* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Chapter 19: A Spaceship Named Desire
Leela abandoned the helm and ran headlong through the ship, arriving in the cargo bay even as vapour still billowed from the re-compression nozzles set in the bulkhead. She stumbled over masses of netting piled up on the deck, to where the motionless figure in the orange space suit lay tangled up.
Leela felt tears running down her face as she sliced through the giraffe net with her field knife and pulled Fry out by the arms. His skin was almost white, except for the red and purple vacuum burns that marred his face. With shaking fingers, she unlatched the helmet and pulled it off.
“Fry?” she said. “Fry
?!” He wasn’t breathing, and so as Bender and Nibbler arrived she bent over him and placed her mouth over his cracked lips, blowing air into brutally battered lungs.
She did it again and again, with no response, pausing to press her fingers against his carotid artery.
“There’s no pulse!” she sobbed, willing his bruised eyelids to open.
“Stand aside!” Bender said. The robot crouched and forcibly tore the front of Fry’s space suit open. “Clear!” he said, placing his metal hands on Fry’s chest. A sharp jolt of electricity lanced into Fry’s body and his spine arced, before slumping down again. Leela checked his pulse once more, and shook her head. She blew three more breaths into Fry’s mouth and moved back while Bender defibrillated him once again.
They repeated the process several times, with Leela’s tears falling on Fry’s still face. Nibbler paced up and down, wringing his little paws anxiously.
“Are you sure you’re doing it right?” he said.
“Yes!” Leela shouted. “Be quiet!” She breathed into Fry again, and sat back on her haunches as Bender zapped him.
“Come on Fry,” she said, looking at the pale figure. “Don’t do this to me… please don’t do this to me.”
Bender moved back from Fry’s body, looking defeated. “Leela…” he said quietly. “I don’t think he’s gonna…”
“Shut up!” Leela yelled, her voice breaking. “I don’t want to hear it! We won’t give up on him! He’d never give up on any of us!” Sobbing, she took Fry’s face between her hands and pressed her lips against his, trying to breathe life into him. Again and again she emptied her lungs into his, until she started to get dizzy, then she broke away and hammered her fist against his sternum.
“Wake up, damn you!” she shouted between sobs, pounding his chest repeatedly. “You can’t do this to me! I’m your Captain – I didn’t give you permission to lie down on the job – wake up
Fry didn’t move.
Bender gently took Leela by the shoulders, and she collapsed against him, weeping pitifully into his metal chest.
“Oh God,” she cried. “I don’t know what to… I don’t…”
“It’s not right,” Bender said, hugging her closely. “It just isn’t right.”
Nibbler stared gravely at the dead man. “This cannot be,” he said. “Without the Mighty One, the Universe will…”
“Who cares about your damned Universe
!?” Leela screamed, lurching away from Bender to stand with her fists clenched, as if she hoped to punch death itself. “What good is all your talk of fate and destiny if it can’t bring my Fry back?”
Nibbler said nothing, and Leela fell to her knees beside Fry’s body. For a moment there was silence, and Leela stared at the motionless form. Then her eye narrowed.
“No,” she said, with anger bubbling in her voice. “No, I’m not letting you give up!” She began breathing into his mouth again, franticly.
“Leela, stop,” Bender said miserably, reaching to pull her back. “It’s pointless, leave him be.”
“Juice him!” Leela shouted.
, you useless walking trashcan!”
Miserably compliant, Bender put his hands on Fry’s chest and emptied voltage into his body. Leela checked the pulse.
“Again!” she said.
Again, the thump of electricity, and Fry’s body spasmed… and then he gasped. His eyes fluttered open as he sucked in a huge quantity of air, and then he turned on his side, wracked by a terrible fit of coughing. Leela was holding him tight, her tears of relief warm on his skin; Bender gripped his hand, and Nibbler scurried around him excitedly.
The others were talking, but Fry couldn’t focus on the words – his brain hadn’t yet re-oxygenated completely. His vision was blurred, and his entire body felt like one huge amorphous toothache.
When he was able to form words, his voice rasped like a badly-tuned radio.
“I’m not… dead,” he observed.
“You were,” Bender said. “For about five minutes. Good to have you back, buddy.”
“I was worried for a moment,” Nibbler added. “But your grip on life is most tenacious indeed. Welcome back.”
Fry looked up at Leela. She was holding him across her lap, looking wretchedly exhausted and tear-streaked and beautiful. She leaned down and kissed him, and then drew back and struck him across the face with an open palm. The slap barely registered on top of all the other pain, but the sudden fury in her eye made Fry cringe.
“That’s for making me cry,” she said angrily. “You stupid heroic bastard – what the hell gives you the right to throw away your life and leave all your friends behind?!”
“…Was… trying to save you all,” Fry whispered painfully, his damaged lungs and oesophagus not quite up to the task of normal speech. “Didn’t… wanna see you get hurt…”
“But I am
hurt!” Leela cried. “Look at me! I thought I’d lost you… how could I ever keep going?”
“S…sorry,” Fry rasped, slumping down into her lap and shutting his eyes.
“Come on,” Bender said softly. “Let’s get him to the sickbay.” He coiled his arms under Fry and took him off Leela, carrying him away.
The Lance of Fate still hung from Fry’s spacesuit utility harness, shimmering in constant flux.
* * *
Accompanied by its escort of subservient Brainspawn, Onespawn entered the outer reaches of the Sol system – birthplace of humanity. Earth gleamed like a distant gem close to its warm yellow star, but Onespawn wasn’t ready for that yet. Instead, it angled toward the furthest planet – the insignificant ice-ball called Pluto.
A subtle and familiar subspace disturbance had resumed, and Onespawn realized that somehow, against all odds, the Mighty One had survived. It needed to build its strength – absorb mass for conversion to energy, and go to the city of New New York where Philip J. Fry was sure to follow. And when the idiot tried to save his home, he would be consumed in the maelstrom that Onespawn would unleash.
Presenting its undamaged side to take the thermal load, Onespawn entered Pluto’s thin atmosphere, carving a vast line of fire against the planet’s dark sky. The subsumed Brainspawn horde remained in orbit, patrolling. Pluto was a world that had never really made it – terraforming projects had come and gone, managing to thicken the atmosphere only slightly; in the end it had been like trying to bail water with a butterfly net.
…Not that Onespawn really cared, it just happened to have the knowledge accrued by the long-dead Infosphere kicking around in its mind. Pointless really.
It slammed down into a glacier and sunk in the resulting crater amid vast plumes of steam. Rock lay beneath the ice, and the creature immediately extended its pseudopod growths to begin tearing into the raw materials; feeding them back into itself and using them to grow and change. As the planet’s crust began to subside beneath Onespawn, a large crowd of penguins appeared around the giant brain’s crater. Oddly, many of them appeared to be armed with rifles.
Not bothering to ponder this particular turn of insanity, Onespawn expanded its stupidification field, leaving the flightless birds stumbling around and accidentally shooting one another.
The gigantic abomination had designed a new organ, which it began to construct. It was an esoteric growth, spherical and made of strange matter that the creature had to refine at the sub-atomic level through the destruction of regular matter.
It had only one purpose – the cancelling of reality.
* * *
The Omicronians had confronted Mom’s ship after Onespawn’s second escape, and she was forced to make a difficult choice. She told Lrrr everything – about the summoning of the Brainspawn, and all that had happened since. Transparency, she figured, might make the alien less inclined to turn her ship into molten slag.
Lrrr expressed his loud and unrestrained disgust at humanity’s propensity for meddling with forces it didn’t understand. Nevertheless, his overriding concern was in regard to the revelation that Onespawn had the ability and inclination to destroy the Universe.
“It must be stopped,” Lrrr declared.
And so, the Omicronian armada, along with the Momship, set off in the direction Onespawn had gone… in the direction of Earth.
* * *
The head of Richard M. Nixon appeared on a holographic display on the bridge of the Nimbus, illuminated in 3D.
“Amazing,” Captain Zapp Brannigan said. “This new hologram display is so realistic – I can almost smell the cranial preservation fluids.” He leaned over in his command chair and nudged his lieutenant, continuing in a low voice. “Imagine how skin flicks are gonna look on this baby… all those big bouncy juicy…”
“Shut up, Brannigan!” Nixon growled. “We’ve got an unknown incursion force in the solar system. Observation drones show it’s made planetfall on Pluto.”
“Pluto, eh?” Brannigan said, rubbing his square chin thoughtfully. “Wasn’t that Mickey Mouse’s dog?”
“The fleet is being mobilized,” Nixon went on. “With your experience in dealing with hostile alien threats, you’ve been selected as commander of operations – investigate the nature and intent of the invasion force, and then destroy it regardless of your findings.”
“Very well, Mr. President’s head. I will make haste.” The hologram vanished and Zapp turned slowly in his seat, incidentally giving the rest of the bridge crew an unwanted view up his velour skirt.
“Shall I set the course, sir?” Kif asked.
“To where, Kif?” Zapp said. “You and I both know there’s no planet named Pluto. The President was speaking in code… obviously he’s being held against his will and is trying to get a message out… but what did he mean?”
“Ugh…” Kif wordlessly keyed the stellar cartography console to bring up the image and location of the planet Pluto on the holograph projector.
“Ah,” Zapp said, raising an eyebrow. “Must be new. Well… Kif – shouldn’t you be setting a course?”
* * *
Fry slept, and Leela watched over him, leaning against the sickbay doorframe with her arms folded and an unreadable expression on her face. Bender and Nibbler came and went, but she remained, watching over him as the low-quality medical nanites and protein boosters from the ship’s meagre first aid supplies did their work.
Fry’s body was a disaster zone (more so than usual). The rapid decompression had torn the lining of his lungs and ruptured thousands of blood vessels all over his body. Compounding the damage was the tissue hypoxia resulting from the long minutes of oxygen starvation. Back in his own era, he would have permenant brain damage, though Leela knew his brain wasn’t exactly a normal specimen. The 31st century meds would be able to repair the damage in any case.
Fry stirred, and Leela was at his side instantly, looking down at him in concern. He blinked and focused her.
“Oh,” he said groggily. “Leela… your eye.”
“I’d… like to wake up looking at your eye… every morning for the rest of my life…” he said.
Leela smirked. “A little bit of horror to start the day?” she said.
“You gotta be joking,” Fry murmured, still drifting around the edge of full consciousness. “You have a beautiful eye… like a gem in the heavens… I could lose myself in it.”
Leela, momentarily taken aback by that, stared at Fry for a few seconds longer before speaking again. “Are you… feeling any better?” she asked with uncharacteristic shyness.
“Comfortably numb,” Fry replied. “I guess I was pretty stupid, huh?”
Leela looked away. “No, not really,” she said quietly. “I guess you were noble and brave and selfless, damn you. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do what you did. I’m sorry I yelled… and hit you.”
“That’s okay. It’s what I’m here for.” Having progressed up through a few more layers of wakefulness, Fry attempted the treacherous ascent to sitting position, almost falling off the cot in the process. Leela supported him, and he found himself swaying, dizzy and ill.
“I couldn’t beat Onespawn,” he said miserably.
“It’s okay,” Leela said.
“It just flung me aside like a rag-doll…”
“Don’t worry about that now,” Leela said forcibly. “You’ve been through a horrible ordeal. The recovery process is going to be long and arduous. Even with the most advanced medical techniques, it’s still going to be more than an hour before you’re fully back to normal.”
Despite his condition, Fry had to chuckle at that. He now lived in a world where decapitation was a mere flesh-wound, and there was a single pill to counter the effects of close-proximity shotgun blasts. Medical wizardry was taken for granted.
“Why are you laughing?” Leela said seriously. “You’re facing more than sixty minutes of convelescance; it’s going to be hard for you.”
“I’ll survive,” he replied. “What happened to Onespawn?”
“Ah.” Leela thought back. “The Nibblonians and the other Brainspawn attacked it, but Nibbler says that it somehow took control of the Brainspawn and forced the Nibblonians away, and then for some reason the Omicronians attacked it as well and it ran away in the direction of Earth…”
“Yep, that’ll happen,” Fry said, nodding. “Wait… Earth?”
Leela nodded yes, and they both stared at each other sombrely. There was too much space and too many planets for it to be random – the creature was intentionally going for the home-planet of its great adversary.
“This is getting heavy,” Fry said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
“‘Getting’?” Leela repeated incredulously.
Fry raised his hands and stared at them, slowly wiggling each of his fingers in turn. Memory of his contact with Onespawn returned to him, eliciting strange thoughts.
“Leela,” he said without looking at her. “What colour are my eyes?”
“Your eyes…?” Leela paused in puzzlement for a moment, and tilted her head to see his face. “Green,” she said. “You have green eyes.”
“Since when?” he asked, looking up at her. “And since when was your eye purple?”
“Always,” Leela said, frowning in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m not sure how to explain it,” Fry said. “But… I think we’re more real than we used to be… I mean, can you remember a time before this last week when things were so serious?”
“It has been pretty intense,” she admitted.
“I don’t mean like that,” Fry said. “I mean… gritty
. Like we went from Hogan’s Heroes to Saving Private Ryan in the blink of an eye. Honestly, can you remember any time before this week when you noticed the colour of someone’s eyes?”
“I don’t understand,” Leela said. She frowned, trying to recall, but could only picture simple white circles with black dots in them, like ping-pong balls dabbed with a marker. Which was strange…
“Alright, well answer me this,” Fry said. “Without looking at your hands – how many fingers do you have, altogether?”
“Eight,” Leela said automatically.
Leela lifted her hands and stared at them. Five fingers adorned each.
“Twelve,” Fry said. “Can you explain that?”
Leela blinked in bewilderment. “Fry… what’s going on?”
“Onespawn told me that reality isn’t real… that we’re being constantly reshaped by outside forces. That’s why it wants to destroy this Universe – it thinks it’s all make-believe or something.”
“But that’s insane!” Leela said. “We’re real – our memories are real… the feelings we have for each other are real…”
Fry said nothing, looking worried, and Leela took his hand, holding it against her left breast so he could feel the beating of her heart.
is real,” she whispered.
Fry nodded. “Yeah…” he said. “Of course… I was just… no, it’s nothing. My mind was playing tricks… or more likely Onespawn was.”
Neither of them was fully convinced, but each put on a brave face for the other.
“We’ll find a way through this, Fry,” Leela told him. “Whatever the truth is, we’ll face it together
. Just don’t go off on your own again.”
“Alright,” he said. “Do you forgive me?”
She smiled. “Never in a million years.” She leaned over and kissed him softly… and then less softly. Within a few moments she had him pressed back down on the cot, straddling him; moaning and caressing. They bagan tugging at each other’s clothes, hands and elbows getting tangled.
“Ow!” Fry grunted. “Still a little tender… everywhere.”
“Sorry.” Leela giggled. They kissed passionately until a camera flash made them stop and look up in alarm.
“Scandalous!” Bender said, lowering his camera. “That shot’s gonna look great on my ‘space captains gone wild’ website. Talk about a good bedside manner.”
“Bender, what the hell is wrong with you?” Fry snapped angrily, pulling his hands out of Leela’s tank top.
“I’m a coldhearted machine with no sense of morality,” the robot replied matter-of-factly, and then he narrowed his eye shutters. “Wait a second… Leela? Are you and Fry an item now or something?”
“What’s it got to do with you?” Leela said, climbing off Fry and straightening her clothes.
“But I thought you were secretly in love with me
Leela gaped in horror and bewilderment. “What the hell
are you talking about?”
“Why else would you keep giving me all those gifts? The watch, the pendant, the coffee machine?”
“Bender, you stole
those things from me!”
“Same difference.” He lost interest and started to walk away. “Oh yeah,” he added. “We’re coming up on the Sol system, and it looks like all kinds of organic waste is about to get thrown through the propeller blades.” He disappeared, and Leela turned to Fry.
“Can you walk?” she asked.
Fry glanced down. “Yeah,” he said. “Fortunately I’m wearing my baggy pants.”
They made their way to the bridge, where Bender and Nibbler were poring over long-range sensor readouts. Ahead was the distant, comfortingly familiar yellow glow of their home star.
“What’s the situation?” Leela said.
“Events are progressing in a most concentrated form,” Nibbler replied. “Onespawn has settled on Pluto, with the Brainspawn forming a protective cordon around it. The Democratic Order Of Planets fleet has mobilized, but are having no luck breaking through the stupefaction field, and just minutes ago the Omicronian armada dropped out of hyperspace along with Mom’s vessel.”
“Jeez Louise,” Fry muttered.
“That isn’t the worst of it,” Nibbler said. “I’m detecting a massive drain of all ambient energy within and around the planet.” He pointed at the sensor screen where a display of complex sine waves was replaced by an image of Pluto, with what looked like a vast web of cracks expanding across the surface from a central point. The icy little world was slowly collapsing on itself.
“What does that mean?” Leela said.
“It means Onespawn is almost ready to begin.”
Nibbler looked at her wordlessly, and realization struck.
“Oh, again with the ominous foreshadowing,” Bender groaned. “It’s starting to sound like a broken MP3.”
“How are we going to play this?” Fry said, his voice still rough around the edges. “We’ve still got the Lance, but now Onespawn has an army of Brainspawn to throw at us.”
“Not only that,” Leela added, “but unless Mom can manage some really fast explaining, the DOOP and the Omicronians might just start firing on each other and save Onespawn the trouble – our sky is certainly getting cluttered out there. I don’t fancy our chances of navigating through it all.”
“Maybe if we tell someone we’re here?” Fry offered.
Leela activated the ship’s communications array and sent out a hail. Almost instantly, the face of Captain Zapp Brannigan appeared onscreen, and just as instantly Leela turned it off again before the Zapper could utter a word.
“No, I think it would probably save a lot of confusion and suspicion if we kept under the radar,” she said stiffly.
“I think the gun-toting generals and majors out there are about to have a little more to worry about besides little old us,” Fry said, pointing out the forward viewscreen.
Against the inky backdrop of space, Pluto was shattering. Vast chunks of the icy planet were thrown outward as massive discharges of energy ripped through the dying world. And then, encased in an incandescent shell of light, Onespawn ascended – larger than before, and more powerful by far. As the DOOP and Omicronian fleets turned to fire on the monster, it extended tendrils of destructive force, smashing the ships aside like toys, and then it moved beyond them as if they were of no consequence – moving with its accompanying bodyguard of Brainspawn in a straight line toward the third planet of the system.
“What do we do now?” Bender said.
Fry stared fixedly. “We follow,” he said. “And we finish this thing.”
Nibbler grunted. “Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *