Delicious Surprise, Part 14
See part one for disclaimers!
This chapter is slightly more gruesome than the others. Not as bad as the one with SantaBot in it, but gruesome enough. Heed my warning!
"Bender, you can't ever blame yourself for what happened in the war. We both know that it wasn't your fault; it was the DOOP's-"
"If I hadn't gone after that fembot, I wouldn'ta been a counterculture hero." He paused thoughtfully. "Though I did look good on those T-shirts...it don't matter. Because a' me, Poopenmeyer didn't get elected and Earth got stuck with Zapp."
Angelyne held him. "Never mind that now. There's nothing you can do."
A dim light crept between Lilah's closed eyelids, drawing her back to the waking world. She glanced at her communicator and tried to get the time.
She groaned, stirring. Something very short and squishy rolled from what had been a comfortable position against her left arm.
Dania sat up, rubbing the back of her head and glaring at her big sister. "Spleesh, Lilah! I WAS asleep!"
Lilah cleared the sleep from her eyes as she sat up. "You shouldn't have fallen asleep there."
"I couldn't get cozy!" she groused. Lilah smirked, knowing that the girl missed her Rocket Rabbit stuffed animal, and probably couldn't sleep without it.
"Yeah, sure; cozy." Her communicator rang, and she gestured dismissively to Dania. "Go find Uncle Bender; maybe he can get Angelyne to feed us again."
Dania nodded, walking out of the hall as Lilah answered her communicator.
Relief filled her as the image of Leela came on-screen.
"Sweetie!" Leela's tone was embarrassingly mushy. "Oh, Lilah, I've wanted to talk to you for so long! Are you eating okay? How is Dania?"
"Muh-om! We're just fine. What's going on?"
"We're ashed in, too. But Hermes made a call to Dwight, and he's going to send laser plows to get you guys out, and us, too!"
Lilah blushed. "Uh-okay..."
Leela smiled. "You don't still have a crush on Dwight, do you?"
"Don't worry, I won't tell him," she teased. "Keep an eye on Bender!"
"I will." She blew her mother a kiss before closing the connection.
Dania appeared, dragging Bender and Angelyne behind her. "Uncle Bender, that's totally not true!"
"It sure as hell is!"
"It's scientifically impossible for the Earth's second moon to be made out of green cheese," she sniffed. "It's made out of garbage. That's what my dad told me."
Bender sulked. "Ya take all of the romance out of life, kid."
"That's what my mom told me," Dania quipped. "Who were you talking to, Lilah?"
"Oh, that was Mom." She smiled. "She said Dwight's coming to plow us out!"
"YES!" Bender pumped his arm before impulsively dipping and kissing Angelyne. "Bite my shiny metal ass, ash!" He and Angelyne shared an awkward laugh as they tried to right themselves.
"Dwight?" Dania smirked. She and Bender chorused together:
"Your luv-er-boy is coming, eh?" Bender asked.
Lilah blushed hotly. "He's not my lover boy!"
"Oh no, you've like, only had a crush on him since you were ONE!" taunted Dania.
"I have not! Dwight's fifteen years older than me! He's ancient!"
"...he's also the only guy she knows with a full head of hair," Bender pointed out.
"And nice abs," Dania added.
"Stop it!" She gave Bender a dirty look. "One of us has a secret he'd rather not share, so he shouldn't talk!"
Bender's jocular mood evaporated. "Ya want the truth, kid?"
"Bender-" Angelyne began in a placating tone.
"No! Ya know what? I'm tired of runnin' around, tryin' to make everything perfect fer Leela an' Fry! Ya wanna know about the war, Lilah? Ya wanna know the truth?! Here it is!"
It had happened, as disasters were wont to, very suddenly.
Earth had, of course, experienced its first pangs of disquiet earlier into Zapp's presidency. The first law he signed into effect allowed citizens to buy blaster guns, no matter their age, and without a waiting period. It became evident that President Zapp was in bed...with the leggy female Smith and Wxsplexf lobbyist. But no increase in violence occurred, as the DOOP assumed control of day-to-day law enforcement in cities across the country.
It was annoyingly evident that Big Brother watched them. Cameras began showing up on public streets. Picking one's nose became an illegality. Anti-gravity Wonderbras were mandatory for all females of the species.
The rest of the universe, of course, found these policies ludicrous. Even most of the DOOP officers who enforced them had to agree. But as long as Zapp was president, his infantile rules were law.
And then Zapp was sent to Planet Geneva. For his part, he hoped to bring home bags of fresh-roasted coffee, which would keep him awake during his all-night sprees in the White House Shooting Gallery.
But there he met the alluring President Barbarella, of Planet Ginger, and struck up a relationship with her. For weeks, it was the talk of the tabloids, and they were a hot item at all of the week's functions. Earth's media couldn't get enough of the couple...especially the tabloids of New Britain.
Unfortunately, at the week's final banquet, a drunken President Zig Daakar, of Planet Minuteman 12, suggested that President Barbarella's virtue was...shall we say...less than pristine. And just like that, Earth had declared its first war of Zapp's term.
The conflict dragged on; from spring through fall and into winter. The citizens of Earth were swiftly inconvenienced; curfews were introduced. Sudden bombing raids necessitated the building of shelters.
The Planet Express Crew were never happier to be delivery people than they were now. Even though mandatory contraband searches disrupted their daily routine, they were nevertheless allowed to fly packages for private citizens.
The general company attitude toward the conflict was pure indifference. Leela had watched New New York suffer through harsher conflict, and since the Minutemen's weapons were rather ancient, they weren't very solid opponents. She wasn't worried. Fry had been excited by the random explosions, but didn't make a move to join the DOOP, having learned his lesson from his previous tour of duty. Bender, with his Patriotism Chip activated, began spouting cheerful propaganda against his will at odd moments, and the Professor, thrilled by the notion that he might be able to make a contribution to the war effort, began working long hours in his lab.
The only person who seemed changed by the planet's troubles was Amy, whose normal cheerfulness was replaced by a tense, nervous demeanor. Leela worked at reaching the girl, but nothing she did seemed to help, and eventually she wrote it off as some new eccentricity.
Leela was a passive part of the war until the winter of 3005. Her third XMas as Fry's wife.
She would never forget the chill of that December day. How she had begged Fry to come with her to the sewers, to spend the holiday with Munda and Morris. The only other offer they had received that day was from Zapp himself. But Leela would never agree to a holiday with him, even if it was his fondest wish.
Fry had never needed much convincing, and when he agreed, Bender caved in and ended up riding shotgun. Soon they were floating down a river of sewage, in the direction of Leela's parent's home.
Each mutant they met recognized Leela. Funny that they would only wave, and when she, Fry or Bender spoke above a whisper, a harsh hissing noise urged them to silence.
She would come to blame many things that day. A late start. Bad currents. But as hard as they tried to paddle the boat, it wouldn't turn to the left, and they found themselves in an oddly clogged series of pipes.
"What the- the boat's stuck!" Fry whispered.
"Aww crap! I ain't gonna get out an' push it; I just got a new coating!"
"Bender, stay put. Everyone grab an oar and push...PUSH!"
The boat came loose from whatever had been mooring it, and was swiftly carried on a smooth current. This part of the pipes seemed darker than normal, and Leela brightened the stream of light refracting from her flashlight.
Ahead of them, a voice echoed.
"That the last of 'em?"
At the sound of the odd, harsh voice, Leela expertly steered the boat against an archway, partially shading them in its shadow.
"Yeah, that's all the names on the list."
"But it ain't all the mutants in the sewer!"
"Don't I know it. But this is what President Brannigan wanted."
"Yeah, but why the hell would he care about mutants? Ain't no one on the surface who cares about stinkin' mutants!"
Leela had frozen in the boat. She felt Fry's hand caressing her shoulder, but the added weight felt like nothing.
"Fer all I know, maybe he wants a summer home down here."
"Suits him. Smells like an Omnicronian outhouse down here!"
They shared a laugh. When one lit a match, Leela could make out through the distance a DOOP uniform.
The soldier bent, setting aflame what looked like a large pile of rags. The sickening odor which soon rose from the flaming mass proved that they were anything but simple rags.
Leela held her stomach as nausea swept her. When it cleared, she made strong strokes backward, in the proper direction. Plans swirled furiously in her head.
She only knew that she couldn't support a government that believed in exterminating mutants.
"...We never wanted you to know."
Leela sat hunched on her parent's sofa. They offered her some punch, but she ignored it. Fry gulped it down, his throat harshly dry.
"I know now. How long have they been doing this?"
Munda sighed. "Since this spring, bubbelah. Since that woman became Zapp's lady friend."
Leela winced. "Is she the one insisting on all of this?"
"I don't think so." Munda placed a tentacle upon her daughter's hand. "The DOOP officers we see keep saying that he wants the sewers clean. That he needs the sewers clean."
Leela sprung to her feet. "We're going to stop this!"
"We?" Bender snorted. "Sorry, lady, I ain't good with ethnic cleansing." He beeped. "It's every robot's duty to do the work of the DOOP!" He winced. "Damnit!"
"I'll do it alone if I have to!"
"Leela, if Fast Times at Ridgemont High taught me anything, it's that Phoebe Cates is hot...and rebelling against The Man never works," Fry said.
Leela glared at her husband.
He wrapped his arm around her. "You know I'm not gonna let you do it alone."
She kissed his nose. "And that's why I love you."
Munda broke the tension with a cough. "Coffee, anyone? I filtered it with Morris' socks, so it's got a special flavor!"
Everyone but Bender instantly put down their cups.
Bender crossed his arms over his compartment. "And that was the best coffee I ever had," he finished quietly. His anger had long been exhausted, and his open-mouthed charges had taken the brunt of an anger they hadn't caused.
"The government hid years of genocide from public record?" Lilah gasped.
"Eew! Leela touched a dead body!" cried Dania.
Bender's gaze stayed locked on Lilah. "There's a lot about th' War no one talks about. And that's only what started it..."
"You mean it got worse?"
"And that's th' part yer mom has to tell ya." A muffled bumping came from outside of the building, followed by a long, low scraping noise. Suddenly, the path before them was cleared; ash-caked hinges were opened, and a uniformed plowperson revealed himself.
"Thank you!" Angelyne spoke for them all.
"No problem." Dwight removed his helmet, revealing a brand-new goatee. "I sent the new guy to plow our folks out. Want me to give you a ride to the PE Building?"
"Sure!" Dania chirped. "Lilah can ride shotgun." She nudged her sister, who would have blushed, were Benders words not a heavy burden upon her heart.
"Bender, take the Professor," she called over her shoulder, shepherding Dania toward the door.
"Because he never leaves the museum; he needs the exercise!"
Bender grumbled, but stashed the still-snoring jar in his compartment. "Hey, Angelyne?"
"I'd be glad to go with you!"
"I was gonna ask ya to disarm the guard system, but hey, why not?"
"So, how are you doing in school?"
"School? Oh - fine - The teachers kind of suck, though..." Lilah masked her nerves, staring at the layer of white flowing out from around the plow's immolating laser.
She had a prime spot in the cab, beside Dwight. Bender, Angelyne and Dania had seats in the back of the plow, in a small cargo area.
Aware of the lack of seatbelts, Dwight drove slowly. "Hey, I know. They were always moving too slow for me. I could do half of those units with my hands tied up in my dreads!"
"Actually, they move sort of...fast...for me."
"Oh," he smiled. "Yeah, those Fry genes will mess you up!"
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" She had been staring at his body, or what she could see of it beneath the lycra suit he was wearing. Blushing scarlet, she looked away.
"No, nothing. I know you're pretty smart, at least with some things. Like that stuff you wrote for your parent's anniversary party."
"Oh yeah; that was nothing."
"It was great; you're a good writer. I don't know where that came from." He pulled to a stop in front of the Planet Express Building. "Stay clear," he said, in an unusually authoritative voice. Lilah could barely see over the drifts as she stumbled out of the cab. She wasn't surprised that Bender had unhooked the back of the plow and was shoving her aside, almost throwing Dania to her as he rushed toward the melee.
Her father's voice broke through the din. "YOU BASTARD!! I'll KILL YOU!!"
"What's going on? I've never heard Fry sound that angry!" Dania whispered.
"Woah, break it up!" Bender's voice sounded.
"Yeah, give it a rest," added Dwight.
Dania squirmed free of her Lilah's grip to climb over the drift and give her sister a hydraulic boost over it.
Lilah gaped at the scene before her. Fry, held back by Bender, sported a cut lip and a large bruise upon his cheek. The man being held back by Dwight wore a bright purple eye and a nose which already spurted blood onto his new uniform. But, most startling of all was the fact that, though his hairline was receding and he had gained a few pounds, the man in Dwight's grip was undoubtedly the infamous and reviled former Earth President Zapp Brannigan.
"What's going on?" Lilah cried, scrambling down the embankment. Leela's arms were around her in an instant.
"Stay away from him!"
Fry's glare was ice-cold, and fixed upon Zapp. "You're supposed to be dead! I SAW you blow up!"
"It was a decoy." The words came out in a rush. "I - I didn't deserve to die. The one who deserved it did, but I didn't - "
"The hell you say! It's your fault! What happened to Leela was your fault!"
"I meant no harm to your wife!" His tone became pathetic. "You know I would have done no harm to her luscious form. I only wanted her as my lover. Not-"
"Was it your idea to lock her up? To gas her?! HUH?!"
Leela's voice rose above the fractious tones. "The kids - DON'T... SAY it in front of the kids!"
"We already know, Leela," Dania said softly.
"About the DOOP. What it did to the mutants. That you wanted to stop them."
Leela eyed Zapp coldly. "I think you have something to tell my daughters."
"Daughters? You and Kif got it on aga-"
She smacked him. "No! You're coming inside with me. NOW."
While Fry and Zapp were escorted back inside, Leela turned to her daughters. "I'm sorry you had to learn about it this way."
"It's better than wondering," Lilah said, although Dania didn't seem so sure.
"Come on. You'll catch your death." And, like the mother she had become, Leela shepherded her family back into the Planet Express Building.