“Ungh, my head.” Fry moaned and sat up. “Where am I?” His whole head was throbbing, and for some reason, the whole left side of his face was sore. Without thinking, he reached up and touched his cheek, and was rewarded with a jolt of pain.
Fry forced himself to stand. In front of him was a shimmering, yellow force field, humming like a fluorescent light. Beyond that was a dimly lit, seemingly unoccupied compartment about ten meters square. A half dozen small handheld weapons were mounted on a rack on the far wall, a couple meters from the only doorway. The ex-delivery boy scratched his head. How had he ended up here? He couldn’t quite remember. Something about sneaking into Momcorp? God my head hurts.
He turned around and began to pace, but froze after only a single step. There, at the other end of the room, were Leela, Bender, and Amy, all dressed in grey uniforms.
When Fry recognized Leela, he took an immediate step backward and instinctively raised his arms protectively across his chest. “What- what are you doing here?” He managed. His eyes were fixed on the PE Captain, waiting for her to make the slightest move against him.
Nothing happened. Leela didn’t respond. Actually, Fry realized, she seemed to just be staring off into space, like she didn’t even know he was there.
When a few seconds had passed and Leela still made no move to attack him, Fry took a couple of steps forward. “Uhh, Leela?” He tried again. Still no answer. Fry’s fear was replaced by a combination of confusion and worry.
“Amy? Bender? Can you guys hear me?” The robot and the intern just continued to stare blindly at the wall beyond the force field. Fry crouched in front of Leela and waved his hand in front of her face, but she made no sign.
“They won’t answer you.” Someone declared. Fry just about jumped out of his skin before turning to find Walt standing in front of the force field, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Who are you?!” Fry demanded, balling his fists. “What did you do to them?!”
Walt laughed at the fury in Fry’s voice. “What, don’t you remember me?” He asked, feigning hurt feelings. “I helped you and that idiot nephew of yours save the world from an army of rebelling robots, remember?”
Fry had to think about that for a minute. He seemed to remember something about robots taking over the world. Oh, that’s right.
“You mean in that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? Because I don’t remember being in that...”
“What? No! Last Valentine’s Day, when Mother- Oh, forget it.” Walt made an irritated noise and shook his head. “My name is Walt. As for your friends, I’ve just ensured that they’ll stick around long enough to pay off the debt they owe me.”
Fry took a look over his shoulder at his old coworkers. None of them had moved even an inch. Debt? He wondered. “Why can’t they hear me?” Fry asked.
“Oh, they can hear you.” Walt assured. “They just can’t answer. That’s the trouble with mind control; You can still see, hear, and feel everything around you. You know exactly what it is that you’re doing. You just can’t do anything about it.” Walt met Leela’s blank gaze. He sneered at her.
Fry tried to imagine what that would be like. Leela’s gonna be pissed.
“But why?” He demanded.
“Because they ruined everything!” Walt snapped. “Mother put me in charge of the Cardenian Moss operation, and if she discovers that the whole crop has been destroyed, she’ll probably kill
me. The only way to make sure that she never finds out is to hide all the evidence, and that includes them.” Walt gestured at the PE Crew. “Until this whole thing blows over, they’ll work for me. I put Ms. Wong and that bending robot to work on the spaceship assembly line, and Captain Leela makes an excellent security system- as you discovered earlier.” He chuckled. “I still haven’t decided where I’m going to place you.”
“Wait, me?” Fry’s face went pale. “You’re going to brain-control me too?!”
Walt frowned. “You haven’t left me much choice.” He retorted. “You snuck into Momcorp Headquarters looking for the Planet Express Crew, and I can’t let you go now that you’ve found them.” Without waiting for a response, Walt turned and walked to the weapon rack that was mounted on the far wall. He picked up one of the weapons and returned to the force field. He twisted a knob on the weapon and pointed it at Fry’s chest.
“Now, it takes a few minutes for the neural suggester to interface with the brain and start transmitting delta brain waves, and I can’t have you ripping the device out before it takes over your motor functions, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to stun you.”
Walt reached for the force field’s control panel, and the field vanished. Fry put his hands up and began backing slowly away. “Now hold on just a second-” he pleaded. “Why don’t we just stop and talk about this for a bit like two grown up-” Walt shot him squarely in the stomach, and Fry was out cold yet again.
Fry awoke with a start to find himself sprawled facedown on the floor of the cell. His head still hurt from the blow dealt it by Leela’s rifle, and his neck itched a little, but otherwise he seemed unharmed. But am I a zombie? Fry wondered. He didn’t feel like he was under the influence of mind control. There was a puddle of slobber on the floor, though. But come to think of it, he did that pretty often anyway. But then again, he wasn’t sure exactly what being zombified was supposed to feel like. Well, only one way to find out.
He tried to sit up.
His body did what he told it to. Ok, that was easy.
He thought. What about…
He told his right hand to move, and had no trouble putting it up in front of his face. His fingers obeyed the little random orders he gave them, and even succeeded in poking him in the eye.What’s going on? I thought my brain was supposed to be under Walt’s control!
The itch at his neck began to bother him, and he scratched it absently. His finger found something on his skin that hadn’t been there before. At first he thought it was a mole, but it felt solid, as though it were made of metal.
There wasn’t a mirror in the cell, but Fry could see a little of his reflection in the force field if he got close enough. When he squinted at the image of the thing on his neck he could make out what looked like circuitry etched into a metal disc. Hair-thin wires snaked out of the sides of the disc and disappeared into his skin. The sight of those wires penetrating into his body made Fry panic. By the time he’d thought about what the consequences might be, he’d already ripped the device off of the surface of his skin and thrown it to the floor.
Fry stood over the little disc, breathing heavily. For a minute he watched it, as if he expected it to get up and roll away under its own volition. It didn’t work.
Fry realised at last. The mind control didn’t work on me. Why not?
Obviously it had worked on the PE Crew. They were still sitting in the same positions they had been in when Fry’d woken up in the cell the first time. And, now that he knew to look, he could see little metal discs on Amy and Leela’s necks and on the side of Bender’s head. Fry walked over to Amy and knelt down beside her. He began to reach for her disc, but Amy jerked away at the last moment.
The intern’s sudden movement startled Fry, and he withdrew his hand. “Amy?” He asked uncertainly. “Did you do that?”
When Amy didn’t respond, Fry reached for the disc again, only to have her jerk away again. The mind control thing must be making her do that.
Fry guessed after a third attempt. He waited for a few seconds and then grabbed at the disc with an abruptness and speed that didn’t give Amy a chance to react. The ex-delivery boy’s fingertips grabbed ahold of the device attached to Amy’s neck. He just barely managed to duck out of the way of the intern’s fist as it sailed by his head, and then yanked on the disc. It came away from her skin with a sound that was reminiscent of Velcro. Amy gasped and crumpled to the floor.
“Amy, are you ok?” Fry was getting worried; the intern had been out cold for ten minutes now. Ripping a device that was hardwired into her brain out of her neck didn’t seem as good an idea as it had earlier. He shook her again, his panic starting to mount. To his immense relief, she began to stir.
The intern blinked a couple of times, and groaned. Then she froze. “Wait a second. Did I just do that?” She asked aloud. When she heard the sound of her own voice in her ears she let out a cry of joy and leapt to her feet, the nausea of being disconnected from the neural suggester completely forgotten. Tears began to fill the corners of her eyes as she danced about the small compartment.
Fry was horrified; Amy was making enough noise to attract any guards within a ten-mile radius. “Amy wait!” He pleaded, grabbing her wrist as she practically bounced past. “They’ll hear you!”
Amy sobered up instantly when the meaning of Fry’s words sank in. She stopped in her tracks, and the two of them waited nervously for someone to appear at the force field. No one did.
Both Fry and Amy let out a sigh of relief. Fry let himself lean against one of the cell walls. When he looked at Amy again she was scratching the side of her nose. “You have no idea how long I’ve needed to do that.” She explained when she caught him looking at her.
“You okay?” Fry asked, still worried that destroying the brain control device might have been unwise. “You know. Does everything work the way it should?”
“I think so.” Amy replied. “My neck’s just a little sore.” She put a hand to her neck and, feeling something strange, she pinched it between her thumb and index finger and pulled. Whatever it was, it was loose, so she kept pulling. A few seconds later, three feet of gossamer wire lay spooled in her right hand. Fry thought he was going to be sick.
“Should we try and free Leela and Bender?” Amy asked eventually.
That was the question, all right. He’d pulled the mind control thing off of Amy first for a reason- he wasn’t sure he wanted to have to face either Leela or Bender. On the other hand, he’d risked his life to get this far, and it wasn’t like he and Amy were going to escape by themselves.
“Yeah, I guess we ought to.” He said reluctantly. The trouble was that Amy had tried to hit him when he’d attempted to remove the disc attached to her neck. That meant the mind control gizmos were trying to protect themselves. Amy wasn’t a good enough fighter to be much of a threat, but Bender would be able to crush Fry or Amy’s spines if he got in a lucky punch, and Leela… Fry gulped at the thought of what she would probably do to them.
Amy seemed to be following the same line of thought, because she hesitated for a moment and then said. “Uh… Why don’t we try Bender?”
Fry agreed, and the two of them walked over to the bending robot, who was still staring off into space. If he hadn’t known better, Fry would have said Bender wasn’t on line at all. Amy bent down to get a closer look at the metal disc that was seemingly welded to the side of Bender’s head. There weren’t any of the little white wires that connected the discs to their human hosts.
“How’re we going to get that off him?” Fry asked. “It looks stuck on there pretty good.”
Amy stood, and grabbing Bender’s right arm in her hands said cheerfully “Like this.” She yanked at the robot’s appendage and it easily came away from his frame. When Bender didn’t react, Amy raised the metal limb over her head and, uttering something in Chinese, brought the makeshift club down hard against the neural suggester. The force of the blow caused Bender to slump over on his side. His head toppled off his shoulders and rolled away across the floor.
“Hey, Amy! You mind?” Bender’s head asked with characteristic sarcasm from the far corner of the cell. “Getting dings out of the side of my head isn’t easy, you know!”
Fry couldn’t help but grin at the sound of his old roommate’s voice, and his reservations vanished- at least for the moment. “Sorry, Bender.” He said, retrieving the robot’s head.
“Yeah, well… Don’t let it happen again.” Bender’s headless body got to its feet and snatched its missing arm from Amy’s grasp. As Fry screwed the robot’s head back into place, Bender’s body reattached the arm.
“Everything hooked up alright?” Fry asked when Bender had seemingly finished putting himself back together.
“Yeah, I think so.” The robot replied. “Nothing a spot welder and some ass varnish won’t fix.”
“Good!” Fry replied enthusiastically. “Because we need your help.” He nodded in the direction of Leela
Fry nodded at Amy, and the intern positioned herself to Leela’s left, right at the edge of the cyclops’s field of view. Fry then moved to Leela’s right and, with another nod, the two humans knelt down. That was the signal for Bender to approach, which the bending robot reluctantly did. Once Bender was ready, Fry and Amy took hold of the PE Captain’s arms and hauled downward, forcing Leela into a crouch. Simultaneously, Bender extended his arms and gripped Leela’s neural suggester with two of his metal fingers. The idea was to pin Leela to the ground so that she had no time to react when Bender pried the disc off of her. It had seemed like a great plan when they’d been whispering it to each other on the far side of the room.
Leela easily broke free of Amy’s grasp and, after karate-chopping Fry in the face and ducking away from Bender’s extended arm, rolled forward and leapt to her feet. She whirled and went into a defensive position.
Fry’s head swam from the blow, but he was able to stand. Holding his arms out, palms up, he took a few steps in Leela’s direction. “Leela, it’s me, Fry.” He said with a reassuring voice. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help.”
“Uh, Fry. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Fry took another step. “Come on, Leela. Fight it.” He pleaded. Another step put him within arm’s reach of the PE Captain. He held out a hand to her. “Please, just let me-”
Leela grabbed his arm and, twisting it, spun him around and pinned it behind his back. Fry winced. “Okay, so that didn’t work quite like I’d hoped.”
* * * * * * *
It was time. This was her one and only chance. Leela mustered every little bit of strength that she’d been saving and, steeling herself, focused all of that energy on one simple command. The parts of her mind still under her control flooded her neural pathways with the order. The neural suggester, distracted with the external threat, momentarily felt its control slipping away. The order got through.Don’t screw this up, Fry.
She hoped, against her better judgement.
* * * * * * *
The grip on Fry’s arm loosened. For once in his life, he actually reacted fast enough. Without turning around, he reached up and felt his fingers close around the disc on Leela’s neck. He pulled.
Leela’s body collapsed into a heap. Alarmed, Fry rushed to her side and kneeling, put a hand on her shoulder. He shook her gently. “Leela?” He asked, more than a little worried. For a few moments there was no response beyond the rhythmic rise and fall of the cyclops’ chest as she breathed. Fry was just about to shake her again when her eye fluttered open. When their eyes met he felt a wave of relief wash over him.
“…And that’s how I ended up here.” Fry concluded. Silence descended between the four of them as his words sank in. He’d told them the whole story, starting from the morning that he’d defrosted Chelsea and concluding with his surprise and joy upon finding Leela walking through Momcorp headquarters. Now he waited nervously for their response. The last time he’d seen Leela, they’d been at each other’s throats. Could she still be angry with him? And who knew what Bender had come to think of him, disappearing without saying goodbye as he’d done? For the first time it occurred to him that maybe his former friends hadn’t wanted the help that he’d tried to give them.
He found himself watching Leela, waiting for her to make some sign. She had her arms crossed, and she was standing so that most of her weight was on her left foot. She was staring at the floor. Finally, Fry could take it no longer.
“Leela, are you alri-”
“I’m sorry.” Leela said.
The rest of Fry’s sentence died off in his throat. “W- what?”
Leela lifted her head to look right at him. Her face was somehow tight, as if she was firmly clamping down on something that was trying to escape from within her. “I’m sorry.” She repeated stiffly. “For kicking your ass.” Abruptly she crossed her arms and turned away from him, leaving Fry to stare dumbfounded at the back of her head.
Fry turned to Amy for help. Their eyes met, and a silent communication passed between them. The intern shrugged apologetically. Fry understood the message. Leela was still angry at him for the argument that they had had in his apartment so long ago. She hadn’t beaten him up yet though- well, at least, not on purpose. And she was talking to him. Those were both good signs. Maybe she’d forgive him eventually. Maybe.
“Yo, organ piles, can we cut this emotion crap and start worrying about some more important issues? Like the fact that we’re still stuck in this prison cell?” That was Bender, of course. Not for the first time, Fry was silently thankful for Bender’s impatience with human emotional drama. It had often proved an excellent means of interrupting and dispelling an awkward situation.
“Bender’s right.” Fry said. “That Walt guy might be back at any moment to stick those disc dealies in our heads, and he probably won’t let me pull them off you guys again.” He paused for a moment, aware that his next words had to be chosen carefully. This had been his rescue mission up until the point that he’d pulled the disc off of Leela’s neck, but he knew- as did everyone present- that it would be foolish for anyone other than Leela to be in charge now that she was free. But he couldn’t look like he was just dumping all the responsibility on her either. Normally she wouldn’t mind, but she was already mad at him; no need to make it worse. “We need to get out of here. You guys have been stuck here for, like, weeks, right? Leela, did, you know, have time to think of some way to escape?” I so hope that was the right thing to say.
Leela still had her back turned to Fry, so the only reaction the redhead could detect was a slight slump of the shoulders and what might have been a sigh. A second or two passed, and then Leela turned back to face the group. “Alright.” She said, her voice ringing with that distinct, confident tone of command that she had. “Let’s do this.” For a split second she looked in Fry’s direction, and a corner of her mouth turned up in the barest hint of a smile. Fry shot her a lopsided grin.
“It’s no use.” Leela said, relaxing her grip on the pair of pliers that she gripped in her right hand. After two hours of poking and prying at the metal panels that lined the cell with a screwdriver that had been stashed in Bender’s chest cabinet, Leela had finally managed to gain access to an interior section of wall. She and Amy had surveyed the nest of multicolored wires that had been exposed, looking for a circuit that might control the forcefield that kept them trapped. They’d narrowed their choice to three candidates, a red, a yellow, and a white wire, but cutting them had seemingly done nothing. They had then decided to try and reach the computer chip that controlled the forcefield. Unfortunately, when they’d finally located it, they’d discovered that it was protected by a cage of unbendium. Even Bender wasn’t strong enough to bend bars like those, and anything they stuck through the bars- including the pair of pliers that Leela had found lying atop the screwdriver- wasn’t long enough to reach the chip.
“It’s okay, Leela.” Amy assured her. “Your hands are just too big and masculine to fit through the bars.” Leela narrowed her eye at her, but the smile that Amy gave her was completely innocent.
”This bends.” Bender said decisively. “Why don’t we just wait until that weaselly-looking human shows up again and rush him? We can use Fry to shield us from the gunfire!”
Fry pretended he hadn’t heard that last remark. “Uhh Leela? Amy? Do you guys have any other ideas?”
Amy shrugged and shook her head, but Leela looked thoughtful. “Hmm. Actually, Bender might be right.” Fry’s eyes went wide, but Leela wasn’t finished. “Right about waiting for Walt, I mean.” Fry breathed a sigh of relief. “If we put those mind control things back on our necks we can make it look like we’re still zombies. Then, when Walt shows up to let us out, we’ll beat the tar out of him.”
Fry and Bender looked at each other uneasily. Amy understood what they were thinking. “Don’t worry, you guys.” She assured them. “The mind control things are dead. I checked.” Kneeling down, she picked up one of the discs and placed it against her neck. She waited a few moments and took her hand away. The disc immediately fell to the ground.
“Hmm.” Leela said. “It looks like we’ll need some way to keep them stuck in place. Bender, do you have any glue in that cabinet of yours?”
“Whoa, hey wait a second.” Fry protested. “You want me to glue something to my body? How come all the other times I wanted to do that you were against it?”
“Because gluing your cellphone to your hand so you would always have it with you is stupid.” Leela retorted. “Well, Bender? Do you have any?”
Bender rolled his eyes, but he stuck his hand into his compartment. “What do I look like, a toolbot? Why do you bloodbags always assume I carry everything around with me? This is a small storage space, and I have lots of loot to haul around with me- oh wait a minute, here it is.” With a mechanical whir he pulled out a white tube. On it was marked the words ‘crazy glue: made from and used by crazy people.’
Leela took the glue and examined it. “It says it can be removed ‘almost painlessly' if applied to the skin. Hmm, I wonder why almost is written in quotes?” There was a beat. “Oh well, it’ll have to do. Everyone find a neural suggester and put a drop of glue on it. Try to stick it exactly where it was originally.”
“What then?” Fry asked.
“We wait.” she said.
okay, so this update took way
too long to write. No matter what I did, I just couldn't get it to turn out the way I wanted. Luckily, when I finally just gave up and sent it to justNibblin' for beta-ing, he had reservations about it as well, because he convinced me to redo it one last time. What I finally ended up with was much nicer.
Oh, and Archonix, I think I might have stolen that unbendium joke from you, but I can't remember anymore. Sorry if that's the case