Stygia, part 5
“Would you mind calling me H,” the human said as she wiped mud from her eyes for the fifth time in the last ten minutes. “I could call you M.”
“Why,” the mutant asked as she did the same. “We’re both Leela, so why not stick with that?”
“Well, it’s more like we’re talking to another person and less like we’re talking to our self.”
“Whatever floats your boat,” the mutant said as she leaned down to retie her boot lace. “Aw, damn it,” she yelled as more of the mud dripped out of her hair and into her face. “Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it,” she yelled as she wiped away more of the smelly goo. “I’m sick of this crap. We need to find a shower and fast.”
“Yeah,” the human agreed, wiping goo off of the screen of the wrist-amajigger. “This crap is everywhere and it just seems to be getting worse smelling as it dries. Let’s head down that way. I think we might find something over there.”
“What makes you say that,” the mutant asked as she walked behind her. “All of these corridors look the same to me.”
“Well, we’ve been travelling through labs and chemical storage rooms. Logically, wouldn’t there be a need for changing rooms for the technicians? There should be chemical showers, at the very least.”
“If the water is still running, that is. You’ll notice the distinct lack of power in this section of the base. We’ve been lucky in that most of the doors either have knobs, or are opened.”
“You’re such a pessimist.”
“They’re progressing quite nicely,” Sylvester said, eyeing the monitor in passing. “You should get some rest, though. They’ll be a while still.”
“Why are you doing this,” Fry asked, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“Leela has some issues to resolve with herself. Forcing her to talk with and deal with parts of her own mind like this is good for her, and will ultimately help me more than just bringing them back here now.”
Turning toward him, Fry said, “You really are a bastard, aren’t you?”
“Do you enjoy it? Torturing people like this?”
“Torture,” Sylvester said, angrily turning to face Fry. “Torture? You think that this is torturing her? I have done far worse things Fry than making a woman talk to herself. And, in the past, to save this particular little ball of dirt, I have done much worse.”
“What do you mean?” He was scared. The little man sudden seemed like a giant.
“All in good time, Fry,” he replied, back to his normal self. “We’ll wait until the Leelas get back. Like I told the human one, this is a story I only want to tell once.”
“There’s nothing here,” Zapp said through the speaker on the outside of his environmental suit. They were standing in the same clearing that the Planet Express ship had sat a few days before, with the ship sitting in the same location
“I told you that before we landed,” Kif panted as he worked the pump that supplied Brannigan’s suit with air. “The only life readings we encountered within ten miles of our location were animals.” Kif stopped pumping to wipe his head and take a drink.
“So, where has the Big Bad,” Brannigan began before stopping to stare at Kif. “More pumping and less resting, Kif. It’s so warm in this thing that I’m marinating in my own juices here.”
“Ugh,” Kif said as he started to work the pump again.
“As I was saying,” Brannigan continued, “the Big Bad has to have my Leela around here somewhere. And the hair pile, too,” he added after a glare from Amy, who was walking around the perimeter of the clearing for clues. Turning to her he asked, “How far do you think they got?”
She rolled her eyes and looked at Kif. Sighing, he said, “She can’t talk to you with the rebreather in her mouth, sir. You and I are the only ones who can talk. You’re in the suit and my species is immune to bronzillium.”
“Well, translate or something, Kif. Do I have to think of everything?”
“Sir, she’s already told us that she and Bender have no memory of their time here. There’s nothing that she could add that would…” Kif stopped mid-sentence as Amy walked over carrying something and looking excited. “What do you have, dearest,” he asked. Turning it on its side, she proudly showed the Wong Family logo. “Did you have those on the ship,” Kif asked. She nodded, her eyes wide and happy. “Sir, Amy thinks she found-.”
“Yes, yes,” Zapp said, taking the tube from her. “Seems to be a message probe of some kind. This should do it,” he said, pushing the play button.
Amy appeared, dressed like she was now, but looking very frail. Even on the poor image quality, Kif could see the bags under her eyes and that she was barely standing upright.
“Hey guys,” she said. “I guess you’ve noticed that the ship’s not here anymore. That’s because there’s been some kind of accident. Bender’s gone insane and has tried to kill me. Long story short, Fry was right and the three of us were acting weird. Leela, you and I have bronzillium poisoning, which causes some personality and memory things. And then there’s Bender. There’s some radiation on the planet’s surface that’s screwed with his programming and created some sort of homicidal malfunction. He poisoned me earlier and when that hadn’t worked, he physically attacked me. The good news is that I’ve disabled him for now, but I’m keeping his head and body separated just in case. And now more bad news: Bender’s poisoned brownies are going to kill me within a day and we’re out of penicillin. That’s all that can cure the poisoning. So, I’m taking the ship and going to try and make a run for the wormhole. I figure that by cutting out life support and all of the non-essential systems, I might just have enough fuel to make it. I’ll be back in a couple of days. I think. Here’s hoping I’m not stranding you guys here.”
They all stood silent for a few seconds after the recording ended. Then Kif asked, “Where’s Bender?”
They had found a locker room after another hour’s worth of searching. They were both pleasantly surprised when the water still worked. Grinning from ear to ear, they ran into the shower, stripping their muddy clothes off as they did. The clothes landed with a splat as the mutant started the water. They both shrieked as the cold water hit them, but it quickly warmed to the point of steaming up the room. They just stood under the spray, rinsing as much of the smelly goo off of themselves as they could.
Wiping the mud and water out of her face, the human started looking around for some soap. She pushed the pumps on several of the shower heads before she found one that worked. Getting a big handful of the cream, she walked back over to where mutant Leela was rinsing her hair. Reaching out, she poured the material onto her twin’s head and started to massage it in.
“What are you doing,” the mutant asked, stiffening.
“Relax. I’m just washing your hair.”
“I can do that myself, thank you,” she replied said as the human’s fingers worked through her scalp. The unexpected, and somewhat unwelcome, contact had made her very tense, but the way that the human was working her fingers through her hair was starting to feel good. After a few minutes worth of persistent work, the mutant started to relax and enjoy it. “Oh, that’s nice,” she murmured. The human Leela just smiled as she continued to massage her twin’s scalp. After several minutes, the mutant felt herself being directed back under the spray to rinse. Her eye closed, the mutant sighed contentedly. Opening her eye, she saw that her human twin had gone to get more shampoo for herself. “Thanks,” she said. “I needed that. How did you know…”
“That I like to have my head scratched and my hair pulled a little? We’re each other, remember. Human or mutant, we’re both Leela.” Turning around the human started to wash her own hair.
Smiling, the mutant came up behind her and said, “Let me do that.”
Half an hour later, the women were lounging in another part of the shower. With the water still going where they had washed earlier, it made this part their own private steam room. Wringing out her hair, the mutant said, “Can I axe you a question?”
“Fry,” the human replied from where she was laying on a towel across the room.
“Fry,” the mutant said, turning to face her. “I mean, what do you see in him?”
Opening her eyes and turning her head, the human replied, “The same things you’d see if you bothered to look beyond his flaws.”
“That’s not an answer,” the mutant said, feeling defensive. “Besides, I have high standards.”
“Sure I do,” the human replied, sitting up. “But, I know that I’m not perfect, so looking for Mr. Perfect is futile. Because,” she said, holding up her hand to silence her other self, “if he was perfect, what would he want with me?”
“What do you mean you know you’re not perfect? You don’t remember anything before you came to this planet.”
“Exactly,” the human said. “Knowing that there are things I don’t know, even about myself, is enough for me to know I’m not perfect.”
“Yeah,” the mutant said. “Whatever. Now, back to Fry.”
“Why do you even care?”
“How can you say that? Fry’s my friend, and I do care about him. I just don’t want to see him get hurt.”
“Unless it’s by you, that is.” When there was no response from the mutant, the human continued. “He told me about just some of the things you’ve done to him. Honestly, I can’t see why he’s still in love with us. And by us, I mean you. I’m just glad that he’s forgiving and persistent. And that you’re an idiot.”
“Hey,” the mutant said standing up. “I’m not an idiot. I’m just picky.”
“Lady, Mr. Right has been staring you in the face for a long time. He told me about the cryogenics job. You were looking at Mr. Right for years before you were finally able to talk to him. And when you finally did, you pushed him away. Repeatedly. He’s wanted you for a long time, and you ignored him. You’ve wasted years of your life being miserable when all you had to do was say yes to him once. I’m not going to make that same mistake.
Crossing the room, the mutant said, “I had a very hard childhood. I literally had no friends before I came to Planet Express. I had a couple of boyfriends, but it turned out that all of the men I’ve had relationships with were loser jerks.”
“Maybe you just had bad taste in men.”
“And you have better taste?”
“Yes. I chose Fry. It seems like it’s something you were never going to do.” Picking up her towel, the human left her mutant counterpart alone in the steam.
He was running through the woods, not really concerned with how much noise he was making. The humans were miles behind him, and, since he raided Captain Moron’s liquor cabinet, he had power enough for a long time. The only thing that bothered him was that he couldn’t have stayed on the Nimbus to begin with. If he had been able to stay there, he would have been able to really work on her main computer. He had tried, but the thing seemed to be incorruptible. That little virus he left behind, though, should make it a bit more cooperative when he got back up there.
Bender wasn’t worried about the humans. As long as the idiot was still in command, they’d never be able to stop him. He would be too concerned about Leela to worry about him. What Bender was worried about, though, was the unknown element of this planet. When he had been here before, they hadn’t really gotten a good scan of most of the area around their landing site. He knew that there were ruins of a city of some kind a little over a day north of the landing site, and that Fry and Leela were heading there. He didn’t really want to go there if he could avoid it. But, he had to get rid of all the humans first if he wanted to get back onto the Nimbus. If he could get rid of them, he could steal the ship and say that something on the surface killed them.
“Oh, it was awful, Sergeant,” he muttered as he started to turn toward the city, coming at it from a different direction than the humans would. “There were wild beasts down there and they tore all the other people apart and ate them. How did I survive? Oh, they weren’t interested in a robot. They tried to bite my shiny metal ass, but it must not have tasted very good. Oh, I’m going to need to go down to maintenance and get some things looked at. Don’t mind me, Bender. I’d never do anything to hurt humans,” he added, laughing.
The two Leelas continued their journey back in silence, with the mutant one, now wearing the wrist-amajigger, in the lead. After finding replacement jumpsuits in the locker room connected to the showers, they fell into an uncomfortable silence, neither wanting to talk to the other. The human felt that she had said all that needed saying in the steam room. She was going after Fry, no matter what the mutant thought, precisely because the mutant was so conflicted. The mutant, on the other hand, had nothing to add to the conversation because the human was right. She knew how Fry felt about her and she consistently pushed him away. She wasn’t sure if it was from fear of finding someone that actually cared about her or repulsion because he was chaos personified and she needed order, but she did it just the same. Fry was one of the most thoughtless idiots that she ever met. He was criminally stupid, recklessly irresponsible, and a clear and present danger to himself and anyone standing within thirty feet of him. But, he was also the most honest man she had ever met, never consciously did anything to hurt her, and had consistently supported her, no matter how many times she tried to push him away. And what bothered her most was that, all too often, she was wrong and he was right.
After half an hour, they found their first locked door. Grunting in annoyance, the mutant walked over to the control panel and attached the wrist-amajigger’s cable to try and hack the door controls. She had barely begun when the door opened and there was a flashing on the wrist-amajigger’s screen, indicating that something was being downloaded. As quickly as it started, it stopped.
“That’s odd,” she said as she started to look through the files. “Someone’s sent us maps.”
“Sylvester’s probably just tired of waiting for us to get back. How far are we,” the human added, coming up to look at the screen.
“Not far,” the mutant said. “Oh, how thoughtful. He’s even provided us a highlighted route. Fry must be getting impatient, too.”
“I know I want to get back to him.” They looked at each other in silence, with the humans’ implied, “after what you did to him” hanging in the air.
“Let’s go,” the mutant said brusquely, disconnecting the cord with a hard tug.
“It’s about time,” Sylvester muttered as the door slid open and the two Leelas walked in. The little man had been busy working on the actual Central Computer, so Fry, bored to tears, decided to take a nap. Seeing this, the human Leela walked right to him, cutting off her mutant counterpart. The mutant opened her mouth to object, but sighed instead and leaned against the wall instead.
Human Leela stared at Fry’s face and was pleasantly surprised to see very little damage remained. Thank you, Sylvester, she thought as she smiled. The little man apparently was a wizard if he could heal Fry so quickly. Leaning down, she kissed him gently on the lips. “Wake up, Fry,” she whispered.
Groaning, Fry batted at her with his hand and tried to roll over. Leela, smiling, pulled him back and kissed him again.
“Oh, just wake him up already,” the mutant said as she walked across the room to stand by them. “We haven’t got all day. I can do it if you want…”
“No, that’s fine,” the human snapped. “He’s had enough of your ‘tender mercies.’ Wake up, Fry,” she said, a little louder.
“Uh, Leela, do I have to,” he muttered, more than half asleep.
“Yes,” they both said.
Fry suddenly blinked and sat up, knocking his head into the human Leela leaning over him. “Ouch,” he said, grabbing his head. “Sorry, Leela. Wait,” he said, looking back and forth between the two of them and blinked a few times. After several long moments of silence, “Oh. Yeah.”
“Yeah,” the mutant said. “You want to try and explain this, idiot?”
“Stop it,” the human said, stepping between Fry and the mutant. “If you want to start in on him again, you and I may have some unfinished business after all.”
“Bring it on, Xerox,” the mutant said, getting into a fighting stance.
“Oh, would the both of you please shut up,” Sylvester said, pushing them apart. “What is it about women named Leela who think violence is the first answer to any situation,” he asked as he looked back and forth between them.
“What’s going on here, Sylvester,” the human asked, eying the mutant. “You told me that you’d tell us what was going on when they got here.”
“Yes, and then the two of you destroyed part of my lab and tried to kill each other instead. I trust that that’s out of your system,” he said with a very real hint of threat in his voice. When they both didn’t meet his eyes, he nodded, as if it was ended. “Now, you want to know what’s going on here. I did tell you,” he said, motioning to the human Leela, “that I’d tell you when they got here, and I will. But pay attention, because I don’t’ want to tell this story more than once.”
“That’s the last of them, sir,” Kif said.
After finding Bender missing, they decided to press on with the survey data that they had collected during their previous landing on the planet. Then, after locking the ship to prevent Bender from stealing it, they set off in what they hoped was the direction that Fry and Leela went. After encountering nothing for half the day, they were suddenly ambushed by what looked like three giant bears. But, after a DOOP soldier unloaded his positron rifle into it and it didn’t slow down, they knew they were in trouble. It took a lot of explosives and caused a lot of damage to the surrounding forest, but they eventually killed them all. They lost all but one of the DOOP soldiers in the process.
“That was very sloppy, Kif,” Zapp said, surveying the damage. “How did three bears kill almost all of our men?”
“They were smart, sir. They used tactics that should be beyond any animal.”
“Yes,” Zapp said, trying to stroke his chin through his helmet. “They were smart. Smarter than the average bear, even. Probably from stealing so many pic-i-nic baskets and avoiding Ranger Smith for all those years.”
Kif sighed in disgust. Looking up at the sky, he added, “Sir, we’ll need to find shelter for the night soon. It’s getting dark.”
“Yes,” Zapp said. “I’m tired from walking around in this suit all day. I’ll need a place to relax while you continue running that pump. Let’s look that way,” he added, pointing to the north along the path.
Kif just sighed while Amy rubbed his back.
After another hour of walking, they found Fry and Leela’s abandoned camp. Zapp surveyed the scene and said, “This isn’t nearly big enough for my tastes. Nimbus, this is Brannigan. I need a clearing cleared. Fire a volley from the cannons about thirty feet or so west-ish of my current com position.”
“Sorry, sir,” the voice came back. “We’re currently having issues with fire control. All weapons are off-line. We expect normal operations to resume shortly.”
“Damn it,” Zapp said, closing the link. “Why is it when you need to do yard work with high powered military hardware, you always need to do it yourself?” Raising the right arm of his suit, Zapp began firing wildly the plasma cannon attached to the arm. After several precise shots at trees, he started to lose control and eventually cleared the area of almost everything: trees, rocks, and the remaining DOOP trooper. “Whoopsie,” he said as he shut down the cannon. “Well, at least the tents are still standing.” Looking inside the purple tent, he saw two sleeping bags, side by side. “Yes, this one is mine. Have the boy lay out my formal breakfast in the morning, Kif. And by the boy, I mean you.”
Kif just sighed as Amy pulled him into the other tent so they could be alone.
“Nearly a thousand years ago,” Sylvester began, “the Earth was at war with itself. The battles raged across the globe, killing millions. Then, the Tirolians arrived. The war ground to a sudden halt. Suddenly, everyone didn’t care what religion or color or political alignment you were. At least you were human, and not one of ‘Them’. Well, the Tirolians quickly showed that they came in peace and wanted to help the humans. And as gullible as you are as a species, you believed them. Over the next two hundred years, they shared their technology with you, building bunkers like this all over the planet, to help the wounded, clean the environment, and make dead regions of the planet livable again. About 800 years ago, things started to change.”
“What happened next,” the human Leela said, reaching for Fry’s hand and twinning their fingers together.
“Yeah,” the mutant added, suddenly doing the same thing to his other hand. “What?” Fry squeezed the human’s hand, but was confused by the mutant. The human Leela was staring death at her behind his back. The mutant ignored both of them, and concentrated on Sylvester.
“At that time, the Tirolians began taking the humans off-planet. They were offering to take your people to the various other planets of their Empire, just to see what life had to over out there. Again, you were dumb and fell for it. The Tirolians were taking the humans off planet to be slaves. They had spent the last two hundred years building bunkers, just like this, to heal the sick, so that they could make breeding stock of you. You see, the Tirolians are, or more precisely were,” he added with an evil smirk, “master cloners. The majority of their population is descendants of a small group of individuals that survived their own Armageddon. But, after generations, their original samples had been used and degraded to the point of being useless. So, they needed to find a compatible source of raw materials. They had conquered a large part of the galaxy just to find inferior or completely incompatible stock. Then they found you. Humans were a 99.95% genetic match to Tirolians. So, you were harvested.
“About one hundred years later, some of the humans that had been taken away revolted and returned to Earth in stolen ships, the Tirolians hot on their heels. The renegades began attacking the Tirolians every chance they could get, and began to build support among the rest of the humans, but by this time, there were less than two hundred thousand humans left on the planet. They fought as hard as they could, but they were too greatly outnumbered. So, they built, and then used, some doomsday devices.”
“Humans poisoned the planet,” the human Leela added, shocked.
“Yes,” Sylvester said sadly. “They triggered several devices. One poisoned the atmosphere with bronzillium, which was toxic, but generally not fatal to humans, but deadly to the Tirolians. Another started the Ice Age that has covered most of the planet with glaciers. Many humans took shelter in the bunkers, but food shortages and bad luck has rendered the human race nearly extinct. You’re the first humans I’ve seen in centuries, more or less.”
“That’s great, Sylvester,” the mutant said, “but you still haven’t answered the big question. Which one of us is the real Leela?”
“Why, neither of you are,” he said simply.