Shiny: Precocious little scamps, ain’t we? You should visit off topic more often, BTW.
NIC: Thanks for reading. Stick around, at least til Layla gets back, k?
My God... I’ve sold out...I’m a fraud!
Actually, those of you paying attention should know this part is a long time in the making:
Leela winked the spots from her eye and grabbed the contraption from Bender.
“No. More,” she seethed. This was her breaking point; any other surplus of emotion would set her over the edge, which is why it must have been the prominent self-destructive side of her psyche driving her pupil photo-ward as the blips faded from her oversized retina. The result was nearly enough to send her mental-ward.
More bittersweet than the chocolate she was wishing she had a cubic fathom of right now, the photo was simultaneously a striking rendition of a treasured desire and a slap to the face. She, Fry and Bender were there, each carrying boxes into a well furnished apartment. Her parents embraced in the sunlight streaming majestically through the open window-
“Oh, God...” Leela choked. She’d need a dictionary, a translator, and a Geiger counter to explain how she was feeling at this point, but it didn’t matter. She broke down just like her ship had before, leaving Fry in the uncomfortable predicament of determining just how much to comfort her, knowing he was a large factor in her current emotional fragility.
Fry lay an arm gently over her shoulder and sat down as close to her as he could without getting tingly. He looked at the photo as a rush of understanding found its way through his synapses.
“It’s not fair!” She sobbed, “This
is how it should be. The fact that this is only feasible in my wildest dreams is just plain wrong! My parents belong on Earth’s surface.” She paused to look around. “WE
belong on Earth’s surface! But nothing’s going right... nothing has since we started.”
She looked Fry in the eyes for the first time, but couldn’t hold her gaze there for more than a second. She had shown weakness, and she hated that far more than she hated Fry right now.
“I’m sorry.” She wiped her eye and looked down at the ground. “I should be leading you right now... I just don’t know what to do... I-”
She stopped; something had caught her attention on the Desiderator.
“Bender, why has this camera taken four
pictures? It should only be three.”
“Well, four is a baker’s three when you think about it...” Bender started to wheedle.
“Just tell her,” Fry insisted. The delivery boy sensed the gravity like an anvil near a neutron star, and for once the robot obliged.
“Oh, alright. I took Fry’s picture while you were at the bus place. But it’s not that interesting.” Bender grudgingly reached into his compartment, pulled out the stashed picture, and handed it to Leela, who, oddly, was finding that she wasn’t as mad at this revelation as she should have been. Maybe her emotions had finally had enough.
“It’s just a picture of me holding a black piece of paper,” Fry explained, “I mean... I’m not dissing black paper...” He clarified, “I can just think of a few things I want more... like a light-saber, or a Frisbee!”
Leela skeptically drew in the new picture, slightly calmer now due to the digression. Indeed, at first glance it was exactly as Fry had described it. She wouldn't get a second for a little while.
“Well, I wanted to save this for later... but…” Bender started, interrupting all deductions Leela was starting to make. Regardless, at least this trivial mystery provided some deductions other than those to her sanity. Bender had produced another device; one Leela had yet to see.
“The camera wasn’t the only cargo?”
“Yeah, what gave that away?” Bender chided, twirling his new toy playfully. “This is the ...uh... Fry what’s this called?”
“The Lawbreaker one point... something.”
“The Lawbreaker One Point Something!” He repeated proudly. “It just might be our ticket out of here.”
“Do you know what it does?”
“Honey, do I even need to?” Bender scoffed, offended. “Whatever it does, I’m going to use it to rob one of these shops and then we’ll have the money to get a ride. Simple as that. Now for a test run...or something... yeah.” He pointed it at a nearby building and pressed a random button.
In her retelling of the event, all Leela could add to her log was “*scene missing*
The three materialized, currently unaware that they had ever dematerialized, on a shady glen by a worn dirt trail.
“And now that the test run is complete...” Bender continued, “I need a drink.” He reached into his compartment for a high-proof cocktail.
“What happened? Did that thing blow up the town?” Fry shouted, a bit panicky.
“We’re nowheres near
where we just were!” Leela exclaimed, looking at her wrist computer. “We’re 92 miles east of... wait. We’re right by the ship!”
“But how?” Fry was gleeful yet confused, which only differed from his usual gleeful ignorance by the desire to learn.
“Bender...” Leela started, “That thing doesn’t break criminal laws... it breaks physical laws. If these readings are correct, we were vaulted here at light speed with no means of propulsion.”
Bender had yet to catch up with his captain or the significance of what she just said.
break criminal laws? What a rip!” Bender sighed, but was quick to rebound. “Oh well, let’s see what else it does.”
“Don’t you dare!” Leela barked. “We might have gotten lucky this time; next time we could reappear in vacuum, or break some other law and be converted into pure energy!”
“Or we could break the physical law that keeps our teeth from chewing into our own brains!” Fry added.
“We don’t need it now anyway; we have a mile walk to the ship. Let’s get a move on,” Leela commanded, steadying herself in her leadership position again.
As they walked up the dirt path, Leela broodingly pulled out her picture again. It made her so happy... and yet so utterly miserable at the same time, but she kept hoping the first would outweigh the second. She needed the reassurance. The monogram in the bottom right caught her attention. “N.S.” She wondered what it meant.
Remembering the puzzle from earlier, she took out Fry’s picture as well. Apparently taken from the point of view of Fry’s eyes, one hand on each side grasped a black rectangle in the foreground. The background gave no further clues. The photo had the same exact marking in the bottom right. Every single picture from the camera had it. What could—
She froze, letting Fry and Bender get ahead of her. There was something extra here. Leela squinted at the picture of two hands grasping a black box...
“The monogram...” she whispered to herself, “The monogram’s on the paper too! But that means it’s really-”
This thought completed mentally but not audibly, because something even more important had attracted her attention. The hand on the left side was clearly Fry’s right
hand, and the other hand holding it was Fry’s left
hand. That didn’t make any sense. She noted a hint of red sleeve on the right hand; this was definitely Fry… but… The photo was practically jammed into her eye at this point, and Leela was fast realizing that the second hand was definitely not
Fry’s. It was too slender, too feminine... too familiar...
It all hit her at once. It explained it all so well; it had to be right. It couldn’t be right, but it had to be. By now Fry had turned around, spotting Leela gaping at one of the photos. As he reached her, the only sound Leela could make was a half-second unification of a cacophony of emotional byproducts... Luckily for Leela, it sounded somewhat like a sneeze.
“Uh... Bless you.”
All Leela could
do now was look Fry in the eyes as she put the snapshot away. Fry read the severe insecurity, but misguessed the source photo.
“It’s... it’s OK Leela. When we get back home we’ll give your parents a good long visit, alright?” A pleading, yet empathetic smile spread across his lips.
She had no words, and instead wrapped Fry up in an embrace that would have dented Bender’s back had he been the target. Fry accepted the lack of oxygen as a fair trade for this moment, and tried his best to console her despite being completely unaware of both what had transpired and the depths of his own affections. When Leela let go, she spoke only what her emotional semi-permeable membrane would let back out.
“You get on my nerves a lot Fry... but… but you’re a really good friend. I just wanted you to know that.”
“And you know I would never want to work with anyone else.”
“Thanks,” She said, wiping yet another tear from her eye.
“If we’re done leaking fluids here, I’d like to get moving again!” shouted Bender; he was far ahead of them by now. “If you don’t hurry up I’m downgrading dinner from secondary to tertiary rib!”
Leela and Fry caught up, not hand in hand, but closer than two would normally walk. They both had had a slight boost in morale for their own reasons, and perhaps it was in the cards all along that only now could they read the sign around the bend. It made Leela laugh gawkily and Fry pump his fist teasingly in a minor celebration.
------------------------------Welcome to Knotten’s Irviss
After something like that I need to bathe in acid. I’m never writing that much drama into one part again; I’ll leave it to the prose pros. Still, I hope it was enjoyable and I hope the comic relief was good enough to keep it balanced. Comments and critiques