Delicious Surprise, Part 18
Disclaimers in Part One!
The continuation of the flashback. Here we detail exactly why Leela's changed into such a different person. The next two chapters will be very depressing, with an uplift in the twentieth chapter.
Once again, this flashback continues on into the next chapter.
It was the sort of battle that people immortalized in their minds. A hard-fought battle, with neither side really giving in. To anyone but Leela, it would have been a crowning accomplishment.
If you didn't count the end.
The calculation had been flawless. A percentage of the robot population had, predictably, started to riot once their Patriotism Chips had been deactivated; others had caused havoc by sucking up the surplus booze the DOOP had been stockpiling for its troops. Officers had been dispatched to handle what was classified as a Level Five Robot Disruption.
Bender, leading the charge, kept an eye to the gratings. At any moment, Leela would burst through...Any moment.
Leela awoke to a pounding upon her door.
"Wah! Five more minutes."
"Dollushki! It has begun!"
Leela sat up with a gasp, displacing Fry's arm and waking him in turn. The watch on his wrist drew her attention.
"Five?! Oh no, I'm late!" With an effort she ignored the nausea roiling in her empty stomach as she quickly dressed.
Just before she rushed out the door, she felt Fry's hand catch hers. He placed a heavy, sweetly familiar gun in her hand.
"I brought this for you."
She hugged him. "You stay safe."
Together, they rushed through the door.
The protest had yet to turn violent, but about half of the robots had been detained by officers on the beat. Bender stared at the grating, willing someone, anyone to appear. Was civil unrest ever boring when it didn't involve stealing stuff or porn!
Fry, looking disheveled but happy, came charging up the unusually deserted streets of New New York with a small army. Fry had managed to round up a group of roughly two thousand humans, most of them radical college students, a few with a tendency toward his father's ideas about life management.
Bender kept yelling "Free booze rations for needy robots!", while Fry primed his laser pistol. He caught Bender's eye, and, with a subtle nod, fired.
"Bender, look out!"
The robot leapt backward, dodging the ray gun blast. It separated a DOOP soldier's head and body, Fry's first casualty ever.
"Charge!" he screamed, relying on everything his father had believed in, everything his wife had struggled for, to give him the strength to go forward.
Leela studied her battalion. They were a motley group, and a clearly disconcerted one, but they seemed just fierce enough to give a good battle. They had assembled, wearing home-made armor and whatever she could convince Mom to supply them with.
They gathered by a group of gratings near Times Square, where the loudest commotion seemed to be. Leela peered through and watched as Fry's onslaught commenced. Pride and fear warred within her heart, but her authoritative nature took over.
"On my command!" She caught the eyes of her father. They were focused straight ahead, and filled with a frightening determination. The proud gleam of his pot-and-pan armor would haunt her to her death.
"NOW!" The gratings flew skyward on the force of many hands, and the mutant population stepped en masse onto the streets of New New York for the first time in over 100 years.
"It was a long battle," Leela said. "We fought through the night. But something happened. We didn't think it would..."
"What?" Lilah whispered.
"Chaz figured out who was keeping us in weapons. They knew that the only way to stop the battle would be to take a hostage," Fry said.
"So they took one?"
"Yes. Me." Leela whispered.
She jostled to wakefulness beneath a bright light. Her head reeled; what had happened? The last thing she remembered was finding a small ship left abandoned in a side alley. She was strafing the officers below her. Her confidence had been so strong. Even now she could feel the rumble of the engine beneath her, the thud of her own pulse.
A hand made heavy impact with her cheek.
She stirred, glaring upward. She got in one solid kick before she was forcibly restrained.
"You've gone too far, Leela."
It was impossible not to recognize Chaz's slithery voice. It all came back to her when they hauled her bruised body onto a chair.
There had been explosions...her engines...had they overheated? She had crashed into something...Oh, God....
"That turn...I took the corner too hard..." She had been so sure that she could make it around the concrete precipice; it wasn't anything she had failed at before.
"Indeed," Chaz muttered. "And how helpful of you to crash into Mom's corporate headquarters."
"You're a liar!"
"A liar, am I? The building collapsed an hour ago, and from what we can see, everyone inside perished. And without supplies, well...your minions aren't faring too well."
Fright filled Leela, but she fought to hide it. "What do you want from me?"
"Well, unconditional surrender, for one. I'm afraid I'm unable to avoid punishing others this time."
"I have no choice, do I? I'm going to die, either way, and so will all of my friends..."
"And your husband."
Leela stared at him. "I deserve to go down fighting, don't I, Chaz?"
"A[dw] warrior such as you? Indeed. But no, I can't risk it." He shrugged. "And I'm afraid I've grown impatient with your stalling." He lifted his laser pistol and aimed it at Leela's heart. "A pity, to damage breasts that lovely."
"NO! Not her boobies!"
Chaz groaned as Zapp threw himself over Leela.
"Get off of me!"
"Officer, I won't allow you to shoot this woman in her exemplary mammary glands." Leela didn't even consider groaning; she simply sighed in relief.
"She's an impediment to the peace process, mister President. You aren't safe around her. How did you escape from your special holding pen - I mean, 'safety tank'?"
"I got hungry. The only things in there were vegetables and -"
"We only have one choice left."
She was marched back to the sewers under armed guard, through the pitch-black night. Screaming could be heard, over an intermittent sizzling sound. Returned to the abandoned mutant town, she pretended to faint, hoping that they would reveal further information while she was out.
"Herd the rest of them down here. Then seal off the vents. All of the holes, except for four. That should be enough for them to live on until we can bring the hoses in."
"You're going to roast them to death?"
"No, we're going to gas them. We want to make it look like we cared, after all."
"And what of the humans?"
The steel in Chaz's voice was chilling. "Start the bombing."
"That night, warships bombed anything that moved in New New York. It was panic." Fry paused, seeking a steady balance in his voice. "It went on forever. Your Aunt Amy, Kif, Hermes, Doc Zoidberg, Nibbler and me, we took shelter in the Professor's basement at Planet Express. We had to bury a friend immediately: our poor janitor, Scruffy." He paused at the sad memory, but continued after a moment. "The Professor must have gotten my dad's belief in a strong defense being the best protection, because it had state-of-the art locks and surveillance gear. After the Omicronians' first attack years before, he'd built a basement that was stronger than most bomb shelters." Fry stuffed his hands into his pockets. "We were there for almost five months."
Fry looked up in alarm at the sound of Kif's voice. He was just alert enough to catch the communication device as it flew across the room.
"Kiffy, don't stress yourself," Amy soothed.
Kif allowed his left hand to flop helplessly onto his lap. "If I can't gain contact with the Omicronians, I can't get reinforcements."
"They're probably jamming our signals," Fry pointed out. Kif heaved a sigh, and seemed to be fighting tears.
"Cheer up, friends!" Zoidberg called, as he waddled down the basement steps. "Bender has returned with some nosh!"
"Outta my way, crabby!" Bender elbowed Zoidberg off the stairs. He opened his compartment and emptied it onto the table. The mostly-unspoiled fruit and dented cans were eagerly scooped up by the humans. Bender passed around a can opener, then concentrated on sucking the last drops of Olde Fortran from the bottoms of various empty bottles. The sound of lasers frying and bombs blasting constantly filled the air, something they had all gotten used to, to the point of entirely ignoring them.
"How does it look up there?" Fry asked.
Bender's expression was haunted. "You don't want to know."
Fry shrugged, then gulped down about half of the Bachelor Chow, patting his stomach in satisfaction. He reached under the table to retrieve several jugs of water and passed them to the others. He had spent most of the afternoon purifying it using the Professor's old glassware.
Suddenly, he noticed that someone was missing from the group. He scanned the dim, small basement. "Hermes?" Then he spied him, sitting on a box and frantically scribbling. He looked up.
He shook his head. "No mon, I'm busy. Busy filin'."
"But...we don't have anything to file down here."
"Maybe, but I got to get this done." Fry got up to see what was so urgent. He felt a chill when he realized that the forms were for declaring the death of a loved one.
"I don't know where LaBarbara is. I can't find Dwight. But I found these over in dese boxes," he mumbled, half to himself. Then he returned to the forms.
Fry rubbed his head, catching a glimpse of his reflection in Amy's compact. He was haggard and whiskery, and, thanks to the scanty diet, several pounds thinner. In fact, he was skin and bones.
"We need a plan. We need to do something!"
"Er - I'm afraid it's impossible. I've thought of every conceivable way to ensure our safety." Kif slumped against the table, tears oozing from his eyes.
"No! Remember what the Professor said! About the off-switch at the DOOP Headquarters?"
"Don't try it, meat sock!"
"Yes, I'm afraid that most of New New York has been leveled. Anything that remains of the DOOP's building would be rubble," Zoidberg said.
"But their planes; they're still operational. If we can get in there, somehow..."
Kif brightened at Fry's words, and shook free of the sadness that had momentarily gripped him. "Yes."
"It's crazy!" Hermes sighed.
"But it's our only chance," said Kif quietly, standing up.
"It's the only way, Amy." His eyes met Fry's. "Perhaps you, I and the robot would be able to defeat the forces guarding the switch. I know I would sacrifice my life to ensure Amy's safety."
Amy threw her arms around Kif's neck and wept.
"Why me?! Why do I gotta go save you puny humans from yer own messes?!"
"Because you owe me."
Fry's voice rang out strongly. "Without me, you would still be a werecar!"
"Yeah, I would've been cool, with bitchin' side supports and struts!!"
"No, let me think of a better example." Fry's face lit up. "Without me, you would have killed yourself in that suicide booth on the day we met!"
Bender watched Fry for a good, long while, entirely unsure what to say. Memories flashed through his processor, and he felt himself soften. "When we get outta this, you and me are gonna get so wasted. And...Leela too. Stinkin' jerkette..."
"I'm coming too!"
"Why, Zoidberg? Because everyone else wants to?"
"No! I must help the wounded and dying; it is in the physician's code."
They waited for a break in the action thundering overhead. Around midnight, the opportunity presented itself. Leaving behind the tearful salutes of their friends, Fry, Bender, Zoidberg and Kif crawled on their bellies down the alley. The ignored the carnage, the scent of rotting flesh and extinguished bombs. Before them rose the charred, smoking ruins of the DOOP building.
Fry felt teeth on his leg and muffled a scream. Looking down, he met three eyes. "Nibbler, don't do that!"
"Oh great; what're we gonna do wit this fleabag hangin' around?"
"Keep him here. He's good with his jaws." They crawled across the dank, muddy pavement, keeping low and indistinguishable from the rubble.
Until a familiar voice whispered through the cracked metal and splintered wood.