Delicious Surprise, Part 12
See part one for disclaimers!
Bender watched his charges, his expression detached. He cursed his affection simulator once again; bad enough that he had always been a sucker for kids.
Angelyne leaned against her mop, watching Bender instead of the children. "That's sweet, Bender."
"That you have a family that cares about you." She sighed. "My family died when Flexo was immolated by those girders."
"Aww... you coulda come to me. You coulda slept in my closet."
"Oh, I didn't want to impose on you. Ya'll were pretty nice to me when you and I were... interfacing."
"Yeah. I come from a good group of lousy jerks."
They left the Hall of Heads and began walking toward the Twentieth Century exhibit. At the very center of the hall was a globe of the Earth, as it had been in Fry's time. A whole galaxy of countries existed there, in jewel-bright tones. The two robots stared at the shining brilliance of the globe, silently impressed.
"Bender...what did you do during the war?" His uncharacteristic silence disturbed her. "I was a Rosie Rivet. For two years, I held together one of the nicest interstellar carriers in the country."
"Literally; I was part of the hull." The silence stretched again. "Bender, tell me what you did...please?"
He heaved a sigh. "It ain't what I did during the war; it's what I did during the election."
"Tell me about it."
"Why should I?"
"Because it might help."
He couldn't think of an excuse, and so he began.
"Come on, Bender, we have to get this platform in place!"
Bender glared in Leela's general direction. Most of the summer had gone by like this, with Leela dragging everyone available at the PE Building to the campaign headquarters of Mayor Poopenmeyer. Then the afternoon, in Bender's opinion, would be wasted doing what amounted to grunt work for the campaign. Placing phone calls to constituents. Sticking fliers all over the place. Being used as an emergency printer for fliers.
He felt as though he was doing all of the work. Not only did this stir up feelings of bitterness in his emotion sequencers, it also made him feel like the worker drone he sure as hell wasn't.
He sort of understood Leela's drive to get Poopenmeyer elected. She had never lived down the fact that she had interfaced with Zapp Brannigan, but that was only part of it. As she said -- too often, for Bender's taste - every day at work, Zapp would make a horrible president; and a DOOP-controlled Earth would be a harsh, regimented place. And even though she loved the thrill and vigor of battle, a totalitarian society was too high a price.
Though Kif had tried to transfer information to Leela, he had gradually been frozen out of the Brannigan campaign. Zapp's political advisors, all apparently higher-ups at the DOOP, outranked both of them, and Kif had been reduced to ever-more-menial tasks such as pitting olives, and providing squeezably soft bathroom tissue for the packs of "advisors".
Bender grunted; either way, it would all be over tonight. He would have admired Leela's principles, if he weren't so tired of lugging planks of lumber back and forth across the stage. He wiped his forehead wearily as he waited for Fry and Hermes to return with more wood.
Fry, of course, had cheerfully joined his wife in the campaign from the day Poopenmeyer had announced his candidacy. He wasn't political by any means, but he resented Zapp at some level for having slept with Leela and making her miserable. He whistled an archaic tune while he nailed down the wood.
Leela, meanwhile, chatted animatedly on a video phone. Bender glared again, anger crackling through his circuits. Sure, she had done some physical labor for the cause, but most of her efforts had been concentrated on publicity. With her behind the Mayor, he and Zapp were neck-and-neck locally, with Poopenmeyer a sure thing to take New New York State. Unfortunately, most of the world was enraptured by the charm of Zapp.
"I'm goin' on my break," Bender declared, ducking out into an alley. Lighting up a cigar, he stared off into space and puffed away.
Those words always had the power to turn Bender's head; when uttered by a beautiful Fembot in a bright red casing, they were enough to send it spinning off of his shoulders.
"Hey, baby," he said, retrieving it and stabbing out the cigar against the brick wall. "You wanna go back to my place an' interface?"
"Your words have pinged my sincerity transponder. But I'm afraid I can't go anywhere with you."
"Why not? Yer pimp chargin' double for a nooner?"
"No; I'm afraid I work for the Brannigan campaign, and my lunch break is almost over." She glanced at her wrist; a digital readout embedded there flashed 1 PM. She glanced into Bender's face again. "Say, you don't look familiar. Don't tell me you're working for poopy-meyer."
"It's Poopenmeyer - Aw, damnit!"
"Oh, I see: you're the enemy units." She sniffed and turned on her heel.
"Wait! I can change! Uh-" He grabbed her by the shoulder. "I'll tell ya all of his tricks!"
She shook her head. "Zapp lacks the - ah - circuitry to maintain intellectual discourse with your candidate. We need to humiliate Poopenmeyer. Swiftly, and with extreme prejudice."
Bender thought upon this for a moment. "I think I got a plan..."
Leela watched the monitor with undisguised glee; Zapp fumbled through a press conference, badly answering questions about health care, food supplies, and the maintenance of public works. He had a cool, commanding veneer, which had so far maintained his lead in the polls, but he was completely unaware of how asinine he sounded.
"...Mister Brannigan, how do you plan on handling the international deficit?"
"Ahh, the deficit. How to fill such a widening gap...I propose we sell arms to the Venusians!"
The reporters gasped.
"We could trade fairly for their powerful aphrodisiacs, which we would then distribute nationwide to high schools, in the interest of keeping the population up."
Leela cackled to herself. Mayor Poopenmeyer, however, didn't have her assurance. He looked ill, and was sweating heavily.
"It doesn't look good, Leela, I'll be honest. We're twenty points behind in most states."
Leela shrugged. "Twenty points is nothing. This press conference will put you over the top, guaranteed."
"Leela, add twenty points up across the board; it isn't a good sign." He slugged down a glass of water, which had been sitting nearby.
"You'll be just fine, Mayor," she insisted gruffly. And before he could react to her statement, she was shoving him out the front door, onto the platform her friends had constructed.
And before the clicking, observant throngs of media.
"I dunno if I wanna do this."
The fembot glared at Bender. They stood on the roof of the People for Poopenmeyer building, holding a large vat of Slug Puree against the cracked molding.
"Don't be a weakling!" The vat trembled within her grip. "This blood represents the fluids which will be spilled needlessly when poopy-meyer demilitarizes Earth!" She thrust a fist in the air. "Death to non-tyrants!"
Bender stared at the fembot for a good, long while. "That made me so hot."
"Mayor, how do you plan on balancing your agenda?"
"Forty per cent humanity, thirty per cent robot, thirty per cent alien."
"And what of the mutant agenda?"
"Mutant agenda?" He coughed. Leela masked her hopeful expression. "No, no mutant agenda during this administration." She hid her disappointment.
"What of the wars Mister Brannigan has promised to unleash upon the planet?"
"I believe that any war, unless with provocation, is absolutely unnecessary! Bloodshed of any kind is intolerable!"
At that point, a torrent of blood poured over the platform. Cameras clicked wildly as laughter pealed through the air. Leela sprang into action, trying to pin down where the blood had come from. She followed the trail up onto the roof, but who or whatever had poured the fluid was no longer on the scene.
"What are we going to do?" she lamented.
Fry held out the daily edition of the New New York Times-Gazette-Enabler. "I guess we're all gonna laugh at him."
The digital copy he held out bore a matching headline.
In an election that had been based on the looks and charisma of the front-runner, dumping blood all over the opposing candidate had proven a felling blow. The Poopenmeyer crew could do nothing but sit back and watch as Zapp took every state in the union...except for New New York.
There was no victory party. Leela sat, slumped, in a chair and watched Zapp's victory speech with an air of detachment.
Mayor Poopenmeyer did not trudge like a defeated man through his campaign headquarters. Instead, he seemed relieved, having realized somewhere along the line that he didn't fit well as presidential timber. But Leela, who had pinned all of her hopes on him, seemed crushed.
Fry patted her shoulder. "Cheer up, Leel."
She glanced at the hand lying on her shoulder and the expression of the one who had cupped it. "I don't know how to now."
Fry's arm snaked over her breastbone. "It'll be okay. You didn't battle space bees and crazy emperors and crashing ocean liners just to get all squishy cause your guy didn't win at the election."
Leela sighed. "Fry, Zapp is the worst thing that's ever happened to the country."
"I can name something worse."
She paused, then shuddered. "He existed? I heard he was an ancient revenge demon."
Fry shrugged; somewhere, on a distant radio, someone was playing the National Anthem. Slowly, on a saxophone; it almost sounded sexy. Fry smiled. "Want to dance?"
She glanced up at him. "But there isn't anything worth dancing for."
"How about you and me?"
She stood, melting into his embrace. "You and me. That's good enough."
And, in the ruins, they swayed.
Across the street, Bender pushed his way through the celebrating throngs in front of Brannigan headquarters. He finally recognized the shapely form of the red fembot.
She tossed him a glance. "Do I know you?"
"Huh?! Whattya mean? We just dumped sl-"
"Are you a member of the California Bots For Brannigan chapter?"
"No! You said we was gonna-"
"You must be mistaken," she said coldly, turning and blending back into the crowd.
Bender froze in place, as the crowd flowed noisily around him. He felt like an incredible fool, allowing himself to be so easily duped.
And a chill ran across his prediction chip.
What had he done?
"That was you?"
The awe in Angelyne's voice almost made Bender's guilt worthwhile. But he nodded.
"I never even got that fembot's name," Bender said, his tone going flat. "My guilt upgrade's really kickin' in."
"I-" He sighed. "I wish I hadn't done it. Maybe if I-"
"You couldn't have predicted what would happen," Angelyne soothed, patting Bender's shoulder. "A bending unit's just not made with that kind of hardware." Familiar sparks chased through Bender, but he ignored them, and continued.
"I coulda stopped a war. But I didn't."