noticed the change come over him, a brooding stillness like the ocean covered in dark clouds before a storm. Rather than let him sit silently, she called out, “Jimbo, can you give me a hand please?”

His face cleared instantly as he stood up, “What do you need?”

She grinned, “For you to stop brooding and enjoy a glass of this fine Shiraz from Oz, that’s what I need. Wrap your paw around this glass, you mankey Canadian git.”

His laughter dispelled the gloom that had begun to settle over him. For a moment, their eyes met. Never had he seen such lovely green eyes…the color of the waters off Maui. He stood there, momentarily at a loss of words. “Damn it!” he thought, “I’m falling in love!”

“Well?” Sarah finally asked after they had stood facing each other for several silent minutes.

“Oh,” James mumbled, “How about a toast?”

“Right.”

“Yes…umm…I know a good toast. A friend of mine taught it to me, it’s in Spanish.”

“How does it go?”

“Salud, pesetas, y el tiempo para gozar las!”

“Which means?

“Health, money, and the time to enjoy them!”

“That sounds lovely.”

They both tilted their wine glasses, sipping the fruity, slightly sweet wine. They finished their glasses in silence. Then James thought, “Come on James! Faint heart ne’er won fair lady!”

He stepped closer to her, embracing her in his arms. She pressed close to him, rejoicing in the feel of his strong arms encircling her slender waist as her head tilted back to look him in the face.

“Sarah, I have so much to tell you. I…I love you…but I’m afraid.”

She smiled seductively, “Still a virgin, are you?”

He laughed as he shook his head, “No…not by a long shot. But I’m no good for any woman. Every woman close to me has always died. I feel as though I’m cursed.”

Sarah ran her hands up his strong, muscular back, finally entwining her fingers in his hair, “Rot! You’re no curse to me, Mister James Martindale! I love you too. So give us a kiss, before I lose my patience!”

“Yes ma’am,” James breathed in reply just before their lips met in a loving, passionate kiss.

Katrina Chekova’s Apartment 200 East 123rd Street, Apartment 207, June 27, 0200 (2 a.m.)

For the first time in his memory, Brad’s dreams were sweet and untroubled. He awoke from them, brought out of dreamland by an unfamiliar sound.

He sat up on the couch, glancing around as he disentangled himself from a blanket that he had wrapped himself in. At first, he was unsure of his surroundings, but there was enough light for him to quickly realize that he was in Katrina’s apartment.

The memories of the evening quickly came back to him. They had strolled arm-in-arm to her apartment from the nearby tube station. There had been no need to speak, for the warmth of her hand in his spoke volumes.

When they entered the apartment, Brad had been surprised to see that Katrina had a roommate…and a robot roommate at that. At first glance, she had hardly seemed to be a robot, having long blonde hair, blue eyes, and an outer coating of flesh like material.

As Brad stared at Rebecca in semi-bewilderment, Katrina spoke, “Brad, please let me introduce you to my friend and roommate, Rebecca Robotowitz.”

Brad extended his hand and Rebecca took it, “Charmed, I’m sure, Rebecca.”

Rebecca flashed a distinctly unrobotic smile, “Thank you. I have heard so much about you, Brad.”

Noticing that Brad seemed puzzled by her appearance, Rebecca asked, “Do you know what a nannybot is, Brad?”

“I’ve not a clue.”

“We are specially designed robots whose purpose is to care for human children. As such, we are designed to appear as human as possible.”

“Oh, I see.”

Katrina sensed Brad’s discomfort, “Please, have a seat on the sofa Brad. I will make us some tea.”

Good as her word, Katrina had brewed some tea in an ancient brass Samovar. Brad had seen one before he was frozen, but had never actually tasted tea from one. He decided that he liked it a great deal. As he sat drinking his second cup, Katrina took down a balalaika that hung on the wall above the sofa.

Katrina strummed a few chords experimentally, “Would you like to hear me play? The only songs I know are not in English, unfortunately.”

“I’d love to hear you play and sing, Katrina. By all means, please do.”

Katrina’s playing had caused him to relax. The last thing he remembered before falling asleep was the sound of her voice, singing in a language he did not know.

Now he heard her voice again, coming from her bedroom. It alarmed him, as it had none of the soft, lilting quality of earlier in the evening. Instead, it sounded raspy and harsh.

Her bedroom door was open, so he stepped quietly across the room to satisfy his curiosity. What could have brought such a change to Katrina’s voice?

His first sight of her was as she knelt before an altar, her hands raised in prayer. Unwilling to interrupt her, Brad stood watching her with some curiosity. Lowering her arms, Katrina got unsteadily to her feet. The sight of her face as she turned around both shocked and alarmed Brad.

Katrina’s skin had taken on a grayish tone, her eyes seemed sunken into her head and her lips were pale. She seemed utterly exhausted.

When their eyes met, Brad stepped forward, “Katrina, what is wrong?”

“Nothing, Brad, I just need some rest.”

“Tell me what’s happening, damn it!” Brad said with fierce conviction, “Either that or you’re on the way to hospital right now!”

“Help me to lie down,” she said wearily, “Then I will tell you.”

Brad helped her onto the bed, finding his worry increasing by the moment. Once he had her under the blanket, he looked her in the eyes, “Well?”

“Brad, you know that I am a Class V Empath. When we met, I sensed in you emotional forces that would lead to your destruction…you were in constant pain. To tell you truth, I liked you from that very moment.”

Brad reached out and took her hand.

“So, I decided to draw the stinger from your terrible memories. Tonight I drew them as you slept on the sofa. You still remember them, but they can no longer hurt you.”

Brad felt concern, “But what about you? Now you are stuck with them! I don’t want you hurt!”

Katrina stroked Brad’s cheek, “I have given them to God in my prayers. Now, I must rest to regain my strength. Pajalsta…Please, stay and hold me till I fall asleep. I am so cold.”

Brad murmured, “I’ll protect you. I’ll protect you against all the hosts of hell.” Then he lay next to her, wrapping his arms in a circle of protection for her as she slept.

Planet Express Conference Room 27 June 3004, 0800 (8 a.m.).

Hermes stood impatiently waiting to start his precious morning meeting. Everyone was there except Bender, XT, CosmicF and Brad. He knew where Brad was, as he had called in sick. Where the other three were was anyone’s guess.

Except for Hermes, everyone was glancing at Sarah. She sat leaning back in her usual chair, absentmindedly tapping her teeth with the stylus to her electronic writing tablet. Her eyes bore a far away look that announced to all around the table that something had happened the night before. The half-smile on her lips was a dead give-away that it had been pleasant, whatever it was.

Leela finally asked, “How was your date last night?”

Sarah nearly fell out of the chair, she was so startled by the question. She mustered a smile, “Sorry, I was somewhere in the Back of Bourke. Yeah, no worries. Jimbo and I had a grand time.”

The gleam in Sarah’s eyes told Leela volumes. It made Amy sit up and take notice as well.

Amy asked, “Where is the Back of Bourke? Is that a new restaurant?”

Sarah laughed, “It’s not a place exactly Amy. It just means someplace far away.”

“Oh.”

At that moment Bender, XT and CosmicF entered the room. As usual, they were arguing.

CosmicF was speaking as they entered, “I don’t care how much you deny it, Bender. One day you’ll find the right fembot and BAM that will be it!”

Bender’s voice dripped with derision, “Look skin tube, the fembot wasn’t made ‘EXCELSIOR!’ that can tie me down. I’m not a one fembot guy.”

XT simply shook his head as he walked to his seat.

Hermes interrupted, “Both of you clam up. You’re all late for da’ meetin’. I ought to dock your pay.”

CosmicF protested, “It wasn’t my fault! Bender shouted ‘Turbidium’ at the top of his lungs when we were ready to enter the tube station. That got all three of us jacked up by the cops. Otherwise we would have been early.”

XT nodded, “My friend is telling the truth. It was quite an experience, having my face slammed into a wall. Everyone is so jumpy these days.”

Bender laughed, “You all are such ‘TRANSYLVANIA’ sissies.”

Hermes sighed, “Just shut up. Now, we know that after the wedding we have a contract to haul turbidium again. The Resilient will take this one. Sarah, how are the upgrades going?”

“No worries, Hermes. We’re ready to go now.”

Hermes turned to Leela, “When will the Pathfinder be ready to work again?”

“We’re ready to go any time after Fry and I finish our honeymoon.”

“When is dat?”

Leela took a breath to keep her temper from flaring up. She had told him half-a-dozen times! Fry could see Leela’s jaw muscles tensing, so he reached out and took her hand.

In a level tone, she replied, “We’ll be back on the ninth of July.”

‘SUPERSTRING’ Bender bellowed suddenly, causing everyone to jump.

Chelsea glared at Bender, “Why don’t you turn off your speech center and let us get on with the meeting? Or do I need to put another nail through your head?”

Bender glared back, “I can’t help it! ‘WOMBAT’ But I’m only shutting my speech center off for the wedding.”

Hermes intervened wearily, “Okay people. We’re still on routine maintenance until after ‘da wedding. Let’s go to work.”

Pathfinder Bridge, Planet Express Hangar, 27 June 3004, 1050 (10:50 a.m.).

The sound of the door to the bridge swishing open caused Leela to look up from her calibration checks on the engineering console. She smiled as she saw Fry framed in the doorway. He was lugging the tool kit she had asked for, a bulky black Mylar bag full of electronic test equipment.

He staggered over to where she stood, gently placing the bag at her feet. He grinned as he wiped his brow, “Whew! I’d forgotten how heavy that darned thing was!”

As a reward, Leela kissed him on the cheek.

Grinning his special grin as he looked into her eye Fry said, “I need to do that more often.”

“That grin again!” Leela thought, “He knows what that does to me, the devil!”

Glancing around quickly to make sure that no one else was on the bridge Leela embraced Fry in a bear hug. Then, she gently took his right earlobe between her teeth.

Although he was startled by Leela’s reaction to his grin, he was astounded by what she said next.

“Oooh! I’m going to eat you alive on our wedding night!” she breathed huskily into his ear.

Fry felt as though his bones had melted.

Leela released him from her embrace, returning nonchalantly to calibrating the engineering console.

“Is that all?” Fry almost whined.

“Serves you right, you devil. That grin of yours drives me crazy…and you know it. So now you know how I feel. Let’s get to back to work.” Although she kept a straight face, Leela was grinning on the inside.

They spent another twenty minutes working on the console until Leela was absolutely satisfied with the readouts. As she made adjustments, she explained them to Fry. For a change, he was the perfect student.

Leela stood up, followed by Fry.

“Well, that’s it. We just have to check on Amy and Bender in the engine room. Hopefully, they’re done. Then we can go out to the Orphanarium this afternoon to start the adoption paperwork.”

Fry started to grin, but quickly smothered it. Instead, he gave a self-conscious smile as he asked, “Have you decided which one to pick?”

A moment passed before Leela responded in a serious tone, “Fry, I know you left it up to me, but who do you want to adopt?”

Fry’s answer surprised her, mainly because it was delivered so quickly. “Sally,” was all he said.

“Why?”

“Because she needs us most. Also, she’s unique like you. Besides, I always wanted a little girl to spoil.”

Leela bit her lower lip to keep from crying. She hugged Fry for several minutes before she could master her emotions. When she was finally able to speak she whispered, “Forgive me for all that wasted time, Phil. I almost threw away happiness with both hands. Thank you for hanging on.”

“No problem at all, Leels. No problem at all.”

NNYPD Headquarters Crime Lab, 27 June 3004, 1130 (1130 a.m.).

“Hey Mike, look at this.”

Mike Wigglesworth looked up from his computer screen, “What is it Duncan?”

“Come look. I think it may be a pattern.”

Mike stood up, stretching as he did do. He looked at the clock on the wall, “Darn it Duncan, do you always have to make your earth shaking discoveries just before mealtime?”

Duncan grinned, “Quit whining, you big wuss. This is important stuff.”

Mike ambled over to where he could get a look at Duncan’s computer screen. He leaned forward as he scanned the data that Duncan had laid out. He instantly realized this was a real find. He gave a low whistle, “Who’d a thunk it? “

Duncan nodded, “Something about this whole case seemed too easy. Each box of turbidium we recovered is from a different lot of explosives. This means that the theft has been systematic. Not only that, most of this stuff was never reported stolen. It was listed as ‘expended’ during training or missions.”

Mike straightened up, “Holy crud! That means we have no assurance that there isn’t a huge stockpile still in criminal hands.”

Duncan nodded grimly, “We may have only gotten the tip of the iceberg.”

Mike hurried over to the communications panel, “We need to call Froggy on this…like right now!”

1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, 27 June 3004, 1135 (11:35 a.m.).

“The game’s afoot!” James muttered excitedly. He had just arrived at the same conclusion as Mike and Duncan. His mind raced as he decided which databases he would have to draw from to look for links to others in this terror network.

James knew DOOP military procedures. Somebody had to have certified that those explosives were expended. That meant that someone was on the blame line. All he had to do was to crack the DOOP Navy Automated Logistics System to get at the records.

Within 30 minutes, he was in. He copied everything that might be remotely of interest, because each intrusion into a DOOP Department of Defense system had its own perils. Once that was done, he settled in to analyze the massive amount of data.

Four hours of intensive analysis later, he had several possible leads. The most promising seemed to be an officer in the DOOP Navy, an officer with a distinguished record at that. He was currently serving on the Nimbus, which was at the South Port Naval Yards undergoing a refit. His name was Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker.

Cookieville Orphanarium, Mr. Vogel’s Office, June 27, 3004, 1400, (2 p.m.).

Leela and Fry sat in front of Mr. Vogel’s desk as he rummaged through the file cabinets. He was muttering, “I know it’s in here. We get so few adoptions…I always seem to be misplacing the darned forms. Ah! Here they are!”

He brandished a folder above his head, like a gladiator would his sword after a victory in the arena. He sat down behind the desk, smiling broadly.

Leela felt memories come rushing in on her conscious mind. She thought of how almost the only kindness she had known while growing up had been from Mr. Vogel. His face was lined from many years of battling the bureaucracy for his wards, but he had never slackened in his devotion.

Mr. Vogel cleared his throat, “Well, Leela! You and Fry want to adopt a child right after you get married?”

Fry spoke up, “That’s right Mr. Vogel. We want to pick her up right after our wedding night.”

“What? No honeymoon?”

Fry grinned, “Every day for the rest of our lives is going to be a honeymoon.”

Mr. Vogel shook his head, “Don’t you think you are being a bit hasty?”

“No.” Leela responded with determination in her voice, “We’ve talked this over and we are sure.”

Holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender, Mr. Vogel asked, “So who’s the lucky orphan?”

Leela pursed her lips slightly before answering, “We’ve decided on our flower girl, Sally.”

Mr. Vogel actually seemed relieved, “That’s good.” Then he said in a distracted voice, “Now maybe we can get those funds they’ve been holding back.”

Fry leaned forward, “Funds? Holding back? What are you talking about?”

Mr. Vogel actually seemed startled, not realizing he had spoken aloud. For a moment he hesitated. Then he plunged into an explanation, “Because I have always taken in orphans from any source…including obviously mutant children…the Orphanarium has always been in violation of the Mutant Edicts. Therefore, the Central Bureaucracy has withheld a portion of the budget every year.”

Fry’s face flushed with anger, “What? Those lousy bastards!”

Mr. Vogel held his hand up, gesturing for Fry to be quiet. With some difficulty, Fry held his rising temper in check.

“As I was saying, they hold back a portion of the budget as well as denying me promotion. But I’ve always refused to turn the mutant orphans out.”

Leela sounded puzzled, “Turn them out? What does that mean?”

“It means to leave them on the streets on their own, or sell them in Little Neptune for body parts.”

Fry felt the gorge rising in his throat. His face began to turn a deep red, causing both Leela and Mr. Vogel some alarm.

Leela took Fry’s hand in hers. She could feel that he was trembling with anger. “Hey,” she said gently, “It’s okay.”

Fry rose to his feet, “The whole rotten Mutant Edicts are nothing but a bunch of weapons grade balonium. It will never be okay until they are gotten rid of. As God is my witness, I’m going to fight until they are abolished. I don’t know how…but they have to go.”

“Please sit down Fry, darling. We can solve that problem later. Right now we are here to adopt Sally.”

Slumping slightly as the anger drained from him, Fry sat down. His face returned to its normal color and he ceased trembling.

After a few moments of silence, Mr. Vogel selected a paper from the folder on his desk. Handing it to Leela he said, “This is the Standard Form 2020 that you must fill out prior to adoption. If you want to, you can take it home and fill it out. Or you can fill it in here and I’ll approve it.”

“You can approve it?” Leela asked with a touch of doubt in her voice.

“That is the one of two things the Central Bureaucracy lets me do without their approval.”

“What’s the other thing?”

“I get to bring any orphan into the Orphanarium that I choose.”

“Well,” Fry said with conviction, “Let’s get this done…now.”

Without any further discussion, Leela and Fry settled down to filling in the form.

The Flaming Slug, Little Neptune, June 27, 3004, 1800 (6:00).

A warm breeze gently ruffled the awning in front of the restaurant where Katrina and Brad sat at a sidewalk table. They had just finished a light dinner and were sipping iced coffee as they sat watching the traffic pass by.

Brad was watching Katrina closely, marveling at how completely she had recovered. She still looked a bit tired, he thought, but the rest had done her good.

It was odd how long they could sit in total silence without speaking but yet still be in communication. She turned to face him, her almond shaped, deep brown eyes almost boring into his soul. She smiled, flashing two rows of perfect teeth.

Brad smiled back, “A penny for your thoughts.”

She acted surprised, “Only a penny?” Then she pretended to pout, “Mine are worth a nickel at least!”

Brad reached into his pocket, fished out a quarter, and plopped it onto the table with a chuckle, “Okay. Start talking!”

She laughed, “Brad, I know something about you that you do not know.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I know why you have hurt so badly in the past.”

Suddenly alert, he leaned forward in his seat, “Why is that?”

Their eyes met, “You may not realize it, but you are at least a Level 3 Empath.”

“What? That’s not possible.”

“Perhaps, but it takes one to know one. You were so full of emotional toxins because you have the talent but do not know how to control it.” Her face became serious, “You were like an emotional…how do you say it…sponge. You absorbed so much negative emotion without knowing how to vent it.” Suddenly she smiled, “But I can teach you how to live with your…talent.”

Brad thought back over the many times in his life he had known what people were really feeling, how he had seemed to suffer with others, and how he had come to trust his emotional ‘sixth sense’ as much as his other five.

“Katrina, does that mean that I am just a ‘pity project’ for you?”

“No,” she said with a shake of her head, “I love you.” There was a brief silence as she waited, hoping, that Brad would say those same words back. He appeared stunned into silence, so she continued, “It may seem…what is the word…uncultured to speak those words to someone you hardly know, but I must say what is in my heart.”

Brad’s heart was beating rapidly, his mouth felt dry, and his hands had begun to sweat. He managed to say in a barely audible voice, “Katrina, I…I love you too.”

She reached out and took his left hand in hers. He squeezed her hand gently, noticing that in spite of her outwardly cool demeanor, her palms were moist as well.

Looking deeply into her eyes, Brad asked, “So where do we go from here?”

“Wherever you wish,” she replied with an excited sparkle in her eyes.

Visiting Officer’s Quarters, Room 120, South Port Naval Yard, June 27, 3004 1830 (6:30 p.m.).

Kif entered his room after a hard day at the Naval Yard. Like most Visiting Officers Quarters (VOQ) it consisted of a central sitting area with an official computer terminal, an entertainment center, couch, and chair, a bedroom, a bath, and a small kitchenette. “Nicer than my quarters on the Nimbus,” Kif thought as he entered.

As the executive officer for the Nimbus, he was in charge when the ship was undergoing repairs or refitting. Captain Brannigan hadn’t shown his face onboard since they went into dry dock, which was a bit odd. He usually liked to come around at least once a week to reverse at least one of Kif’s decisions, create havoc, and then leave Kif to clean up the mess.

“Still,” Kif reflected, “I’d be glad if he never came back.”

Kif sat down at the computer terminal. Even though he’d been in New-New York for a month, he had only seen Amy three times. They’d been keeping in touch through email and phone calls, but it was frustrating not to see her more when they were so close.

Once the computer booted up, Kif accessed his email account. Sure enough, there were three emails from Amy. The other 22 emails were mostly official correspondence. He settled in to read Amy’s email when he noticed the screen was flickering. “Power fluctuations?” he wondered.

“Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker?” a deep male voice he didn’t recognize asked from behind him.

Surprised, Kif spun his chair around. His eyes opened wide as saw a figure dressed in black, with a red lined cape, a red scarf, and a hat pulled low over his eyes. His eyes nearly popped from his head when he saw the large pistol in the figure’s hand. It was held loosely by his side, ready for action.

“Who are you? How did you get in here?”

The figure responded, “They call me a variety of names, the Red Shadow, the Crimson Vigilante, or just Big Red. How I got here is my business. “

“What…What do you want from me?”

“Answers, Lieutenant Commander, just some answers to some knotty questions.”

Kif thought briefly of hitting the panic button installed in all VOQ rooms to alert the Shore Patrol. “No,” he thought, “I’ve done nothing wrong. No sense in getting shot.”

Big Red saw Kif eye the panic button, then relax. “Smart move,” he thought.

His voice showing his nervousness, Kif replied, “I don’t normally hold conversations at gunpoint. Fifteen years ago, as a young ensign fresh out of the Academy, I was taken prisoner by the Xoran.”

His voice hardened, “I endured two years as a POW without breaking. I’ve heard of you, I believe you are on the side of justice…even if you are a bit unorthodox in your methods. But I’ll answer no questions at gunpoint.”

Big Red holstered his pistol, “Fair enough.”

Kif looked Big Red straight in the eyes, “Ask your questions.”

“What do you know about turbidium based explosives?”

Kif looked puzzled, “Turbidium based explosives? I know they are the basis for most naval ordinance, our Marines and Special Operations use quite a lot of it in their training, other than that, not much.”

“How do you keep track of what you expend?”

“Well,” Kif’s brow knotted in thought, “The officer in charge of the weapons system or unit that expends the explosives provides me with a report on how much was expended. Then I enter them into the data base as expended.”

“Do you ever check on those figures?”

“Once a month I do a physical inventory.” He looked concerned, “Where is this leading?”

“Lieutenant Commander, all of the T-4 we got in that haul on the Lower East Side was from lots supposedly expended by the Nimbus. Your name was on the blame line.”

Kif turned momentarily transparent, “Good God!” his voice crackled with emotion, “that means someone was skimming explosives!”

“Exactly. If I figured it out, the cops will figure it out too. Do you have any idea who could have coordinated this? The name Willis keeps coming up in my investigation.”

Shocked, Kif took a moment to answer, “Willis was certainly a ringleader, that’s why he was discharged. He had several close shipmates who were aboard the Nimbus.” He turned to the computer terminal and in a few clicks pulled up a personnel roster.

“I’m highlighting the personnel that Willis worked with, as well as his friends. Willis was part of the Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Detachment on the Nimbus. All but one person from that unit has left the service. The one left is the former Officer in Charge, a Lieutenant Zeke Adams...he’s no longer on the Nimbus.”

“Where is he working?”

Kif did a few quick keystrokes, “He’s currently the Officer-in-Charge of the Syria Planitia Naval Yards EOD unit.”

“Do you have any information on the people who left the service?”

Kif took a disk, inserted it in the computer, and performed a few more keystrokes. He withdrew the disk and handed it to Big Red, “Here are the complete Service Records…including their last known address…for all of those who worked with Willis.”

Big Red smiled, “You’ve been a big help Lieutenant Commander. If you don’t mind turning around, I prefer to depart without being observed.”

Kif shrugged, “Just as you like.” He faced the computer screen, which flickered briefly. When he turned around, Big Red was gone.

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, June 27, 3004, 1900 (7 p.m.)

Everyone was sitting on the floor as they finished the last of the pizza. XT, CosmicF, Sarah, and Bender had come over to help Fry and Leela prepare their new apartment for their future life.

Drop cloths covered the floor and any furniture that was already in place. All of the paraphernalia for painting, wallpapering, and minor repairs was assembled in the living room. Once they had finished preparing the rooms, the pizza had arrived, so they had taken a break. Now it was time to get to work.

“Nice of the super to let us get started early,” CosmicF noted.

Leela smiled, “Well, the old renter vacated suddenly. So why not let us fix the place up?”

Sarah took a final swig from a bottle of beer that was sitting next to her. With a contented look on her face, she threw it into the trash. Standing up, she announced, “Well, we’ll never get to heaven if we don’t die.”

XT looked puzzled, “What?”

Sarah shook her head, “It just means that nothing will happen unless we get to work.”

A look of comprehension spread across XT’s face, “Ah! I see what you meant. Very good…I have much to learn before I master your language.”

CosmicF laughed, “She doesn’t speak our language. She speaks Australian.”

Before Sarah could reply, Bender bellowed “XANADU!”

Everyone winced. Fry put his hand on Bender’s shoulder, “Old buddy, could you please turn your volume down a bit?”

“Sure,” Bender replied, “Would you mind biting my shiny metal ass? It’s the only way to turn my volume down.”

“Bender!” Leela said angrily, “Fry asked you nicely.” She assumed a fighting stance, “You’re carrying that ‘in-your-face’ interface too far.”

Bender saw that she was ready to fight and decided he didn’t want to irritate Leela too much. “CRYPTOSPORIDIUM!” Bender reached inside his body, adjusting his volume. His voice was barely a whisper, “Satisfied?”

Leela relaxed, “Thanks Bender. Now let’s get to work.”

Sarah picked up a paint sprayer and went into the kitchen. XT and CosmicF each picked up a sprayer and went to work on opposite walls.

Fry and Leela went into the bedroom that would be Sally’s to put up some wallpaper. Bender simply stood watching.

Sarah looked at Bender over the kitchen counter, “Hey you mug, lend a hand.” She pointed at a sprayer sitting unused on the floor, “There’s a paint sprayer with your name on it.”

Bender reached into his chest cavity and turned the volume up, “I’m supervising BENDIX this crew.”

Rather than waste time, Sarah simply went back to work while shaking her head.

XT was covering his section of the living room without any problem. CosmicF was doing well, but he was a little annoyed that it took so long to spray a coat of pain. Then he had an inspiration, “What if I turned the spray setting to maximum?”

He soon found out.

He set the sprayer on maximum pressure, stood a few inches from the wall, and pressed the trigger. The entire contents of the five gallon can emptied in less than a second, providing sufficient thrust to shoot CosmicF backwards across the room.

“Ahhhh!” CosmicF managed to shout just before he collided with XT. Taken completely by surprise, it was amazing that XT held onto the sprayer as he rotated almost 180 degrees.

Unfortunately, he kept the trigger depressed. Bender, who had been facing them, received a full coating of white paint before he could step out of the way.

“Stupid jerks, watch what you’re EXCELSIOR doing!”

Sarah, who had seen what was coming, managed to duck behind the kitchen counter to avoid the spray.

Horrified, XT took his finger off the trigger. Bender was sputtering and wiping paint from his eyes. XT asked, “Bender, my friend, is everything okay?”

“Sure, nothing’s wrong that a little lawsuit won’t cure.”

CosmicF stood up, shaking his head, “Hey guys, don’t mess with the pressure dial. It’s very sensitive.”

Leela came into the room and surveyed the scene, “Will somebody tell me what is going on?”

Sarah stepped around the counter, “No worries, just a minor cock up. I’ll sort this mob out, Leela.”

Leela glanced over her shoulder to see Fry waiting patiently to continue wallpapering. She smiled, “Thanks Sarah, I appreciate it.”

Leela turned and reentered the bedroom as Sarah took charge, barking out a series of orders that soon restored order.

“Okay Fry, let’s get back to work.”

“Sure Leela, I enjoy putting the paste on the wall, but lining the paper up is just beyond me.”

She touched his face lightly, “We all have our talents.”

He smiled at the gentle touch of her hand, “You know, I thought that home repair would be different in the 31st Century.”

Leela looked puzzled, “How so?”

“Well, you still use a flour based paste to put up wallpaper.”

“Fry, the paste isn’t based on flour paste.”

Concern flashed across Fry’s face, “It isn’t? It sure tastes like it.”

Voice cracking as she responded, Leela replied, “Fry, it’s based on bat guano.”

Fry began to spit and hack like a cat coughing up a hairball.

Leela collapsed on the floor, howling with laughter. “You ate bat guano. Oh Fry, you sure will be easy to cook for!”

In spite of himself, Fry began to laugh too.

“Laugh at me, will you?” Fry said in a voice full of mock menace. He pounced on her, “Take this!” He then began to tickle her unmercifully.

In a flash they were rolling around the floor, with Leela laughing as she tried…but not too hard…to break free. This went on for several minutes.

Only when they heard Bender bellow “RUMPLESTILSKIN” did Fry and Leela realize that everyone else was standing in the doorway, watching.

Fry stopped tickling the red faced Leela, helping her to her feet as he stood. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Sarah said dryly, “I wasn’t sure if you were planning to do the nasty. Should we come back later?”

Fry responded, “No, we’re done.”

Sarah turned to the rest of the crew, “Right then, back to work. We’re almost done so let’s shake a leg.”

Leela surprised Fry by hugging him. He’d half expected to get a kick in the shins. Instead, she said sweetly, “I intend to find out where you are ticklish…on our wedding night. Now let’s get back to work.”

Fry straightened up and saluted, “Aye aye, Captain!”

Excerpt from Chapter One, “The Legend of the Red Shadow” by Dr. John Zoidberg, MO, QBS, RDE, 32nd Century Press, New-New York, 3105.

“My association with the famous “Red Shadow” began a little over a century ago. We first met at the Planet Express, where I worked as the staff physician. At the time, I did not know him as the “Red Shadow,” but only as James Martindale, a consultant and private eye.

We became fast friends after he invited me to share his apartment with him. I was grateful for the offer, as I was living under cardboard at the time. It was typical of his kind and generous nature, as I later found out.

When I first arrived at the now famous 1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, it seemed a very cozy sort of place. James laid down a few rules, which I was only too happy to respect. I was to stay out of his room, to get permission before anyone entered the apartment, and to answer the videophone when he was otherwise occupied.

These were very light burdens to me and I shouldered them gladly. Later, after I learned his identity and helped him with some of his cases, I understood why he was so secretive.

One incident I shall never forget. It led to my improving my writing style and developing my skills as a sleuth. The love of his life, Sarah Foster was visiting the apartment in the wake of the Terrorist Attack on Times Square. I had helped James with a few minor things when he suddenly patted me on the shoulder and said, “Zoidman, you are my Doctor Watson.”

It startled me, so I asked, “So who is this Doctor Watson?”

James grinned, “Just read some Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

So I did and my life was never the same. But I digress, for the subject of this tale is the legendary “Red Shadow” and not his humble assistant and sidekick.

Let us begin at the beginning…”

NNYPD Headquarters Crime Lab, 27 June 3004, 2230 (1130 p.m.)

“Mike, don’t you have a life outside of this stinking lab?”

Mike looked up from his computer screen, “What? Outside this? Why would I need to?”

Duncan shook his head, “You need to get one, because these marathon crime solving sessions are a pain. I’m not crazy about snatching a few hours sleep on the couch instead of sleeping in my own bed for a change.”

Mike made a pouty face, “Is da poor baby got a diaper rash?”

Duncan flipped Mike the bird, “Here’s to you and the horse you rode in on, pal.”

Mike started laughing, “Come on Duncan, you know we need to get this analysis done for Froggy before she has her morning briefing with the Commissioner. Her sense of humor hasn’t been really great lately.”

Duncan looked over to Mike quizzically "Uh, so why do they call her Froggy anyway?”

Mike turned to Duncan with the most serious and stern expression Duncan had ever seen and replied in a grave tone."Cause no one ever crosses her without croaking shortly afterward!"

Both men roared with laughter before getting back to work without any further conversation.

A half-hour later Duncan said, “I’ve got the signal that detonated the bomb.”

Mike sat up alertly, “Are you certain?”

Duncan shook his head, “Absolutely. It came from a military Wristamajigy and went to a cell phone purchased in the Bronx by James Willis.”

“Do we have a make on the military Wristamajigy?”

Duncan shook his head, “No, It was a pretty advanced model, at least a Mark XXI. It had an emergency override feature that just co-opted the network. Still, there are only so many around.”

“Did you ever know mutants to use this kind of high tech stuff, Duncan?”

“Nope,” he said as the speaker to his computer began to chirp. Duncan looked at his screen and said, “Well! The DOOP Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has given us the paper trail on these explosives.” Duncan paused.

“And?” Mike asked impatiently.

“It all leads back to the DNS Nimbus, currently undergoing refit at the South Port Naval Yards.”

Mike snatched up the videophone handset, “Put that into a report. I’ll call Froggy with the news.”

“Do you know what time it is?”

Mike looked at the clock on the wall. It read well past midnight. His face took on a look of determination, “She said to call when we got a break. I think this is it.”

Apartment 1I, 100 East 123rd Street, June 28, 3004, 0700 (7 a.m.).

Leela leaned over and gave Fry a kiss on the cheek as he sat at the computer monitor. Glancing down, she noticed he was on the ECLU (Earthican Civil Liberties Union) website.

Curious, she asked, “Fry darling, what are you doing on the ECLU website?”

“I’m looking for a lawyer. I’m not going to rest until those Mutant Edicts are wiped off the books.”

She leaned over and hugged him from behind. He reveled in the scent of her hair and the warmth of her touch. He reached up and crossed his arms over hers, “I love you Leela. I don’t want us to live our lives under the shadow of such an awful law.”

She kissed his cheek, “I love you, too. Do you really think we can beat the law?”

A grim look settled on his face as he twisted slightly in his chair to look at Leela’s face, “As far as I can tell, it’s never been challenged legally. I don’t know why. But I intend to find out.”

“Well, good luck. I’m off to meet Amy and check the fit of my wedding dress, as well as pick up a few things for Sally.” She gave him a quick kiss on his lips, straightened up, and headed for the door.

She paused for a second, turning to see that Fry had returned to intently scanning the computer. Then she headed out to the street.

A quick tube ride later, she was in the mall near Alien Overlord and Taylor. She ran her eye over the crowd, soon picking our Amy in the familiar pink jogging suit. “Ugh!” Leela thought, “Why does she like pink so much?”

When she closed to speaking distance, Amy said cheerfully, “Only a few more days to go! Oh, I am so excited!”

Amy’s cheerful excitement caused Leela to laugh, “You’d think it was you getting married!” She hugged Amy, “I’m so glad you’re along to help me.”

Amy returned her hug. As they parted, Amy asked, “What do you want to do first, the wedding gown or the clothes for Sally?”

“Let’s get the gown in order first.”

Amy nodded, “Okay, have you decided if you want a veil or not?”

“I think I will get one, just as you suggested. You are right; it will definitely heighten Fry’s anticipation.”

Amy grinned from ear-to-ear, “That’s my Leela!”

The two women linked arms and headed down the street to shop ‘till they dropped.

Apartment 1I, 100 East 123rd Street, June 28, 3004, 1100 (11 a.m.).

Leela entered the apartment, hidden behind a monster pile of packages. Before she could call for help, she heard Fry’s voice, “Hold still and I’ll take some of those off of you.”

Fry’s hands grabbed several packages that were in danger of falling, removing them from the stack, “How in the world did you get through the tube with these?”

“I paid a porter.”

Fry returned to remove the next layer of packages. When he got them, Leela could see finally see him. She could also see someone sitting in their armchair, a man she didn’t know.

He rose when she looked at him and bowed slightly to acknowledge her presence. While Fry was busy relieving her of the last packages, Leela formed a good picture of the stranger in her mind.

He was an older gentleman, with thick, wavy white hair that had once been a deep purple color. Over six feet tall, he didn’t appear to have a lot of fat on him. His eyes were large and his nose was neither too large nor too small. Firm but not fleshy lips gave his face a determined look. Overall, he had a look that was oddly familiar.

His clothing was a dark suit of conservative cut. His shirt was plain, though dazzlingly white while his tie was a simple red bowtie. In his right hand he carried a cane, although Leela had seen no reason for him to do so.

Fry relieved her of the last packages and the stranger stepped forward. He deftly switched his cane to his left hand as he extended his right. His voice was a soft southern drawl, “I have the advantage of you, so permit me to introduce myself, Miss Leela. I am Joseph Barnwell Kershaw, attorney at law. Your fiancé, Mr. Fry asked me to consider taking your case against the Mutant Acts.”

It was at the moment they shook hands that Leela decided she really liked Kershaw. She wasn’t sure why, but there was something about him that almost compelled trust. She replied, “Won’t you have a seat, Mr. Kershaw?” She gestured toward the armchair, “We can discuss this over a cup of coffee.”

“You are most kind,” he said with a smile. “I do believe I’ll take a cup.”

Fry sprang to his feet, “Have a seat on the couch, Leela. I’ll make coffee. You’ve been on your feet all morning.” He headed into the kitchenette, where he soon got the coffee started.

“How do you take your coffee, Mr. Kershaw?” Fry asked.

“Cream and sugar, if you please, sir.”

Fry brought Kershaw and Leela their mugs of coffee, then returned with his own. Once he settled on the couch next to Leela, he turned to her, “Leela, Mr. Kershaw explained some stuff to me…but I’m not sure I’d explain it right to you. So, Mr. Kershaw…”

“First, let me say that I admire your courage in breaking Mutant tradition.”

Leela looked puzzled, “What tradition?”

Kershaw looked a bit surprised, “Why, the tradition of never making waves. The Mutant Acts of 2207, as amended, clearly contradict the Earthican Constitution. However, since there has never been a complainant, there has never been a case.”

“What?”

“Yes, Miss Leela that is the long and the short of it.”

Leela’s thrifty side suddenly showed itself when she asked, “Is this process expensive?”

Kershaw gave a short laugh, “Not at all. I will do this pro bono publico.”

“That’s the part I knew I wouldn’t remember,” Fry chimed in, “It means free in lawyer talk.”

Kershaw smiled, “If you will sign this Bill of Complaint that I have drawn up, then I will file it immediately. We should be able to get a hearing before the Earthican District Court soon after Freedom Day, perhaps as early as the 4th of July.”

Leela picked the document up and read it through. Then, without a word, she took a pen from her purse and signed. She handed it to Kershaw, “What’s next?”

He smiled, “I have lots of legal footwork to do. Since you are my client, I ask that you put this matter from your mind. Also, I ask that you call me Joseph. All my clients and friends call me that. We can save the “Mr. Kershaw” for court appearances.”

Having said that, Kershaw stood, “Please excuse my haste, but I want to get this filed immediately. Philip, that coffee was excellent. Thank you both for your hospitality. Please don’t get up, I’ll find my own way out.”

He strode to the door, it slid open, and he turned and bowed slightly as he exited.

Once the door had slid shut, Leela turned to Fry and hugged him, “Fry! I never thought you had it in you!”

Fry returned her hug, “I never did either, until I realized…really realized…that we’re going to have a family together.” His voice became almost steely, “And nothing…I mean nothing…is ever going to threaten our happiness if I can help it.”

200 East 123rd Street, Apartment 207, June 28, 3004, 1300 (1 p.m.).

“So Amy told you about this robot nanny?” Fry asked as they stopped in front of the apartment door.

“Amy knew we’d need some kind of nanny. She mentioned it to Brad, who told her about Katrina’s roommate. Her name is Rebecca Robotowitz.”

Fry pressed the doorbell, “Well, let’s see if she fits the bill.”

The door opened just a few seconds later to reveal a tall, very human looking robot. Her blonde hair and blue eyes were most startlingly human. She wore a very unrobotic emerald green dress which complemented her flesh tone chassis covering. Both Fry and Leela couldn’t help gaping at her a bit, although Leela recovered first, “Rebecca Robotowitz?”

Rebecca smiled, “Yes, I am she.” In a very friendly tone she added, “You must be Brad’s friends, Leela and Fry. Won’t you please come in?”

Leela stepped in, followed closely by Fry. Leela was impressed by how orderly and clean the apartment was, “I’m sorry we came barging in on such short notice.”

“It is no problem. Rebecca motioned to the couch, “Please sit down. Would you care for some tea?”

Leela answered, “No thank you, we just have a few minutes before we have to meet my parents for a late lunch.”

“Very well, so it is down to business? I understand that you are adopting the day after your marriage?”

“Yes, that’s right. We plan to return to work on the 9th of July.” Leela looked thoughtful, “If we were to come to an agreement, would you be able to come to work then?”

Rebecca nodded, “Most certainly.”

For the next ten minutes Leela and Rebecca engaged in the delicate matter of negotiating an employment agreement. At the end, both were satisfied with the results. Both had developed a respect for the other as well. Fry had sat quietly, marveling at how deftly Leela had come to the point without being pushy and how Rebecca had remained unfailingly polite while maintaining her position.

As they were at the door, Leela had a sudden inspiration. Turning to Rebecca she asked, “Would you like to meet Sally informally before you begin work?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then come to our wedding and reception on Saturday with Katrina.” Leela touched Rebecca’s arm, “Sally doesn’t know we are adopting her. We plan to pick her up Sunday afternoon.”

Rebecca smiled, “Those are both wonderful ideas. I see we shall get along very well.”

Leela smiled back, “I think so too. See you Saturday.”

“Yes, I will be there.”

Bob’s Mutant Boy, Mutant Village, New-New York, June 28, 3004, 1400 (2 p.m.).

Detective Sergeants “Sal” Sanchez and “Lip” Lipford stood outside the restaurant, having a heated discussion. Sal was punctuating his speech with gestures while Lip stood cross armed, glowering at his friend.

“Lip, you are out of your freakin’ mind. Do you know that? You’re crossing the line, buddy.”

“What line?” Lip asked defiantly.

“Oh Jeez, Lip, this is Sal you’re talkin’ to. “ He adopted an almost pleading tone, “Think this over some more.”

“I’ve already thought it over. I thought you of all people would understand.”

Sal’s tone and face softened, “Look buddy, we went to the Academy together. We came up through the ranks together. You’re like me brother.” His voice became urgent, “I mean, cripes, you’ve never even sampled the goods!”

Lip burst into laughter, “Sal, you hot blooded dago, is that all?”

Sal laughed too, “Ain’t it enough, you dumb Kraut?” Then he continued in a more serious tone, “Look, I just don’t want to see you do something you’ll regret.”

“I won’t regret it Sal. If I do, I give you permission to kick my butt.” He placed his hand gently on Sal’s shoulder, “Come on. Let’s go inside.”

Inside, Judy was as busy as she had ever been. It seemed like everyone she knew had come in for a late lunch. Even Leela and Fry had come in from the surface to eat with Munda and Morris. To make matters worse, Carla had gone on break right at two o’clock.

“I wish I had a few extra arms, like Carla,” Judy muttered to herself as she came out of the kitchen carrying a tray in each hand.

Lenny, the manager helped her by setting out two tray holders. She was so busy serving her tables that she didn’t initially notice Lip as he entered, trailed by Sal.

By the time she noticed Lip, he was only a few feet away. In spite of being pressured, she smiled, “Hi Lip! Hey Sal! Can you wait a few minutes for a seat? We kinda got a late lunch crowd.”

Lip replied with a very official sounding, “I’m sorry Judy, but this is official business. We need you to identify some property.”

Judy’s confusion was obvious as she answered, “Okay. Property? I don’t lose anything.”

Lip reached into his pocket and he fished out a small, velvet covered box which he placed in her hands, “Could you open this Ma’am?”

Confused by being called Ma’am, Judy opened the box. It contained a white gold band embedded with six small diamonds that flanked a single karat pear shaped diamond. She gasped at the sight.

“Would you please put it on?”

Like someone mesmerized, Judy slid the ring onto her right hand.

“Wrong hand,” Lip said. He sank to one knee. “Judy, will you allow me to put that ring on your left hand?”

“What?” was all she could manage in her surprise.

“Will you take this as an engagement ring?” He paused, “What I mean is will you marry me?”

She began to tremble, but she was able to answer with an enthusiastic, “Yes. Oh, yes.”

Lip took the ring from her right hand and moved it to her left. When he rose to his feet, the entire restaurant erupted in a cheer. Even Sal joined in.

Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) Office, Syria Planitia Naval Yard, Mars, June 28, 3004, 1800 (6 p.m.).

“Lieutenant Zeke Adams, this is Captain LeBlanc of the New-New York Police Department.” Captain Omohundro, the commander of the Mars NCIS District intoned sternly, “She would like to ask you a few questions.”

“Sir, what is this about? Am I under investigation?”

Froggy shook her head, “No Lieutenant, you are not under investigation. But some former members of your unit are suspects in the recent terror attacks back in New-New York.”

Adams looked grim, “Let’s see.” He paused briefly, “Let me guess, two of them have to Brownlee and Willis, am I right?”

Froggy nodded, “We’ve got Willis in custody. Brownlee is still at large. What can you tell me about them?”

“If you look through their service records, you can see that I had them both court martialed for gross negligence in accounting for explosives.” His voice took on an angry tone, “If it weren’t for that buffoon Brannigan, they’d be serving time at the Portsmouth Naval Disciplinary Command.”

Froggy interjected, “Brannigan? Do your mean Captain Zapp Brannigan?”

“The same. His gross mismanagement of the whole proceedings got the conviction thrown out. He’s so dumb! He didn’t seem to realize that he sabotaged the case.”

“Interesting,” Froggy half murmured with narrowed eyes. Then she looked Adams full in the face, “Besides Willis and Brownlee, was there anyone else involved?”

Adams nodded, “You bet. But they all got off with reprimands and a return to duty. None of them are still in the service.” He smiled, “The word got out. After that, nobody wanted them around.”

“So they were blacklisted?”

“Call it what you like, Ma’am. But all I know is we haven’t had any ‘unaccountable’ losses of explosives since they’ve been gone.”

Froggy looked a bit puzzled, “Who would have let such a group of no-goods get together in the first place?”

“Don’t blame me, Captain. I wanted to get rid of Willis the day after he showed up. Instead, all of my good people were transferred and I wound up with a den of thieves on the Nimbus.”

“So who do you blame?”

“I blame Captain Zapp Brannigan.”

“Why do you blame him?”

“Ma’am, were you ever in the Navy?”

Froggy was a bit startled by the question, “No, I’ve been a cop since I got out of college.”

“Well, nobody came on the Nimbus that Zapp Brannigan didn’t personally approve.” A look of disgust settled in on his face, “There were only a few of us officers who were on board before Brannigan took over. Once I got rid of Brownlee and Willis, I was a marked man. Brannigan transferred me out within a week.”

The questioning continued for another thirty minutes. During that time, Froggy got an unassailable conviction that somehow, Zapp Brannigan was mixed up in this whole mess.

“He’s obviously made a career by shifting blame to others,” she thought, “but he didn’t have me to deal with.”

Once the session concluded, Froggy shook Lieutenant Adam’s hand. “Lieutenant, I think we’ve covered everything. If you should think of anything that might be useful, you can reach me at this number.”

Adams took the card she offered, “Thanks, Captain I will.” He saluted Captain Omohundro, “Good evening sir.” When Omohundro returned the salute, Adams pivoted on his heel and left the office.

Froggy exhaled, “Well Captain Omohundro, what do you think?”

“I’m not one to tell anyone how to do their business. But if I were you, I’d be all over Zapp Brannigan.”

Nodding, Froggy replied, “I’ll be on him like a cheap suit.”

Apartment 1I, 100 East 123rd Street, June 28, 3004, 2100 (9 p.m.)

Leela was carefully packing the last of the dishes as Fry came into the kitchenette. Her back was to Fry and she was so focused on her task that she didn’t hear him enter.

Fry paused for a moment, watching her work. He marveled at how meticulous she was, wrapping each plate carefully before placing it in the carton with the others. Standing there silently, he watched her complete her task. When she was done, he said softly, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

She turned while still kneeling on the floor, “Oh Fry, I didn’t know you were there. No, I don’t need any help, thanks.” She looked him in the face, “Have you been standing there long?”

He shook his head, “Nope. I just didn’t want to startle you.” He chuckled before continuing in a playful tone, “I didn’t want to stir up the wrath of Leela.”

She smiled, “Am I that bad?”

He kneeled on the floor beside her, “Bad? No, not at all.” Then he smiled, “But I would not want to piss you off.”

“Good thing,” she said as she gave him a playful shove.

Fry stuck his lip out in a mock pout as he whined, “Ow!”

“You big baby,” she said in a playful tone.

“That’s me,” he said cheerfully. He looked at the neatly stacked pile of carefully marked boxes in the middle of the floor, “Is everything done?”

Leela looked around the kitchenette, “No. But we’ve packed everything that can be packed.” She paused, “Sarah, Amy and the crew will come around and move the rest of this stuff into our new place tomorrow. All they will leave is the bed. They’ll move that Saturday morning.”

Fry shifted from a kneeling position to a sitting position, “They’re taking the sofa too?”

“What else would you sleep on tomorrow night?” Leela’s voice carried a hint of promise, “Have you reconsidered not seeing each other for the day before the wedding?”

Fry shook his head vigorously, “Nope. I’ll stay at our new place, move in the last of my stuff, and set up Sally’s room…just like we agreed.”

She gave an exaggerated sigh, “Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“Want to watch some TV? There’s a Scary Door marathon tonight.”

“Sure,” she said with a lot more enthusiasm than she really felt. She was so tired she was barely able to keep her eye open.

Fry stood, offering his hand to help Leela from the floor. She smiled as she took it, appreciating his helpful gesture.

They settled in on the couch. Fry sat at the end nearest the door, while Leela nestled in next to him. Within a few minutes, Leela’s head began to nod. Soon it rested on Fry’s shoulder. Within a few moments, she was snoring gently.

Fry didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he looked at the clock he realized it was almost midnight. Leela’s head was still on his shoulder, so he caressed her face gently, “Leela, you ready for bed?”

She sat up slowly, rubbing her eye. She smacked her lips a couple of times before she spoke in a sleepy voice, “Yeah, I guess so.”

Standing, she did a catlike stretch before heading into the bedroom. Fry waited for her to change into her jams before he came in and changed.

As they settled into the bed together, Leela nestled in Fry’s arms. She gently placed her right hand on his chest, “Fry, can I axe you a question?”

“As long as it’s not about my eye. Is it about my eye?” he said in a joking tone.

Her response was to pull one of his chest hairs, “Be serious Fry!”

“Ow.” He said in a hurt tone, “Sorry, I’ll answer any questions you want.” He pretended to be fearful, “Just don’t hurt me anymore.”

Leela leaned over and kissed the spot where she had pulled his hair, “Is it all better now?”

“Oh yeah! It feels fine now.”

“Good,” she continued in a serious tone, “Fry, I have two questions. The first is do you really want to marry me?”

Fry came to a sitting position immediately, “What? There is nothing more that I’ve ever wanted in my whole life. You mean everything to me. I can’t imagine life without you.” He got a sinking feeling in his stomach, “You still want to marry me…don’t you?”

Her smile lightened his heart, “Of course I want to marry you. I just wanted to be sure.”

Fry gave a sigh of relief, “Well, what’s the next question?”

“Do you really want to adopt?”

Fry’s answer was instant and sincere, “Yes. I know this may sound crazy, but something about Sally reminds me of you.” He paused briefly before continuing, “Besides, I just can’t stand by and see anyone going through what you did at the Orphanarium without helping them.”

Leela’s response was to kiss Fry passionately. He returned her kiss, embracing her gently. When they finally came up for air, Fry spoke first in a voice quivering with passion, “I’m…I’m sure glad there’s only one more night until our wedding night.”

“Me too,” was all Leela was able to say. She feared to say anything else. Instead she settled in beside Fry, gently stroking his cheek with the back of her hand. Within a few moments, Fry was sound asleep.

Leela fell asleep as well, thinking how fortunate she was to have the love of a good man.

Excerpt from Chapter One, “The Legend of the Red Shadow” by Dr. John Zoidberg, MO, QBS, RDE, 32nd Century Press, New-New York, 3105.

“Before I continue my narrative, I must emphasize that some of it is based upon hearsay. Some of the players are long gone, while others had no desire to be interviewed. The terrible attempt by Zapp Brannigan to wipe out the mutant population of New-New York is a matter of public record, but the deeds of my friend, the Red Shadow, have never been fully revealed until now.

My unwitting connection with the case began during the early morning of 29 June 3004. I was up watching an all night ‘Scary Door’ marathon when James emerged from his room.

It was obvious that he required my assistance, as he seemed barely able to stand. I jumped from the couch and rushed to his side. Even with my (shameful to say) limited knowledge at the time of human anatomy, I could tell that he was severely bruised.

“So James, what gives with the bruises?” I asked.

All he would say was, “An accident. I’m going to need a lot of ice as well as some painkillers. Can you get them for me?”

“Like a gazelle, I’m running!” I responded. Well, in spite of my picturesque reply, I never have run like a gazelle. But I did a good imitation of a speedy land crab as I went out to the 711 to buy four bags of ice.

When I returned, I was able to ice James down as he lay on his bed. Even my unpracticed eye could tell he had bruises over 90% of his body. He also gave off a strong smell of something, which I later learned was the explosive residue from T-4.

Once I gave him the painkillers, he laughed and said, “Now I know how a fish in the market feels.”

Ignorant as I was, I still knew that something was going on. I looked him full in the face and asked, “James my friend, what happened?”

It was at that moment he decided to trust me with his secret identity. He knew that the explosion would be all over the news. Rather than have me think of him as a terrorist, he wanted me to know who he really was…the Red Shadow.

“The Red Shadow…what an honor!” My mind was reeling, “I give my word that I will never reveal your identity to anyone, even if they boil me in salt water!”

It was then that James told me of the events of the past night. He tracked down one of the terrorists, a Kermit Brownlee, to a warehouse in the Bronx. He had already disarmed and secured him when several other terrorists entered unexpectedly.

A gunfight ensued in which James used his ancient pistols and the none-too-bright terrorists used their lasers. A stray shot struck a stockpile of T-4, which blew up with a tremendous roar. According to press reports, windows were rattled a half-mile away.

Only James marvelous suit of body armor saved him from death. Unfortunately for the investigation, all of the terrorists died in the explosion. As we will see later, this delay in the investigation was to have dire consequences.

But I anticipate. James was seriously injured and needed constant care. I realized that someone else would have to help me. The only person that I could think of was Sarah.

“James my friend, I believe we need to have someone else help me nurse you for a while.”

“Whom do you have in mind?”

“Sarah Foster.”

He shook his head, “Zoidman, you have to do this alone. It’s dangerous to know my identity…I’ll not risk anyone else…especially her.”

“My friend,” I continued in my most reasonable tone, “human females are very…inquisitive. They are also good at hiding secrets. Sarah will not be satisfied with any story I can make up. She will come looking for you. If I know my young ladies, she won’t stop until she finds out the truth.”

James remained silent for a full five minutes, lost in thought. Finally he spoke in a slow deliberate tone, “All right Zoidman. Axe her to come over in the morning. I’ll tell her what happened.”

Satisfied with his answer, I said, “You need rest. So sleep already! I’ll answer any calls.”

He smiled wearily and closed his eyes. Soon I could tell from his deep regular breathing that he was asleep. I settled into the chair in his room, keeping watch as he slept.

1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, 29 June 3004, 0700 (7:00 a.m.).

Sarah stood outside James’ apartment, pressing the buzzer impatiently. The bags of ice she was carrying were both puzzling and awkward at the same time. Zoidberg had been very odd acting over the videophone and she was determined to get to the bottom of it.

In what seemed an eternity, but was in fact only a few seconds, the door slid open. Zoidberg stood there on the other side, “So come in, already.”

“G’day, Dr. Zoidberg. What’s all this about James, then?” Sarah asked as she stepped inside the apartment.

“He had an accident last night and…”

“Bloody hell!” she exploded, “Where is he?”

“He’s resting in his room. I’ve kept him iced down since he came in last night.”

Sarah brushed past Zoidberg and entered James’ room. She gasped when she saw that he was literally covered with bruises from head to foot. James turned his head toward her, smiling weakly, “Hi Sarah. You should have seen the other guy.”

She crossed her arms, “I’m no stickybeak, but you need to tell me what’s going on.”

Zoidberg, who was standing directly behind Sarah said in a wondering voice, “Beaks? Humans have beaks?”

Sarah spun around, “Crikey! It’s just an expression for a nosy person. Now rack off unless you’ve got something to contribute!”

The fierce look in her eyes and her clenched fists caused Zoidberg to take a step back. When she saw the look on his face, she thought, “Calm down, he’s not the enemy.”

She lowered her fists, “Sorry Dr. Zoidberg, I’m just a bit tense. No worries.”

“I’m sorry to ask such stupid questions.”

Without commenting, Sarah turned and walked to the bedside. She leaned over to examine James more closely. She smiled sardonically, “Jimbo, can’t you stay out of bloody trouble?

“Well, I try.”

“It seems to me that this is a bit more serious than your boxing match with the furniture.” Her tone turned serious, “Any broken bones?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

She proceeded to give him a through examination, one which occasionally caused him to wince with pain. Once finished, she straightened up, “Well, other than your bruising, you’re as fit as a Mallee bull.”

“Hooray for me!”

“Right. Dr. Zoidberg, can you get me some Vitamin K Cream, a normal saline IV and about 30 milligrams of hepalistatin?”

He nodded vigorously, “In a flash I can get it!”

“On your way, then,” she said as she tossed him a wad of money. “That should cover it.”

Zoidberg caught the cash, turned, and headed straight out the door.

James cleared his throat, “You seem to know a lot about medicine, at least more than the good Doctor.”

She laughed, revealing a row of perfect teeth, “I was trained as a medic for my Nasho. Besides, back home in the Outback, doctors are scarce.”

“I didn’t know you were in the Australian Army.”

“Everyone serves down under. I just did my bit and got out.” She looked him in the eyes, “Jimbo, there’s something going on here. I’ve seen injuries like yours before. They were all either related to horse breaking or explosives. Since there are so few horses around here, I’m inclined to think you were somewhere around an explosion.”

There was an uncomfortable silence before James spoke, “Sarah, what I am about to tell you is very dangerous information. It is information that you must keep secret…both for your safety and mine.”

“No drama, Jimbo. I’ll never peach on you.”

He smiled, “The news calls me the ‘Red Shadow’.”

“Pull the other one!”

He laughed weakly, “Not in my present condition.”

Until Zoidberg returned ten minutes later, he explained what had happened at the warehouse and why he chose to fight crime as he did.

When Zoidberg returned, he saw Sarah leaning over to kiss James lightly on the lips. He deliberately made some noise; not wanting to disturb what he was certain was a mating ritual.

Sarah straightened up and waved him into the room, “Watch and learn, Doctor.” She set up the IV in a few moments. Then she took the hepalistatin syringe and injected it into the IV bag.

“Doctor, the hepalistatin along with the Vitamin K Cream should clear up all of these bruises within eight hours. It’s very important that we keep Jimbo iced down and resting during that time, got it?”

“Such a mastery of medicine!” Zoidberg exclaimed. Then he began to sob, “Such a failure I am!”

Sarah found herself feeling sorry for the sobbing Decapodian, “Here now, you did the right thing initially. We’ll have him on his feet in time for the wedding, no worries.”

“But I know so little about humans! Decapodians, Arcturans, Neptunians, and Altarians I know, but humans!”

“Then apply yourself and learn! I saw you reading books, you’re not stupid! So study up on humans. Crikey! Just stop blubbering like a baby! It gives me the willies.”

“All right already, I’ll stop…and I’ll learn.”

“That’s all any of us can do, Dr Zoidberg. That’s all any of us can do.”

Apartment 1I, 100 East 123rd Street, June 29, 3004, 0900 (9 a.m.)

Leela headed to the door in response to the insistent ringing of buzzer. “Fry used to ring like that,” she thought. As it kept ringing she shouted, “It’s not a toy! I’ll be there in a second.”

The ringing stopped.

When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Bender, CosmicF, and XT standing there. She quickly recovered and said with a smile, “You’re early.”

XT sounded apologetic, “Yes, we just wanted to get here on time since Sarah won’t be here.” He glanced at CosmicF “I’m sorry about the buzzer.”

Leela shrugged, “It’s Okay. Come on in and have a seat. I’m waiting for Brad and his crew to get here to help move.’

“FAHRFEGNUGEN!” Bender bellowed, causing everyone to jump.

CosmicF shook his head, “You know buddy, no matter how I try, I just can’t get used to that!”

Bender replied in a voice dripping with sarcasm. “Well coffin stuffer, I just love it. There’s nothing like being unable to control your POSITRON voice.”

XT intervened, “My friends, let us sit down in peace.”

Surprisingly, the trio made their way to the couch without any further argument. Bender sat nearest the door with CosmicF next to him followed by XT. Leela sat in the armchair.

XT asked, “Leela, where is Fry?”

Leela smiled, “He’s following an old custom that the groom must not see the bride for a day prior to the wedding. He’s down in our new apartment.” She sighed, “Dumb as it sounds, I miss him.”

CosmicF chimed in, “It’s not dumb. You’re in love.”

Bender shook his head, “She’ll be sick of him in a month.”

All three exclaimed “Bender” at the same time.

“What? I’m just giving my opinion.”

Before anyone could speak, the buzzer rang again. Leela gave Bender a withering look as she stood, “If you weren’t Fry’s friend I’d hammer an empathy chip and a few assorted nails into that bucket head of yours.”

CosmicF and XT howled with laughter.

When the door slid open, it revealed Amy, Kif and a young woman who looked very much like Amy. Leela looked at her Wristamajigy, “Right on time. Amy you’ll never cease to amaze me. Come in, I’m almost ready to go.”

When they entered the apartment, Kif said in his usual soft voice, “Um…Leela, I’m sorry to barge in like this, but I got a few unexpected hours off and…”

Leela held up her hand, “Say no more Kif. I’m glad to see you.”

Amy spoke up, “Leela, this is my cousin Chenxi Wong. She’s just in from Shanghai.”

Leela extended her hand, “Pleased to meet you, Chenxi.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you as well,” Chenxi responded in a lilting voice with just a trace of an accent.

“BEUCEPHALUS!” Bender shouted.

Undistracted by Bender’s outburst, Leela found the family resemblance remarkable. Chenxi had, if anything, a slightly more exotic look, with shoulder length, glossy black hair. She was of slightly fuller build than Amy.

Turning toward the couch, Leela said, “Chenxi, let me introduce you to my friends, Bender, CosmicF and XT.”

CosmicF was first to rise, almost leaping to his feet as he stuck out his hand, “Hi Chenxi! I’m CosmicF!” When their hands touched, CosmicF felt as though electricity had just shot up his arm. Or was it Chenxi’s smile that did that?

XT stood shaking hands with her as he regarded his friend, who had an almost dazed look on his face. “I’m pleased to meet you.”

Bender remained seated on the couch. “Hey skin tube,” was all he said.

Glaring at Bender, Leela passed the couch on her way to the bedroom. She said, “Excuse me guys, but I have to go out with Amy for some last minute shopping.”

XT replied, “No problem Leela. We’ll wait for Brad and the rest of the crew. We’ll make sure everything gets done.”

Chenxi spoke up suddenly, “If you do not mind, cousin, I will stay and help with the move. I am not much at shopping.”

Amy stared at her cousin in shock, as she knew Chenxi was a marathon shopper. Then it dawned on her, Chenxi liked CosmicF! Amy replied, “Sure, I’m certain they could use the extra help.”

CosmicF piped up immediately, “And how!”

Apartment 5I, 100 East 123rd Street, June 29, 3004, 1000 (10 a.m.)

Fry had been busy assembling Sally’s bed when the doorbell rang. He called out, “Be there in a second!” Carefully putting the screwdriver he held in his hands onto the floor next to the half-assembled bed, he rose and headed for the door.

When he opened the door, he was glad to see his friends Bender, XT, and CosmicF, each with an armload of boxes. As he glanced down the hall, he could see Brad, Chelsea, Caitlyn and a girl that looked like a long haired version of Amy. They were all carting boxes as well.

“Come on in,” Fry said.

“About time, skin tube,” Bender said peevishly, “I thought my arms were going to fall off.”

Fry laughed, “Good old Bender. I’m glad to see some things don’t change.”

As everyone entered, they placed their boxes in the appropriate room. It was easy, because Leela had carefully marked each box.

CosmicF came up to Fry, leading Chenxi by the hand, “Fry this is Chenxi. She’s Amy’s cousin.”

“Hey Chenxi, pleased to meet you.”

“I am pleased to meet you as well. My cousin has told me much about you.”

Fry held his hands up, “Don’t believe everything she told you.”

Chenxi laughed, “Do not worry. It was all good.”

Brad came over, “Hello, Fry. Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got work to do. Katrina and Rebecca will be here with lunch in a bit. We need to be done with the moving, because Caitlyn and Chelsea have a band rehearsal. I’ve got some 1000 hour checks to run on the fighters and Katrina has an afternoon class.”

“PYROCLASTIC,” Bender shouted, causing everyone to wince.

Chelsea looked at Brad as she ground her teeth, “Just let me gag him or something. The last time he shouted, I almost dropped a load of dishes.”

Brad merely shook his head.

For the next hour and a half they shuttled back-and-forth between the two apartments like an ant colony on the move. The last item of furniture was moved and in place when Katrina and Rebecca arrived.

The door was open, having been left that way to ease the movement of the larger items of furniture. Brad, Bender, CosmicF, and Fry were in the master bedroom, putting the dresser in place.

Caitlyn spotted them first when they entered, “Hi Katrina! I’m glad you’re here. Is this your friend Rebecca?”

Katrina smiled, “Hello, Caitlyn. Yes, this is my good friend Rebecca Robotowitz.”

Chelsea, Chenxi and XT came up and exchanged greetings. XT said, “Katrina, let me take that basket. It looks very heavy.”

Katrina handed it to him, “Thank you, XT. Yes, it is quite heavy.”

In the master bedroom, Brad heard Katrina’s voice. He looked at Fry, “Well, lunch is here. I think we’re about done.”

Fry nodded, “Yeah. Everything looks great. I can handle the unpacking.”

Brad pointed toward the living room with his thumb, “Let’s go eat, then.”

Brad, Fry and CosmicF entered the living room almost in single file as all three men were hungry.

Bender came out last. He took one look at Rebecca, walked straight up to her and said, “Hey sexy momma, want to try a little 62 degree action?”

Rebecca’s response was instantaneous. She slapped Bender so hard that his head spun several times, unscrewed from his body, and fell to the floor.

Everyone stood stock still, stunned by what had happened.

Before anyone could move, Rebecca snatched Bender’s head by the antenna, lifting it level with her face. Because of her human features, it was easy to see that the fury in her face matched the angry tone of her voice, “How dare you address me in such a manner? I’m a nanny, not a hooker. If you ever speak to me like that again, I’ll turn you into metal shavings!”

Katrina was the first to recover her voice. She placed her hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, “Pajalsta, Rebecca! Bender has a problem with RTS. He is also Fry and Leela’s good friend. ”

Rebecca’s features softened slightly. She looked Katrina in the eyes, “RTS sufferers shout single words at random. “ She looked at Bender, “But for the sake of my new employers - Leela and Fry – I will forgo reducing this dupa into scrap.”

That said she put Bender’s head back into place.

What Bender said next surprised everyone, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Can we try an introduction again?”

Rebecca looked dubious, “Very well.”

Bender extended his hand, “Hi. I’m Bender B. Rodriguez.”

Rebecca took his hand, “I’m Rebecca M. Robotowitz.”

Bender bowed in a courtly manner, “I’m so sorry for what I said earlier. Is there any way that I can make it up to you?”

Rebecca replied dryly, “I’ll let you know. But we are holding up everyone’s lunch.”

“Oh, right.”

Brad seized the moment to assume control of events, “Right! Let’s all dig into this splendid lunch that Katrina and Rebecca brought us.”

Lunch was uneventful. After everyone else had left, Bender asked Fry, “Is Rebecca the nanny for the kid you’re going to adopt?”

“Yup, old buddy,” Fry smiled, “She seems to have had an effect on you.”

Bender nodded, “True that.”

The Mutant Village beneath New-New York, the Turanga Residence, June 29, 1330 (1:30 p.m.).

Leela, Amy and Kif arrived outside the front door of the Morris and Munda’s house. They were all laden with packages, but Leela managed to ring the doorbell with her elbow. The door opened almost instantly to reveal the smiling form of Munda.

“Hello sweetie!” She gave Leela a hug, smiling over Leela’s shoulder at Kif and Amy, “Kif and Amy, it’s so good to see you. Come in, come in!”

Leela entered first followed by Amy and Kif.

Munda motioned to the coffee table, “Set that stuff down anywhere near the couch.” She reached out and took a long suit bag from Leela, “This has to be the wedding dress.”

Leela smiled at her mother’s obvious excitement, “Yes mom. It’s my wedding dress.”

Munda smiled back, “You just have to try it on! I’ll make sure it fits just right.”

Rather than argue, Leela said, “Okay mom. I’ll go try it on upstairs. I just don’t want too many people to see me in it before the big day.” She added playfully, “Especially any men!”

Kif turned transparent in embarrassment, “Um…I don’t want to cause any problem.”

“Leela, stop teasing Kif,” Amy said in a mock serious voice.

At that moment, Morris ambled into the room from the kitchen, “Hey! There’s my little girl.” He came up and gave Leela a hug and a kiss.

“Hi dad, I thought you would be out fishing.”

“No, I figured I’d take Kif down to Bob’s Mutant Boy for a cup of coffee while you all do girl stuff.”

Amy whispered something in Kif’s ear. He nodded and stood up, “I’d love to go have a cup of coffee, Morris.”

Morris gestured toward the door. As they exited, the last thing the ladies heard was Morris asking Kif, “So what’s it like being in the DOOP Navy? Do you really have women at every port of call?”

Leela, Amy and Munda all laughed when they heard Kif sputtering and choking in response. Then they went upstairs, where Leela changed into her wedding gown.

It was a stunningly white fabric, with shoulder straps, and a modest neckline. It was done up in the back with a pair of silken ribbons. The train was of moderate length, allowing Leela to manage the dress without assistance. Elbow length gloves, a tiara and veil completed the ensemble.

Amy murmured in admiration, “You’re going to knock Fry dead.”

Leela giggled, “I hope not. We’ve still got the wedding night to enjoy.”

All three women laughed together at Leela’s sally of wit. The Amy said, “Speaking of wedding nights, I got you something that will drive Fry wild.”

“What?”

Amy grinned, “That stuff I bought in Viktoria’s Secret wasn’t for me.”

Munda and Amy laughed to see Leela actually blush crimson as she stammered, “I…I couldn’t possibly wear…”

Amy shook her head, “You’ve got plenty of time for Bulk Underpants Outlet lingerie when you’re in a rocking chair. You asked for me to advise you, so I’m advising. Try it on and make sure it fits. I’ll guarantee results.”

Leela went into the bathroom and hurriedly tried everything on without even looking at herself in the mirror. It all fit, so she carefully folded it up as she replaced it in the bag. When she emerged she said, “Can we go look at Sally’s stuff now, Mom?”

“Sure sweetie, by the way would you girls like some tea?”

Both answered, “Sure.”

Once Munda had made the tea, they settled in to look at all the clothes that Amy and Leela had bought for Sally. Dresses, shoes, underwear, and every other item a little girl needed came out of the bags and underwent scrutiny.

Several hours later, they were almost talked out when Kif and Morris returned. To be more accurate, Morris returned carrying Kif, who seemed higher than a kite…singing a sea shanty in a slurred voice.

Munda glared at Morris, “Morris, did you get that poor boy drunk?”

Morris put Kif into the empty armchair before turning to answer, “We haven’t had a drop of booze. Apparently Kif can’t tolerate coffee. It must act like alcohol on him…kind of like it does on cousin Ralph.”

“Poor Kiffie,” Amy said as she hovered over him. Leela went into the kitchen and got a towel which she soaked in cold water. She handed it to Amy, who put it on Kif’s forehead.

“How do you feel now, my poor Kiffie?”

“Better…”

“Oh good.”

“Better get me to the head, because I’m going to throw up.”

Morris rushed Kif upstairs, making it just in time.

Amy turned to Leela, “Fluid filled bladders for bones, reproduction through touch, what’s next I wonder?”

Leela grinned at her in reply, “Ask on your wedding night.”

Now it was Amy’s turn to blush.

Excerpt from the Personal Log of Lord Nibbler, Eternium Date Second Month, Third day, Year 1043.

Lord Snigglesnoosh was correct. The quickening has begun for both the Mighty One and the Other. The power of love has begun to accomplish what even the worms could not. This means that the universe is safe…will be safe…might be saved.

So I must continue in my role as playing the furry moron while secretly watching over them both. For the past month, they have been so wrapped up in each other that I have not had to put on many displays of stupidity. In fact, most of my activities have taken place at feeding time.

Lady Lambseykins’ prediction that the Mighty One and the Other would adopt the one called Sally. It is interesting to watch the flow of destiny. What would they do if they knew the import of their decisions? Would they flee from the trials they are about to face? I do not know.

The storm is about to break. May the Eternal One grant them the strength they need to weather it. I will do all I can, as I have grown fond of them both.

New-New York Police Department Headquarters’, Commissioner’s Office Conference Room June 29, 1430 (2:30 p.m.)

“Okay, we’ve got an hour and a half before I brief the Mayor. He’s talking about imposing martial law under the Mutant Edicts of 2207. Let’s cover our progress,” Ramon said in his most serious tone. “Froggy, why don’t you lead off?”

Froggy glanced around the table before speaking. Detective Sergeants “Sal” Sanchez and “Lip” Lipford sat on her left. Across the table sat Mike Wigglesworth and Duncan Kriebel. She began, “Well, my investigation on Mars has tended to center on the crew of the Nimbus. My gut tells me that Captain Zapp Brannigan is involved in this mess somehow.”

Ramon’s brow furrowed, “Brannigan, the great DOOP hero?”

“Yes Commish, he’s the kind of character who doesn’t stand up to close inspection.”

“Explain.”

“He’s gotten where he is on the backs of his subordinates. The nicest thing I could get one of his men to say about him is ‘he sucks.’”

A ripple of laughter ran around the table. Ramon waited for the laughter to subside before he said, “Okay mi hija, he’s unpopular. So am I. Does that make me a bad guy?”

“No Commish, but you haven’t appointed a bunch of thieves to handle explosives and other sensitive items either.”

Ramon nodded thoughtfully, “Go on.”

“All of the dead human terrorists have had some connection…either direct or indirect…with Brannigan. I don’t have a smoking gun, but I’ve got enough leads to pursue.”

“Okay, who’s next?”

Sal cleared his throat, “Sir, we’ve combed the Mutant Village. Lip and I have interviewed dozens of people. We’ve believe that the mutants were abducted, drugged, and used as bomb carriers.”

“Okay Detective Sergeant, how do you back that up?”

Sal held up his hand and ticked off the points on his fingers, “One, mutants are not violent types…just look at the crime statistics for the past two hundred years. Two, look at the massive amounts of theflazine that we found in their tissues after the explosions. Three, look at their observed behavior prior to the explosions. It all adds up, sir.”

Ramon nodded, “Okay Sal, I believe you.” He turned to his left, “So where does CSI stand on this issue.”

Mike spoke first, “Sir, CSI agrees with our detectives. First, the explosives were stolen from lots consigned to the Nimbus over a period of years. After doing some exhaustive research, Duncan and I found that explosives from lots assigned to the Nimbus have turned up in criminal hands on planets other than Earth for the past five years!”

“Really?”

“Yes, sir. As near as we can determine, the thefts were always written off by the local cops because they never connected the dots. After all, Captain Brannigan was above suspicion.”

“And…”

“And he was, up until now. We’ve done some checking with the Federal Bureaucracy. He’s got an awful lot of property and stocks that he couldn’t have bought on a Captain’s pay.”

“Couldn’t have?”

“Sir, it’s just not feasible. We’re convinced he was skimming money from the sale of contraband weapons and explosives for at least five years.”

“Does that make him a terrorist?”

“No sir, but it gives us a good reason to question him.”

Froggy interjected, “I agree.”

Mike turned to Duncan, “How about the communications data?”

“Well sir,” Duncan said, “the blast in Times Square was triggered by a Military Wristamajigy…a Mark XXI.” He paused briefly, “Sir, the Mark XXI is the latest and greatest. It has stealth features that make it hard to track, but easy to identify. Fortunately only a handful of devices have gone missing.”

“Let me guess…”

“Yes sir, two were stolen from the Nimbus in the past year.”

He shook his head, “Our boy leaves a trail, doesn’t he?”

“Yes sir, but none of it points directly to him. Somebody else has always taken the fall.”

Ramon sat silently for a moment, “Well, I know what I’m going to recommend to our esteemed Mayor. But I’m not sure he’ll listen.”

Froggy spoke up, “He has to, Commish.”

“No, mi hija,” he said with a bitter laugh, “he’ll do whatever he thinks will woo the voters. These attacks have the people scared. Scared people have always been prone to give up their rights to feel safe again.” He paused, “And there are always politicians like Poopenmeyer who are ready to give the people what they want in return for power.”

Ramon rose from his seat, “Keep after your leads. We have to solve this case. Dismissed.”

Everyone stood as Ramon pivoted on his heel and headed for the Mayor’s office.

The Mayor’s Office, New-New York, 29 June 3004, 1700 (5:00 p.m.).

C. Randall Poopenmeyer sat with his feet propped up on his desk. He knew that the Police Commissioner, Ramon Hidalgo had been sitting in his waiting room for the past fifteen minutes, but he intentionally kept him waiting. Like most politicians, he was addicted to all the trappings of power. Making people wait was one of his favorites.

“Still,” the Mayor thought, “It doesn’t pay to aggravate the cops too much.”

He leaned forward and flicked the intercom switch, “Miss Smith, please have Commissioner Hidalgo come in now.”

“Yes sir,” a voice answered from the intercom on his desk. At the same moment, the door slid open and Ramon stepped through the doorway.

“Have a seat Commissioner,” the Mayor said while indicating a chair in front of his desk.

Ramon took a seat and waited for Poopenmeyer to speak. He didn’t have long to wait.

“So, Commissioner, what are you doing about the mutant terrorists?”

“Your Honor, we do not believe that the terrorists are mutants.”

Poopenmeyer frowned, “Not this again! The press is convinced it’s mutants.” He grabbed a copy of the New-New York Times that was sitting on his desk, raised it to eye level and shook it vigorously, “Have you read the papers?”

“Yes, sir. But our investigations have…”

Poopenmeyer cut him off, “I don’t care about your investigations! I want to know who you’ve arrested!”

Ramon bristled at the insult. His voice shook with rage, “Listen to me, MR MAYOR. We had a good investigation going until your wishy-washy DA released our prime suspect. Now we’ve got a lot of corpse fragments, a couple of smoking craters and some solid leads.” He began to regain control, “I know you’re under pressure. But we can’t rush this or we could let the guilty escape and wind up looking like idiots.”

Poopenmeyer shook his head, “You’ve got five more days. Then I’m going to have to take some kind of action.” His tone indicated that the meeting was over, “Good evening, Commissioner.”

Ramon rose, “Good evening, Mr. Mayor.” Then he turned and left the office.

Somewhere in New-New York, 29 June 3004, 1700 (5 p.m.).

Zapp Brannigan sat in a velour covered chair reviewing a document on an electronic writing tablet. He smiled as he came to the end.

Standing in the room were two thuggish looking men of medium height and average build. They were obviously waiting for a decision.

“July the Third is the day, gentlemen. Until then, I want you to cease all operations. We will follow this operations plan to the letter, do you understand?”

Both men answered, “Aye-Aye Sir!”

Brannigan frowned, “Knock off that Navy crap! I’m sure even the New-New York cops will figure things our eventually. But I still have a card or two up my sleeve.”

Zapp threw back his head and began to laugh, a deep, wicked laugh. The other men joined in.

1202 East 49th Street, Apartment 404, 29 June 3004, 1700 (5:00 p.m.).

Sarah glanced at her watch. “Five o’clock,” she thought, “time to check on the patient.” Looking over, she smiled at the sight of Dr. Zoidberg sleeping soundly in the armchair with a copy of Gray’s Anatomy laying open on his chest. She rose, walked to James room, and entered.

The room was only dimly illuminated by a small lamp on the computer desk, where James was seated. She was surprised to see him hunched over the desk, tinkering with something that looked like a vest of some sort.

To avoid startling him, she cleared her throat before speaking, “Crikey Jimbo, can’t you listen to your nurse and stay in bed?”

James pivoted in his seat to look at her, “Sorry. I just couldn’t lie there any longer.”

She noticed the IV bag lay unhooked. Her lip tightened into a thin line as she bit back an old fashioned butt chewing. Instead, she mentally counted three before saying, “Right then, back on the bed so I can have a look at you.”

Looking somewhat sheepish, James rose from his seat and stretched out on the bed. Sarah turned her back on him as she turned on the light.

When she turned around she gasped, “Oh Lord!” Then she asked, “How long have you been up?”

James looked concerned, “Only a couple of hours…why?”

Sarah was biting into her lip to control herself, “Look at your hands!”

James gasped in surprise when he looked at his hands, “They’re orange! I look like a doggone piece of fruit!”

No longer able to control herself, Sarah began to howl with laughter. She doubled over, managing to gasp out, “You didn’t let the IV flush you out! The hepalistatin…” She succumbed to another convulsion of laughter.

James crossed his arms and tried to look angry, but found it impossible to achieve. Sarah’s peals of laughter just made it impossible. He began to laugh as well.

Before either could speak, Zoidberg came into the room. He looked quizzically at Sarah, then James. Noting James new orange coloration, Zoidberg said, “Nice look, James. I have a cousin who colored his shell like that. Oy! Did he get the girls!”

This caused fresh gales of laughter to erupt from them both, with Zoidberg looking on in puzzlement.

It was five minutes later before Sarah was able to explain the situation to Zoidberg without bursting into laughter, “You see Doctor Zoidberg, the Hepalistatin needs to be thoroughly flushed from the system. If you come off the IV too early, you retain residual blood just under the skin.”

James opened his mouth to speak, but closed it when he caught a “don’t even think about it” look from Sarah.

“So James came off to early, he did?”

“He did. So now it will take two to three days before he will be back to his normal color.”

“Why change? It’s an improvement.”

“Not to an earth female, doctor.”

Zoidberg slapped his forehead, “Oh right! Earth females…right!”

“Could you leave James and I alone for a moment, Doctor?”

“Certainly,” he said before scuttling from the room.

James opened his mouth to speak but Sarah held her right index finger up to her lips to silence him. Curious, he remained silent.

Sarah came up to the bed and sat down next to him. She gazed into his eyes, “You bloody magnificent fool,” she said in a husky voice, “you must have some kangaroos loose in your top paddock.”

“Not that I know of…”

“You need to take better care of yourself. Your like a Brumby, you are. You have no fear of anything. Well, that’s all right. But I want you to know that if we’re going to get along, we have to trust each other’s competence.”

“I do trust your competence.”

“Really,” she said dryly, “then why did you act like a bloody dill and come off the meds before you were supposed to?”

James realized that he was in a no-win situation, “You’re right. I screwed up. Do you forgive me?”

In response Sarah threw her arms around his neck and gave him a passionate kiss. When they separated she almost growled, “I forgive you. And stop grinning like a shot fox!”

“I can’t help smiling with you in my arms.”

“Oh you are the smooth one Mister James Martindale. Now give us another kiss.”

“Yes nurse! Right away!”

Apartment 1I, 100 East 123rd Street, June 29, 3004, 2200 (10 p.m.)

EXTRACT FROM LEELA’S DIARY for June 29, 3004

Dear Diary:

Tonight is my last night as a single girl. I was going to have some friends over, but decided at the last minute to spend the time alone. So much of my life has been spent alone. I find myself wondering how I will adjust to having another person in it permanently.

Fry…my husband! When I was a little girl in the Orphanarium, I had so many dreams of what my husband would be. Funny, but they were not at all like Fry. It just goes to show how foolish I was, foolish and inexperienced.

He is so kind to me. How could he put up with me being so mean to him for four years? I blush with shame to think how many times I hurt him. Well, that is certainly over.

When did I begin to love him? That’s a hard question to answer, for it came on so gradually. Certainly I felt a connection with him not long after we met. Down in the ruins of Old New York, I saw that Fry was the only person that I ever met who was alone as I. Yet he trusted me to make a decision about his future life, inspiring me to make a change in mine instead.

But I think I felt love in an almost irresistible way when he took a space bee stinger for me. His incredible devotion, sitting by my bed for day-after-day while I was in a coma, still warms my heart whenever I think of it. After he wrote that wonderful opera, the ice around my heart began to rapidly melt away. The final seal on our love was his courage in saving my life in Normandy. It showed me that I could search the universe and not find a man better suited for me.

Oh God! What if I had lost him? Life is so fragile. One small piece of metal can end it like switching off a light. Thankfully, we are both alive and well.

Fry has changed over the past few weeks. I can’t explain it, but he has changed in a positive way. He is so much more self-assured. It’s almost like the worms are back. No…that isn’t the case. Maybe he just needed me to accept him.

But to accept Fry I first had to accept myself. For so long, in my heart of hearts, I believed that no man could really love me. I was so alone. In my loneliness and confusion, I took up with men like Adlai and Sean. None of them ever left me with more than a temporary glow.

Then Fry showed up, with his easy manner and boyish grin. At first, I fled from his love. He threatened my presumptions about both the world and myself. Isn’t it sad how we can cling to an illusion that hurts us, because we are comfortable with it?

Now, that pain is gone. I know that I am loved by a good man, a man who accepts me for who I am. Tomorrow I gladly give up my status as a single girl to become Mrs. Leela Fry. I can hardly wait.

Well, Dear Diary, I need to get to bed. I will need all of my strength for both our wedding day and our wedding night!

Buddies