Futurama

Fan Fiction

Married With Children, Part 5
By Ramon_51

Apartment 5I, 100 East 123rd Street, July 1, 3004, 0915 (9:15 a.m.)

Fry came out of the bathroom, toweling off his hair. Surprise showed on his face as he gazed at Leela sleeping form, burrowed deeply under the covers. Only a tuft of her thick purple hair and one hand were visible.

He looked at the alarm clock, which registered 9:15. Doing the math in his head, Fry knew that Leela had to get up soon if they were going to get everything done today. With that in mind he said gently, “Leela it’s time to get up.”

No response.

Raising his voice ever so slightly, Fry crooned, “Come on Leela. It’s time to get up.”

The covers stirred slightly as Leela’s muffled, sleepy voice issued from beneath them, “Only five more minutes, Dad.”

Fry blinked in surprise. Leela was usually the first out of bed! So he tried again, in a normal conversational tone, “Leela, this is Fry…your husband…time to get up!”

Again a voice came from beneath the covers, “Go ‘way!”

Now Fry was really perplexed. What could he do to tempt her out of bed? Thinking quickly he offered, “Leela, if you get up, I’ll fix breakfast.”

“I don’t want it. Go ‘way. Just five more minutes.”

Scratching his head, Fry refused to give up, “Come on Leela, we have to go get Sally.”

Leela sat up in the bed, fixing her eye on Fry with a look of irritation, “Fry, why can’t you let me sleep?”

Fry cajoled her, “Come on Leela, you know why.”

“Humph,” she grunted before lying back down. Fry couldn’t help admiring her beauty as she lay there without a stitch on. Then he remembered that she was ticklish!

His mind made up, Fry advanced toward the bedside, “Is Leela going to be a bad girl?”

“Go ‘way!” she said ferociously as she yanked the covers over her head.

“Here comes the tickle bug!”

“Fry don’t you…” was all she managed to say before Fry began to tickle her in the ribs.

Leela began to squirm as she laughed. Through the spasms of laughter she tried to sound threatening, “Ooh Fry, I’m going to get you.”

“You have to get up to do that!” Fry replied as he continued his tickle assault.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha!” she laughed as she began to struggle in earnest to free herself. Fry had used the covers to pin her arms down pretty well.

Waves of laughter spilled out from under the covers as Leela struggled to get some leverage. Finally, she managed to get one foot on the floor. That was enough to allow her to break free.

She rolled across the bed, grabbing a pillow. As Fry came forward to tickle her some more, she swung it like a club. It connected, sending Fry flying off the bed onto the floor.

Thud! He landed heavily on the floor, where he lay still.

“Oh my God,” Leela exclaimed, “Phil, did I hurt you?”

When Fry just lay there motionless, she leaped from the bed. In a second she was kneeling at his side, which was just where Fry wanted her to be!

Striking with the speed of a cobra, Fry began to tickle Leela again. “Gotcha!” he cried in triumph.

His triumph was short lived, as Leela wrestled free. It was obvious that she was enjoying it now, “You rat!” she said, shaking her finger at him, “I’ll get you later!” The she started to laugh.

“Are you up now?” Fry asked from his position on the floor.

“Yes Fry, I’m fully awake.”

“Good, because that tired me out. Wake me up when you finish showering.”

Fry pretended he was going to crawl into the bed. Before he was halfway onto the bed, Leela had pounced, “Oh no you don’t mister! We’re not going through this again!”

After a brief and half-hearted struggle, Leela pinned Fry to the bed. Grinning broadly, she looked into his face, “You still owe me a breakfast.”

Giving his best grin in return he said, “Aye-aye captain!”

Leela sprang up. She knew if she didn’t, they’d never get out of there! That grin always affected her, but she mastered her emotions. “Later,” she thought, “I’ll fix his wagon!”

Slowly she strolled off to the shower, fluffing her hair as she went.

Fry gave a low wolf’s whistle before he scooted off to the kitchen to fix breakfast.

It was going to be a big day!

Lower Manhattan, July 1, 3004, 1000 (10 a.m.).

Albert looked out the window of the unmarked police car as it cruised down the streets of Lower Manhattan. He had been thrilled when Lip picked him up at the Orphanarium early that morning, so early that Albert had missed breakfast.

As they drove into the city in the sleek black unmarked police car, Albert was so excited he could hardly keep from wetting his pants. Lip had noticed Albert squirming in his seat, “Hey Tiger, you need to use the john?”

Albert sounded relieved as he said, “Yes sir, please.”

After a stop at a 711 convenience store, they had driven a few more miles before parking. Albert wondered where they were going, but he didn’t really care. He was out with a real cop! The entered an alley, opened a sewer grate, and descended into the Mutant Village.

Albert walked close to Lip with one thought going through his mind, “What could be cooler than this?” They passed the Church where Leela and Fry had gotten married, rounded a corner, and entered Bob’s Mutant Boy. The manager, Lenny, greeted them as they came through the door, “Detective Sergeant Lipford, how nice to see you! Would you like your regular booth?” He smiled at Albert, “Oh, I see you’ve brought a new partner…isn’t he a little under the regulation height?”

“Stick it, Lenny,” Lip growled…but with a friendly smile on his face.

Lenny responded with a laugh, “Right this way sir. Judy will be with you shortly.”

They slid into the booth. Albert noticed that Lip sat where he could keep an eye on the door to the street and the door to the kitchen. His curiosity got the best of him and he asked, “Sir, do you always sit where you can watch the door?”

Lip’s right eyebrow cocked upward as he looked straight at Albert, “You don’t miss much, do you Tiger?” He gave a short laugh, “Yeah, I always sit where I can watch the door. I find it keeps me alive.”

Before Albert could speak, Judy came through the kitchen doors with a food tray. Albert could see Lip’s eyes follow her as she waited on a table halfway across the restaurant. Then she came and took their order.

Albert had been shy about ordering because everything sounded so gross. It turned out that bat droppings and rat strips had actually been bacon and eggs. Judy had explained that it was an old Mutant tradition to refer to food that way, mainly because most food had to be smuggled in past the quarantine during the bad times. The unappetizing names kept anyone from getting too curious…so the gross names stuck.

They had finished their breakfast in a leisurely fashion. Lip had given Judy a quick kiss before they left and said, “Want to watch a blernsball game tonight with the Tiger and me?” She had agreed saying, “Pick me up at four, okay?”

“Sure thing, doll.”

So now they were on patrol! Listening to the short, crackling conversations on the radio made Albert’s heart race. He knew that they were unit Delta Seven One, so he kept his ears tuned for their call sign…just as Lip had asked him.

Lip was smiling inwardly as he saw the look of sheer concentration on Albert’s face. The kid really did remind him of how he had been as a youngster. Albert felt Lip’s gaze on him and turned his face in Lip’s direction. They exchanges smiles and Albert went back to monitoring the radio intently.

Suddenly, the city-wide alert tone sounded, “All units vicinity of the 200 block East 39th Street, for a 10 - 90, First Neptunian Trust. Proceed 10 – 40.”

By chance, they were less than two blocks away from the site of the alarm.

Lip snatched the mike from the dashboard. “Dispatch this is Delta Seven One, I will be 10-23 in under one mike.”

“Roger, Delta Seven One. All units, all units, Delta Seven One is in command on scene.”

“This is Echo Three Two, I’ll be 10-23 in three mikes.”

“Roger Echo Three Two.”

“This is Echo Three Three, I’ll be 10-23 in two mikes.”

“Roger Echo Three Three.”

Lip turned to Albert, “Listen up, Tiger…you do as I tell you, OK?”

Albert nodded vigorously. He was so excited he couldn’t speak.

“Okay, this car is armored and the glass is projectile and energy resistant. Whatever you do…stay in the car.”

Albert managed to squeak, “Yes sir.”

As they rolled up on the scene, Lip sized the situation up. There were three robot Mafiosi backing out of the bank, weapons leveled. A black sedan was at the curb, with the engine running, obviously the getaway car.

Lip stopped less than 30 feet away from the rear of the getaway car. He barked into the radio, “Delta Seven One is 10-23. Three robot perps armed with automatic weapons. Getaway car is black Hovercaddy, NNY license Alfa Romeo Charlie Six Seven Six. Am engaging.”

He bailed out of the car before he heard the response.

“Freeze you scuzzwads!” he shouted in his most authoritative voice. To reinforce his command, he had pulled his 40 gigawatt sawed off plasma rifle from its special holster. It whined briefly as it powered up, then gave out a steady sibilant hiss.

The robots hesitated for a second.

Lip roared, “Put the weapons down and put your friggin hands up…NOW!”

The robot closest to Lip tried to turn his weapon, an autolaser carbine, in Lip’s direction. Before he had moved very far, the sawed off plasma rifle discharged. The plasma bolt hit the robot dead square in the chest, searing a hole straight through.

The other two robots broke for the car, firing wildly as they ran. Lip stood his ground. Like a hunter stalking birds, he dropped both robots before they made it to the car. One was completely inoperative while the other lay twitching on the ground.

To Lip’s surprise, the Hovercaddy lurched into reverse, trying to run him over. He leaped out of the way just in time. He flipped the rifle’s selector switch from “personnel” to “vehicle” before he fired.

The car detonated in a deafening roar.

Lip was knocked to the ground by the blast. Junk from the defunct Hovercaddy rained down all around. Lip threw his arms up to cover his head. Luckily, nothing too large hit him.

As Lip stood up, the other two units arrived on the scene. One of the cops, a jokester named Willie Williams, sauntered up and said, “Jeez Sarge, can’t you ever leave any for us?”

His ears still ringing from the explosion, Lip was in no mood for jokes, “Very funny. You know the drill Williams. Preserve the crime scene, OK?”

“Right Sarge.”

Suddenly Lip heard Albert’s voice, “Lip! Lip! Are you Okay?” He turned and saw Albert running toward him as fast as his little legs could carry him.

Lip waved dismissively, “Yeah Tiger, I’m fine.”

Albert’s lip quivered, “But..but…you’re bleeding.”

Lip realized for the first time that he had a number of small cuts on his face and hands. He smiled reassuringly at Albert, “Nothing to worry about, Tiger. It’s all part of the job.”

Albert smiled back.

A sudden crackling noise made Albert look down. The head of the driver of the getaway car was sitting on the ground near his feet. It’s eyes blinked, “You know kid, it’s times like this that make me wish I’d picked some other line of work.” Then it began to laugh in a high pitched, nervous manner.

Albert and Lip laughed as well. It was shaping up to be one heck of a Freedom Day.

The Nimbus, Low Earth Orbit, July 1, 3004, 1030 (10:30 a.m.).

Kif stood on the bridge of the Nimbus, waiting for Captain Brannigan to come aboard on a shuttle. They had been sitting in the South Port Naval Yard dry dock when Captain Brannigan had contacted Kif. Their conversation had been brief, with Zapp simply ordering the Nimbus into low orbit to await orders.

Kif had complied, wishing inwardly that the long arm of the law would catch up with Zapp soon. He was getting tired of putting up with the pompous buffoon.

One of the signalmen looked up from his console, “Lieutenant Commander Kroker, sir?”

“Yes.”

“Captain Brannigan is aboard. He wants you to meet him in the hangar bay.”

“Very well, thank you Jones.”

Kif made his way quickly to the hangar bay, wondering what hare brained scheme Brannigan had in mind. Entering the bay, he saw Brannigan standing next to the shuttle, flanked by two heavily armed Marines. “Maybe he’s under arrest already,” Kif thought with a smile.

“Kif old buddy, good to see you!” Zapp said in his friendliest tone, stretching his hand out for a handshake.

Kif extended his hand somewhat reluctantly. When Kif clasped Zapp’s hand, Zapp struck. In a blink of an eye, Zapp had handcuffed Kif!

Stepping back with an evil smirk on his face, Zapp said solemnly, “Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker, I arrest you for violation of the DOOP Articles of War in that you did conspire to aid and actively direct acts of terrorism.”

Kif was so stunned, he was temporarily unable to speak…not that Zapp would let him.

Zapp continued, “Don’t count on your friends on Earth to help you. Under the DOOP Articles of War, as long as we are in space on a ship I command, you fall under my jurisdiction. Your courts martial begins tomorrow. Marines, take this traitor to the brig,”

Kif remained silent as he was dragged away, overwhelmed by the sheer audacity of Zapp’s move.

When Kif left the hangar bay, Zapp threw his head back and gave a long, demonic laugh. Then he said aloud, “And so it begins.” With a smile on his face, Zapp left for the bridge.

Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium, July 1, 1300 (1:00 p.m.).

The ride to the Orphanarium had been exhilarating. Fry had surprised Leela by buying a hovercycle with a side car. It was a used Harley-Davidson Model 2950, but it was in excellent shape. Its gleaming black and chrome frame seemed to whisper, “Take me for a spin!”

Leela was amazed that Fry had managed to pull off buying the hovercycle without her guessing, but she was glad they wouldn’t have to ride the tube out to the Orphanarium and back. She had always wanted a hovercycle, but she had worried that owning one would make people think she was a rebel…or something worse.

Fry had held the keys out with a smile, “It’s all yours, Leela. Maybe you’ll let me drive it some time?”

With a seductive smile Leela had replied, “Maybe…it depends if you are a good boy or not.”

Fry felt her smile all the way down to his toes.

Leela had thrown her leg across the cycle, while looking over her shoulder. With a broad smile, she asked, “Going my way?” All Fry could manage was, “You bet.”

He had hugged Leela closely for the entire ride. All the time he thought, “This is the only way to travel!”

Now they were at the Orphanarium. They dismounted from the hovercycle, parking it a short distance away from the entrance. Fry heard Leela take a deep breath, which caused him to look at her. One look at her face told Fry that Leela had a lot of emotions boiling within her.

“You okay?” Fry asked in a gentle tone.

In response, Leela merely nodded her head as she reached out and clutched Fry’s hand. She almost pulled him off his feet as she lurched forward, up the steps and onto the porch.

Meanwhile, Sally was sweeping the floor in her room. She shared the room with four other little girls, but today was her day to sweep. Her closest friend, Nina, was checking the beds to make sure they were properly made. Mr. Vogel liked them to keep their rooms tidy.

Nina finished her last bed. Turning to Sally she said, “Sally, tell me about your shopping trip with Miss Leela again.”

Sally stopped sweeping for a moment, leaning on her broom. Okay,” she said patiently, “Just one more time. Then we have to finish this room if we want to go to the Freedom Day fireworks.”

Before she could finish, the intercom crackled, “Sally, please report to Mr. Vogel’s office.”

Nina’s eyes widened, “Jeepers! Do you think old Mr. Vogel knows we were goofing off?”

Sally held her finger to her lips, “I don’t know what you’re talking about Nina,” she said in a loud voice, “we’ve been working hard all morning.”

The broom went against the wall and Sally scooted off to the office. All the long way down the dimly lit corridors, she wondered why she was being called to the office. She hadn’t done anything really bad lately. Maybe Mr. Vogel had found out she had put that frog in Jimmy’s underwear!

Slightly worried, she stopped at the door to Mr. Vogel’s office. She wiped the sweat from her hands before she knocked. In answer, Mr. Vogel’s voice sounded from the other side, “Come in Sally.”

The door slid open and Sally stepped inside. At first she didn’t notice Fry and Leela sitting off to the side, because her focus was on Mr. Vogel as he sat behind his desk. The sight of Fry and Leela confused her. “Do they want the clothes back?” she wondered.

“Sally,” Mr. Vogel said with warmth in his voice, “I’d like you to meet Mr. And Mrs. Fry…your new parents.”

“Hello” Sally replied politely, “But Mr. Vogel, I’ve already met them.” Then it hit her, “My new parents?”

Leela smiled, “Yes dear.”

Sally flew into Leela’s arms squealing delightedly, “I’m adopted! I’m adopted!” Then she pulled back slightly from the bear hug she had put on Leela, “I am adopted, aren’t I?”

Fry chuckled, “Yes Sally, Leela and I wanted to pick the perfect little girl. So we picked you.”

Tears began to course down Sally’s face. “I’m sorry, Miss Leela…I mean Mommy…I just don’t know why I’m crying. Please don’t leave me here. I’ll stop.”

Leela stroked Sally’s hair, “Hush! We won’t leave you.”

Fry smiled, “Yeah, Pumpkin, you’re stuck with us.”

Once Sally had stopped crying Leela said, “Well, let’s go get your things. We have to go home now.”

Fry took Sally’s left hand and Leela took Sally’s left and they walked slowly to Sally’s room, with Mr. Vogel trailing behind.

Nina was happy for Sally when she heard the news, but Nina was suddenly overcome by sadness when she realized that her best friend was leaving. Nina and Sally had a tearful parting. As they were preparing to leave, Sally asked Leela, “Mommy, can I give Nina my clothes?”

Surprised but pleased by Sally’s generous gesture Leela replied, “Of course sweetie, we have a whole closet full of new clothes for you at home.”

So they left the Orphanarium with only a small bag containing Sally’s ragged Teddy Bear and a few other personal items.

They walked down the steps into the bright sunshine of a warm summer day, hand in hand. Mr. Vogel stood on the front steps of the Orphanarium, dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief. Fry put Sally into the side car. Then he and Leela got astride the hovercycle.

“Buckle up,” Leela said.

Sally had some trouble with the buckle, so Fry leaned over and fastened it for her. She smiled up at him, “Thank you, Daddy.”

Returning the smile Fry said, “Your welcome, Pumpkin.”

“Ready?” Leela asked. Before they could answer, she gunned the engine and the hovercycle shot into the air. “Next stop…home!”

Mutant Village, July 1, 3004, 1500 (3:00 p.m.).

Sarah strolled slowly down the main street of the Mutant Village, heading for Leela’s parent’s house. The events of the past few days kept turning over in her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she was certain that there was some family connection between Leela and Joseph Kershaw.

Determined to find out, she had volunteered to go pick up a few things from Munda that Amy had inadvertently left when she changed into her Maid of Honor gown. That gave her a reason to snoop that wouldn’t arouse any suspicions, she reflected with some satisfaction.

Her path took her past the Bob’s Mutant Boy Restaurant. Looking through the front window, she saw Judy serving some customers. Judy caught sight of Sarah, throwing her a friendly wave along with a smile. Sarah waved and smiled in return before she turned onto the narrow lane containing the Turanga residence.

Sarah couldn’t help but be affected by the surroundings. Australia had very few mutants and they weren’t forced to live in sewers. The pervasive smell of sewage, the perennial gloom, and the general air of dilapidation oppressed her soul. “How can anyone treat anyone else like this?” she wondered.

With that gloomy thought, Sarah stopped at the Turanaga’s front door. Her knock brought a swift response. Munda’s voice sounded from within, “Just a moment, I’ll be right there!”

In a few seconds, the door opened to reveal Munda standing there with a broad smile on her face. “Well,” Munda said in a pleasant tone, “what an unexpected pleasure.” She peered past Sarah into the gloom, “Isn’t Amy with you?”

Sarah decided to play the Australian angle that seemed to cause so many Yanks to open up, “Sorry, no. She had other things to attend to, so I volunteered to come ‘round, knock you up and come back with the swag.”

The corners of Munda’s mouth curled upwards in a smile as she fought to avoid laughing, “I’m not sure what all that means, but come in. I have the things Amy left in a bag in the kitchen.”

As Sarah entered the smell of coffee brewing wafted past her nostrils. “That smells like coffee,” she observed.

Munda turned, “I just made a fresh pot. Would you like some?”

“That would be lovely.”

“Have a seat on the couch, Sarah. I’ll bring the coffee and the…what did you call it…swag.”

Munda went into the kitchen chuckling as Sarah took a seat on the couch. Sarah swept the room with her eyes, noticing that every item of furniture was either distressed or patched. The top of the coffee table had a neat stack of what appeared to be photographs. At least, the top item was what looked like a family photograph.

Before Sarah could look further, Munda re-entered the room, carrying a tray with a carafe of coffee, cream, and sweetener. After setting the tray carefully on the coffee table, Munda sat down next to Sarah.

“How do you take your coffee?”

“Black, please.”

Munda prepared the coffee for both of them. Taking her first sip, Sarah was surprised at the quality of the coffee, “This is first rate!”

“Thank you.”

“Munda,” Sarah said hesitantly, “may I ask you some questions about the mutant situation? We have nothing like down under and it bloody well puzzles me.”

Munda smiled, “It puzzles me too, Sarah. But, please, ask me whatever you’d like.”

“How did all this get started? The confining of Mutants to the sewers, I mean?”

“Right after the First Omicronian War in 2150, the surface of New-New York was devastated. There Omicronians had used nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons to try and exterminate mankind. Many humans fled to the sewers, where we began to mutate. Others remained on the surface. In 2205, a terrible plague…probably mutated from an Omicronian virus left over from the war…began to sweep the surface.”

Munda paused to take a sip of coffee, “It sickened or killed everyone but mutants…humans, Neptunians, and TriSolians. The reaction was that mutants had somehow caused it. So we were banished to the sewers by the Mutant Edicts of 2207. Right after that, the plague diminished and then died out.” Munda shrugged her shoulders, “I guess that the surface dwellers added two and two and got six. They reasoned…without any scientific investigation…that their ‘solution’ had worked.”

Sarah looked puzzled, “So mutants are still confined to the sewers?”

Munda nodded, “Legally, yes.” Then she added, “But only in New-New York. Everywhere else on Earth, the edicts have been repealed. Even here, there are thousands of mutants who ‘pass’ for surface dwellers by hiding their mutations or pretending to be aliens.”

Deciding to guide the conversation, Sarah took the plunge, “That is so unbelievable.” Pointing at the photographs Sarah asked, “Are those family photographs?”

Munda smiled, “Yes. I was building an album for Leela.” Munda took the top photograph from the stack. It showed two women sitting on a bench with two children playing at their feet. Munda handed the photograph to Sarah who asked, “Who am I looking at? Is one of these little girls Leela?”

“Is the light that bad in here?” Munda asked with a touch of amusement in her voice. “No, the lady on the left is my Grandmother, “MacDonald Flora. She pointed at the other woman, “And this is my mother, Barnes Wilhelmina. The two children are my older sister Daisy and me.”

Sarah looked closely, realizing that MacDonald Flora was a dead ringer for Sally. She threw out a comment, “I guess that looks don’t run in Mutant families, do they?”

“Why shouldn’t they? I look very much like my maternal grandmother. My mother resembled her mother, as you can plainly see.”

“Did your grandmother have purple hair?”

Munda shook her head, “No, it was red.” Then she added thoughtfully, I’m not really sure where the purple hair comes from.”

“Maybe from your father’s side of the family?”

Again Munda shook her head, “No, I’m afraid not.”

Sarah asked the question she had been building up to, “What about your maternal grandfather?”

Munda shrugged, “No one ever met him. Grandmother said he died of a fever, like so many of our people.”

“No one ever met him?”

“I’m afraid not. He was a mutant from Charleston, you see.”

Sarah knew she had struck pay dirt. All her instincts told her that Munda’s grandfather had to be Kershaw. She needed a photograph to be certain, but how to get it? No sooner did she pose the question than an opportunity arose.

Munda ran her hands lovingly over the photograph, “You know, I wish I had a way to better preserve these photographs. They deteriorate so fast down here.”

Sarah offered as nonchalantly as she could, “Tell you what, Mrs. T, if you want I’ll pop up to the surface with ‘em and have them put into an album for you. You just tell me how you want them arranged, okay? Nothing like having your whole mob of rellies in one spot, is there?”

Munda laughingly agreed.

After a few more moments of chatting, Sarah departed with the precious photographs tucked into a plastic bag. Her mind was already racing ahead, moving on to what she felt was the sure solution to the mystery. But, she wanted all of the facts before making a decision.

“Just like Sherlock Holmes,” Sarah breathed quietly to herself, “just like Sherlock Holmes.”

Excerpt from the Personal Log of Lord Nibbler, Eternium Date Second Month, Fifth day, Year 1043.

I am anxious to see the Mighty One and the Other again. Until I do, I cannot judge how rapidly the quickening progresses. Things have begun to move at a more rapid pace than anticipated…even by Lord Snigglesnoosh.

While consuming my morning meal, I overheard the hairless psychotic ape known as Amy saying that the Mighty One and the Other have adopted the one called Sally. So, Lady Lambseykins was right as well.

Tomorrow I return to my work with the Mighty One and the Other and not a moment too soon. Time is short.

100 East 123rd Street, July 1, 3004, 2315 (11:15 a.m.)

The hovercycle cut through the warm night air as it headed for the parking garage on the roof of the apartment building. The city was spread out like an inverted night sky, with lights twinkling and flashing against a dark backdrop of buildings, asphalt streets, and concrete pavements. The sky-tube glowed an eerie green, looking like a luminous snake wending its way through the cosmos.

Leela deftly set the cycle into its parking spot. Fry was reluctant to let go of Leela. He liked riding with her. After all, it allowed him to hold her tightly, to feel her body against his. It felt pretty darned good.

As the drone of the engine died away, Fry was conscious of an almost overwhelming silence. A few distant horns and the muted sound of traffic eleven stories below were almost inaudible. Fry turned to say something to Sally, but he could see that she was slumped over…fast asleep. Her body had assumed that loose-limbed attitude that only children can assume in sleep.

“Look, Leela, she’s fast asleep.”

“Okay Daddy, you get to carry her.”

“I’m a Dad!” he found himself thinking, “Who’d have believed it?”

Fry slid from the seat, walked around, and picked Sally up. He undid her seatbelt, hoisting her onto his shoulder. She didn’t even move a muscle, just continued her slumber. One of her pigtails had brushed Fry's face before it came to rest across her upturned cheek. He could hear the soft, sibilant sound of her breathing in his ear as her head rested on his shoulder.

Leela had gone ahead and opened the door to the elevator. Fry entered quickly and they descended two levels to their floor.

As the brief ride began, Leela touched Fry affectionately on the shoulder. Then she brushed a few wisps of hair from Sally’s sleeping face. Smiling, she said, “She had some day, didn’t she?”

The busy day they had flashed through his mind. Fry nodded, “I’ll say. I’m just sorry I threw up on the Whirligig at Coney Island. I hope she doesn’t think I’m a wimp.”

Leela shook her head, “I told you not to eat those two extra slices of pizza.”

“Yeah, I should have listened,” he said ruefully, “but I was really hungry.”

The door opened and they exited. As they walked the short distance to the apartment Leela asked, “Fry, do you think we should give her a bath before we put her to bed?”

For a moment Fry was silent, “I don’t think so. It might wake her up too much.” He grinned, “I’m kind of tired but I have enough energy for…” his voice trailed off.

Leela found herself giggling as she responded, “You are a hot blooded beast.”

They reached the front door. Fry paused to allow it to read his career chip. It slid open and the lights came on. “Dim lights,” Fry said in a low voice.

The lights dimmed, making the room appear as if it were illuminated by candlelight. The soft, orange glow allowed him to pick his way across the living room to Sally’s room. Leela had already found her way to the room.

“She can see like a cat at night,” Fry found himself thinking. He remembered that the Professor had once explained why Leela could see so well in the dark…something to do with available surface for light collection.

Leela stripped the QT McWhiskers coverlet and sheet down, smoothing an imaginary wrinkle from the bed sheet as she did so. Fry lowered Sally onto the bed. “I need to start working out or something,” he whispered, “Kids are heavy!”

Leela smiled inwardly at Fry’s comment as she busied herself with removing Sally’s shoes and dress. The entire time, Sally slept on, her steady breathing evidence that the day had really exhausted her. After all, Leela reflected, they had come home, gone to Coney Island, went to Central Park for the Freedom Day Festival and had capped it all off with a trip to the Planet Express Building to watch the fireworks.

The entire gang had been there, watching fireworks arc lazily into the sky before exploding into fiery patterns. Amy was not in the best of moods. Kif had stood her up. Leela had been on the point of asking Amy what was wrong when XT took it upon himself to speak to her.

From where she sat on the roof, Leela had overheard the entire conversation, “Amy my friend, what is wrong?”

“Nothing, XT,” she replied in a truculent tone.

XT laughed gently, “Amy…please do not be insulted…but you have what my people would call a ‘fools face.’ He held up his right hand, palm outward, “It is not an insult. It means that the feelings of your heart are written on your face for all to see.”

Amy smiled wanly, “Thanks XT. No offense taken.” She seemed to be deciding something, “XT, it’s Kif. He stood me up and didn’t even call. It’s so unlike him.”

XT spoke quietly, “Amy, Kif is a military person…No? As I came past the South Port Naval Yard I noticed the Nimbus was no longer there.” He paused to stroke his chin thoughtfully, “Perhaps there was some emergency?”

Amy brightened up, then became concerned, “Oh, I hope he isn’t in danger.”

XT held his hands slightly out, palms upward, “It is kismet…fate. Do not be worried. All will be as it should.”

The rest of the evening had been uneventful, as had the ride home. Now Leela was tucking Sally into her bed. Fry stood by smiling, “It looks like you’ve done that before.”

Leela straightened up, “I have…many times. When I was in the Orphanarium, we older kids used to watch after the younger ones. That included changing diapers, giving baths, feeding them, reading stories, and tucking them in at night.”

“All that?”

“Sure Fry, there was never enough money in the budget for House Mothers.” Anger flickered across her face, “There often was barely enough money for food.” Then, just as quickly, the anger was gone. She smiled before saying in a sultry whisper, “Care for a little cuddle?”

Fry gulped and then answered, “Sure!”

“I’m just going to put a night light on in the bathroom so Sally can find it if she awakens in the night.”

That done, Fry and Leela went into their bedroom.

An hour later they were lying in each other’s arms, satisfied. Fry had been slightly annoyed that Leela had insisted they put on jams. He had tried his best puppy dog look on Leela, “But I like sleeping in the buff.”

She had shaken her head, “If Sally gets up in the night, I don’t want you banging around the bedroom trying to get dressed. You might hurt yourself”

“Okay.”

Fry had fallen asleep first, followed closely by Leela. Oddly enough, it was Fry who had first heard Sally get up some hours later. He heard her pad softly into the bathroom, followed by a bit later by the ‘whoosh’ of the toilet. A few seconds later, her footfalls announced she had gone back to bed.

Leela nudged Fry as she said sleepily, “Did Sally get up?”

“Yeah, but she’s back in bed now.”

But not for long.

Neither Fry nor Leela were back to sleep before they heard Sally get out of bed and walk softly through the living room to outside their door. Once there, Sally knocked very quietly.

Leela spoke up, “Sally, what is it?”

A tiny voice came from the other side of the still closed door, “Mommy…I can’t sleep.” She sounded tearful, “It’s too quiet.”

Leela sat up in bed, “Oh Fry, I had forgotten. When kids got their own room at the Orphanarium they often had to have some kind of noise maker to replace the sounds of other kids breathing…stuff like that.”

Fry called out, “Come on in, Sally.” The door slid open to reveal Sally, standing in the doorway, chewing on her fingernails. She stepped hesitantly into the room, looking around and spotting a rug at the foot of the bed.

“I’ll sleep on the rug.” Sally said nervously, “I promise to be really quiet.”

Fry laughed, “No way Pumpkin, I might step on you if I got up at night.” He patted the bed, “No, you get up here with Mommy and me…but only until we get you a noise maker.”

Sally’s smile flashed in the darkness as she sprang onto the bed. She hugged Fry, “Thank you Daddy. Then she hugged Leela, “Thank you too, Mommy. I had a great time today.”

Fry yawned, “Well, it’s tomorrow now, so let’s get some sleep.”

After they all lay down, Leela pulled the covers up. Soon they were fast asleep.

The Nimbus, Low Earth Orbit, July 2, 3004, 0030 (12:30 a.m.).

The two sentries on guard outside the brig continued on their measured beats, walking to-and-fro by the entrance to Kif’s cell. Both sentries were alert and well armed. Every few moments, one of them would pause, look in to the cell, and continue on his way. They were taking no chances that this prisoner would escape. Captain Brannigan had threatened them all with courts martial…or worse…if Kif escaped.

Kif, who lay on his bunk feigning sleep wondered, “What on earth would ever make Brannigan believe that I could escape? The entrance is enclosed by a force field, there are two guards outside, and there isn’t a single way out.

Or was there? Kif thought for a few moments and made a decision. He simply had to wait another thirty minutes or so. Then the Officer of the Day (OD) would make his first round. After that, no one but the guards would be anywhere near the brig for at least two hours.

Thirty minutes later, just after the OD left, one of the guards looked into the cell. Startled, he looked again. The prisoner, who only thirty seconds before had been soundly asleep on his bed, was nowhere to be seen.

“Harry, come here!” the first guard bellowed.

Harry ran over, “What is it John?”

“The prisoner has escaped!” John said with panic in his voice. Before Harry could say anything, John hit the button to lower the force field.

“Come on!” John shouted. Both rushed into the cell, weapons at the ready. While they searched under the bed, Kif was busy scrambling across the roof and out the door.

“Handy being from Amphibios Nine,” Kif reflected as he smacked the button to raise the force field. Harry and John heard the crackle behind them as the field came into being. Trapped, they cursed long and loudly. Unfortunately for them, only Kif could hear them.

Kif chuckled soundlessly as he scooted along the roof of the corridor toward the hangar bay. Within a few moments, Kif was able to peer into the bay. As far as he could tell, the bay was vacant.

Cautiously, Kif inched through the doorway and then glided along the overhead. He looked around for something he could use to escape. There were a pair of shuttles, but they were way too slow. Then he saw it, an F-27A Thunderbolt, just the thing for a fast escape!

Ever alert, Kif worked his way to the Thunderbolt. A quick examination showed him that the stubby, dual-engine fighter was fueled and ready to go. If anything had a chance to get him to Earth in one piece, she did, he decided.

Within five minutes, Kif climbed into the cockpit, powered her up, and shot from the hangar bay.

Within seconds a voice crackled in the fighter’s headset, “Alpha One Six, you have not been cleared for departure, return to the hangar bay at once.”

Kif’s response was to slam on the turbo-burners.

“Alpha One Six, power down and return to the hangar bay or we will be forced to fire.”

The fighter began to jink and dodge.

On the bridge, the weapons officer turned to Captain Brannigan and asked, “Shall I fire, sir?”

“See how close you can come without hitting him.” Zapp was relishing his role. It was all so easy. He knew Kif would manage to escape…it was all part of the plan. “This is only an exercise, after all.”

“Aye-aye sir!”

The main battery of the Nimbus fired several shots, missing the frantically maneuvering fighter by only a few feet. Kif was not a finished fighter pilot, but he was doing his best, convinced that the Nimbus was firing in deadly earnest.

After the fourth volley, the weapons officer ceased fire. He turned to Brannigan, “Sir, the fighter is out of range. It has entered the atmosphere.”

“Good, now get us back to the South Port Naval Yard by the quickest possible means.” Zapp said. With that done, he turned and left the bridge without further comment.

Apartment 5I, 100 East 123rd Street, July 2, 3004, 0715 (7:15 a.m.)

The sight that met Leela’s eye warmed her heart. Fry was sprawled on his back, clad in a tee shirt and jams. His jaw was slack and he was snoring slightly. Curled up closely next to Fry with her head on his chest and her slender right arm thrown across his chest, Sally looked at peace.

Not wanting to disturb them, Leela slid gingerly from the bed. She tiptoed around the room, getting a scrunchie and her workout shoes. Then she went into the living room, sliding the door shut quietly behind her.

She sat on the couch and pulled on her workout shoes, a pair of white Nike Cheetahs. The plain black scrunchie went around the mass of her hair to form it into a loose pony tail. “No need to really tighten it up until after my shower,” she thought.

From beneath the couch she produced her WORKMASTER 5000, one of Ron Popeil’s best inventions. It was a lightweight, collapsible total fitness gym. Within seconds Leela had it set up to begin her daily workout.

She began working her legs, programming 200 pounds of resistance before starting. “I haven’t worked out in a week,” she reflected, “That must be why it hurts so good.”

For the next forty-five minutes, Leela worked her way through every part of her daily routine. The sweat was cascading freely off her body as she sat up on the WORKMASTER bench. She was mopping her forehead with a towel when the door to the master bedroom slid open.

Framed in the doorway stood a yawning, stretching Sally. Seeing Leela, she broke into a radiant smile, “Good morning Mommy!”

Leela returned Sally’s smile, “Good morning Sweetie, did you sleep okay?”

Nodding vigorously, Sally replied, “I slept great! Daddy snores just as loud as Melissa at the Orphanarium. That really helped me sleep.”

Leela brought the towel up to her fact to conceal her grin, “Are you hungry?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’ll fix some breakfast as soon as I cool down and take a shower. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” Sally said with a smile. Then her brow furrowed in thought, “Mommy, why are you working out?”

“I don’t want to get fat and out of shape.”

“Does Daddy work out?”

Again, Leela had to conceal a grin, “No dear, he doesn’t work out.”

“Is he going to get fat and out of shape?”

“Cornered!” Leela thought. Taking a page from her mother’s book, after a short pause, Leela changed the subject, “Why don’t you go take a bath before breakfast and get dressed. Do you need help?”

“No Mommy, I can do it.”

“Great. I’m almost done sweating, so I’ll take my shower. See you in a few minutes, Dearie.” With that, Leela went through the master bedroom door. Sally stood there for a moment, shrugged her shoulders, and skipped into her bathroom to take a bath.

Apartment 1I, 100 East 123rd Street, July 2, 3004, 1015 (10:15 a.m.)

It seemed strange to Leela to be back in her old apartment, helping Amy move in. Of course, Amy had enough money to hire professional movers, but Inez refused to allow them to unpack. When they had offered, Inez had said in a very loud voice, “I not want you to unpack a thing. You do fine job, now go.” Then she had muttered something in Cantonese, which caused Amy to laugh.

Leela shot Amy a quizzical glance. In response, Amy said with a grin, “Mom thinks they’d pinch the silver.”

Inez piped up, “You bet they pinch silver or anything else they can get their hands on. Never trust Gwei Lo.”

Leela asked, “Gwei Lo?”

Amy responded as she rolled her eyes, “Blue-eyed devils.”

Leela couldn’t resist asking, “What makes you think they didn’t steal something as they packed the boxes, Inez?”

Inez faced Leela and adopted the tone of a teacher, “I watch them like hawk, plus I have Henry watch them, too. Now that Henry and Fry are taking Sally and Nibbler for a walk in the park, I not so sure.”

Leela fought back a grin, “I see. Why did you send Fry with them? He could have helped.”

Inez shook her head, “No offense Leela, but Fry all thumbs…like bull in china shop. It bad enough with Amy always dropping things. Together, they could wreck civilization!”

Before Leela could fire off a retort, there was a knock at the door. Amy strode to it, looked through the peephole, and said in surprise, “It’s Kif!”

The door slid open to admit a semi-transparent Kif Kroker. He looked around at the three women, who were staring at him, open-mouthed and in obvious shock.

“Hello,” he ventured nervously.

Inez spoke first, “Why you look like that, Kif? Are you nervous because you not call my daughter last night?”

“Umm…no…actually I’m nervous because something really strange is going on.”

Over the next few minutes, Kif related the story of his arrest and escape. He ended with, “But now the Nimbus is back in dry dock at the South Port Naval Yard. I’ve attempted to log in on the DOOP Navy computer system, but my access codes have been deleted. I don’t know what to do.”

Leela thought for a minute, then she said, “We need to get you somewhere that Zapp can’t find you. I have relatives in the Mutant Village you could stay with while we sort this out.”

Kif nodded, “Do you think there is anyone who could help me with the legal side of this? I’m sure that I’m being carried as a deserter or something worse.”

“Kershaw,” Leela said.

“Kershaw?” Amy, Inez, and Kif echoed simultaneously.

“He’s the lawyer in my anti-discrimination suit against the Mutant Edicts. You met him at my wedding.”

Inez chimed in, “Oh, he the distinguished looking man with white hair and bow tie, yes?”

“Yes Inez, that’s him.”

Amy spoke up, “How do we reach him?”

“I have his number programmed in my Wristamajigy,” Leela said as she began tapping the touch screen. There were a scant two ring tones before Kershaw answered, “Good Morning, Mrs. Fry, I trust you are well?”

“I’m fine, but I have a friend with a problem.” Leela stressed the word “problem” as she spoke.

Since the Wristamajigy was on voice only, Leela could not see Kershaw smile, but she could sense it in his response, “Sounds intriguing. I could meet you this afternoon.”

“Could we meet at Bob’s Mutant Boy around two?”

“Very well, two o’clock is fine. Please give my regards to Mr. Fry.”

“I will Mr. Kershaw, thank you.”

“You are most welcome…and do call me Joseph.”

“Good bye…Joseph”

“Good bye, see you at two.”

With the connection broken, Leela looked at the others, “Well, we may as well finish unpacking. Then we can figure out what that skunk Brannigan is up to now.”

Mutant Village, The Turanga Residence, July 2, 3004, 1345 (1:45 p.m.).

“Mom, you don’t mind watching Sally while we meet with Mr. Kershaw at Bob’s?” Leela asked hesitantly. Fry, Amy, and Kif stood behind Leela, waiting quietly.

Munda smiled as she replied, “Nonsense, Sally and I will have a great time.” She turned to Sally, “Want to bake some cookies?”

Sally’s reply was an enthusiastic, “Yes, Grandma!”

Munda’s smile became ear-to-ear when she heard the word ‘Grandma.’ “What kind should we make?”

“Chocolate chip, please,” Sally said as her eyes shone with excitement.

Morris’ voice sounded from the kitchen, where he had been quietly drinking a cup of coffee, “Good, you stir the batter and I’ll squeeze the rabbits!”

The sound of Morris laughing uproariously and everyone else going, “Eww!” rang through the house. Munda shook her head while smiling wistfully, “Your father has probably been waiting twenty years to use that line. Morris, that was awful!”

When the commotion died down, Leela looked at her Wristamajigy. Turning to the rest of the group she said, “It’s time for us to get to Bob’s.” Everyone murmured agreement and began to head out the door.

When she was almost out the door, Leela pivoted and said, “Thanks Mom, if you need me you have my number, right?”

“Yes, Dearie,” Munda replied, “Now go! You’re only going around the corner.” As Leela closed the door, Munda took Sally by the hand, “Let’s go make those cookies.”

It was only a short distance to Bob’s, less than two city blocks. Fry held the door for everyone as they entered…Leela first, followed by Amy and Kif.

Leela’s eyes swept the restaurant. She saw that Kershaw had arrived, taking a large circular booth in the rear of the restaurant. Dressed in his usual dark suit and red bowtie, Kershaw’s face had its normal look of polite interest.

What caught Leela’s attention was the man seated in the booth next to Kershaw. He appeared to be of medium height but very powerfully built, with a mop of brown curly hair and dark eyes. He was dressed in dark slacks, white shirt and a charcoal colored jacket.

As Leela and the rest of the group approached the table, Kershaw rose followed by his companion. Kershaw extended his hand, “My very dear Mr. and Mrs, Fry, what a pleasure to see you.” Once he shook their hands, he took Amy, then Kif’s hands. “Miss Wong, Commander Kroker, good to see you as well.”

He turned toward his companion, “May I present one of my associates, Mr. Buddy Dack. He is a private investigator of uncommon talent and energy.”

Buddy held his hand up, “Hey!”

Everyone responded with a chorus of “Hi.”

Kershaw gestured to the booth, “Perhaps we can take a seat. I’ve already arranged that we won’t be interrupted.”

Once everyone was seated, Kif spent the next half-hour laying out the details of his present predicament. For another hour, Kershaw and Buddy took turns questioning Kif in minute detail. Once they were done, Kershaw turned to Buddy, “Do you have enough to go on?”

Buddy nodded his head, “I’ll get with Martindale on a few points, but, yeah, I have enough.”

Kershaw added as an afterthought, “When you see James, do tell him I’m looking forward to his report on that political matter I referred to him.”

“Check, well if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of leg work to do.” With a pleasant smile Buddy slid from the booth and was gone.

Kershaw looked at Leela, How well do you know this Zapp Brannigan?”

Leela blushed as she said, “I once made the mistake of sleeping with him out of pity. He’s been a thorn in my side ever since. He is a pompous, arrogant baboon who just doesn’t know when to quit.”

Kershaw thought for a moment and said, “Interesting. Well, tomorrow I am scheduled to file your brief in Federal Court.”

In a surprised tone Leela asked, “I thought you weren’t filing until the 4th of July?”

“Originally, that was my intent. However, recent events have dictated a change in my plans.” He paused, “However, I want you to continue to act as though I’m going ahead with my original plans.”

At first Leela had thought to ask why, then she had merely nodded in agreement.

“Good,” Kershaw replied, “Does anyone have anything further?” When no one spoke Kershaw resumed, “Very well, then I will be available on my Wristamajigy at all hours.”

Before he departed, Kershaw shook everyone’s hands and said, “I will see all of you shortly.” He gave all of them an airy wave as he passed through the door to the street, where they lost sight of him.

Kif broke the silence, “He seems pretty competent.”

Amy replied, “For all our sakes, I sure hope so.”

New-New York Police Department Headquarters’, Commissioner’s Office Conference Room July 2, 1630 (4:30 p.m.)

“Now that everyone is finally here, let’s get started,” Ramon announced. Seated around the conference table were Detective Captain Shannon “Froggy” Leblanc, Detective Sergeants Anthony “Lip” Lipford and Salvatore “Sal” Sanchez, and Crime Lab Technicians Mike Wigglesworth and John Duncan Kriebel.

Froggy cleared her throat, “So far Commish, as you know, we’ve managed to take out two major terrorist cells. We also have nothing to suggest that the mutants are anything but unwitting ‘mules’…for lack of a better term…for the real terrorists.”

“Real terrorists,” Ramon asked, “any guesses?”

“Nyah Commish, we’re all in agreement they are current or former DOOP military. One person in particular, Captain Zapp Brannigan, is my personal choice as the head of the organization.” Froggy paused to see if there was any dissent before continuing, “He threw us a curve recently by announcing that his Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker went AWOL. Of course, just before he fled Zapp claims that Kroker confessed – conveniently – to being tied in with the terrorists.”

Lip gave a dismissive snort, while Ramon simply muttered, “Que Cabron!”

When it was obvious no one had any further comment, Froggy pressed on, “I have a feeling something is coming up…real soon. First, this smokescreen with Kroker is going to blow away quickly. It’s only good for slowing the investigation down by what…maybe 72 hours? Second, the bad guys have been quiet for several days, sort of like the calm before the storm. Third, the Mayor has shut up about the whole thing, even though the press is still full of headlines about the “Mutant Terror!”

Ramon nodded. Everything Froggy said made sense, but what should they do? He decided to poll those around the table. He placed both of his hands palm down on the table, “Okay everyone, what are our options?”

Mike Wigglesworth raised his hand. Ramon nodded in his direction and Mike said thoughtfully, “We could tap Brannigan’s Wristamajigy.”

Ramon straightened up in his chair, “We can do that? I thought only the GIA could do that.”

Duncan Kriebel spoke up, “Well sir, I have some friends in low places. So…yes…we can tap his Wristamajigy.”

“Do it.”

“Yes sir.”

Sal Sanchez raised his hand, “Sir, we could put a close surveillance on Brannigan. It would take most of our guys who aren’t on cases right now, but it would only be for three days.”

After reflecting for a moment, Ramon said, “Do it.”

“Yes sir.”

Everyone sat silently for a moment as Ramon mentally reviewed their options. Deciding that they were at the legal limits of what they could do, Ramon decided to call in his ace-in-the-hole, the Red Shadow.

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

I was sitting in my armchair, reading a medical text that Sarah had kindly loaned me when James noiselessly emerged from his room. His face bore a serious expression, so I put down my textbook.

When he sat down on the couch without speaking, I cleared my throat and asked, “So what gives?”

James gave a rueful smile, “It seems as if our terrorist friends are planning something big…something that even the police are worried about.”

“Worried enough that they should call you?”

He nodded, “I’ve been reviewing the facts. They all point to Zapp Brannigan as the culprit. My investigation of who his political supporters might be goes straight into the Mayor’s office.”

“Not Poopenmeyer?!”

“The same,” James shook his head, “I’ll never understand politicians. For Poopenmeyer to ally himself with Brannigan is political suicide. At some point, the truth will come out…it has to.”

Suddenly, I remembered that Kershaw had called James, “Not to change the subject, but Mr. Kershaw called asking for a progress report.”

A brief smile flitted across James’ face, “Thanks Zoidman, I’ll call him later.”

There was a brief lull in the conversation before I ventured a comment, “Anything interesting happen tonight?”

Rubbing his hands together gleefully, he answered, “I managed to locate one of the terrorist cells still operating.”

“Really?”

“I managed to catch one of the terrorists off guard. It took a little gentle persuasion, but he told me a few things before we were done.” James gave a cold smile that boded no good for the terrorist. I sat quietly, waiting for James to continue.

“It seems that the terrorists will start a series of ‘mutant suicide bomber’ attacks beginning this morning. Their goal is to force Poopenmeyer to invoke the Mutant Edicts. Apparently, our beloved mayor has been thinking that way for some time. He’s secretly taken delivery of 400 Model X-02 Peace Enforcement Robots. They’ll be used to do the dirty work of arresting mutants and detaining them in camps.”

“It sounds incredible.”

“Perhaps it does, Zoidy old friend, but I believe it’s true.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “If only I had been able to interrogate Zapp Brannigan as well.”

“What gives? Why couldn’t you?”

Smiling sardonically, James replied, “Oh, he came back to Earth long enough to denounce Kif Kroker as the terrorist leader. Then he went back into space – supposedly to make sure the Nimbus was spaceworthy.”

“What do you think?”

“I think he’s tying to remove himself from the scene of the crime. As soon as he touches Earth again, he’s getting a little visit…then we’ll know the truth.” James paused to pat me on the shoulder before turning toward his room. “You know Zoidy, there is something else to this whole mess…I can feel it. I just don’t know what it is.”

Just before he entered his room, James turned to me and said, “I’m going to send Commissioner Hidalgo an email of what I know. Keep a close eye on things, Zoidman.” Before I could answer, James turned on his heel and vanished into his room, leaving me to wonder what was going to happen next.

Mutant Village, July 3, 3004, 0100 (1:00 a.m.).

Hurrying through the subterranean gloom, Judy’s mind was filled with thoughts of her fiancée, Lip. She smiled to herself, thinking of how dramatic his proposal had been. “Soon we will be married,” she reflected.

As she passed a side tunnel that led to the surface, Judy thought she heard a sound like an infant crying. The sound was so faint that she had to stand stock still to really hear it.

“No doubt about it,” she thought with some alarm, “that’s a baby!”

Without hesitation Judy entered the side tunnel. Moving slowly so as to make as little noise as possible, she heard the baby’s cry more clearly as she moved down the tunnel. After five minutes, she emerged into an intersecting chamber. She stood listening; trying to determine which of the three possible tunnels she should take.

Judy was so intent on listening for the baby’s cry that she failed to hear or notice the two humans dressed in dark clothing as they emerged from a corner of the chamber. One of the humans held an injector gun.

Too late, Judy heard a noise behind her. Turning, she caught a brief glimpse of two dark clad humans. Simultaneously, she felt the bite of the injector needle and heard the sharp ‘snick’ as it injected her with theflazine.

She tried to scream, but the drug took effect almost instantaneously. She pitched forward unconscious. Before she hit the floor of the chamber, one of the men caught her. He turned to the other and said, “This one is almost pretty. Too bad we can’t have a go at her.”

“No, the attacks start too soon. We have to transport her and suit her up,” the one holding the injector said.

“Let’s get going. This place gives me the creeps. Oh, and make sure you get the recording device before we leave. Never can tell when we’ll need to catch another mutant.”

That said, the two moved off into the darkness bearing Judy away to her fate.

Enroute to Syria Planitia Naval Yards, aboard the Resilient, July 3, 0200.

Sarah always stood the late watches. She enjoyed the solitude, the chance to think without anything more than an occasional interruption. As she sat in the Pilots’ seat, Sarah surveyed the depths of space while thinking about her relationship with James Martindale.

“So Jimbo is the Red Shadow,” she mused. “That certainly complicates matters. Our jobs would carry us in two opposite directions at any rate. But how would Jim’s secret identity as a crime fighting vigilante affect their relationship?”

After mulling the thought around in her head for a while, Sarah decided that it didn’t matter. James was one of the finest men she ever knew, a very considerate, romantic lover, and he was willing to put up with a great deal of teasing. She smiled quietly to herself as she thought of how well he reacted to her gentle joking.

Before she was able to proceed further along that line of thought the videophone began to beep. An incoming call? She glanced at the screen to see that it was Brad.

Putting the receiver to her ear, Sarah answered, “Hello, Brad?”

“Right. Sarah, we’ve got some incoming bogeys. Looks like four fighters and two assault ships.”

“Can you tell what type?”

“Negative, they are at the extreme limits of my sensors. They are closing fast. ETA 15 minutes to firing range.”

“I’ll scramble Caitlyn and Chelsea and take the ship to red alert.”

“Roger, standing by for further instructions.”

Sarah slammed a large, raised circular button that she had recently installed at the Pilot’s console. An alarm claxon began to chime “Bong, Bong, Bong” while the Ship’s Computer (Nicknamed Lal) began to repeat in a lilting female voice with a slight Hindi accent, “Red Alert…Red Alert…All Crew to Action Stations…Red Alert…Red Alert!”

In less than five minutes, both Chelsea and Caitlyn had sped from the cargo bay in their nimble Raptor fighters. From his position at the Engineering/Communications Console, XT had begun to send out distress signals on a broad spectrum. CosmicF had clambered into the turret without a word. Lal announced, “All compartments sealed, communications circuits open, weapons fully charged, all torpedo tubes loaded, all combat stations manned.”

The six unknown craft continued to approach.

Three minutes later Brad announced on the Talk Between Ships (TBS) circuit, “I’ve got a positive identification on them. We have four F-27A Thunderbolt fighters and two Spica class assault craft.”

Sarah asked, “Spica class assault ships? Whose are they?”

“Oh, they’re DOOP craft. The Spica assault craft carry a crew of three and a complement of 40 Marines.”

“Have they responded to our hails?” Sarah asked XT.

“No.”

“Hail them directly on the DOOP TBS channel.”

XT nodded his head as he complied. Within a minute, he turned in his seat. He had a look of astonishment on his face, “The commander of the group following us says that we have a bomb on board. He orders that we stop so he can board us and remove the bomb.”

Sarah’s brow knitted, “Put me through on a direct channel, XT.”

“Aye-aye, captain.”

“This is Captain Sarah Foster of the Resilient to the commander of the group following us, state your business.”

“This is Major Wellington of the DOOP Marines. We have reliable information that a saboteur has concealed an explosive device on your ship. We believe it is set to go off in the next six hours. By order of the DOOP Department of Defense, I order you to halt so we can neutralize the threat.”

Sarah thought for a moment. They were almost exactly half-way on the 20 hour route between Pollux 6 and Mars. There were no suitable spots they could land to do an inspection. Also, there had certainly been a lot of terrorism taking place lately. Her mind made up, she responded, “Major, we will allow you to search for the bomb. See you in a few moments.”

Turning to XT she said, ‘Cancel red alert. Let’s hope we can find this thing before it goes off.”

New-New York Police Department Headquarters’, Commissioner’s Office Conference Room, July 3, 0300.

Rubbing his temples, Ramon leaned over his desk, willing his migraine away. Except for a single low-wattage lamp on his desk, the rest of the lights in the office were off. In the early morning hours, the building was silent as a tomb. Only the occasional wail of a siren in the distance disturbed the silence.

Ramon knew that the Red Shadow would be there soon in response to his email. He needed his wits about him to make the best of the visit. Just as the migraine began to ease, the light flickered briefly, a sure sign the mysterious vigilante was at hand.

Without looking up Ramon said, “Buenas Noches, I trust you are well?”

A voice issued from the recesses of the darkened office, “Yes Commissioner, I trust you are well?”

“I’ll live. These maldito headaches put me off my game.”

“And what game might that be?” the voice in the darkness asked.

“Helping you to help us to catch these terrorists…what else?” Ramon gestured toward the couch, “Please have a seat, you have no need to lurk in the shadows for my sake.”

With a tone of amusement, a voice issued from the darkness, “Sorry, force of habit.” He came briefly into the light before taking a seat on the couch opposite Ramon’s desk. After a moment’s silence, he asked, “So what do we have Commissioner?”

Ramon raised a device that looked like a slightly enlarged key fob, “This is our first order of business. Our boys in the lab have installed communications dampening devices across the city. Pressing the red key will activate the network, shutting down all communications devices with 200 meters of the fob. Pressing the blue button reactivates the network.”

“Neat.”

Ramon laughed, “I think so. Secondly, if this device is used our bomb squad will be on site in under three minutes.” Then he tossed the device to the dark-clad figure that caught it deftly.

“Even better, I’m not an explosives ordinance disposal expert.”

“I have sent some additional information to your electronic dead-drop. I can sum it up in a few words. Zapp Brannigan lies at the heart of this mess.”

The Red Shadow rose from his seat, “I had thought as much as well. Well, if there is nothing further, I’ll be on my way.”

Pivoting his chair to face out the window, Ramon said “Vaya con Dios.” After a brief moment, the light flickered. Ramon leaned back, closed his eyes, and fell into a fitful sleep. Something else was stirring; he could feel it in his bones.

Aboard the Resilient, July 3, 0400

Sarah shook her head to clear the cobwebs from her thoughts. The bite of the restraining bonds brought the events of the past hour rushing into her mind with awful clarity.

At first all had seemed to be well. The two Spica class assault craft had docked with the Resilient without any problem. Teams of Marines and Navy personnel had boarded wordlessly, fanning out with what appeared to be monitoring equipment.

Major Wellington had told Sarah, “You need to assemble your crew here in the cargo bay. That means your fighters as well. The bomb may be aboard one of them.” Major Wellington smiled, revealing shockingly bad teeth set in an already ugly face.

With a vague twinge of misgiving, Sarah had complied. Once the crew was assembled, Wellington gave another ugly smile. “Excellent!” he said with evident pleasure, “Sergeant, do your duty.”

The tall black Sergeant who had acted as a sort of shadow for the short, squat Wellington raised an odd looking device, pointing it at the crew. The last thing Sarah remembered was a low sonic hum followed by blackness.

Now, as she glanced about the cargo bay, she could see that the entire crew was trussed up like turkeys. “What the bloody hell is going on?” she exclaimed angrily.

XT’s head bobbed up at the sound of her voice. He glanced around, “It would seem that we are…how do you say it…boned.”

Next to awaken was Brad. He immediately began to test the bonds, attempting to wriggle free. “If I can just free my Wristamajigy, I can get us all out of here,” he said between his teeth.

Sarah was about to reply when she heard an odd popping sound, followed by a grunt from XT’s direction. She looked and could plainly see that XT was slowly wriggling out of his bonds.

XT caught her puzzled look, “Back when I was resisting the government, I had both of my shoulders dislocated as part of an interrogation. I can do it at will now.”

“Crikey, doesn’t it hurt?”

XT merely nodded. Within a moment, he was free. His left arm hung limply by his side. “I shall have you all free very soon.”

True to his word, he went to a weapons storage locker, retrieved a laser pistol, and cut the locks on the restraining bonds.

As Sarah stood up, XT asked, “Would you mind helping me to get my shoulder working again?”

“Right,” Sarah replied as she took his left hand. Jerk, grunt, pop! XT flexed his arm experimentally, “Thank you, Sarah.”

“Bloody hell! Thank you!”

Brad broke in, “I hate to break up this love feast, but we need to find out what’s going on.”

“Right, Brad and XT, you are with me. Arm yourselves. If you see a DOOP uniform, shoot first and ask questions later.” Everyone nodded, so she continued, “We’ll search the ship for clues. CosmicF, you remain here while Caitlyn and Chelsea check the fighters. Then search the cargo bay and the engine room, okay?”

CosmicF nodded while Chelsea and Caitlyn responded, “Aye-aye.”

For an agonizing thirty minutes, Sarah, Brad and XT worked their way forward to the bridge. They encountered no one else. First to set foot on the bridge, Sarah swept it with her eyes. She could see that all of the consoles had additional boxes perched on them. “What in the name of bleeding blue blazes,” she thought.

“XT, help me figure out what’s going on.”

Brad cautioned, “Don’t touch anything. It might be booby-trapped.”

Sarah cautiously examined the pilot’s station, while XT inspected engineering. When he shifted his attention to the astronavigation display, he exclaimed, “Y’Allah!”

Sarah straightened up, “What?”

“Sarah, if I am not mistaken, we are headed for Earth.”

“Earth,” she asked, “Why Earth?”

Brad’s eyes widened as he realized what was happening, “We’re a flying bomb. Our cargo of turbidium is enough to take out a city.”

“We need to get to regain control of this ship flat out like a lizard drinking,” Sarah said with a grim smile, “Then we’ll deal with that bloody Major. Nobody uses my ship as a flying bomb!”

Mutant Village, The Turanga Residence, July 3, 3004, 0415 (4:15 a.m.)

The sound of the Sewercom videophone chirping insistently woke Munda from her slumber. Always a light sleeper, she sprang gingerly from the bed to avoid waking Morris. Pulling on a housecoat, she padded quietly down the stairs.

At the foot of the stairs she peeked into the living room and saw that Kif was awake. Bleary eyed, he sat on the edge of the threadbare but comfortable couch. She couldn’t help liking Kif, especially since he had insisted on sleeping on the couch to avoid forcing her to set up the guest bedroom. He had said, “A blanket and a couch is a lot more that I had for two years as a POW. The couch is fine.”

Munda shot him a smile as she went to the console. Punching the voice only button, she answered, “Hello?”

“Munda, this is Detective Sergeant Lipford calling. I’m sorry to awaken you, but I was wondering if you had seen Judy?”

“Lip, oh my, I’ve not seen Judy since this afternoon.” A tone of alarm entered her voice, “Is there something wrong?”

After a slight pause, Lip replied, “Well, she calls me every night when she gets home from work. Tonight I haven’t heard from her and there’s no answer at her apartment.”

Munda knew that her cousin Judy was a sensible, stable young woman. She felt a sudden chill run down her spine, “Lip, you’re the cop. What do we do?”

“I’m already on my way to Judy’s apartment. Could you call her mother and ask her to meet me there with the key?”

“Certainly.”

“Thanks Munda, I’ll keep you informed.”

As soon as the speaker went to dial tone, Munda dialed her cousin’s number. In a short conversation, she informed Judy’s mother Jean of the situation. When the conversation ended, Munda hung up and turned to go upstairs.

When Munda turned, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Kif had been so quiet that she had completely forgotten that he was sitting on the couch.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Turanga for starling you.”

“That’s okay, Kif…and call me Munda.” She thought for a brief moment, “You know Kif, I’m going to move you into the guest bedroom upstairs. There’s a trap door to the attic in case someone you’d rather avoid should visit.”

“Oh yes, thank you.” Kif asked hesitantly, “Do you think that Judy is alright?”

Munda shrugged, “I don’t know Kif. What I do know is that my cousin Jean will probably be over here soon…possibly with the police in tow. Let’s get you moved.”

Kif stood up and gathered his few belongings before following Munda upstairs to the relative security of the guest bedroom.

Aboard the Resilient, July 3, 0430 (4:30 a.m.)

Sarah, Brad, XT and CosmicF stood facing one another on the bridge. All had anxious expressions on their faces. “Well,” Sarah asked XT, “What’s the verdict?”

XT’s brow furrowed, “I’m pretty sure that I can get this control unit disengaged from our navigational systems. Technically, that is not too difficult a task. However, the control unit seems to be booby-trapped.”

“Wonderful!”

CosmicF chimed in, “It gets better – our engines have a similar unit attached to them. From what XT and I can figure, if either unit ceases to transmit to the other…BOOM!”

Sarah crossed her arms, “Right, so how do we get out of this mess?”

Brad answered, “Well, I’m reasonably certain I can handle the booby trap. It seems that what we have to do is take both control units off line at precisely the same moment.”

XT nodded, “That can be done…but it will be difficult.

“We have to succeed, I’m meeting Chenxi for coffee tomorrow.” CosmicF said, “Being dead doesn’t fit with my agenda.”

Everyone laughed. When the laughter died away, Sarah spoke up, “Right, then let’s get to work. The good Major and his crew increased our speed when they took over the ship. We’ve only six hours to go until impact.”

CosmicF asked quietly, “Where will we hit?”

“Right square in the middle of Manhattan,” Sarah said with a frown. “If we don’t succeed in stopping this ship, we will kill millions.”

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, July 3, 3004, 0745 (7:45 a.m.)

Leela pulled the dishes from the sonic washer, stacking them neatly in their proper place. Fry and Sally had loaded the washer right after breakfast. Then they had gone into the living room, where they began to play video games.

From her vantage point in the kitchen, Leela watched Sally beat Fry with almost monotonous regularity. Her cries of “I won, Daddy!” were followed almost immediately by a sympathetic, “But I’m sure you’ll win next time.”

As far as Leela knew, Fry had never been beaten by anyone in Space Pacman. But, big as life, Sally seemed to be a real world-class champion.

In the first game they had played, Sally used her tail to constantly distract Fry. Each time he was up, she stealthily extended her tail and tapped him on the shoulder. Fry appeared startled each time it happened – saying things like, “What was that?” while Sally would cover her mouth and giggle.

Finally Fry ‘noticed’ her tail and said, “Hey! That’s no fair! Your tail gives you an advantage!”

Sally blushed as she retracted her tail, “I’m sorry, Daddy.” Then she added, “Everybody says I’m a freak because of my tail.”

“That’s baloney, Pumpkin. They’re just jealous. I’d love to have a tail.”

“Really?” she asked in a tone of astonishment.

“Sure, I could hold a can of Slurm in my tail while I still had two hands free to play.”

Sally frowned, “Mommy says Slurm isn’t good for you…it will make you fat.”

In the kitchen, Leela grimaced and slapped her forehead. “Oh Lord,” she thought, “What will she say next?”

Fry’s eyebrows raised as he responded in an amused tone, “Really? What else did Mommy say?”

Thinking fast, Leela cleared her throat, “Sally, could you help me with the dishes for a minute?”

“Sure Mommy, I’ll be right there.” She slid off the couch and said, “Don’t start until I get back, okay?”

“Okay, Pumpkin.”

Sally ran into the kitchen…she always seemed to run…and threw her arms around Leela. She whispered, “I’m sorry about telling Daddy he was going to get fat. I forgot that was girl talk.”

Returning Sally’s hug, Leela said softly, “That’s okay Sweetie. Here, can you stack these pots in that lower shelf?”

“Sure Mommy.”

Once the pots were put away, Sally dashed back into the living room and bounded back into her spot next to Fry. Soon they were busily playing Robot Rage 3 – The Gates of Robot Hell.

Before Leela could register her objection to the extreme violence of the game, her Wristamajigy began to buzz. She keyed the touch pad, noticing she had a text message in memory. “Odd,” she thought, “who uses text messages anymore?”

As she read, she realized it was from Joseph Kershaw. It read, “Case filed, hearing at 0800 Friday 6 July in 5th District Court, Room 201, Deo Vindice!”

“Deo Vindice,” she breathed softly, “what the heck does that mean?”

Lower Manhattan, Outside 5th District Courthouse, July 3, 0900 (9 a.m.)

The street was crowded with the usual pedestrian traffic that formed a flowing multi-colored stream on the sidewalks. At first, no one noticed the three-armed mutant that emerged from an alley, wearing a long coat. He was tall, with dark hair and eyes...eyes which were glazed and staring.

As he shuffled into the moving stream of humanity, he bumped into a young purple haired tough in biker garb. “Back to the sewers, weirdo!” the biker shouted at the mutant. When there was no response, the biker grabbed the mutant by the coat, “Hey jerkface, I’m talking to you.”

The mutant silently turned to face the biker. For a brief moment, they stood facing one another. “Oh Crap!” the biker said when he remembered the explosions of the past few weeks. But before the biker could react, the terrorist who had been monitoring his “delivery boy” keyed his Wristamajigy. The signal set off the detonator in the suicide vest strapped to the mutant’s body.

Both the mutant and the biker were almost vaporized by the explosion. Forty-four pounds of T-4 drove a payload of nuts and bolts into the crowd. In an instant thirty people were dead and another two hundred were badly injured. The glass was blown out of windows for several blocks.

Within seconds, emergency crews and police were converging on the scene. The terrorist who had set off the explosion smiled as he watched the mayhem he had caused. After all, he had a backup bomb strapped to a red-haired female mutant that was ready for deliver as soon as the cops and emergency crews arrived.

“This is going to be great!” he thought as he fingered his Wristamajigy. “Just a few more blasts and I’ll be taking it easy in the Bahamas with a pile of cash and some gorgeous babes at my side. Too bad these suckers had to buy it.” Then he laughed before he said aloud, “Life stinks and then…you die.”

Lower Manhattan, Rooftop of the 5th District Courthouse, July 3, 0903 (9:03 a.m.)

James swept the street with his eyes, noting the carnage below. This was the second bombing scene he surveyed in as many weeks. The wail of approaching sirens mingles with the cries of the wounded below. Even on the rooftop, the smell of burnt clothing, seared flesh, and blood wafted past his nose. It was a scene that reminded him of Dante’s Inferno.

He shut down his Mobile Tesseract Generator (MTG) for a brief moment. Once he had transitioned fully into the three-dimensional world, James activated the device that Ramon had given him. His days in the DOOP military had taught him that your enemy…unlike lightning…often struck the same place twice.

With the press of a button, a dampening field went into place. Unless you had a police or emergency rescue transmitter, no signal would enter or leave a 200 meter area. Having shut communications down, James activated his MTG. In an instant, he was enveloped in a mobile area of 4th dimensional space.

The emergency crews began to arrive, first singly, then in groups. Cops ringed the area, striving to bring order out of chaos. James punched a series of buttons on his Wristamajigy to establish a covert link to a Galactic Intelligence Agency (GIA) monitoring site located nearby. Anyone attempting to send a signal into the area would find that their position would be quickly relayed to James…who would quickly pay them a visit as the Red Shadow.

Lower Manhattan, Outside of the 5th District Courthouse, July 3, 0905 (9:05 a.m.)

Crime Scene Van Number 1 slid to a halt just outside the police cordon. Mike Wigglesworth was driving, with John “Duncan” Kriebel as a passenger. Duncan bailed out before the van had completely stopped. Hitting the ground running, he vaulted over the police tape that one of the Police-bots had just erected. He knew that the fresher the evidence, the better.

Right behind him, Detective Sergeants “Lip” Lipford and “Sal” Sanchez pulled up. “Let’s do some good,” Sal said before he exited the car. Lip merely grunted in reply. His mind was still occupied with his concern for Judy. As they approached a group of lightly injured likely witnesses, Lip asked in a loud voice, “Did anybody see what happened?”

An elderly Neptunian male stepped forward, “I did, officer. Some biker was hassling a mutant...then the mutant blew up.”

Before Lip could ask for clarification, Duncan exclaimed, “Holy crap! We got another mutant in a long coat. Everybody get the hell out of here!”

Lip looked up to see a tall, shapely mutant with fiery red hair and a pair of hooves for feet. His heart sank when he realized it was Judy! Her eyes, perched on eye stalks seemed glazed and dull. Her lips soundlessly formed the words, “Help me.”

Duncan reached into his pocket and pulled out his device to activate the communications dampening field. It surprised him that the field was already active, but he didn’t waste time wondering why. Seconds were precious.

“Lip, Sal…back off. I’ve got to try and defuse this device.”

Lip growled, “Cram it, that’s my fiancée Judy!”

A look of surprise crossed Duncan’s face. “Fine, if you insist on helping then leave anything metal with Sal. Do exactly what I tell you. This is my turf. I don’t want to be called stumpy because you got anxious.”

Without waiting for a reply, Duncan fished his Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) kit from his crime scene bag. Then he went cautiously forward, scanning for any active booby traps. There were none he could detect, so he moved within working distance.

Speaking in a low, calm voice Duncan said, “Judy, let me help you. If you want me to help you, just nod.”

She nodded.

“Okay Judy, can you take your coat off for me?”

She shook her head no.

“Can I take it off safely?”

She nodded.

At that moment Lip came up next to Duncan, “What’s the plan?”

“Well, we have to get that coat off. My scanner indicates she’s wearing a vest with explosives and metal beneath that coat. Once we’ve got it off, then I can defuse it.”

“What do I need to do?”

Duncan handed him a pair of non-metallic scissors, “Lip, you cut the coat away on the right side, I’ll take the left. Take your time and be careful not to cut through any wires.”

Lip took the scissors, “Got it.”

For the next few minutes, they worked together slowly cutting the fabric away. Both men were perspiring heavily when they finished.

Duncan examined the device closely. He realized that it was very similar to something he had seen during his training. The detonator was of military origin. A blinking light indicated that the bomb was armed.

Judy said thickly, “I’m so scared, Lip.”

Lip replied reassuringly, “Don’t worry Judy. Duncan here is the best bomb tech on this side of the planet.”

There were no booby traps that Duncan could see, so he traced the detonator wires to the power source. There were three wires…red, yellow, and green. He cudgelled his memory for the proper cutting sequence.

As Duncan stood there thinking, Lip asked, “Is there a problem?”

“No, no problem at all.” Duncan took out his cutters and snipped the red wire.

Nothing happened.

He snipped the yellow wire next.

No explosion.

Finally, he snipped the green wire.

The blinking light went out.

Duncan straightened up, “Let’s get her out of this vest.” Together, Duncan and Lip cut Judy free from the vest. As soon as the vest was off, Judy’s legs gave way. Lip caught her in his arms as Duncan took charge of the vest.

Lip turned to Sal and shouted, “Let’s get her to a hospital!”

“I’m on it!” Sal shouted back.

Within moments, Judy was in an ambulance speeding toward Taco Belleview Hospital.

Lower Manhattan, apartment near the 5th District Courthouse, July 3, 0907 (9:07 a.m.)

The terrorist stood watching the emergency response personnel approaching his secondary device. “Time for some fireworks,” he thought.

He pressed the button on his Wristamajigy to trigger the device.

Nothing happened.

He tried the alternate frequency.

Still nothing.

While he was puzzling over the failure of the bomb to detonate, he noticed a flicker of his Wristamajigy screen. Deciding that it must be malfunctioning, the terrorist reached into his pocket to pull out the back-up transmitter.

Before he could get his hand out of his pocket, he heard a booming laugh directly behind him. He pivoted to come face-to-face with the Red Shadow.

“Alright, you terrorist scum. Hands up and empty!”

“Screw you!” the terrorist shouted as he grabbed for a laser pistol in a shoulder holster.

Before he could lay his hands on it, the Red Shadow’s two .45 caliber pistols roared. Two carefully aimed shots struck the terrorist’s shoulder joints…smashing them. The Red Shadow wanted the terrorist alive, but incapacitated. The force of the twin impacts drove the terrorist backward into the kitchen counter. Then he collapsed onto the floor, writhing in pain.

The Red Shadow strode over to the wounded terrorist and began speaking in a calm, conversational tone. “You know, a man could bleed out pretty quickly after getting hit with two .45 slugs. If you talk, I can make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“He’ll kill me if I talk.”

“Suit yourself,” the Red Shadow said with a shrug of his shoulders. He turned on his heel as if to leave.

“Wait, you can’t just let me die!”

The Red Shadow spun around and replied in a venomous voice, “I can and I will! You sorry excuse for a human being! You just murdered a bunch of innocent people without a shred of mercy.” His fists clenched as he took a step toward the terrorist, “I could peel you like a pear and God Himself would call it justice!”

“I’ll talk…just don’t let me die.”

“Who’s behind these attacks?”

“Some former DOOP military…I don’t know names…but I know they have connections that go right into the Mayor’s office.”

“Go on.”

“I contact my controller on my Wristamajigy. It’s a DOOP Military circuit, so it’s encrypted. I’ve never met him directly…I swear…that’s all I know.”

The Red Shadow walked over and relieved the terrorist of his Wristamajigy. Working quickly, he stopped the bleeding and propped the terrorist up against the counter. As he stood up, he said, “Someone will be here soon. Keep your mouth shut for 24 hours…then spill your guts to the cops. If you don’t follow my instructions…you could start bleeding suddenly again.”

Without warning, the Red Shadow pulled one of his .45’s. With a swift stroke, he knocked the terrorist out. Then he turned on his MTG and headed for his apartment, confident that the case was much closer to a solution.

Buddies