Hey, all. I'm a regular poster over on TLZ:FMMB, and I recently wrote this story. It wasn't originally going to be my first, but after hearing "Nautical Disaster" by The Tragically Hip, this work just poured out of me. It was pretty well received over on TLZ, and I thought you lot might like to read it as well.
First, some context:
"Nautical Disaster" lyrics http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tragicallyhip/nauticaldisaster.html
The official "Nautical Disaster" video (very 90s) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8Fi46BFAF0
Without further adieu, here it is! Enjoy, and be gentle on me!
This was supposed to be so easy. A simple stop, drop, and 'let's roll'. A routine delivery to a part of the galaxy they'd gone to regularly. No reason at all to be worried about any specific threat, other than the accepted fact that this was outer space and that if something went horribly wrong, death was certain.
Turanga Leela, the seasoned captain of the Planet Express ship who was known for her stern style of leadership, relaxed herself as a period of downtime took over. The course that she and her crew were travelling had been traversed many times before, and any adjustments that she needed to make with regards to navigation were carried out as if they were reflexes. Indeed, she usually had her game face on while in flight, but when you feel you've got everything taken care of, why not loosen your grip a bit?
The Planet Express ship was about five hours from home, and had just rounded the Centauri star system. It was a no brainer, when coming to Earth or any point in the solar system from this direction, to use this system's gravity to a ship's advantage as a slingshot as it put less strain on the engines and used a lot less fuel. Leela made one last passing glance of each control. No alarms or lights of any sort. Everything was on point.
She swiveled around in her chair and set her attentions on Phillip J. Fry, who seemed to be straing blankly at his console. Fry was her long-time shipmate and best friend for all intents and purposes...except one, possibly. For the past several years, he had made advances toward her that she didn't necessarily want. At first he had been motivated by pure lust, but over the course of time his overtures began to express a profound appreciation and fondness, even going so far as to pen an opera for her. Leela never knew what quite to make of Fry's actions, so inaction became the default reaction. He could be obnoxious and even infuriating to be around and work with, but she loved him like a brother and besides, starting up a romantic relationship with him could jeopardize what they had in a way that could not be undone.
For the moment, though, it was just the two of them. Amy had stationed herself down in the engineering spaces, making sure the converters were operating as they should, and Bender was in the back somewhere in hibernate mode. May as well ligthen things up a bit, Leela thought. "Well, Fry..." she spoke with a faint smile. As soon as he heard her voice, he snapped out of his funk and spun around to face her, giving a a wan grin. "it should be smooth sailing from here on home." Fry nodded. He then turned back to his console-staring match. Leela's smile began to fade, as her hopes of conversing with her friend seemed to be dashed by a sense that something was not right with Fry. "Is something wrong?"
Why hasn't it happened yet? Fry agonized internally. How much must I do in order for her to make her finally see how I feel about her? Nothing I've done has seemed to work for long. It's time for some REAL action, time for the kind of violent shove that gets relationships started. At least on TV shows, anyway. At once, he swiveled back around and stood right up. "Leela..." he summoned. The ship's captain quickly yet casually spun around in her seat, looking up at Fry with an answering gaze. "C'mere," he said and motioned with his hand.
"What is it?" she asked, without a hint of genuine curiosity.
"C'mere!" Fry reiterated, now making the motion with both his hands. Leela stood up and calmly walked over to him.
"You're not going to do one of those fake egg-cracks on my head, are you?" she asked, partially annoyed. Fry sensed this, but his resolve did not waver. This is it, I'm going in, he thought as Leela continued speaking. "Last time you did one of those, I coul--" were the last sounds she could get out of her mouth before Fry grabbed either side of her head and pulled her into a deep yet sloppy kiss. She might have enjoyed the thrill of it for the first fraction of a second, but she ultimately realized this was something she did not want. The kiss had lasted for three seconds before Fry tried to make a move to wrap his arms around her body and hold her as close as he could. He then began to lean into her, which started to throw Leela off-balance. She decided to end this awkward discomfort by planting her feet and using her body strength to shove Fry down to the floor, about three feet away. He landed on the floor with a thud and feelings of confusion, shame and failure. He then looked up at Leela, who had her brow furrowed in anger as she wiped her mouth with the back of her left hand.
"What the hell was that supposed to be?" Leela demanded. Fry got to his feet slowly, brushing himself off.
"What was that for? It was an attempt to finally make you see how I feel. I can't seem to get it through any other way..." Fry replied, somewhat annoyed.
"So you force yourself on me. I see, that makes perfect sense. I'm totally hot for you now." she sarcastically spat. "You've seen what I can do to people, Fry. It would be unwise for you to try and put moves on me with nobody else around." The look on Fry's face changed from one of vague embarrassment to one of incredulity.
"So...so that's it, huh?" Fry sputtered. "That's all you think I was trying to do, isn't it? Just 'put moves on you' with nothing else behind it?"
"I honestly have no idea what goes on in your head anymore." Leela said exasperatedly as she walked back over to the captain's chair, sat down and crossed her arms. Fry was left standing in shock with his mouth agape. He couldn't believe her opinion of him was that low.
"Leela, you have to believe me...that's the opposite of...after everything I...I can't believe...I wasn't trying to..." Fry continued to stammer as Leela sat rigidly, not doing anything to further acknowledge his presence in the area. At a loss for words and actions, Fry did the only thing that seemed logical. He turned around and exited the bridge, heading toward the bunk. On the way, he slightly woke Bender, who cursed him before slipping right back into hibernate mode. As Fry slammed the door behind him, Leela relaxed and sighed in disbelief. I know he didn't mean any real harm, but how could he be so brazen? she thought. With nothing else to do, Leela gazed blankly out the window. Nothing much to look at out here, as the Centauri system was now behind them and the countless other stars and galaxies of the universe were outstretched before her, all of them so far away. There did seem to be an object in the field that stuck out from the rest, to the port side of the ship. Leela squinted and pondered about it.
In the bunkroom, Fry cursed himself as he lay in his hammock. "I've done it now. I've just gone from being so close to her to possibly never being on speaking terms with her again. What can I do now? What could I possibly say to her ever again?" As Fry lay trying to work it all out in his mind, his eyelids began to get heavy. He didn't do much to fight the weight, and chose to let sleep begin to envelop him.
The next thing Fry remembered was hearing a myriad of klaxons. Before he could make any sort of move to react, he found himself being slammed into the bulkhead face first. The sudden jolts caused Fry to accidentally bite his lower lip, causing blood to flow out at a steady pace. As he struggled to make sense of what was happening around him - a process which felt like it took hours but in reality only took a few seconds - he noticed he did not land on any surface after his impact with the bulkhead. Rather, he was floating in mid-air. He also noticed that the air pressure in the bunkroom had changed dramatically, and was in fact dropping steadily. Whatever was happening was not some minor reaction to a change in the conditions surrounding the ship. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Earlier misunderstandings be damned, Fry knew he had to leave the room and make his way up front to try and assist Leela with the problems at hand. Not wanting to go out unprepared, he swam through the air over to the built in closet where an emergency spacesuit hung - although it now hung in mid-air rather than on the hook. Putting one of these things on was an involved process under normal conditions; with the chaos surrounding him now it was almost impossible. Knowing that panicked movements would only take him longer to get suited up, he calmly worked his way into each part of the suit - the pants, the jacket, the gloves, the helmet, the boots, and finally having to attach an oxygen pack. The entire process took about 8 minutes. Fry hoped it was not too late to help as he began to open the door and float out into the passageway.
Fry's hopes were dashed. It was too late.
He stopped dead in his tracks right outside the doorway and hung on to the door for dear life, If he would have kept going, he would have floated right out into the icy blackness of space. The ship before him had been sheared in half. All he could see was the other half of the ship, which stood about 300 ft. away and was increasingly moving further and further from the segment he attached himself to, and a rather sizable meteoroid which was moving perpendicular to the path that the other part of the spacecraft was moving in. Fry now began to panic as he could see all sorts of debris floating about - loose items, fragments of the ship itself, and what looked like pieces of Bender - but no sign of Leela or anyone else in the crew. Desperation began to nest in Fry's psyche as he kept clinging to the doorway, intensely watching the other spacecraft fragment for any signs of life. The other half of the ship was now at a distance of about 500 ft. and still drifting. Fry knew that there was no way possible to retrieve and salvage the two halves and somehow limp home to Earth.
"This is all my fault." Fry said to himself. "If I could only just learn to control myself. And if only I wouldn't react so badly to rejection. I promise you, Leela, that if we make it through this, I'll back off and accept you for the good friend you are." Tears began to form in his eyes. "Just...please, please be okay..." he whispered.
Suddenly, a couple of figures emerged from behind the doorway to the bridge on the other fragment. As they came closer to the precipice of where the vessel has been torn, a little light from Beta Centauri was shed on them. Fry squinted as he came out from behind his doorway, stretching and leaning out as far as he could while still being able to grip the vessel. It was Leela and Amy, both in the same sort of spacesuit Fry was wearing. They, too, were now coming to terms with the carnage that had been inflicted on the ship. Fry could see that they were in panic mode as well, as they seemed to be looking around desperately. Fry waved his arms frantically and began to shout, when he realized that there was no way they could possibly hear him. Leela and Amy seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact that the part of the ship Fry was standing on even existed. The space suits were equipped with radio systems that could be used to communicate with other suit-wearers, but intuition told Fry that in the time it takes him to figure out how to work this stupid thing, he could conceivably swim through space to reach the other half of the spaceship. His shipmates appeared to be retreating from the scene of the wreck and going back to the bridge. He knew what he had to do. Fry crouched down as if to prepare for a big jump, and then propelled himself with all his strength toward the other fragment.
Fry had been on spacewalks before, but never before had getting from point to point in space carried such urgency. He tried doing the breast-stroke as a way to move forward quickly. He seemed to have no problem with the speed, but when moving through space like this it is near impossible to control your direction. Fry found this out the hard way as he floated above the large cavity in the ship and toward the top of the hull. He had overshot the opening and there was no way to course-correct. The best he could hope for was to try to grab on to the the barrel on the gun turret, which seemed to be attached to the top of the hull by a thread itself. He was moving fast and the turret was fast-approaching. He would be passing only about six inches above it, so he prepared himself to grab it. When the precise moment came, he grabbed a hold of the barrel and wrapped his body around it because his life depended on it. His direction of travel changed, but his speed only reduced slightly as Fry found himself sliding off the barrel and along the contour of the front of the ship.
Fry knew he had missed his big chance to stop his movement and reunite with his friends. He frantically tried to dig his fingers into the hull to no avail. He slid past the windshield, and got a glimpse inside as he passed. The bridge area seemed to be completely bare with no signs of life. This only served to make Fry more upset as he tried to hug the ship with his entire body. There was nothing that could be done now, as he reached the nose of the ship and slid off. Time and opportunities had run out, and he now began to move away from the ship fragment. Fry screamed in anguish at the thought that he now would not likely get back to Leela and Amy to see if they were okay, that he did not stand a chance of getting back to any sort of a normal life. He tried in vain to swim back toward the ship, but the lack of air meant there was no way to alter his course. He looked back in helplessness, the two halves of the ship twisted away from each other at opposing angles and still moving apart from each other. This was it.
Upon giving his helpless look at the remnants of the Planet Express ship, he saw the staircase descend from the bottom. Out came a long, white, tubular structure with a rocket attached to the back. An escape pod. Fry hadn't the foggiest idea that the ship had ever contained one, most likely because Leela was so good at evading obstacles that he'd not thought about needing one for a disaster such as this. Yet, here it came in his general direction and it seemed to pick up speed as it got closer. Fry was floating about four feet above its trajectory, and decided he needed to make a move toward it so he could somehow hang on. He began to try to breast-stroke his way towards where he thought it would be. He was getting close to the nose of it and was reaching out to grab it, when suddenly the pod's rocket-glow grew in intensity to the point that the light filled up Fry's vision. He then felt a thud in his chest, and the light was gone. So was the escape pod. As Fry looked back to the vicinity of where the pod had just been, nothing was there. He looked into the direction it would have been travelling, and in the distance could see the glow that had nearly blinded him getting fainter and fainter.
The weight of the situation and everything that had just transpired sunk in. Fry began thrashing madly in frustration. He also began to cry hysterically, muttering words inbetween sobs like "no" and "please come back". He was still drifting away from the wreckage, and was now was at least a mile away from it. After calming down and facing reality, Fry realized there was only one thing he could do now. To float around in space like this until he died would be torture. He decided that we was going to end this as quickly and painlessly as possible. He unlocked the seals that kept his helmet in place, and thus protected him from the harshness of space. A beeping alarm went off in his ear to warn him about the seal being broken, as if he hadn't realized it. Fry placed a hand on either side of his helmet. "I'm sorry, Leela." he cried, and he began to lift the helmet off his shoulders.
Fry felt a small jolt and he was knocked out of his hammock. He scrambled to his feet and realized he was still inside his bunkroom. The alarm he had heard in his dream was going off inside the ship, but it did not equal the calamity of the sirens he thought he had heard earlier. After a moment the alarm died off, but Fry, who was still not fully awake and recovered from his nightmare, began to look inside the closet for the spacesuit. It was there, and he subsequently began the arduous process of putting it on. Before he could even get the pants all the way on, he heard a familiar voice come over the ship's intercom system.
"Fry, are you okay back there?" Leela asked.
Fry stepped over to the small console on the wall and pushed the button to respond. "I'm fine right now. Is everybody okay up there?"
"Everything's under control up here. I just had to pull some sharp maneuvers to avoid this meteoroid. I can imagine you may have gotten tossed about back there, but you should have seen this thing!"
"Is the ship okay? How bad is the damage?"
Leela paused for a second before responding. "Everything is fine. No damage incurred. All systems are go."
Fry paused and let the events since he had stormed into the bunkroom sink in. He breathed a heavy sigh, and a few tears of relief formed in his eyes. He needed to get something off his chest, lest there be some sort of real collision any minute.
"Leela, I'm so sorry about the way I forced myself on you a while ago. I thought if somehow..." he trailed off. After a few seconds, Leela picked up.
"While I didn't appreciate the discomfort of it, I know you didn't mean any harm, and I'm sorry for disregarding you like I did, Fry." The intercom clicked off. Fry began to store the spacesuit back in its proper place when it clicked on again. "The situation with you and I is a very complex thing, and while I don't feel like getting into another heated debate about it right now, I just want to let you know that I value your friendship like nothing else ever. I don't know what will end up becoming of us, but I need you to know that you are invaluable to me, as a shipmate and as a friend. And that right there is a severe understatement. I think I speak for both of us when I say that I would like nothing more than to forget about this whole thing and move on."
Fry flashed his trademark grin and replied. "Done and done. If you like, the events of earlier are already faint in my memory." Faint as the sound of my fingers scratching on the hull, his thoughts continued. The tale of his epic nightmare was one that would have to wait for now.
"Good to hear." Leela said, and Fry could hear the smile in her voice.
"You know how I feel about you, Leela. I'm sorry that what I want from you gets in the way of our friendship sometimes. But if I had to keep on with you on my side as you are right now, I think it would be hard to find fault with that." Fry assured. "Only a fool would complain."