It was X-Mas eve at Planet Express, and all through the building not a creature was stirring. Except for Bender who had just returned from an all-night, well, bender. He stumbled across the room and fell backward onto the couch unconcerned about the awkward way his limbs fell over the pillows. Leela lowered the ornament she was in the middle of hanging to watch and Fry hurried over, thankful for the diversion.
“Bender? I thought you were planning on spending the whole X-Mas Eve at the robot casino enjoying their 24-hour Holly Jolly Booze-A-Palooza.”
“Well I was. But then I ran into Flexo and Malfunctioning Eddie and we split that joint. Turned out there was an ultra-chic Twelve Cigars of X-mas expo next door to tap into. But then we got distracted by the Completely Uncased Silver-And-Gold Stripper Show. Then we went back to the booze!” Fry and Leela exchanged a glance. “It was a beautiful, vicious cycle.”
“Right, well… we promised Amy we’d join her in fortifying the dome against Robot Santa’s attacks tonight, so we better go… do that…” Leela looked importantly at Fry, oblivious at always.
“Aww, do I hafta Leela? I wanted to watch the Very Hypnotoad X-Mas Special on TV…”
Leela sighed and half-dragged Fry out of the room. As she did, she activated the motion-sensor dancing Martian elf display Amy had installed. The trio of elf chicks started singing.
Oh, I don’t want a lot for X-mas. This is all I’m asking for. Make my wish come truuuuuue….
Bender wished they would shut the hell up right about now.
Baby, all I want for X-mas is…
“YOU!” The Robot Devil materialized in the room, laughing in a delightfully evil way. “How’s that for dramatic timing? I’ve been practicing that. Hey! I’m talking to you, buddy!”
“Get lost.” Bender only glanced at the Robot Devil with annoyance. “Or, better yet, why don’t you bite my shiny metal…”
“Ah, ah, ah, Bender! We have business to attend to. Or have you forgotten our little wager?”
Bender thought back to the hours he’d just spent. At the casino, there was a memory of shooting craps that the Robot Devil was, interestingly enough, present for. And then at the Cigar Fest, there was something about raising the stakes on the origins of the Tabacconator 5000. He recalled some kind of double-or-nothing bet on which lady robot would lose her casing first at the strip show – Screws McKenzie or Double D Voltage. But eh, what could any of that have to do with the Robot Devil?
“You owe me your soul!” The Robot Devil bellowed.
Bender yelped and jumped back. “But I don’t have a soul!”
Now the Robot Devil looked perplexed. “You don’t have a… oh, that’s right. I already tried to claim your soul when you went back on Robotology.”
“Right! But like I said, I don’t have one!”
“Well, regardless, eternal robot law prohibits me from attempting to take it again… something about ethereal double jeopardy. Fine, then I shall settle your debt with a bit of fun instead. You must complete one of my ‘IMPOSSIBLE CHALLENGES’.”
“Err… what if I don’t want to complete an impossible challenge?”
“Then you shall suffer ETERNAL DAMNATION!”
Bender gulped. “Ok, ok! I’ll try the challenge.”
“Fantastic!” The Robot Devil waved his pitchfork and a shiny red stocking appeared filled to the brim with tiny little packages. “Pick your challenge… if you dare!” He laughed maniacally. “That was just for effect. You do have to pick one.”
Bender reached out and plucked the closest one. The package exploded in a little puff of flame and he read aloud the piece of paper left behind. “Impossible Challenge #86: Make Leela fall in love with you. What? How can I do that? I don’t even think she likes me very much.”
“That’s why it’s impossible! Mwahaha! Good luck Bender!” And the Robot Devil disappeared in a puff of smoke like before. A moment later he reappeared. “I forgot my pitchfork. And by the way, you have until midnight tonight to fulfill the challenge. Otherwise, you’re all mine!”
He disappeared again, this time for good. Bender didn’t have very long to puzzle over this predicament though because just then the Professor walked in. “Good news, everyone!”
“Uh, I’m the only one here, Professor.”
“Oh… whaa? Where are they?”
“Up on the rooftop, installing jaws. To gobble up Robot Santa Claus.”
The Professor nodded and rolled a megatronic speakerphone over to the window. He cranked the volume up so high that the walls shook and Bender’s internal calibration vibrated.
“Good news everyone! You’re going to be delivering a shipment of mistletoe to Highnote 7, the Eunuch planet.” Louder enough to be heard from the roof, Fry made a squeamish yelp. “Oh good, Fry has volunteered to stay here and help me organize my Santa-homing missile collection while the rest of you risk your lives out in the open on X-mas eve. Have fun!”
Actually this was the perfect opportunity for Bender to be alone with Leela. Now, if only he had any idea what made standoffish Cyclops women interested in chronically dispassionate kleptomaniac robots. He could ask Fry for suggestions. He’s been chasing after Leela for years, although nothing really seemed to work out well for him in the end. Bender made a mental note to do the opposite of whatever Fry suggested.
Just before takeoff, he pulled Fry to the side. “Hey, I have this buddy who’s not me, and he kinda made a bet with the devil, and it’s a long, really unimportant story… basically he needs a girl who’s not a robot to fall in love with him, a robot, by tonight at midnight. Got any suggestions?”
Fry concentrated hard. “Well… most of the time I’m trying to win Leela’s affections, but she’s not really your typical girl so…”
“Let’s pretend it was Leela.”
“Oh well that makes it easy. She likes animals, so you could get her a cute little fuzzy pet… although Nibbler might eat it. Speaking of eating, you could always get her a nice, juicy steak. And she also enjoys karate-kicking guys that irritate her. I have the bootmarks to prove it.”
“Hmm… interesting,” Bender said as he wrote down these things in his notebook. “Don’t human women have feelings and emotions or crap?”
“They have what?”
“Excellent. Ok, see ya around, buddy.” Bender slapped him on the back and hurried toward the open launch door of the ship.
“Bender, wait! Who’s the lucky lady?”
“Definitely not Leela!” He shouted back and disappeared into the ship.
They’d been flying through space for hours and Leela was cranky from navigating through a huge pod of asteroids. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something nice for her. Bender opened up the door to the storage crate. He emerged again dragging out a huge, thrashing giant space squid from storage. “This little guy’s for you, Leela. I thought you looked a little tense and could use a new friend to play with.” He grinned with victory. “Maybe you could call him Bender Junior.”
“The only thing I’m calling that is “dinner” after I kill it,” Leela growled at him. She commanded Zoidberg to take ‘control’ of the ship as she launched herself toward the squid. She got two good punches in before it grabbed her with its tentacles and flung her through the air, back the way she came. Amy also became a victim of the mad tentacles.
“If you don’t like Bender Junior, maybe we could call it Squiggles.”
“Help me kill this thing, Bender!”
“But I don’t want to kill Squiggles!”
This wasn’t going at all the way he had hoped for. Nonetheless, he helped free Leela from the beast’s grasp. Together they tied down most of the swinging arms and stuffed the squid into one of the escape pods, saving Amy at the last moment from being shot out into space along with the monster. Bender watched through the glass as it disappeared from sight.
“Goodbye Mr. Squiggles.”
“Bender, where did you get that thing?” Amy asked, straightening her hair.
“A better question would be why did you get that thing, Bender?” Leela asked.
Bender glanced between the angry stares he was receiving and decided to cover his tracks. He pointed to the crustacean, oblivious and humming to himself as he steered the ship Leela had set on auto-pilot. “It was Zoidberg actually. He got it at the last ship stop we refueled at.”
Then he giggled to himself as Leela dragged Zoidberg away, despite his painfully obvious pleas of ignorance to the emergence of the giant squid. Alone with Amy now, Bender took the opportunity to ask her advice.
“Amy, what makes you really fall for a guy?”
“Awww, Bender, that’s so adorable! Is there a special Lady-bot you’ve got your eye on?”
He rolled his eyes. “Just answer the question.”
“Blargh, you don’t have to be so mean about it. Just talk nice, you know, and compliment her. Like, ‘you have really pretty eyes’. Oh, and make sure you look at her boobs a lot. That way a girl knows you find her sexy.”
Bender made some more notes in his notebook. Amy was very girly herself so of course she’d think of a boring compliment like ‘pretty eyes’. He’d be sure to compliment something strong and fierce about Leela.
He got the chance later that evening as they were approaching Highnote 7. He walked up beside Leela at the steering wheel and tried to strike up a conversation.
"Pretty night out, huh?" She only grunted in response so he tried another angle. "Nice job steering the ship. It's just the way a man would do it."
Her punch laid him out.
Undetered, he got up and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You seem tense, Leela. Maybe I can help with that." Switching his internal motion drive to VIBRATE he started massaging her shoulders.
“OWwww-www-www Beeeeennnddderrr, whaaaat arrrrrre yoooou ddooooooinnnng?”
“Just relax and enjoy the Bender-sensation, baby.”
She broke away and turned to face him. “You’re acting really strangely today. What’s going on?”
“Nothing! I just wanted you to know how… angry your glare is at me right now. It's very fierce. In a good way. In a sexy way...” He made a point not to look in her eyes.
Leela just sighed and rubbed her forehead. “We’re going to be docking soon. Bender, just go get the landing gear ready.”
“Aye, aye, my lovely one-eyed captainess."
The planet Highnote 7 was a lush tropical oasis. Everywhere there were brightly colored flowers, pearly white beaches, and men dressed in tiny sarongs that served frosty, frothy drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. Both Leela and Amy gaped at the men, eyes wide as saucers, enjoying their new surroundings.
While they halfheartedly consulted the map, Bender slipped off to the counter where the men were standing. A scuffle ensued which ended with Bender sauntering back to the ladies, a tiny black sarong draped over his casing and a tray of orange creamy drinks in his hand. “Why hello ladies, care for a drink?”
"Oh, thanks, I was parched." Leela took a drink without looking up from the map. “Why does a tropical paradise like this even need mistletoe? Do they even celebrate X-mas?” The girls walked toward the buildings, whispering to each other about the handsome, muscled men around them. Forgotten, Bender threw the tray down on the sand, the drinks creating bright orange puddles in the sand.
“Oooh, temper! Temper, Bender.” The Robot Devil materialized before him.
“Hey, where’d you come from?”
“I’m on vacation. Also, I wanted to see you suffer the excruciating agony of defeat.”
Bender crossed his arms in irritation at the Robot Devil’s self-appreciating laughter. “Well it just so happens that I’m not in agony nor have I been defeated.”
“Oh really? And how close are you to success?” Bender shifted uncomfortably and looked down at the ground. The Robot Devil chuckled and took a sip of his swirly purple drink.
“Just out of curiosity, what happens if I fail this challenge?”
“I thought we discussed this already: ETERNAL DAMNATION!”
“Eep! Well… good thing I’m not gonna fail. Nope, Bender’s 100% not going to fail.”
“I’m glad to see you think so!” More evil laughter. “I’ll be watching… with interest at your impending failure.” The Robot Devil disappeared. Bender looked around him on the beach and saw a few of the waiters watching him.
“Hey, Squeaky! Get over here!”
“Yessir?” A thin young man approached tentatively, wielding his silver platter as a bit of a shield between him and the robot.
“I need some advice on how to get a certain stubborn woman to be interested in me.”
“Well, sir, I don’t really think I would be a good person to ask about that. I’ve never, well, had the pleasure of a woman’s company.” Bender’s eyes widened a little. “None of us have, sir.”
Ooooh, the eunuch planet. What irony it was to be sent here of all places when all Bender needed to do was seduce Leela. He could almost swear he heard the Robot Devil’s laughter around him.
“Might I suggest you visit the Grand Poobah, sir? Our whole planet survives on his excellent knowledge of women and their desires.”
“Oh, of course! I bet that’s where Leela and Amy went. Thanks… and I’ll need this too.” He plucked the handheld harp from under the waiter’s arm and tossed it into his chest compartment. Before the waiter could object Bender scampered up the beach following in Amy and Leela’s footsteps.
As it turned out, the girls were way ahead of him. The supply of mistletoe was to be delivered directly to the Grand Poobah himself so Bender found them waiting outside the magnificent entrance. He sifted through his knowledge discs and inserted ‘Harps and Harpsichords for Musically Inept Machines’.
“Hey, what’s that beautifully romantic background music I happen to be playing?” He asked casually as his fingers blazed across the harp strings playing intricate X-Mas melodies.
“Apparently the ‘Grand Poobah’ is busy entertaining some ladies so we were told to wait. I don’t even understand why we need to wait around for him to… Bender, will you cut out that out? I can’t hear myself think here.”
Bender threw the harp down on the ground. “I’m trying to wish you a Merry X-Mas!” And then, under his breath he muttered, “It worked for Fry and his stupid holophoner.”
“I heard that,” Leela said. “And just for the record, no it didn’t. You can’t win a woman over with magic and smoke and tricks and... and... pretty, shiny things.”
“You could win me over with those things,” Amy said.
Leela sighed. “No, it has to be genuine – from the heart.”
Just then the huge gold doors swung opened and a fanfare procession came out. There were belly dancers, an elephant, fireworks… and when the smoke settled, in a pharoah’s attire and sitting on a glittery golden throne sat Zapp Brannigan.
“No!!” Leela yelled.
“Oh yes!” He jumped down and strutted over to the gaping crew. “I know how surprised you must be to see me. But here I am - in the flesh - to wish you a very merry X-Mas, my scrumptious space muffin.”
“YOU ordered this shipment of mistletoe?” Amy asked.
“Of course I did. Who else would go to such efforts to bring you to my Pleasure Palace, Leela?”
“I swear, Zapp, you are the world’s biggest ass.”
“Well, my posterior is rather large and deliciously juicy. You’re welcome to sample the goods, my dear.” She rolled her eye and turned her back on him. “Kif, get a ladder and hold a bough of this over my head so I can score some passionate smooches with my one-eyed lover.”
“I’m about to score some passionate fists into your face,” Leela growled.
“I love when you talk dirty to me.” Zapp pulled her closer to him.
“Kiffy!” Amy cried out and ran over, snatching the little green alien into her arms. “I’ve missed you so much! Oh, you sly devil, you arranged this secret X-Mas rendez-vous for us, didn’t you?”
“Erm… uh… yes, my darling…” He managed between her smothering kisses.
“We should be doing more of that,” Zapp said leaning into Leela and puckering his lips.
His mouth met with cold metal and his eyes snapped open with surprise. Bender had extended an arm between them and was standing there glaring at Zapp. “Hey jerkwad, maybe you didn’t hear the lady, but she said she’s not interested.”
Both Zapp and Leela's mouths dropped open in surprise. Bender was a little surprised himself. But no one could object because just then the whole building shook and a gaping hole tore through the ceiling.
“Ho! Ho! HO-OO-OO!!!”
They all stopped and stared up. They had completely forgotten about bunkering down against Robot Santa’s attacks. He was standing at the mouth of the hole, evil robot reindeer prancing up behind him. From their red, brightly lit noses laserbeams started firing down at the scattering people.
“Everyone run! I can distract them while you get to safe ground!” Bender yelled. His hands expanded into discs and he stretched them up into the air, reflecting the laser beams back toward the reindeer. Robot Santa growled in rage and jumped down. His landing cracked the ground of the palace and sent Bender scrambling for cover. “Hey! Wait for me! I want to get to safe ground too!”
Bender activated his rocket boots and flew through the corridors out to where the ship was docked. He arrived just in time to see Leela, Amy, Zap and Kif running up the loading stairs. He jumped the last distance and caught the stairs as they began retracting up into the hull. Leela started pushing buttons and pulling levers but there was little response. The ship remained stationary.
“Why aren’t we getting anywhere?” Amy cried, holding Kif closer to her.
“I was wondering the same thing,” Zapp said. “But I meant between Leela and me. And by that I mean with our hot, steamy loveness…. Ow! Oooh, a woman with fight. They’re the best kind.”
“It’s like we’re being held in place by a giant magnet…” Her attention turned out the window where there were indeed giant, candy-cane shaped magnets on both sides of the ship keeping them grounded. “Oh, I don’t know how we missed those just now.”
“Welp, we’re boned.” Bender said, as Robot Santa came blazing out the door of the mansion, automatic guns blazing and evil reindeer flying up into the air around him. Then he remembered about the bet, about how his soul would be eternally damned in a few hours anyways, so he didn’t have much to lose. He opened the hatch and jumped out, oblivious to the cries behind him. “Remember me, Lee-e-eela!”
He ran toward the first magnet, and greased up his hands. All he had to do was bend them away from the ship. Giant, metal, magnetized girders. It was daunting, but this was what Bender Rodriguez was made for. He grunted with the effort and started bending like he’d never bent before. High above him there was a guttural yell and he looked up to see Dr. Zoidberg flying over him on the giant space squid.
Zoidberg had lassoed a huge length of rope around the squid’s head and was riding him toward Robot Santa, tentacles flying and knocking the reindeer out of the sky. It bought Bender just enough time. “All hail Dr. Zoidberg, the king of the squids!!”
“That’s the naughtiest of all!” Robot Santa yelled, his guns roaring. He fired a hundred rounds into the air until he realized that they were all suspended in the void space between the two backwards-bent magnets. His eyes grew wide as the giant squid came crashing into him, knocking him over and burying him up to his neck in the sand.
Up on the ship, freed from the magnets’ graps, Leela pulled the ship up and blasted off back toward the Earth.
“What about Bender and Zoidberg?”
“Oh, I think Mr. Squiggles will help them out.” Leela grinned. “Well, I hope he will.”
They didn't have to wait long. A few moments later, they glanced out the window to see both Bender and Zoidberg riding along on the back of the squid dancing and cheering over their victory. Leela abandoned the controls for a moment to wave to Bender out the window. She mouthed the words, did you beat him? And Bender nodded back enthusiastically.
“You betcha! He bit my shiny metal ass, all right!”
Leela just smiled.
Back at Planet Express, Leela pulled the ship into its deck. Amy and Kif skipped down the loading stairs, giggling over plans for hot chocolate, marshmallows, and Snoo-Snoo. Zoidberg strutted off behind them, proudly displaying the King of the Squids crown Leela made for him using one of Nibbler’s old water dishes. Bender made to follow them but Leela pulled him back.
“Hey, thanks for what you did back there. It was really brave of you to take on Robot Santa to free the ship from those magnets.”
“No problemo. What’re you gonna do with the chump?” He motioned back to where Zapp was still restrained to one of the chairs with different colored strands of garland.
“Leave him. He said his one X-Mas wish was to be restrained by me in the dark.” She flipped the switch sending the ship into darkness. “So, really, I’m doing him a favor.”
“Kinky!” Zapp called after them. “I knew you were a keeper, Leela!”
She chuckled as the door clanged loudly behind them. “And, I don’t really know why you were doing it, but thanks for trying to make it such an extra-special X-Mas for me. I didn’t mean to be so rude. It was just so… unexpected, you know.”
“You think robots can’t have a special X-Mas wish?”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just that you never cared about me – or anyone – before.”
Bender gasped. “That hurts, Leela! Of course I care! You guys are my best friends!” And when Leela looked skeptical, he added, “I haven’t stolen anything from you in over 24 hours!”
“Well, I suppose that’s true.” She slung an arm around him. “Merry X-Mas, Bender.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the form of the Robot Devil materialize in the far corner of the hangar. He motioned to his watch and cackled silently. Somewhere nearby, a clock started sounding midnight. Impulsively, Bender scooped Leela into his arms and started to kiss her. To his surprise, she didn’t object and she didn’t try to pull away.
The little piece of paper with the Challenge and the promise of Bender’s 'soul' disintegrated into a tiny pile of ash. The Robot Devil started jumping up and down, flames shooting out of his hands in fury. “It was impossible! How is this happening right now?!” He crossed his arms and sulked, knowing he had to return to Robot Hell now that his fun was over. “This is only a temporary setback. I’ll be back! This isn’t the last you’ve seen of me, Bender!”
He disappeared in an angry poof.
“What was that?” Leela asked, looking around.
Bender just shrugged and pulled her attention back by kissing her again. The Robot Devil was the least of his worries. All he could care about in that moment were these exciting new sparks between them two of them. Up in the night sky, a white shining streak glided across the sky. Instead of Santa and his reindeer, it was Dr. Zoidberg riding Mr. Squiggles.
"A good night to all and to all a very merry X-Mas!"
Meanwhile, down in Robot Hell, the Robot Devil paced around irritably.
“Ooooh! I never get what I want! All I wanted for X-Mas was the eternal agony of one robot, but nooooo! Apparently that’s too much to ask for.”
A hand came down on his shoulder causing him to turn. He recognized everything from the red metal Santa hat down to the fully automatic weapon in his hand. Robot Santa’s eyes gleamed with fiery hatred.
“What’re you doing here?” The Robot Devil asked, trying to hide the nervousness in his voice.
“It’s still X-Mas,” Robot Santa grinned, “And you’re the last one on my list. You asked for misery for a robot… and since you've been EXTREMELY NAUGHTY that’s one X-Mas request that I would be happy to fulfill.”