My Ship, first part: Ascend

by Deb H

Sunday 18 December 3003

Has it really been only a week and a half since I wrote here last? It seems like a lifetime has gone by. Or more.

Know how we get stuck in ruts sometimes? Like these past few months. I was just doing the same thing every day, just about. We had our share of interesting deliveries, sure, but nothing to write home about.

And then this past week.

This week, my whole life changed in a fraction of a second. No, not just my life. Thousands of people's lives. Millions, maybe, once it's all done with. All because of a little mistake I made.

Even now I'm not quite sure how it happened. I mean, I know what I did, and what the consequences have been. But my thought processes during that fraction of a second... I wish I could get them back.

No, that's not quite true. I don't wish I could have my thoughts back. I wish I could have that fraction of a second back.

But we gotta pay for what we do. I've paid for that mistake. Shit, I'm still paying for it. It's a huge emotional loan I've taken out, and I'm paying it back in tiny instalments, but in the meantime the interest just keeps piling up. What kind of payments will I be making in future? When will I finish paying it off? I don't know.

At least I do know, more or less, what happened. I guess this story starts a week ago. We were having a late Sunday evening at work to get the ship ready for the next morning's delivery. I was still trying to straighten out one of the engine nozzles. Those things had been giving me fits all weekend. They'd taken some hail damage or something on their last trip - it's usually pretty easy to smooth out the dents in the hull, but the nozzles are always trickier. They're built to deform less, but of course that means that when they do, it's next to impossible to get them back into shape.

Bender, of course, would be the right one for this job, but the ship's interior plumbing needed attention as well, and he and Fry were working on that.

"Okay, try it now," I heard Fry call from somewhere deep aft.

Then there was a flushing sound.

"Okay... fine so far... wait, this one's dripping... now that one's dripping... aw crap..."

I thought I could hear water spraying in there.

"Getting a little messy now... aaaah! Oof! Oh god, it's everywhere! It's all over! It's just... ooohhhhh!"

Now I could start to smell it. I climbed down from the nozzle and moved the ladder over to the drain valve. When I twisted the valve open, this nasty, greenish-brown sludge flowed out and started to collect on the floor of the hangar, draining down into the various grates. Then I heard Fry storming down the steps.

I aksed him, "Hey Fry, what happened?" He reached the floor, and I got a good look at him.

Uuugh. He was covered in the shit, head to toe. It was dripping from his hair, his fingers, his back, his shoes.

"Bender's shiny metal ass is mine," he murmured as he trudged up to the emergency shower.

Bender was on his way down now. He called after Fry, "Hey, weren't you the one who thought that we didn't need to hook up that drain valve? But no! Blame the robot!"

I said to Bender, "You didn't even connect the drain valve? Where do you think the septic tank empties?"

He shouted, "That's what I said!"

By this point Fry's clothing had been stacked up outside the shower, and he was inside trying to clean himself. Bender and I made our way up to the conference room.

Through the glass, I called, "You okay, Fry?"

"I'll be fine. I just gotta - pah!" he spat. "That stuff's nasty."

Just then Leela burst in. "Hey guys, guess what -" She stopped and took a sniff. "Blaugh, what the hell's that?"

Fry turned off the shower and said through the glass, "I'll give you a hint. It came out of our bodies and it's not spit."

He stepped out, still towelling himself off, and leaned over to give Leela a quick kiss.

"So, how'd it go?" I aksed.

She said, "Guess who's the new weekend colour commentator for the New New York Mets!"

"Leela, that's awesome!" Fry shouted as he leapt into her arms. "You're gonna be famous! Again, I mean."

"Yeah, I still can't believe they'd actually pay me to sit around and watch blernsball. It's a great planet, isn't it."

Bender added, "It sure is. Especially when the Sun comes up on the third day of happy hour. Speaking of which, let's go get drunk!"

Fry ran to the door, but then he stopped when he heard us laughing. "What?"

Leela suggested, "How about some clothes?"

He looked down at himself. "Oh. Right. Yeah." He started to put on the very same clothes he'd just cast off.

"Aw, g'uck!" I said. "That's just awful! Even for you!"

O'Zorgnax's was a bit sparse this evening. I usually see more people in bars on Sunday nights, but with more moderate weather today, perhaps people were doing other things.

Leela had gotten a call from the Mets last month - they were replacing one of their announcers and they wanted a former player. Her career hadn't been very long, of course, but she knew the game. Her blernsball knowledge would have put many of the guys I've known to shame. I'd been over to her place when she had a game on, and from time to time our conversation would be interrupted when she had a suggestion for the teams, like "What are you doing throwing Mitchell a changeup inside? He'll hit that out every time!"

So, she went in for an audition. Then another. Today was her third audition; it must have been the winner.

"To the most beautiful voice of the Mets ever!"

"Oh stop."


I said, "So you're going to do weekend games?"

"Yep." She had both arms around Fry, and his hand was stroking her purple ponytail. I'd worked with her for nearly four years, and her hair still looked ridiculous to me. To each their own, I suppose.

She continued, "I'll be working with Ralph Kiner's head. He'll do play by play and the funny anecdotes, and I'll bring the insight that comes from a career in the game."

"So, you'll be the silent one?" Bender said.

"Ohhhh, he got you!" Fry called.

Leela's expression soured. She was still learning to let that sort of joke go.

I tried to continue my line of questioning. "But you're still going to be working with us, right?"

"Of course I am. I couldn't dream of leaving you guys. Flying through space, making daring deliveries, having wild sex," - here she and Fry nuzzled tighter together - "what more could a girl want?"

Bender jumped in again. "A less freakish appearance?"

"He is on fire!" Fry laughed. He gave Bender a slap on the back, nearly falling out of his chair.

Leela continued, "Anyway, that's just sort of an extracurricular activity. This job is still my real career." She finished off her pint, and then she turned to Fry. "Your stench is improving, lover. I'm almost thinking about taking you home with me."

"Well then, perhaps I should coat myself in sewage every day." They laughed some more, and I started to think that maybe they were a cute couple after all. But then I decided to chalk it up to my low tolerance for alcohol.

"Hey skintube," the robot suddenly said. "We oughta be getting back."

"Yeah, you're right," the cryonaut answered. He said to Leela, "We got to get in early tomorrow and finish working on the plumbing."

"You're leaving me?"

"Only for a bit. I'll see you tomorrow." They kissed deeply, and he stood up, still holding her arms. She watched him leave, with Bender tagging along behind him.

He had just waved goodbye to her and disappeared round the corner when I started to giggle. Leela's eye narrowed at me. "What is it?"

"Nothing, nothing." I looked down at my glass, but I was still smiling.

"Come on Amy, let's hear it. I need to hear another stupid joke about me."

"No, no. That's not it."

I wasn't saying anything, but when she leaned back, folded her arms, and stared at me, I couldn't keep it in any longer.

"You do love him!"

"What? No! I mean, I don't know. It's just, you know... The sex is good. The sex is spectacular, in fact. But..."

I waited for her to finish, but she wouldn't come forth any more. I had to prompt her, "How do you feel when he's around?"

She closed her eye and let out a little contented sigh. "I feel... well... lighter. Like we're in one-half G or something. Colours are brighter... tactile sensations are stronger... and I just feel... I don't know. Special. That's silly, isn't it?"

"And how do you feel when he's not around?"

"Same way I've felt my whole life."

I had to draw this out of her. "Meaning?"

"Like a misfit." She sneered at the word as it left her mouth, like it was the worst thing anyone could be. Well, maybe it is.

She started talking again. "Fry just gives me such a sense of... belonging. Everyone else judges me by my eye, or by my hair, or by my attire. Or by my tendency to kick ass first and aks questions later. Or -"

"Or those preposterous boots."

"Yeah, exactly. Or - hold it. What's wrong with these boots?"

"Well, um, there's nothing wrong with them. I mean, if you're into that sort of thing. Anyway, you were saying?"

She was still staring down at her boots, but in a moment she looked up again. "See, that's it exactly. Everyone else makes me feel self conscious in some way."

"Sorry Leela. I didn't mean it like that."

"Yeah, I know. It's fine." She was silent for a minute. "I guess what it is... He treats me like I always wanted to be treated. But... I mean... that's still not really love, is it?"

"It ain't nausea, genius." In retrospect, it really shouldn't have surprised me that Leela wouldn't be able to recognise love. Had she ever even come close to loving anyone? Not since I'd known her, certainly.

But Leela, being Leela, was still trying to rationalise it. "But he's so clumsy and unrefined and amateurish and, you know, he doesn't seem to know what it is he's doing."

"Ky'uh! That's because he doesn't know that you love him!" I was nearly shouting now, so irritated was I at her ignorance. "Leela, you gotta tell him! You know how afraid he is of the consequences of his actions."

"No he isn't. He always acts without thinking!"

"Only when he doesn't realise that there are any consequences. But with you... well, he's done all that shit to try and make you love him, right? And it never worked. So now he still hopes that the next time will work, but now he's also afraid that the next time you'll finally decide you've had it and you don't want to see him any more! Don't you see? He's stuck!"

She shook her head and said, "Amy, that's ridiculous. I'd never push him away like that. He's still my friend."

"You know that, but he doesn't! You have to tell him!"

"What makes you so sure of all that about him, anyway?"

I responded, "Ever try talking to people? It works, you know."

"He told you all that?"

"Of course he did, Leela. I know you've only been going out with him for a week -"

"It's been more than a week, hasn't it?"

"No, it hasn't. It was the third, remember?"

She thought for a moment. "It sure seems like a lot longer than that."

"Yeah, because you love him. And if you can't tell him that now, you'll never have another chance. I mean, he's this close to ditching you." I held up my thumb and my index finger, separated by about the width of her nose. "Seriously. He said to me, he's already waited four years. He doesn't have a lot of patience left."

"I know, I know," she said, slumping forward and resting her chin in her hands. "It's just... I..." She hesitated. "I still don't know if it is love."

"Did you or did you not just call him 'lover'?"

"I didn't! Did I?"

"You did," I told her. "You definitely did. When you made that crack about him smelling better."

She looked down and whispered to herself, "Aw, geez. Leela, Leela, Leela... what a mess." She whiled away a couple of minutes drawing circles on the table with her finger. In short order, the circles began to change shape and become... hearts? Nah.

I said, "You've got that delivery tomorrow, right? That's your chance. Proclaim that your heart belongs to Fry and no other."

"He won't like that. He'll find it corny."

I grabbed her hand and squeezed it between mine until I was sure I had her complete attention.

I said to her, "Sis, you won't know until you try."

The following morning, I showed up around 08:45. The ship looked to be in good shape. As I walked up the steps, I heard the toilet flush. I waited anxiously, but then Fry shouted, "Okay, she's all set!"

I went back for a cup of coffee, and when the boys arrived, Fry aksed, "Hey, how was girls' night out?"

"Pretty uneventful, except for the strip poker."

"I missed the strip poker again? I told you to call me the next time you play!"

I just laughed at him.

He thought a moment. "Oh, right. This is one of those jokes, isn't it? You didn't play strip poker at all. It was probably just Spin the Bottle."

I was still smiling when I took a seat at the conference table. A couple of minutes later I heard Leela enter. "Hey, Amy."

"What ho, captain," I answered.

From the next room I heard whisperings.

"There you are."

"There you are."

"Did you miss me when you were sleeping?"

"Of course not. You were in my dream."

"You dreamed about me? Aw, now I feel bad! I didn't have a dream at all!"

Then I heard Bender. "Oh, for the love of -"

He entered and sat at the table across from me. He had what appeared to be the robotic equivalent of earmuffs on. "I'd rather listen to you than to that garbage."

"Nice to see you too, Bender." I took another pull at the coffee.

Bender looked back at the kitchen door and said, "Wonderful. Here comes the Odd Eyed Couple."

As they sat at the table, Hermes and the Professor entered. The Professor announced, "Good news everyone! You're all a lazy, slovenly bunch of worthless slackers who do their jobs poorly if at all!"

"All right!" shouted Bender.

"Woo!" added Fry. The two of them slapped hands and performed a chest bump, which knocked Fry over. "Owwww."

"Wait a minute," said Leela. "That doesn't sound like good news at all. It's ill informed, derogatory, nonsensical, and seemingly inconsequential. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this borders on disappointing news!"

"Ah, but it be good news for us," Hermes explained. "You see, dere's a tax exemption for lazy, slovenly bunches of worthless slackers who do deir jobs poorly if at all. We don't have to pay taxes on your wages!"

"Woo!" shouted the Professor.

"All right!" added Hermes. The two of them slapped hands and performed a chest bump, which knocked the Professor over. "Owwww."

Luckily, Leela was keen to get back on subject. "So do we have, like, a package to deliver today, or what?"

"Oh my, yes." The Professor pointed to a big crate sitting on the floor of the hangar. "You'll be sending that crate of football uniforms to Canopus 5 Western Hemisphere High School. Their season opener is next week."

Leela looked up. "Canopus 5?"

The Professor's response, of course, was, "Guwha?"

Hermes jumped in and said, "Oh, you know Canopus 5?"

"Yeah, I know some... well, I know somebody there. I can visit him whilst Fry's making the shipment."

"You can't leave de ship unmanned. Somebody's got to watch over it if you're both going to be gone."

Bender said, "Yo! I'll be there! I love hanging out with the autopilot!"

Hermes stared at Bender for a moment, and then he said, "Sweet mother of Madagascar. Amy, you'd better go as well."

"You got it."

It was going to be a flight of about seven hours to Canopus 5, and about three hours in, I looked up from my book. "Hey, what happened to Bender?"

Leela, who was watching the news on the head up display, said, absent mindedly, "He's making lunch."

Fry was staring at Leela. She didn't seem to notice at first, but then she looked over and smiled at him before focussing on the news again.

I had to act if they weren't going to. So I stood up and said, "Leela, I'm going to go take a look at the... um... turret mount."

She wasn't getting the hint. "Sure, whatever."

"I might be gone for a while..." I nodded toward Fry in what I hoped would convey the message tell him now. I continued, "You know, I might be working on... what we, you know, talked about last night."

She still seemed confused. "On the... oh." Her eye widened, and she snuck a glance at Fry. "Oh, that. Yeah, take all the time you need."

"Okay then." I put my hand on her shoulder on the way out.

When the door closed behind me, I put my ear up to it. Yeah, I know. I could have trusted her to be honest and open with Fry. I also could have put down a wager that Zoidberg would have eaten the entire Planet Express building by the time we got back. Each event was, in my estimation, equally likely.

I heard Fry first. "Looks like we've got the bridge all to ourselves."

Then I heard Leela giggling, as though Fry had gotten up out of his chair and was feeling her up. "Not now! We're on duty!"

"Come on. Nobody's here."

"Fry, I mean it. We've got a job to do."

"Don't you want to join the Million Mile High Club?"

"The what?"

"You know, when you've done it in space?"

"Fry, just shut up already. You sound like Zapp Brannigan."

Then a pause.

"No, Fry, that's not what I meant."

"No, you're right. I'd better go see how Amy's doing with the turret."

Shit! I stood up, ready to bump into him as though I was just on my way in.

But I still heard Leela stop him. "Wait, Fry. There's something I've got to tell you."

Finally! I put up my ear again, ready for the juicy bit. Leela continued, "You know when we -"

Just then Bender climbed up the ladder. "Lunch is -"

I shushed him. "Quiet! Leela's telling Fry she loves him!"

"You'll try any excuse to avoid my cuisine, won't you? Fine. I'm going EVA."

"Not now, Bender!" But right then, he slammed the airlock door and depressurised it. Now I was going to miss even more of the conversation.

Finally, the hissing died away, but I didn't hear anything from the bridge.

Then Fry. "What are you trying to say?"

Another pause. I could feel the awkwardness out here.

"Just forget it."

I slapped my hand against the bulkhead, thinking, Leela, you idiot! I was walking away when Fry came through the door. "Where's Bender?"

"He went for a spacewalk."

"Did he make us 'lunch'?" he aksed, miming quotation marks on the word lunch.

"I think so."

"Word." He slipped down the ladder, and I walked into the bridge. Leela was still sitting in her chair, staring ahead.

I let the door close behind me and walked in front of her. She didn't look at me, so I began talking. "Okay class, who can tell me what went wrong? Anyone? Anyone?"

Then, all of a sudden, she jumped to her feet. "Dammit! I just couldn't do it!"

"Why? Why, Leela? Why couldn't you do it? You know that's what he's wanted to hear from you!"

"Don't you see? That's just it! What if it doesn't go well? I'll never be able to work with him again!"

"That's crazy! How can it not go well! Look at you two! You're the kind of relationship that they make those crappy TV movies about!"

"What about me, Amy? This isn't about some abstract concept that you use to validate your relationship with Kif! This is about two of your best friends!"

"If you're not... wait, what?"

"You can't be that oblivious to this, can you? You equate Fry and me to Kif and you! You're like, 'If they succeed, we succeed! If they fail, we fail!' I mean, that's bollocks! I don't need your help! You worry about your own life, and I'll worry about my own, thank you very much!"

"It's not like that, Leela!"

"The fuck it isn't! Every time I think I know what to do, you come along! It's hard enough for me to sort out my feelings on my own! God! I am so sick of this fucking relationship!"

She turned toward the door, but it was already open.

Fry was looking back at us. He'd caught only the last sentence.

He turned back toward his quarters.

Leela started to follow after him. I tried to hold her back, but she shoved me aside. "Fry, wait up!" She caught up to him and grabbed his shoulder.

He pushed her hand away. "I thought I understood you, Leela. I guess I was wrong. Just like always." He slammed the door shut. Well, it hissed shut, but it sure felt like a slam.

She put her hand against the door, then her forehead. Her eye was closed.

I walked up. "Leela..." I began. Seemed like as good a way to start as any.

She growled, "Haven't you done enough?"

"Look, I'm..."

"Enough with your meddling! You're worse than your mother!" She slammed the door to her own quarters.

I heard another slam behind me, and that one must have made me jump a metre into the air. "Bender! You scared the crap out of me!"

He'd slammed the airlock door on his way back in, and he said to me, "I just thought it was the in thing to do."

With Leela in her quarters, that meant I had to take control at the bridge. Not that anything happened that required immediate attention from a competent authority, of course. Space is just too damn big.

But it's all a matter of playing it safe. If an asteroid, or maybe another spacecraft, was about to hit us, the autopilot was the only thing that could react quickly enough anyway. It's just that the autopilot might unwittingly take us straight into a neutron star or something in the process. So even if having a person in the loop represents only the difference between a fatal crash and a merely life threatening crash, the potential benefit - ie, living - means you take shifts with a backup pilot whenever you can.

Space travel is for those who don't mind risks. Not for those who want risks.

An hour or two later, the door opened behind me. It was Leela.

"Good thing you're here," she said. She had red under her eye, more red in her nose, and her bangs were skewed to one side.

"Yeah, you didn't seem to be in the mood to pilot." I waited a moment, and then started to say, "It's my -"

Leela stopped me and said, "No, me first. I'm sorry I snapped at you like that. It was completely out of line. I'd throw myself into the brig, but, you know, we don't have one. And then you'd be flying on your own with nobody to back you up."

"Yeah, that's true. And I'm -"

"No, I'm not done yet. I'm also sorry for calling your motives into question. And for comparing you with your mother. And... well... you're not responsible for that bust up between Fry and me, but if you feel responsible for it, then I'm sorry for that as well."

"You done?"

She looked down at the thing she always wore on her wrist. "Yeah, that's about it."

"Okay then, listen to my laundry list of apologies. First off, you were right about my motives, much as it pains me to admit it. In a way, I do sort of compare you and Fry to Kif and me. I'm sorry that I was acting as a matchmaker rather than a friend. I'm sorry for any and all advice that you didn't want, and I'm sorry for starting that argument. I was just as responsible as you for that, and for that I'm sorry as well. Can you forgive me?"

She gave me a hug. "Can you forgive me?"

"Of course I can, Leela." I kissed her on the cheek. "Have you talked to him yet?"

She shook her head. "I was just about to do that."

I stood up, guided her into her chair, and said to her, "I'd better talk to him first."

"Fry? It's me. Can I come in?"

He opened the door. He had the same red under the eyes look as he invited me inside. "Sure, come on in."

We sat down on his bed, and kind of hung about for a moment. Finally, I started to talk. "I was just talking to Leela, and she -"

"Oh shit. She's breaking up with me, isn't she? And she sent you in to do it." He jumped up off the bed. "Dammit! I knew it! The hell was I thinking! Leela was never interested in me! I knew she couldn't love a poor guy from the Stupid Ages!"

"No, Fry, look -"

Pacing up and down, he suddenly slammed his fist into the bulkhead. "Ow!"

I tried to calm him down. "Fry, that's not it. Listen, she's not about to break up with you. Not even close."

He sat back down. "Come on, Amy. You heard her. Why did she say that about..."

I heaved a heavy sigh. "She's just confused about, you know... she doesn't know that she's in love with you."

"You mean...?"

"Yeah, Fry. She loves you. You've only been together a little while, but soon she'll admit it to herself. Then she'll tell you."

He was looking at me skeptically. "Did she tell you all that, or, how did you...?"

I didn't really know how to explain it simply. Eventually, I just said, "She talks about you all the time. All the time."

"Really? Wait a sec. Good or bad?"

"Both." I guess I had to tell him everything. "She loves your kindness, your spontaneity, your fortitude, -"

He pondered that. "Fortitude... fartitude... heh heh."

"But she doesn't like your immaturity, your attention span, your mental facilities."

"Yeah, I guess I kinda knew all that already."

"So you see what you have to do."

He stood up and shouted, "Yes! It's just so crazy it might work!" Then he sat down again. "Wait, what do I have to do?"

"Rrrrgh," I groaned. "Just wait until she comes around. She'll tell you she loves you."

"You think she will?"

"Of course. She doesn't have a choice."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Look, don't you see? If she doesn't love you, she's just a hypocrite!"

"I'm not following you, but okay."

Just then there was a rumble as the ship settled on ground. "It'll have to wait. We've landed."

Before I could get up, he hugged me. "Thanks Amy. It's good to have you on my side. You let me know whenever you need anything, all right?"

"Me needing your help? That'll be the day," I joked.

"Sure, you say that now."

"Come on, you've got work to do." I pulled him up to his feet, and we walked up to the bridge.

Leela was examining something at Bender's console. She looked up as we entered and mumbled, "Um, hi Fry."

"Hi Leela. Uh, listen..."

I didn't think Leela was quite ready yet, so I jumped into the pause and said, "Fry, why don't you make the delivery now? You two will have plenty of time to talk on the way back, I'm sure."

Leela replied, "Yeah. Yeah, that's true. Um, here's the address, Fry." She handed over a clipboard. "Can you find it okay?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine."

"Well, you know, call us if you run into trouble or anything."

"Sure. And you call me if you run into trouble."


They stood for a moment, their eyes not meeting. Finally Fry said, "Well, I'm gonna... I'm gonna go."


"See you in a bit." He gave a little wave on his way out.

Leela collapsed into her chair. "Oh god, what a mess. Did you talk to him?"

"Yeah, I did." I sat on the couch. "He'll be okay for now, but sis, you gotta tell him. I'm not gonna be the gobetween any more. So I'll fly us back, and you take him to your quarters or the turret or the galley or the bathroom or wherever the hell you have to go to tell him."

She didn't say anything.

At that point I realised what was going on. "Sorry. I'm meddling again."

"No, you're right. I guess if I can't do it now, I never will."

There was a pause as we watched Fry push the hoverdolly out of sight. Since we'd landed at night, that didn't take very long. Leela turned to me. "Can you watch the ship for a while? There's someone I'm meeting here."

"Who's that?"

"Let's just say it's somebody who owes me something."

That should have made me very uneasy. But it only made me slightly uneasy. I aksed, cautiously, "Are you going to be okay out there?"

"I'll be fine."

"You're sure?"

She got up and said, "Amy, it's not a problem. I'll be fine. I'll be back in an hour or two."

"What, we're just supposed to wait around for you?"

"Well, the Professor might not notice if you come back without me, but I'm pretty sure Hermes will."

We laughed at that. She turned around to leave.


She stopped in the doorway.

If I had it all to do over again, I would have said something different right then. I would have said, Where can we find you?, or Don't stay too long, or Don't turn off that thing on your wrist, or After two hours, we're gonna come after you, or Bring a gun along.

If only I could have it all to do over again.

Instead, the only thing I did say was, "Be careful."

"Of course."

In a couple of minutes, I watched her walk off to our starboard, with her green coat on.

In a while, my communicator beeped. I answered, "Yeah?"

Fry's voice said, "What up. Where's Leela?"

"Meeting a friend."

"Oh yeah, she said she knew someone on this planet. Anyway, there's nobody here. I'm coming back."

"You can't leave the package there. Needs a signature."

"Of course it needs a signature, Amy. I know how to deliver. I'm a delivery boy."

"Yeah, yeah. You're bringing it back?"

"Yes, I'm bringing it back."

So he brought it back, and we talked about junk, and stuff. Our policy is three delivery attempts, spaced by three hours each, and after that you gotta pick up your own sp'reaking package.

Before we knew it, my alarm went off, and I looked over at Fry. "Three hours. Ready to try again?"

"I was born ready," he said with eyes narrowed. I just shook my head at him. He has those 20th century things that I try not to pay attention to.

As he left for the cargo bay, he stopped and said, "When did Leela say she'd be back, anyway?"

"Leela!" I hit myself in the head. "I totally forgot about her! She said two hours!" I tried to call her, but got no response.

Fry gave me a worried look and declared, "Something's wrong. It's not like her not to respond."

"Maybe she's in a concrete building. They absorb the signals like you wouldn't believe. Fry, go and deliver the package. I'll call you if I hear from her."

He hesitated. I think he wanted to go out and look for her, which I was starting to consider myself. So I told him, "Look, who knows, maybe you'll find her on the way."

"Yeah, maybe. Hey, why don't we... no, never mind. Yeah, okay, I guess that would work. Hey Bender!"

He appeared with a racing form in one hand. "Is this important? I got seven hundred on Your Mom's Ass to win the Trapezium Derby."

"Bender, go and look for Leela. Amy, keep watch for her and try to contact her every five minutes. I'll deliver the package, and then I'll join up with you, Bender."

Bender pointed at me and suggested, "Why don't we just do her up to look like Leela? You know, dye her hair, change her clothes, poke an eye out -"

Fry slapped Bender with a hollow clang. "Bender! Ordinarily I would laugh at your whimsical diatribes, but this is neither the time nor the place! When we find Leela, I will laugh! Not before! Let's go everyone!"

The two of them left, and I was left to marvel at this change in Fry. The irony was that Leela could never see him in Worried-About-Leela Mode; if she was around, there was no need for him to worry. And yet, under these circumstances, he was exactly what she loved in him. He was exactly what she wanted in any man.

I continued along this line of thought for a moment. Then I got a ring from Fry. "They've got the package. I'll bring back the hoverdolly, and then I'll meet up with Bender."

"Got it. Nothing from Leela yet."


Then I got another call. "What?"

"Amy! I need your help!"

I jumped up. "Leela! Where are you?"

She was breathing heavily, as though she was running. "I'm a couple of minutes from the ship, but I'm being chased. Get a weapon!" She clicked off.

I grabbed a laser pistol and jumped down the steps. I looked around toward the city, in the direction she'd left in, but didn't see anything. I called Fry.

"Fry, I got her! She'll be here in a minute."

"Thank god! I'll be there in five."


We appeared to have landed in a hilly area outside the city. Things were getting light now; it had been night when we landed. Which, as occurred to me as I was sitting there, probably explained why nobody was there to receive the delivery that first time.

I saw movement over one hill. A figure that looked like it could have been Leela appeared... followed by another figure. This one was taller, and it looked like it was gaining on her. I gripped the gun as I tried to hide in the stairwell and peek around it.

Now I could definitely tell it was Leela, carrying a box about big enough to hold a partyboard. The guy chasing her was nearly on her, and I shouted her name. The second time, she heard me.


"Look out!"

She turned around, just in time to see the guy jump on her. They were about thirty metres from the ship, and I could see them quite clearly. I wasn't sure if the guy had spotted me yet.

This fight must have lasted only a minute or so, but it felt much longer to me. It seemed to be happening as slowly as all the movie fight scenes.

The box clattered aside, and Leela elbowed him in the face, getting up when he staggered back. He kicked her in the stomach. She kicked him in the jaw. He missed a punch, and she grabbed his arm and flipped him over. He brought his legs back up and kicked her in the back of the head.

I watched her fall hard to the ground. She rolled to the side, missing another of his kicks. She jumped up and called to me, "I got him, Amy!"

Then, she landed the most extraordinary sequence of punches and kicks. A left handed jab to the face, a right footed roundhouse kick to the face, four punches from alternating hands, a left footed kick right in the jaw. She ducked down and spun around, hooking her right foot around his legs and knocking him off balance.

He started to fall to the side, but as Leela prepared to deliver the decisive blow, he suddenly jumped up and grabbed her by the throat, holding her above the ground.

I looked down at the pistol in my hand. A hand that was shaking uncontrollably. Leela would be depending upon this hand.

I managed to release the safety catch on one side of the gun. When I looked up again, Leela's arms and legs were wrapped around the aggressor's arms, trying to free herself. It didn't look like it was working.

I thought I heard her grunt, "I don't got him," but I don't think I really would have been able to hear that at that distance.

I raised the pistol. My hand was moving like crazy, but when I thought I had it pointed at him, I squeezed the trigger.

I swear I could see the path that my shaking hand carved for the beam, even more slowly than before. First I saw the beam miss completely. Then it moved back toward the guy. I saw it intersect his neck and move across until it had surely cut the carotid arteries.

But it kept moving.

It sliced into Leela's left elbow. Then the guy's forearm. Then Leela's back. It cut a diagonal line starting on the left side of her back, halfway down the ribcage. It drifted to the right side, to about where her kidney would be. Then it started to swing back to the left, like a pendulum. It sliced back across, reaching her waist on the left side before it finally stopped.

They both fell to the ground, ever so slowly. He had released his grip on her.

Finally, I was able to move my legs. After infinitely many steps, I got to them. The guy had quite clearly died, and Leela wasn't in very good shape either.

I knelt down next to her. "Leela, we got to get you to the medbay!"

She shook her head.

"What, have you lost it? You're hurt badly. Come on, let's go!"

I wrapped my arms under her shoulders and pulled. She groaned in pain.

When I looked down, it was sickening. I think my exact words were, "Oh, god, no."

She was coming apart. Literally.

The sideways V that was sliced in her back actually cut all the way through her body. The black lines had opened up slightly, revealing horrid burned flesh.

She started to talk. Whisper, really, as though her lungs had been cut as well.

"Amy. It's... your ship now."

Now I was shaking my head. "We'll get you to the medbay, and you'll be fine. Fry will be here any minute now."

She looked up at me. "Fry! He..."

"Shhh. Save your strength. You'll need it." The tears were welling up in my eyes now. I could barely see her through them.

"Tell him... I..."

She seemed to run out of breath then. But her mouth kept moving. And when I blinked the tears away, damned if I didn't see her lips form the word love.

About then I realised that the thing she always wore on her wrist was displaying her pulse. I noticed one more beat, a very feeble one, and then nothing.

She had flatlined.

I cradled her head in my hands, unsure what to do. Then I saw that her eye was still open. It had been a sad eye when she said Fry's name.

It was a lifeless eye now. A cold, lifeless eye staring back at its killer.

Somehow, I had enough motor control to lower the eyelid shut with my fingers, and when I looked up, I turned around and saw Fry pushing the hoverdolly onto the cargo elevator.

I tried to call out to him, but my vocal cords weren't cooperating. I tried again. "Fry! Over here!"

He saw me and began to hurry over. Then his eyes widened, and he broke into a sprint.

When he got close, he let out a faint gasp. "Leela?" He knelt down and grabbed her hand. He put his ear to her chest. "No... you can't..."

I put an arm around him. He did the same for me. And we wept for our friend.

After that there are a lot of gaps in my memory. We must have called Bender back, because the next thing I recall was the three of us carrying her back to the ship, using the box as a stretcher.

Then I remember walking into the medbay. This must have been just after we took off. Fry was standing over her body, and I stood next to him.

Fry finally aksed the question I'd been dreading. "So... what happened?"

I told him about the call I got, and the guy fighting her. But I stopped when I got to the critical moment: "He was holding her aloft, by the neck, and she was struggling to break free... and then..."

When I fell silent, he spoke. "Oh my god. He shot her. At point blank range."

His hand traced the brutal burn lines across her body. Then he looked up at me and said, "What happened to him? Did he get away?"

I said, "Didn't you see his body?"

He shook his head.

"I shot him. He's dead too."

He looked down at Leela again. I cursed myself silently for my lack of honesty.

We stood there for some time, looking at what had been our captain.

I've no idea what Fry was thinking at the time. As for me, it was mostly regret.

I regretted that I was too willing to let Leela run off on her own. I regretted not making her arm herself. I regretted my involvement in their relationship. I regretted not being truthful with Fry.

More than anything, I regretted how I responded when Leela needed me. My worst mistake. Why did I shoot from so far back? Why didn't I just move in closer? I would have had much better aim from closer in, and maybe if he'd seen me, he would have been distracted, dropped her, and turned to face me. Then I would have a clear shot at him.

These were the things that I thought as we flew back toward Earth. After an interminable period, Bender showed up and clapped Fry on the back. "Hey Fry, you ready to go through Leela's stuff, or what?"

I was about to express my own outrage when Fry grabbed Bender by the shoulders and pinned him against the bulkhead. In a low voice full of rage, he growled, "Bender, if you touch any of Leela's stuff, so help me, I will dismantle you piece by piece and throw every piece into a different star. Understood?"

"Hey, what's gotten into you? I was just, well, you know how I feel about looting."

"Yeah, I know. And you know how I feel about Leela."

"Yeah, okay. I'll just loot your stuff instead."

"Thanks Bender. That means a lot to me."

Bender patted Fry on the shoulder and left again.

I said to Fry, "So that's the closest you guys ever come to a 'moment', is it?"

He turned back to Leela's body. He put a hand to her cheek as he said, quietly, "She looks... I don't know... troubled somehow. As though she has unfinished business, like Hamlet's father."

When he looked up at me, he noticed my incomprehension, and he said, "What, people don't read Shakespeare any more?"

"Of course we do. I read The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged in high school just like everybody else."

"You remember the ghost of Hamlet's father?"

This Hamlet character wasn't ringing a bell. Maybe it was something from the sonnets. Nobody ever read those, anyway.

He turned away. "Never mind. It's not important."

When I looked back at Leela again, I could sort of see what Fry was getting at. She looked a bit like she still wanted to do something. But what?



"I haven't told you her last words."

He looked up at me anxiously. He seemed cautiously optimistic, but I think he was afraid of what they might be.

So I took his hand, and I told him, "She said she loved you."

"She did? She said that?"

I nodded. "With her last breath."

He looked down at her and sniffled. He bent down, kissed her cheek, and said in a hoarse whisper, "I loved you too. I still do."

That was too much for me. I started crying again, and he pulled me into an embrace. I rested my head on his shoulder, and in a moment, he put his head on my shoulder.

The next thing I remember was still in the medbay. The autodoc had just signalled its completion. We'd left it running the whole time to examine Leela's body and do sort of a preliminary autopsy.

We looked up. The right shoulder of my sweatsuit was still soggy, and Fry's jacket and shirt were similarly stained. The ship felt cold to me as I got up and tore off the printout.

What I saw was unbelievable.

The left lung had been torn neatly in half; the right had collapsed. The spinal column was severed in two places. The liver and gall bladder had both ruptured. Renal failure. Internal bleeding. Hypoxia everywhere.

She hadn't stood a chance.

I thought I heard something. I looked up at Fry, and he was staring at me. "I said, what's it say?"

I couldn't speak. I would rather have kicked him in the nuts than show him this.

"Amy, you're so pale. What is it?"

"I'm not..." My hand looked normal. I looked around for a mirror. There was one in the corner, above the sink. I did look pale.

I looked back at the autodoc's report, but I couldn't find it. When I turned around, I saw that Fry had taken it. He was running one hand through his hair, and his back was sliding down the bulkhead until he sat on the floor.

He said to himself, "Oh god. How painful it must have been..." He looked at me. "How bad was it?"

I really didn't want to talk about it.

"Please, Amy. I have to know."

"I just don't know, Fry. She kind of went oof when I tried to pick her up, but... I don't know. She didn't say she was in pain, at least."

He seemed a little heartened by that. "That's Leela, all right. Never show pain."


Some time after that, my communicator gave a ping that meant we were minutes from Earth. I was sitting on the floor, where Fry had been. He was standing over her again.

"Fry, I gotta go land."

"Okay. I'll be in here."

New New York was in darkness. The clock said it was nearly 05:00. It had taken us a good nine hours to get back.

When we touched down in the hangar, I called for Bender on my way out of the bridge. Fry called from the medbay, "He's down here."

As I entered, Bender was showing Fry some of the stuff he'd stolen. "Your toothbrush - rarely used - your instant bacon mix, your pocket Scrabble set, your pocket dictionary - rarely used..."

So we carried Leela to the cargo lift. As we descended, we heard Hermes shouting, "Where in Babylon 5 have you been? Don't expect overtime pay for..."

He trailed off when he saw us. More when he saw Leela, really.

"Oh sweet manufacturer. Is she..."

"She's gone, Hermes," I said.

Hermes stared at her for some time, eventually lifting a hand up to rest gingerly on her forehead. As soon as he touched her skin, he drew in a sharp little breath and pulled his hand back a bit. But then he put his hand, ever so carefully, across her forehead as though taking her temperature.

He looked up at us and said, "So what... what happened?"

Fry said, "Her friend on Canopus 5 turned out to be a little less friendly than we'd like."

Hermes removed his glasses and rubbed the back of his hand across his face. He replaced his glasses and started to walk away, slowly. "I'll get a doctor for de death certificate. Someone notify de next of kin."

I turned to Fry. "Oh no, her parents! How am I going to tell them?"

He said, "Let me do it. They know me a little better."

"I have to. I'm the new captain." And I'm the one who killed her, I thought.

"We'll both go. I don't think I can do it on my own, anyway."


We wandered through the sewers on a sleepy morning. It was still early, and we saw only a few people about.

At one point Fry stopped. "Amy, look."


We were in front of a newspaper machine that a guy was loading. He took out a couple of leftover copies of yesterday's edition, which Fry was pointing at.

I looked at the headline.

Mets sign broadcaster Leela
History making player to announce weekend games in 3004

Next to a file photo of Leela throwing a pitch for the Mets was an article describing the new job for the "pride of New New York's sewers".

The newspaper guy noticed us. "Yeah, that Leela, she's something, ain't she? Who woulda thought one a us would be doin' all the stuff she done, hey?"

Then he examined us a little more closely. He had brown fur on the backs of his arms and his legs, and his legs appeared to have some sort of extra joint in there.

He said, "Youse two don't really look like one a us, do you?"

Fry answered, "No, we just, um, we just know her."

"Hey, yeah, you're those normal people she works with, ain't youse!" He punched Fry on the arm. "So you finally got her, didja! Yeah, she's had her eye on you. Hey man, all the best. Tell her she's representing the sewers." He held up a fist as he walked away.

"Wow," I said.

"Yeah," Fry added.

When we got to their house, the lights were on. "That's good," I said. "Thought we'd have to wake them up."


I rang the bell, and Mr Turanga showed up. "Fry! Amy! Hey, come on in."

As we entered, Fry said to him, "Good morning, Mr Turanga. Um, I hope it's not too early."

"Nah, we always get up early." He called into the next room, "Munda! We got guests!" He turned back to us and laughed. "Hey, you're not both picking up our daughter for a date, are you? That would be a little weird, you know. Not that there's anything wrong with it. We're quite broad minded."

"Amy, Fry! Come in!" Mrs Turanga said from the kitchen doorway. "Have a seat. I'll put some tea on."

"Um, actually..." Fry started, but she was gone already.

Fry and I sat down in chairs across from the couch. I looked over my shoulder.

The wall was covered with pictures of Leela.

From the orphanarium, from her first job, from Planet Express, from every little side job she'd ever held, from just about every interesting thing she'd ever done. Over on the side I saw a photograph I'd taken of her, when I put some white flowers in her hair. They really made her look pretty.

And the centrepiece was a large portrait of the whole family. Leela was seated in the middle. Mr Turanga, standing to her right, had an arm over her left shoulder. Mrs Turanga, standing to Leela's left, had a tentacle over her right shoulder.

Tears were collecting in my eyes again. Fry rested a hand on my shoulder.

Mr Turanga called, "Munda?"

"Let me put the water on, Morris."

"I don't think we need tea just yet."

"Oh, don't be silly. It'll just take a minute."

"Munda, come here."

I looked up at Mr Turanga. He seemed uneasy. I think he could tell what this was all about.

Mrs Turanga walked in. "What is it, Morris?"

She sat down next to Mr Turanga. They held hands - they held appendages, at least - and looked at us.

I'll never understand how Fry was able to do what he did next. I figured he'd break down and I would have to tell them, and I can't even begin to consider how I could have. I mean, I was only her friend. How devastated would her parents be? Especially with all that they'd gone through for her.

But when Fry stood up, I just lowered my head and held my hands together.

Fry said, "Mr and Mrs Turanga, I must regretfully inform you that last evening New New York time, your daughter, in single combat with an aggressor, received a laser wound, the complications of which..." He swallowed hard. "Leela has passed on."

When I finally looked up, her parents were holding one another tightly. Mr Turanga dabbed at his wife's tears with a handkerchief. He left his own tears.

Fry continued, "If there's anything that Amy and I can do for you at this time, please do let us know. We'll do whatever we can."

Mr Turanga looked up and aksed, "May we... may we see her?"

"Yes, of course," Fry responded. "Let's call Hermes."

They went into another room, and I stayed back.

"Amy?" Fry said, quietly.

I turned to face him. He was in the doorway, holding a hand out to me.

I said, "I'll stay here."

Our eyes met for a moment. He was concerned about me, I could tell. But he nodded and retreated through the doorway.

I turned round to face Leela's wall.

I don't know how long I spent looking at all of those pictures. They told a story, although it was a more upbeat story than the one Leela would tell about herself. She was portrayed as one of the brightest students in the orphanarium, and one who was tolerant, accepting even, of her classmates regardless of how they treated her.

She finished her education and was assigned to a fate as a fate assignment officer. The photographs captured a woman whose talent outgrew the menial tasks to which she was put. She couldn't be bothered to assign fates for the poor saps from centuries ago who blustered into her office. She was going places.

And it wasn't until a guy with a red jacket and a beer can blustered into her office one Tuesday that she finally began going places. One career chip extraction later, she was openly invited to the only job that seemed to fit her. She flew the starship that made shipments for the only remaining relative of that redheaded guy, who would cover the terrestrial leg of each mission.

Add in a cute engineer to maintain the ship, and a bending unit to sit around and look busy, and you had a team that knew no fear. A team that could fight any battle, overcome any obstacle, meet any challenge, deliver any box.

Their captain, in between slaying alien monsters and flying heroic missions, conducted a quite personal two pronged exploration. The questions that she was exploring were, bluntly, Does she love the guy in the red jacket or doesn't she?, and Who is she, for fuck's sake?

With the help of the guy that she may have loved, she answered the second question. She was just an ordinary old human, a mutant with loving parents who kept an eye out for her and tried to smooth her path whenever they could. Though they feared the worst, she embraced them and welcomed them happily into her life.

And somewhere, in amongst all those occasions when either she saved his ass or he saved her ass, they became an item. Any moment now, she would fall for him, hard.

It was a fairy tale.

That is, up until the last page.

"She led quite a life, didn't she?"

I turned around. Mr Turanga was behind me, holding two cups of tea. I took one. "Thanks." I took a sip, but I didn't taste much of anything. "It seemed as though she could handle any situation."

"Except one."

When I didn't reply, he cocked his head toward the other room, saying, "She never told Fry how she felt about him, you know."

"I know. I only wish she could have."

He looked into his cup for a while before he got up and went to a bookcase. He handed me a thick book with a black unmarked cover.

"What's this?" I aksed. The first page bore a newspaper clipping.

Mutant to live on surface
Hopeful parents leave nearly-normal baby at NNY orphanarium

"These were all taken from the Sewer Observer," he explained. "She was something of a celebrity amongst us."

I turned to the back. There were several empty pages, but before them was a copy of the same article Fry and I had seen on the way in. In between were hundreds of articles about Leela's birthdays, vacations, life events. They ran an entire section heralding her status as the first mutant to graduate from a surface high school. There were gossip columns about her failed relationships, the columnists constantly decrying the hypocrisy of surface dwellers who claimed to accept everyone but couldn't even look Leela in the eye on a date.

One caught my eye.

'I think Fry's the one'
Leela bares all in exclusive interview

I looked up at Mr Turanga and said, "This was just last week."

"They got a couple of interviews with her this year. You can imagine it was big news when she hooked up with Fry."

I couldn't imagine that sort of scrutiny on anyone's life. I wouldn't want to pick up the newspaper in the morning and see a big article about Kiffy and me.

Then again, she deserved it. She'd already accomplished more than I ever will. Ten times over, in fact. I mean, what do I ever make the news for? Getting kidnapped and being held for fifty billion dollars ransom, that's what. Nobody knew whose kid she was, so she had no choice but to make a name for herself. And did she ever.

Did she like being a heroine to all these mutants? Did it make her nervous? Did it annoy her? Just how did she feel about all that?

I shut the book and held it out, but he wouldn't take it. "That's for you and Fry to keep," he said. "You were such good friends for her. This is the least we can do."

Fry and Mrs Turanga entered, and Fry told us, "The service is set for eleven tomorrow. Hermes and the mortuary are taking care of everything."

I stood up. "What should you and I do?"

"Get into bed, Amy. We've been up for almost twenty four straight hours."

I hadn't yet realised it. I thought it was just emotional exhaustion.

We hugged her parents, and Fry aksed, "Are you two going to be okay?"

"We'll be fine," Mrs Turanga assured us. "What about you two?"

I said, "I think we'll be okay. We just need some rest."

"We'll see you tomorrow, then," Mr Turanga said.

Mrs Turanga added, "Leela was so lucky to have friends like you. She would be so proud."

Fry responded, "Nah, she'd be proud of you. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to leave her on the surface, but... well, for what it's worth, I think you made the right choice. We'll see you tomorrow."

"Sleep well."

"We'll certainly try."

On the way back, I called Kiffy. He was stunned, of course. He had a lot of respect for Leela. More than for his own boss, at least. Originally he was going to come to Earth at the weekend to spend Xmas with me, but he said he'd try to get a couple of extra days' leave to make the funeral.

When I hung up with him, the word stuck in my mind. "Funeral," I said to myself.


I replaced the personhole cover. "We're really doing it, Fry. We're burying our best friend."

"Submerging, actually."


He told me, "The mutants have this tradition where they submerge the deceased in the lake. The body decomposes and becomes part of the next generation. It's their way of ensuring that past generations aren't forgotten."

I thought that over. "I kind of figured we'd give her a proper burial at space."

"Maybe, but this would mean a lot to her parents. And she did love her parents."

When we got to the office, Zoidberg was sitting at the conference table, sobbing. He looked up at us. "There you are already! I have a confession! I, Zoidberg, am responsible for Leela's death! I throw myself at your mercy and beg forgiveness!"

Fry tried to calm him down. "Zoidberg, it's not your fault. What would make you think that?"

"Oh, you're very kind for saying that. But the truth has been haunting me! Haunting me!" he moaned. "For, you see, I must share a terrible secret! Two years ago, when I gave our fair captain a morphine injection, it had little effect. I pondered the problem throughout the night until I discovered the reason for the anomaly. It was not morphine at all! It was ibuprofen, it was! For those two years I have lived with this mistake, and now it has caught up with me! The ibuprofen has killed her! And all because of one little mistake! The agony!"

I put my hands on his arms and said, "Zoidberg, ibuprofen isn't fatal to humans. It's a painkiller. We use it all the time."

"Look, I appreciate that you're trying to ease my guilty conscience. But I must live with the consequences of my actions! Oh, Zoidberg, you are not fit to administer medicine!" He ran off crying.

Fry pointed in the direction that Zoidberg had escaped in and observed, "He's got issues."

I walked down the steps to the hangar floor. Leela was still there, resting in state.

That was the first time I could really bring myself to get a good look at her. God, Amy girl, look what you did, I thought.

From the waist down, it was nothing out of the ordinary for her. Her legs, of course, were wrapped up in her habitual black pants. We'd worked out together so many times, I well knew how developed the muscles underneath there were. Those hardwood legs of hers ended in feet that, if they were on my legs, I would have locked inside massive boots all the time as well. They were simply larger than a woman's feet should be.

Between the waist and the ribcage, she was criscrossed by white bandages, laid down on top of her tank top. One of them had been laid down in two layers. It ran vertically up from the right side of her waist to about the last rib, where it met the other bandage that had been wrapped diagonally upward, coming just below her left breast before it looped back around her back. This one must have been wrapped five layers deep, and where the lower layers peeked out, they bore the rusted hue of dried blood. The first bandage had large red spots as well.

There was another bandage wrapped around her left elbow. Once again the bottom layer or two had been soaked with blood.

Her arms were also solidly built, the ridge of her biceps clearly defined under her skin, which had lost much of its colour. The bandage on her left arm had given her some strange sort of symmetry, counterbalancing the thing she always wore on her right wrist.

Her purple hair was sprawled off to her right, looking like the coma of a comet that had been laced with some crazy chromium impurity. The plume that normally hung straight down in front of her eye - making me wonder how she could even see - had now settled on the left side of her face.

Back on the ship, I hadn't been able to tell quite what it was that prompted Fry's remark about unfinished business. Looking at her now, I could see a hint of a frown, along with a slight furrow in the eyebrow. Were it not for her paled complexion, I could easily imagine that she was just on the cusp of awakening from a dream.

That, of course, was exactly what I wanted. I just wished I could wake up from this awful, awful dream.

Leela dying was bad enough. Leela dying at my hands was orders of magnitude worse. But why didn't I tell Fry what really happened?

I've been giving a lot of thought to that question. It was probably related to the circumstance. For a moment he thought that guy was still running free, and I think Fry sounded as though he wanted to kill him. Avenge Leela's death.

Which is understandable. If it had gone down the way Fry thought, I would have shot the guy. For the same reason.

If only it had happened that way.

So I think, subconsciously, I was trying to protect myself. If Fry discovered that I fired the lethal blast, would he then seek justice against me? Probably not, but in the heat of the moment, perhaps he was capable of a revenge killing. I had seen how angry he could be at Bender.

Besides, I was next in line to the captain's chair. Wouldn't it call my motives into question? Would it look like I killed her for her position?

It might look like that if we were talking about a high military rank or a government office or something. But if I wanted to captain a delivery ship, I could always move to a competing company. Four years at Planet Express had given me an impressive résumé for my age.

But would anyone else see it that way? They would aks questions. Amy, you were second in command. One laser blast later, and you're first in command. Did you really expect us to believe that your hand was shaking?

"Amy? Hello-o?"

I turned around to see Fry waving his hand. "Bender's left us some breakfast, if you're hungry."

"I don't think I can eat anything now."

"Look, it's been at least sixteen hours since I've eaten anything. Probably longer for you. You gotta eat something. Besides, it's actually pretty good."

Oddly enough, it was good.

When I was staring at Leela's body, contemplating my situation, Fry had been talking to Bender. As Fry recounted to me over breakfast, Bender went straight to the kitchen when we landed and kept cooking whilst we were at the Turangas'. Before he left for Vegas, he stocked the refrigerator with several different dishes and left a breakfast composed of French toast and omelets.

It was good enough that I wondered how good it might be on a day when I wasn't trying to swallow everything past that massive lump in my throat.

Once we had the dishes cleaned up and stowed, Fry said, "So... umm... what are you doing now?"

"Um... going home, I guess. You?"

"Same thing, I guess."




Fry stammered, "Um, Amy?"


"Would you... I mean... I don't think I could stand being alone tonight. Maybe, um, would you..."

"Crash with you tonight? Of course, Fry. I was going to aks that anyway."

By this point, it was already light out. It was about 07:30, and people were starting to make their way to work. Here we were, just coming from work.

I sat on Fry's bed when we got in. He went into the kitchen and shouted, "Want anything to drink?"

I called back, "What have you got?"

"We got plenty of beer."

"You got anything harder?"

"Umm..." I heard cans shifting, and then, "No. Just beer."

"Well then I'll have a beer."

He entered and handed me a can of Löbrau as he settled next to me.

"Thanks man." I popped it open and took a big swig. "Shit. What a day."

He drank from his own can and put it down on the floor, saying, "Yeah. You said it. The only woman I've ever loved is dead."

"Hey, jerk, what about me?"

"Oh, yeah, sorry. But, to be honest, I don't think I really loved you. Not in the same way I love Leela."

I thought that over. I suppose I loved Fry in a manner of speaking, but it was more a sort of puppy love. As for Kif, that was real, concrete, grownup love.

I said to Fry, "Yeah, I kinda know what you mean."

He suddenly said, "Hey, what you got there?"

I looked around until I realised that he was pointing at the scrapbook from Leela's parents. I handed it over.

He flipped it open and read aloud, "Mutant to live on surface." He flipped some pages. "Sewer girl no more. Meet the new fate assignment officer who's taking New New York by storm." He turned some more pages. "Midnight escape for Leela. Daring break turns sewer pride into starship captain." He flipped through page after page of exultant praise for Leela. "What is all this?"

I turned to the last page, where the same article that we saw this morning was glued. Fry stared at it, and then turned back to the previous articles.

He looked up at me, and started, "You... you mean she... they've been writing articles about her, her whole life?"


"That's incredible."

He began reading one of the articles, but I took the book from him and shut it. "Fry, you'll have plenty of time to read that later. We got to get some sleep now."

"Yeah, you're right." He got up and drew the blinds. "Take the bed. I'll sleep on the floor."

"No, I'll sleep on the floor."

He gave me a weary look. "No, Amy. I don't want to argue about this. I'll be fine on the floor. Hell, this floor is more comfortable than a lot of beds I've been in. Sleep in the bed. I insist."

So I slept in the bed.

Actually, slept would be stretching it. My body was so tired, but when I closed my eyes, all I could see was that lifeless eye.

I rolled all over the bed, thinking about all the ways I could have prevented it. All the things I should have said.

Leela, take a gun.

If you're not back in two hours, we're coming after you.

Tell me where you're going.

I turned over again.

"Amy? You up?"


Fry sat up and looked at me. It was still light outside, and the sunlight seeping through the blinds lit up the room a bit. He said, "What time is it?"

"Just after nine."

"Damn. We better hurry. I'm supposed to be there an hour early."

Now I was confused. "Didn't you say it was tomorrow?"

"No, it's today. Wednesday."

"It's Tuesday, Fry."

"It's still Tuesday?"

"Yeah. It's only been an hour."

He spread out on the floor and moaned, "Aw, geez! I'm never going to make it to tomorrow!"

"You can't sleep either?"

He shook his head.

I sat up and turned on the light. I reached down for him. He grabbed my hands, and I pulled him up onto the bed next to me.

He tilted his head over toward me, and then he pointed at my shoulder. "You've still got that scar."

I looked at his neck. "So do you."

We didn't say anything for a while. We just kind of watched one another.

Fry spoke. "Amy..."


"I was kind of wondering something. Something about... you don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"What is it?"

"Maybe this will sound a little odd, you know, under the circumstances. I just... I'm kind of interested in what the answer might be."

"What, Fry?"

"Did you and Leela ever..."

Despite myself, I started giggling. That wasn't what I was expecting him to say.

He turned away. "Aw, forget it. It's stupid."

"Three times."

He turned back toward me, and then he started to giggle, "Seriously? Not all at once, right?"

I figured I'd tell him. He deserved to know.

So I began, "Once a few weeks after I met her, once about a year after that, and once more a few months ago."

"So, how was she?"

"Eeh, not that great. She wasn't very enthusiastic. I could tell it wasn't really her scene. Out of the times I remember, anyway. I was so wasted the second time, I don't remember it."

He said, "Yeah, I don't remember the second time I did it with her, either."

"There was something funny in there, though," I continued. "That last time - this was right after that whole bit with the tar pit of youth, right?"


"So most of us ended up a little younger, right? Well, we played a little game where she tried to seduce me and all that. She took me home with her, with me doing the whole nervous 'I'm not really sure if this is a good idea' bit, right? She kisses me, I become blinded by my passions, and we do it long and hard into the night, you know."

"Right," Fry concurred. "That old story."

"Exactly. So I rip off her clothes, she gives me a strapon, and I use it on her. And just as she's climaxing, she shouts out, 'Fry!'"

"What?" Between laughs, he added, "Really? No shit?"

"Swear to god," I insisted. "She says your name!"

"So what did you do?"

"Well, I stopped, of course. I look down, and she's holding her hands over her mouth, she's got the most mortified look on her face, and she turns this deep red. She looks up at me, and as soon as we make eye contact, I couldn't hold it in any more. I just burst out laughing."

Fry finished laughing and said, "Man, she couldn't have thought much of my manhood."

"Yeah, I said the same thing."

"What happened after that?"

I told him, "Well, I threatened to tell you, of course. She was all like, 'Don't you speak a word of this!' That just cracked me up even more. I felt kinda bad later, about laughing in her face like that. But she saw the funny side eventually. Oh, man! I've heard all kinds of weird things in bed, but nobody's ever said a guy's name to me!"

"Aw, man. That is too funny."

We had another long pause. Then Fry said, "Okay, we'd really better get some sleep this time." He rolled off the bed and onto the floor. "Sleep tight."

"Yeah, you too."

I think I managed to drift off a few times, but for the most part I was thinking about all the things that Leela and I had done together. As her father put it, she led quite a life.

The most striking thing I remembered was just nine days before that.

It was a Sunday morning, and I had to work on yet another component that they'd broken on one of their delivery joyrides. I'd spent a late Saturday on the fuel lines, and after a few hours' sleep, I was back in to give it another go.

Around eleven I finished patching up one of the lines and went back to the kitchen to fill up my coffee. Just then Leela waltzed in. Yes, she was doing an actual waltz. She grabbed me, spun me around, and sang, "Good morning, my talented coworker."

I slipped out of her arms and complained, "What's gotten into you? You been sniffing the fumes from Nibbler's litterbox again, or what?"

"Well, yes, that too. But isn't it amazing how a single, most delightful evening can change one's whole outlook on life?" She followed that with a little happy sigh.

"What happened last night? I thought you didn't have anything going on last night."

She answered, "I didn't. But then there was, I guess, a little change of plans."

"What? Some sort of sudden date?"


I guided her to the table. "Well, come on, girl! Spill it! Who with?"

She gave a little half smile and said to me, "You'll never guess."

I wasn't in the mood to guess, but I figured I'd just let her tell the story the way she wanted. "Somebody I know, then. I think we can rule out Zoidberg."

She rolled her eye. "Of course."

"I don't think it was Zapp Brannigan, either."

"Definitely not him."

"No, of course not. That one guy at the gym with the shaved head? Scruffy? The guy who always hides behind trees when he sees you?"

She kept shaking her head.

"It was a guy, right?"

She groaned. "Yes."

"Rrrgh! Who was it, Leela?"

At that moment Fry walked in. "Hello there, beautiful." He bent down and kissed her on the lips.

She wrapped her arms around him, returned the kiss, and said, "Hello yourself. I had a wonderful time last night."

"I did too. I can't wait to do it again. And again, and again..."

"Oh, stop." She pushed him away, and he left for the hangar.

She turned back toward me. As she tilted her chair back, she held her arms behind her head and crossed her legs on the table. She gave me the same half smile.

And all I could say was, "No... fucking... way."


"So? Come on, Leela! Tell me all about it! What remarkable thing did he do to sweep you off your feet?"

"Okay, okay." She put her feet back on the floor and leaned in toward me. "I went to a movie yesterday afternoon."

"He took you to a movie?"

"No. Fry's not in the story yet. I'm going to a movie on my own."

"Which one?"

"Being John Malkovich's Head."

"I liked that one."

"Yeah. Anyway -"

"Did you like it?"

She shook her head and held her hands out. "I haven't seen it yet. They've only started the trailers."

"Trailers. Got it."

"So then I see a silhouette walk up the aisle, and I'm thinking, I know that silhouette. I'm already sitting on the aisle, so I reach out and grab him."

"And he turned out to be some other guy."

"No, it was Fry. He says hi, and I aks him to sit with me. He says sure. He sits next to me, and then he leans over and whispers to me -"

"Oh, he whispered sweet nothings into your ear? That's so cute!"

"No, he whispered, 'I think this guy just came from the circus'. There was this fat guy sitting on the other side of him. So I laughed at that. Anyway, we saw the movie, and as it went along, we'd whisper jokes about it. Like... um... remember that one scene with all the Malkovich heads in the restaurant?"


"Well, Fry goes, in Malkovich's head's voice, you know, 'Man, I should never have cold pizza before I go to bed!' And I just cracked up! I'm biting my tongue, trying not to laugh out loud in this theatre!"

"I'm not sure if it's that funny, Leela."

"It was at the time. So after the movie, I'm like, 'Want to grab something to eat?' So he says okay, and we end up at Johnny Carburetor's. Quit laughing."

"Sorry, it's just... that's your big date?"

"Shut up. You ever have one of their avocado-raccoon burgers? That's something else. Anyway, we just kept doing that the whole time, you know, making jokes about everyone behind their back. It was hilarious! Like when I paid the bill -"

"You paid the bill?"

"Some of us aren't like you."

I feigned pain. "That was just uncalled for!"

"Anyway, the waiter's like, 'I'll be back with your change,' and I lean over to Fry and go, 'And then I'll go home and soak my mother's feet and then cry myself to sleep wondering why I can't get a real job and not be stuck living with her!'"

"Aw Leela, you bitch! Curb thy venomous tongue!"

"I know! So Fry says that he wants to see Planet of the Grapes -"

"Ugh. I don't want to see that."

"So I go, 'Wanna see it now?' He's like, 'Sure,' and so we go back and see that. And just as the trailers are starting, guess what happens!"

"You sneeze."

"No. Someone sits next to Fry, and it's the same guy from the last movie!"


"Seriously! So Fry leans over to me and goes, 'Well, one more movie before I have to get back to the circus.' And I cracked up again! I'm doubled over in my chair, I can't stop laughing, and then I hear Fry start to laugh as well. I look up, and the guy's walking away and sitting off in the corner!"

"You scared him away?"

"We scared him away! And we kept on making jokes all through this movie, and after it was over, we went back over to Fry's building. We get in the elevator, and Fry punches the button for the top floor. I go, 'Fry, you don't live on the top floor,' and he just goes, 'I know.'"

"So that's where he romanced you!"

"Not yet. We're still just getting out of the elevator on the top floor. So he takes me over to the fire door, and we go up to the roof."

"And you kissed him under the stars."

"No, it was cloudy. Anyway, he goes over to the ledge, he holds a coin out, and he goes, 'Think I can hit that red car?' I say, 'Not a freaking chance.' And then he lets go of the coin."

"Yeah? Then what?"

"Well, we watch it fall, and then it disappears from view. Then we hear this car alarm."

"He hit the car?"

"No, the next one over. He turns to me and he says, 'That's the first time in a while that I've actually hit a car. Usually it just makes a dent in the pavement.' So he goes back over to the door."

"And it's locked."

"Exactly. He throws a shoulder at it, and nothing happens. Then I try to kick it down, and the door just explodes! Bits flying everywhere, and I'm so surprised I lose my footing and fall down the stairs! Fry rushes down, and he says, 'You okay, Leela?' I get up and tell him I'm fine, and then we go back out onto the roof."

"Whadja do then?"

"Well, Fry lies on the ground, looking up at the grey sky. I kind of crouch down over him, and then, well, I kiss him."

"No! You?!"

"I don't know. It just sort of... everything fell into place there. Right on that spot, he and I made love."

"One of the two of us has gone ga-ga. I'm pretty sure it ain't me."

"Shut up! So when we're done, we look up, and guess what we see."

"I don't know. The clouds had parted, revealing a grand vista of the Milky Way to adorn your evening."

"No, the cleaning bots had rebuilt the door. So Fry gets up and throws a shoulder at it again, with the same result. I kick it, and it shatters again. I slip again, but this time Fry's fast enough to grab me. But then we both went tumbling down the stairs. Anyway, we went back to Fry's apartment, and we did it twice more."

I stared at Leela for the longest time before I finally said, "Now I know you're shitting me."

I heard sobs.

I peeked over the corner of the bed, but everything looked blurry. I realised I'd been crying. When I wiped the tears away, I saw Fry sitting up against the bed, crying as well. I put my hand on his shoulder, and he looked up, resting his hand atop mine.

It was only about 12:30.

Fry's left hand was moving around on the floor and stopped on the scrapbook. He looked down at it.

I turned the light on.

So he put the book onto the bed, and we read the story of Turanga Leela as told by the New New York Sewer Observer.

"Amy? Wake up!"

I sat up and looked around. "Hey Leela. How did you get in here?"

"I'm a figment of your imagination. By definition, I'm wherever you are."

"Oh. I guess that makes sense." I looked down, and Fry was asleep.

Leela said, "Don't worry about him. I'll visit his dream next."

"Okay. Umm... look, Leela. I'm sorry about killing you and everything."

"That's fine. It's nothing. Save your apologies for those who can act on them."

"What do you mean?"

"I think you know."

"Uh, sure. Oh... if you don't mind my aksing, what's death like?"

"They have a lot of rules, believe it or not."

"They do? What kind of rules?"

"Most of them are about how we interact with this Universe. Like, here, let me show you."

Without provocation, she jumped up, spun around, and kicked me in the face. I held up my hands and waited for the impact, but nothing happened. When I opened my eyes, I saw Leela standing on one foot, with her other leg extended toward my face. I turned around, and there was her boot behind me. She brought her leg back through my head and stood up as before.

I hadn't felt a thing.

"Wow," I muttered.

"Yeah. And I had to wait until you fell asleep before I could visit you. We can only visit the living in dreams, except in some very specific circumstances."

"That seems... reasonable. Who makes those rules?"

"Congress. We're democratic. We have a bicameral legislature, an executive office, and a court system, all of which try to meddle in one another's affairs."

"Just like the living."

"Exactly. Oh, one more thing. Would you find someone to watch over Nibbler? I mean, if you won't be able to, that's okay, but I just need to make sure someone does."


"Thanks. Well, I'd better get to Fry's dream before he wakes up. Catch you later."

With a little "Hyup," she jumped into Fry's brain.

"Amy? Wake up!"

I sat up and looked around. This time I was really awake.

I had a hand across one page of the scrapbook. It was an editorial about the dean at Mars U being a jerk, or something.

Fry was standing over me, and he told me, "I guess we fell asleep reading that."

"What... what time is it?"

"It's eight. We've got to be down there in two hours. I'm going to jump in the shower. You go next, and then... I don't know. You wouldn't have any funeral wear, would you?"

I thought a moment. "If we order online now, they should be here in time."

He replied, "That's a good idea." Only then did I notice his PC in the corner. When he woke it up, I saw that his wallpaper depicted Leela in her green one piece swimsuit.

I said, "Why did she like that one so much? I kept telling her to wear two pieces."

"She looked good in that."

"You thought she looked good in anything. You probably thought she looked good with Calculon's ears."

"Well, she did."

I chose a simple black velvet dress, and Fry picked out a black suit with a black shirt. Then he threw in a purple tie.

I was astonished. "A purple tie? With a black suit? Ch'uh, Fry! Now entering Clashville, population you!"

He leaped up and jabbed a finger into my face. "Look Amy, your intimacy with her may have just been for fun, but with me, it meant something! This is about the only way I have to give her a proper tribute!"

Only then did I realise. Purple, like Leela's hair.

He put his finger away and looked down. "Sorry."

"No, I'm sorry, Fry. I wasn't thinking."

"Well, anyway, let's make sure they get here on time. Man, this is going to be expensive."

I said, "I got it, Fry."

"Can you really afford all that?"

I just stared at him.

"Right, right. I'm gonna go... I'm gonna shower."

"Okay, I was wrong. It does look good. Here, let me get the tie."

I straightened his tie and tried to smooth down his hair, but it stayed as messy as ever.

We set out for the sewers.

As we descended the ladder, I said to Fry, "I had a dream about Leela."

"Really? Me too! Was yours about her kicking Santa Claus's ass and then taking me to bed?"

"Um, no. Mine was... different."

When we got to the lakeshore, Leela was in a clear plastic casket in front of rows of seats that some guys in suits and tophats were setting up. The Turangas were there, talking to Hermes.

When Mr Turanga saw us, he waved us over. "Good morning, kids. Did you sleep well?"

"No," we both answered in unison.

"Yeah, we didn't either."

Mrs Turanga hugged us. "You two look nice," she said.

I said, "So do you two." They were dressed a lot like us. Not a surprise, really. I couldn't really expect them to wear something besides black.

Hermes was explaining, "So people will be arriving at ten for de viewing. Den de services start at eleven."

I walked up to the casket and put a hand on it.

In her hands was a large bouquet of white roses. Otherwise, she looked as she did a day ago in the hangar.

Another hand pressed up against the opposite side of the casket. I looked up and saw Fry looking at her.

I suddenly thought of something Fry had talked about back in the medbay. "Fry..."


"Remember when you said she looked like she had unfinished business?"


"What did you mean?"

"You really never read Hamlet?"

"Never read Hamlet."

"Well, apparently in Shakespeare's time, they believed that if someone died but had... I guess... unfulfilled obligations, their ghost would continue to roam around until their work was done."

I looked down at her again and aksed, "You think she had unfulfilled obligations?"

"I don't know. Nibbler, maybe?"

"Oh no! Nibbler! We left him on the ship! Hermes! Where's Nibbler!"

Hermes came over and said, "I brought Nibbler home. LaBarbara and Dwight been taking care of him."

Fry and I looked at one another. I said, "Do they want to keep him?"

He put a hand on the casket and took a deep breath. "I don't know if dat's possible, Amy. Leela didn't leave a will, so everything she owned should go to de next of kin."

I looked over at her parents. They were talking to the undertakers.

He continued, "But de law doesn't acknowledge mutants. Officially, she was an orphan." Then he went on about some sort of form we'd have to file to claim her stuff, and if nobody else filed one, we'd get it all automatically. "If dey get more dan one, well, a long legal battle ensues."

I looked at Fry, and he looked back. I think he was thinking the same thing I was.

Hermes resumed, "I've taken de liberty of preparing the A414-22 in your names - it just needs your signatures. Hang on, let me get it." He walked away toward a truck parked at the roadside.

When I looked back at Fry, he had turned away and was sitting on the ground, looking out at the lake. His head was in his hands.

I knelt down at his side. "Fry, what is it?"

"I can't go through Leela's stuff!"

"Of course you can."

"I know what it all means! I won't be able to look at a single thing without seeing what it meant to her! I can't handle that!"

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, thinking about how much we'd been doing that lately. I looked into his eyes and said, "Fry, you're the only one who can do it. You'll know what she would have wanted her parents to keep... what she would have wanted me to keep... what she would have wanted you to keep."

"I guess that's true. Not going to be easy, though."

"What, like it's been a walk in the park so far?"

He looked at me again. "Yeah, you're right."

I helped him up, and Hermes handed us the papers. We signed at the blanks where he'd placed his little coloured labels: FRY, SIGN HERE and AMY, SIGN HERE.

"Right den." He peeled the labels off and folded up the form. "For now, nobody touch Leela's stuff. We'll hear from dem on Friday morning, about the time you two get back from your next mission."

"What mission?"

"You've got an overnight shipment to Qwerty 12 tomorrow."

I said, "Don't we get any bereavement leave?"

Hermes chuckled. "Don't be silly. Regulations are very clear. Death of a coworker, two days bereavement." He walked away, calling, "I'll go file de papers."

We looked round. By now everything was set up.

There were rows upon rows of white folding chairs streaming back to the road. There must have been at least a couple thousand seats.

Fry said to me, "I didn't know Leela even knew this many people."

The casket was on a long table at the top of a ridge a couple of metres in height. Another, lower table before the casket had been covered with white and purple flowers. A podium stood behind the casket, with more flowers adorning it.

To the right of the casket was a large image of Leela. It was a portrait of her standing under a tree. Atop her head was a crown of white flowers. She held more white flowers to her heart.

It was the same picture I saw in the Turangas' house, the one I'd taken. I remembered calling her over when I got a new camera. I took a lot of pictures of her in my apartment, and then some more in a park.

That picture was the only good one in the lot. I even remembered sending it to her.

"Amy? Fry?"

It was the Turangas. Mr Turanga held out a couple of newspapers. "We thought you might like to see these."

One was an extra edition published last night.

TURANGA LEELA: 2975-3003
Space battle claims least mutated mutant

To the side of the headline was the same flowers in the hair picture.

The other was today's edition.

Leela to be submerged
Thousands expected at memorial for courageous pilot

Fry said to me, "I didn't know Leela even knew that many people."

I read from the article, "Services will be led by coworkers Philip J Fry and Amy Wong, and parents Turanga Morris and Munda. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Turanga Leela Memorial Scholarship Fund."

A scholarship fund?

As I looked up, a long line of mutants had formed to pay their respects. Fry clapped his hands together and said, "Come on everyone! Places! Let's make a certain one eyed wonder proud!"

Most of the people had kind words for the Turangas, and at least a warm embrace for us. A few also offered their condolences to Fry and me, leaving me to marvel once again at the press coverage Leela's life received down here.

When Hermes returned, he brought LaBarbara and Dwight. Dwight had Nibbler in his arms. I bent down to greet Nibbler, aksing, "Has he been a good... whatever he is?"

Dwight said, "Yeah, he's been good. He knocks stuff over a lot, but he can't help it. And we've moved all the breakables up high."

"That's good. Listen, Dwight, things aren't settled yet, but we're trying to work out the, um -"

"The A414-22? Pops told me about that. If that works out, can we keep him?"

"Sure you can."

I looked up and saw Hermes burning Leela's timecard, saying something about an old tradition.

Nibbler started to squeal and reach toward the casket. I said to him, "Oh, you want to say goodbye to mama, don't you? Here you go." Dwight handed him to me, and I held him up so he could see Leela.

He held a hand, or paw, or whatever, up to the plastic. He looked at Leela, then at Fry, and then at Leela again. He closed his eyes and sniffled.

I gave him back to Dwight, who said, "Thanks, Amy."

Hermes rounded up the family and took them to their seats.

A few minutes later, we saw Zoidberg rush up to us. He announced, "My friends! I have received wonderful information! My medical encyclopædias indicate that ibuprofen is indeed not fatal to humans, it isn't! It's not my fault already! Hooray!" Then he looked down at Leela. "But she remains deceased! Ohhh, now I'm sad again! My euphoria had a very short lifespan!"

He trudged away and took a seat next to Hermes. I saw them talking, and then they hugged one another.

Fry said, "Hey, Bender. How was Vegas?"

I turned around and, sure enough, I saw Bender. "Ah, I lost. Had to sell all the stuff I looted from you. Hey, that reminds me, can I loot you again tonight?"

"Sure, Bender. Anything you want."

"You wanna go get drunk after this shindig is over?"

Fry looked down at Leela's body. "Sometimes that sounds like a good idea."

"All right. See you a little later, bro."

When Scruffy and the Professor, along with Cubert, arrived a bit afterward, our corporate family was complete. But still...

I turned to Fry and aksed, "Do you think Kiffy will be here?"

"Of course," he told me.

"How can you be so sure?"

He pointed. There, in the receiving line, was Kif, in his dress uniform. I called to him, "Kif!"


I ran to him, and then tripped on my heels. He picked me up and held me firmly. I rested my chin on his shoulder.

"Oh, Amy," he said. "I'm sorry I couldn't be here when you needed me the most."

"It's okay, Kiffy. You're here now. Besides, Fry kept me company overnight."

"That's good."

I brought Kif up to the front, and he greeted Fry. "Amy tells me you were able to console her since Leela's passing?"

Fry told him, "Well, I think I was the one who needed consoling. Amy's strong. She could handle it."

"In any case, thank you. Having you around meant a lot to her, and to me."

"It's nothing. I couldn't have dreamt of doing any less." He looked around. "Is Brannigan here?"

"No, the ignoramus departed early for winter leave. No one has been able to track him down."

Kif and I went up to the casket. He placed a gloved hand on the wall and looked in at the genetic donor of our children.

"Cruel the fates are, Amy. She should have had many more years of thrilling space journeys to look forward to."

He heaved a heavy sigh. This one wasn't as cute as his normal heavy sighs.

He took my hand and said to me, "Oh, Amy, how I dread the day when I must step before a sealed glass vessel and see your own static visage being consigned to eternity! I only pray that the richly woven tapestry of your own life does not end with a similar fray toward which you inexorably move even now! I am so deeply distraught at the mere thought!"

I shook my head, saying, "Kiffy, that was beautiful, in a strange sort of way. When did you become a poet?"

"Amy, I become a poet every time you enter the room. And as you exit, a poet I cease to be. Any lyrical qualities I may appear to have originate in you, not me."

I was tearing up again. During this week I have to have filled up my tear quota for next year. Kif's amateur poetry, evocative as it was, was still evoking sadness, an emotion I had enough of on my own.

I said, "Kif, what would you do without me? Or what would I do without you?"

"Perhaps that is a question that is best left unaksed. I think we cannot know the answer until the time comes."

"Well then, I hope we never find out."

"So do I."

"If I could aks everyone to find a seat, we can get started."

Fry was standing at the podium, looking down at Leela. I led Kif to the first row, where we had seats set aside next to Leela's parents. He held out a hand and whispered, "Kif Kroker. I'm Amy's boyfriend."

They shook his hand. "Turanga Morris. This is Munda."

"You have my deepest condolences. Your daughter was a most accomplished leader."

"Thank you."

Fry said, "Thank you all for joining us this morning. We have a number of speakers today, so I'd like to try and move things along quickly. My name is Philip J Fry. I was a colleague, and very close friend, of Miss Turanga Leela."

Fry's speech was extraordinarily moving. Later, I made sure to get the transcript from the newspaper.

"I made few, if any, friends in the 20th century. When I arrived one year from the end of the 30th century, I resolved that I would not make the same mistake again.

"The very same person who caused me to see that became one of the most important people in my life. Yes, she was my boss. Yes, her word was law on the ship.

"But the saying 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' did not apply to her. Not once did she deliberately misuse her authority or act in any way detrimental to our mission.

"She made mistakes. We all do. But she neither dwelled on them nor tried to hide them. She acknowledged them and sought to prevent their recurrence. I certainly can't recall ever seeing her make the same mistake twice.

"Seeing that in her made me want to do the same.

"Her greatest asset wasn't her piloting ability, her physical strength, her Arcturan kung fu mastery, her decision making, or even her compassion.

"It was her inspirational qualities.

"She inspired everyone around her to be something more than they were before. Once, I was a chronic screwup. Now, dammit, I'm a chronic screwup who's saved the world.

"This Universe was a richer place with her. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that this Universe must be a poorer place without her.

"Let us not waste her memory. Let us embrace what made her unique and strive to improve ourselves. Let us aspire to heights that others may think we cannot reach, just as she did.

"She demanded the best from her crew, and from herself. Let us demand the best from ourselves.

"That is the debt we owe to you, Leela. We owe you our best."

After that, it was all a blur.

Fry introduced me, and on my way up, I gave Fry a big hug and whispered in his ear, "That was really something, Fry."

"It wasn't much."

"Leela would have loved it."

My speech, of course, was nowhere near that level. I just talked about some of the things Leela and I had done together, and about how energetic she was. On my way down, Fry, Kif, and Mrs Turanga all said it was moving, but I just wanted to shout at them, Quit being so polite, dammit!

I was really impressed with the way Fry handled the day. He acted as kind of a master of ceremonies by introducing each speaker. I choked up many times during the day, but I never saw Fry lose his composure.

Mr Turanga followed me. His speech was absolutely heart rending. He told of the difficulty with which they left Leela on the steps of the orphanarium, and the joy of their reunion so many years later. He closed with, "Leela, we know how lonely you felt for so long. We hope that, considering the person you've become, you'll agree that it was worth it."

After that there was a long series of mutants who spoke about their meetings with Leela or the effect that she had on their lives. There was the newspaper writer who interviewed her, the photographer who took pictures of her through drainage grates, several people who named children after her, and even the paper boy we'd encountered the previous day.

He said, simply, "I never met you, Leela, but I thought you should know that when you went up to the surface, you took me along. You took all of us along."

Finally, Fry returned to the podium. "I have one more announcement I'd like to make. As some of you may know, in the hours since Leela's passing, we established the Turanga Leela Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund will provide scholarship opportunities for the most promising students in sewer high schools to study at four year colleges on other planets. With your help, we've already collected nearly eight thousand dollars. Please speak to Mr and Mrs Turanga if you would like to contribute. Thank you."

Hermes, Zoidberg, Bender, Fry, Kif, and I lifted the casket and carried it to the shores of the lake. Naturally, we had to avoid the water, but we placed it on land's edge and let it slide into the deep.

Scruffy played "I Will Always Love You" on the bagpipe.

Fry whispered, "Goodbye, Leela."

Bender added, "May a chorus of angels remove all your clothes."

I was sitting at the conference table when Leela walked in, saying, "Hey, how's it going?"

I turned around, but she'd already gone to the kitchen. I called after her, "Hi Leela. What's going on?"

"Oh, nothing much." She returned in short order, carrying her coffee cup. She placed it down on the table with a small clink before she sat down. "That was a nice ceremony today. I was quite moved."

"Thanks. We weren't really sure what you would have wanted."

"Well, to be honest, I thought it was too sad. It needed more jokes. More levity."

"Dj'uh! It's a funeral, Leela. It's supposed to be sad."

"Why didn't you tell him?"

"Who? What?"

She blew her bangs off to the side. "You know."

A thought struck me. I reached out for her coffee cup. My hand passed right through it.

I looked up at her. "So how come you don't fall through the floor?"

She fell through the floor.

"See, I could if I wanted. But I thought that might have a detrimental effect on our conversation."

I twisted my head around. I didn't see her anywhere.

Then she jumped up through the floor and landed on the table. She bent down and leaned toward me. Her face was centimetres from mine.

"Amy, don't hold things from Fry. I tried it. Look where it got me."

I was staring into her lifeless eye.

I opened my eyes. I was in my own bed, in my own apartment. I rolled over and landed on top of Kif.

He cried out, "Not now, Amy! How can you even think of such a thing in these circumstances?"

I stammered, "No, no, that's... no, Kif, I was..."

He sat me up, turned on the light, and looked in my eyes. "What, Amy? Were you having a dream?"

I nodded.

"Would you like to tell me?"

I nodded again.

He looked at me.

I sighed and told him.

After I finished, he was quiet for a minute. Then he said, "'Lifeless eye'?"

I nodded. "When she died, she didn't close her eye. It was still staring at me, Kif. I can still see it now. It was..." My whole body shook. I drew my knees up to my chin and wrapped my arms around my legs.

He looked away, and then back at me again. "What do you have to tell Fry?"

I closed my eyes and covered them with my hands.

"You can't tell me?"

I shook my head.

"That's okay. It's still early. Do you want to try to go back to sleep?"

I hesitated. Then, "Yes."

"Okay. We'll go back to sleep."

After that I couldn't fall asleep. Eventually the Sun came up, and I got up and went to the window.

It had snowed in the city a week ago, but several days of mild weather had melted most of it away. Off in the distance I saw the Robot Arms building. I wondered what Fry and Bender had done all night.

Fry seemed to be handling this surprisingly well. I tried to put myself in his place. For years he had felt certain that she was perfect for him. At the same time, he knew what she thought of him.

He thought he knew, anyway.

If I was Fry, what would I have given to discover exactly what her feelings were for me? Fry knew, at least, that she did like him; he would always have her as a friend. But he thought he could have her as something more.

For the longest time, Leela wasn't sure that this was the case. It was the uncertainty that Fry couldn't deal with.

If he was continually picking petals from the proverbial daisies, every time he must have ended up with a burnt-off half of a petal, leaving him in that empty netherworld between she loves me and she loves me not.

When he finally got a taste of life with Leela, it must have been like tasting a drop of mineral water after a week crawling through the deserts of the greater Sahara.

But one drop was all he was permitted.

It must have been agonising.

I watched the streets begin to fill up with traffic. After a while, I felt Kif's arm over my shoulder. He said, "You'd better get into the shower now. I don't want you to be late for work."


"When will you be home tonight?"

"I think we've got an overnight shipment today."

"I see. Well, I shall anticipate your return most eagerly."

I poured some coffee and sat at the conference table. Just then, the door opened behind me. I jumped.

"Morning Amy," Fry said. "Looks like you didn't do a lot of sleeping either."

Bender trailed in behind him and sat opposite me. "Yeah, you shoulda been with us last night. We drank, we threw bottles off of rooftops, we did all that stuff. Yep. That's what we did. Right Fry?"

Fry returned, and he was staring into his coffee cup. "Um, yeah. That's what we did, all right."

Hermes and the Professor came in shortly afterward. The Professor declared, "Good news everyone! We..." He looked around. "Aren't we missing someone?"

Fry piped up, "Yeah, where's Zoidberg?"

The Professor responded, "No, no, he's at an art class. No, don't we have some sort of weird lady who flies the ship or something?"

We all stared.

Then he turned to me. "Oh, there you are, Amy. Didn't see you there."

Hermes said, "Anyway, as I'm sure you're all aware, this will be Amy's first flight as captain, so let's all give her our support." He handed a brown envelope to Fry. "It goes to de executive council of de planet Qwerty 12, de planet of de shrews."

Fry examined the envelope, and then he said, "Wait. Is that shrews like the rodent, or shrews like the nagging housewife?"

"Some of each," Hermes shrugged. "Off you go!"

We had another long flight today. It would be about eleven hours each way, and that gave us even more time to reflect.

After we lifted off, Fry said, "You know, it kind of feels good to be getting back to work. I mean, I couldn't keep sitting around doing nothing."

From the opposite side of the bridge, Bender added, "Yeah, and we couldn't keep drinking and throwing bottles off rooftops either. You know. Like we did last night." He turned back to some displays on the wall. "Yep. That's what we did."

I said, "Yeah, I guess it's good to kind of get back to normal. As normal as we can, anyway."

Fry looked over. "I know what you mean. It's so weird to see you sitting in that chair."

"It's so weird to be sitting in this chair. I mean, it just feels like I'm... you know... I'm watching the ship until she gets back."

He leaned toward me and looked me in the eyes. "Amy, it's your ship. You've got to think of it as your ship now."

"I guess."

When Bender made us lunch, Fry and I found that it was almost as good as the breakfast he'd prepared the previous day. After that short conversation, we'd been silent all through the morning and at the lunch table. When Fry and I went back to the bridge, he cleared his throat.

I looked up at him.

"Oh, nothing," he murmured. "I was just..."

I said, "So what about Bender? He's actually making good food now."

"Yeah. He is."

"It's almost as though he... you know... he actually misses her."

He said to me, "Actually Amy, he - don't let him know I told you this - but, well, you know what we really did last night?"

"Yeah, I thought you guys were making up something."

"We were. Well, I mean, we did drink. That part was true. But we spent all night just sitting up and telling stories about her."

"Really? You did?"

"Yeah. He, well, I knew he thinks of me as a friend, but it turns out he felt the same way about Leela."

That didn't sound like the Bender I knew. I said, "But he always argued with her, and complained, and he was so mean to Nibbler..."

"Yeah, but that's just how he expressed it," Fry explained. "I mean, robots have this thing about not showing emotion, especially not for humans. He just puts on this manbotly front, but he's hurting inside. Just like all of us."

I shook my head. "I just wish I'd known sooner."

"Me too. Just, you know, keep this under your hat, okay?"

"Of course."

He aksed, "So are we there yet?"

"No, we're still about seven hours out."

"Good thing I brought some reading material, then."

I looked down at his chair. The scrapbook was sitting in it.

He said, "Oh, and you left your other track suit at our place, too."

We read from the scrapbook again that day. We tried to figure out where we'd fallen asleep the other night, but we just decided to start reading at New Year's 3000.

We read the sewer reporters' accounts of Leela's various exploits. As the day wore on, we moved on to more and more recent articles. We turned the page, and Fry froze.

He read, "'I think Fry's the one'."

He closed his eyes, and I squeezed his hand. We read the interview.

SO: Well, Fry has finally won you over. How did he do it?

Leela: [laughs] "Won me over." You know, that's not really what it feels like. When I think about someone winning me over, I have more an idea of a candlelight dinner, or a walk under the stars. That sort of thing. It didn't happen that way. Fry, I don't think, was even trying to win me over, not that night anyway. We were just kind of hanging out, as friends. But, well, when we were on the roof, and I looked down at him, it just felt like the right thing to do.

SO: I guess we can always expect you to do things a little differently.

Leela: I guess so. I mean, I can imagine our grandkids saying, "Grammy, how did you and Grampa Fry get together?" Who would have thought my answer would be, "We got stuck on the roof and fell down a flight of stairs"?

SO: You're already thinking about grandchildren?

Leela: Well... yeah. I am. When I think of all that we've been through together, all that he's done for me, all those times he tried to sweep me off my feet... it's overwhelming.

SO: If he proposed to you tonight, what would you say?

Leela: Honestly, I would probably check him for brain slugs! [laughs] I mean, that would be so unlike him. But I guess I... well, I really think he's the one. If he actually got up the nerve, I would say yes.

When I looked up, Fry's eyes were closed again. A single tear ran down the right side of his face. I looked up, and I saw Bender standing behind the couch. He had a hand on Fry's shoulder.

Bender moved his hand and said, "Aw, you and your stupid emotions make me sick!"

I looked at my wrist. It was about 18:30. "Bender, why don't you go make us dinner?"

"Shove it! I don't need this crap! If you want something to eat, why don't you just take a big bite out of my shiny metal ass!" He stormed out of the bridge.

After the door slid shut, I whispered, "Thanks, Bender."

He did make us dinner, and it was a good chicken cordon bleubird.

Before long, we had landed, and Fry grabbed the package. He stepped toward the door.

"Hang on, Fry," I said.

He turned and looked at me.

"You've got your communicator?"

He held it up.

"You've got the clipboard?"

He held it up.

"You've got the map?"

He held it up. "I'll be fine, Amy. Calm down. I'll call you if anything goes wrong."

He left the bridge, and I watched him disappear into downtown.

It looked like it was about noontime in Dvorak City, Qwerty 12's capital. It looked like a desert planet, yellow sands rolling in large dunes in surrounding directions, underneath a faintly orange sky. The planet's orange sun baked down on us; Qwerty 12 orbited so close that even the K star's feeble light made this a hot planet.

Some fairly large rats were running from building to building. Perhaps their bodies couldn't stand the heat outside. The ship's thermometer said that it was 309 kelvins outside. That was hot, but Fry could probably handle it.

I got a call. "What?"

"Amy! I need your help!"

I jumped up. "Fry! Where are you?"

He was breathing heavily, as though he was running. "They're chasing me! Get a weapon! I'll be there in, like, one minute!" He clicked off.

I grabbed a laser pistol and jumped down the steps.

I didn't see anything unusual in the city.

Then I saw him. He was running toward me, with the clipboard and the map under one arm. He looked over his shoulder. Behind him on that street were a number of rats, and some women, chasing after him. The women appeared to be wielding some sort of weapon, perhaps blernsball bats.

I looked down at my hand. It was shaking violently.

Fry had a considerable lead. When he reached me, he grabbed my hand and pulled me up the steps. "Come on, let's get out of here!"

I powered up and lifted off. We had just cleared the atmosphere when Fry looked up from one of his displays. "Bogeys on our six!" He leapt up and left the bridge, saying, "I'm taking the turret!"

"Whoseys on our what?" I aksed.

They started firing. I counted eight on our tail. Then I saw four more race around and line up in front of us.

I put my headset on and keyed the mike. "Fry! In front!"

"I got them."

He took out one of them, and I flew through its débris cloud.

I called, "I think that's scrambled their formation. See how many more you can take out."

"Rog," he answered.

They resumed firing. I went into a roll and dived to the south. Then, some more of them soared over our back and turned around, flying right down our nose.

I shouted, "They're too agile! We'll have to try something else!"

One of them exploded.

"Good shot!" I said to Fry.

"That wasn't me."

I felt sweat running down my face. The external thermometer was over 400 K.

I realised how much closer we were to Qwerty 12's parent star.

I dived even closer. As I did, we narrowly missed another of their shots. Fry hit one more of them. Then, one of the ones above us blew up.

I gunned the engines. On an impulse, I pushed the yoke hard to port. Another red beam blasted past our starboard flank.

Suddenly, everything became hazy. I could hear a hissing behind me, and then Bender saying, "I got it!" There was a metallic clang.

Now I was looking straight into a white fog. "I can't see anything!"

"Pull up!" Fry called.

I did, and I saw a bright flash underneath our bow.

"Seven more!" Fry said. "Six now!"

A fan started up behind me. I couldn't see out the windshield, and my radar display was fogged up. I wiped it off and saw six blips, one approaching from each direction.

The one behind us blew up. I reversed the engine, and in front of us, the remaining five all flew past one another. Only three of them flew away.

In a moment, I saw another of them disappear from the screen. Fry said, "Two more now!"

I saw a big orange glow flash past on our starboard. I turned in that direction.

Fry said, "Hey, can you turn up the air conditioner?"

"Where are the other two?"

"They're at our nine o'clock."

"The hell does that mean?"

"It means port."

By now I could start to see outside. The remaining two were coming around from port toward our nose. One of them exploded.

I dived downward. I saw the last one chasing us on the radar. We exchanged fire a couple of times until Fry finally hit him.

"Anybody else?" I aksed.

Fry called down, "I don't see any."

"Okay, let's get out of here."

"Set course for Earth!" Fry yelled.

He entered the bridge. "Sorry, that was all my fault."

I aksed him, "What was it all about?"

"Oh, I tracked sand into their council chambers. They started chasing after me with these rolling pins. They were all shouting, 'We just vacuumed!'"

"Well, we got out of there. Anyone hurt?"

Fry shook his head. Bender said, "Nope."

"Any damage?"

Bender was looking at one display. "The steam cover that came off has to be bolted down. And I'm getting indications of two ruptured cereal boxes."

"Okay, men. Let's get to work."

One cereal cleanup later, we were all on the bridge when Bender sat up and said, "Amy, I got something to tell you."

"What's that?"

"Well, I didn't think that you'd prove a competent captain. I thought you'd break a nail and then run off into your quarters all boo-hooing. But today, I realised something. You may never be half the captain Leela was, but with the kind of crew you have, it doesn't matter."

He got up, and on his way out, he pointed at Fry and added, "Except for this guy. He's an idiot."

Fry said, "He is right about one thing. I am an idiot."

I turned and said to him, "Don't be ridiculous. Look at how you got us out of that."

"Well, why didn't I just take off my shoes when I went inside? If I'd done that, we'd never have had to run away!"

"Fry, quit beating yourself up. It could have happened to anybody. But the way you asserted yourself at our escape... that was commendable."

He turned away, waving a hand at me.

I continued, "I mean it. The last couple of days, you've... I don't know... you seem like a different person."

"I know! The irony is just so awful!"

I didn't answer him. In a moment he said, "You don't know what I mean, do you?"

"I guess not."

"What did Leela always say about me? She always had the same criticism, right? Always that I needed to be more mature!" He stood up. "I think there was only one possible thing that could happen that would make me mature enough for her. How ironic is it that it would be her death?"

He walked out of the bridge.

I threw the sheets aside and shouted, "I'll never fall asleep again in my entire life!"

When I walked into the bridge, Leela was sitting in her chair. She turned around and said, "Hey."


"That was an exciting escape today."

"Oh, it was probably nothing compared to some of the things you've done."

"Don't be so sure."

I sat at the couch to forward. I rested my chin on the back of it and said to her, "Why do you keep bothering my dreams like this?"

"Shouldn't you be aksing yourself that question?"

"And every time I try to get something out of you, you twist it around and make it into a t'reaking riddle! What the hell is that supposed to mean? What do I know what you're here for?"

"G'uh, Amy! This is all you!"


"Did you really think I was some spooky voice beyond the grave? Of course not!"

"But... Fry said..."

"Said what? That shit about 'unfinished business'? He's just justifying his existence! Look," she stood up, "being a captain is all about making the right decisions. So far, you've done well. You've made all the right decisions. Except one."


She tossed her arms up and spun around, shaking her head. "Is none of this getting through to you, Amy? Don't tell me you're that dense. I mean, do I have to stand here and draw you a flipping diagram?"


"Say what again, Amy! I dare you! Say what one more goddam time!"

I saw that my hands were in front of my face now. I lowered them.

In a huff, she bent down and picked up an easel and a marker. The easel had a large pad of paper clipped to it.

I hadn't seen them when I entered.

She produced some quick sketches: a naked woman with legs spread, a rectangle with the word SOAP in it, and two sticks with a salt shaker over them.

She pointed to the first one and said, "Come." The next, "Clean." The last, "To Fry."

She snapped the cap back onto the marker and looked at me again.

I said, "I don't know if I can."

"If you don't, what will happen when he finds out?"

"But... how could he find out?"

"Oh, come on. Did you even look at Blake's body? He didn't even have any weapons!"

"Shit. You're right."

"So. Regardless of whether it's the right thing to do - which it is - you've still got to cover your ass. Either way, you have to tell him."

She looked at me intently.

With her lifeless eye.

I opened one eye, then the other. I turned on the light in my quarters.

I was still feeling jumpy. I shivered as I climbed out of bed.

I walked to the bridge, my bare feet stepping gingerly on the frigid floor.

When the door opened, I saw Fry standing at the bow, looking outside. He turned around. "Hi, Amy. I just... I couldn't sleep."

"Yeah, me neither." I walked up to the couch, but an uneasy feeling made me decide not to sit there. I leaned up against the windshield instead.

"It's very peaceful out here," he said. "Out here, things happen over thousands or millions of years. Instead of seconds and minutes, you know, like we're used to."

"I did it, Fry!"

He turned to me and stopped when he saw me. He reached out, took my hand, and said, "Yeaigh! Your hand's cold! Been sleeping in the freezer?"

"Feels like it."

He cupped his hands over mine and exhaled onto them. It didn't help, but the thought was nice.

As he gripped my hands, he looked into my eyes and said to me, "So what is it?"

I fell silent. Come on Amy girl, say it, I thought.

"It's okay. You can tell me."

So I told him the whole story. I told him about my shaking hand. I told him about hearing her say, "I don't got him." I told him about raising the gun and closing the trigger. I told him about how everything simply froze when that beam strayed to the right and cut into Leela's arm. I told him about watching helplessly as the beam carved that horrible zigzag into her back.

After I finished, I collapsed wearily into his arms.

He said, weakly, "My god. Amy... I'm so sorry."

"Why? What for?"

He answered, "Just, you know, just that you had to go through all that. That's just... it's incomprehensible to me. I don't know how anyone can deal with that. You're, well, you're far stronger than I would be."

He sat me down on the couch and continued, "I had no idea. I just... why didn't you tell me in the first place?"

"I didn't know how. I mean, Hey Fry, I killed your girlfriend? You wouldn't have reacted well to that."

He laughed a little bit at that and said, "Well, you've already told me you slept with her. Right?"

Despite myself, I laughed a bit as well. "Yeah."

"Besides, if we're going to be a good crew, we got to be straight with one another. I mean, did Leela ever lie to us? Of course not. We have to be the same way."

"Yeah," I responded. "'We owe her our best'."

We sat there for a time. Fry began, "Look, I've been thinking. Thinking about how to, you know, remember Leela. But I could only come up with one idea."

"What's that?"

He shook his head. "It's nothing, really. I thought maybe we could name this ship after her."

Tears came to my eyes, yet again. I held his hand and said, "Fry... that's perfect."

I went back to my quarters shortly afterward, but I didn't get any sleep.

We landed at about 09:30. We went down the steps and saw Hermes waiting for us.

He said, "Amy, Fry, you have a fax waiting for you."

We stopped and looked at one another.

He said, "It's from de Department of Records."

He held it out, and Fry took it.

Fry read, "Mr Fry and Ms Wong: The New New York Department of Records wishes to confirm receipt of your A414-22 Orphan Redistribution Request form as regards the late Ms Turanga Leela, deposited and signed for by Mr Hermes Conrad. As of the legal deadline of 09:00 New New York time on Friday 16 December 3003, no other such form has been received from any other individuals in reference to Ms Turanga. Consequently, the Department of Records confirms you as the legal executors of the estate of Ms Turanga Leela, as acknowledged by the approved A414-22 form, copy enclosed. Respectfully, Ms Dianne Conrad, Grand High Bureaucrat, New New York Department of Records."

Fry scratched his head. "I think they're saying we can touch her stuff."

"Yes," Hermes answered. "You can start with dat box dere." He pointed to the one she got from Canopus 5.

Fry walked over to it and swallowed. "Well, here goes nothing."

He tore open one end and pulled out some sort of foam mold, along with Leela's green coat.

Up until then, I had never wondered what had happened to it. I didn't piece together that she'd left with it and come back without it.

"Wow," Fry said. "What are these?"

I looked down. The mold had four large silver rifles fitted into it. I picked up one and looked at the side. It read Smith and Wesxax EMP.

"Fry, these are EMP guns."

He looked at me blankly.

"Electromagnetic pulse?"

"Hold it. Electromagnetic pulse guns? Do you know what this means?"

I shook my head.

Fry picked up another of the rifles. "She was really going to do it."

"Do what?"

"That's why she met that guy on Canopus 5! She wanted these! She was serious!"

"About what, Fry?"

He looked up at me. "Well, one night last week, we were decorating her apartment, and I started talking about how different Xmas is now. I said something like, 'Man, in the 20th century, people wouldn't have just sat idly by if some maniacal Santa came by trying to kill everyone.'

"I told her all about the 20th century people who didn't like the way things were and fought back. Like the disgruntled postal workers, or the people outside abortion clinics who called the doctors murderers and then murdered them.

"And she was all like, 'Fry, that's it! We have to kill Santa!' I aksed her how, and she said she didn't know. But then she got some paper and started to sketch out this plan. She said, 'About the only way to do it would be with EMPs. He's a robot, so that's his top vulnerability. You'd need someone to create a diversion, and then someone would sneak up behind him and unleash some freaky EMP action on his ass.'

"So she stands over the paper for a minute, and then she's like, 'But where would we get the EMPs? They're banned on most planets. I could aks around, I guess.' And then she rolled up the paper."

I stared at Fry and said, "You mean she was actually going to try to kill Santa Claus?"

He shrugged. "I figured it was just talk."

We spent the rest of the day cleaning out Leela's quarters on the ship, her locker in the hangar, and her apartment.

And as the day went on, the more the Santa strike seemed to make sense to me.

Once we packed up all the stuff for Leela's parents, I called Kif over, and Fry found Bender. The four of us began to discuss the mission.

The plan that Leela had drawn up, which we found rolled up under her bed, was a good starting point. It depended upon someone - Leela had tentatively tagged Fry for this role - capturing Santa's attention initially.

He tends to focus on one person at a time, so with him occupied, Leela would have driven in from behind and fired the EMP blast to take Santa down temporarily.

Then, they would have to remove his head. Once that was done, they could use a strong ultraviolet light to erase his EPROM.

We drew up improvements throughout the night. Kif caught a lot of potential pitfalls. Bender knew a lot about Santa's behaviour based upon their last attempt to destroy him.

It was starting to look as though the four of us could really do it.

When we told Hermes of our idea to rename the ship, he said he'd be honoured to file the necessary papers.

So it was that this morning, Fry and I cut out stencils and painted the name in black letters on each side of the aft end: PES Turanga Leela.

As we were examining our work, Fry whispered to me, "I can hear Zapp now. 'Kif, this won't be my first time conducting a hard dock with Leela!'"

The illicit EMP rifles were hidden inside the ship, along with plenty of other "gifts" for Santa Claus.

So, we've got an ambitious night ahead of us. Kif was able to encourage a number of DOOP crews to volunteer for the effort. Including the Leela, we have fourteen ships to work with. Even now Kif is finalising the battle plan.

I still worry about Fry, though. He's been putting up a brave face, but there can't be any doubt that Leela's death was the toughest thing he's ever had to face, more so than being frozen and thrown into our world.

For some reason, I think that at some key moment, he'll come to a crossroads. I suspect his mind will be filled with memories of her throughout, and when the time comes, he'll either wither under the pressure, or he'll perform some amazingly heroic feat.

I wish I knew which, but some things you just can't see in advance.

If Fry turns out okay, I think Bender will as well. Those guys are really inseparable.

Kif has been looking through the scrapbook these past couple of days. I think he wishes he'd been serving under Leela instead of Brannigan. I for one can't blame him.

As for me?

I don't know what will happen now. I'm taking Fry's advice to heart, though. I'm planning to take up a martial art, hand to hand combat being the biggest area in which I need improvement.

Fry's advice, by the way, made front page news in the Sewer Observer. Their article about Leela's funeral ran under this headline:

Friends, coworkers remember Leela in moving ceremony

I haven't had any of those weird dreams about Leela since I told Fry what really happened.

That's not to say I've been sleeping well, though. These past few nights, I haven't been able to avoid thinking back to Monday evening. Over and over again, I see the beam cut her up. I see her tumble to the ground. I see her last breath. I see the cold, lifeless eye.

And I just curl up in bed next to Kif. What will happen when his leave is up and he has to leave me here alone?

I hope she hasn't been haunting Fry's dreams either. Early this morning I remembered his comment on our way to the funeral, the one about his dream where Leela fought Santa. Is that why he's been so keen on this mission? Has she urged him on in his dreams?

I think maybe Fry has been having dreams about her. Last night, after another planning session, I was talking to him when he suddenly said, "Amy, we have to fulfill this mission. Leela has already died on it."

I said, "What do you mean? She was on a delivery when..."

He shook his head vigorously. "No, look. Once we landed, she had done her part. She was no longer part of the delivery. Her actions from then on were her own business. She went to get those EMP guns, which she was going to use to kill Santa. Therefore, she died in the pursuit of this mission. We've got to make sure that her death isn't in vain."

That didn't sound like the sort of thing Fry would come up with on his own. Not the Fry I'd known, anyway. Maybe this new, more mature Fry would.

On occasion, in the years I've known him, I've thought about what life must have been like in his time. Yesterday, I thought about another aspect of that. Let's suppose, for a moment, that we were all working together a thousand years ago, making deliveries in Old New York. What were the chances of me accidentally killing my best friend and coworker then, compared to now?

Because if that's more likely to happen now, then what the hell good does it do to have all this technology we've come up with? So we can grab a hair from the captain's seat and clone us another Leela. Hoo-fucking-ray. It's not the same.

Another thing I've pondered these last couple of days was this: Leela and Fry were the perfect couple. Everyone, from Bender to the mutant gossip columnists, could see that they were meant to be together.

Yet they could be together only for a week.

So, the question becomes: What does that imply for the rest of us?

Kiffy and I come from such wildly different backgrounds. Our families, our lifestyles, even our body chemistries are so different. How can we make sure that our love lasts?

I talked about this with Kif last night, and he had an interesting reaction. He said, "I've taken comfort from Fry's response to all this. I think that if he can face life without Leela, perhaps I could face life without you, Amy. Stranger things happen, anyway."

I've spent all day today writing this. In about an hour we set off for Neptune to do battle with Santa Claus. The troops are assembling at Planet Express right now. My Kiffy will brief them, but he and Fry thought that I should give an address first. Even now I have no idea what I'm going to say. I only know how I'm going to start.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Amy Wong, captain of the Planet Express Ship Turanga Leela."