Futurama

Fan Fiction

Married With Children, part 8
By Ramon_51

Planet Express Employees Lounge, July 9, 3004, 0745 (7:45 a.m.)

Leela entered the room, followed closely by Fry and Bender. For their entire commute, Bender had wearied Leela with his pleas for her to intercede with Rebecca on his behalf. As soon as they had exited from the tube, Leela had said, “Bender, so help me, if you don’t clam up I will never say a word to her.” Pivoting quickly, Leela had headed for the Planet Express building without a further word.

Sarah was the only person in the lounge when they entered. She flashed a cheery smile that was mirrored in her green eyes, “G’day Leela!” Sarah nodded, “You too, Fry … Bender.”

Leela responded, “Morning, Sarah. Where’s everyone else?”

“They’ll be here shortly. You’re here a bit early yourself. Come to look the ship over?”

Leela nodded, “I’d like to run a systems check before the Professor sends us off on some lunatic mission.”

“Right.” Sarah grinned, “Cubert and Amy are already on board, warming up the engines. If you don’t mind, I’ll give you a hand.”

“I’d be glad for the help.” Leela turned to Fry, “Fry, could you please take Bender and check the cargo bay, hover dollies, and the gun turret?”

“Sure.”

Bender was ready to utter his usual protests at having to do any work, but he thought of Rebecca and said, “Glad to help.”

This caused Sarah to give Bender a startled look, “Has he gone crazy as a dunny rat?” she whispered to Leela.

Leela smiled, “No, he’s in love.”

The look of confusion on Sarah’s face caused Leela to laugh, “I’ll tell you while we’re doing the systems check.”

Leela paused to give Fry a quick kiss. Fry whispered, “I love you” into her ear as he gave her a quick hug in return. Then she and Sarah headed up the landing gear ladder at a slow walk to the Bridge.

“So how has everyone been?”

“No drama, Leela. We hauled two loads of turbidium last week. It all went as smooth as silk.”

“Any social news?”

“I expect you know that your cousin…Judy isn’t it…is going to marry that big Peeler Lip?”

“My Mom mentioned it.”

“Seems you and Fry have started a trend. Lip and Judy have already decided to adopt one of the ankle biters from the Orphanarium.”

Leela shook her head, “No, I didn’t know. Which child are they going to adopt?”

“I believe they are going to adopt that porky little fellow who was your ring bearer, Albert.”

“Interesting.”

“Right.” Sarah looked thoughtful, “Cosmic F and Chenxi Wong are quite an item. It seems they do the nasty on a nightly basis.”

“Really?”

“Bloody oath!” She held her right hand up, “They aren’t the only ones to have paired up. Brad and Katrina are thick as thieves, although they haven’t set up housekeeping just yet. She does bring him to work most days, but I haven’t heard them speak of a wedding.”

They were almost on the Bridge. Leela stopped and looked Sarah in the face, “How are you and James coming along?”

Sarah shrugged in a vain attempt to feign indifference, “We’ve not seen much of each other this past week. I’ve been in the back of Bourke and he’s been busy with all of this terrorist business.”

Leela nodded, “You want to come over for a drink this evening?”

Sarah smiled, “No worries!”

“Do you want me to call and invite James?”

“I’ll call him. I expect he’ll come if he can.”

Leela patted Sarah on the shoulder, “Let’s check the old girl out, shall we?”

They went onto the bridge, where Amy and Cubert were huddled by the engineering console. They didn’t even look up, although Amy did offer a quick, “Hey Leela.”

“Who would have thought that Amy and Cubert would ever get along?” Leela mused. But their shared experiences when they were flung into the past had created a bond between the two. Their relationship had become that of an elder sister and younger brother.

“Cubert,” Amy said, “Have we got the intermix ratio right yet?”

“Check,” Cubert replied, “Intermix ratio is nominal.”

Amy patted Cubert on the back, “Good job.” She straightened up and announced cheerfully, “Planet Express Ship Pathfinder is ready for systems check.”

Leela nodded in acknowledgement as she sat down in the pilot’s chair, “OK. Let’s run a full system check then.”

For the next thirty minutes Leela, aided by Sarah, Amy, and Cubert checked every system on board. They all passed with flying colors.

The Mutant Village, New-New York, July 9, 3004, 0900 (9:00 a.m.)

J.B. strode purposefully down the quiet streets of the Mutant Village. In his right hand was his well-worn walking stick. In his left was a bunch of purple lilacs. As usual, he wore a dark suit with a bow tie. His abundant purple tinged white hair was carefully groomed in anticipation of his reunion with Flora MacDonald, his long lost love.

The few mutants who were out greeted him, greetings he returned with his usual courtesy. News traveled fast in the Mutant community. Everyone knew why J.B. was there, which had something to do with the smiles that accompanied the greetings.

After a short walk, J.B. drew up in front of a small cottage style house on the outskirts of the village. Like all mutant homes, it was in a tumbledown state. The white siding was loose in places. The blue paint that trimmed the shutters, windows, and front door was peeling. Still, to J.B. it had a certain genteel air about it.

He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, pulling forth a note. He checked the address. “This is it, boy,” he said quietly to himself.

Carefully folding the note and placing it in his pocket, J.B. ascended the steps onto the small front porch. He stood for a second, his palms growing moist as summoned the courage to knock on the door. “This is ridiculous,” he muttered, “I’ve been dreaming of this moment for so many years.”

Like a swimmer taking a plunge into frigid water, J.B. raised his fist and rapped on the door. From the other side of the door a voice issued – a voice that he had yearned for so many years to hear, “Who is it?”

For a moment, J.B. lost the power of speech. His tongue felt as though it had swollen to twice it’s normal size. Finally, he managed to croak, “It’s J.B.”

“Do come in.”

J.B. opened the door, stepping in a darkened room. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, “Flora?”

“Yes, J.B. It is I.”

His heart began to beat wildly. Peering through the gloom, he could just make out a figure seated in an armchair across the room.

“Why the darkness?”

“J.B., I’ve aged.” Her voice sounded tired, “I’m not the young girl you knew in Charleston.”

J.B. stepped closer to where Flora sat, “It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen family photographs.” He paused, “I think you are as beautiful as ever.”

Flora laughed briefly as she stood up. She reached over, placing her hand on the switch of the table lamp, “Are you sure you want to see me in the light?”

“Yes, more than I want to breathe.”

The lamp flickered on. Before his eyes stood the woman who had been the object of his thoughts and dreams for so many years. To J.B.’s eye’s, she hadn’t changed a bit.

“You are so beautiful.”

Flora smiled, “I hadn’t heard that your eyes had failed you, J.B.” She stepped closer, “But your memory is still good, I see you brought lilacs…my favorite. You are as sweet as ever.”

Before he knew what he was doing, J.B. stepped forward and wrapped Flora in his arms. The lilacs landed on the lamp stand. Their lips met, lips burning with decades of pent up emotion. After a long and supremely romantic kiss, they pulled apart, slightly breathless.

Flora broke the silence, “You always were impulsive, Joseph.”

J.B. merely nodded in reply. He didn’t trust his voice. Instead he kissed her again, more sweetly this time.

They stood there embracing for several minutes before J.B. spoke, “Flora…will you marry me?”

“Joseph!”

“Flora, I know this is terribly brash, but I don’t want to spend any longer without you. Anyone who doesn’t want you in the family can go to robot hell.”

“My, my but we are forceful today,” she said in a teasing manner.

“Yes I am.” J.B. replied with a certain satisfaction. He adopted what everyone called his lawyer voice, “Flora MacDonald…will you marry me?”

There as a short pause, “Yes I will Joseph. Yes I will.”

Planet Express Ship, July 9, 3004, 1500 (3:00 p.m.)

Leela lay on the couch with her eye closed. She and Fry had a fight just after they made their delivery of frogs legs to Paris 5. It had been a fight over nothing and she had started it. She had apologized to Fry, but she could see that his feelings were still hurt.

So she had pretended to have a headache. Fry had offered to pilot the ship, an offer Leela eagerly accepted.

Opening her eye slightly, Leela could see Fry’s reflection in a bridge window. His face was a mask of concentration as he focused on piloting the ship. Leela smiled, knowing that her exercise in rebuilding Fry’s ego was working.

Before she could reflect on it further, the ship’s video phone sounded, “Incoming message from J.B. Kershaw.”

She sat up instantly. Fry had already punched the receiver button, “Go ahead.”

The video screen flashed. The image of J.B., with Flora beside him filled the screen. Both were smiling. “Hello, Fry,” J.B. said, “We’d like to invite Leela and you to our wedding at the Oaks.”

Leela almost leaped from the couch to Fry’s side. Fry looked surprised, but maintained enough composure to answer, “Sure, when is the big day?”

Flora smiled, “We’ve picked this Saturday.”

“Isn’t this kind of sudden?” Leela broke in.

J.B laughed heartily, “I’ve been chasing Flora for a long time. Now that she’s caught me, I want to make this a permanent thing.” He grinned, “As I see it, we’ve been marching down the aisle for many years.”

Flora looked at Leela, “Will you be one of my bridesmaids?”

Leela nodded, “Of course.”

“Fry, would you be one of my groomsmen?” J.B. asked.

“You bet.”

“Then it’s all settled. Flora and I will send you an email with the rest of the details. Stay well you young lovebirds.”

Leela smiled at being called lovebirds, “You too.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

The screen went blank. Leela had a sudden thought about how to complete her apology to Fry.

“Fry, how long is it until we get to Earth?”

He looked at the navigation console, “Two hours and fifteen minutes.”

Smiling seductively Leela asked Fry in a sultry voice, “Do you think the autopilot could take over for a little while?”

Fry felt his palms begin to sweat. Popping from the seat like a jack-in-the-box, he said, “Sure. I’ll just let Amy, Cubert and Bender know that we’ll be on autopilot of a while…just in case they need to change speed or something.”

“Great.” Leela began to move slowly off the bridge. She looked over her shoulder as she passed through the hatch, “When you’ve gotten done here on the bridge, meet me in our quarters.”

Fry frantically set the autopilot. Then he notified the rest of the crew, and almost skipped off the bridge while humming “I’m walking on Sunshine.”

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, July 9, 3004, 1745 (5:45 p.m.)

The door slid open for Leela as she entered the apartment just ahead of Fry, “Is anybody home?”

Sally fairly flew from her bedroom calling out breathlessly, “Mommy! You won’t believe what Miss Rebecca and I did today! We went for a walk and we saw the zoo and we ate ice cream and we…”

Leela laughed, “Slow down Sally, you don’t want to tell everything to me at once.”

Sally smiled, “Sorry Mommy, but Miss Rebecca is so cool.”

Rebecca’s voice issued from the kitchen, “I’m glad you think so.” Her head popped into view, “Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes.”

Fry, who had just entered the apartment, sniffed the air, “Man that smells good! What is it?”

“Roast beef,” Rebecca replied, “are you fond of it?”

Fry laughed, “I don’t know if fond describes it. But…yes…I enjoy it.”

“Then relax for a few moments and I’ll set the table.”

Leela stepped into the kitchen, “I’ll help you Rebecca.”

“Please, just relax.”

“I like setting the table. It was one of my jobs at the Orphanarium.”

“Very well, as you wish.”

“Rebecca…what do you think of Bender?”

Rebecca paused, “I don’t know. He can be quite endearing. Then the next moment he is infuriating. He certainly is persistent.”

Nodding, Leela put her hand on Rebecca’s arm, “He really has a thing for you. He wept all the way home, begging me to get you to go out with him.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Rebecca stood for a moment, thinking. “So still wants to go on a date?”

Leela’s voice adopted almost a pleading tone, “He told me he would be on his best behavior.”

Rebecca smiled, “I suppose I’ll have to give in. But the date has to be in a public place. Also, if he steps out of line…wham!”

“I’m sure that Bender will agree to your…shall we say…terms.”

“I’ll wait for his call.”

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, July 9, 3004, 2145 (9:45 p.m.)

Sally was in bed. Rebecca had gone into her closet to recharge, while Leela and Fry sat on the couch in front of the TV. Only a single lamp was on, as they were watching an all-night “Scary Door” marathon. Leela had made some popcorn, which Fry was digging into with gusto.

Leela shook her head, “Fry, are you going to leave any for me? Or do I need to make another bowl?”

Fry swallowed, and then looked penitent, “Sorry, I just have a craving for popcorn.”

“Craving? Maybe you’re pregnant,” Leela offered with a smile spreading across her face.

Fry looked concerned for a moment. Then he grinned one of his best grins, “Well. I’m sure that if I am, it’s your baby.”

Leela laughed, trying to ignore Fry’s smile. “Darn it!” she thought, “Why does that smile of his drive me so crazy?”

Fry could tell Leela need a little loosening up. So, he went into a crouch and began to wiggle his fingers, “Look who’s coming! It’s the tickle monster.”

“Fry…No!” Leela hopped up. Fry lunged for her but she sidestepped, giving him a gentle push into the couch. As Fry fell face-first onto the couch, he emitted an “Oof!”

Undaunted, Fry sprang up instantly, “There’s no stopping the tickle monster.”

Leela eye widened in mock horror, “Fry, don’t you dare!” Then she vaulted the armchair and sprang into the bedroom with Fry in hot pursuit.

Without losing speed, Leela leaped onto the bed – headed for the sanctuary of the bathroom. Fry lunged and caught her ankle, causing her to fall face forward onto the mattress. She rolled onto her back trying to fend Fry off. It was no use!

“Gotcha!” Fry exclaimed, “Here it comes!” Then he began to tickle her unmercifully.

Leela began to emit muffled shrieks of laughter, all the while pleading, “Fry…Sally will hear us…please close the door…Fry the door is open!”

Fry took the bait, turning to see if the door had closed. It had, but the split second was enough time for Leela to grab a pillow. “Whump!” she landed a solid blow on the side of Fry’s head. She thrust her hips up at the same time which caused Fry to lose his balance and tumble onto the floor.

On the attack now, Leela began to pummel him with the pillow, “Take advantage of a helpless woman, will you?” Working the pillow with amazing speed, Leela had Fry where she wanted him.

“Uncle!” Fry said while flashing his best boyish grin.

“Ooh! You make me crazy!” Leela growled as she flung the pillow aside. Instead of smothering him with pillow blows, she began to smother him in kisses.

When she calmed a bit, Leela put her cheek against Fry’s. Then she breathed huskily into his ear, “Why did I wait so long to say yes to you?”

“I don’t know.”

Leela stood. She reached her hand out to Fry, “Take me to bed or lose me forever.”

Fry grasped Leela’s hand and sprang to his feet, “No way am I going to lose you!”

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, July 10, 3004, 0300 (3:00 p.m.)

Fry awoke with a start. He wasn’t sure why, but something – almost like an electric shock – had caused him to go from blissful sleep to complete wakefulness. Opening his eyes, he swept the room.

There! In the corner of the room nearest the door to the living room was a shadowy figure of a man. Fry struggled to remain calm.

Then a voice issued from the corner, “I’m terribly sorry to disturb you, but we need to talk.’

Leela’s sleepy voice answered, “Can’t it wait until morning, Fry?”

Fry slid from the bed. His only thought was to get whoever, or whatever, the shadowy figure was out of the bedroom and away from Leela. In his most reassuring voice he said, “Go back to sleep, Leela. I’m just going to the kitchen to get something to eat.”

“Okay,” she mumbled, “Don’t eat too much. You’ll get gas.”

Smiling in spite of the situation, Fry walked toward the door. Once in a few feet from the door, he motioned the shadowy figure to go through first.

Fry breathed a sigh of relief when the figure went through into the living room. He was ready to close the door and rouse Leela when he had another thought, one that almost drove him to panic…Sally!

“Damn,” he thought, “now I have to go through the door.” Fry took a deep breath. “Oh well, here goes nothing.”

The door slid shut noiselessly behind him. On the couch, the shadowy figure sat. Somehow he seemed more distinct in outline. Summoning his courage, Fry sat in the arm chair opposite the stranger.

“I’m terribly sorry for barging in like this, but I haven’t much time,” the figure said in a low voice.

“Time for what?”

“Time to ask you to help me to catch a dangerous intergalactic criminal.”

“Who are you?”

“Some call me the Red Shadow.”

Fry felt a flood of relief course through his body, “I know about you! But how can I help catch this criminal?”

Over the next few moments the Red Shadow explained to Fry about Z-6666. He told how Z-6666 had inhabited Zapp Brannigan’s body – with Brannigan’s consent. As Fry listened, the Red Shadow explained how the plan to separate Brannigan and Z-6666 had failed because Brannigan could detect the altered brain signature of anyone inhabited by another energy being far enough away to take defensive measures.

Fry looked puzzled, “What’s this got to do with me?”

The Red Shadow shifted slightly, “Your brain lacks a Delta wave. What Brannigan/Z-6666 senses when we try to get M-5438 close is the presence of two Delta waves. With you, he would only sense one. That might do the trick.”

Fry shook his head, “Why does my abnormal brain always gets me into things?”

The Red Shadow shrugged, “I don’t know. But I do know that if we don’t stop Brannigan/Z-6666, he’ll try to hurt Leela and you again. He’s obsessed.”

Fry thought for a moment, “I’ll do it.”

“Good,” the Red Shadow replied, “I’ll be in touch.”

Suddenly, as if a light had been switched off, the Red Shadow was gone.

Fry sat alone for a moment, deep in thought. Then he stood up quietly and went back to bed. For a long while he lay next to Leela, looking at her features limned in the dim glow of the alarm clock. Then he put his arm around her, snuggled close, and drifted back to sleep.

Planet Express Lounge, July 10, 3004, 0800 (8:00 a.m.)

Fry and Leela sat alone on the couch in the lounge. They were obviously having a serious discussion. Leela was waving her arms animatedly, while Fry sat with his arms crossed defensively.

“So let me get this straight,” Leela said with just a trace of irritation in her voice, “The Red Shadow showed up in our bedroom last night and you are just telling me now?”

“Leela, at first I didn’t know ­who was our bedroom.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?”

“Because for once I wanted to be the one to protect us.”

An unexpected smile spread across Leela’s face as it lost all traces of irritation. She reached out and touched Fry’s cheek gently, “That’s so sweet.”

Inwardly Fry breathed a sigh of relief. He then explained, as far as he knew, what was going on.

Leela looked thoughtful, “You know Fry that would explain why Kif got transferred to the South Port Naval Station.”

“He did?”

“Yes, Amy mentioned it to me yesterday. Apparently Zapp doesn’t trust Kif to come near him anymore.”

“Huh!”

Before they could continue their conversation Bender entered the lounge. He walked straight to the couch, wringing his hands anxiously.

“Morning Bender,” Fry said.

Bender ignored Fry’s greeting. “Leela, what did Rebecca have to say?” he asked in an almost pleading tone.

“She said she will go out with you…”

Bender let out a whoop and began to dance around, “Go Bender…Go Bender…”

Startled, both Leela and Fry laughed at Bender’s antics.

“Hold on there Romeo!” Leela held up her hand, “She said she would go out with you to a public place. And if you step out of line that is it.”

Bender calmed down. Again he startled both Fry and Leela by starting to cry, “Thank you Leela! I’ve been so lonely since Fry moved out. He seems so happy with you that I can’t help but want something like that for myself.”

Leela stood and draped her arm around the weeping robot, “Hey, hey…don’t cry Bender. If you behave yourself, I’m sure that everything will turn out.”

“Do you really think so?”

Fry sprang up from the couch, “Leela knows what’s she’s talking about, Bender.” He stepped up and put his arm around Leela, “She’s the smartest person I know.”

Bender stopped crying, “I’ll call Rebecca right now.”

Leela shook her head, “She’s out with Sally visiting the Orphanarium. Sally wanted Rebecca to meet all of her friends.”

“Then I’ll call her tonight after work.”

Leela nodded, “Try her after six.”

“Okay.”

“Good morning people!” Hermes called cheerfully as he entered the room. He was unusually cheerful since they had landed the turbidium hauling contract. Since Planet Express now had two ships and almost five times their former revenue it put him in line for a promotion. He also had lots of paperwork to do, something that always filled his bureaucratic heart with joy.

“You seem happy,” Leela noted.

“Yes, we have lots of work and the money is pouring in.”

Just then the Professor entered, “Good news everyone! Today you’ll be going to Marley 8.”

“Marley 8?” Leela reflected, “Well, at least it’s a short trip.”

“What’s the delivery?” Fry asked.

“Oh my, it’s Ajnag fiber.”

Fry looked puzzled, “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s nothing illegal on their planet.” The Professor waved his hands dismissively, “Now stop questioning me and be on your way.” He turned on his heel and headed out of the room. Just as he left he half turned and said, “Have a good trip!” Then he was gone.

Fry, Leela, and Bender exchanged puzzled glances. Then Bender spoke up, “Well, we may as well get going! Old Bender has to get home for a hot date tonight!”

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, July 10, 3004, 1900 (7:00 p.m.)

Leela sat down in the recliner, pulled her boots off and swung the recliner back. Fry flopped onto the couch next to Sally, who was watching the Q.T. McWhiskers show. Fry thought about changing the channel, but when he saw how enraptured Sally was by the antics of the cute and cuddly cast, he decided to look at Leela instead.

She looked tired. “No wonder,” he thought. The trip to Marley 8 had been uneventful. Once they landed at the Rastaman Commercial Spaceport, all heck broke loose.

A gang of local toughs had tried to steal their cargo. Since they were unarmed, Leela had treated them to a bit of Arcturan Kung-Fu. He and Bender had grabbed a couple of blernsball bats they kept in a storage locker and waded into the goons as well.

In a matter of a few seconds it was over. Four of the toughs lay unconscious and four others – badly bruised – ran for the hills.

No sooner had they put away the bats than the Marley 8 customs inspectors arrived. They decided to inspect the Pathfinder from stem-to-stern. The inspection turned what had promised to be a short haul into a long day trip.

On the return, they had to dodge an unexpected meteor shower. Fortunately, Leela’s piloting skills were up to the challenge. But they still took a few dents, which Leela and he jack hammered out on their return.

Bender had flown the coop as soon as they landed. Leela had let him go without a word, knowing that his desire to see Rebecca would have made him even more useless than usual.

When they got home, Rebecca had dinner all laid out for them. It had been a pleasant meal, enlivened by Sally’s animated descriptions of her day visiting the Orphanarium.

Bender arrived at 6:30 p.m. to take Rebecca out for a Mocha Latte. He was sparkling clean, having just gone through the bot-wash. Both Fry and Leela had thought it funny to see how nervous he was in Rebecca’s presence.

Now they were in the Living Room, relaxing as a family. “Good old TV,” thought Fry, “it’s what brings us together.”

Fry glanced at Leela. She was rubbing her feet with a pained expression on her face.

“Leela, are you OK?”

“My feet hurt.”

Fry stood up, walked over to the recliner, and knelt at Leela’s feet. “Sit back,” he said in an authoritative voice.

Leela leaned back, uncertain of what was coming. She was startled when Fry took her right foot in his hands and began to massage it firmly but gently.

“Fry,” she protested, “I have boot feet! I know how that grosses you out.”

Fry simply smiled in return.

Leela closed her eye. She said in a low voice, “Thanks Fry.” She paused for a moment and asked with her eye still closed, “Why did I wait so long to marry you?”

Fry chuckled, “Just waiting for me to grow up, Leela.”

She opened her eye, fixing her gaze on Fry, “You never cease to amaze me. I don’t know why I ever thought you were dumb.”

“Well, maybe it was because I did dumb things. Heck, Leela, you had to pull me out of quite a few scrapes.” He smiled, “I’m just glad we’re together.”

“Me too,” Sally chimed in.

Both Fry and Leela were slightly startled by Sally’s voice. They had almost forgotten she was there. Leela smiled broadly at Sally, “We’re especially glad to have you, Sally.”

Fry nodded in agreement as he switched his attention to Leela’s other foot, tenderly massaging it.

“Oh, that feels so good.”

There was a brief silence, a silence of unspoken – but well understood – shared feelings and emotions. Leela broke it with a sigh, “I wonder how Bender is doing on his date?”

Fry shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know.”

Sally raised her hand, “I know Mommy!”

“You do?”

“Yes, ma’am,” She paused for a second as she lowered her hand, “Miss Rebecca said that Mr. Bender was going to behave himself or she would slap the head off his shoulders.”

Fry snorted and Leela hid her laugh behind her hand, “Is that what she said, Sweetie?”

“Uh-huh.”

Leela’s face brightened as she thought of something, “Guess where we’re going for the weekend?”

Sally looked puzzled as she ventured, “The zoo?”

“No, we’re going to the Oaks to see Grandpa J.B. marry Grandma Flora.”

Sally startled both Fry and Leela when she leaped to her feet. Sally began to bounce up and down in place while chanting, “Oh boy…oh boy! I’m going to see Uncle Varney and Uncle Taz and Pompey and Prometheus and my Pony and climb the tree out back and…”

Sally rattled on for a full minute before he ran out of steam. Fry smiled, “That’s a lot to do in one weekend, Pumpkin.”

“I know, Daddy but Uncle Taz says ‘He who dares wins.’”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Sally looked thoughtful, “I think it means that if you don’t try you’ll never get anything done.”

While they were digesting that comment, the Front Door whooshed open. Rebecca stepped through, then turned and said, “Good night Bender, thank you for the Mocha Latte.”

Although they could not see Bender, they could hear his voice from the hallway, “Will you be available for a date this weekend?”

“No, I am going to the Kershaw wedding.”

The sound of Bender slapping his metallic forehead rang from the hallway, “The wedding! I’m on the guest list as well.”

Rebecca smiled, “Then I guess I will see you there.” Before Bender could lean forward to try to snatch a kiss, Rebecca slid the door shut.

Leela called out, “So how did it go?”

Rebecca smiled enigmatically, “It was within acceptable parameters.” Then without a further word she walked over to her closet, opened the door, and disappeared inside.

In front of 100 East 123rd Street, July 13, 3004, 1500 (6:00 p.m.)

Leela, Sally, Morris, Munda, and Rebecca stood on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building. A small pile of bags of various sizes was piled beside them. The sidewalk had it’s share of foot traffic. Hovercars and taxis crowded the street as well.

Leela glanced at her Wristamajigy. Fry and Bender were five minutes late and she was beginning to worry. Fry wasn’t one of the world’s best drivers but he had insisted that he go get the rental van.

At first she had wanted to go herself to make sure the van got there in one piece. Leela had caved in to Fry when he gave his very best grin and said, “Please, Leela it’s important.”

“OK,” she had said, “But please be careful. New-New York traffic is crazy.”

Lost in thought, she didn’t immediately notice the van pull up to the curb and stop. Fry’s voice startled her slightly, “Hey baby! Need a ride?”

The sight that met her eye caused Leela to blurt out, “My God Fry! I thought you gave that old clunker to the Museum!” Fry was driving the old van they had used to follow Bender across the country when he was playing washboard for Beck.

Fry shook his head, “Nope. I got it converted into a hovervan.”

Bender, who was riding shotgun chimed in, “I hooked Fry up with a mechanic friend of mine. It was a lot cheaper than buying a new van.”

Before Leela had a chance to respond, Bender hopped out of the van and slid the side door open. He bowed in Rebecca’s direction, “Ladies and Gentlemen, all aboard for Charleston!”

“Hold on Bender. Let’s load the bags into the van first,” Leela said dryly.

“Oh right, Big Boots I forgot you don’t have a chest cavity.”

Fry got out of the driver’s seat, walking around to the curbside. He smiled as he pointed to the roof, “Check it out, Leela. I even got a luggage carrier.” Reaching up, Fry popped the shell open.

“Very impressive,” Leela said, “I knew there was a reason that I married you.”

Fry laughed as he began to pick up bags and toss them into the shell. Leela and Morris joined in and helped. Within a few moments Fry closed the shell. He dusted off his hands, “Well, that seems to be it.”

“Have we forgotten anything”” Leela asked with a pensive look on her face.

Sally spoke up, “I have the list you made up Mommy.” She stepped forward, “Do you want to check it?”

Leela knelt down, “Sure Sweetie, I’m so glad you remembered to bring it.”

Sally blushed with pride as her mother took the list. She watched Leela’s face intently as her eye passed over the list. When Leela looked up, she smiled at Sally, “Well, it looks like we’ve got everything.” Leela gave Sally a big hug, “Thanks, Sweetie. I would have worried all the way to Charleston.”

As she stood up, Leela saw that Fry was standing by the front passenger door, holding it open. Bender and Rebecca were sitting in the back, while Morris and Munda were seated on the middle bench seat with a space in between them.

Fry asked, “Do you want me to drive?”

She hesitated for a moment, “Well…I don’t know…” Fry’s face fell. Then she recovered, “Well, I am a little tired.”

Fry smiled, “I’ve been practicing, Leela. You’ll really enjoy the ride.”

Leela motioned to Sally, who climbed in between Munda and Morris. Then Leela climbed into the front passenger seat. Fry closed the door, then walked around to the driver’s side, and got in.

Fry put the van into gear and pulled out into traffic. From the rear of the van Bender called out, “And they’re off!”

Aboard the Nimbus, Low Earth Orbit, July 13, 3004, 1530 (3:30 p.m.)

Zapp Brannigan stood motionless on the Observation Deck, his arms crossed over his chest. A smirk was plastered across his face as his eyes were riveted on the Earth below. He had been standing there for several hours, contemplating how to get his revenge on the whole mutant-lover crowd.

The key was the stupidly susceptible Councilwoman Glab, Zapp had decided. He knew that she had a “thing” for him. Why else would she insist that the Council buy off on his ridiculous stories? Why else would she conduct a sham of a trial when he destroyed the new DOOP Headquarters? Why else would she pardon him? Why else had she called him “Smizmar?”

Yes, Glab had a secret Smizmar…Zapp Brannigan.

The birthing ceremony had been disgusting, just as he recalled from being present for Kif’s birthing. But once Glab had delivered her babies…or tadpoles…or whatever you wanted to call them, she was bound to him for life.

Then the thought struck him. DOOP Day was approaching! It would be a simple matter for him to persuade Councilwoman Glab to bring all of the mutant-loving “heroes” together for reception and ceremony. It would be at the old headquarters in Weehawken, NJ.

Perfect!

The entire area beneath the old Headquarters was a labyrinth of tunnels. An entire truckload of explosives could be packed beneath the building and no one would be the wiser.

Of course, he would ensure that Lieutenant Kif Kroker would regrettably get an assignment to act as a courier to Canus 9. That would keep him out of the way. Imagine those fools, thinking they could sneak a merged entity within striking range.

He could arrange for Glab to leave early, perhaps on the excuse of a headache. Then, while he escorted Glab home the explosives would detonate. Goodbye mutant-lovers. Goodbye Leela. You could have had me. You chose that pipsqueak Fry. So now, I sentence you to death.

Howeird Johnson’s, North Carolina Coast, July 13, 3004, 1630 (4:30 p.m.)

The hovervan glided to a stop in one of the parking spaces in front of the restaurant. The doors opened nearly simultaneously as everyone climbed out.

Munda took Sally by the hand as they exited, “Come on Sweetie. Let’s find the little girl’s room.”

Sally smiled brightly, “I know where it is, Grandma. We stopped here before when Ms Wong first took us to the Oaks.” She pointed at a claw machine in a corner, “There’s where Miss Amy won me a bunch of stuffed animals. She’s really good at it.”

Munda smiled as she led Sally off.

Leela slipped her right arm around Fry’s shoulder as he walked up next to her.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Fry asked.

Leela thought for a second before answering, “No. It wasn’t that bad.”

Fry knew that Leela was making an extra effort to be polite. Piloting a vehicle at speeds of over 500 miles an hour was not among Fry’s strong points. He had nearly crashed into other vehicles twice in the hour’s drive from New-New York to where they had stopped.

He looked at Leela, “Thanks honey. Do you want to drive the rest of the way?”

She blinked in surprise. Fry was really highly learning to read her! Touched by the need to support Fry’s progress, she shook her head, “No. I think you are doing fine.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she nodded her head, “you really are learning. I keep forgetting your automocars didn’t go nearly as fast back in the Stupid Ages.”

Fry nodded, “Yeah, the fastest I ever drove before was ninety miles an hour on the New Jersey Turnpike. I wound up with a $200 ticket!”

Everyone else had preceded them into the restaurant. It only took a short time for everyone to order, be served, and consume their meals. Within thirty minutes, they were back in the van, ready to go.

The van backed out of the parking space without a problem. Then Fry tried to put it into gear. The hovervan lurched forward, jerked a few times, and the engine died.

Fry looked embarrassed as he muttered, “Oh snap!”

He placed the gears into neutral, started the engine, and tried to engage the forward gears again. There was a grinding sound, some more herky-jerky motion, and the engine died again.

Leela spoke softly, “Fry, I think it’s going straight into a higher gear. That’s why all the jerking is taking place.”

Fry exhaled in frustration, “How do we fix it?”

Her brow knitted in concentration for a moment. Before Leela could answer, Morris spoke up, “We have to push it to where we can engage third gear without the engine conking out.”

Bender, anxious to impress Rebecca, immediately volunteered. He said in his usual sarcastic voice, “Okay fleshwads I can handle this. Just let me get out and push.”

Morris asked, “You sure you don’t need help?”

“Help?” he said dismissively, “My middle name is help!”

“I thought it was Bending,” Sally volunteered.

“Whatever.”

Bender got out of the van. Conscious that Rebecca was actually watching, he made a great show of warming up.

After five minutes, Leela finally had enough. She leaned out of the window and called, “Bender, do you think you’ll be ready some time tonight?”

“Just finishing up!”

Having milked all of the attention he could out of getting ready, Bender leaned forward and began to push. The van slowly gained speed. At around 10 miles per hour, the clutch caught, the engine roared to life, and the van lurched forward.

Bender wasn’t prepared, and he tumbled head-over-heels.

Rebecca called out involuntarily, “Bender!”

Bender regained his feet and ran after the van. When it became obvious he was being left behind, Bender extended his arms. He caught the van and pulled himself inside. He smiled triumphantly as he said, “You can’t get rid of old Bender that easily!”

The Oaks, Charleston, SC, July 15, 3004, 0400 (4 a.m.)

Morris rocked back and forth in the old rocking chair. The rhythmic creaking formed an almost musical counterpoise to the chirping of the crickets. Morris wore a fishing vest. At his right side sat a fishing rod and a tackle box. On his left side were the two Irish Wolfhounds Pompey and Prometheus.

It was dark on the porch, with only the light of a single bulb illuminating the darkness. On Morris’ lap Sally lay curled in a ball, obviously fast asleep. The smile that flickered across her face showed that she was savoring the idea a day’s fishing with Varney and her Grandpa.

He smiled as he thought of the wedding the day before. He wasn’t much on fancy dress affairs, but he had enjoyed the elegant simplicity of it all. They had held the wedding at a gazebo at the rear of the mansion. The weather had cooperated, blue skies just dappled with a few fleecy clouds.

The guests had cooperated, too. Everyone on the list had shown up. The cream of Charleston Society was there, as well as most of Flora’s family. The entire crew from the Planet Express had showed up as well. No one got drunk …well, at least no one was drunk and disorderly.

When he thought about it, Morris believed that Fry and Leela had set a trend. Who would have thought a year ago that Mutants and Normals would marry? Yet Fry and Leela as well as J.B. and Flora were now married. Soon Lip and Judy would tie the knot. What was next?

He looked out into the darkness. So much had changed. Mutants could now walk the surface world again after almost eight hundred years of discrimination. Who would have believed it possible? Yet, here he was, sitting on the porch of one of the grandest mansions in Charleston getting ready to fish at a private lake with an in-law…an in-law who was a Normal.

Sally muttered in her sleep, her hands twitching slightly. Morris looked at her face with something approaching awe. “Who would have thought I would be a grandfather?” he murmured. He bent forward and kissed Sally on her middle ear. He watched her for a moment. Satisfied that she was still asleep, he resumed his reverie.

Yes, change was in the air, he decided.

Just then, Varney stepped onto the porch, easing the door closed behind him. Varney glanced at Sally’s recumbent form. He whispered, “Is she sound asleep?”

Morris nodded, not wanting to wake her.

Varney spoke quietly, “I’ll get her from your lap.” That said, Varney leaned forward and scooped Sally up in his arms. She continued to sleep that deep sleep of those with an easy conscience. As soon as Varney had her in his arms, both Pompey and Prometheus stood. Morris eased himself out of the rocking chair as well.

“She’s a sweetheart,” Varney whispered with affection in his voice.

Morris nodded vigorously in reply.

“Well, let’s load up.” Varney pointed toward the hover-pickup parked nearby, “We’ve got to catch those fish before we can eat ‘em.”

“That’s so true.” Morris said quietly with a smile.

They walked over to the hover-pickup. Morris loaded the tackle and rods into the bed of the truck, while Varney stood by patiently holding Sally. Pompey and Prometheus leaped effortlessly into the bed of the truck as soon as the gear was in place.

Morris opened the passenger door and slid into his seat. As soon as Morris belted himself in, Varney placed Sally gently into Morris’ lap. With a few quick steps, Varney put himself behind the wheel of the hover-pickup. He looked at Morris, “Ready to catch a few big old mudcats?”

“You bet.” Morris replied.

It was a short drive to the lake. Varney pointed to a 16 foot bass boat, “That’s our skiff. I’ll load ‘er up. Then you can wake Sally, OK?”

“Sure.”

Varney loaded the skiff quickly. He walked back to the hover-pickup carrying several life jackets. “Well, Morris it’s time to wake our little flower up.”

Morris kissed her cheek gently, “Time to get up sweetie. We’re at the lake.”

Sally’s eyes fluttered briefly before staying open. She sat upright, “Are we really going fishing?”

Varney laughed, “We surely are, but not until we all put on our life jackets.”

Sally hopped down from Morris’ lap. With a deftness that surprised both men, Sally slipped into the life jacket. Morris said teasingly, “Wow, could you show me how to do that?”

Sally put both hands on her hips in a pretty good Leela imitation, “Now Grandpa…you are a grown-up! You know how to put one of these on.”

Both men laughed heartily as Morris held his hands up in mock surrender, “You got me, pumpkin. I confess.”

After Morris and Varney donned their life jackets, the three of them walked down the short wooden dock toward the skiff. Pompey and Prometheus followed suit, their toenails clicking rhythmically on the boards. When they were almost to the skiff, Sally whirled around with a look of near panic on her face, “Oh no! Where are the boys’ life jackets?”

Varney looked perplexed for a brief second before he answered, “Honey, both of them are real good swimmers.”

Sally looked and sounded concerned, “But I’m a good swimmer and you are both grown-ups.” Sally frowned as she crossed her arms in a Leela-like manner, “The boys need life jackets too.”

No amount of argument would budge her from her stand. Finally, Morris managed to fit both Pompey and Prometheus with a life vest. Satisfied, Sally gave both Morris and Varney a huge hug and a kiss, “Thank you so much. I was so worried.”

Varney looked at his Wristamajigy, “Well, we’d better get going or we’ll not catch any mudcats. They’re early feeders you know.”

With that said, they climbed into the skiff and headed out onto the lake.

Tilghman’s Lake, The Oaks, Charleston, SC, July 15, 3004, 0800 (8 a.m.)

The heat of the morning sun had driven them into the shade of an overhanging willow tree perched on the Eastern bank near the lake shore. Their fishing had gone well, with mudcat after mudcat finding their way onto their tag line.

Sally has turned out to have a knack for fishing. In the space of an hour she had caught four respectable sized fish. It tickled Varney that she was able to keep both hands on the rod while holding the net with her tail.

“That’s a pretty neat trick,” Varney had said.

Sally blushed, “Oh…I don’t usually…I mean…most people think I’m a freak.”

Varney smiled, “I wish I had a tail.”

“Really?”

“Sure, it would come in handy.”

“How do you know where to throw your line?”

“Oh, that’s easy, I just listen for the fish.”

“You listen for the fish?”

Sally shrugged, “I just have to concentrate and I hear them swimming around.”

Varney shook his head in disbelief, “I sure wish I could do that.”

Sally flashed Varney a smile before turning her attention back to her fishing.

Morris shifted slightly in the skiff, moving closer to Varney before he spoke in a low voice, “She’s quite the fisherwoman, eh?”

Varney nodded, “That is a fact, I’ve never seen such concentration in a child her age. I wonder where she gets it from?”

Morris tapped his own chest with his right index finger, “Me.”

Varney gave a slight laugh, “Really? She isn’t directly related to you, is she?”

Morris shook his head, “No, she isn’t but she gets the spirit from me.”

“How?”

“My ancestors were Maori from the Turanga Clan. We know that a spirit can pass between members of a family, even those who are adopted.”

It took Varney a moment to digest this bit of information, “Maori tribesmen? Do you mean like the New Zealand Maoris?”

“The same.”

“Well pardon me for asking, but how did you wind up as a mutant in New-New York’s sewers? Kind of far from home, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know all of the details, but one of my ancestors was on a tour of New-New York when the Omicronians attacked the city. His name was Turanga Iti. He took to the sewers where he eventually married a lady named Margaret and founded the Turanga family.”

Varney shook his head, “That is almost unbelievable.”

Morris smiled, “It’s all true. That’s why I put my family name first, rather than my given name.”

“Huh.”

“Yes, but tell me. I’m curious. Where did you get a name like Varney?”

Varney’s lips pursed in a tight grin before he answered, “My real name is Richard Varner Kershaw. Like many Southern families, our middle names are family names. It sort of acts as a verbal family tree.”

“So your brother Taz?”

“His full name is Charles Tazewell Kershaw.”

“Huh.”

Both men lapsed into silence. Sally let out a whoop, “I got another one!”

Varney asked, “Do you need any help?”

Sally grinned as she grabbed the net with her tail, “Nope. I’ll have him on the tag line in just a minute.”

True to her word, Sally reeled the fish in, netted him, pulled him from the hook, and placed him on the tag line without any help. Her triumphant, ear-to-ear grin showed she was having the time of her life.

Without a word, she baited her hook, tossed the line into the water, and resumed her silent vigil.

Morris regarded Varney for a moment. He had come to like Varney a great deal in the short time they had known each other. Varney had an openness that made liking him easy.

“So tell me, Varney, what do you do for a living?”

Varney stifled a laugh, “Sit on my behind mostly.”

“Seriously.”

“Well, I spent eight years learning to be an exoarchaeologist. Then I spent the better part of fifty years doing it”

“Really?”

“Yup. Unlike my father and brothers, I never found the law very interesting.”

Sally gave a squeal of delight as she hooked another mudcat. Both men watched as she went through her routine before casting out her line once more.

Morris grinned proudly, “I think she might just empty this lake.”

Varney shook his head, “I doubt it, but she’ll put a dent in the mudcat population.”

Morris returned to the earlier conversation, “So what made you interested in exoarchaeology?”

Varney laughed, “Digging for treasure, I think. One of my ancestors was the great Space Pirate, Yellowbeard. I never had the itch to be a pirate but I liked the idea of looking for treasure.”

Sally turned around on the seat, her attention wrenched away from fish and fishing, “Your ancestor was a space pirate? That is so cool!”

Varney nodded, “He’s your ancestor too, you know.”

“That is so cool!”

Morris spoke up, “Speaking of cool, I’d sure like to get into a nice cool sewer right now. How do you Normals stand this heat?”

“OK,” Varney said, “I can take a hint.” He turned to Sally, “So how’d you like to go get a pop and hear about your ancestor, the ferocious Space Pirate Yellowbeard.”

“Could we?” she squealed in delight.

“We can and we will.”

Within the twinkling of an eye, they were on their way to the local diner for a late morning soda and a lot of tall tales. Later in her life Sally would often say, “Little did I realize that my Uncle Varney would plant a seed that day that would change my life forever.”

The Oaks, Charleston, SC, July 16, 3004, 0800 (8 a.m.)

Varney was the last to arrive for breakfast. Fry, Leela, Sally, Morris, Munda, Bender, Rebecca, and Taz were already at the table. As Varney sat down, he smiled, “Sorry if I made anyone wait. I just couldn’t get going this morning.”

Taz shook his head, “No problem little brother.” He turned slightly in his chair to face Zeeves, “Please serve breakfast now.”

Zeeves replied, “Very good, sir.” Within moments, Zeeves set the table, finishing by carefully placing an ornate soup tureen full of mineral oil between Bender and Rebecca. The dishes quickly made the rounds.

Morris proudly pointed at the plate full of fish as it circled the table, “Sally caught these, you know.”

Fry pretended to be surprised, “Wow! Really?”

Sally broke into an ear-to-ear-to-ear grin, “I didn’t catch all of them. Grandpa Morris and Uncle Varney helped.”

Laughing, Varney said, “Morris and I each caught two fish each. She wound up putting twenty on the tag line before I lured her away with stories of Pirate Treasure.”

Bender, who had been looking at Rebecca, turned so violently at the mention of the words “Pirate Treasure” that he nearly fell to the floor. “P-P-Pirate Treasure,” he stammered, “are you sure?”

Sally solemnly replied, “Oh yes, Uncle Bender. It’s the treasure of my ancestor – the great Pirate Captain” she dropped her voice almost to a whisper, “Yellowbeard.”

“Really?”

Shaking her head, Sally continued, “Yes. And Uncle Varney used to dig stuff up all the time. Next summer, we’re going to look for it.”

“Count me in too.”

An amused look crossed Rebecca’s face. She said gently, “Bender, you weren’t invited.”

“Oh, sorry,” He looked crestfallen.

“That’s OK Uncle Bender; you can come if you want.”

Bender said, “It’s a deal!”

“It’s a shame we have to go back to New-New York,” Munda said with a touch of sadness in her voice. “I really like it here. It’s so…peaceful.”

Bowing in Munda’s direction in his seat, Varney replied, “Madame, you and your delightful husband are welcome to come and visit at any time.”

To the surprise of everyone at the table, silent tears began to flow from Munda’s eye. Everyone sat in stunned silence for a moment before a visibly shaken Varney found his voice, Munda, I apologize if I have in any way offended you.”

Munda shook her head, “I’m sorry.” She smiled, “Just a short while ago, I couldn’t even come on the surface legally. Now, I’m welcomed in a Normal home.”

“You are more than welcome.” Taz added, “You are family.”

“Thank you,” Munda said quietly. “That means a lot to Morris and me.”

There was a brief lag in conversation. Then Leela looked toward Taz, “Are all the Kershaw brothers coming to the DOOP Day celebrations in New-New York this Friday? We could show you around our part of town.”

Taz shook his head, “Unfortunately, both Varney and I have a prior commitment here in Charleston.” He paused for a moment, “But I understand that J.B. and Flora will swing through New-New York on their honeymoon trip to attend the festivities, including the State Dinner at the Ritz Carleton.”

Fry paused in his headlong destruction of the plate of food in front of him to add, “Leela, Sally and I will be going, too. We are going as guests of Councilwoman Glab. It should be a real blast.”

New-New York Police Department Headquarters’, Commissioner’s Office, New-New York, July 17, 3004, 0200 (2 a.m.)

The lights in the office flickered briefly just as the digital clock on Ramon’s desk displayed “0200”. “Right on time,” Ramon thought.

Peering into the darkness, Ramon saw the familiar form of The Red Shadow. Ramon cleared his throat, “So, Amigo you are right on time. Don’t you ever sleep?”

The Red Shadow laughed as he settled into the armchair facing Ramon, “Seems I sleep less and less lately. What’s the word?”

“You know Captain Shanon LeBlanc, don’t you?”

“Froggy?”

“Yes.”

“We’ve not met directly. I know she considers me a menace.”

“Well, in spite of that particular error, she’s one heck of a cop.”

“Okay.”

Ramon paused for a moment to pour himself a tumbler of Scotch, “You want a drink?”

“Is the news that bad?”

“No, not at all.” Ramon smiled, “Froggy has been working with M-5438. They believe Brannigan is going to try some sort of grandstand play during the DOOP Day celebrations.”

“Why?”

“Well, some really odd things have happened. For example, Fry and his family have been invited to a State Dinner at the Ritz Carleton this Friday.”

Although he knew that and had found it odd, The Red Shadow only uttered a noncommittal, “Really?”

“Really. It just doesn’t add up, Amigo.” Ramon paused, “Other than J.B. and Flora Kershaw they are the only private citizens invited. Don’t you find that odd?”

The Red Shadow shifted slightly in his chair before responding, “Yes, I do. Is there anything else?”

“Yes. They were originally going to hold the State Dinner at the old DOOP Headquarters in Weehawken, NJ.”

“Were?”

“Yes, we persuaded them to move it to New-New York for ‘convenience’ sake.”

“Excellent.”

“I’m sending M-5438 in with Fry. Will you be there to back him up?”

“Absolutely.”

Ramon smiled broadly, “I’ll drink to that!”

The Planet Express Conference Room, July 18, 3004, 0730 (7:30 a.m.)

The conference room was crowded to capacity. This was one of those rare mornings when the crews of the Pathfinder and the Resilient were present at the same time. The meeting was scheduled for 0800, but everyone had shown up early to chat. Oddly enough, even Bender had shown up early.

When Bender entered, Fry had leaned over and whispered to Leela, “I’m worried about Bender. He’s been early or on time ever since we got back from Charleston.”

With a smile, Leela whispered back, “Well, it has only been two days in a row.”

Before Fry could reply, Bender sat down next to Fry, “Isn’t it a lovely morning?”

“Bender,” Fry asked, “You haven’t found religion again, have you?”

“Religion? No, no…I just feel good.”

With a sly smile Leela asked, “Would this have anything to do with Rebecca?”

“Yes. It has everything to do with her. Because of her, I’ve found lines of code in my programming and subroutines I never knew existed.”

“Really?”

“Yup. I wanted you all to know first.” He paused dramatically, “We’re going to merge our programming.”

Fry looked alarmed, “Are you sure you want to do that, old buddy? Remember the time you almost merged with the Pathfinder?”

“Fry,” Leela said in a somewhat sharp tone, “That was a completely different case. I think that we should congratulate Bender.”

“OK Leela…congratulations Bender.”

Sarah leaned over, “I couldn’t help overhearing, congratulations Bender.”

“Thanks.”

Leela turned slightly in her seat to face Sarah, “So how have things been?”

“No worries. We’ve been on that bloody turbidium haul once a week.”

“How’s James?”

A cloud seemed to pass across Sarah’s face, “He’s doing well.”

Intuitively, Leela knew enough not to press the subject, “So how is everyone else in your crew?”

“Let’s see. XT has met a young lady named Jasmine Hamza, the daughter of the famous surgeon Tarek Hamza.”

“He the surgeon that saved Fry’s life!”

“I believe it’s the same bloke.”

“How’d they meet?”

“I’m not certain. XT is a private sort of fellow you know.”

Leela nodded, “So how about Brad?”

“He and Katrina are thick as thieves. I shouldn’t be surprised if they announced an engagement soon.”

“Really?”

“Fair dinkum.”

Leela smiled. Although Sarah had lost much of her accent, she still peppered her speech with Australian expressions, “So how about CosmicF?”

“Lord, he and that Chenxi Wong are like a pair of roos.”

“Do you think they’ll get married?”

Sarah shrugged, “If they ever come up for air, I suppose.”

“How about Chelsea and Caitlyn?”

“They’re well enough. They’ve given notice, so Brad will have to pick two new fighter pilots.”

Leela nodded. Before they could continue their conversation, Hermes and the Professor entered the room. The Professor was grinning, “Good news everyone! Both crews will be hauling turbidium this next trip.”

“Now there’s a thought,” Sarah said.

“And how,” Leela replied.

100 East 123rd Street, Apartment 5I, New-New York, July 20, 3004, 1800 (6 p.m.)

The turbidium haul had been routine. “I could get used to this,” Leela had thought. Of course, if they screwed up…boom!

Now Fry and Leela were in their apartment, preparing for the State Dinner. Fry was already dressed, wearing a black tuxedo with a red bow-tie. He sat in the living room, watching TV.

Leela was in their bathroom, putting on her makeup. She frowned as she removed her mascara for the second time. “I wish Amy was here to help me,” she thought, “I’m just no good at this make-up stuff.”

Rebecca was in Sally’s room, helping her dress. Sally liked the dress Rebecca selected. It was brand new, green, and had white lace ruffles around the neck and sleeves. “Miss Rebecca,” Sally said, “You don’t have to help me get dressed. I’m a big girl.”

“I know. But I like helping you dress. Is that OK?”

The thought that someone liked to help her dress made Sally feel important, “Yes ma’am.”

In the living room, the television flickered briefly. Fry became aware that someone was standing near the armchair. At first he thought it was Rebecca. Then he realized it was the Red Shadow.

Startled, Fry rose to his feet, “What’s up?”

“I’m here to ask you to host M-5438 now. Zapp Brannigan will be at the State Dinner. As you know, we need to separate him from Z-6666. Because of your unique brainwave pattern, M-5438 is certain that you can get close to Brannigan without detection.”

“I agreed to do it and I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Excellent. Make an excuse to step outside the apartment for a moment before you leave for the dinner. M-5438 will be waiting.” With that, the Red Shadow vanished.

Leela came into the living room wearing a long, royal blue dress. She had a puzzled look on her face, “Who were you talking to, Fry?”

He hated lying to her, but he did not want her to worry. Fry shrugged, “It must have been the TV.”

She turned around, “Would you finish zipping me up?”

He stepped up, took the pull tab between his fingers and eased the zipper upwards, “I love you, Leela.”

She spun around and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, “I love you too, Phil.”

Ritz Carleton Hotel, New-New York, July 20, 3004, 1900 (7 p.m.)

The main ballroom of the Ritz Carleton was ablaze with light and packed with dignitaries from all over the DOOP. A small place had been left near the head table for dancing after dinner. Otherwise, every square foot was packed with round tables. Fry, Leela, Sally, J.B. and Flora were seated at the same table with three diplomats from Amphibios 9.

Fortunately,” Leela thought, “at least our table is near the fire exit. I’d hate to get stuck trying to get out of here in an emergency.”

They could easily see the head table from their seats. Leela felt slightly sick to her stomach when she saw Zapp Brannigan enter the room at Councilwoman Glab’s elbow. He was wearing his dress white uniform and she was wearing a white dress. All Leela could think was, “What a mismatched pair.”

Inside Fry’s mind, he and M-5438 were having a conversation.

In his usual vaguely whiny voice, M-5438 said, “As soon as Zapp is close to you, reach out and touch him on bare flesh. I’ll do the rest.”

Fry replied with some irritation, “I know. I’m not an idiot.”

“I don’t consider you an idiot. It’s just that I’ve been chasing Z-6666 across five galaxies. He’s caused the death of millions.”

“OK…OK…I’ll touch his skin at the first opportunity.”

Fry became aware that Leela had spoken to him, “I’m sorry, Leela. I was daydreaming. What did you say?”

I said, “Do you want to dance once we finish dinner?”

“Sure.”

The dinner passed pleasantly. One of the Amphibian diplomats, a male named Kef, had a seemingly inexhaustible store of jokes and funny stories. By the time the dessert arrived, everyone was relaxed, even Fry.

Councilwoman Glab rose and gave her standard DOOP Day speech. It wasn’t bad as such speeches go. Still, everyone was glad when she announced, “Now, I invite you all to enjoy yourselves for the rest of the evening. We’ve got an excellent dance band and lots of good booze. So let’s party!”

As the band took its place, Zapp led Glab onto the dance floor. As custom dictated, the first dance belonged to them. Fry looked at Leela and saw a look of revulsion on her face. He could guess her thoughts.

Once the song concluded, Glab returned to the head table. Zapp walked straight up to Fry and Leela’s table. He grinned maliciously, “So, how are you enjoying the evening?”

Fry stood and returned Zapp’s smile. Fry extended his hand, “Damn fine evening. Let me shake your hand.”

Reflexively, Zapp extended his hand. Fry grabbed Zapp’s hand, and then used his other hand to deftly pull Zapp’s sleeve up. Fry gripped Zapp’s arm, flesh-on-flesh.

Both men were briefly engulfed in a flash of greenish light. Zapp staggered back, briefly stunned by his forcible separation from Z-6666.

A murmur arose as M-5438 and Z-6666 battled in the small cleared area in front of the head table. M-5438 shrieked, “NOW! Activate the containment field!”

The Red Shadow popped into view, pulled what looked like an ancient tripod-mounted camera from his cloak, placed it on the floor, and quickly pressed a series of buttons. In an instant, Z-6666 was surrounded by a reddish energy field.

Unfortunately, while all attention was fixed on the struggle between the two energy beings, Zapp recovered.

His union with Z-6666 had altered him. His evil side had become stronger while any good traits had weakened. Like a cornered rat, Zapp knew that he would be the next to receive attention from the cops who were already pouring through the doors.

He needed to escape and he needed a hostage. Zapp’s eyes fell on Sally…the perfect hostage. He picked her up, clapping his hand over her mouth to keep her quiet until he got through the door. It almost worked…except that Zapp forgot children have teeth.

Sally sunk teeth on Zapp, biting down as hard as she could. As he bellowed in pain, she struggled to get free. She also screamed, “Help! Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa!”

Her voice was silenced when Zapp struck her savagely, “Shut up you little brat.”

J.B., Leela, and Fry heard Sally’s cry. All three rushed toward Zapp, but he managed to get through the door and vanish from sight.

The Sewers, Beneath the Ritz-Carleton Hotel, July 20, 3004, 2100 (9 p.m.)

Leela reached the door first, followed by Fry and J.B. She had kicked off her shoes off to run faster, thinking, “Thank the Lord that this dress is slit up the side.”

The door sprung open, revealing a staircase that went both up and down. The three stood silently for a moment. Which way had Zapp gone?

Fry spotted it first, “Leela! There’s fresh blood on the steps going down!” Without another word, they plunged down step in headlong pursuit. They followed the blood trail down to the bottom of the stairs, where it led to an access panel to the sewers.

The cover was off the access panel. The distant sound of splashing footfalls led the pursuers into the sewers.

They ran for at least two blocks, following the sound of the splashing footfalls. Then, disaster struck! The sound of a rushing sewer drain drowned out the sound of the footfalls just as Leela, J.B., and Fry reached a three-way intersection.

J.B. took charge, “I’ll go to the right, Fry go up the middle and Leela take the left. Look for sign. Maybe we’ll see blood spoor or he’ll drop something.”

Wordlessly they took off down the dimly lit tunnels, scanning for sign.

It was J.B. who found Zapp and Sally. They were near a thirty foot wide roaring cataract of water that bisected the sewer tunnel. It was a channel for an underground river that ran strongly so close to where it disgorged into the East River.

Zapp was picking his way across a small maintenance footbridge. He was carrying Sally tucked under his arm like a package. Sally saw J.B. and shrieked, “Grandpa!”

J.B. roared, “Zapp Brannigan, stop in the name of the law!”

Safely on the other side, Zapp turned. Drawing a plasma pistol from beneath his tunic, he laughed wickedly, “Sorry, but I’ve no time for the law.” Then he fired two shots at the footbridge, dropping it into the rushing waters, where it was swept away.

Desperately trying to delay Brannigan, J.B. shouted above the roaring flood, “Don’t be stupid Brannigan. Let the girl go. I can get you off with a light sentence.”

“No,” Brannigan shrieked, “I will not be denied my revenge!” He threw his head back as he laughed demonically, “You want the brat? Fish for her!”

Holding her by the nape of her dress, Zapp dangled Sally over the roaring waters. She screamed in terror. At that moment, the Red Shadow popped into view a few feet from Zapp. Zapp released Sally, who began to fall toward certain death.

J.B. shouted an anguished, “No!”

As Sally fell toward the water, the Red Shadow dove to catch her. In a feat of superhuman agility and strength, he caught Sally and managed to toss her safely to the other side before he was engulfed and swept away by the raging waters.

Zapp howled with frustration, “You little brat, I’ll have my revenge yet! I’ll get all of you mutant freaks!” He raised his plasma pistol, pointing it right at Sally.

“Pick on somebody your own size, you fat slob,” J.B. shouted as he rushed forward, reaching for the derringer in his waistband. He had to close the distance to get a good shot.

Grinning evilly, Zapp shouted back, “OK!” The plasma pistol fired, striking J.B. directly in the chest, dropping him in his tracks.

Sally screamed, “Grandpa! No!” She rushed to where he lay on his back, his chest still smoldering from the impact of the plasma bolt. “Grandpa, please don’t die!”

Zapp laughed, sure of his triumph, “You’re next you little brat.”

J.B. was struggling for breath. He gasped out, “Use your derringer, Sally.”

Sally knew what J.B. meant. She remembered that he kept a derringer in his waistband. It was “her” gun…he was just holding it for her until she grew up.

She could see the butt of the small pistol protruding from J.B.’s cummerbund. She grabbed it and stood up with it at her side.

Zapp taunted her, “So what are you going to do little girl? Beg me for mercy? Come on, I want to hear you beg!”

Sally raised the pistol and took careful aim as she shouted, “No!” Before Zapp could react, the small pistol barked twice. Both bullets struck him squarely in the chest. One lacerated his aorta and the other severed his superior vena cava.

Incredulous, Zapp dropped his pistol and clawed at his chest. The spurting blood reddened his dress white tunic. Without a sound, Zapp fell first to his knees, then tumbled headfirst into the water.

Sally threw herself sobbing onto her J.B.’s chest. Between her sobs she said, “Grandpa, I got him. He won’t hurt us any more.”

J.B. reached up and stroked her hair. He wheezed, “There, there, it’s OK….” Then his body convulsed and he fell silent.

Sally didn’t know how long she sat there before she heard Fry’s voice, “Sally, are you OK?”

She looked up at Fry, with a look of anguished pleading on her tear-streaked face, “Daddy, help Grandpa! Please!”

Fry gazed at J.B’s still and silent form. The wound was worse than any he’d ever tried to treat. Knowing Sally needed comfort, Fry knelt down give her a quick hug, “I’ll try Pumpkin, I’ll try.” Then he went to work, desperately trying to save J.B.

Fairview Memorial Park, Charleston, SC, July 23, 0800 (8 a.m.)

A hard rain pelted the awning at the graveside. The thunderstorm had arisen from nowhere before the conclusion of the funeral service, as though the very sky was grieving.

On the front row facing the grave from left to right were Flora, Taz, Varney, Leela, Fry, Sally, Munda and Morris. All were red-eyed from weeping.

The rest of the Planet Express Crew and their significant others – The Professor, Cubert, Dr. Zoidberg, Hermes and LaBarbara, Amy and Kif, Sarah and James, Brad and Katrina, CosmicF and Chenxi, XT and Jasmine – were crowded beneath the awning.

A knot of close family – Kershaws, Varners, Tazewells, and Barnwells - was clustered at graveside as well, mostly sheltered beneath umbrellas.

The minister, Dr. James Newton, finished the service. He was soaked to the skin, but he had refused to allow the sudden thunderstorm to slow him down. Amid torrential rain and accompanied by peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, he had recited the funeral service from memory. When asked later why he hadn’t gotten out of the rain, he said, “I served in Kershaw’s Regiment in the war. He was the finest man and the best commander I ever knew. I owe him that much.”

The minister turned to Leela, “Mrs. Fry, I believe you have a tribute to pay.’

Leela stood, although she did not step out into the rain. Clad in black, she was the picture of quiet dignity in grief. She appeared to struggle to find her voice for a moment. Then, in a clear voice she said, “J.B. had a song he wanted me to sing. He made me promise to sing it at his funeral if he should ‘go home’ before I did.” She paused for a moment and breathed a silent prayer, “Lord, grant me the strength to get through this.”

The she sang in clear, lilting tones,

They say there's a place where dreams have all gone They never said where but I think I know It's miles through the night just over the dawn on the road that will take me home I know in my bones I've been here before The ground feels the same though the land's been torn I've a long way to go The stars tell me so on this road that will take me home Love waits for me 'round the bend Leads me endlessly on Surely sorrows shall find their end and all our troubles will be gone And I'll know what I've lost and all that I've won when the road finally takes me home And when I pass by don't lead me astray Don't try to stop me Don't stand in my way I'm bound for the hills where cool waters flow on this road that will take me home Love waits for me 'round the bend Leads me endlessly on Surely sorrows shall find their end and all our troubles will be gone And we'll know what we've lost and all that we've won when the road finally takes me home I'm going home I'm going home I'm going home

Just as Leela finished the song, the rain stopped abruptly. The clouds broke in the East, bathing the gravesite in bright morning sunlight.

Sally pointed to where the clouds had suddenly parted, “Look!”

Everyone looked. They saw a brilliant rainbow which lingered briefly before fading.

Flora lifted her veil. She turned to Leela with a smile on her tear-dampened face. She expressed the thought shared by many of those present, “It’s going to be alright. My Joseph is home.”

Leela started to sob.

Flora reached up and touched Leela’s cheek. She spoke softly, “There, there child, I know your heart is heavy with sorrow but know that my Joseph is at peace.”

“How can you say that?”

Flora smiled, “Joseph and I are both believers. I grieve that he is no longer here, but I rejoice that I will see him again.”

“I guess that is a comforting thought.”

“Indeed it is, Leela.” Flora lowered her veil, “I believe that you have many happy days ahead of you. Enjoy your life with your husband and your family. Do not become a prisoner to the past or the evil deeds of others.” Her tone became almost steely as she reached out and gripped Leela’s hand, “Promise me.”

Startled by the urgency in Flora’s voice, Leela replied fervently, “I will enjoy my life and I will not become a prisoner of the past. I swear it”


This ends Married with Children. There will be more to the Fry Family Chronicles…rest assured. I would like to thank all of those who have endured reading this labor of love. Futurama Forever!

Buddies