Delicious Surprise, Part 19
Disclaimers in Part One!
This chapter contains character death and high angst, as well as violence. You have been warned.
Fry tugged sharply at Zoidberg's ankle. The crustacean lifted dulled eyes to Fry; the entire journey had been filled with glazed eyes and pallid skin, faces which seemed to etch themselves in his ovipositor.
"Help me...Help me, damnit!"
"Mom!" Fry whispered. "That means this is..."
Zoidberg nodded. "I can fit through this gap in the wall."
"Bender, can you..."
"I'm on it." He effortlessly extended his arms, carefully widening the space between the two metal poles. Other supporting beams seemed to be keeping the structure viable, though Fry couldn't tell exactly how. One by one, the group crawled into what was once the basement of Mom's mighty building.
"Got any light, Bender?"
"I knew I shoulda got that upgrade." Zoidberg came to the rescue with a small penlight. "Oh, your God," Bender said quietly.
Fry followed Bender's line of vision, and gasped at what he saw. It seemed impossible. After all, Mom was immortal, wasn't she?
On hands and knees, Fry slid over the oily surface, Zoidberg at his heel. She lay pinned to the floor in the center of the room, a metal pipe emerging from her throat. Her dark blood coated the floor.
Even though Fry had no particular affection for the old woman, he knew how much she meant to the Professor, and he grabbed the pipe, trying to dislodge it.
"Zoidberg, I've got to-"
"It's pierced a major artery."
"So? Just fix it, with that wand thingie!"
Zoidberg looked downward, sadly. "Some things cannot be fixed."
"You mean she's gonna..."
"Hubert? Where are you?" Mom's voice emerged with an odd, hollow, reedy sound, as though being blown through a jug.
"We've got him!" Bender heaved a last bit of rubble out of the way, while Kif struggled to rouse an unconscious Professor to his feet.
"Is he dead?" Mom whispered.
"No, I -oof- can feel him breathing," Kif said.
"Hubert?" Then, suddenly, in a sharp voice, "Hubert! Get back to work!"
"Oooh...Mommy, I don't want to go to Astro School..." Kif gently smacked the Professor's cheeks, to no avail. One swift blow from Bender, however, jogged him back to consciousness.
"Mom? My Goodness..."
"Is he alive?" she whispered. "I can't see."
"I'm here, liver-cups." He took her limp, cool hand.
"What happened here?" Fry wondered.
"We've been here the entire time. Holding off the troops. They've been trying to take this place down for months. Of course, the construction here is superior, and they had quite the time trying to do it. Yesterday, there was a huge crash and the place came down. It's gone, isn't it?"
Fry decided that it might be best to lie to the older woman. "No, it's still up."
"Don't lie to me, young man." She watched Fry for a moment with steely eyes. "You remind me of my boys. At least you didn't run off and join DOOP, and leave your old mom." She turned to Hubert. "You know I love you, don't you?"
"I had an inkling. My feelings are the same."
Her hand tightened on his. "Promise me you'll stay alive, you old bastard."
"I have to. I have a deep fear of death."
"I know you do." She closed her eyes. "I always thought I would outlive death itself." She sighed, and was gone.
The Professor's face seemed to collapse in a mass of wrinkles. Zoidberg let out a brief, babyish wail. Kif sighed deeply to himself, and Bender, as usual, pretended that his emotion sequencer wasn't running.
Fry suddenly remembered what his mother did when present at a death. He crossed himself, then quietly recited an Our Father. When he finished, he noticed the odd glances of those around him.
"Your archaic religion fascinates me, Fry, but it's not a good time to tell a joke." The Professor gently covered Mom with a blanket, his eyes fixed on the impression the still-protruding pipe left in her neck. "You're headed for the DOOP headquarters." It was a statement, not a question.
"I'm coming with you."
"It's too risk-"
"I said I'm coming with you, damnit!"
Fry shrugged, "Can you crawl?"
"Since you were nothing but a flesh popsicle!"
They slowly made their way to DOOP headquarters."
"I don't want to interrupt," Lilah said, "But what were you doing during that time, Mom?"
"I was underground. Desperate to escape. Doing anything I could to live. I...I guess I should tell you. I guess I need to say out loud what I did..."
The first month was filled with hope. DOOP had taken all of the ladders and leveled the houses, but there were rations still hidden, meager and months old but edible.
She tried to construct a rope ladder out of old bedsheets. They wouldn't hold weight.
By the second month, they were starving, eating any scrap they could find - and could hold down. She was constantly sick, but she concentrated every effort on escaping.
Her belly swelled gently beneath her breast, the only fullness on her body. She had stopped counting her ribs weeks ago.
One evening, her mother found her trying to chisel bricks out of a wall, to make footholds in the walls in the hope of climbing out.
"You've gotta rest, Dollushki. The baby..."
Leela turned a miserable gaze to her mother. There was no use in denying what was now obvious. "What kind of future does he or she have if I don't do anything?"
"Young lady, I'm not going to let you risk your life and my grandchild's life on a foolish gamble. You rest, and you rest now." She covered her mouth sheepishly with a tentacle. "If that's all right with you."
Leela looked at her awkward chisel and let it fall to the ground. "It's really over, isn't it, Mom?"
Warm tentacles were once more around her shoulders. "There's always hope, Leela. That's how I survive when I'm up on the surface. I have hope that I'll make it back here."
Leela buried her face against her mother's shoulder, allowing her to rock her to sleep.
She awoke choking the next morning. The air was a thick, green blanket, and she couldn't see, and she couldn't breathe.
She would die here.
Suffocate. Eventually, there wouldn't be enough air. No one had to tell her why. They were imperfect, and because of that they had no voice.
She couldn't give up; she couldn't allow herself to give in. Not when the fight was so close. She could tell they were winning, up topside. The confused shouts above her, the cries of victory felt so real. Closer than the blackness.
Madness came. She had no control here; there was no way out of the insufferable darkness. She kicked and screamed and clawed, until she remembered her condition and sank to her knees.
"It's better this way, sweetheart."
They were right. At least she wouldn't die alone, but with most of the people who meant everything to her. Arms and tentacles surrounded her; warm tears fell against her collarbone.
She choked against the oppressing stagnant air, and within her the life kicked in protest. She couldn't let go! Not with another person depending so deeply upon her...
Her eye opened wide and she stared at a crack in the roof. Damnit; she would not die blind to the universe. Groaning sounded above, then thunderous noise, as though the world had finally collapsed.
She opened her mouth and screamed the name that meant everything to her.
Leela's knees shook violently, and she leaned against Fry, sagging from the effort of the telling.
"Ground troop forces had been thinning out over the course of that last week," Fry said. "The rest of the universe had begun making moves against the DOOP, and Chaz ordered one more airstrike and then left a skeleton crew in New New York, in an attempt to protect the rest of the planet. We didn't know that Chaz's influence over the army was already weakening; many of the soldiers had made a home in New New York, and they weren't happy to have a hand in leveling it."
"Chaz left one unit with special orders...to fill the sewers with an airborne poison," Leela said, her voice barely audible.
"I didn't know anything was wrong when we reached the DOOP headquarters..." Fry continued.
Fry stared at the crumbled ruins. This had been the mighty office they had once feared? It was rubble, its infrastructure teetering and badly weakened.
Zoidberg busied himself, scuttling through the ruins, taking pulses and feeling for breath sounds. Occasionally, hope crossed his features, only to be dashed.
Fry checked the setting on his gun. If there was anyone alive in this place, they would pay.
They crept to the door together; a couple of punches on a button sent it creaking upward.
"Stay here. Cover us," Kif told Bender. "And for the love of Zombie Jesus, please don't leave us here!"
Bender rolled his eyes. "Sure, yeah, I'm gonna go NOW."
Kif shook his head, keeping an eye on the doddering old Professor as he and Fry walked toward the large power grid at the far end of the room.
"This is too easy," he remarked quietly. "Why does it feel like a trap?" His eyes widened as they fell upon a glowing green trip wire, which Fry managed to miss, but the Professor stumbled right into.
As the words left his beak, an explosion shattered the air. Heavy machinery began to buckle and crumble around the console.
"GET OUT!" he shouted. But it was too late.
Fry cried his horror as a large unit toppled onto the Professor's slowly moving form.
"Professor Farnsworth!" He closed the gap between them, kneeling down.
The Professor peered up at him through the dust, smoke, and sparks. Blood oozed from between his lips. "Forget me..."
"I can't leave you! You're my family."
"Since when did... that stop you?"
"Fry," he wheezed. "Damnit, throw the lever!"
Fry looked at the panel on the wall. Never was he more thankful for a Zapp-led military, where crucial buttons were bright red! This one was marked "PUSH TO DEACTIVATE."
More explosions began as he made a running dash. He felt something give him an extra push as he headed toward the panel and, with a great force of downward motion, collided with it.
The impact rendered him unconscious, and he landed head-first on the floor.
"You did it, dad?" exclaimed Lilah. "You saved New New York?"
Fry shrugged. "I was one of them. But I had help..."
He frowned, a strange image re-surfacing in his mind.
"Mighty One, you have completed your mission!"
Fry turned over and looked at Nibbler. Why did it seem natural for the little creature to be speaking to him? Then a vague memory came to him.
"That's it? You brought me all the way to the future so I could press a button?"
"Well, yes. And, of course, to protect Earth from the Brainspawn, which you also did successfully." He bowed. "You have served your purpose well, Mighty One. Your family will have many peaceful, prosperous years."
"Family? Me and Leela?"
"Yes, but I feel there is another presence."
"I don't know what you mean..."
"It is just as well. You'll awaken in a moment and believe that this was all a dream."
Fry snapped out of his trance. "Huh?"
"I asked what happened then?"
"Well, the button deactivated all of the planes, and they crashed."
Lilah blinked. "Wasn't that counterproductive? That would mean that all of the troops were running around on the ground."
"Nope, it also allowed Kif to finally get through to the Omicronians. They sent reinforcements..."
Fry rubbed the back of his head as he watched the saucers land. Big toothy green troops flooded out. What was left of the DOOP in New New York were easily slaughtered; Lrr himself had flown to Washington, and the now free press of Earth were reporting with delight that the warrior had claimed only one favor: the head of the former Secretary of Planet.
Zapp released an indignant press release claiming that he had nothing to do with the disaster. The executive officers in his administration were rounded up and executed, leaving him little room to protest. (Later, an aircraft matching the description of his private shuttle was shot down over the Potomac, and Zapp was presumed dead.)
Fry turned from the paper Tinny Tim had just sold him, his eyes falling to Kif. The second person he had called was his beloved Amy, who had rushed over with Hermes as soon as the way had been cleared. Amy and Kif stood in the doorway of a nearby building, kissing as though there wouldn't be a tomorrow. Awkwardly, he smiled at them when they stopped to wave. He couldn't blame them for clinging to one another; the government was in tatters, and it was like a New World outside.
"We've got him!"
Fry looked over his shoulder, back into the dilapidated DOOP office. Bender released his hold on the machinery with a grunt, allowing it to crash to the floor. Zoidberg triumphantly held up a jar.
"The Professor's okay? Can I see-Ahh!"
"What are you babbling about now, Fry?" the Professor asked.
"You're in a jar!"
Zoidberg clacked his free claw. "There was sufficient flow of blood to the head, but the rest of the body was caca. I simply made a few snips and then, vi-yola!"
"I feel strange. Where are my arms?"
Fry smiled lamely. "Welcome back, Professor."
A final Omicronian saucer flew overhead; suddenly, the world was quiet, aside from the sizzling of severed live wires. It was as safe now as it would ever be.
He ran to the sewer grating and called Leela's name.
Fear seized him. He followed the nearly unrecognizable streets, calling as he went.
There was a commotion around one particular grating by 42nd Street. Pushing through the crush, he saw a knot of medical personnel, pulling out a hose and yelling for more paramedics.
"We have twenty down here! They're barely breathing!"
Fry threw himself to his knees, wordlessly helping to pull out mutant after mutant. Coughing, gagging, they began to come around.
But where were Leela and his in-laws? He barely heard the shouts of joy as Hermes embraced his family in the basement that was once their apartment building. He ran on, slowing as he dove into a patch of fog. He walked, peering.
Ahead, he made out another grating. It inched sideways, and a thin, ragged form emerged and got shakily to its feet. He thought the hair might be purple. He broke into a pounding run, disregarding all obstacles.
The figure turned and staggered toward him. In an instant he enfolded her, kissed her, frantically, all over her face, and she limply held onto him. "I thought I wasn't going to see you again!" he moaned, and tried to hold her tighter, but a pressure against his abdomen kept them slightly apart.
He looked down. The roundness was unmistakable. His mouth worked soundlessly. "Fry," she croaked, and fainted in his tearful embrace.
"The next thing I remember is waking up in what was left of the hospital. It was a week later."
The world was pink. That couldn't be right.
She blinked against the fuzziness surrounding her. She realized that it was Amy...Amy's sweatsuit, more likely, and she was leaning over to get something...
"Spluh! Who hid the remote?!"
The pinkness withdrew. "Leela? LEELA! Fry, Leela's awake!"
"The doctor's got him," Bender's shout came around the corner.
"Leela!" A familiar and beloved form swam into view.
She stirred. "Why am I so sleepy?"
"The doctor said you haven't been eating. They put all sorts of tubes in you."
That made sense. Suddenly, she remembered. "Mom?!"
"Munda's resting. They're feeding her, too."
Fry shook his head. "I'm... sorry, Leela."
"No...he's not dead..."
"He absorbed most of the poison. He had four lungs, and he...he did it to protect the both of you."
"But the baby's okay..."
"Dad. Dad..." She sobbed brokenly.
The memory made tears well in Leela's eye even now. "My father died because I screwed up. It's my fault you don't know who your grandfather is."