They were crowded into the basement of his parents’ home, shoulder to shoulder. Despite their number, they didn’t dare make a sound. They all stared up the stairway into the blackness. Something rustled upstairs.
He looked around. His parents, his brother, his dog, Bender, Leela, Leela’s parents, Leela—
He blinked. There was more than one Leela. In fact, there were several. There was an infant Leela, a teenage Leela, the Leela he was familiar with, and an—how would he put it?—a jiggly Leela.
“The commies are coming,” his father said. “We need to fight ‘em.”
“Dad, no, “ Yancy muttered.
“Quiet,” said the familiar Leela, and the authority in her voice settled everyone down. For a moment.
The rustling continued overhead. In fact, it seemed to be directly above him. He couldn’t actually see the floorboards vibrate, but loose dirt trickled down onto his and everyone else’s hair.
“Just try not to think,” Leela murmured in his ear.
There was something funny about that—a joke somewhere--
“And don’t try to think about why that’s funny.”
He nodded. Mind blank. That was the only way.
“I’m scared,” said the jiggly Leela.
The familiar Leela closed her eye and took a deep breath. Don’t think about why. Don’t think at all.
“Look, you—me—whatever. We’re all scared, but we all have to be quiet.”
“Fry, sweetie, are you going to let her talk to me like that?”
“Yes he is. And geez, Fry, didn’t you ever think about gravity when imagining—those?”
“I thought we were supposed to be quiet and he was supposed to concentrate, “ Yancy growled.
Seymour began to whine.
We can’t sit there and let them find us like rats cowering away in the sewer, “ Yancy Sr. said. “It’s un-American. It’s unmanly. I’m gonna try to take them out.”
It wasn’t working. He was listening too much. No, Dad. Don’t go.
“Dad, come back! Mom! Don’t follow dad!”
Leela grabbed Yancy by the collar as his parents swiftly moved up the stairs, Yancy Sr. armed with a gun, his mother with a hockey stick. They disappeared into the darkness.
“Don’t make their sacrifice worthless.”
The rustling stopped for a moment. Then it continued, more intense than before.
“I can’t stand it.”
The jiggly Leela was starting to break down.
“Maybe if we went to them, they’d let some of us stay. Maybe if he gave up his thing, they’d go away.”
She was next to him now, rubbing along his side.
“You’ve spent a lot of time with me, darling. Why don’t you listen to me?” And she dropped her hand to his holophoner.
There’s a joke here, he thought. A dirty joke. It’s dirty because a holophoner looks like a-
“That’s enough, both of you. Fry, get your head out of the gutter and stop thinking. You, girl, are coming over here with me, where we can get better acquainted.”
“I don’t like you. You took him from me.”
“He came to me, when he came to know himself better.”
The jiggly Leela wormed out of Leela’s grasp. “All of you, listen to me. It’s hopeless. They’re going to find us, all because of that stupid thing he won’t let go of. We need to go to them!”
A wave of agitation swept through the group. Fry dared not look, he musn’t think too much, but it was true, he had a death grip on his holophoner.
“Oh no, her head.”
“WE’RE COMING! WE’RE-“
The standard Leela clamped her hand over her duplicate, who struggled and—changed form. He was paying attention, he couldn’t help it.
“No Fry, don’t, it has to be,” Leela said.
And as the other Leela continued to lose form, the Leela he knew best did exactly what he knew she would do. She dragged the mutating mess up the stairway, away from the rest of them.
The rustling upstairs stopped. Then the sound of something large and heavy slid across the floor and faded away.
They’re leaving, he thought, because they think I’ll go to them for her.
And they’re right.
He looked around the group and asked, how do I find her again? Is she left anywhere?
“Joy fades,” hummed Munda,
“but pain endures,” finished Morris.
Why the hell couldn’t anyone speak plainly around here! In frustration he took the holophoner played as fast as he could. The cloud swirled, and suddenly there was a portal into another room. A green room. A hospital room.
And then he understood what he had to do-
Fry woke up, startled. What the hell was he dreaming? That had been one of the strangest things he had ever imagined. He looked around, and his depression returned in force as he recognized the confines of his dumpster, and recalled the circumstances that had put him there. He peeked out. The rain clouds had left, and the sun was out, its rays reflecting in the many small rain puddles dotting the streets. The air smelled clean and crisp, and the world seemed ready for a fresh start.
Just great, thought Fry. What a waste of a beautiful morning. A glint of sunlight off a puddle caught his eye.
And then he saw a glimmer in the rubble underneath one of the beams….
Maybe it he gave up this thing, they’d go away.
He wished he had his holophoner. But no time for that right now…
What could he do? He couldn’t talk to Bender. He could go to Hermes, but what would he say that he hadn’t said already? And what could Hermes do? Amy? He had a feeling that after yesterday he’d have a hard time approaching her. Bender? He couldn’t even get him to stand still around him long enough to listen.
Leela? His stomach clenched into a ball as the memories of yesterday came rolling back. He was afraid of her, and not just afraid of a fist sandwich. Somehow he felt that something was out of whack, that something very serious had happened.
That someone or something was after him.
And when he thought of Leela, he couldn’t shake off an instinct that something dangerous surrounded her, almost as if there was a trap being set and Leela was the bait…
He was lost. He couldn’t do anything alone. What he really needed now, more than anything, was a friend.
Something moved behind the metal wall next to him, and Fry froze. There was a rustling sound, and the lid of the dumpster bowed in slightly. Fry’s gut shriveled up in fear, but before he could start to whimper the dumpster lid flew open.
“My good friend Fry!”
A horrible alien face drooping with tentacles and tufts of cat hair looked down on him.
“Nesting, I see.”
Fry dropped his head back onto the garbage bags in relief, only to regret that decision a second later, as one of the bags burst open.
“Oh, thank you!”
Doctor Zoidberg, M.D., clambered into the dumpster with Fry and began wiping up some of foul jelly oozing out of the bag with a week-old slice of pizza.
“And when will you be laying your egg? Soon I hope?”
Fry was looking for something cleaner than him to wipe his hair.
“Humans don’t nest, Zoidberg.”
“They don’t? Then I have no need for this!” And he whipped out a small vidisk and threw it on the dumpster floor. Fry saw the words
HUMAN ANATOMY IN FIVE EASY STEPS. CORPSE AND SCALPEL NOT INCLUDED.
“Umm, Zoidberg? Are you mad at me too?”
“Zoidberg, mad? At Fry? My mating counselor?”
“Ah yeah, just checking. Everyone else seems mad at me. They also think I’ve been gone a long time. Have I?”
“Yes, many months you’ve been gone.”
“Has anyone talked about why? Do you know anything?”
Zoidberg sat at the conference table and looked around. Everyone was staring grimly at the table as Hermes droned on. Two seats were empty. He raised his claw.
“Where are our friends Fry and Leela?”
Nobody listened. Nobody answered. Everyone ignored him.
It was just another typical day to forget.
“Why are you crying?”
“I missed my friend Fry. When Leela came back, I thought Fry would come soon too.”
Fry felt better knowing that at least Zoidberg missed him, but then again, he was desperate.
“Why did I leave?”
Zoidberg shrugged, distracted by the pile of alien diapers.
Fry felt his stomach lurch as he realized what Zoidberg was about to do, and he pushed open the dumpster lid and climbed out. His eye caught the sight of some costumes in the adjacent dumpster compartment. He was puzzled for a moment, then remembered that Freedom Day had happened recently, and people could dress however they wanted. Kinda like Halloween, he guessed. He grabbed a wad of clothes, including what looked like a white sailor’s cap, and started rubbing his hair briskly.
“Well, I guess I’ll try to go to Planet Express again. Is Leela around?”
“Not yet she is”.
Relieved, Fry jogged across the street to the entrance doors. However, as he approached the door a loud alarm went off, and moments later Hermes appeared behind the door.
“I t’ought dat you might come today.” Hermes stepped outside.
“Fry, I regret to inform you that you can no longer come within 100 meters of Planet Express buildin’.”
“I renegotiated Leela’s contract yesterday, and dat was one of the conditions. You don work here anymore, and you are not allowed to wait aroun’ here. The Professor put up a sensory field that detects your presence. Dat girl is real mad at you for some reason.”
Somehow, Fry wasn’t as surprised as he should have been.
“Not my business. In fact Guideline 58-27#4 explicitly states that I am not allowed to care about personnel relationship issues. I just manage the bus’ness. And as manager my job is to keep the best employee we’ve ever had here. And if dat means you have to go, you go.”
“Can I still come in?”
Zoidberg had walked up behind Fry, clasping his claws hopefully. Hermes blew air out of his cheeks, exasperated.
“Yes, you’re still allowed in,” he said reluctantly.
“Hooray, I’m more popular than someone else!” And Zoidberg hugged Fry. Shaking his head, Hermes walked back inside, but not before warning, “I’m sorry, but you need to keep away from the door. You should go back to the Career Assignment Officer where you first registered your career chip. They can help you dere.”
And the door shut.
“Zoidberg, I need your help.”
“Really?” Zoidberg looked like the happiness fairy had just given him a quarter.
“I need you to go in and bring Bender outside. I need to talk with him. Don’t tell them I’m here, though.”
“Oh, secrets! Lemme get my spy shell-“
“Uh yeah, don’t need the spy outfit right now. Just go in and get Bender to come outside. As far away from this building as you can, so you get past this detector thingie!”
He watched as the Decapodian waddled into the building, then walked back toward the dumpster. Somehow the fact that someone was still on his side made all the difference in the world, even if that someone was Zoidberg.
He was not used to planning things on his own. Heck, we wasn’t used to planning at all. But now was the moment. He had to rely on his own wits now, and come up with a clever and sophisticatory plan….