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Author Topic: A Red Letter Day - It just won't stay dead!  (Read 777 times)
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« on: 06-03-2008 06:53 »
« Last Edit on: 06-08-2008 00:00 »

(cross-posted at FMMB)

Hi everybody!

A while back I was perusing the fan fiction threads here at PEEL and came across the first two parts of a story by Corvus called A Red Letter Day.  It is the tale of Rana, the 17-year-old daughter of Leela and Fry.  In it, Leela was widowed shortly before Rana was born.  The incomparable Archonix drew one of his trademark blue-pencil portraits of Rana to accompany Corvus' narrative; it can be seen in the third post down at http://www.peelified.com/cgi-bin/Futurama/4-001589-9/.
Unfortunately for all of us, Corvus did not choose to continue A Red Letter Day.  I thought it was a story that deserved to be told.  So I took up the cudgel, grasped the nettle, and wrote a continuation of the saga (it's my *first ever* fanfic).
My deepest thanks go to Corvus and Archonix for allowing me to post the continuation of this story and to link to the artwork.  Any inspiration I've had is entirely due to them.
In his post of Rana's picture Archonix asks, "Ain't she a cutie?"  She sure is, and you'll see also how smart and strong she turns out to be, and how the power of love spans both time and space...
So, here are parts 1 and 2 of Corvus' epic, to be followed soon by my continuation.  Hope you enjoy it!

A Red Letter Day

Part One - Sunrise

The sun rose slowly over New New York, as dawn made yet another unavoidable appearance. Bright beams of sunlight scattered and gleamed over the city that had draped itself in the remnants of an early morning rain. A few rays found their way through hastily drawn curtains and into a small room in a certain apartment 1i.

The rays crept slowly over a cluttered floor, jumping over some empty fast food cartons. They paused briefly before skipping through a pile of Slurm Blue cans, sneakng past a half eaten pizza and dodging through a pair of black pants, a couple of boots and an old red jacket which had been discarded in a heap.  Finally they arrived at a bed. There they gently prodded a head covered with purple hair. The owner of that head grunted a protest at the sudden rays of light and crept further under the covers to escape the intrusive sun.

As the sun continued to rise, more rays of light joined the previous ones in their exploration of the small room, illuminating it further. Aside from the bed the furniture in the room was sparse, consisting of a couple of chairs, a table and a small TV standing on a pedestal situated opposite the bed.  The tv was running an early news edition with the sound off, the view screen partially obscured by a white t-shirt.

If the furniture was sparse, the assorted debris covering it was not. Old newspapers, candy wrappers, video games, ladies underwear and more empty Slurm Blue cans were just some of the items littering the furnishings. The only thing not covered by trash was a picture frame, standing solitary guard on the window ledge. In the frame was the face of Phillip J. Fry, delivery boy extraordinaire, wearing his trademark grin.

A soft knock on the door disturbed the sunlit silence. The purple-haired person stirred under the bed covers but did not react further. Time ticked idly by as nothing else happened. A harder, more insistent knock made its presences known.

"Go away." A sleep-drenched muffled voice muttered from under the covers.
"Rana? Are you awake?" A woman’s voice asked through the closed door.

The covers where impatiently moved aside by a slender arm, revealing a young woman in her late teens. Her eyes glared from under a purple fringe at the closed door.

"No, I’m dead! Leave the flowers and go away!" 

The door swung open. Leela poked her head in and looked sternly at her daughter.

"You've got ten minutes!!" She snapped before drawing the door to a close.

Rana muttered something under her breath before she climbed out of bed. She paused briefly before the photo of Fry.

"Miss you dad."

Gently she stroked the picture frame with her left hand. It had been almost eighteen years since he'd died. Even though she had never met him, she missed him with each passing day. Ever since her first days of school as a little girl she had watched as her classmates were picked up by their parents at the end of the day. Rana would watch as her classmates’ moms fussed over them and their dads smiled proudly at tales of their most recent exploits. Rana, on the other hand, had to wait for her lone mother to pick her up. Sometimes Leela would be late from a delivery but Rana didn't mind when that happened. In fact, she was glad, since then she didn't have to see the other parents ostracize her mother. The way they looked at or talked about her mother... Rana hated it. Rana had always dreamed of what it would be like to have a father, a normal - looking one that nobody made fun of.

She had mixed feelings for her mother. Rana loved her for what she was and that she never excused herself for it, that she had always been there for her no matter what. What Rana didn't like was her mother’s insistence in trying to give her daughter the perfect childhood that she herself never had. It could be really trying when she got carried away and wanted Rana to do something the she herself missed out as a kid.

Rana yawned and stretched out to her full length; standing on her toes with her arms over her head. Her back and neck made soft popping noises. Rana was surprisingly slender and spry for someone that loved to indulge herself in fast food. The simple explanation for that was that Rana, like many other young women, had a metabolism like a blast furnace.

It was Thursday, more commonly known as Ferris Bueller Day, so her first class wouldn’t start until after lunch. Although not much was known about the Great Ferris Bueller, high school students had kept his legend alive over the centuries. It was rumored that Ferris had performed some great feat of procrastination sometime deep in the Stupid Ages, and he had come to be a role model for public school students everywhere. In the late 30th century, it had become fashionable to celebrate a ‘Ferris Bueller Day’ from time to time by skipping a day of class. This practice had become so rampant that the Earthican School System finally had to set aside Thursdays as official Ferris Bueller Days in attempt to limit excessive truancy, giving every student the morning off.

Per normal Thursday routine, Rana usually followed her mother to work. She would much rather be decked out in front of the TV or cruising the Net, but her mother wouldn’t have it. She wanted Rana someplace where she could keep an eye on her slothful daughter and make sure she did her homework.

Rana surveyed the cluttered chaos that was her room, spotting an upright Slurm Blue can. She grabbed it by the top and shook it while listening intently. A splashing sound told her that there still was some of the soft drink left inside. She eagerly brought the can to her lips and, with a sudden tilt of her head, downed the radium-blue sludge in a single gulp. Much like her deceased father, Rana had a fancy for Slurm, especially the new brand. Slurm Blue – Slurm for the Next Generation, as it was called, was marketed at young teenagers that wanted to be hip and cool. Not square and boring like those who drank the regular green Slurm.

Having finished what was left in the can, she started to pick out whatever clothing that looked clean. Eventually she managed to scrounge together a working outfit: a pair of black boots, a pair of dark blue, loose fitting cargo pants and a white boat neck t-shirt. With these articles of clothing in her arms she proceeded towards the shower. She would much rather have skipped it, but her mother had very strong opinions regarding personal hygiene. Rana knew that it would save more time if she did what Leela told her to do rather than to try and fight her.
When she was finished, she toweled herself off and dressed hurriedly, pausing only long enough to give herself a quick once-over in the mirror. She was her father’s daughter, all right. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth; they were all right out of the picture on her window ledge. In fact, the subtle lines in her cheeks were the only signs to be found on her face of her Turanga heritage. Of course, you didn’t have to look at her face to discover that she was Leela’s daughter. The purple hair was a dead giveaway. 

She quickly pulled a comb through her hair, parting it in the middle. She put down the comb and proceeded to pull a small pink device through her bangs. When finished, her bangs were no longer purple, but black. Rana frowned slightly as she scrutinized the result. Satisfied, she made her way towards the kitchen area.

"I'm done, mom. Can we go now?" She greeted her mother upon reaching the small kitchen.

Leela glanced at the wall-mounted clock. She pointed at a chair beside the kitchen table on which there was an empty bowl and spoon waiting for her.

"There is still time for breakfast. Sit."

"But I'm not hungry." Rana complained, since she had filled up on junk food the night before while watching late night tv. Leela stared at her daughter with her sole eye half closed, her arms crossed and her face a locked in a stern expression.

Realizing that her protests would get her nowhere, Rana rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in a defeated gesture.

"Fine. Breakfast it is."

While Leela made herself busy breaking out a Bachelorette Speed Breakfast package, her alien pet Nibbler came scurrying into the kitchen. He made a few impatient turns around her legs before he made his way to the table where Rana was sitting.

Ever since Rana had been born Nibbler had taken a keen interest in her, she grew older, Nibbler became more and more 'her' pet, to Leela’s chagrin.

"Nibbie!" Rana cried and scooped the black and white alien up from the floor. Nibbler expressed his joy with a stream of incoherent babbling. Leela frowned. Placing the prepared breakfast in front of Rana with one hand, she reached down and picked up the alien from her daughter’s knee with the other.

"I'll give you some breakfast too." She assured Nibbler, who was visibly disappointed at being removed from Rana’s lap.

"I had another dream about dad last night."

Leela froze for a split second before continuing to prepare a can of Kibbles N' Snouts for Nibbler. The cyclops had her own dreams of Fry. Sometimes they were nice, but all too often they detailed the last moments of her husband’s life. On some nights, when the dreams were at there worst, Leela would wake up in bed, drenched with sweat.
Rana stared at her bowl of Bachelorette while slowly stirring the soggy contents with her spoon. She bit her lower lip before she launched the next question.

"Why is it that you never want to talk about dad?"

Leela let out a tired sigh. She looked at the wall clock, they had to leave now or she would be late for work. "Saved by the bell", she thought.

"Get your things, Rana. We're running late." 

Rana gave Leela a hard look, but when Leela ignored her, she glanced at the wall clock and realized that her mother was right. She hesitated for a moment, debating whether she still should try and pursue the matter, but came to the conclusion that it would be pointless for the time being.

Rana made a quick stop by her room and picked up her shoulder bag with her books and other school utilities, as well as a certain red jacket. A few seconds later, Rana followed her mother through the front door.

Catching up with her mother on the sidewalk, Rana earned herself a disapproving look from her one-eyed mother, who didn't care for her daughter's choice of jacket. There was too much pain associated with that particular brand of jacket for Leela. Rana gave her mother a quick glance before she hastened her footsteps and almost ran past her.

Leela said nothing, but followed her daughter through the bright and shimmering New New York morning, sadly wishing that things could have been different, that Fry could have been there to share it with them.

End Part One.

A Red Letter Day

Part Two - Places

Leela strode purposefully through the old and weary doors of Planet Express with her dejected daughter in tow. Rana didn't care much for her mother’s workplace. It was a dirty, smelly, owl infested and decaying old building with no appeal whatsoever.

The PE building’s only redeeming quality was the break room with its TV set and the Slurm vending machine. Nothing more. There was, however, one item in the Planet Express inventory that Rana had yearned to explore when she had been just a child: the old green-painted Planet Express starship.

Many a day she had been lost in daydreams of adventures in space, battling space bees, fighting vicious Omicronians and dodging dangerous anomalies, much like her dad once had done. At least, that’s what Bender used to tell her. The old bending robot was always full of tall tales of mostly his, the great Bender's, bravery, but also her father’s actions in space. Not always sure of what to believe, Rana still had devoured every word about her father that Bender had uttered.

Rana shook her head. No, now wasn’t the time for a trip down memory lane. Rana all to vividly remembered the time, when she had been seven, that Bender had stowed her away onboard the PE ship. The bending bot had at first refused, but Rana knew his weakness all to well.

She had treated him with both liquor and money at times to make him tell her stories about her father. So after a hefty bribe consisting of hard liquor she had stolen from her mother’s cabinet and a large sum of money she had saved in her buggalo piggybank, she had convinced Bender to help her hide in the tiny space behind the primary buffer panel. Leela had almost burst an artery when she had found her daughter onboard.

Rana and her mother reached their destination after navigating through the worn corridors of the PE building: the hangar bay. The old, green starship stood deserted like a memory of an era long forgotten. Dark shadows spilled from the hulking form as the morning sun shown through rain-washed windows.

"Now you go sit where I can see you." Leela told her bored daughter.

"In the Planet Express ship?" Rana retorted sarcastically while rolling her eyes skyward. 

"Conference table. Now." Leela growled and pointed towards the conference area.

Rana scoffed and walked away. She couldn't summon the anger she needed to get into another fight with her mother. Rana let out a tired sigh. She just wanted to sleep right now, or chat online or watch TV; anything but to be locked inside a dreary old building on Ferris day. A sudden movement in the nearby shadows shook Rana back into a more alert state. The shadow turned into a white and red colored shape.

Rana froze for a second before she made a mad dash for the door that would lead her to the conference room and possible safety.

"Hello? Rana, my good friend, is that you? Awwww.." The decapodian doctor known as Zoidberg called, as Rana fled the scene. When she ran up the stairs, her shoulder bag created a rhythmic staccato noise as it bounced up and down. Rana collapsed in an exhausted heap upon reaching the conference table.

Rana spent a couple of minutes regaining her breath as she waited for signs that the annoying decapodian had followed her. Satisfied that he hadn't, she pulled herself from the floor and walked over to the conference table where she would be visible to her mother, and started to unpack her books.

Rana sighed where she sat at the large conference table. She shot an annoyed glance in the direction of the hangar where her mother was working on the company starship. Getting no response to her poisonous stare, Rana turned her attention to her homework. It was stupid; none of her friends had to do homework on Ferris day, so why the heck did she?

She was supposed to write a report on nebulae of all things. She flipped open her astronomy books and fired up her writing pad. Having written her name and the title of the report, she had hardly managed to start on her first paragraph when Stabby the Stapler bounced up on the screen.

"It looks like you are writing a report. Would you like to have help with that?"

The text that the rather annoying animated stapler displayed was splashed in bold letters across the screen. Rana let out a frustrated sigh; she wanted nothing more than to take her computerized notebook and give it a rocket propelled trajectory towards the sun. Unfortunately it was not hers to do so with.  It belonged to her school.

Rana groaned as she pushed the notebook and the astronomy books away and folded her arms on the conference table. The purple haired teen rested her head in her arms and closed her eyes. Just need to rest a few minutes, Rana thought. The sudden roar of starship engines sent Rana bolt upright. Looking in the direction of the hangar area she saw the bright blue glow of the dark matter engine soar skyward.

Rana stared in disbelief at the empty hangar.


Leela had never left Rana alone without first making sure that someone was there to watch over her. Nor had she left Rana without telling her were she was going. Rana felt confused at first and then angry. Rana's emotional fuming was interrupted before it could reach critical mass.

"I'm a genius!" The owner of Planet Express exclaimed.

"What?" Rana responded, now more confused than before.

Cubert scoffed.

"I am a gen-i-us." He repeated slowly, in a condescending tone, as if Rana had trouble understanding.

Rana cursed under her breath. If there was one person that she truly did not like, it was her mom's boss, Cubert Farnsworth.

"What have you done with my mom!?" Rana lashed out at the condescending figure before her.

"Ta-ta-ta. Temper, temper. I haven't done anything with your mom. If she just did a better job keeping the rest of the hired crew alive I wouldn't have to send her on an emergency delivery."

Rana gave him a cold stare from under her purple fringe.

"I don't believe any of that."

"Regardless of what you believe, I'm here to make sure you do your homework."

The last statement made Rana freeze. She didn't need this kind of supervision and Cubert was the worst homework help ever. He was just soo condescending and irritating. Seeking an escape, she grasped at what he had just said.

"What did you mean by “I’m a genius”? Have you invented something important?"

"Important? Ha! It will surely win me the Nobel Prize this time."

"Um, so like, what is it?"

"It's a chronotron machine!

"A what machine?"

"A chronotron machine or time machine as it would be in a layman’s terms." The last words were said in a patronizing tone. "Let me explain how it works." He said and started to explain at length the intricate functions of a time machine and the inner workings of time travel.

Cubert’s endless droning faded away for Rana as she started to ponder the possibilities that a working time machine held. She could go back to the stupid ages and bring back something cool, or better yet, meet her father. The last idea set her mind burning. She always heard from her mother how she was like her father, but her mother had never been keen on discussing her father nor the way he had died.

The purple haired teen knew where to find Cubert’s lab; the most pressing question at the moment was how to get away from her unwanted "babysitter". An opportunity arose when Rana saw Zoidberg scavenging through one of the owl traps in the hangar bay.

"Isn't that Zoidberg?" She interrupted the self-obsessed scientist’s tirade.

Cubert ran to the hand railing at the edge of the conference area.

"Hey! Get away from those traps you!" He screamed, waving a fist in the air. Zoidberg looked at Cubert before he made a sideways dash into depths of the PE building. The irritated owner of Planet Express gave chase and had soon disappeared as well.

As soon as Cubert ran after the Decapodian doctor, Rana left the conference area and made her escape towards the part of the building where the laboratory was situated.

Cubert’s laboratory was a whirlwind jumble of technology. Large hulking machines lined the walls, and the floor was covered by cluttered tables and unfinished inventions. Here and there were chalkboards covered with drawings, calculations and the occasional doodling. The latter usually depicted Cubert with a caption that stated his greatness or his level of genius.

Rana paused in the doorway. Where would she find the chronotron machine in the cluttered chaos that was Cubert's laboratory? Then she spotted a large cylindrical machine in a dark corner. Could that be it? The fact that it was the only thing in the lab that looked remotely finished made it a fairly safe bet. Rana decided that she would have a closer look at it. She abandoned her uncertain position at the door and made her way to the machine.

It was a tall cylinder of smooth polished metal. It didn't have any buttons, gauges or anything on it that would indicate a control panel. There was only one thing that broke the desolate grey metal surface. A blue colored bar not unlike the speech units of a bot was situated just below the top of the machine.

Rana looked around, but there was nothing in the vicinity that could give any explanation as to what the machine did or if it was the Chronotron machine that Cubert had talked about. In her frustration, Rana kicked the cylinder.

"Stupid thing!"

"Ow. Please refrain from doing that." A smooth, metallic voice spoke from the blue colored bar on the machine.

"Huh? Are you some bot or something?"

"I am a chronotron machine mark one unit."

"Uh-huh. So you can send me back in time, right?"

"That is my primary function. Do you have a destination for me?"

Rana paused to think. She really wanted to go back in time and meet her dad. The question was, of course, when?

She knew that her dad was from the stupid ages and that he had been frozen for a thousand years. Maybe she should go back to the stupid ages. No one from that time was alive in the Year Three Thousand, at least, not anyone she knew. Her dad would be dead by the time she was born, so there would be no risk of a paradox, or whatever it was that Cubert had been talking about.

Then again, maybe she shouldn't. Weren’t the stupid ages full of mammoths and other dangerous stuff, or was that just that stupid theme park? Rana couldn't remember her history classes. She wasn't stupid, even though some of her classmates thought so. Just because she was missing a delta brain thingy it didn't make her stupid or anything. It was just that school was so boring.

"I should’ve paid more attention to my ancient history class,” Rana admitted to herself. “I don’t remember anything about the stupid ages, so I guess I shouldn’t go back there. But then where should I go?”

It would soon be her eighteen birthday and her dad had died just before she had been born, but she didn't exactly know when. Rana also knew that her dad had been unfrozen on New Year’s Eve. So somewhere between her birthday and the turn of the millennium would be her best bet. Rana conveyed her destination of choice both in time and place to the machine.

An opening appeared in the cylinder as the machine spoke.

"Please enter."

Rana entered the round pod tentatively. The door closed smoothly behind her. Surrounding her was naught but bare metal with an ambient pale blue light which gave the interior a depressing, cold feeling.

"Chronoshift will begin in ten seconds. Please stand by for time return tagging."

A sudden bright blue light appeared around Rana's left wrist and a thin, tight fitting bracelet had latched itself to her.

"Ehh.. now wait a minnit.. what's this?"

"Eight seconds to chronoshift."

"Um.. hello? Could you tell me what this is?" Rana held up her bracelet-adorned wrist to emphasize her question.

"Five seconds to chronoshift."

The machine made no further comment.  When the blue light started to turn brighter and the low growl of the machine’s interior workings grew to a screeching pitch, Rana began to panic.

"Let me out!" She cried as she pounded the metal sides of the cylinder.

"Three seconds to chronoshift."

"Let. Me. OUT!"

"Two seconds to chronoshift."


"One second to chronoshift"



As the last syllables of the machine’s statement reached Rana, she opened her mouth to voice yet another protest, but she felt as if all air had been sucked from her lungs. Everything grew very bright blue and then there was nothing but darkness.

End Part Two.

« Reply #1 on: 06-04-2008 22:08 »
« Last Edit on: 06-09-2008 00:00 »

And now, the next part.  Look for the lyrics to a couple of old songs in the text.

Part 3 - Meeting

The intense blue light slowly faded.  Rana gasped for air.

She found herself face-down in an alley, in an older part of New New York.  Looking up, she saw two shadowy human figures several meters away leaning over a large table, talking in a foreign language.  One was tall and muscular with a heart-shaped tattoo on one arm; the other short, scruffy, and wearing a too-large overcoat.

The short one noticed her first.

“Fresh teenaged organs!  Get her!”

Rana became fully alert.  Now I’m glad my mother pushed me to take Arcturan kung-fu…

She feigned tiredness.  When the large one was about a meter away and leaning over reaching for her, she leapt up and back and dropped him with a roundhouse kick to his head followed by a left-hand blow to his solar plexus.  The short one ran, then turned around and threw a scalpel that Rana barely dodged.

Still shaken up, she hurried out of the alley into a cloudy early morning.  She’d told the chronotron machine to deposit her near her parents’ apartment at 8 AM exactly 18 years ago.

Something was a little off; she knew this area from old videos.

So this is what Little Neptune used to look like before the urban-renewal lasing!  Cubert’s stupid machine got it wrong!  This is nowhere near our apartment!  I’d better get out of here.  Planet Express is on the other side of town.  And the tubes will be jam-packed and jelly-tight at this time of the morning.

She took off at a quick trot.

Rana arrived across the street from Planet Express about twenty minutes later.  She instinctively looked at her wristamajiggy, then realized she’d left it at home.  After all, it was Ferris Bueller Day; she didn’t have to be in school until the afternoon.
Then she remembered that the chronotron machine had placed a bracelet around her left wrist.  It looked similar to the ones worn by hospital patients, but slightly thicker.  She lifted a small cover on it.  Inside was a time display.

The numbers were counting down.

It took her a minute to do the math.  I have five days.  That’s all the machine would let me have and still return me on the same day I left.  Five days to meet and get to know my father – if he’s not off on another planet battling evil aliens.  And Cubert said that in order to return, you have to go back to the same spot where you arrive.  At least I think that’s what he said.

What the hell am I going to do?

Well, I’d better start by disguising myself.
  She pulled her pink Colorator from her pocket and combed her hair from purple to jet-black.

Rana slowly walked across the street to the entrance of the Planet Express building.  Rain started falling.

Everything was happening so fast.  She needed some time to think.

Ten minutes later, lost in thought and soaked to the bone, Rana turned around at the sound of a familiar voice.  Fry and Leela were less than 5 meters away walking across the street, nonchalantly holding hands under a hoverbrella and talking on their way to work.

Her eyes grew wide; she exhaled every bit of air in her lungs, gasping out “What…the…!?!”  They’re young!  She took a half step toward them, but dizziness took over.  Her eyes rolled up and her legs gave out.  Fry and Leela watched her fall to the sidewalk as if in slow motion.

Fry picked her up and rushed her inside to the couch in the Planet Express building’s break room.  Both of them were puzzled by the lovely, enigmatic smile on Rana’s face.

She looked up.  Tending to her she saw her parents, 18 years younger and in the prime of life.  Her father was alive – ALIVE!, she thought – and her mother was heavily pregnant.

Leela asked, “Who are you?!”

Rana reached limply toward Fry.  “You’re my…,” she stammered, “you’re my…”
One of the words Cubert had said, almost an hour ago but years from now, floated into Rana’s mind: causality.

She choked down the words and sat up, with a tear in her eye.

Leela touched Rana’s shoulder.  “Are you OK?  You look like you just saw a ghost.”

Rana shook her head back and forth to clear it.  Her parents, Amy, and Bender stared at her.

“Do you faint like that all the time?  Neat!” said Bender.

“I’m OK.  Just a little dizzy.  Got into a fight about an hour ago.  Maybe I’m just hungry.  The adrenaline rush must’ve worn off.”

“Who are you?”
Hoo hoo!  Hoo hoo!
“I really wanna know…Phil, could you please shoo that owl out of here?”

“I’m on it, Leela.”

“I’m Rana.  Rana…uh…Cook.”  D’oh!  Good one, you knucklehead!
“What are you doing here in such lousy weather?”
Her eyes darted from side to side.  “I was…I was…looking for someone I know…I’m just waitin’ on a friend.  He didn’t know I’d be here, so…um…it’s OK if we don’t meet up.  But I really want to see him.”  Be careful, you dummy!

“Do we know you?” asked Fry.  “You look…um…like someone I know.”

“No!  I mean no, not as far as you, I mean, I know.  Um, would you happen to have something to munch on?”

“Here,” said Amy, “have a Bachelorette Bar.”

Bachelorette Bars!, thought Rana, Those were banned years ago by the Central Bureaucracy because they were filled with too much creamy, nougaty, nutty goodness!

She tore into it like a hungry Decapodian.

Professor Farnsworth shuffled in.  “Good news, everyone!  We have a very important cargo to deliver today.  Oh my, yes.”
And Professor Farnsworth is still with us!  Rana sat up.  “Where to, Professor?”
“Dog Doo 7.  They’ve completely run out of small brown plastic bags.”

“Professor Hubert Farnsworth.  I’ve always wanted to meet a living legend.”
“Wha…Who are you?”
“I’m Rana Cook.  My mother was in the audience last time you won a prize at the Academy of Inventors.  Do you mind if I stay here for a while and follow you around?”
“Come to think of it…I could always use a new test subject.  I mean, assistant.  Say, what blood type are you?”

“Hermes, that’s a lot of cargo.  We can’t possibly fit it all on board.”

“Leela, don’t worry - be happy.  I’ve rented another ship.”

She winced.  “From where, what kind, and how decrepit is it?!”

“It’s a good old reliable Mark 2 Mod 5.”

“I trained on one of those when they were antiques!  It’s got to be at least sixty years old!”

“Well…the price was right.”

“We’re going to need another pilot.  I need Amy to look after the converters and the new oxygen generators.  You’d better call the union hall.”

Hermes gasped and shuddered at the thought of spending extra money.

Rana touched Leela’s shoulder.

“Leela, my mother…uh…taught me to fly when I was twelve.  I have a pilot’s license.”

“What endorsements?”

“Unlimited tonnage atmospheric, near-Earth, and interstellar, plus communications and infrared.”

“Let’s see it.”

Rana retrieved her license from her wallet, deftly covering the expiration date and her surname with her index finger.

“There’s just one small problem, Leela.  I don’t have the right career chip.”

“Dog Doo 7 can’t wait for the Central Bureaucracy to get its…um…act together.  Don’t worry, the Professor will take care of you.”

“All right!”

“OK, you’re in.  As usual, you have some paperwork to do.”

Hermes recovered his composure and smiled.  Stampin’, filin’…

Rana walked out of the hangar bay toward Hermes’ office, thinking hard.
Causality.  I can’t let them know, or else the whole future is boned, kaput, over.
How am I going to get out of this one?

Leela stood near the ship with Fry, Amy, Bender, Zoidberg, and Rana.

“Here’s the plan.  Rana, can you fly the other ship alone?  Its autopilot is a certified teetotaler.”

“YES!  Um, I mean, yes, Leela, I’d like that.”

“All right, then.  You can pick it up at Enterprise Rent-A-Ship.”

“The one over in Bayonne?”

“New New Jersey?  Yecch - no way.  The one up at the Westchester Municipal Spaceport.  When you get back with the ship, park it in the vacant lot across the street and help us load this ship.  Then you can fly that one into the hangar bay and we’ll help you load.”


“When we get into space and clear departure control, we’ll link our ships’ computers so we can use the same navigational program.  Interstellar, you can trail us by a few thousand kilometers.  And keep below us.  We don’t want your electronics in the wake of our exhaust.”

“Gotcha.”  My mom…always in control of the situation…

“I’ve already bunkered and provisioned the ship.  Amy, I think there’s still something wrong with the converters.  The rest of you, let’s get busy…Bender, where are you going?”

“I need to get some stuff before we leave…Captain.”

“You’re not coming.  This is going to be a long trip, and we need someone to coordinate the Professor’s bodily functions.  That’s your full-time job while we’re gone.”

“Aw, crap.”  Bender trudged away from the ship, muttering to himself.

Bending Unit
« Reply #2 on: 06-05-2008 20:00 »
« Last Edit on: 06-05-2008 20:00 »

Interesting; I didn't know that anyone was continuing this story, and it's a pleasant surprise.

Part 3 looks good so far; some of the later sections seem to skip some of the action a little (e.g., what happened between Farnsworth asking about Rana's blood type, and Leela and Hermes talking in the cargo bay), but really, that's the only fly in the oinment. It was a pity that Corvus didn't stick with this, but you seem to have taken the mantle on handily. Good luck, and if you need betas, I'd be happy to help.   smile

'Naked ladies, naked ladies, naked ladies, naked ladies!'

- Justice Snoop Dogg, Into the Wild Green Yonder

« Reply #3 on: 06-06-2008 19:04 »
« Last Edit on: 06-06-2008 19:04 »

Thanks for the good point, THM!  I sent you a copy for your review.  Thank you for beta reading for me.

Sorry that I can't wait long; just found out today I'm leaving on a business trip Wednesday morning for 10 days or so.  Won't have any Web access except via my cell phone, and then only sporadically.  There are 5 more chapters plus an epilogue to post, so I'll put them out every day.

Anyway, here is part 4.  Engineers and technicians, sharpen up your pencils; there's a tasty bit of techno-speak in this part.

Part 4 - Voyage

Rana returned with the rental about half an hour later.
Leela, Amy, and Fry were in the hangar bay loading the ship.  Zoidberg was confined to his quarters for trying to eat the cargo.
Leela was breathing hard; her skin was pallid.
Fry stopped his hover-dolly.  “Leela…let the rest of us finish this.  You don’t look so good.”
“I just have to sit down for a minute, Phil.  The baby’s kicking up a storm.”
“Maybe you ought to sit this one out.  The converters aren’t running that badly. And we can carry enough oxygen.  Amy and I can fly.”
“No!  What about our promise, the one we made when we were married?”
Fry lowered his hover-dolly; one corner landed on his right big toe.  “OUCH!  Leela…I worked so hard to get you to marry me.  You know I’ll be with you until the end of time and space, no matter where we go.”
You’re still so sweet.
“We have plenty of time before the baby is due.  I’m going, Phil.”

“Yes, Rana?”
“You like shiny things, right?”
“Gee…how did you know?”
“I got you a souvenir from the Westchester Spaceport.”  She handed him a keychain with a small flat shiny steel plate about 8 x 5 cm, on which was an enameled picture of a Mk 2 Mod 5 cargo ship.
“Gee…thanks a lot, Rana.”
“It’s the least I could do.  Thank you for helping me this morning.  Here’s one for Leela, too.”
Fry slipped both of the keychains into his front pants pocket.

“Yes, Rana?”
“Are there any more Bachelorette Bars around here?”

Leela held a last-minute briefing before both ships took to the sky.
“Listen up, everyone.  A new addendum to the weekly Notice to Spacefarers just came out.  Looks like the Omicronians and Decapodians are having their usual biennial space battle a few weeks early.  They’re fighting it out near our flight path.  I think if we just scooch over a few parsecs to the left, we can avoid any trouble.”

Liftoff and departure were uneventful.  Both pilots got their ships squared away for the 2-day trip to Dog Doo 7.  They stayed in communication via the computer data stream.
“Rana, are you there?”
“Read you S-9 plus 20, Leela.”
“How good are you at docking with a moving ship?  Want to join us for dinner tonight?”
“But I don’t have a thing to wear.”
Leela giggled.  That’s just what I would’ve said...

The Planet Express ship’s computer brought the rental ship within a few meters; but inside that distance, position detection got fuzzy.  Rana had to close the gap in manual control.  She sidled up to the docking tube and hooked up without any hesitation.
Amy volunteered for the first night’s kitchen duty.  She prepared windy shrimp salad, barbecued leg of buggalo, baked hover-potatoes, and roddenberry pie for dessert.
Rana inhaled her food.  “Amy, that was delicious.  I didn’t know you could cook like that.”
“Sheesh, that was nothing.  You ought to taste what my parents’ food synthesizer can whip up.”
“Speaking of talent...most pilots would have gotten jittery on a manual final approach to a moving vessel.  You just slid right on in.”
“It’s all my mom’s training, Leela.”
“She must be a great pilot.”
“Sometimes she’s a pain...but yeah, she is the best at anything she tries.”
Fry asked, “What does your father do for a living?”
Rana looked down.  “Um...he died before I was born.  My mom never told me how or why.”  She couldn’t help glancing at Leela.
Fry blushed.  “Oh...I’m very sorry.”

Later in the evening, Rana undocked and returned her ship to its position aft and below, then set the autopilot for the night.
Fry and Leela sat in their cabin.  Leela had a faraway look on her face.
“Leela, what’s wrong?  I sense a disturbance in the force.”
She chuckled.  “Oh, stop that.  I’m fine.”
“You’re thinking about our newest crew member.”
She pouted.  “I can’t fool you at all any more.”
“She’s been on my mind, too.  Something about her is…a little too familiar.”
Leela swiveled her seat around and looked out at the stars.  “Don’t ask me how I know, Phil.  Call it…an educated guess.  Rana is important to us.”
“Somehow, I know you’re right.”

Early next morning, Amy came up to the bridge.
“G’uh, Leela, it took a little while to figure it out, but fixing it was pretty simple.  That’s what’s good about all this older technology.”
“What was wrong?”
“I checked our maintenance records.  The last major overhaul, realignment, test, and reinstallation of the six power converters was done by three separate shops.  So I started pulling on wires and fiber-optic cables.  There were a few loose connections in the converters’ control cable harnesses, and their cooling systems’ PID controllers were all set different.  The converters’ electromagnets were being cooled unevenly, so their permeability changed unevenly.  That affected the power distribution between the on-line converters.  So that’s why you kept getting all those power alarms and spikes.  When I redid all the connections, set the parameters the same on all six controllers, and let the system distribute the heat evenly for a while, the converters started ramping up and down together at the same rate.  The problem didn’t show up until just last trip because the heat exchangers were clean, so all the cooling regulating valves were almost completely bypassing.  We need to acid-wash the insides and pressure-wash the outsides of the heat exchangers when we get home.  The controllers’ proportional and integral settings are OK, but I need to fine-tune the derivatives to dampen the cooling temperature over- and undershoots.  We can do that when we slow down and on the way home.”
“Impressive.  You’ve earned your pay for the week, Amy.  Now, how about those oxygen generators?”
“Spleesh, Leela, you’re such a slave driver.”

Leela sat down in the pilot’s chair, turned off the autopilot, and keyed the announcing system.  “Slight course correction coming up, everyone.  The big battle is going on about a hundred parsecs directly in front of us.”
“Coming slightly to port.”

“No, Phil, I can put the turret in remote if we need it.  You don’t have to go up there if you don’t want to.”
“But it’s fun!”  Fry took off his jacket, threw it on the front couch, climbed into the turret, and put on his fire-control helmet.  “Bring it on, Omicronians and Decapodians!  P’yeow!  P’yeow!  Whoosh!”
“Phil, you have to put on your harness.  You know the drill.”
“In a second, Leela.  They’re not gonna get the drop on us, not as long as you’re in the chair.”
Leela smiled.  He really does trust me.
“I’m charging up the gun.”
“Wait a second…please don’t do that yet.”
“Aw, don’t worry, Leela.”

Of course, when Fry says something like that, it means Leela should start to worry...or does it?  Stay tuned for the next part, coming soon...

« Reply #4 on: 06-07-2008 12:43 »
« Last Edit on: 06-07-2008 12:43 »

And here comes part 5!

Part 5 - Attack

Leela sat alert in the pilot’s chair, but her mind was elsewhere.  In particular, back in the Planet Express employee lounge.
She keyed the turret intercom.  “Phil, do you remember a couple of days ago, when Rana woke up on the couch?  Do you remember what she said?”
“Yeah…she reached toward me and said, ‘You’re my…you’re my…’  I wonder what that meant?”
Leela was thinking hard.  “You know what?  She also knew who the Professor was when he first walked into the room!”
“And how did she know I like shiny things?!”
“Huh?...Anyway, we need to have a talk with her.”

The Omicronian commander was sly.  When he was growing up in the 2980s he saw the Earth movie “Tora, Tora, Tora,” so he knew how to deal with Earthicans.  Take them by surprise…
The battle with the Decapodians was raging just a few parsecs further ahead and to starboard of them, so he ordered his three ships to approach the two mysterious freighters from behind and to port.
His bridge crew was busy analyzing the two ships.
“Commander, our delta brain wave scanners indicate no activity on the second ship.  A data link is operating between the two, so the second must be under remote control.  Also, analysis indicates the presence of a Decapodian and two Earthicans aboard the first ship.  And its primary weapon is charged and ready.”
“Earthican mercenaries…Weapons, I want a firing solution on the first ship NOW!”
“Firing solution set, sir!”
“One missile only.  FIRE!”

Out of the corner of her left eye, Rana saw something small and pointy flash past high over the top of her ship.  A missile!
She keyed her data transceiver.  “Leela!  Incoming!  Incoming!  Dive, get the hell outta there!”
The panic in Rana’s voice was palpable.  Leela turned off the autopilot, hit the gas and pushed the wheel forward as hard as she could.  The missile exploded a few hundred meters above and behind the ship.  Shrapnel rained down all over the top, cracking the gun turret dome.

The Planet Express ship computer’s metallic monotone erupted on the bridge panels of both ships.
“Emergency.  Rupture in Planet Express ship transparent skintanium covering on gun turret.  Seventy-nine kilogram life form mass ejection.”

Fry felt a violent blast of air push him tumbling upward, then…nothing.  No sound, but he caught a glimpse of the ship receding below him.  And a million stars all around.
His eyes felt like they were about to explode.  The air was sucked out of his lungs.  Oh hell…

Phil!  Leela hit the intercom button.  “Phil, are you there?  Phil!”
The skintanium automatically reconstituted itself.  Leela slid back the airtight hatch below the turret.
Fry was gone.
She rushed back to the bridge.  The chart recorder showed the point where the gun turret’s cover ruptured.  With a lump in her throat, Leela pushed the wheel forward, trying to loop around to get underneath Fry.
But there was one small problem.  The Omicronians would soon be in her way.

Rana remembered that Fry normally manned the gun turret.  She immediately felt sick. 
Now I know how he died!
Something turned on inside of her head.  Her rational mind started ramping up to hyperdrive.  Maybe I can do something…but what?
My physics homework…something about bodies in motion...force vectors and relative velocity...

“Computer!  Manual control!”
“Manual control initiated.”

The Omicronian commander was pleased; the first ship was off course and damaged.
He told his communication officer, “Break the data link between the two ships.”
“Right away, sir.”

“Leela, get out of here!  I’m going after-“
The data link broke; Rana’s and Leela’s viewscreens turned themselves off.  Rana had the Planet Express ship’s course on her chart recorder right up to the break in the data stream, so she knew about where Fry was drifting.  Accelerating and moving steadily “up” with her main engines, she called up the cargo bay controls on her computer screen. 
A few seconds later, she passed through the group of Omicronian ships that had just come in from her port side.  A fraction of a second later she rolled her ship and dumped her cargo, then finished the roll and pushed her wheel forward.
Thousands of small brown plastic bags burst forth and covered the Omicronians’ optical, infrared, and ultraviolet sensors, temporarily hiding both ships from them.

The Omicronian commander went from pleased to pissed off in the space of two seconds.  “WHERE are those two freighters?!”
His first officer said, “We can’t find them, sir…all our sensors are inoperative.  The problem is in the hull-mounted probes.  We’re sending out some technicrafts to fix them.”
The commander believed he knew what the freighters were doing there.  Treacherous Earthicans…They’re trying out some sort of new weapon on us…

“Computer!  Atmospheric flight simulation mode!”
“Atmospheric flight simulation mode engaged.”
Rana had practiced this a million times in that antique airplane…what was it called…that’s right, a “JAS-39A Gripen,” when she was twelve.  She knew her target was slightly overhead and moving just below Leela’s ship’s original course.  But it was too small; she couldn’t see it yet on infrared or from the freighter’s cockpit.  “Use your best judgment, dammit!  Your mother taught you everything you need to know about how to fly a crate like this,” she whispered to herself.  “They’re both depending on you, even if they don’t know it yet.”
“Please hang on, Dad…I’ll be there in a New New York minute.”

Rana pulled hard on the wheel while cutting back on the main engines, then pushed the Z-axis thruster control down.  The ship’s computer interpreted this as an attempt to stall; it flipped the ship 90 degrees nose-up, but stayed on course.  Heading in the relative direction of “down,” which was almost the same as the two ships’ original course but slightly “below,” the old craft’s open cargo-bay doors were now facing Fry.  Rana turned on the belly camera in infrared mode, and all of the cargo lights.

Leela finished looping around and was back on her original course.
“I don’t have anything on infrared except the Omicronian ships right in front of us and their exhaust all around us, Leela.  Plus, about a million squares of some flexible material.”
“Keep looking!  We have got to find him, NOW!”
Leela moved over to the infrared scanner and pushed Amy out of the way.  She fiddled with the enhancement controls.  The Omicronian ships’ heat signature filled the screen in every direction.  She tried the visual and the ultraviolet scanner.  Nothing.
“Phil.  Phil!  No, no, no, no!  NO!  NOOOO!”

A stabbing pain in Leela’s lower abdomen made her fall to her knees.  She felt a tide of wetness flow down her legs.
“Amy...I’m sorry…I think my water just broke.”  She couldn’t concentrate.  The contractions were too severe.  Her eye started to roll up.
Amy put her arm around Leela, lifted her to her feet, and guided her to Dr. Zoidberg’s examining room.

Searching...Against the background of faraway stars, a wisp of infrared signature showed up about 1500 meters away.
Rana finessed her Y- and Z-axis thrusters to match course and velocity.  Gotcha!
She reeled out the magnetic cargo lift at maximum speed.  Come on…come on…
The lift’s magnet attracted two pieces of steel in Fry’s front pants pocket.
“Magnetic lift engaged.”
The lift reeled in.  Dad…

Fry, close to delirium and unconsciousness, felt rather than saw bright lights.  Does this mean…NO!  Never give up, never give in…Leela…our baby…

“Magnetic lift stowed.  Closing doors and pressurizing cargo bay.”

Rana shut down all systems and had her ship play dead for a while, hoping the Omicronians would forget about her.  She did the right thing; they missed the small, apparently uninhabited and neutralized freighter with uncharged weapons.  She told the computer to move the ship off slowly on a perpendicular course.

“Where are those two freighters?!”
“Commander, another ship is approaching.  It is not a freighter.”
“Give me visual, if you can.”
The Omicronians all looked at their main viewscreen.
This situation is outside of Lrrr’s orders...“Set course to join the rest of the fleet.  Flank speed.”

Rana rushed off the bridge with a medical kit.  Fry lay in a heap on the closed cargo bay doors.
She removed his helmet.  There was a large dent and a crack on its left side.  His skin and face were swollen and mottled with broken blood vessels.  A red froth seeped out of his mouth and his breathing was shallow and irregular.  He was hardly recognizable.
But he was alive.
Come on, Dad!  Stay with me!
I love you…

She whimpered.  Fry’s eyelids fluttered.
Rana turned him over on his stomach to stop him from drowning in his own blood.  What the hell else can I do?

“Computer!  What the hell else can I do?”
“Attention.  We are being hailed by a DOOP warship.”
Rana ran to the bridge.
She heard the arrogant voice of Captain Zapp Brannigan on the radio.  Her mother had told Rana almost, but not quite, everything about him.
“You are under arrest,” he said.
Oh crap!  Rana took out her Colorator and quickly combed her hair from black to blonde, put on the lime-green pilot’s coat that came with the rental, then turned on her viewscreen.
“Please help!  My...uh...brother is hurt!”
Brannigan regarded the fair visage he saw on his screen.  Oh ho, a damsel in distress...

« Reply #5 on: 06-08-2008 12:21 »
« Last Edit on: 06-08-2008 12:21 »

Stand by for part 6...

Part 6 - Escape

Dr. Zoidberg did all he could to help.  But Leela needed an obstetrician and a real hospital.  There were no human-, or even humanoid-, friendly planets in the area.
Rana and her ship were nowhere to be found.
Amy made the command decision to make best possible speed for Earth.
Don’t worry Hermes, I’ll buy you another sphere of dark matter, Amy thought as she turned the ship around and brought engine power up to the red line.

Rana moved her ship in and docked on Nimbus’ port side.
“We need help!  I have a medical emergency on board!”
Nimbus’ medical corpsmen quickly removed Fry to sickbay.
Two guards and an ensign appeared.  “Miss…Captain Brannigan has ordered you to be placed in the brig.”

Rana asked the guards several times when she would be released.
“Sorry, Miss.  This is a war zone.  Captain Brannigan has ultimate authority.”
One day…two days?, I’ve been cooling my jets here.  Might as well face it…I’m stuck here forever.  I don’t even have Tetris on this bracelet.  The food stinks.  All they have is regular Slurm.  They won’t even let me see my dad.  Please let him be OK…

“Yes, Captain?”
“Bring the prisoner to the bridge.  I want to interview her.”
The ensign sighed.  For a female prisoner, Zapp’s “interview” was always the same….

Zapp quickly stuffed a small black book in his tunic and turned around.
“Well hello, Miss…uh…”
“Hilton.  Paris Hilton.”
“Captain Zapp Brannigan, at your service.  Has my fame preceded me, or was I too quick for it?”
“Not at all.”
“You’re an impressive piece of captain.  Beautiful and deadly…a potent combination…”
Rana sighed inwardly.  Mom was right.  This guy is utterly pathetic.
“…I’ll need to interview you in my in-space cabin.”
The bridge watch crew looked at each other with furrowed brows as the captain and his prisoner departed.

Zapp led Rana off the bridge and down one deck to a medium-sized red-painted office, furnished with a large day bed, desk, mood lighting, and several ostentatious paintings on velour.
He dimmed the lights and sat down on a corner of the desk.
“I’m charging you with trespassing in forbidden space.”
Rana was alarmed.  “There was nothing about any new forbidden areas in the latest Notice to Spacefarers!”
“Nonetheless, I am the law here.  And Brannigan’s law is like Brannigan’s love…”  Zapp stood up and slowly walked toward Rana, a leering grin on his face.
There’s only one way for me to get out of this, she mused.
She placed her hands softly on his upper arms.
“Oh, Zapp…”
“What is it, my young heartthrob?”
Her eyes narrowed.  “This is for my mother.”
Rana grabbed onto Zapp’s arms and planted her left knee firmly upward into his crotch.  He doubled over in agony.  She caught his face with an explosive punch that sent him sprawling on the deck three meters away, unconscious.  She quickly fished his master electrokey out of his tunic and stuffed it in her pocket.  The bigger they imagine they are, the harder they fall, Rana thought as she hurried out into the passageway.

Rana looked at the bracelet on her left wrist as she made her way toward her father.
Less than seven hours to make it to Earth, or I’m trapped in this time.  Impossible in that old tub I’ve been flying.  To get there on time, I’d need a...
She stopped in her tracks and whispered to herself.  “Wait a minute...I’m on board a DOOP warship…and I have the key to everything on it!”

Dr. “Veins” McGee was personally attending to Fry when Rana walked into Nimbus’ sickbay.
No time to waste.  She palmed an electrosyringe of Comatonin from a nearby tray and set it to “horse.”
Dr. McGee looked up when he heard Rana approach.
“Doc…please, how is my brother doing?”
“Well, you got him into a pressurized area of your ship just in time.  Any more high vacuum exposure, and he would’ve been a goner.  He’s mostly stable now and under heavy sedation, but he needs to spend some time in a real hospital.”
“Thank you for saving his life.  I’ll never forget this.”
“Don’t mention it, young lady.”  Dr. McGee turned toward his patient.
Rana quickly gave the good doctor a shot of Comatonin and laid him down on a nearby bed.
Sorry Doc, but we have to run.
Fry was still extremely groggy.
Rana put her arm under his and helped him get up.
Come on Dad, we’re leaving.

Rana found what she was looking for on Nimbus’ hangar deck: a brand-spanking-new Mark 48 Mod 1 fighter.  Inscribed on the side of the cockpit was “Zapp ‘The Zapper’ Brannigan.”  His own personal state-of-the-art fighter, courtesy of our tax dollars!  Huh!  He probably doesn’t even fly the thing except to impress his girlfriends.

Rana gently placed Fry into the copilot’s seat of the fighter and strapped him in.
She slid into the pilot’s seat and placed Zapp’s key into a slot on the fighter’s control panel.  Navigational, weapons, life support, and engine systems started energizing themselves.
She turned to her unconscious father.  “Wait here a second, Dad.  I have a quick errand to run.”  She lightly caressed his left cheek.
She hurried to the old freighter, gave some instructions to its computer, and grabbed two small boxes.

A buzzer sounded in Nimbus’ Combat Decision Center.  The CDC watch officer looked at one of the panels arrayed around the room.
The watchstander sitting at the panel said, “Captain Brannigan’s fighter’s engines are spooling up.  He’s opening the door.”
Another watchstander chimed in.  “Delta brain wave scanner indicates no one on board.”
One of the senior enlisted men whispered to no one in particular, “Well, this wouldn’t be the first time the jackass has sent that thing to pick up his date.”

Rana left Nimbus’ hangar in a hurry.  As soon as she was clear she set course for Earth and ramped up all four engines to war emergency power.  When the fighter reached max cruise speed she checked the engines’ operating temperatures and pressures, broke open a Bachelorette Bar, and checked her arrival time on the electronic chart display information system.  She caught a glimpse of herself in the rear view mirror.  I look hideous as a blonde.  She whipped out her Colorator and combed her hair back to its natural deep purple hue.
The engines are straining, but they’re doing OK.  Six-plus hours to Earth, according to the ECDIS.  This is gonna be close...

At the same time Zapp’s fighter left carrying Fry and Rana, the old Mk 2 Mod 5 freighter lit off all four of its engines, quickly undocked from Nimbus, and accelerated away.
The CDC watch officer, who was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, was slow to notice it leaving.  He called Captain Brannigan’s in-space cabin.
“Captain, the prisoners’ ship has undocked and is moving away.  Do you want us to bring it back in?”
“Captain, are you there?  Captain?”

The old freighter moved as fast as it could out of Nimbus’ sensor range.
It then changed course and headed for the scene of the Planet Express ship’s confrontation with the Omicronians.
When it arrived, it plotted a course to intercept the last of its cargo that was still moving through space.
The ship moved slightly past its plastic bags.
“Auto destruct sequence initiated.  3...2...1...”

« Reply #6 on: 06-09-2008 19:57 »

Voilà!  Part 7!

Part 7 – Return

Amy was tired.  She’d been on the bridge almost continuously since getting underway for Earth, stepping away from the pilot’s seat only when she absolutely had to.

She eased off the throttle slowly as the ship passed the Kuiper belt.  In the past day or so, Dr. Zoidberg had hovered over Leela like a concerned grandmother.  Her contractions had come and gone then come again several times.  Right now she was resting – more or less.

Amy set the transponder to squawk the medical emergency code; Earth approach control put her at the head of the line.

She very gingerly set the ship down in front of Taco Bellevue Hospital.  Leela was rushed into maternity.  Amy and Dr. Zoidberg followed close behind, telling anyone who would listen that Leela was more than a week premature.  The OB/GYN-bot on duty saw her condition and immediately began inducing labor.

Zapp’s Mk 48 Mod 1 fighter sped past Proxima Centauri, and in a few minutes Rana took manual control and started slowing down inside the orbit of Eris.  She came in above the ecliptic to avoid most of the traffic.  She put on the space brakes a little more heavily than she should have, this close to the Sun.  Dodging a few stray asteroids, she dropped the ship neatly into the HOV lane of the inbound traffic pattern for New New York.  Five minutes to go…

Earth’s approach control computers noted the fast-moving presence of a DOOP military craft and alerted their human supervisors.

One of them said, “That fighter’s coming in red-hot, it’s squawking Zapp Brannigan’s personal code, and he isn’t even slowing down to boast to us about his latest exploit.  Must be some hot date he’s going on.”

The other supervisors nodded and laughed.

It took a couple of minutes to find the right alley in Little Neptune.  Rana carefully guided the craft to roof level and put it in quiet hover mode.  The sudden appearance of a heavily armed DOOP fighter above their heads scattered various and sundry human and alien scum from the streets and alleys nearby.

She gave specific guidance instructions to the fighter’s computer.  Then she pushed a button which lowered the cockpit seats to ground level.  She checked the display on her time-return tag.  Less than a minute left…

“Hey!  You there!  Smuggling Bachelorette Bars without a smuggling license, eh?”

Two NNY policemen, one human and one robot, walked up the alley toward Rana and Fry with their light nightsticks at the ready.

She took one bar out of its wrapper.  “Guilty as charged, officer.”

The blue light started coalescing about 3 meters away.

Rana quickly stuffed the bar in the human officer’s mouth then tripped the robot onto his back.

She jammed the remaining Bachelorette Bars in the pockets of her cargo pants and grabbed Fry out of his seat.

Rana held on tight to her father as she stepped into the blue light.

Zapp’s fighter reeled in its cockpit seats, sealed itself up for atmospheric flight, and made a beeline for DOOP’s Earth headquarters in San Francisco’s Presidio.

A few minutes after Rana departed, Leela gave birth to a 3.1-kilo girl.

She cradled her small daughter in her arms.  She has her father’s face, all right.
Oh, Phil…I miss you so much.  And I always will.  But now I have a little part of you, right here.
I’ll be with you until the end of time and space, no matter where we go…

Lieutenant Commander Kif Kroker was appointed as officer-in-charge of the investigation of the incident with the Omicronians.  He paid a visit to Planet Express a few days after Leela returned to work.

Kif stood at the head of the conference table and solemnly spoke.

“The DOOP laboratory has examined the data from your ship’s sensors.  It seems your second ship dumped its cargo in front of the Omicronians’ ships, temporarily blinding their sensors and allowing you to escape.  Then it apparently tried to take on the Omicronian ships alone.  We found its wreckage and some remaining cargo a few parsecs from the battle site.

“For her bravery in saving your ship and the lives of everyone on board, the DOOP has decided to award Rana Cook a special posthumous medal of merit.  We haven’t been able to track down her next-of-kin, so it will be delivered here tomorrow.

“I’m terribly sorry, Leela.  We couldn’t find any trace of Phillip’s or Rana’s bodies.”

Everyone around the conference table looked down at the floor.  Amy moved over, put her arms around Leela and hugged her.  Leela’s lower lip trembled and a tear formed in her eye, but she forced herself to retain her professional demeanor.

She decided on a name for her beautiful two-eyed, purple-haired daughter.

Leela whispered, “Thank you, Kif.”

“Amy, were there any other ships around before or after you were attacked?”

“No, not that I saw.  Why, Kif?”

“I’m telling you this in strictest confidence.  Soon after you headed for Earth, a small cargo ship docked with Nimbus not too far from the battle.  One of its crew was hurt pretty badly.  Captain Brannigan locked up the other for a couple of days, then they escaped with their ship and were not seen again.  Zapp interviewed the pilot, but he didn’t scan the ship’s computer, so we haven’t been able to verify the crew’s identities or the ship’s registration.  We think they’re gunrunners for the Omicronians or Decapodians.”

“There are a gazillion old ships tramping around in the outer fringes of the Universe, Kif.  I don’t think you’ll ever find out who those people really were.”

Every one of the previous 16 times Leela took the ship with its scheduled yearly delivery to Mars, she made up an excuse for Rana.  This year Cubert had not given her enough time to tell her daughter anything.

“Mrs. Fry.”

That tone of voice...Something’s wrong.  Leela gritted her teeth.  “Yes, Mr. Farnsworth?”

“Today’s delivery will be the last yearly one that you will make to Mars.”

You sawed-off, stinking runt!  After Phil was lost in space 18 years ago, at Amy’s urging Leo and Inez Wong gave a few hectares of their land on the slopes of Olympus Mons to Leela.  On it, she built a small memorial to her lost husband.  She planned to bring Rana there in a few years and tell her the whole story; but she wasn’t ready yet, and she didn’t think Rana was either.  In fact, she sometimes despaired for the future of her seemingly aimless daughter.  Every once in a while when Leela was in a melancholy mood she’d stop by her land on Mars to sit and think…and remember.  Every year until he passed away, Professor Farnsworth had her deliver her favorite plants and flowers - an anonymous donation from Planet Express - to the site.  He specifically instructed Cubert to do the same every year without fail.

Fry, Leela, and Rana were part of the family, after all.

Leela felt her blood pressure start to rise.

“WHERE is my daughter??  You know, the one who was here when I left?!  Her jacket is here - but where is she!?!”

Cubert replied in an even tone.  “Now now, Mrs. Fry.  There’s no need to let emotion get the best of you.  We both know she has a habit of wandering off.”

« Reply #7 on: 06-10-2008 18:56 »

Finally, here comes the conclusion and epilogue:

Part 8 – Renaissance

A high-pitched whine and bright blue light emanated from Cubert’s laboratory.  Leela, Amy, and Hermes, followed by Cubert, rushed upstairs.

The light around the chronotron machine faded.

A blue bar on the machine spoke:

“Chronoshift complete.  Thank you, and have a nice day.”

I am going to give that daughter of mine a tongue-lashing she will NEVER forget!, thought Leela.

Out of the machine tumbled Rana…and Fry.

A flood of memories suppressed for 18 years washed over Leela.  Her eye almost bugged out of its socket.  She covered her mouth with her left hand; her head moved slowly back and forth.  “What…the…Phil.  Rana.  You were…You’re really…  Phil!  Is that really you!?!”

Fry’s eyes fluttered open; he croaked out, “Leela?”

Leela’s eye rolled up and she fainted dead away.
Hermes gasped out, “Sweet pigeon of Hell’s Kitchen!  Somebody call an ambulance!”

The ER doctor at Taco Bellevue administered sedatives and painkillers.  Then he put tens of thousands of nanobots to work inside Fry.

“...so, if it wasn’t for your Auntie Amy, you would’ve been born in space.”

“Mom...it’s time.”

“For what?”

“For you to tell me more about Dad.”

A smile crept across Leela’s face.  Rana, you’ve changed.  You’re more than ready, she thought.

Mother and daughter, now reconciled, talked long into the night.

Leela did not want to leave the hospital.  While Phil slept she looked at him, talked to him, read to him, told him how much she missed his touch, and smiled her secret smile just for him.

As the days passed and she began to realize it wasn’t all just a dream and Phil was here to stay, she began to feel like the young girl she hadn’t been in 18 long years.

The ice that covered her heart was melting.  Emotions she thought she’d never again feel in her life came flooding back – desire, longing, passion, adoration, hope.

At night, she dreamed sweet dreams of what life would be like when he came home.

He continued to sleep and get stronger every day.  Sometimes he would stir into semi-consciousness and say her name.  She lived for those moments, and kissed and hugged him often.

She took note of when the nurses and doctors made their rounds.  One night she sneaked into the hospital at about 1 AM, kicked off her big boots and climbed into bed with him.  Though he was still dead asleep, she could feel his heart beating.  She snuggled up close to him with her head on his chest and arms around him, and immediately fell asleep.

The nurse made her round at 2 AM.  She smiled and pulled the curtain shut around their bed.

Fry awoke a couple of days later.  The nanobots were almost finished.  Even though she hated hospitals, Rana happily came with Leela to visit her father.

Leela sat down on the bed beside Fry.  “Phil…remember Rana?” 

“Sure I do...Why does she have purple hair?”

“She was our daughter.  I mean, she is…I mean she always has been our daughter, since 18 years ago.  You know what I mean.  She traveled back in time, saved your life, and brought you here.”  Back to me...

Fry stared at Rana with his eyes wide open.  “Rana…So that’s why you knew so much about us.  And that red jacket - where did you get it?”

“It’s yours.  Auntie Amy hid it on the day you disappeared.  I found it on the ship behind the main buffer panel when I was seven.”

“Well, now it’s yours.  I’ve missed a lot in the past few days...do you have time to tell me the whole story of what happened?”

Rana sat down on the edge of the bed opposite Leela.  “Anything for you, Dad.”

She recounted her travel back in time, the whole rescue in space, dealing with Zapp Brannigan, and stealing the DOOP fighter.

“I missed you every day when I was growing up.  I just had to bring you back, Dad.  For all three of us.”

Fry was overcome.  He looked down at his blanket-covered feet.  No one except Leela had ever cared or done that much for him.

He took Rana’s hands in his and looked deep into her eyes.  “My baby…my daughter…for a few seconds in space, I thought I might never get the chance to know you.  I’m so proud of you.  So is your mom.  We both love you.  You’re the best thing we ever did with our lives.”

A tear of joy appeared in Leela’s eye.

The tension and emotion of a narrow escape from death caved in on Rana and Fry.

“Oh, Daddy…”

The three of them hugged each other, tears streaming down their faces.

“Leela…you did a good job raising her.”

She wiped the wetness from her cheek.  “Couldn’t have done it without you, my dearest.”

“Leela, this is Hailey, the nurse who’s been looking after me since I got here.”

“I’m so glad to meet you.  Thank you for taking such good care of my husband.”

“Don’t mention it, honey.  My pleasure.  You should hang on to him – he’s a keeper.”

“Trust me…I will.”

Fry asked, “Hailey, were you able to make that appointment for me?”

“Sure, sweetie.  My sister-in-law’s friend Morgan set you up.”

Fry was discharged the next day.  Leela and Rana walked with him toward home.  It was a typical bright sunny New New York day; everything was right with the world.

Leela said, “It’s such a beautiful day outside.  But we should be on our way.”

She purred quietly into Fry’s ear, “...because I’ve been waiting 18 years to get you home alone with me.”

Fry’s face beamed with his trademark grin.  “Hold on, beautiful.  We have one last stop to make.  I have to check something.”

Leela and Rana looked at each other quizzically and scratched their heads as they walked with Fry into the Central Bureaucracy.


Nibbler landed his craft and strode into the Hall of Forever on Planet Eternium, 16 kilometers from the exact center of the Universe.

“Welcome, Lord Nibbler.”

“Welcome acknowledged.  I bring very good news indeed.  The Mighty One and The Other are reunited.”

Gasps rose from the Nibblonian counselors.

“Furthermore, in accomplishing this feat The Mightier One has proven her worth.”

The Nibblonians talked excitedly among themselves.

Fiona asked, “Lord Nibbler, will The Mightier One have a sibling to share her burdens?”

“That cannot be determined at this time.  But perhaps it will happen soon.”

“Thank you for your report.  Let the feast of a thousand hams begin!”

Zapp was found unconscious by a 4-man security detail that had to break into his in-space cabin.  The entire crew and even some of the officers of the Nimbus joked for a long time about him getting beaten up by a teenage girl.

His fighter landed at DOOP’s Earth headquarters in San Francisco, with his master electrokey but without him.  This piqued the interest of some senior DOOP admirals and generals.  A discreet investigation was launched.  It was found out that during the recent arrest of an attractive but potentially hostile young lady Zapp had neglected to scan her ship’s computer, contrary to DOOP regulations.  Testimony from some of Nimbus’ crew about Zapp’s “interviews” and some of the women he regularly brought aboard, plus his abuse of military resources in doing so, raised the ire of senior DOOP leadership to the boiling point.

To avoid the scandal of another court-martial, Zapp was “persuaded” to take his pension.  He was also “advised” to get out of DOOP space for a few years in order to let the whole affair blow over.

After searching the outer parts of the Universe he eventually settled at “Incense and Peppermints Farm,” a small commune on Kesey 3.  There he found happiness and contentment making vegetarian candles and cruelty-free love beads...and chasing young, nubile hippie chicks.

Fry, Leela, and Rana sat in the office of Perry Scope, a grade 5 senior bureaucrat in the Wills and Testaments Section of the Central Bureaucracy.

Mr. Scope pulled up a document on his computer and read it carefully.  “Mr. Fry, you are technically correct - the best kind of correct.  Professor Hubert Farnsworth’s latest will was filed in 3000, and names you as his sole heir.”

Leela’s eyelid shot up.  “Phil...does this mean you own Planet Express?”

“No.  It means WE own Planet Express.”

Fry and Leela strolled up the sidewalk in the warm late morning sunshine, arm in arm, occasionally stopping to steal a kiss.

They reached the front of their apartment building.

Rana spoke up.  “Um...Mom...Dad...some of my friends are going party-boarding this afternoon.  Do you mind if I go with them?”

Fry and Leela looked into each other’s eyes and smiled.  Fry pulled out his wallet and said, “Here’s fifty dollars.  Take all the time you want, honey.”

“Thanks, Daddy!”  She kissed Fry on his cheek and grinned.  “I promise I won’t be back ‘til late!  ‘Bye!”

They climbed the stairs to apartment 1-I.  Leela unlocked and opened the door.  Fry scooped her up into his arms and carried her across the threshold.  She let out a contented sigh and rested her head on his shoulder.

“I love you, Phillip J. Fry.”

“Leela my love...welcome home.”

The End.
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