Part Six: New New York, July 17th, 3002
Leela’s heart thumped heavily in her chest as she half ran, half stumbled down the middle of some anonymous downtown avenue. Behind her she dragged what amounted to a one hundred seventy five pound dead weight on wobbly legs. Fry had long since reached the limit of his endurance. He’d tried to stop for breath at one point, and had nearly been blasted to mush for his trouble. Now he barely managed to stay upright as Leela’s unrelenting grip on his arm forced him onward.
“Leela” He wheezed. “I- I can’t.” A rack of dry coughs shook him before he could continue. “I can’t breathe.”
“If you can talk, you can breathe.” She was beginning to loose her patience. If Fry had ever bothered to exercise, even just a little, he wouldn’t have these problems. Besides, what was she going to do, let him collapse there on the sidewalk so that Chelsea could saunter up to him and rip him limb from limb at her leisure? Not bloody likely.
“Oh, for the love of- Alright, fine!” With Fry slowing them down, they were losing the little bit of lead that they’d gained anyway. Leela looked around her, but there wasn’t much to see. Somehow they had ended up in an old warehouse district on the banks of the Hudson. There was a hulking Momcorp storage facility of some kind to their left that they might be able to hide in long enough for Fry to get his second wind. With a little luck, Chelsea and her goons might not even see them enter. Shifting her hold on Fry’s arm, Leela turned and dragged him into the absolute blackness within.
Without any source of illumination beyond the meager bluish-green glow of the screen built into her wrist computer, it was almost impossible for them to find their way through the interior of the building. Leela tried to guess at her surroundings in case she needed to retrace her steps in a hurry, but all she could make out were vague impressions. The front entrance had led them into a narrow corridor; of that much she was sure. But, after what had probably been only thirty feet or so- it was even harder for her to judge distances than usual when it was dark- the hallway opened out into a room that was too large for the light from her wristcomp to reach the far walls or the ceiling. It was clearly a storage room, as it was filled with piles of containers of varying sizes and shapes, which were organized into ‘islands’ that were scattered, seemingly randomly, across the floor. Each container was adorned with the official Momcorp seal. Leela had to settle for the first hiding place she came to- she wasn’t willing to risk getting turned around looking for better cover- which ended up being a sliver of empty space between one such island and the only wall she could see. There they waited uncomfortably for about five minutes while Fry’s loud wheezing steadily faded away. Leela couldn’t see her friend- she’d turned off her wristcomp to avoid being seen, of course- even though his face was close enough to hers that she could feel his breath on the back of her neck. She found herself in an extremely uncomfortable position- not just physically, but emotionally as well. At the same time that she was thoroughly annoyed and disgusted at Fry for once again dragging them back into trouble when they were just about to escape, she couldn’t help but respect and even admire his admittedly botched attempt to ‘take a bullet’ for her, as the outdated saying went. And then there was what he had said back in the construction yard, six innocent words that had made it impossible to be angry with the redhead, damn him, no matter how much she wanted to be.
There was a clunk, and then the hum of machinery somewhere above them, followed moments later by the tiniest sensation of moving air. “What was that?” Fry hissed into Leela’s ear.
It took a moment for the sound to register. It was familiar, something she’d heard a million times before but never really paid any close attention too… “I think it’s the air conditioner.” Then the importance of having an electrical device turn itself on sank in. “Aww, crap.”
Lights turned on all over the building. Fry, who hadn’t been expecting it, instinctively jumped to his feet. Leela was a little slower to stand. Chelsea’s voice boomed through the storage room over a loudspeaker that was probably mounted on a wall, somewhere out of view. “Ah, there we go.” The disembodied voice said cheerfully. “These crazy computers you have in the future are hard to control; I can never figure out which function does what. Oh, and Leela, for future reference, when you’re trying to hide from someone that controls every bit of electronics within a thirty mile radius, it probably isn’t a good idea to turn on a computer that’s attached to your arm, especially not one that’s equipped with GPS.”
Leela winced when she heard that last remark. Well, she reasoned, I must have turned off the wristcomp before she could get an exact fix on us, or she’d have just come in here and wiped the floor with us. She must be hoping to flush us out into in the open. Good thing I fought the urge to play Tetris on this thing.
“By the way,” Chelsea continued conversationally, “if you were thinking about trying to escape, don’t bother. I had Locuteus lock down all of the doors, and there’s an army of drones outside with orders to shoot anything that has a pulse. Call me cliché, but I could never resist a good climactic, fate of the universe hangs in the balance type battle. Since it doesn’t look like I’m going to find much of an adversary in the DOOP, the two of you will have to suffice.” She chuckled. “Now, to make everything fair, I’ve turned the lights on so that your unmodified eyes can see. It’ll be the two of you versus Locuteus and me. Whoever isn’t dead in the morning wins. Sound like a plan?” Another laugh, this time with a bit of a gloat in it. “I’ll give you a couple minutes to strategize. Good luck!” The loudspeaker died.
Fry was visibly trembling. His eyes kept darting back and forth, as if Chelsea was just around the corner. Of course, if she had been right around the corner, there wouldn’t have been much need for the loudspeaker, but Leela didn’t bother trying to explain that to him. “What are we going to do?” The panic in his eyes was troubling.
“The first thing we’re going to do is find a better hiding place.” Leela said with all of the fake confidence that she could muster. “Here, take this.” She handed him the small stunner that she’d been carrying at her waist since leaving Momcorp Headquarters. It probably wouldn’t be of any use, but Fry didn’t know that. It would act as a little reassurance, maybe enough to keep him from completely losing his nerve.
Leela eventually found what she was looking for, a maintenance hatch built into the wall. It served as access to the maze of ducts, pipes, and electrical conduits that snaked throughout the building. Fry would have a good chance of remaining undetected in there.
When Fry was safely wedged out of sight behind an air duct, Leela turned to go. She stopped when Fry called after her. “Wait! What’s going on? Where are you going?”
“You’re staying here out of sight where you’ll be safe. I’m going to go finish this.” Leela replied, and started to move again.
Leela whirled on him. “What do you want me to do?” She demanded. “This girlfriend of yours has tried to kill us half a dozen different ways in the past half hour, she’s turned Amy into a mindless zombie, and wants to take over the world and wipe out all alien life in the universe!” The PE captain’s grip tightened on her plasma rifle as she thought about the three soldiers that had died because of what Chelsea was doing. “She’s got to be stopped, Fry, and you know it.”
Deep down he did know it; she could see it in his eyes. It was hardly fair for her to blame him for not being able to face that knowledge. “But what about Amy?” He pleaded.
That was harder. “I don’t know. We’ll have to see.” If it came to it, Leela wondered if she’d have the strength to do what needed to be done. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.
After putting some distance between herself and Fry’s hiding place, Leela settled on one of her own. There was no reason to wander aimlessly through the building, waiting to stumble into somebody’s crosshairs. If Chelsea wanted to play cat and mouse, Leela was willing to play along. But when the cat eventually tracked her prey to its nest, she was liable to find that this particular mouse packed quite a bit of heat.
It didn’t take long for Chelsea to appear, as Leela had anticipated. She’d purposely left a trail of moved boxes behind her, leading away from Fry’s hiding place. When she thought of the ex-delivery boy squeezed into a dark space behind an air duct, she couldn’t help but feel bad. There hadn’t been much of an alternative, though. Fry was a great guy, but he didn’t stand a chance in hell in a serious firefight. And Leela doubted he had it in him to shoot back at an ex-coworker, let alone an ex-girlfriend. What was really surprising was that Fry hadn’t demanded to try and help regardless.
Whatever the case, it looked like Leela’s strategy of drawing Chelsea away from Fry was working. From her vantage point high up in a colossal pile of two-meter metal cubes of indecipherable purpose, she could catch occasional glimpses of the woman’s jet black hair as she moved stealthily from island to island. The plasma rifle that Leela carried with her wasn’t particularly accurate, but it didn’t really have to be. The PE Captain was lying full out on the top of the box pile, her weapon cradled securely against her right shoulder. All she had to do was wait for the unwitting cyborg to blunder into her sights and… She fired. A ball of green plasma screamed across empty space and exploded into a ball of fire. Flaming cardboard, bits of packing material, and other detritus rained down on Leela’s head as a stack of boxes collapsed. There was just enough time for it to occur to her that shooting a ball of plasma in what amounted to a gigantic tinderbox might not have been such a good idea after all before the muzzle of a nasty looking weapon appeared from behind a ten foot, steel canister of dehydrated buggalo milk. She’d missed Chelsea by about five feet. Leela almost realized her mistake too late. Sudden fear stabbing at her like a knife in her gut, she threw herself off of the towering metal conductor on which she was perched just a fraction of a second before Chelsea’s gauss rifle discharged. Several thousand amps ripped into a metal box that had been a couple feet below Leela’s hiding place. A web of bluish-white electricity fanned out from the point of impact, melting and fusing the containers together. One of the tendrils of light snaked out and connected with Leela’s ankle, sending a jolt through her body. The smell of ozone and singed hair reached her nostrils as she landed none-too-gently on an adjacent box pile. Another gauss bolt snaked its way toward her. She fired a few quick blasts in the general direction that the shot had come from, jumped the five or so feet to the ground, and took off running- thankful to still be in one piece.
Back in the crawlspace, Fry found himself in a most unwelcome situation. Amy, or Locuteus, or whatever he was supposed to be calling her now, was somewhere outside the closed hatch to his hiding spot. He couldn’t see her, but he’d recognized the high-pitched scream followed by a crash that was her signature. Apparently assimilation wasn’t a cure for clumsiness.
His mind raced as he tried to figure out what to do. On the one had, Leela wanted him to stay put. If I go out there, I’ll just get in Leela’s way. He reasoned. And I don’t even know how to help anyway. All I’ve got is this little stunner thing. He fingered the weapon. For some reason, the weight of it in his hand was immensely reassuring, even if he knew it was no match for the firepower he was up against. He kept his eyes on the tiny rim of radiance that leaked into the crawlspace from around the hatch. But what good am I in here? It’s two on one out there, and what if Leela gets injured or something? A loud concussion from somewhere in the building seemed to underscore the possibility.
Fry had had a lot of time to think while the rest of his coworkers had slept back in their cell at Momcorp headquarters. Lying there among his old friends had felt so right, even considering the circumstances of their imprisonment. Even with Leela seemingly still angry at him, he’d felt almost instantly like he’d fallen back into his old life. It’s almost like I never left. He’d remarked to himself at one point. And that’s when he’d finally realized his mistake. For the last three months he had been trying to rebuild his life. He’d been convinced that his friends had deserted him, that he’d destroyed the chance he’d been given to make something of himself after defrosting on New Year’s Eve two years earlier. But here he was, surrounded by the people who had supposedly betrayed him, and they’d taken him back without hesitation, even after he’d abruptly cut them out of his life. Even Leela, who Fry knew he’d hurt more than anyone, seemed willing to forgive him. And he knew, as he’d always known, that he belonged with them. Somehow, despite their faults, their arguments and petty jealousies, he, Leela, and Bender, and to a lesser extend Amy, the Professor, and Hermes, had formed a type of family. A dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. Only by almost losing it forever had he even figured out that he’d had it in the first place, but now that he recognized it for what it was, he wasn’t about to have it snatched away from him again while he sat cowering in the dark.
As silently as he could, Fry disentangled himself from the air duct and groped his way through the dark toward the hatch. Amy’s probably still somewhere nearby. He thought as he waved his hands in front of him to give him early warning of obstacles that he couldn’t see. All I have to do is pop out, surprise her, shoot her with this thing, and then go- Clang! Fry’s head connected with a lead pipe that crossed the narrow service corridor precisely at the level of his forehead. Stunned, he sank to a squatting position and held his head as tiny, multihued sparks exploded in his eyes. He didn’t have long to recover, for the sound of his clumsiness had not gone unnoticed. A soft, muffled “Guh?” drifted to his ears from the other side of the service hatch. Horrified, Fry backpedalled a short distance down the corridor until his back came up against something hard and metallic. The hatch in front of him opened, bathing him in a pool of light that was almost blinding to his darkness-adjusted eyes. Amy was a dark shadow in that pool of light. No. Fry reminded himself. Not Amy. Locuteus.
“Fry, is that you?” the figure asked. “Don’t resist, Fry. It’s, you know, futile and stuff.”
Fry almost completely forgot that Leela had given him a means of protecting himself against this precise situation. If he’d worried earlier that he wouldn’t be able pull the trigger if he found Amy in his sights, his doubts were now entirely extinguished. The little stunner seemingly aimed itself and fired of its own volition. A diffuse, bluish-green glow reached out from the weapon and hit Amy in the chest. The electric crack that marked the stunner’s connection made Fry jump. Amy convulsed, letting out a shriek that was metallic and inhuman before her body hit the ground like a sack of space potatoes. It was too much. Fry, unable to even to move, let the suddenly heavy stunner fall from his trembling hand. What have I done?
Ok, so this isn’t working. Leela thought to herself as she skidded around a corner and cartwheeled over a handful of packaged Xbox 16200s. Chelsea wasn’t far behind; Leela could hear her footfalls just a few paces behind her. Leela seemingly wasn’t able to lose her, even in the maze of boxes that were piled everywhere. She was holding on to a lead of a few seconds, but that couldn’t last forever. Leela had been running all night. She wasn’t at her limit yet, but she was starting to notice an ache in her legs, and each breath was just a little more labored than the last.
There was some kind of horrible scream somewhere in the distance, and Chelsea stopped running for a moment. Leela brought her plasma rifle up to her waist and squeezed off two shots. Chelsea clumsily moved out of the way, and the rounds tore through a pile of mattresses that reached nearly to the distant ceiling. The top third of the pile fell away from the rest and tumbled to the ground, burying Chelsea 10 feet deep. A siren started to wail overhead as tendrils of smoke rose toward the ceiling. Leela turned away and began to put as much distance between her and her opponent as possible. A whitish foam began to rain down on her from above as the building’s emergency fire suppression system tried to put out the rapidly growing fire.
“Amy? Amy, can you hear me?” Fry shook the intern’s limp body, but he got no response. “Amy?!” He was starting to panic. Amy had a pulse; he’d learned just enough from watching M.A.S.H reruns to figure out how to check for it without choking her in the process. But she’d been out cold for five minutes, and there was smoke rising from somewhere not too far away.
Fry gave Amy one last shake before letting her slide to the floor. He sat down next to her and exhaled loudly. He had no idea what he was supposed to do. Out in the open, he was a sitting duck, but he couldn’t just leave Amy alone in the middle of the floor. And then there was that column of smoke, which seemed to be a bit thicker than it had been when he’d last looked at it.
Amy’s only a hundred pounds or so. He thought. I could probably carry her. But where was he going to go? Even if he managed to get out of the building without Chelsea finding him, there was an army of cyborgs surrounding the place with orders to shoot him on sight. His only other option was the crawlspace that he’d been hiding in. There was no way to know where it led, but it was the only route away from the strengthening fire that didn’t end at the business end of a gauss rifle. At least, he hoped it didn’t.
Leela stopped to catch her breath. She was fairly certain that she’d lost Chelsea. No one had tried to shoot her for several minutes, which had been a pleasant change of pace. The white foam falling from the sky was making things difficult. It was like an ankle-deep sea of styrofoam clinging to every surface, and Leela couldn’t help but leave tracks in it as she scrambled from one box island to the next. She’d had to double back and retrace her steps several times before she was confident that she couldn’t be followed.
Leela just couldn’t get over how mindbogglingly big the warehouse was. She and Chelsea had been playing cat and mouse for half an hour now, and Leela had yet to see the entire structure.
About 30 seconds passed before the PE Captain started to move again. She didn’t have much in the way of a plan yet, but she was certain that her current strategy of running around in circles in a building that was on fire wasn’t paying off. Now that she’d lost Chelsea, she was slowly working her way back toward Fry. Somehow they were going to have to escape the building, and then try to get out of the city. How all of that was going to happen, she hadn’t the slightest idea.
When she’d made it about halfway back to Fry’s hiding place, she came across a set of tracks in the deepening foam. Her first thought was that they belonged to Locuteus, but she immediately realized that they were too big. Fry? But that didn’t make sense either. The tracks were heading in almost the same direction as she was, which meant they were headed toward Fry’s hiding place, not away from it. Remembering the scream that she’d heard earlier, Leela decided to follow the tracks. It wasn’t hard to do; whoever had left them hadn’t even tried to mask them.
The tracks didn’t lead to Fry’s hiding place, although they must have passed close by. Instead, they headed straight for the far wall and disappeared into a small hallway that had been hidden behind a stack of crates. Leela would never even have known it was there if not for the trail she was following.
The hallway was short, 10 yards at the longest, and soon emptied into a long, narrow chamber filled with row upon row of gigantic metal silos. An open corridor, really just the extension of the hallway that she’d just left, ran down the middle of the room and ended at a solid-looking door. There was no fire depressant foam here, and the tracks Leela was following petered out to nothing. It didn’t matter though, for she could see her target walking confidently away from her down the center of the corridor.
Leela let out a growl when she recognized the grey uniform and black boots. She leveled her weapon, and the figure stopped and turned to face her.
“What are you doing here?” Leela demanded.
Walt smiled and shrugged. A laser pistol was in his left hand, held at the ready. “Why, I’m here to help, of course.” He said oily.
In a few seconds, Leela had closed the distance between them. “Mother flunkie. You wouldn’t help us if your life depended on it. You’d better tell me what you’re really doing here, and do it now, because I promise I will kill you where you stand if the next words out of your mouth aren’t the truth.” She cocked her rifle. “Actually, now that I think about it, don’t tell me the truth. I’ll enjoy blasting you to pieces.” It wasn’t an idle threat this time, either. She fully intended to vaporize his sniveling face.
If Walt was worried, he certainly didn’t show it. “I didn’t say I was here to help you.” He said evenly. “All I said was that I’m here to help. Myself, as it turns out. But, what is good for me is also good for you.”
“Yeah, and how’s that?”
“Well, this cyborg friend of yours is planning to take over the universe. That’s not very good for business, now is it?” When Leela didn’t respond, Walt continued “When Mother discovers what happened to the Moss crop, and she will find out sooner or later, I’ll have to take the fall, but saving the universe will more than make up for the lost revenue.”
Leela wanted so badly to pull the trigger that her finger was twitching, but she stayed her hand. The problem was that Walt wasn’t lying; she could read it in the steady confidence of his body language. It was hard to swallow, but Walt, who obviously knew his way around the facility, might be useful to her. For awhile. “Only you could be twisted enough to have to rationalize saving lives as good business sense.” She spat. She was silent for a few seconds, and then, reluctantly, she lowered her rifle. “But, as dirty as it makes me feel to admit, you’re more useful to me alive than dead.” When Walt bowed graciously, Leela raised her weapon again. “But you’re going to hand over your pistol, and if I get even the slightest feeling that you’re not on the level, I won’t hesitate to use this. Understood?”
Walt nodded, and handed over his weapon butt first. “Then we have a deal. Excellent!”
Leela took the weapon and tucked it into her waistband. She felt the bile rise in her throat as Walt gestured for her to follow him down the corridor. She swallowed hard. “Do you at least have a plan?” she asked as she hurried to match his step.
“Of course!” Walt said. “There’s a plasma fusion boiler not too far from here. I’m no engineer, but I assume that, if we shoot a few holes in it...” He shrugged.
Leela stopped in her tracks. “Wait a minute. You want to blow up a fusion boiler while we’re still in the building? That’s your plan?!”
“I admit there’s a few, ah, minor issues with it, but I’m sure we’ll work them out.”
“Great.” Mentally, Leela was kicking herself for not just shooting Walt the moment she’d seen him.
Leela and Walt had made it about half way down the corridor, which was deceptively long, when there was a loud noise ahead of them and to their right. Leela pulled Walt behind a nearby silo, and the two of them waited. The PE Captain made sure to watch Walt out of the corner of her eye, but he didn’t even look at the pistol that protruded from her sweatpants.
There was some kind of a scraping sound, followed by a barely audible clang and a thud. Someone began to speak in a low whisper. She thought she recognized Fry’s voice.
“Fry, is that you?” She hissed. The whispering abruptly stopped. A few moments later, there was a cautious answer.
Now Leela was sure that it was him. “Fry, it’s me.” she said, a little louder. “I’ve got Walt with me. He’s decided to help us. We’re going to come out now, so don’t shoot, alright?” She gestured with her rifle for Walt to follow her out into the open. The two of them stood quietly in the open for a second or two before Leela saw Fry cautiously round a silo on the opposite side of the corridor. The ex delivery boy looked exhausted. He was covered in dust and grime, and there was a nasty looking bruise on his forehead.
“Fry, what happened to you?” Leela asked.
“I- I shot Amy.” he said and looked away.
There was a moment of silence before Leela could manage a reply. “Oh. Oh Fry, I’m- I’m so sorry.” She moved to touch his shoulder, but something caught her eye. A leg protruded from behind the silo that Fry had been hiding behind. “Wait, what’s that?”
Fry didn’t even look. “I had to get her away from the fire.” He said. “The only way was through the maintenance tube thing. I had to drag her.” On the verge of hysteria, he reached into his pocket and threw his little stun pistol across the room. “Leela, I shot Amy!”
“Wait, you shot Amy with that? With the stun pistol I gave you?” Leela rushed to the intern’s side, and felt a wave of relief wash over her when she felt the regular beat of her pulse. “She’s alive! For God’s sake, Fry. Don’t scare me like that!”
“But I shot her!”
“No” Leela replied. “You shot Locuteus. And she’ll be perfectly fine when she wakes up, just like you were when Walt shot you, remember?”
Fry started to protest, but seemed to give up. He nodded.
“Okay, good. Now come on, we’ve wasted way too much time. Chelsea wasn’t that far behind me; she’ll be here at any moment.” And then there was the fire. The suppressant was slowing its growth, but she could now just barely smell smoke wafting in from the storage room where it had started.
“What about Amy?” Fry asked nervously. “I don’t want to leave her behind again.”
“We aren’t going to. You and Walt are going to carry her while I cover you. Alright?” Walt began to protest, but a slight movement of Leela’s weapon was enough to shut him up.
Fry seemingly noticed Walt for the first time when he took a step toward Amy. The redhead moved to put himself between Walt and the intern. “He’s going to help us?” He asked, dubiously.
Yes, by being another target for Chelsea to shoot at. “Walt wants Chelsea stopped as much as we do. He wants to help us.”
When Fry gave Walt a sideways look that clearly showed how little he believed that, Leela added “I don’t like it either, but we need him, Fry. And I trust him more where I can see him than I do skulking around on his own.”
The redhead still looked suspicious, but when he looked into Leela’s eye and didn’t seem to find anything to contradict what she’d said, he nodded reluctantly, and let Walt pass. The two men knelt by Amy’s side. After they both put one of her arms over their shoulders, they stood in unison. They began to half walk, half stumble toward the door at the end of the corridor, but they didn’t get far before they heard footsteps running down the corridor after them. A gauss bolt ricocheted off the floor not too far away. Leela cursed loudly. They had taken too long; Chelsea had found Walt’s trail in the foam.
Another bolt whizzed by, and Leela had to duck out of the way. “Move!” she yelled.
Fry and Walt tried to pick up the pace, but Amy’s dead weight was too awkward for them to manage more than a fast walk. It was immediately obvious that they weren’t going to make it. Leela yelled for the two men to put Amy out of harm’s way behind one of the silos. Then, rolling across the width of the corridor, she took cover behind a silo of her own. She aimed her plasma rifle and sent three blasts crashing into the corridor where Chelsea had been. Chelsea ducked out of the way. The three smoldering craters that Leela’s rifle had left in the floor made the PE Captain hesitate. She had no idea what the towering silos contained. For all she knew, they were filled to the brim with explosive dark matter oil. Firing a ball of superheated plasma into one of the gigantic cylinders was probably not a smart idea. She dropped the rifle and pulled Walt’s laser pistol from her waistband. She glanced at it quickly, noted that it was fully charged, and leaned around the edge of her silo. A crackling bolt of electricity shot by close enough that her bangs were singed. She cursed loudly and fired back.
Fry felt his heart skip a beat. He’d thought Leela was hit, but she didn’t look hurt. Cautiously, he peered around the curved metal surface of the silo he was using as cover and scanned the rows of identical silos for Chelsea. He thought he saw something protrude from behind one of the cylinders about 10 rows away. It took his mind awhile to register what he was looking at. Gun. He turned away just in time.
“Leela!” he called. “She’s behind one of these container thingies, about, uhh, I dunno how far away that is!”
“Thanks Fry, that’s very helpful.” Leela yelled back, sarcastically. “Please don’t hesitate…” she paused to fire off a volley at Chelsea dove across the corridor. “… to distract me again.”
Deflated, Fry gave up and went to sit beside Amy’s motionless form. A flurry of gauss bolts shot past, but he was well out of their reach. “Leela and Chelsea are fighting.” He told the intern. He’d been talking to her ever since he’d decided to haul her into the maintenance tunnel, though he didn’t really know why. Even if she could hear him, it was Locuteus he was talking to, not Amy.
“I don’t think Leela’s winning.” He admitted. “Chelsea has that lightning gun, but all Leela has is Walt’s little pistol. Her big gun must have run out of ammo or something.” He paused for a moment. Wait a minute, where is Walt, anyway? The delivery boy looked around, but there was no sign of him. Uhoh, Leela’s gonna be mad at me again.
“Umm, Leela?” Fry called.
Leela hurled herself across the open corridor and half rolled, half tumbled into the space between Fry’s silo and the one in front of it. He couldn’t see her anymore, but he could clearly hear her yell at him to shut up and let her concentrate.
Not quite sure what to do, Fry peeked around the side of his hiding place and saw Chelsea casually walking down the middle of the corridor toward him. When she saw him, her face broke into a grin that made his face turn pale. She must have somehow known that he was unarmed, because she didn’t bother to move out of the way until Leela’s pistol popped out into the open. Fry noticed with fear that Chelsea had cut the distance between them to five silo-widths.
Suddenly, Fry remembered Leela’s discarded plasma rifle. It was still sitting where she’d dropped it, on the other side of the corridor, one silo closer to Chelsea than he was. I shouldn’t let Chelsea get that. He realized. Leela might need it later. Swallowing his fear, Fry made a blind dash across the twenty feet of open space. Something very hot passed just behind the back of his head, but he managed to make it in one piece. Shaking from his close call, Fry rounded the side of the silo opposite the corridor and ran the short distance to Leela’s weapon. Carefully he picked it up and cradled it against his body, much the way that he had done with the medkit that Leela had given him- and that he had lost about five minutes later. He was just turning to retrace his steps when he saw the unmistakable figure of Walt pass between a silo farther down his row and the wall that ran adjacent to the main corridor. He was walking in the direction away from Chelsea. The uniformed man didn’t seem to notice that Fry had seen him. Fry, suspicious and sure that Leela would want him to keep an eye on their ‘ally’, decided to follow him.
Walt passed three rows of silos before turning left toward the corridor. He stopped at the silo adjacent to the corridor, which was positioned across the open space from and two rows behind Leela. Fry positioned himself where he could keep an eye on what Walt was doing and waited. After risking exposing himself long enough to steal a glance at Leela, Walt kneeled behind his silo and reached into one of his pockets. He pulled out something small and metallic. My stun gun! Fry realized. He must’ve snuck away to go look for it when I had my back turned! But to do that, he’d have had to actually pass Chelsea, run halfway down the corridor, turn around, and then pass Chelsea again. He wasn’t planning to use the gun on Chelsea then, or he’d have done it already. So that meant… Actually, what did that mean? Confused, he watched Walt raise the pistol as Leela cursed nearby.
“Leela!” Fry screamed frantically and tossed himself at Walt. He landed on top of him just as Walt pulled the trigger. There was a hum and a familiar crack.
The stunner hit her a glancing blow in the legs, which immediately went numb. Losing her balance, the PE Captain toppled out into the corridor. Her head hit the smooth black tile with a thud that made her vision go blurry for an instant. Walt’s laser pistol fell from her hand and skidded to a stop about five feet away.
Chelsea, sensing her victory, emerged from cover and began striding in Leela’s direction. Leela, seeing the laser pistol, began to crawl toward it. Chelsea, seeing this, began to laugh. She stopped about ten feet from her helpless prey and put her hands on her hips. “Go on.” She mocked. “Just a little farther. You can do it.” When Leela looked up to glare at her, she laughed again. “Oh, don’t be angry. You brought this on yourself, you know. Its what you get for associating with unmodified humans; they’ll betray you at the first opportunity.”
“Go to hell.” Leela hissed through clenched teeth. The pistol was just about in her reach.
Another laugh. “Defiant to the last; I love it. You know, if you weren’t so hideously ugly, I might actually be able to respect that. Oh, and you do realize that I’m going to shoot you the moment you touch that thing, right?” When Leela ignored her, Chelsea sighed. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She raised her weapon.
Walt proved to be more of a match than Fry had expected. The balding man wasn’t very strong, but he somehow kept managing to worm his way out of Fry’s grasp. It was like trying to grip a snake that had been dipped in robot oil. Finally Fry managed to snatch the stunner way from him. Then, raising his arm over his head, Fry brought the weapon down on his opponent’s skull with all of his strength. Walt immediately went limp.
Panting, Fry stood and turned to find Chelsea standing over Leela while the cyclops slowly pulled herself along the ground.
He was just in time to hear Chelsea say “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” When the raven haired woman raised her gauss gun and pointed it squarely at Leela’s head, Fry felt a wave of adrenaline crash through his body. Leela’s discarded plasma rifle appeared in his hands. He screamed, and waving the gun wildly in the air, he charged.
Almost got it. Leela thought. Her fingertips just barely brushed the trigger guard. She knew she wasn’t going to be fast enough. Chelsea would fry her long before she could pick the weapon up and use it, but, if she was going to die, Leela planned to do it with a gun in her hand. She wasn’t going to get slaughtered while she lay helpless in the middle of the floor. With one last push, Leela managed to curl her middle finger around the trigger guard. There was a loud cocking noise a foot from her head as she pulled the pistol toward her. Well, this is it. She thought.
There was a loud yell, and the sound of running feet. Chelsea, who Leela could see out of the corner of her eye, froze in confusion. A moment later a volley of plasma flew over Leela’s head, followed by a red ball of fury. Fry slammed into Chelsea at full speed, causing the woman to stumble back a few feet. Chelsea growled, and grabbing Fry with one hand, sent him flying back the way he’d come. The redhead skidded a good ten feet when he hit the ground. Leela rolled over onto her back and aimed the laser pistol, but Chelsea ripped it out of her grasp and stuck her own gun in Leela’s face. She started to pull the trigger, but a searing greenish-white light came screaming down the corridor and caught her in the stomach. The plasma’s momentum was enough to pick her up and hurl her into a nearby silo. There was a terrific ripping sound as the metal canister buckled under the impact, and then a terrific explosion as the ball of plasma lost containment. A gaping hole appeared in the silo, and something soft and purple flooded out into the corridor.
Fry let his arm slump to the floor. The plasma rifle clicked against the hard tile, and Fry let it go. He watched the cloud of smoke that had enveloped Chelsea slowly dissipate as he lay on his back where he’d come to rest. His head hurt. His hand came away sticky when he reached up to touch his forehead, and his surroundings seemed to suddenly retreat from him. He sank into unconsciousness.
It took awhile for everything that had just happened to really register in Leela’s mind. She blinked a couple of times, and tried to look around her. “Fry?” She tried, but there was no response. Some of the sensation was starting to come back to her legs; not much, but enough that she was able to get up onto her knees after some considerable effort and crawl in the direction of her friend’s body.
It took her awhile, but Leela finally managed to push herself alongside Fry. The bottom halves of her legs were about as useful as logs, but she was eventually able to get herself into a sitting position.
Worried by the blood trickling from a gash in the ex delivery boy’s forehead, Leela bent over him. She noted with relief that he was breathing. “Fry? Fry, can you hear me?” She called softly. She took him by the shoulders and gently shook him when he began to stir. “Wake up, Fry. We won!”
Suddenly Fry sat bolt upright, and then winced as his bruised body protested.
Leela smiled at him. “You look like hell.” She teased, hoping to provoke a smile. Fry just stared blankly at her for a moment, seemingly looking through her, before his eyes were drawn to the smashed silo. Alarmed, Leela grabbed Fry’s chin and forcibly turned him back toward her.
“Don’t.” She said softly. “Don’t look.”
There were tears in Fry’s eyes when he looked at her again. He didn’t speak for quite awhile, but then a weak smile appeared on his face. “You too.” He said.
Leela blinked, surprised. “What?”
“You look like hell too.” None of the pain had left his eyes, but the smile stayed on his face.
Leela returned the smile and reached out to put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you think you can stand?”
Fry experimented with moving his legs a little. “Yeah, I think so.” He said and, when Leela nodded to him, painfully hauled himself to his feet. When he was relatively sure he wasn’t going to fall down again, he reached out and grabbed Leela’s hand. After a few false starts Leela managed to stand, and was even able to walk if she leaned on Fry’s shoulder. By the time the two of them had hobbled their way back to where they’d left Amy, Leela had just about all of her strength back.
Amy was still out cold, which was a little alarming. It had been a long time since she’d been zapped. She should have come around by now. Leela thought uneasily. Earlier, she’d told Fry that Amy was going to be fine, just like Fry himself had been when he’d been shot, but she wasn’t sure that was the truth. Who knew what effect a stunner would have on someone who’d been merged with a computer?
A low groan reached Leela’s ears. Oh yeah, Walt.
Bruised and disheveled, Walt lay in a heap against one of the silos. His left hand was pressed against the back of his head, where a large lump was forming. Leela crossed her arms and stood over him. “You shot me.” She said flatly.
At the sound of her voice, Walt started. He looked up at her, and there was a glimmer of fear in his eyes for the briefest of moments. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve shot you twice now.”
That was a mistake. Anger flared in Leela’s eye and she kicked him hard in the ribs. Walt made a noise like a balloon being deflated. “Want to try that again?” She spat.
Walt winced when he tried to talk. “That was the deal” he finally managed. “If you became too much to deal with, I was supposed to stop you somehow.”
“Deal? What deal?” Fry demanded.
“With Chelsea, I’m sure.” Leela answered. “I wondered how you managed to get in here so easily. It was because Chelsea’s goons let you in, wasn’t it? “
Walt nodded affirmative, and Leela kicked him again. “Why? Why in God’s name would you help her, you slithery little worm?!” She raised her fist to strike him, but let her arm drop when Walt cringed away from her. Disgusted, Leela waited for him to speak.
“I didn’t have a choice.” He wheezed. “She has my brothers.”
Leela was suddenly speechless. Walt caught the confused expression on her face. “When the cyborgs showed up, right after our talk in the alley, they got Larry and Ignar. When Ms. Xiao learned that you weren’t human, she went crazy.” He paused a moment to breathe before continuing “She was going to turn me into a drone, but I managed to convince her to let me and my brothers go if I helped her get rid of you.”
Fry and Leela exchanged glances. “You risked your life to save your brothers? That’s surprisingly… un-evil of you.” Leela said finally. “But you didn’t really expect Chelsea to let you all go, did you?”
“My brothers are idiots.” Walt said with a bit of anger. “But they’re still my brothers.” With a groan, Walt managed to get himself into a sitting position, and then, after resting for a moment, he pulled himself to his feet. “I knew that Ms. Xiao wasn’t going to let them go. I was planning to earn her trust by killing you, and then stabbing her in the back when she wasn’t looking.”
Fry nodded, relieved. “Yep, that sounds more like you.” he said.
Walt scowled at the redhead, but, rather than making a sarcastic comment, he seemed to grow alarmed. “There is more smoke in here than there was earlier.” He said.
With a start, Leela realized that he was right. The air was starting to get a little hazy, and there was no way it was all due to the fireball from the exploding plasma round. We completely forgot that the building is on fire. Leela realized in amazement. When she looked down the corridor toward the gigantic storage room, she could just barely make out a reddish glow. The fire wouldn’t spread into the silo chamber- there was nothing for it to burn- but they could all suffocate to death if they stayed too long.
“Is there another way out of here?” Leela demanded of Walt, who nodded.
“Yes, through there.” He pointed toward the metal door that they had been trying to reach.
“I thought that was where you hid your big guns.” Leela said, suspicious that Walt was once again up to something.
“There are many rooms back there.” Walt replied. “One of them leads to an exit.”
Leela stared at him long and hard, but eventually decided that it was worth the risk. “Alright, fine.” She said. “You’re going to take us to the exit. Fry, do you think you can manage with Amy all by yourself, while I make sure this creep doesn’t try anything else?
Fry nodded and started to walk briskly away.
He’d just about made it to the silo that Amy had been abandoned by when his eyes were drawn again toward the charred remains of the damaged silo. I have to know. Fry realized. He couldn’t let his last memory of Chelsea be her look of confusion and fear as she disappeared into a fiery explosion. He knew what he was likely to find, but he had to see her one last time to say goodbye.
A hole ten feet wide had been smashed in the side of the cylinder. Something purple and soft had erupted from the hole and settled into a pile about three feet deep and ten feet across. At the far end of the pile was a motionless figure, half buried. When Fry tried to step on the purple stuff that was carpeting the floor, it seemed to suck at his feet. He stopped for a moment, trying to figure out how something so soft looking could be so sticky, when he realized with a start that the stuff was beginning to climb up his leg.
An arm came out of nowhere and hauled him backwards. He came free of the Moss with a loud sucking noise, only to find himself face to face with an angry cyclops.
“What the hell were you doing?” Leela demanded. Her left hand pointed at him accusingly while her right aimed her laser pistol at Walt’s head. “I told you not to go look! What were you thinking?!”
“I had to say goodbye.” Fry said, defensively.
The fire in Leela’s eye flared for a moment, then went out. “I’m sorry, Fry.” she said, obviously mad at herself for her outburst. She shook her head. “You scared me to death when I saw you start to walk into that stuff. Don’t you know what that is?”
“Umm, no?” Fry said
“It’s Moss.” Walt said. “The last of last year’s shipment. This is where we store the stuff once it’s shipped down the Hudson River from the initial processing plant. Of course, these silos will be empty in a few weeks now that there’s no new crop to fill them back up again.” He looked pointedly in Leela’s direction, and then grunted when the cyclops even more pointedly jabbed him in the gut with the pistol.
Fry was only half paying attention. “Oh” he said, but his eyes were fixated on Chelsea’s half buried body. Leela made no move to stop him when he moved to go to her.
The redhead had to go well out of his way to avoid the morass of purple that covered the floor, but at last he was at Chelsea’s side. Chelsea’s lower body was buried in Moss, but everything above her waist was free. A pool of blood was slowly spreading out from under her.
Fry knelt and regarded her silently. The emotions he was feeling were too complex for him to understand. He was still terrified of her, but he also felt a deep sadness. Maybe she was right when she said my habit of seeing the good in everybody is a weakness. She had tried to kill him. She was clearly insane, but Fry couldn’t help remembering all of the good times that the two of them had had before their disastrous attempt to find the PE crew. The words that she’d said when they’d been walking home from Elzar’s popped into his head.
“It took me years to understand that she betrayed me, not because she was cruel, but because she was too ignorant to understand what she had done. I didn’t hate her; I wasn’t disgusted by what she did. I just had to tell myself that that’s who she was. She couldn’t help it…”
Chelsea had never told him who the person had been. Was it her mother? He wondered, remembering that her mom had turned Chelsea’s father over to the authorities when she’d discovered his illegal cybernetic experiments. Fry repeated the words to himself again, and realized that he couldn’t hate Chelsea, either. She wasn’t cruel. He told himself. She just didn’t understand.
Gently, Fry reached out to touch her, one last time. There was a twitch, and Chelsea’s lips moved. Fry screamed and jumped back, and Chelsea’s eyes opened.
“Chelsea? Chelsea?!” Fry was screaming when Leela finally reached him. She momentarily forgot that she was supposed to be continuously threatening Walt with death when Chelsea moved her head to look at her. Luckily, Walt also seemed to forget that he should be trying to escape, because he appeared to Leela’s left a moment later.
“You’re alive?” Leela managed, and then raised her laser pistol. “How is that possible? Fry shot you in the chest!”
Chelsea coughed. “Don’t worry.” She said, weakly. “Just give it a few more minutes.” She coughed again, and a fine mist of blood escaped from her mouth.
Fry was forcefully shaking his head. “No, no. You can’t die now; not like this.” He turned to Leela, his eyes wet. “Leela, we’ve got to do something!” He pleaded.
Leela stared at Fry for a moment. “But… But she tried to kill us. Many times.”
Fry shook his head again. “But now we can get her help! She’s not evil, Leela. Not really. She’s just confused.” Frantically, he tugged at her hand. “Please Leela, we have to help her. Don’t let her die!”
Leela started to say something several times, but, for some reason, she found that she was unable to argue. I guess I can’t let her bleed to death on the warehouse floor. She thought at length. Maybe we can take her somewhere where she can get some help. Then: Damnit, Fry’s optimism is getting to me. She sighed. “Alright.” She said to Fry. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Walt grunted in surprise. “What are you doing?!” He demanded. “You aren’t really going to try and save this- thing, are you?!”
Leela turned on him. “Unlike you, I can’t let another person bleed to death while I stand around and watch.” She snarled. “Chelsea isn’t going anywhere. A layer of Moss half that deep was enough to keep Bender from moving even a footcup, and she can’t be any stronger than he is. Now either help me save her life, or get the hell out of my way.”
“But, but you can’t… No!” Before Leela could react, Walt had reached out and grabbed the laser pistol from her. By the time he’d pointed it at her, Leela was already halfway through her flying roundhouse kick.
“Hee-ya!” Leela yelled, and her boot connected with Walt’s jaw. The force of the blow twisted the balding man’s head to the right, and a single tooth went spiraling away into the distance. Deflating like a punctured air mattress, Walt slid to the ground and didn’t move. Leela was fairly confident that he wouldn’t be getting up for awhile.
Still fuming- yet somehow feeling a bit better- Leela retrieved the gun and went to kneel next to Fry. The delivery boy gestured for her to hurry; the pool of blood was noticeably larger than it had been before.
When Leela reached out toward the wound, Chelsea jerked away. “Don’t come near me, Leela.” She warned. The all-consuming fury had left her eyes. Now they were filled with a combination of suspicion and fear. “Don’t touch me.”
“Don’t be scared, Chelsea.” Fry tried to reassure her. “Leela just wants to help.”
Chelsea, of course, wasn’t buying it, but, trapped as she was in the clinging Moss, she really couldn’t resist. Leela was finally able to get an arm under the struggling woman’s torso. Chelsea gasped when Leela’s hand found the wound. Leela pulled her arm back as gently as she could.
“Fry” she said. “Give me your shirt. We’ll try and make a bandage.” This isn’t good. Leela told herself. It’s a big wound, and she’s lost a lot of blood. Even with all of those cyborg upgrades, her insides are probably all smashed up. She doesn’t have much time left.
In about two seconds Fry had stripped off his shirt and handed it to her. Leela immediately began ripping it into long strips. When she’d made as many bandages as she could, she told Fry to grab Chelsea by the shoulders. “You’ll need to lift her while I put the bandages on.” She said. “It’s going to hurt her.” She met Chelsea’s eyes. “A lot.” She said, before looking back at Fry. “Whatever you do, don’t drop her, even if she screams, okay?”
Fry’s face turned pale. He looked at Chelsea and then back at Leela. He gulped, then nodded. “Okay.”
“Alright. On the count of three. One, Two… Three!” Fry hauled up on Chelsea’s shoulders, and Leela slid the makeshift bandages around her body. By the time Leela had tied them off they were already turning bright red. Chelsea started to scream, but immediately began to cough up blood.
When Leela signaled to Fry to let Chelsea down, the black haired woman was crying. “Why?” She asked between coughs. “Why are you trying to help me?”
When she realized that the question wasn’t directed at Fry, but at her, Leela knelt down by Chelsea’s side. “You really don’t know, do you?” She asked sadly, and shook her head. She sighed. “Chelsea, I’m helping you because it’s right.”
“But, I tried to kill you!” Chelsea protested, confusion and fear in her voice. “Why are you helping me?!” Now there was panic in the woman’s voice. Abruptly she was silenced by an all-consuming cough. When the spasms ceased, Chelsea turned to Fry, and there were tears in her eyes. “I don’t understand, Fry.” She cried desperately. “I don’t understand.”
Fry realized that something had changed in her voice. He knew suddenly that he was no longer talking to the sociopathic killer, but the kind, gentle Chelsea that he had first met. “It’s okay, Chelsea.” He said softly. “Its alright.” He reached out a hand to her, and Chelsea took it.
“I don’t understand.” Chelsea said again, and then threw up a river of red. “I don’t…” Chelsea’s grip started to weaken. She looked up at Fry, one last time, and her eyes locked on his. They seemed to pierce into his very soul. “I’m so sorry Fry.” She said, and the life went out of her.