« Reply #529 on: 04-15-2010 22:43 »
« Last Edit on: 04-15-2010 22:48 »
I didn't want to do this universe next but it seems to have forced my hand, being the only one I could actually figure out the full plot for. Even then I was having problems writing it... now I'm forcing myself to write through the method of posting what I've got so far, leaving me with no excuse. So, slightly different tack...
Previously in Parallel Lives:
Fry woke, feverish as heat burned through his skin. He remembered collapsing as he arrived and the pain that had washed through his body as he had made the transition from one universe to the next. To look at him now, it was as if nothing had changed. Fry held his hands up to the light. They were young again, which gave him a little cheer. Not much, though.
“She loved me,” he whispered. It seemed too painful to admit. He stared at the box they’d just left, forever closed to him now. “Do you understand that?”
“I’m sorry, Fry.”
“Am I going to lose everything I love?”
“Yeah, well we have other problems to worry about right now.”
The tenor of Leela’s voice jolted Fry from his melancholy long enough to look around the room, to really examine it. Nothing had been touched here for a long time. A thick layer of dust stretched across the entire floor, disturbed only where they’d landed. He looked up. There was a huge hole blasted in the ceiling and part of the wall, a clear path right out of the building. Greyish skies rolled across the gap, cloud cover that never quite broke to reveal the sky beyond. Beneath the cloud, the city of New New York stood silent and deserted.
Leela and Fry both stared around the desolate ruins of the Planet Express building, a mere empty shell after whatever disaster had befallen the world they had entered, and utterly silent. Nothing stirred, no owls hooted. The only sound they could hear as they wandered the deserted building was a gentle breeze sighing through the trusswork and open, shattered windows of the hangar and upper floors.
They didn’t bother exploring the building at first; Leela took them outside, to get the lay of the land and escape the oppressive interior of the place but, after a few minutes, even that sight became depressing. The entire city was ruined, blasted apart by the same violence that had destroyed their workplace and now deserted, overgrown by the slowly encroaching plant-life.
They’d wandered the city for a little while after that, just the immediate area as the tubes weren’t working. Here and there were the scattered remains of a robot, a few mouldering scraps of clothing or the abandoned paraphernalia of a life suddenly ended; oPoids, bicycles, cellphones, bags and packages put down in some sheltered spot for a brief moment and then never retrieved. They stopped outside a coffee shop Leela had occasionally visited and took in the brittle, decaying pages of a small stack of books near the door, the overturned tables, scorched and punctured couches and the abandoned snacks and drinks decayed to almost nothing. She shook her head sadly as they moved on.
After a few more blocks Fry spotted the rotten hulk of the ship a distance away, or what was left of it. The hull had been torn in half just forward of the stabilisers and the trail of destruction they’d followed suddenly made a little more sense. Leela decided enough was enough, remarking it was unlikely they’d be able to find anyone here to help them. They returned to their place of work.
Within the Planet Express building they sought out any clue as to what had happened and any means to fix it, but it was obviously hopeless. The place was wrecked. The only possible location to find clues was the lab, and that was completely destroyed. It was behind the lab that they eventually found the body, the only one they’d seen in the entire time they’d been there, surrounded by the tarnished and battered fragmentary remains of some strange, alien robots or drones. A yellowing skeleton, either picked clean or more likely simply decayed in place given the lack of animal life around, lay beneath the mouldering rubble.
The bleached mat of purple hair still clinging to the skull told them everything else they needed to know.
They left the body as they found it. Leela hadn’t wanted to touch her own corpse; Fry just couldn’t bring himself to think about burying her and said as much, expecting a sardonic reply or an unsubtle dig at his squeamishness. None was forthcoming. Leela had just stared at the body for a long time without speaking.
“It’d be nice to believe I didn’t die for no reason,” she said later, as they passed by the locker room on the way to the stores. It was a mess, which was hardly unusual, though the way everything seemed to have fossilised in place was a little disturbing. Fry stopped by his locker and tapped his hand against it; the door fell off its hinges.
“I mean, if I have to die it’d be nice if it was for something worthwhile.”
“I think you did,” Fry said as he started rummaging through the contents of his locker.
“I died alone. It doesn’t look like I was achieving much.”
“To me, it looks like you were trying to defend someone. You took down a lot of whatever those things were.” He pulled out a slippery package from the bottom of the locker and frowned at it. “Why would I have women’s underwear in my locker?”
“I wouldn’t want to comment,” Leela replied. She looked at her own locker, wondering for a moment if it might offer any clues to the world but, when she opened it, there was nothing. The only thing out of place was a photograph of herself, a young asian man who looked a bit like Amy’s father, and a redhead woman she’d never met before. She closed it with a sigh. “Come on.”
“I just think, you know, maybe you were trying to help some of us escape. I thought I saw something that looked like one of the Professor’s inventions in there. Maybe it was some sort of teleporter.”
The scanner on her wrist quickly located what it claimed was a universe more related to their own, which was fortunate, as that was about the time they heard the first sounds of life; an eerie, metallic howl that echoed across the city, shortly accompanied by the sound of gravitic impellers racing overhead. A pair of black, ovoid drones shot past the broad opening in the roof, heading toward the wreck of the ship.
“That’s our cue to leave.” Leela pulled the lid from her selected box and tossed it on the floor.
“We don’t have time for this, Fry,” she said, grabbing his collar. Leela tipped Fry over the side of the box and then jumped straight after him. She felt the brief tingle of the passage between worlds, some sort of effect of the ‘entanglement’ the Professor had described, and then faced the oncoming rush of light as they appeared in the new universe.
She heard the thump and yell of Fry hitting the floor, though his time she managed to avoid landing on him and somehow arced toward a soft pile of dust covers slumped against the base of the shelves. Leela flopped onto her front in the sheets. She lay still for a while until Fry stopped groaning and pulled himself over to her side, where he lay down with a laboured sigh.
Fry had perked up a little while they were wandering around the previous universe, but he seemed to be running down again now. Perhaps it was just the way he had landed on his head, or perhaps it was something else, she couldn’t tell. No... actually she could, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.
“Same store-room,” she said eventually to break the silence. Fry glanced up and around and nodded, before letting his head drop back to the comfortable sheets. He said something into the thick cloth but it was mostly reduced to a vague mumble.
Silence fell over them again for a while. The cool room was comforting with its familiarity though the boxes were the wrong colour again, so they weren’t actually home, unless the Professor had decided to repaint them all in her absence. Stranger things had happened. It was getting late as well. Leela poked Fry’s shoulder. “Hey, wake up.”
“Fry, we have to get going or we’ll be locked in for the night.”
“So what?” Propped up on his hands, Fry was glaring at her reproachfully. He rolled away and sat up with his back to the shelves. “Why don’t we just keep going through the boxes until we get home? I-”
The loud rumbling of Fry’s stomach interrupted their conversation. Fry rubbed at his belly and grimaced.
“Okay, so maybe there are some reasons...”
“Not just that. We need to find the Professor again. This scanning program doesn’t seem to be working properly, it keeps showing a different date every time I run it. For all I know we could be home already.” And there was still the problem of her insane alter-ego chasing through the worlds. The thought that she might turn up to haunt them again... Leela glanced at he scanner, which was reporting they had about eighteen days. At least this time. “So, like I said.”
A heavy sigh accompanied Fry’s effort to haul himself to his feet. Leela couldn’t help but think that he was overplaying his downer a little, after all they’d been in that universe for, what, half a week? There was no way anyone could fall in love in a week, which left two options: either he was being stupid, or he still had some sort of latent feelings toward Amy. Leela was stunned by the intensity of her jealousy at that particular thought.
“You know we never did get that talk,” she said as they exited the store room. Fry shrugged, but then stopped to stare up at the ship, which was back to its familiar green-and-red colouring. The hangar doors were open, letting a sliver of early-evening sunlight cut across the hangar, casting the angular shadow of the ship’s stabilisers across the uncovered struts and latticework of the crane gantry and hangar walkways.
The air was quite still, but heavy with the familiar sound of distant traffic and the foetid stink of the Hudson in full flow. A tang of ozone and the very faintest of blue glows from the rear of the ship told that she had only recently returned from a delivery, which meant that the staff were almost certainly still in the building.
“I thought we did,” Fry muttered. “Not that I can remember, what with you punching me in the face.”
“At least you can joke about it,” Leela replied. Fry shook his head and wandered a few steps toward the ship. “What? Fry, this isn’t fair.”
“She didn’t treat me like I was just a dumb kid,” Fry shot back. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked up at the ship. “I’m not dumb. I know you mostly see me making mistakes and getting in trouble but I’m not dumb.”
“I don’t think you’re dumb...”
The eager way Fry turned to face Leela was a little disconcerting. She took a breath and shook her head. There were so many ways to say this and screw up again.
“I don’t- look, Fry, I know you think I blamed you for getting us in this mess. Okay so maybe I did a bit, but it wasn’t your fault. Or mine.”
“But you don’t think I’m dumb?”
“Why does it matter, Fry? What difference does someone else’s opinion make?”
Fry frowned. “It matters when it’s yours,” he said quietly whilst rolling his feet together on the floor.
“You’re not angling for a date, are you? Because this is a really bad time to start.”
“No, I mean, well yes, but the thing is, when you tell me I’m good at something I feel... good,” he finished lamely. “But I guess that just sounds stupid anyway.”
Leela shook her head and smiled. They were under the conference area now, behind the Professor’s laboratory, which seemed to be a little cleaner and better organised but wasn’t otherwise any different. No evidence of the elevator to that vast underground chamber, or of the more bizarre alternate experiments that universe’s Professor had built. It almost felt like home.
“You know, Fry, sometimes I can almost see the man behind the boy...” what a cliché, her treacherous mind added. Did I just say that? Even so it seemed to cheer Fry up a little and at least it got him off her case for now, which was better than nothing. Though, if they were going to be spending a long time together in these universes, it’d be nice if he could be a little more forgiving. “What I mean is...”
The door opened. Amy stepped into the corridor with a curious frown, carrying a pile of papers. “Fry? I heard you talking to- aah! Shun-sheng duh gao-wahn!”
The papers flew in the air, followed by Amy’s arms as she grabbed hold of her head. She stared at Leela with her mouth wide open, unable to speak.
“What’s the matter with you?” Leela took a step toward Amy, but she cowered away with a terrified yelp, then turned and ran down the corridor followed by a trail of paper and a torrent of cantonese. “Weird.”
“I was thinking that,” Fry said. He had finger in the air, as if he were making a point. “And I think we aren’t in the right universe again.”
“The first clue was-”
“I get it, Fry! Good lord, it’s like you turn into a completely different person every time we go through these boxes!”
Fry stared at Leela as another silence descended between them. Somewhere, far away in the building, a door slammed and muffled voices were raised, accompanied by the shuffle of footsteps. “Maybe it’s part of that quantum thingy Yancy’s nephew was talking about,” he said, scratching the back of his head. “I don’t feel different, but you were acting like a complete bitch. Um, I mean you...”
Leela’s glare silenced Fry more effectively than any violence she might have delivered. It was true, in a way, though. She hadn’t exactly been on an even keel the last few days. The voices were getting closer now. Leela could make out Hermes, Bender and Amy amongst the racket.
“It’s just stress. Fry. That’s all it is. Just stress.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Fry shuffled his feet and looked around at the bare corridor. “Shouldn’t we go find someone?”
“I think they’re about to find us,” Leela replied moments before the door crashed open. A small crowd managed to jam their bodies into the opening, which was chiefly filled by Hermes and Bender as they tried to force their way through at the same time. Behind them, Amy was yelling and pointing at Leela, apparently trying to convince the Professor of Leela’s presence.
They all froze at the sight of Leela. Hermes’ jaw dropped, followed a moment later by Bender’s eyes, ejected from his head to land on the floor with a loud clunk. Even Farnsworth managed to contrive a surprised expression and a faintly bewildered mumble.
“Told you,” Amy said.
“Sweet journey of the sorcerer, she is here!”
Hermes managed to squeeze Bender out of the way, leaving the robot to feel his way along the floor in search of his eyes. The bureaucrat and Farnsworth surrounded Leela the way only they could, trapping her against a wall. Leela found herself fighting the urge to escape and, as she glanced across at Amy, the disturbing reminder of an earlier universe, where things had gone just a little bit wrong.
“This is remarkable,” the Professor exclaimed.
“Remarkable? It’s a paperwork nightmare is what it is,” Hermes responded. He glowered at Leela and pulled a calculator from his jacket. “There’s no way in heaven we can afford to keep two pilots on the roll. You picked a terrible time to come back!”
“And Fry,” Hermes continued, turning to look at the red-head, slouched against the wall and until now mostly uninterested by the odd turn of events. “Don’t you tink at least a little bit of warning would have been fair? You’ve been watching her all this time, why didn’t you say somethin’ about her bein’ awake?”
“What? Who’s awake?”
“Almighty Washington’s head, Fry,” Farnsworth shouted. “Move your mouth when you’re talking! It’s unnatural!”
There was a sudden pause as various expressions of confusion fell over the faces of those present. Fry opened his mouth, closed it again and screwed up his face in thought.
“Hey, what’s going on,” his voice said again, from behind the others. They parted and turned to stare at another Fry, their Fry, standing in the doorway. “Who’s watching who?”
His eyes came to rest on Leela. The returning silence was palpable, hardly broken by the rustling of clothes as Amy, Farnsworth and Hermes turned to look at Leela and Fry again. Their own Fry swallowed and made an odd little noise at the back of his throat. Then he very slowly fell over on his back.