A Red Letter Day, part 2
Leela strode purposefully through the old and weary doors of Planet Express with her dejected daughter in tow. Rana didn't care much for her mother’s workplace. It was a dirty, smelly, owl infested and decaying old building with no appeal to her whatsoever.
The Planet Express building’s only redeeming quality was the break room with its TV set and the Slurm vending machine. Nothing more. There was, however, one item in the Planet Express inventory that Rana had yearned to explore when ever since she had been just a child: the old green-painted Planet Express starship.
Many a day she had been lost in daydreams of adventures in space, battling space bees, fighting vicious Omicronians and dodging dangerous anomalies, much like her dad once had done. At least, that’s what the old bending bot Bender used to tell her. The robot was always full of tall tales of mostly his- the great Bender's- bravery, but also her father’s actions in space. Not always sure of what to believe, Rana still had devoured and clung to every word about her father that Bender had uttered.
Rana shook her head. No, now wasn’t the time for a trip down memory lane. She all-to-vividly remembered the time, when she had been seven, Bender had stowed her away on board the Planet Express ship. The bending bot had at first refused, citing horrible repercussions that would rain down upon him if a certain Captain Big Boots found out, but Rana knew his weakness all-to-well.
She had treated him with both liquor and money at times to make him tell her stories about her father. So after a hefty bribe consisting of hard liquor she had stolen from her mother’s liquor cabinet and a large sum of money she had saved in her Buggalo piggy bank, Rana had convinced Bender to help her hide in the tiny space behind the primary buffer panel.
Flying into space hidden out of view, unable either to be seen or to see anything had become boring very quickly. So the young girl had abandoned her hideout and found her way to the glass domed turret mounted on the top of the ship. Staring into the great void with big eyes, mesmerized by the stars, nebulae and galaxies visible, Rana had failed to notice that she had inadvertently triggered the intercom, which had, in turn, alerted her mother to her presence. Leela had almost burst an artery when she had found her daughter on board.
Leela had made it abundantly clear that she had lost one person who she cared for to the old, decrepit, green ship and there was no way in Robot Hell that she would lose another. After that, Rana would not even be allowed inside the Planet Express building- and certainly not near the ship- unless Leela was there to supervise her.
Rana and her mother reached their destination after navigating through the worn down corridors of the building: the hangar bay. The old, green starship stood deserted, like a memory of an era long forgotten. Dark shadows spilled from the hulking form as the morning sun shown through rain-washed windows.
"Now go sit some where I can see you." Leela told her bored daughter.
"In the Planet Express ship?" Rana retorted sarcastically, displaying her foul mood.
"Conference table. Now." Leela growled and pointed towards the conference area.
Rana scoffed and walked away. She couldn't summon the anger she needed to get into a fight with her mother. Rana let out a tired yawn. She just wanted to sleep right now, or chat on line or watch TV; anything but to be locked inside a dreary old building on Ferris day.
She groaned to herself where she sat at the large conference table. Rana shot an annoyed glance in the direction of the hangar where her mother was working on the company starship. Getting no response to her poisonous stare, Rana turned her attention back to her homework. This is stupid; none of my friends have to do homework on Ferris day, so why the heck do I?
The teen was supposed to write a report on nebulae of all things. She flipped open her astronomy books and fired up her writing pad. Having written her name and the title of the report, she had hardly managed to start on her first paragraph when Stabby the Stapler bounced up on the screen.
"It looks like you are writing a report. Would you like to have help with that?"
The text that the rather annoying animated stapler displayed was splashed in bold letters across the screen. Rana let out a frustrated sigh; she wanted nothing more than to take her computerized notebook and give it a rocket propelled trajectory towards the sun. Unfortunately she then wouldn't have anything to write on.
She pushed the notebook and the astronomy books away and folded her arms on the conference table. The purple haired teen rested her head in her arms and closed her eyes. Just need to rest a few minutes. Five minutes, that's all... Her blurry mind spelled out before her consciousness did a stage exit and left her. Soon shallow breathing could be heard as the teen had fallen asleep over her books.
Rana, oblivious to the surrounding world in her deep sleep, did not notice the thin shadow that slowly approached her on silent shoes. The owner of the shadow paused over the blissfully sleeping purple haired teen, indecisive of what to do. A slender hand extended towards Rana and crept nervously over her arm like a frightened spider in fitful movements before it landed on Rana's shoulder.
There it grasped the purple haired teen’s shoulder and shook it gently. The light prodding only provoked an incoherent mumble and a slight shift in posture from Rana. A few seconds idled by as the owner of the hand waited for Rana to react further. When nothing more happened save for a gentle snoring sound, the thin shadow yet again shock Rana's shoulder- this time with considerably more force- sending Rana gurgling back to consciousness.
Rana let out a wide yawn and stared at the figure that stood over her through sleep-filled eyes. “Vienna?” Rana asked with surprise when the blurry image before her merged into a familiar shape. “VIENNA!” Rana cried, jumped from her chair and caught her friend in a rather violent hug provoking a pain-filled gasp.
“What are you doing here?” Rana continued, bubbling with joy, as her sleepiness had vanished in an instant. The person that Rana had been hugging was no other than her best friend, Vienna Windhaart. Vienna had a thin frame, pale, freckled skin, and long chestnut brown hair. Rana had befriended her soon after she had begun high school. Vienna had been alone and very shy, thus becoming a quick target for ridicule, something that had angered Rana. The purple-haired teen had immediately taken the lone girl under her wing.
Vienna rubbed the sleeve of her long, beige colored sweater, which was part of her normal attire, consisting of a pair nondescript white pants and grey shoes. “I know that your mom won't let you do anything fun on Ferris Day, so I thought I’d spend the day with you.” Vienna murmured in her typical low voice.
“Wait, aren't you supposed to be at Luna Park? On the moon? With your parents?” Rana inquired.
“I... I snuck away. It isn't any fun without you anyway.” The pale girl stuttered. Rana's eyes grew wide, for as long as she had known Vienna, the chestnut haired girl had always been good and proper, never doing anything that would land her in trouble, as that was usually Rana's forte.
“You snuck away? From your parents?!” Rana exclaimed which made Vienna slightly cringe, fold her hands nervously behind her back, and stare at her shoes as if she had been caught doing something illegal.
“Yeah, I took the Earth Moon shuttle back...”
“How did you get in here? Was the front door unlocked? Because mom never leaves the front door unlocked.”
Some guy in a lab coat was chasing a Decapodian around on the sidewalk by the front door. I think they left the door open. Are you mad at me?” She asked and looked up at Rana through her neatly trimmed bangs.
“No! I'm not mad! I think it's awesome!” Rana hooted jubilantly with her arms in the air, she was amazed that her friend had done something like this for her. This is going to be the best Ferris day ever!
Suddenly Rana realized that the hangar had grown very quiet, the heavy sounds of her mother working on the outer hull of the starship had subsided into silence... an ominous and heavy silence. Feeling a slight chill down her spine Rana knew that this could only be the quiet before the storm. She grabbed her friend by her arm. “We gotta go... now.”
“Go where exactly?”
Both girls froze in place when they heard Leela's voice. The cyclops stood not far from the conference table, her arms folded over her chest. Her sole eye was half closed, and her face was a mask of ill-disguised annoyance.
Leela looked directly at Vienna when she spoke. “Your mother called me. She was very worried about you, disappearing like that.” The pale girl turned slightly red upon hearing what Leela said. Vienna stared down her shoes and mumbled something that sounded like an excuse.
“I promised your mother to take you back to her if I found you here.” Leela said with slight irritation in her voice. She had been planning to do some much needed maintenance on the ship, and a trip to the moon, despite the short distance, was an unnecessary distraction for her.
“Mooooom!” Rana protested vehemently, angry that her mother was not only interfering, but was taking her friend back.
Leela glared at her daughter. “You. Sit. NOW!”
“At least let me come with you!” Rana pleaded.
“So you can find some way to sneak away once we land at Luna Park? No, you’re going to stay right here and write that report like I told you to. And besides, you know you’re never allowed in that ship, under any circumstances.”
“I HATE YOU!” The steaming teenager shot back, adrenaline mixed with hormones flowed through Rana, angry over being kept indoors when everyone else had fun, Vienna including.
Unimpressed by her daughter's outburst, Leela turned her attention to Vienna instead. “And you; In the ship. Now. And don't even think about trying anything funny.” Leela said to the thin girl with a hard tone in her voice. The brunette cast a frightened look at the menacing cyclops before she disappeared towards the hangar area without hesitating.
Leela remained by the railing. From her position she saw her daughter’s friend board the ship. Satisfied that Vienna had momentarily been dealt with, she had to make sure that her daughter didn’t decide to go AWOL while she was away.
Keeping an eye on the angry Rana, Leela punched up a number on her wrist computer and, within moments, the familiar face of her boss, Cubert Farnsworth, was visible on the tiny screen.
“Something has come up, and I need to borrow the ship for half an hour.” The cyclops reluctantly told the button-nosed clone. She didn't care for Cubert, he had been an insufferable know-it-all from the day she had met him and his smug and condescending way had not eased with age.
“I'll dock that time from your pay, including the expense of using the ship on company time.” Came the reply with an air of superiority.
Leela gritted her teeth. What was it about Cubert that always set her teeth on edge? “I need your help to look after my daughter while I'm away.” She hated having to ask the inventor about a favor, for Cubert’s favors always came with a hefty prize.
The clone smacked his tongue with distaste and shook his head. “If you were better in keeping the hired staff alive and not driving them off with your temper, I wouldn't have to spend precious time keeping track of that offspring of yours.” Leela could feel her temperature rise over the implied criticism regarding herself and her daughter.
The only reason she was asking her much-loathed boss at all was that Amy was back on Mars, and Leela couldn't trust Bender, even if she, by off chance, could find they wayward robot, who basically came and went as he pleased. Since Zoidberg couldn’t be trusted either, it had to be Cubert.
“Thanks.” She replied flatly, trying not to sound too ungrateful and pressed the off button so hard that her finger hurt.
Leela deliberated for a few seconds if she should say anything else to her seething daughter, who was sitting at the old conference table, making good use of her pen to stab her notepad repeatedly as a measure of just how angry she was with her mother.
Thankfully, the resident owner of Planet Express, Cubert Farnsworth, the clone of the late Professor Farnsworth, showed up in the door, and his presence there relieved Leela from her vigil over her fickle daughter.
“I'll be back as soon as I can.” Leela offered Cubert as she left for the ship where Vienna was waiting.
The inventor waved dismissively with his hand. “I'm sure you will.”
Rana shot the young man an irritated look, she couldn't stand the condescending inventor and his presence did nothing to ease her anger, yet Rana's emotional fuming was interrupted before it could reach critical mass.
"I'm a genius!" The owner of Planet Express exclaimed upon seating himself next to Rana.
"What?!" Rana responded tersely and gave Cubert a stare that came just short of Rana’s goal of vaporizing him on the spot.
Cubert scoffed. "I am a gen-i-us." He repeated slowly in a condescending tone, as if Rana had trouble understanding.
Rana cursed under her breath. Why does he always treat me like an idiot? "Go away!” She lashed out at the patronizing figure before her.
"Ta-ta-ta. Temper, temper. You mother asked me to keep an eye on you.
Rana gave him a cold stare from under her purple fringe. Where's Bender and why can't he be my “baby sitter” for once? She pondered for herself though she knew the answer all to well, the delinquent bending bot was not trusted by her mother.
"And why are you a genius?" Was her snarky reply, referring to what Cubert previously had said.
“Because I have an IQ of two hundred and fifty three, which is one hundred and fifty three more than you.”
The last statement made Rana cringe and roll her eyes towards the ceiling. She didn't need this kind of supervision and Cubert was the worst homework help ever. He would sigh and make statements about how even a mere child should be able to comprehend whatever Rana needed help with.
The hangar reverberated with a low, heavy rumbling sound, heralding the news that the armored hangar cover was slowly sliding back. The old mechanisms squeaked and groaned tiredly before the last plate completed its short journey and stopped with a moaning thud. A weary alarm started to blare a tired, monotonous warning about the imminent launch of the Planet Express Ship, which was slowly rotated into its usual launch position. The low pitch of the engines grew into a crescendo before the ship let slip its bond of earth and took off into the bright blue sky trailing a grey trail of vapor- hinting that its dark matter burn was impure- behind it as it quickly faded away.
The curtain of noise that the launch of the ship had made rendered any conversation at the conference table all but impossible, which had given Rana a reprieve to further calm down and actually think her situation over. Not unlike her father, Rana wasn't much for thinking; she was too busy having fun. Besides, heavy thinking just made her head hurt. This time she was willing to make an exception, and she latched on the last thing that Cubert had said before the concert of noise.
"What did you mean by “I’m a genius”? Have you invented something important?" The teen asked with what she hoped was an innocent look on her face after the heavy hangar doors had made their slow and thunderous journey back into the closed position.
"Important? Ha! It will surely win me my third Nobel Prize!" The inventor noted with a smug smile.
"Um, so like, what is it?" Rana pressed on, hoping to steer the conversation into one of Cubert's long-winded rants which often made him oblivious to what was happening around him, and thus, facilitating a possible escape for the purple-haired teen.
Cubert leaned back in his chair and stared with triumph flaring in his eyes at Rana over the tip of his fingers, which he had put together so that his hands mimicked the shape of a teepee. "It's a chronotron!
"A chro-no-tron, or “time machine” as it would be in a layman’s terms." The last words were said in a patronizing tone. "Let me explain how it works." He said and started to explain at length the intricate functions of a time machine and the inner workings of time travel.
Cubert’s endless droning faded away for Rana as she started to ponder the possibilities that a working time machine held. She could go back to the stupid ages and bring back something cool, something that could win her admiration from her peers. Or better yet, meet her father. The last idea set her mind burning. Rana always heard from her mother how much she was like her father, but her mother had never been keen on discussing her father or the way he had died.
The purple-haired teen knew where to find Cubert’s lab; the most pressing question at the moment was how to get away from her unwanted "babysitter". An opportunity arose when Rana spotted Doctor Zoidberg, in the far end of the now vacant hangar, scavenging through one of the many owl traps that littered the hangar bay.
"Isn't that Zoidberg?" She asked and pointed towards the Decapodian doctor, interrupting the self-obsessed scientist’s mid-tirade.
Cubert's head twisted in the direction Rana was pointing so fast that she was sure that his head would continued spinning and pop right off. His superior air slid right off his face and was replaced with anger upon seeing Zoidberg gobbling down the owl bait. He jumped to his feet and ran to the hand railing at the edge of the conference area.
"Hey! Get away from those traps, you!" He screamed, waving his right fist threateningly in the air. Zoidberg looked up at Cubert for a moment before he made a sideways dash into the depths of the PE building, warbling as he went. The irritated owner of Planet Express gave chase and had soon disappeared as well.
As soon as Cubert ran after the Decapodian doctor, Rana left the conference area and made her own escape towards the part of the building where the laboratory was situated.
The laboratory was a whirlwind jumble of technology. Large hulking machines lined the walls, and the floor was covered by cluttered tables, and unfinished inventions, tools and machine parts were strewn all over. Here and there were chalkboards covered with drawings, calculations and the occasional doodle. The latter usually depicted Cubert with a caption that stated his greatness or his level of genius.
Rana paused in the doorway. Where would she find the chronotron in this cluttered chaos that was Cubert's laboratory? It took the teen a moment before she noticed a large boxlike machine in a dark corner. It seemed different than all the other equipment that made up the laboratory. Is that it? The fact that it was the only thing in the lab that looked remotely finished made it a fairly safe bet. Rana decided that she would have a closer look at it. She abandoned her scouting position at the door and made her way to the machine, trying her best not to step in something, or worse, stumble over anything.
Upon reaching the device she saw that it was nothing other than an old suicide booth. At first disappointed, believing that it was just some junk, she then noticed a handwritten sign placed over the doorway, written in Cubert's hand style. It said 'chronotron'. Wearing a triumphant smile, Rana took the sign and tossed it aside. The machine seemed powered, as the door slid to the side, revealing the unbroken, desolate grey interior.
Rana entered the square booth somewhat tentatively. The door closed smoothly behind her. Surrounding her was naught but bare metal with an ambient pale blue light which gave the interior a depressing, cold feeling. She was a bit nervous now, hoping that it still wasn't a suicide machine.
“Umm... hello?” She said, after a few seconds, biting her lower lip as she often did when she was nervous or insecure.
“Voice command not recognized. Please restate your command or question.” A smooth, metallic voice replied.
“Are you, like, a time travel bot or something?”
“Affirmative, I am a chronotron mark one unit." There seemed to be a hint of amusement in the soulless machine's answer, though Rana wasn't sure.
"Uh-huh. So you can send me back in time, right?" The teen continued, butterflies now dancing in her stomach consisting of equal measures of fear and excitement.
"That is my primary function. Do you have a destination for me?"
Rana paused momentarily to think things through for the second time that day. She really wanted to go back in time and meet her dad. The question was, of course, when?
She knew that her dad was from the stupid ages and that he had been frozen for a thousand years. Bender and Aunt Amy had told her that on separate occasions. Maybe she should go back to the stupid ages. No one from that time was alive in the year three thousand, at least, not anyone she knew. Her dad would be dead by the time she was born, so there would be no risk of a para-dachshund, or whatever it was that Cubert had been talking about.
Then again, maybe she shouldn't. Weren’t the stupid ages full of mammoths and other dangerous stuff, or was that just that stupid theme park, Past-o-rama or whatever is was called? Rana couldn't remember her history classes. She wasn't stupid, even though some of her classmates thought so. Just because she had a very weak delta wave in her brain, it didn't make her dumb or anything.
I should have paid more attention to my ancient history class. Rana admitted to herself. I don’t remember anything about the stupid ages, so I guess I shouldn’t go back there. But then where should I go?
“I want to see my dad... um… Philip? Philip Fry?” She asked hesitantly, not knowing if that could help.
“Accessing database, stand by... stand by... Philip Joshua Fry, current status; deceased. Stand by... time line for Philip Joshua Fry established. Please specify point in time line for chrono intersection procedure.”
“Um.. before he died? Oh and before I was born!” Rana quipped, not really knowing what to make of what the machine just had said.
"Confirmed. Chrono intersection point localized. Chronoshift will begin in ten seconds. Please stand by for time return tagging."
A sudden bright blue light appeared around Rana's left wrist and a thin, tight fitting bracelet had latched itself to her.
"Ehh.. now wait a minnit.. what's this?" The teen asked after having been startled by the sudden addition to her attire. Rana held up her bracelet-adorned wrist to emphasize her question.
"Eight seconds to chronoshift." The machine then paused for a fraction of a second. “That is the time return tag, press it and it will return you to the present.”
The pale blue light started to turn brighter and the low growl of the machine’s interior workings grew to a screeching high pitched whine. Rana pondered the information for a moment, somewhat distracted from the machine’s relentless countdown. “So... I just push this red circle here, right?” Rana asked and pointed on the pale red circle that was just underneath the thin blue bracelet on her left wrist.
"That is correct, two seconds to chronoshift." Noted the machine in a tone of voice that sounded eerily like Cubert’s.
“So, what...” Rana started yet another question but she was cut off by the final call from the machine.
As the last syllables of the machine’s statement reached Rana, she opened her mouth to protest, but she felt as if all of the air had been sucked from her lungs. Everything grew very bright blue and then there was nothing but darkness.
End Part Two