(cross-posted at FMMB)
A while back I was perusing the fan fiction threads here at PEEL and came across the first two parts of a story by Corvus called A Red Letter Day. It is the tale of Rana, the 17-year-old daughter of Leela and Fry. In it, Leela was widowed shortly before Rana was born. The incomparable Archonix drew one of his trademark blue-pencil portraits of Rana to accompany Corvus' narrative; it can be seen in the third post down at http://www.peelified.com/cgi-bin/Futurama/4-001589-9/.
Unfortunately for all of us, Corvus did not choose to continue A Red Letter Day. I thought it was a story that deserved to be told. So I took up the cudgel, grasped the nettle, and wrote a continuation of the saga (it's my *first ever* fanfic).
My deepest thanks go to Corvus and Archonix for allowing me to post the continuation of this story and to link to the artwork. Any inspiration I've had is entirely due to them.
In his post of Rana's picture Archonix asks, "Ain't she a cutie?" She sure is, and you'll see also how smart and strong she turns out to be, and how the power of love spans both time and space...
So, here are parts 1 and 2 of Corvus' epic, to be followed soon by my continuation. Hope you enjoy it!A Red Letter Day
Part One - Sunrise
The sun rose slowly over New New York, as dawn made yet another unavoidable appearance. Bright beams of sunlight scattered and gleamed over the city that had draped itself in the remnants of an early morning rain. A few rays found their way through hastily drawn curtains and into a small room in a certain apartment 1i.
The rays crept slowly over a cluttered floor, jumping over some empty fast food cartons. They paused briefly before skipping through a pile of Slurm Blue cans, sneakng past a half eaten pizza and dodging through a pair of black pants, a couple of boots and an old red jacket which had been discarded in a heap. Finally they arrived at a bed. There they gently prodded a head covered with purple hair. The owner of that head grunted a protest at the sudden rays of light and crept further under the covers to escape the intrusive sun.
As the sun continued to rise, more rays of light joined the previous ones in their exploration of the small room, illuminating it further. Aside from the bed the furniture in the room was sparse, consisting of a couple of chairs, a table and a small TV standing on a pedestal situated opposite the bed. The tv was running an early news edition with the sound off, the view screen partially obscured by a white t-shirt.
If the furniture was sparse, the assorted debris covering it was not. Old newspapers, candy wrappers, video games, ladies underwear and more empty Slurm Blue cans were just some of the items littering the furnishings. The only thing not covered by trash was a picture frame, standing solitary guard on the window ledge. In the frame was the face of Phillip J. Fry, delivery boy extraordinaire, wearing his trademark grin.
A soft knock on the door disturbed the sunlit silence. The purple-haired person stirred under the bed covers but did not react further. Time ticked idly by as nothing else happened. A harder, more insistent knock made its presences known.
"Go away." A sleep-drenched muffled voice muttered from under the covers.
"Rana? Are you awake?" A woman’s voice asked through the closed door.
The covers where impatiently moved aside by a slender arm, revealing a young woman in her late teens. Her eyes glared from under a purple fringe at the closed door.
"No, I’m dead! Leave the flowers and go away!"
The door swung open. Leela poked her head in and looked sternly at her daughter.
"You've got ten minutes!!" She snapped before drawing the door to a close.
Rana muttered something under her breath before she climbed out of bed. She paused briefly before the photo of Fry.
"Miss you dad."
Gently she stroked the picture frame with her left hand. It had been almost eighteen years since he'd died. Even though she had never met him, she missed him with each passing day. Ever since her first days of school as a little girl she had watched as her classmates were picked up by their parents at the end of the day. Rana would watch as her classmates’ moms fussed over them and their dads smiled proudly at tales of their most recent exploits. Rana, on the other hand, had to wait for her lone mother to pick her up. Sometimes Leela would be late from a delivery but Rana didn't mind when that happened. In fact, she was glad, since then she didn't have to see the other parents ostracize her mother. The way they looked at or talked about her mother... Rana hated it. Rana had always dreamed of what it would be like to have a father, a normal - looking one that nobody made fun of.
She had mixed feelings for her mother. Rana loved her for what she was and that she never excused herself for it, that she had always been there for her no matter what. What Rana didn't like was her mother’s insistence in trying to give her daughter the perfect childhood that she herself never had. It could be really trying when she got carried away and wanted Rana to do something the she herself missed out as a kid.
Rana yawned and stretched out to her full length; standing on her toes with her arms over her head. Her back and neck made soft popping noises. Rana was surprisingly slender and spry for someone that loved to indulge herself in fast food. The simple explanation for that was that Rana, like many other young women, had a metabolism like a blast furnace.
It was Thursday, more commonly known as Ferris Bueller Day, so her first class wouldn’t start until after lunch. Although not much was known about the Great Ferris Bueller, high school students had kept his legend alive over the centuries. It was rumored that Ferris had performed some great feat of procrastination sometime deep in the Stupid Ages, and he had come to be a role model for public school students everywhere. In the late 30th century, it had become fashionable to celebrate a ‘Ferris Bueller Day’ from time to time by skipping a day of class. This practice had become so rampant that the Earthican School System finally had to set aside Thursdays as official Ferris Bueller Days in attempt to limit excessive truancy, giving every student the morning off.
Per normal Thursday routine, Rana usually followed her mother to work. She would much rather be decked out in front of the TV or cruising the Net, but her mother wouldn’t have it. She wanted Rana someplace where she could keep an eye on her slothful daughter and make sure she did her homework.
Rana surveyed the cluttered chaos that was her room, spotting an upright Slurm Blue can. She grabbed it by the top and shook it while listening intently. A splashing sound told her that there still was some of the soft drink left inside. She eagerly brought the can to her lips and, with a sudden tilt of her head, downed the radium-blue sludge in a single gulp. Much like her deceased father, Rana had a fancy for Slurm, especially the new brand. Slurm Blue – Slurm for the Next Generation, as it was called, was marketed at young teenagers that wanted to be hip and cool. Not square and boring like those who drank the regular green Slurm.
Having finished what was left in the can, she started to pick out whatever clothing that looked clean. Eventually she managed to scrounge together a working outfit: a pair of black boots, a pair of dark blue, loose fitting cargo pants and a white boat neck t-shirt. With these articles of clothing in her arms she proceeded towards the shower. She would much rather have skipped it, but her mother had very strong opinions regarding personal hygiene. Rana knew that it would save more time if she did what Leela told her to do rather than to try and fight her.
When she was finished, she toweled herself off and dressed hurriedly, pausing only long enough to give herself a quick once-over in the mirror. She was her father’s daughter, all right. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth; they were all right out of the picture on her window ledge. In fact, the subtle lines in her cheeks were the only signs to be found on her face of her Turanga heritage. Of course, you didn’t have to look at her face to discover that she was Leela’s daughter. The purple hair was a dead giveaway.
She quickly pulled a comb through her hair, parting it in the middle. She put down the comb and proceeded to pull a small pink device through her bangs. When finished, her bangs were no longer purple, but black. Rana frowned slightly as she scrutinized the result. Satisfied, she made her way towards the kitchen area.
"I'm done, mom. Can we go now?" She greeted her mother upon reaching the small kitchen.
Leela glanced at the wall-mounted clock. She pointed at a chair beside the kitchen table on which there was an empty bowl and spoon waiting for her.
"There is still time for breakfast. Sit."
"But I'm not hungry." Rana complained, since she had filled up on junk food the night before while watching late night tv. Leela stared at her daughter with her sole eye half closed, her arms crossed and her face a locked in a stern expression.
Realizing that her protests would get her nowhere, Rana rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in a defeated gesture.
"Fine. Breakfast it is."
While Leela made herself busy breaking out a Bachelorette Speed Breakfast package, her alien pet Nibbler came scurrying into the kitchen. He made a few impatient turns around her legs before he made his way to the table where Rana was sitting.
Ever since Rana had been born Nibbler had taken a keen interest in her, she grew older, Nibbler became more and more 'her' pet, to Leela’s chagrin.
"Nibbie!" Rana cried and scooped the black and white alien up from the floor. Nibbler expressed his joy with a stream of incoherent babbling. Leela frowned. Placing the prepared breakfast in front of Rana with one hand, she reached down and picked up the alien from her daughter’s knee with the other.
"I'll give you some breakfast too." She assured Nibbler, who was visibly disappointed at being removed from Rana’s lap.
"I had another dream about dad last night."
Leela froze for a split second before continuing to prepare a can of Kibbles N' Snouts for Nibbler. The cyclops had her own dreams of Fry. Sometimes they were nice, but all too often they detailed the last moments of her husband’s life. On some nights, when the dreams were at there worst, Leela would wake up in bed, drenched with sweat.
Rana stared at her bowl of Bachelorette while slowly stirring the soggy contents with her spoon. She bit her lower lip before she launched the next question.
"Why is it that you never want to talk about dad?"
Leela let out a tired sigh. She looked at the wall clock, they had to leave now or she would be late for work. "Saved by the bell", she thought.
"Get your things, Rana. We're running late."
Rana gave Leela a hard look, but when Leela ignored her, she glanced at the wall clock and realized that her mother was right. She hesitated for a moment, debating whether she still should try and pursue the matter, but came to the conclusion that it would be pointless for the time being.
Rana made a quick stop by her room and picked up her shoulder bag with her books and other school utilities, as well as a certain red jacket. A few seconds later, Rana followed her mother through the front door.
Catching up with her mother on the sidewalk, Rana earned herself a disapproving look from her one-eyed mother, who didn't care for her daughter's choice of jacket. There was too much pain associated with that particular brand of jacket for Leela. Rana gave her mother a quick glance before she hastened her footsteps and almost ran past her.
Leela said nothing, but followed her daughter through the bright and shimmering New New York morning, sadly wishing that things could have been different, that Fry could have been there to share it with them. End Part One.A Red Letter Day
Part Two - Places
Leela strode purposefully through the old and weary doors of Planet Express with her dejected daughter in tow. Rana didn't care much for her mother’s workplace. It was a dirty, smelly, owl infested and decaying old building with no appeal whatsoever.
The PE building’s only redeeming quality was the break room with its TV set and the Slurm vending machine. Nothing more. There was, however, one item in the Planet Express inventory that Rana had yearned to explore when she had been just a child: the old green-painted Planet Express starship.
Many a day she had been lost in daydreams of adventures in space, battling space bees, fighting vicious Omicronians and dodging dangerous anomalies, much like her dad once had done. At least, that’s what Bender used to tell her. The old bending robot was always full of tall tales of mostly his, the great Bender's, bravery, but also her father’s actions in space. Not always sure of what to believe, Rana still had devoured every word about her father that Bender had uttered.
Rana shook her head. No, now wasn’t the time for a trip down memory lane. Rana all to vividly remembered the time, when she had been seven, that Bender had stowed her away onboard the PE ship. The bending bot had at first refused, but Rana knew his weakness all to well.
She had treated him with both liquor and money at times to make him tell her stories about her father. So after a hefty bribe consisting of hard liquor she had stolen from her mother’s cabinet and a large sum of money she had saved in her buggalo piggybank, she had convinced Bender to help her hide in the tiny space behind the primary buffer panel. Leela had almost burst an artery when she had found her daughter onboard.
Rana and her mother reached their destination after navigating through the worn corridors of the PE building: the hangar bay. The old, green starship stood deserted like a memory of an era long forgotten. Dark shadows spilled from the hulking form as the morning sun shown through rain-washed windows.
"Now you go sit where I can see you." Leela told her bored daughter.
"In the Planet Express ship?" Rana retorted sarcastically while rolling her eyes skyward.
"Conference table. Now." Leela growled and pointed towards the conference area.
Rana scoffed and walked away. She couldn't summon the anger she needed to get into another fight with her mother. Rana let out a tired sigh. She just wanted to sleep right now, or chat online or watch TV; anything but to be locked inside a dreary old building on Ferris day. A sudden movement in the nearby shadows shook Rana back into a more alert state. The shadow turned into a white and red colored shape.
Rana froze for a second before she made a mad dash for the door that would lead her to the conference room and possible safety.
"Hello? Rana, my good friend, is that you? Awwww.." The decapodian doctor known as Zoidberg called, as Rana fled the scene. When she ran up the stairs, her shoulder bag created a rhythmic staccato noise as it bounced up and down. Rana collapsed in an exhausted heap upon reaching the conference table.
Rana spent a couple of minutes regaining her breath as she waited for signs that the annoying decapodian had followed her. Satisfied that he hadn't, she pulled herself from the floor and walked over to the conference table where she would be visible to her mother, and started to unpack her books.
Rana sighed where she sat at the large conference table. She shot an annoyed glance in the direction of the hangar where her mother was working on the company starship. Getting no response to her poisonous stare, Rana turned her attention to her homework. It was stupid; none of her friends had to do homework on Ferris day, so why the heck did she?
She was supposed to write a report on nebulae of all things. She flipped open her astronomy books and fired up her writing pad. Having written her name and the title of the report, she had hardly managed to start on her first paragraph when Stabby the Stapler bounced up on the screen.
"It looks like you are writing a report. Would you like to have help with that?"
The text that the rather annoying animated stapler displayed was splashed in bold letters across the screen. Rana let out a frustrated sigh; she wanted nothing more than to take her computerized notebook and give it a rocket propelled trajectory towards the sun. Unfortunately it was not hers to do so with. It belonged to her school.
Rana groaned as she pushed the notebook and the astronomy books away and folded her arms on the conference table. The purple haired teen rested her head in her arms and closed her eyes. Just need to rest a few minutes, Rana thought. The sudden roar of starship engines sent Rana bolt upright. Looking in the direction of the hangar area she saw the bright blue glow of the dark matter engine soar skyward.
Rana stared in disbelief at the empty hangar.
Leela had never left Rana alone without first making sure that someone was there to watch over her. Nor had she left Rana without telling her were she was going. Rana felt confused at first and then angry. Rana's emotional fuming was interrupted before it could reach critical mass.
"I'm a genius!" The owner of Planet Express exclaimed.
"What?" Rana responded, now more confused than before.
"I am a gen-i-us." He repeated slowly, in a condescending tone, as if Rana had trouble understanding.
Rana cursed under her breath. If there was one person that she truly did not like, it was her mom's boss, Cubert Farnsworth.
"What have you done with my mom!?" Rana lashed out at the condescending figure before her.
"Ta-ta-ta. Temper, temper. I haven't done anything with your mom. If she just did a better job keeping the rest of the hired crew alive I wouldn't have to send her on an emergency delivery."
Rana gave him a cold stare from under her purple fringe.
"I don't believe any of that."
"Regardless of what you believe, I'm here to make sure you do your homework."
The last statement made Rana freeze. She didn't need this kind of supervision and Cubert was the worst homework help ever. He was just soo condescending and irritating. Seeking an escape, she grasped at what he had just said.
"What did you mean by “I’m a genius”? Have you invented something important?"
"Important? Ha! It will surely win me the Nobel Prize this time."
"Um, so like, what is it?"
"It's a chronotron machine!
"A what machine?"
"A chronotron machine or time machine as it would be in a layman’s terms." The last words were said in a patronizing tone. "Let me explain how it works." He said and started to explain at length the intricate functions of a time machine and the inner workings of time travel.
Cubert’s endless droning faded away for Rana as she started to ponder the possibilities that a working time machine held. She could go back to the stupid ages and bring back something cool, or better yet, meet her father. The last idea set her mind burning. She always heard from her mother how she was like her father, but her mother had never been keen on discussing her father nor the way he had died.
The purple haired teen knew where to find Cubert’s lab; the most pressing question at the moment was how to get away from her unwanted "babysitter". An opportunity arose when Rana saw Zoidberg scavenging through one of the owl traps in the hangar bay.
"Isn't that Zoidberg?" She interrupted the self-obsessed scientist’s tirade.
Cubert ran to the hand railing at the edge of the conference area.
"Hey! Get away from those traps you!" He screamed, waving a fist in the air. Zoidberg looked at Cubert before he made a sideways dash into depths of the PE building. The irritated owner of Planet Express gave chase and had soon disappeared as well.
As soon as Cubert ran after the Decapodian doctor, Rana left the conference area and made her escape towards the part of the building where the laboratory was situated.
Cubert’s laboratory was a whirlwind jumble of technology. Large hulking machines lined the walls, and the floor was covered by cluttered tables and unfinished inventions. Here and there were chalkboards covered with drawings, calculations and the occasional doodling. The latter usually depicted Cubert with a caption that stated his greatness or his level of genius.
Rana paused in the doorway. Where would she find the chronotron machine in the cluttered chaos that was Cubert's laboratory? Then she spotted a large cylindrical machine in a dark corner. Could that be it? The fact that it was the only thing in the lab that looked remotely finished made it a fairly safe bet. Rana decided that she would have a closer look at it. She abandoned her uncertain position at the door and made her way to the machine.
It was a tall cylinder of smooth polished metal. It didn't have any buttons, gauges or anything on it that would indicate a control panel. There was only one thing that broke the desolate grey metal surface. A blue colored bar not unlike the speech units of a bot was situated just below the top of the machine.
Rana looked around, but there was nothing in the vicinity that could give any explanation as to what the machine did or if it was the Chronotron machine that Cubert had talked about. In her frustration, Rana kicked the cylinder.
"Ow. Please refrain from doing that." A smooth, metallic voice spoke from the blue colored bar on the machine.
"Huh? Are you some bot or something?"
"I am a chronotron machine mark one unit."
"Uh-huh. So you can send me back in time, right?"
"That is my primary function. Do you have a destination for me?"
Rana paused to think. She really wanted to go back in time and meet her dad. The question was, of course, when?
She knew that her dad was from the stupid ages and that he had been frozen for a thousand years. Maybe she should go back to the stupid ages. No one from that time was alive in the Year Three Thousand, at least, not anyone she knew. Her dad would be dead by the time she was born, so there would be no risk of a paradox, or whatever it was that Cubert had been talking about.
Then again, maybe she shouldn't. Weren’t the stupid ages full of mammoths and other dangerous stuff, or was that just that stupid theme park? Rana couldn't remember her history classes. She wasn't stupid, even though some of her classmates thought so. Just because she was missing a delta brain thingy it didn't make her stupid or anything. It was just that school was so boring.
"I should’ve paid more attention to my ancient history class,” Rana admitted to herself. “I don’t remember anything about the stupid ages, so I guess I shouldn’t go back there. But then where should I go?”
It would soon be her eighteen birthday and her dad had died just before she had been born, but she didn't exactly know when. Rana also knew that her dad had been unfrozen on New Year’s Eve. So somewhere between her birthday and the turn of the millennium would be her best bet. Rana conveyed her destination of choice both in time and place to the machine.
An opening appeared in the cylinder as the machine spoke.
Rana entered the round pod tentatively. The door closed smoothly behind her. Surrounding her was naught but bare metal with an ambient pale blue light which gave the interior a depressing, cold feeling.
"Chronoshift will begin in ten seconds. Please stand by for time return tagging."
A sudden bright blue light appeared around Rana's left wrist and a thin, tight fitting bracelet had latched itself to her.
"Ehh.. now wait a minnit.. what's this?"
"Eight seconds to chronoshift."
"Um.. hello? Could you tell me what this is?" Rana held up her bracelet-adorned wrist to emphasize her question.
"Five seconds to chronoshift."
The machine made no further comment. When the blue light started to turn brighter and the low growl of the machine’s interior workings grew to a screeching pitch, Rana began to panic.
"Let me out!" She cried as she pounded the metal sides of the cylinder.
"Three seconds to chronoshift."
"Let. Me. OUT!"
"Two seconds to chronoshift."
"One second to chronoshift"
As the last syllables of the machine’s statement reached Rana, she opened her mouth to voice yet another protest, but she felt as if all air had been sucked from her lungs. Everything grew very bright blue and then there was nothing but darkness. End Part Two.