Darting forward, Gallows threw himself in front of Bender and took the bolt of plasma square in his casing. As the guitarist robot fell smoking to the ground, Bender leapt forward with a shout of rage and swung his right arm around, detaching it from his body at the apex of the swing so that it came loose and sailed through the air.
Before Gareth could squeeze off another shot, Bender’s disembodied arm hit him in the face and, operating autonomously, wrapped itself around his head. He screamed as the metal limb constricted like a python, crushing his nose and covering his eye. He dropped his gun and scrabbled frantically to get it off.
Something slammed him hard in the chest and he fell onto his back. The robot arm released him and he looked up to see Bender standing over him with rage glowing from his eyes. He reached down with his remaining arm and grabbed Gareth by the throat, hauling him up and lifting him into the air. The bearded criminal struggled and choked, his face turning beet red as impossibly-strong robotic claws clamped down on his windpipe. After a minute of frantic struggling, Gareth’s stilled, and Bender unceremoniously dropped the body in a limp heap at his feet.
He turned away from the dead man and hurried over to where Gallows lay with smoke still wafting from the charred hole in his chest.
“Get up, you stupid piece of junk!” Bender yelled, kneeling by the robot and shaking him. “Come on – get up!!”
Gallows was still; his optical sensors dim. Bender hung his head. The small child robot from the bar edged forward from the crowd and reverently picked up Bender’s right arm.
“Why’d you go and do a thing like that for?” Bender sobbed, still staring down at Gallows ruined body, but the dead robot had no answers for him. “What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you hear what he said? I’m a dumb, mean bastard.” He stood up shakily. “…and you don’t get yourself shot for a dumb bastard, you dumb bastard.”
He turned back to the crowd who were all staring at him in complete silence.
“And you people!” Bender shouted, pointing at them. “You really think someone’s just gonna drop gold on you? Gold that they could use themselves? There’s no people like that, not in the whole Universe – there’s only people like ME.”
After a moment, the small child robot approached him holding out his detached arm, offering it back to him. Bender snatched the arm out of the kid’s hands and reattached it. The child backed away, still looking at Bender with awe.
“Nobody helps anybody,” Bender said. “That’s the way of things. You just gotta help yourselves.” He turned around and looked at the statue. Without pausing he stepped up onto the plinth and planted his hands on the statue’s legs, putting his weight against it. Getting a firm footing beneath him he heaved at it, straining his servomotors. The metal of the Bender statue creaked and began to give way, before finally it cracked at the ankles and was dragged down by its own weight, crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust.
Bender stepped down from the now-empty plinth and moved to his friends. He looped an arm under Fry’s shoulder to help Leela move him, and together they made their way out, past the crowds of robots who watched them with silent unreadable faces.
The trek back to the ship was slow, and it was made without conversation; Bender lost in his own personal hell and the others unwilling to intrude. When they finally reached the PE ship’s and climbed the stairs, Bender disappeared into the cargo hold. Amy took a moment to pull off the camouflage netting before she too embarked.
“Lets get off this rock,” Fry mumbled, nursing his wounds.
“I’ll second that,” Leela replied.
“Where are they?” Zapp bellowed, hammering a fist into the arm of his chair. “Why haven’t they been brought in yet?”
The ensigns and officers had resumed their places on the bridge and looked uncomfortable in the presence of Brannigan’s rage. Kif walked in and took his place behind Zapp’s right shoulder.
One of the ensigns spun around in alarm.
“They’re leaving, Sir!” she said, looking alarmed. “The smuggler vessel is lifting off!”
“What the hell?!” Zapp leaned forward. “What happened to my strike team?”
“I called them off, sir,” Kif said calmly.
Zapp turned on him, his face red. “You WHAT!?”
Kif returned his glare serenely and said nothing.
“You traitorous little reptile!” Zapp spat. “I should tear that smug look off your damn face – how dare you defy me!?” He dismissed the alien with a wave of his hand and turned to the helmsman. “Take off – pursue them!” he said.
“No!” Kif shouted, and Zapp looked at him in amazement. “We’re not chasing them.”
The helmsman looked confused, glancing back and fourth between Zapp and Kif.
“I said take off and pursue!” Zapp all-but screamed, without taking his eyes off Kif. “I’m the Captain – you do as I command!”
The helmsman complied, and a deep reverberation filled the giant warship as it lifted slowly off the planet surface.
“Energize weapons!” Zapp shouted. “Blast them out of the sky! If I can’t have her, then she can burn!”
“But… you can’t do that!” Kif cried. The crew watched the battle of wills in breathless anticipation.
“I can do whatever I want! I’m a Starship Captain!”
As the Planet Express ship ascended through the strata of thick polluted atmosphere, a massive shape rose up behind it, closing the distance. The Nimbus broke through a cloud layer and grew into a massive wall that loomed behind the little green freighter.
Leela looked at the rear radar and cried out in alarm. “Oh no – it’s the Nimbus!” she said. “They’re on our tail!”
“Ohh, Chou wang ba dan!” Amy exclaimed, staring at her console. “They’re preparing to fire their weapons! Oh Kif… why…?”
“Hold on,” Leela said through gritted teeth. “This might get bumpy.”
“Open fire!” Zapp yelled, pointing at the little green ship on the forward viewscreen.
“Belay-that-order!” Kif countered, shouting louder than he’d ever shouted before. The bridge crew didn’t know what to do.
Zapp surged forward with insane eyes and slammed his fist into Kif’s stomach, causing him to double over with an explosion of expelled air.
“Don’t listen to this traitor!” Zapp snarled, spittle flying from his mouth. “Shoot them down – now! I’m in charge!”
“Not… anymore!” Kif wheezed, straightening with difficulty. “Captain… Zapp Brannigan – for attempting to destroy a civilian spacecraft… without warning or proper provocation… I am hereby relieving you of command.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I can… and am,” Kif said. “Like I should have a long time ago.” Kif pointed at the two soldiers stationed at the door. “Airmen, escort the Captain to the brig,” he said. The two soldiers happily complied, hurrying forward and placing the shocked Zapp in restraints.
“You filthy little worm…” Zapp said, incredulous, as he was led away. “I’ll see you hanged for this. YOU HEAR ME, KIF? HANGED!!”
Kif ignored the continued shouts as the soldiers pulled Zapp out of the bridge and away. He breathed out a long breath and rubbed his belly where the fist imprint was slowly fading.
“Break off pursuit,” he told the crew finally. “Weapons safe. Log the smuggling vessel as unidentified.”
The female ensign glanced at Kif questioningly. “But sir,” she said, “we have the ship’s registration code. We know who they are.”
Kif looked at her tiredly. “How would you like to become my new Officer in Charge of Shutting-the-Hell-Up?” he asked. The ensign took his meaning and nodded, registering the vessel as an unknown.
With some reluctance, Kif lowered himself into the command chair, wondering how long he would remain there. On the forward screen he watched the Planet Express ship continue off into orbit and then further into deep space. He sighed in relief.
“They’re falling back!” Leela exclaimed. “I don’t understand… they had us dead in their sights, now they’ve abandoned the pursuit.
“Oh Kiffy!!” Amy shrieked happily, jumping up and clapping her hands. “He did it! He did it!”
Despite his injuries, Fry had to smile knowingly to himself. “Way to go, little green dude,” he said weakly.
Leela accelerated past conventional lightspeed and beyond, sending the stars into elongated spears of light that streaked past. She then engaged the autopilot and moved to Fry, looking at his battered face with concern.
“Lets get you fixed up,” she said softly, taking him by the hand. “Amy, take the helm.”
Amy was already slipping into the Captain’s chair, a huge smile on her face. Fry and Leela moved into the access passage and on toward the medibay, but Fry stopped when he saw Bender sitting at the end of the hallway with his back to them, dangling his legs over the ledge at the top of the cargo hold.
Fry gave Leela a look, and she nodded. Together they walked the length of the passage and sat down on either side of the robot. Bender’s expression was blank as he stared absently into space. His two friends remained silent, giving him time, ready to listen.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Bender said at last, sadly. “Why’d he do that? Why the hell’d that robot go and do that, jump in front of that blast? Why for me?”
Leela didn’t know what to say, so she put a hand on his shoulder. Fry looked at the floor.
“There wasn’t one of them that understood what happened out there,” Bender went on. “Hell, they’re probably sticking that stupid statue right back up.”
“Probably,” Leela agreed, rubbing his shoulder comfortingly.
“I don’t know why that eats at me so much…”
Fry let out a long sigh and cringed when his broken rib pinched. “Way I see it, Bender,” he said quietly, “probably every guy in history who ever got a statue made of him was some kind of bastard or another. But it’s not about them, just like it’s not about you. It’s about the people. It’s about what they need.”
Long moments passed, and the three friends sat in silence with only the hum of the ship’s engines.
Finally Bender gave a little grunt. “Don’t make no sense,” he said miserably.
The little green starship winged its way through interstellar space, heading home.