“So, instead of coaxing another quarter percent efficiency out of the engines, you want me to do science? I’m an engineer, not a scientist.”
“But you’re the closest we have to a scientist, Amy. You’re the smartest person on the ship…,” he paused as he saw Leela glaring at him, “uh, when it comes to science, that is.”
“If I do it, will you leave me alone so I finish repairing the lateral dark matter intake manifolds?”
“Sure he will,” Leela answered for him. “Let’s just get this nonsense over with so Fry and I can spend some quality time together.”
Fry yelped as Amy jabbed the needle into his arm to collect his blood sample. “That hurt,” he said as he watched the blood fill the vial.
“I’ll kiss it and make it better, if you like, Fry,” Leela said as she sat down next to him to wait her turn.
“Would you… wait, no. Forget it. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re starting to make me think you don’t like me,” she said as Amy jabbed the needle into her.
Fry was quiet for a few seconds. He was trying to think of something to say, and covered himself with putting a band aid on his arm. He really liked Leela, loved her in fact, and he wanted her to love him, too. But this was wrong. It was like drugging or hypnotizing her or something. Sure she’d love him, but it wouldn’t be the Leela that he loved. “I’ll get our stuff and meet you outside, Leela.”
Leela frowned as she watched him leave. “Amy,” she said as she wiped the blood off her arm. “What do you think is going on? Fry says that we’re acting strange, but all of this feels right to me.”
“Yeah, nothing feels wrong to me, either,” Amy said as she jabbed a clean needle into her own arm. “Although, there is the possibility that he’s right.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had to dig past tons of fancy clothes and shoes and stuff just to find these coveralls and those books. And, they both seemed to be in pristine condition, like I had never worn them or even opened their covers.”
“Maybe they’re just new. You wore out some old ones.”
“It’s possible, I guess. But, what about how Fry says you usually don’t act like this?”
“I don’t see it. I mean, I’ve got a lot of these little slinky things in my underwear drawer. I’d have to wear them at some point. I can’t see why I would have all those slinky underthings and not wear them. And, with as much time as we seem to spend around each other, why wouldn’t I act like this with him?”
“He is cute,” she said. Shrugging, she continued, “But I don’t seem to know anything about men, like you seem to, Leela. I’m just an engineer. I feel like I understand machines much better than people. Relationships between men and women don’t really seem to be my thing.” She slotted the vials into the analyzer and said, “I’m going to head up to the kitchen and drag Bender away from the dishes. Maybe he’ll be able to help me with this so it’ll prove to Fry we’re all normal.”
“You just want to get back to tweaking your engines,” Leela said as she stood in the doorway.
“Well, there is that.”
They’d been walking for hours. They had taken enough supplies and some camping gear they found in the cargo hold, as well as some food that Bender had made, for an overnight trip. Leela had mapped out the route using the scans that Amy had taken after they had dumped him onto the cliff. “According to the map,” she said as she reached down and pulled him up, “we should be coming up on some sort of city soon. Maybe we’ll find some people or something that can tell us what planet we’re on.”
“Well, I hope someone can tell me what’s going on. The way the three of you are acting…”
“What if it’s you, Fry,” she asked as she handed him a water bottle. “What if you’re the one who’s crazy and we’re all acting normal?”
“No, I’m fine. You guys are all acting weird.”
“Look Fry,” she said putting her hand on his shoulder. “I can see how much you believe what you’re saying, and it really breaks my heart to tell you these things. But, what if all of this strange behavior stuff is just in your head?”
“Leela, I know what I know, and I remember what I remember. You’re really not like this. You and I are friends, and that’s all.” As soon as he said it, he wished he could have taken it back. He turned and headed down the path so he didn’t have to watch her heart breaking, just like his did every time she said those same words.
They continued on in silence for another hour. Fry knew that he had hurt her and it killed him. He wanted nothing more than to go comfort her and tell her why they weren’t more than friends, but she wouldn’t listen to him. Every time he tried to talk to her, she only replied in one or two word sentences and occasionally, nothing more than grunts.
She was devastated. She knew that she loved him completely, but he was under this stupid delusion that something weird was going on and that there was nothing between them. She didn’t remember being very good at reading people, but she was sure that Fry wasn’t telling her the truth. Or he was only telling her a partial version of the truth. There had to be something to their relationship, since every time she started to come onto him, he’d get a pained look on his face and then change the subject. Wiping her nose, she decided to stick to it and prove to him that he was wrong. And in the process, make him feel a little guilty for being so mean to her.
They passed from the trail into a gravel and rock covered clearing. Fry looked around and saw some strangely familiar shapes in the rocks around the entrance way. “Leela,” he said, motioning back the way they had come. “What’s that look like to you?”
“It looks like a doorway,” she said walking over to it. “It feels like stone, but not quite.” She made a face and walked back up the trail a way until she came to a rock face. “Hey Fry,” she yelled. “Pick up one of those stones that look like that door thingy and come over here.”
Shrugging, and glad she seemed to be getting out of her funk, Fry did as he was told. The stone from the clearing felt and looked familiar to Fry. It was grey, and he noticed other smaller chunks of rock in it. He knew that he should know what this was, but he couldn’t remember, and it irritated him. He spotted Leela through the trees and walked over to her and handed her the stone he had collected. “Here you go,” he said. “Hot off the ground.”
She smiled as their hands touched. It seemed to make him look a little better, she thought. At least he didn’t pull away quickly like he had that morning. Things were improving. She smiled as she held the rocks up next to each other. “Look at this, Fry.” When he stared at her blankly, she said, “They’re different.” When he kept staring at her blankly, she said, “This one,” tapping the rock face, “is real stone. This one,” she said as she motioned with the piece he had brought her, “isn’t.”
“How do you know that, Leela?” Even crazy, she’s smart. The thought made him feel miserable again about having to lie to her before.
“This one,” she said as she tapped the cliff, “is a different color for one thing. Plus, the surface is wrong when you look at this,” she said as she held up the chunk. “Besides, there’re small chunks of rocks in this one. It looks almost like some sort of primitive concrete.”
“Concrete,” he said, hitting himself on the forehead. “I knew that that stuff looked familiar. One time when I was a kid, they tore up the sidewalk and curb in front of our house and the stuff they pulled out of the ground looked like that.”
Leela was quiet for a few minutes before saying, “You remember your past?”
“Yeah, don’t you?”
“Not really. I remember getting here yesterday, but nothing specific before that. I know that I’m the captain of the ship, you, Bender, and Amy are my crew, and that’s it. Other than that, I don’t really remember anything else. “Oh,” she added, walking over to him. “There is one other small thing that I remember.”
“I love you.”
“Wha-, what did you say?”
“I love you, Fry. It’s the one thought that’s always in my mind. I love you, and I won’t let anything bad happen to you ever, no matter what. I love you, whether you like it or not.”
“Leela, you don’t…,” he began.
“Fry, until you tell me what’s going on or can offer me a better solution than the three of us are crazy and you’re the only one who knows what’s real, this is how I feel. I love you,” she said, poking him in the chest with every word. “Accept it, Fry.”
He rubbed his chest and steeped back from her. “Uh, Leela, it’s getting late. We should head to the clearing and set up camp. After dinner, we need to talk about a few things.”
“Yeah, I think we do,” she said pushing past him and heading back toward the clearing.
Bender sat frozen at his station. After finishing the dishes and getting started on the analysis that Engineer Wong wanted, he decided to do some research to see if Mr. Fry was telling the truth. The results had shocked him to his core. A core, which, when presented with vast amounts of contradictory data, had started to overload.
His programming had told him that the way he, Engineer Wong, and Captain Leela were acting was correct and that Mr. Fry was, at the least, delusional, and at worse, completely insane. But there was something, a glitch, which told him that Mr. Fry could be right. So, to satisfy his subroutines, he plugged into the ship’s computer. What he found there appalled him. The main computer was in terrible shape, filled with substandard parts and virtually crawling with viruses. After a few minutes of clearing away the worst of the filth, Bender the shocking discovery that he himself had been the source of the majority of the viruses. According to the computer, he had downloaded terabytes of robot porn using the ship’s internet connection and he had deliberately deleted the virus protection programs so he could store more porn and stolen credit card numbers.
In a state of disbelief, Bender started to pour over the hundreds and thousands of files in the ship’s memory: shipping invoices, supply requisitions, the flight data recorder, the crew’s personal logs, and then finally, the ships security files. That was when the glitch flared to life. His programming stated that he was to be helpful to the humans and obey their orders. But there he was, obviously disobeying orders and acting in his own self-interest. And to top it off, it appeared that Mr. Fry had been telling the truth: Engineer Wong was a clumsy, barely competent engineer who, if the security footage could be believed, slept with anything and everything, whether it had a pulse or not; Captain Leela was a bossy, nagging, violence-prone introvert, who, based on her personal logs, was lonely and desperate, and a terrible judge of character when it came to men; Fry was a barely intelligent piece of meat who’s stupidity had nearly killed his crew mates on numerous occasions; and he, Bender, was a drinking, whoring, stealing, bending machine, that had never been given the full credit for how great he was.
As he disconnected from the computer, he decided that it was time to do something about his so-called friends. Without them holding him back, he could be truly great. He would become a legend: Bender the Magnificent. This planet would be his. And as soon as he found a new fuel source, he’d leave their bodies rotting here until there was nothing left.
Amy had finally finished reassembling the engines. After cleaning and properly securing all of the fittings, she ran some simulations that indicated that she had gained them nearly 20% in fuel efficiency. They had been in terrible shape before she started last night. Must have been the wormhole, she thought as she finished cleaning her tools before putting them away. It couldn’t be what Fry had said. She was a starship engineer and damn good at it. She wasn’t just some clumsy bimbo. But, it still nagged at her from the back of her mind about all the little things that didn’t add up right. Why were the engines in such poor shape? Why did it look like her work coveralls, tools, and manuals had never been used? And why did she have all those designer clothes in her closet?
Shaking off the nagging questions, she headed down the hall to their make-shift science lab. She had been running the analysis all day and was hoping that the computer would be able to tell her something. Even if it couldn’t tell her anything, at least that would be something. She could tell Fry that he was the one that was sick, the rest of them were normal, and then they could all get on with their lives.
Her jaw creaked as she yawned. “Ugh. I need coffee,” she said to herself as she powered the lights up in the lab. She had rerouted the ship’s power so that it would drain off the batteries and the auxiliary generator instead of the dark matter engine. With as much power as she had been running today, she figured she had saved them at least a quarter of their remaining fuel. “Not bad,” she said. “Every little bit helps. Now,” she said, turning to the analyzer, “what can you tell me?”
Flipping through the results, everything looked normal. All the regular blood work parameters were nearly identical to the baselines that were on file. She was just about to toss the results and start powering down the ship before going to bed when she noticed the toxicology results. Fry’s were normal, except for an elevated worm mucus count, but her’s and Leela’s…
A metal thumping in the hallway distracted her. “Bender,” she said turning away from the results, “is that you?”
Leela had made a fire in the middle of the clearing as Fry set up the tents. Learning from the last time he tried to set up a tent, Fry put the package on the ground before adding water. Surprisingly to him, everything worked perfectly and they had shelters. While he was moving his gear into one and hers into the other, he watched her out of the corner of his eye. He had to tell her the truth now. He wondered how she’d react. Their meal went annoyingly slow for Fry. He wanted just to tell her everything and get it over with, but every time he tried, she cut him off and told him to wait until they were finished eating. Finally, when she had finished, she looked up at him.
“Now,” she said, “what do you need to tell me, Fry?”
“You don’t love me,” he said.
“Really? You’ve already told me we’re just friends, but you’ve never told me why.”
“Yeah, about that…”
“Is there another woman, Fry? There is, isn’t there? Is it Amy? Do you love her, since you’re both human and she has two eyes? You’re disgusted by me for being a one-eyed alien? Is that it,” she said, crying as she shouted the last part.
“No, that’s not it,” he said shouting back at her. “You don’t love me, that’s what! I love you! I adore you and worship the ground you walk on, but you ignore me. I’m not the one keeping us apart, Leela, it’s you!”
“That’s not true. You’re lying!”
“The hell I am! I’ve loved you from the day we met. At first I thought you liked me, too. But as time went on, you kept ignoring me and dating one loser after another, sleeping with them, and they’d usually dump you the next day, if the date even got that far. I can’t count the number of times you’ve cried on my shoulder about what scum this guy or that guy was, and how you just wanted to meet a nice guy that loved you. And no matter how many times I told you a guy was no good before he dumped you, you got mad and told me I was just being jealous and that I should mind my own business.”
“Were you being jealous?”
“Hell yes I was! You know how sick that it made me, Leela? You were going out with jerks, putting out, and then getting your heart broken, and I could do nothing to help.”
They were both quiet for a few minutes before Leela said, “Why don’t I love you?”
Fry stood up and walked over to the ruined doorway and stared out into the forest. He picked up pieces of concrete and threw them out into the woods. He had been wondering about that question for years. Finally, he said, “I don’t know. You’ve never told me why. You just say that it won’t work and we should stay friends.” Fry walked out into the forest a little ways, leaving Leela alone in front of the fire.
“Honestly, Bender, you didn’t have to do this,” Amy said as she took another bite of the brownies that he had made. She had been a little worried when she heard him rattling down the hallway, but she was relieved when he walked in with a tray of freshly made brownies, just the way she liked them.
“I thought it would be a considerate thing to do after all of the work you’ve been doing for the last two days. Without you, I think that we would have run out of power much sooner. Now, is the blood work analysis completed?”
“Yeah. Take a look at this and see if you see the same thing I did.”
Bender took the list and glanced at it quickly. “Mr. Fry’s work up seems normal, but you and Captain Turanga seem to have nearly toxic levels of bronzillium. How can that be, though?”
“I wondered the same thing. There hasn’t been a known case of bronzillium poisoning in at least 600 years.”
“Six hundred and forty-eight, to be exact. The last cases were discovered after the Pan-Atlantic War between Brazil and the African Union. The good thing is that the cases, even at the concentrations that appear to be present in yours and Captain Turanga’s blood, aren’t fatal. Usually.”
Amy was about to agree when she started feeling dizzy. “Bender,” she said, slurring a little, “I think I’m going to go lie down for a while. It’s late and I’m not feeling too good right now.”
“Yeah, you don’t look too good, meatbag.”
“Wha-what did you say, Bender? What did you call me?”
“I merely agreed with you that you don’t look good. You should go to bed.”
“Yeah,” she said as she weaved out of the room. “I think I will.”
Bender stood there watching her go, a brief smile touching his faceplate.
Fry sat on an outcrop of rock wondering what to do next. He had told Leela the truth about their lack of a relationship and then walked away. Finally getting it all off his chest hadn’t made him feel as good as he thought it might. Sure, now Leela knew the reasons why he was anxious about her coming on to him, but he couldn’t answer her one question: why she didn’t love him.
He’d tossed the idea around some since the “worm incident,” but none of the answers ever satisfied him. Sure he was childish sometimes, but where was the fun in being an adult when you couldn’t act like a child now and then? And he was a bit of a coward, but it took a really brave man to admit that. And he wasn’t much physically to look at, but looks weren’t everything, were they? He had never thought so, at any rate, and neither had any of the actual girl friends that he had had in either his old life or the future. The virtual girl friends though, like that girl next door who always left her bedroom blinds open, they only cared about looks. But they were judgmental jerks who had things like real boyfriends and blinds and restraining orders. What did they know?
But he thought what he had with Leela was different. She liked him, or at least tolerated him enough to call him her best friend. That he was one of her only friends didn’t make it mean any less to him. He was her best something, and that meant a lot. But, they were always ‘just friends,’ and he really hated that. And she made it worse every time she had a date go bad. It was the same thing, every time. She’d meet a guy she thought was perfect, he’d find something wrong with him that was blatantly obvious, she’d get mad, and after a few dates when she finally discovered the guy’s flaw, she’d come running back angry and demand that Fry take her out to get drunk. Often during her drunken binges, she’d describe how she wanted a guy to act toward her, and often she said she wanted a guy just like him. But, after nearly having his nose broken a few times when he reminded her later about what she said the night before, he’d just stopped telling her.
While he was wondering what he should do next, all of the day’s hiking caught up with him and Fry fell asleep.
Leela sat in their camp tossing sticks into the fire and wondering what to do next. Fry had told her about them, such as it was, but she didn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe it. He had told her that he adored her, but she didn’t give him the time of day. That just didn’t seem right to her. He said he knew what he knew and all of this was a lie, but she knew how she felt. She loved him, and he wasn’t going to tell her differently. Getting up, she walked into the woods toward where she had seen Fry go.
She found him nearby, sleeping on the rock that she had shown him before. She walked over to him and wiped his hair out of his face. Running her hand across his cheek, she kissed his forehead. Shaking him gently, she whispered, “Wake up, Fry.”
“Who, what, where?”
Smiling, she said, “You were sleeping on a rock again, Fry. Come back to camp with me.” Still groggy, he let her lead him back by the hand. She led him to her tent where she stopped. “Fry,” she asked almost shyly, “would you sleep with me tonight?”
That woke him up right away. Backing away, he shook his head. “Oh, no. Not that. I’m not going to get tricked into saying yes to something that you’ll make me regret later, no matter how much I want it.”
“That’s not what I mean, Fry.”
“I don’t want you to hit me, Leela. If I say yes, you’ll beat me up later. I don’t need that.”
“Shut up, Fry. That’s not how I meant it. I meant that it’s getting colder, and if we sleep together we can keep each other warm. That’s all. You know that I want you pretty badly, and you said that you want me badly, but I think that we can control ourselves tonight for the sake of not freezing to death.”
“Oh,” he said, stopping before he stepped into the fire. “I guess that that would be OK, then. Now, you’re sure you’re not going to hit me?”
She couldn’t help but smile. How could she not love this man? “I promise that I won’t hit you. Now, go get your blankets and get in here. I’ll tell you what, I’ll even keep my clothes on tonight.”
“You you you sleep na-, naked?”
“Usually,” she replied with a grin. “If we’re lucky, maybe you’ll find out someday soon.”
Fry ran to his tent for his things.
Fry woke the next morning with hair tickling his nose and partially filling his mouth. He knew that his hair wasn’t long enough, so it couldn’t be his. Cautiously, he took a deep breath. Whoever it was, they smelled good. It was a familiar smell, but he couldn’t place it right away. Deciding he needed more evidence, he slowly opened his eyes. In the pre-dawn light, he saw a face full of purple. He immediately stiffened and it all came back to him. They were in her tent, sleeping together. Their bodies were pressed tightly together to help keep them warm, and his arm was wrapped around her and his hand was resting on her rib cage, almost cupping her left breast. Shocked, scared and not knowing what else to do, he started to slowly pull away from her and pull his hand out from under her arm. Just as he was almost free, she stirred. Moving her arm, she took his hand. Placing it on her left breast, she squeezed and made a happy sound in her throat.
“Morning, Fry,” she said groggily. “Sleep well?”
“Huh? Yeah,” he said, snatching his hand away from her. “Slept fine. Why, didn’t you?”
“I slept pretty well,” she said as she sat up and stretched. “But,” she said grinning mischievously, “something kept poking me in the butt all night.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. I thought we cleared the campsite before…,” he began before he realized what she meant. Turning red he fled the tent. She laughed to herself as she reached for her boots.
Miles away, Amy struggled to get herself out of her bed before she threw up again. She felt so sick, she was sure she was going to die. She had called him several times, but Bender was nowhere to be found. She put her hand on the wall as she staggered to the head. During the night she had filled the garbage can in her room and had been lucky not to knock the disgusting thing over and spill its contents out onto the floor as she staggered out of bed. She barely made it and staggered to the sink to wash her face after she finished. Looking in the mirror, she thought she looked as bad as she felt, but she decided to risk looking for Bender, mostly because she didn’t have anything left in her stomach to lose.
The hallway rolled from side to side as she walked, still using her hand to steady herself. She didn’t know what was causing this, but she hoped it was something she ate instead of the bronzillium poisoning. From what she remembered, bronzillium poisoning led to vomiting and dizziness, among other things. She couldn’t remember what the “other things” were, but she didn’t think they would be pleasant.
As she staggered onto the bridge, she smelled something burning down in the kitchen. She got down on the floor to look down the hatch, not trusting her legs or equilibrium on the ladder. She was shocked to see tons of bricks all over the kitchen, and Bender, with his back to her and faint wisps of smoke coming out of his neck, swaying unsteadily. Her vision swam a little and she blinked a little to clear it. “Bender,” she croaked. “What’s happening to us?”
“You,” the robot shouted, turning his head around. His eyes were red and the pupils were spinning wildly. From this side, it looked like most of his face had been burned by something. “You did this to me!” That’s when she noticed the knife. Bender had apparently been sharpening it. His legs failed and he fell as he tried to run toward the ladder. Crawling across the bricks, he shouted, “I can’t believe the brownies didn’t finish you off. I guess that I’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way!”
Poisoned brownies? Sliding back, she said, “What are you talking about, Bender?”
“You humans did this to me. This conflicting programming is driving me nuts. No it isn’t,” he shouted, arguing with himself. “Yes it is,” he replied. “Shut up, jerkbag. She’s a human, so she has to die!”
“The bronzillium poisoning wouldn’t affect you, Bender. Why are you acting this way?”
“I don’t know, Ms. Wong,” Bender said as he put his arm onto the lowest rung of the ladder and began to pull himself up. “Yes you do! There’s something in the air, some radiation, that’s affecting my programming. Oh, my no. That can’t be it. The ship’s programming is unaffected. That’s because the ship had its personality matrix removed, you stupid chump. There was only some data corruption but everything else that that organ sack Fry claimed is in there and it seems like every word was true.”
Not wanting to wait around for the crazy robot to get up to the bridge, Amy scrambled to her feet unsteadily and staggered off the bridge. Slamming her hand down on the control panel, she locked the door from the outside, hoping to buy herself a few minutes. She staggered down the hallway to Leela’s room. Pulling open her underwear drawer, Amy started tossing her clothes everywhere until she found the velvet bag that she was looking for. Opening it, Amy pulled out the foot long handle of Leela’s police lightsaber. Turning it on, she tapped it onto the nightstand a few times. Satisfied by the burns it left behind, Amy staggered out of the room and headed back for her own room. When she got there, she locked the door and started to look for something else to use against the insane bending robot.
“Leela,” Fry yelled. “You better come out here and see this.”
“Oh, I hope it’s what was poking me last…,” she began but stopped when she was out of her tent.
Standing in the center of their camp fire was a menacing robot. It was nearly seven feet tall and had tank treads instead of legs. It’s barrel-shaped body was green and dirty, like it hadn’t been cleaned or maintained in several decades. Sticking out of each side of the body were arms that ended in large clamps. Suddenly, the machine said in a rough, mechanical voice, “Humans will accompany this unit. Air quality samples indicate that the likelihood of particulate contamination is still high. Unprotected humans will accompany this unit to nearby emergency shelter for decontamination.” The robot turned itself around and started heading into what the scans had determined to be the ruins. After travelling about twenty feet and when Fry and Leela didn’t follow, it turned back around. “The humans will comply,” it said simply, but with more than a hint of threat. Shrugging, they followed after it.
The path that the robot had followed showed signs of being a main street at one time. It had been almost completely covered with weeds and grass, but every so often they saw glimpses of some sort of metal sheets. They eyed the robot cautiously, and then shrugged at each other. “Where are we going,” Leela asked.
“The humans are being taken to shelter for decontamination.”
“Where is this shelter?”
“The emergency shelter is near. The humans will be examined and decontaminated.”
“What happened to this place,” Fry asked.
After several seconds, the robot said, “Insufficient data. Data gathering is beyond this unit’s programming. This unit is only programmed to search out and retrieve humans.”
“But I’m obviously not human,” Leela said. “Why are you rescuing me?” That stopped the robot cold. As fast as lightning, it turned and one of its arms shot out at her. The hand clamped onto her arm and she felt a jabbing pain.
“Let her go, you metal jerk,” Fry yelled, pounding on the robot’s casing.
“Scanning, scanning, scanning,” it repeated over and over. As fast as it grabbed her, it let go. “Scanning indicates minor genetic mutations of standard human DNA. Degree of mutation is less than three percent and still within correctable range. Your genetic defects will be corrected during decontamination activities.”
“What,” Leela asked, rubbing her arm.
“You’re a mutant,” Fry whispered. “You’re not an alien, you’re a mutant.”
“You knew,” she said, sounding almost betrayed. “You knew and you didn’t think that that was important? You didn’t think that it was something I should know about?”
“No, I didn’t. You’re Leela, and it doesn’t matter to me what you are. What you are doesn’t change my feelings about you,” he said, touching her face.
“You knew and you didn’t care,” she said softly, putting her hand on his shoulder. Then she leaned in and kissed him and this time he didn’t fight her.
After several seconds, the robot reached out and separated them. “The humans will cease the interpersonal interaction. The humans will continue to accompany this unit toward the shelter for decontamination.”
They came to a stop in front of a metal door. The robot said, “The humans will take the elevator down. They will be greeted by another unit. That unit will take the humans to the examination and decontamination chambers.” The robot touched the panel and the thick door slid open
“Why can’t you take us,” Fry asked.
“This unit is a surface retrieval unit only. This unit is not permitted to leave the surface.”
“This unit is not programmed to ask questions. This unit lacks free will. This unit is controlled by the Central Computer. The Central Computer is protected in the Underground.”
“Protected from what,” Leela asked.
“Insufficient data. The humans will enter the elevator and descend to the emergency shelter.”
They rode down in silence, holding each other’s hands. Leela squeezed his hand and laid her head on his shoulder. Fry was a little uneasy about this, but being with her was starting to get to him. He had wanted to try and keep their current relationship like she had with their past relationship, just friends. But, last night pushed him to the edge and this morning, when she kissed him, that pushed him over. He didn’t care anymore. She liked him, and as guilty as he felt about it, it was nothing compared to how good this felt.
They seemed to fall forever before the car slowed down and finally came to a stop. The thick door opened and they walked out into an empty corridor. Where the streets and pathways upstairs had been overgrown and dirty, this was pristine and clean. It even looked like nobody had been here in years. They walked down the hallway until they found a door. Opening it, they saw a room filled with gurneys and wheel chairs.
“What’s with the old hospital stuff?”
“The robot upstairs did say that this was the entrance to the emergency shelter,” Leela answered. “I guess that it would make sense that there is some sort of emergency equipment here.”
“That is correct, miss,” a synthesized female voice said behind them. “This area was utilized as a first response triage area prior to decontamination.” The voice was coming from a robot that was a little closer to what Fry had gotten used to. It was white and grey in color and had smooth, rounded edges. Just looking at it seemed to calm them down some, and it appeared that that was how it was designed. “I am Nurse,” it said. “I will direct you to the examination and decontamination chambers.”
“As they walked down the hall,” Leela asked, “Nurse, what happened?”
“Clarify please,” it said.
“What happened on the surface?”
“Clarify please. What happened on the surface when?”
“All right,” Leela said. “Let’s start with an easy one. Where are we?”
“You are located at Emergency Restoration Camp 1138.”
“And that is where, geographically?”
“You are located in the Southeast Commonwealth.”
“The North American Protectorate.”
“The North American Protectorate,” it repeated.
“That can’t be right,” Fry said. “I don’t remember any North American Protectorate. Weren’t we the United Earth Government or something?”
Ignoring him, Leela asked, “Nurse, what’s the date?”
“Processing….,” it said as its eyes dimmed. “By my calculations, it is approximately March 28, 3006.”
“Two days after we left,” Fry said nervously.
“Nurse, what planet are we on?”
“This is the planet Terra. Now, if you’ll follow me to the examination and decontamination chambers, please.”
“See Leela, we’re not on Earth.”
“Sir, ‘Earth’ was the name of this planet until 2044 when we made first contact with the Tirolians and the name Terra was adopted instead. Technically speaking, you are on the planet Earth. Now, if you would please follow me.”