Futurama

Fan Fiction

Parallel Lives - Where I Belong, part 23
By Graham Dawson

Fry stumbled along a rock-strewn path, sweat pouring down his face from the exertion of running. He stopped by a big boulder to catch his breath, cursing the way fate always did this to him. A laser-bolt smacked into the far side of the rock, forcing Fry onward before he even had a chance to catch his breath.

Normally he had a fairly good idea of what he’d done to screw up a delivery and get them in trouble. Sometimes it was Leela’s fault. Sometimes the clients didn’t like their package and decided to shoot the messenger – literally in some cases. Sometimes he just... screwed up. This time he didn’t have a clue, but he hadn’t had the time to try and find out either given the way they’d decided to just start shooting at him. So he’d run.

He saw Amy up ahead, staring down the hill at him. She’d been keeping a watch, she said. And she’d brought a gun, the same slow-charging laser rifle that another version of her had tried to kill Fry with. She was staring down at him now, aiming along the narrow gulley he’d run up. The laser fired, sizzled over his head and hit something behind him. The gurgling scream of a Wormulon told him this Amy was a better shot.

“Phil, come on already!”

She ran down the gulley to him, discarding the rifle as she grabbed both his arms and hauled him back up the slope. The ship was on the far side of the hill, sitting on a plain landing pad, little more than a slab of concrete with a homing beacon at one side of it. Laser fire skimmed the crest of the hill as they stumbled down the far side, gasping for breath in the dusty air, leaning on each other for support.

They reached the landing pad just before the first of the Wormulons crested the hill, screaming imprecations and insults as it fired its laser rifle into the air. Laser bolts began to burn the concrete around the ship as more of the worms joined their companion, taking more careful aim than the first. Fry almost stopped when he realised the ship was still silent. Wouldn’t it be powering up for their quick escape by now?

He didn’t stop though, preferring life to death as he blundered up the gangway, his hand slapping at the airlock control as soon as he was aboard. The hull resounded to the sound of laser bolts, and now plasma weapons, hitting its outer skin. It was strong enough to withstand the hand-held weapons but who knew how long before they brought in something stronger?

“We have to get out of here,” Amy said. Fry nodded, still panting for breath, and started climbing up the ladder to the top deck.

They bridge was empty when they reached it, worn out and not really capable of thinking straight. Amy stumbled to the scanner seat and sat down with a sigh, ignoring the ineffectual flashes of laser against the bridge windows. After a moment of silence she looked around the bridge with a worried frown.

“I guess this explains why nobody bothered helping.”

“Yeah,” Fry muttered, turning from the bridge, worry creeping into his mind as he ran the short distance to the captain’s cabin. What if they’d taken her while he was gone? No that wouldn’t have happened, there’d be more mess for one thing. She was probably asleep. Sometimes she worked so hard she forgot to rest. More than once he’d found Leela slumped asleep in the pilot’s seat.

He ran up against the door and yanked it open. “Leela, wake up, we need-”

Two thoughts ran through Fry’s mind at that moment. The first was that this wasn’t Leela’s cabin. It was too messy, and smelled just a little bit, of stale underwear and cheap alcohol. The second was that the bed seemed a bit lumpy.

Someone mumbled from across the dimly lit cabin. There were clothes scattered across the floor, familiar and foreign at the same time. Fry stepped over the piled garments until he was at the side of the bed, looking down on Leela’s sleeping face. He wanted to reach out and touch it, to stroke her hair and whisper sweet nothings to her, but he had never been able to think of anything to say, and if he touched her in most circumstances the least he could expect was a broken finger.

And there were other reasons not to, now. He let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, letting her name whisper through his lips at the very end and she woke, instantly, her eye searching about for a moment until it came to rest on Fry’s face. She smiled in the moment Fry knew too well, when memory was lost and the mind operated on its most basic, honest level, and then he saw her memory returning. Leela’s brow rose slightly and her eye, her beautiful eye, took on a pained brightness. She swallowed and turned her head very slowly to one side.

“Oh. God... not again...”

They stared at each other in silence until Leela shifted, pushing the covers aside as she slid out of the bed to put her head in her hands. It took a moment for Fry to realise what was going on, what he was seeing, but then a bright flush spread up his neck and face and he quickly looked away. “Leela...”

“What? Oh...” she let out a sigh but didn’t make any effort to move. “Why should it matter any more, Fry? I screwed up. I...” she glanced over her shoulder at Veklerov’s still-sleeping form and shuddered. “It’s like Zapp all over again. Hell it’s worse. This time I knew he was an arrogant dick before I slept with him.”

“I guess that shows tolerance,” Fry mumbled. Leela almost smiled at the crack. Almost. He picked up her top and held it out with one hand held over his eyes.

“What’s that noise,” Leela asked once she was a little more decent. She cocked her ear to an irregular thudding noise somewhere outside the ship. Vek was still asleep. Snoring. Leela took in the sights of the dimly lit cabin and sighed.

“The Wormulons attacked me, that’s why we’re back so... so early.”

“They did what? Fry why didn’t you-” Leela clamped her mouth shut and glanced over at Veklerov again. “Never mind. Come on, we’d better get out of this mess.”

Leela strode across the cabin, pausing to grab her boots and wristimajig before she left. Fry looked around the room, refusing to lay his eyes on Veklerov’s prone form. The man started to snore.

“What about-”

“Forget him,” Leela growled.


Fry meekly followed Leela back to the bridge, where they found Amy sat in the pilot’s seat with her feet up on the dash. She turned to look at Leela with an odd, haughty stare that didn’t suit her.

“Having fun?”

“No,” Leela shot back. She sat down at the spare console to pull her boots on, glancing out at the nearby ridge as she did so. A line of baying, yelling Wormulons stared back at her, occasionally firing their weapons at the ship, or in the air, or even into the ground, but only rarely at the ship itself.

“What the hell is going on,” she asked, turning to look at Fry and Amy. The both shrugged.

“All I know is, they started chasing me for no reason.” Fry stared out at the creatures lining up around the valley. “They were asking me questions and then they suddenly started just yelling and throwing rocks at me. More than usual. They really hurt...”

“They were pretty mad,” Amy added. She looked at her feet. “I kinda shot one, too...”

Leela turned sharply to stare at Amy, unable to hide her surprise at the young interns admission. “You shot one of them? Great! Now we’re going to be charged with murder!”

“No, he’s still alive, see?” She pointed out of the window at two very small Wormulons who were supporting a standard sized rifle between them. Leela stared at the diminutive pair for a moment before shaking her head and looking around the valley again.

Something caught her eye toward the end of the valley, a glint of sunlight on metal. “Oh lord, they’re sending in tanks. Fry what the hell did you say?

“I just told them our names!”

Amy sprang from her seat on Fry’s reply. When she spoke, her voice was shaking. “Even Vek’s name?”

Fry nodded dumbly. “What’s wrong with that?”

There was a thud. The bridge door slid open, admitting Veklerov in a hastily donned pair of pants. Leela’s eye widened as simultaneous thoughts of desire and disgust clashed in her hind-brain. She looked away.

“It’s a grave insult in their language,” Veklerov said, pulling on a coat over his bare chest. “I don’t know what. I think it’s to do with parentage, but my name drives them crazy.”

“Perhaps they knew it by reputation,” Leela grumbled, sotto voce, running her hands across the controls as she tried to remember the start-up sequence. She pushed the throttles to their stops before the ship had even fully finished powering up, blasting them from the launch pad and into the cloudless sky.

A single shot from the approaching tanks whistled harmlessly past the ship as they ascended. Leela felt herself relaxing after the sudden tension, enough to sit back and loosen her grip on the control column.

“You’ve turned up the gravity pumps,” Veklerov said, his voice studiously neutral. He was frowning at the console. Leela shrugged.

“I like a smooth ride.”

“I like the excitement...”

“I get plenty of ‘excitement’ just flying the damn ship without having to introduce more.” Leela looked away and rolled her eye. “If you didn’t want me to change the setting you shouldn’t have shown me where they were.”

The ship lurched to port and seemed to rear up and back. It leapt forward again, engines coughing and straining, then losing power, then roaring to life again. A klaxon horn blared somewhere deep inside the ship and the panel before her lit up like a Christmas tree, dials spinning and waving as the familiar whine of the bridge machinery wound down to a low gurgle and then disappeared altogether.

The engines cut out.

For a few seconds their velocity kept them arcing up on a long parabolic curve, the sound of tenuously thin mesospheric air whistling past the outer hull suddenly very loud in the silent bridge but, eventually, gravity began to assert itself. The ship began to fall belly first toward the planet.

“Well this is fun,” Veklerov said, grabbing hold of the back of the pilot’s chair. He grinned at Leela as they began to free-fall. “Want me to-”

“No!”

Leela ran her mind back over the start-up sequence she had tried before, testing every step to see which she had missed. Of course! She stabbed a finger at the toggle marked ‘primary matrix interlock’. Nothing happened. With a nervous titter she tried the switch again, flipping it back and forth until the toggle broke off in her fingers with a loud snap.

She held up the broken switch and stared at it with a dazed, giddy sensation in her gut that wasn’t entirely due to the ship’s free-fall. Veklerov sighed and took the scrap of metal from her unresisting hand. He held it up to the light and then let it drop very slowly to the floor.

“Oh boy,” he said as his feet rose from the deck. “I hate microgravity.”

“Is that where the planet is really small? Ow...” Fry pushed himself away from a piece of equipment mounted on the ceiling and drifted across the bridge. “Remember the last time this happened, Leela? It was kinda fun, at least when the autopilot wasn’t trying to kill us.”

Amy let out a damp burp and slapped both hands over her mouth.

“Do it below decks,” Veklerov yelled, shoving a pale-looking Amy across the bridge to the access ladder. He grabbed the back of Leela’s seat with both hands and span himself around to face the console again. “Try restarting the engines.”

“You think I haven’t been doing that for the last...” another jab at another button that elicited a loud beep. A steaming cup of coffee rose up from the top of the console and then drifted off across the bridge, trailing perfectly shaped brown liquid spheres behind it.

Leela and Vek stared at each other.

“I always wondered if there was drinks dispenser up here. Look, I know this ship-”

“Obviously...”

“I know it better than you, let me get it started again before we die!” He reached out to touch the console, grimacing. “Zacroy rot, Amy, you got your bootprints all over this thing!”

Leela hiccuped and felt a twinge of bile in her throat. The freefall was starting to get to her, despite her normally stout constitution. She pulled at her buckles to tighten them and returned her gaze to the control column. “I’m not letting you use this as some sort of proof you’re better than me, Vek.”

“Better, who cares about better, we’re going to die!”

“Just so we’re clear,” she said before unbuckling from the seat. Leela pushed off from the control column and let herself drift toward the ceiling . Another careful push with her feet sent her back to the floor near a spare seat. She strapped herself in and turned to look at Fry.

He was holding onto his seat, oblivious to the apparent danger, watching a glob of coffee sail through the air with a vague interest. It had always surprised Leela how well the kid had taken to space. He enjoyed free-fall when most modern people could barely stand a fast moving elevator, which was something she’d never had a problem with either, come to think of it, and time and again he’d shown her the excitement outside the safe confines of her life.

Excitement... she stared at Veklerov and frowned. She did want excitement, otherwise why was she here? But Veklerov’s idea of ‘exciting’ was focused entirely on how much control he could take. Fry’s was...

The ship lurched as its main power came online and with it, the gravity systems, seeming to thrust the deck up beneath Leela’s feet. A loud yell below decks told them Amy had discovered the working gravity field, too. She crawled from the access ladder a moment later, one hand pressed over her eye as she muttered under her breath. Leela tried to keep her face straight as Amy made her way to the passenger couch and flopped down.

“Now that wasn’t so hard, was it,” Veklerov intoned as he manoeuvred the ship into a stable orbit. He glanced over his shoulder at Leela. “It is no shame to admit it, Leela.”

“Admit what?”

“That I am the better pilot. After all, who was it that saved us from this disaster?”

Leela’s jaw felt like it dropped almost to the deck. The bridge felt almost silent as the implied insult was absorbed amidst the quiet clicks and bleeps of overstressed equipment and the faint growl of the engines. Veklerov rolled his eyes at Leela’s silence.

“I suppose you aren’t denying it,” he muttered, evidently having hoped for something more substantial. Behind him Fry leaned over his console, staring at the plot.

“Um... guys?”

“You asshole,” Leela growled. She slapped the seat restraints away, glaring at Veklerov without respite. “You promised you weren’t going to use this-”

“I made no such promise!”

“Guys?”

Leela trod the three steps to Veklerov’s side with leonine menace, the intensity of her anger reflected in her stance and posture as she very gently placed a hand each on the back of the pilot’s seat and the console. The composite seat creaked ominously under the pressure of her grip.

“A little ungracious aren’t we, Sirochka?”

“Call me that again if you’re tired of living. You tricked me!”

“I would say you tricked yourself,” Veklerov replied. He shrugged and turned away, tension drawing his shoulders toward the control column, as if guarding it. “You trick yourself all the time.”

“Oh that’s rich coming from-”

Is anyone going to listen to me!?

They all stopped to look at Fry, prompting a momentary flicker of worry on his face. Even Amy was looking at him. He stabbed a finger at the console.

“This thing is making noises.”

Veklerov relaxed back into his seat, glancing at Leela once or twice before clearing his throat. The silence that followed was very cold. He cleared his throat again and looked pointedly at Leela’s hand on the console. She waited just long enough to see him getting ready to clear his throat again before removing it.

“So,” Veklerov said once he’d settled in. “What do the scanners tell you, Philip?

“Well, there’s this green thingy here,” Fry replied, poking at the scanner screen. “And there’s these three red thingies moving toward the green thingy. Oh, and...” Fry paused to chuckle to himself. “I think we’re the green thingy.”

Veklerov and Leela turned to each other in shared confusion. “Does he do that a lot?”

“All the time. Fry, how long until they get here?”

“I’d say right about... now.” Fry looked up at the silence then down at the screen again. He frowned. “No, wait-”

A crackling blast rocked the ship and threw Leela to the floor. She landed awkwardly, for a moment blinded by the pain of her hip slamming against the deck, but still just able to see the three fighters that swung past the starboard, menacing silver darts with incongruous lattice-work arrays of weaponry wrapped around their midpoints.

She tried to stand but her leg refused to move, though it wasn’t obviously broken. Leela grit her teeth and hauled herself across the heaving deck to the auxiliary station. The ship rolled, bright constellations wheeling past the window as Vek manoeuvred them away from the fighters though, fortunately for Leela’s side, he hadn’t got around to turning the gravity pumps down again.

Another loud explosion as the fighters made another pass, this time accompanied by a stunted yell from Amy as she was thrown from the couch. She huddled down on the floor and curled up in a ball. Veklerov was still manoeuvring, now with one hand wrapped around one of the unidentified levers on the control yoke. Leela heard the grinding rumble of the main gun turret rotating and glanced at Fry. He shrugged back at her. Bender wasn’t on board, nor Yancy...

“You’re controlling the gun?”

“No distractions!” Vek’s jaw tensed, his eyes locked on the overhead screen which carried a view from the turret’s targeting array. He fired, sending a stream of plasma bolts toward one of the fighters and just missing it. “Dammit, that’s your fault!”

“My fault?” Leela looked at Fry again, taking in the fear in his eyes and wondering if she was showing the same. “Vek, you can’t control the ship and the guns at the same time!”

“Is easy, like fighter pilot, just bigger! Now leave me be so I can save your pretty bottom for another visit to my cabin.”

She stood up, ignoring the sharp stab of pain in her leg as she limped back to Vek’s side. “What did you say?”

“I save your ass, you reward me wi- aiep!

Leela dragged Veklerov from the seat, almost tearing the half-secured restraints from their mounts as she brought his face level with her own. He smiled nervously and glanced down at Leela’s arms and hands clamped firmly on the lapels of his jacket.

“Ah-heh, been working out have you?” He patted Leela’s arm and tried to smile again but her wordless glare seemed to unnerve him even more. The fighters zipped past the windows again, launching another withering volley toward the ship. “You are making it hard to defend ourselves...”

“No, I’m going to make it a lot easier,” she said, dragging Veklerov away from the control column. “Fry, you know what to do.”

“I...” he glanced up at the bridge ceiling, comprehension dawning on his face. “Right!”

Leela watched Fry leave before dropping Veklerov on the floor. “Now you, stay out of the way while I save us.”

“You... what are you trying to prove, Leela?” He lurched to Leela’s side as she strapped herself in. Leela ignored him. “This isn’t a game any more!”

“No, it isn’t.”

“But I was saving the ship!”

“You were saving your damned ego, Vek! You can’t control every single function on a ship this big and fly it and control the weapons at the same time!” She stabbed a finger at the controls, de-activating the manual settings on half a dozen systems. The ship seemed to shudder and leap as if released from a cage. “Fry?”

Ready!”

... and she was back in her element. The anxieties and fears of the last two weeks melted away as Leela focused her entire will into the flight, out-manoeuvring the fighters, presenting them with the smallest target whilst giving Fry the greatest opportunity to shoot back. The first of the fighters exploded in a riotous flash of orange and green, the second a few moments later.

“One left,” she muttered, bringing the ship around. It handled a differently with so much of its mass concentrated in the top of the hull. Rolling just a bit. Leela glanced up at the overhead display, still tuned to the gun’s targeting systems and grinned, feeling the strange, feral heat of pursuit as she closed in on the prey. The gun unleashed a final torrent of plasma, tearing the remaining fighter from the sky.

“Amy, scan the area, I want to know if they’re chasing us.”

“Yes... right...” Amy limped to the scanner console, giving Vek a quick and apologetic glance before she sat down. “Four ships leaving the surface, they won’t reach us for another ten minutes.”

“Plenty of time,” Leela replied. She pushed the engines to full power, drawing the planet and the fight away in mere moments as they rocketed out into deep space. Destination was unimportant for now.

Fry stumbled into the bridge nearly a minute later, flush-faced and breathing hard from the excitement of the battle. He paused at the door to catch his breath only to be bowelled over by Amy, who leaped at him with an incoherent yell of delight. Leela turned away from the scene and tried not to sigh.

“Lonely at the top,” Veklerov repeated, quickly raising one eyebrow as that inanely annoying grin returned. “We could-”

“God, you never give up, do you.” Disgusted that she had ever fallen for him, Leela pushed Veklerov away and swivelled to face Amy and Fry. “When you two are quite finished, Fry, we need to talk.”

“Um, sure,” Fry said, extricating himself from Amy’s grasp for a moment. He rubbed the back of his head, face full of confusion and other things that were entirely understandable given where Amy’s hands were roving. He wrapped his arm around Amy and turned to leave.

“Fry, wait...”

Fry turned back. He seemed angry. “What?”

“I just... you did good.”

Fry stared at her blankly, then nodded once with just the twitch of a smile dragging at his mouth. He turned away again, a little slower this time. The door swished shut behind him, leaving Leela alone on the bridge. Or, almost alone.

Veklerov was leaning on the auxiliary console, arms folded across his chest, with an unusually dour expression on his face. He refused to look at Leela when she stood up.

“You can have your ship back now,” she said, keeping her voice neutral as she could manage. Veklerov stared at her as if he hadn’t realised she was there.

“Can I?” He looked away again, jaw tightening under a scowl that could have melted the paint from the bulkheads. “You’ve taken away the one thing I could control and changed it completely.”

“I realise things aren’t quite the same in this universe but you can’t expect to be able to control everything you interact with.”

“It’s easier!”

“Apparently not,” Leela replied archly. She folded her arms, mirroring Vek for just a moment. “I’m going back to my cabin.”

She turned, conscious of Veklerov’s eyes on her back as she walked from the bridge, waiting for him to say something to justify the anger she felt. For once, and annoyingly, he remained studiously silent. But that wasn’t it. Leela paused in the short gangway between the cabins, listening in the relative silence of the ship for the sound of, well, anything out of the ordinary but she couldn’t hear anything. The silence from Fry’s cabin was particularly telling. Nobody was that quiet unless they were having fun.

The thought was almost enough to maintain the anger she’d felt toward Fry. Almost, but not quite, with the memory of her own slip still fresh in her mind – and elsewhere, though it didn’t bear thinking about – Leela had a hard time justifying her hostility. The truth was, she needed the kid, and it looked increasingly likely that she’d lose him for good this time.

Leela backed up against her cabin door and stared at the opposite portal until she’d made up her mind. She reached across and knocked on the door. It was opened by Fry a moment later. He didn’t seen particularly pleased to see her, or in general, if she thought about it. There was no sign of Amy either. Fry stared at her, his face sullen and closed despite the momentary connection they’d had earlier.

“Still want to talk?”

“I guess...” he backed up into the cabin, giving Leela space to enter.

It was little different to the cabin he shared with Bender in their home universe. Maybe smaller, more cramped, but the feel was the same, something like a robot’s apartment, a place designed purely for rest and little else. It took Leela a moment to realise that the hammocks ruled out some of the more imaginative scenarios she’d been expecting to find. Did Amy have a cabin to herself here?

“So...”

“Why are you leaving me behind?”

“Hmm?” It took a moment for the words to sink in. Leela frowned. “Fry, what are you talking about?”

“You, you said...” he faltered, confused. “Didn’t you leave a message on Yancy’s phone saying you were leaving me here?”

“I know I was pretty drunk last night but I doubt I did that. Fry, you actually believe I’d leave you here?”

She left a moment for Fry to answer. He remained silent, giving her all the answer she needed. Leela found herself looking for something to sit on. There was only the hammock and she didn’t trust that, not with Vek’s odd flying habits.

“As far as I’m concerned you were the one who was planning to stay.” With Amy, she didn’t add. And she didn’t have to, it was plain from the way his face turned pink. He glowered at the floor.

“I don’t get it, Leela. Everything you’ve said up to now has been like you wanted to get rid of me. You kept acting like I was in the way all the time and then when you were all over the Scottish guy I sorta got mad. And then that message came. I, I thought...”

Either Veklerov had left the gravity settings unchanged or he wasn’t controlling the ship yet. She leaned against the bulkhead and folded her arms, regarding Fry for a moment. He looked so utterly dejected, in a way she didn’t recall ever seeing before. Or maybe once or twice.

“Fry, I’m sorry if that’s the impression I gave you. It’s not true.”

“So why did you, y’know, do it?”

“What does that have to do with anything? It’s my life, I...” Fry stared at her with his wide-open face flinching at every word she said, as if each was a dart striking deep into his soul. She sighed. “I don’t know, all right? He tricked me. He tricked Neena and then he tricked me. All I wanted was someone who understands how I feel and it felt like he was giving me that.”

Fry blinked a few times, licked his lips and looked away without speaking. He flopped onto the lower hammock with an agility that she couldn’t entirely put down to practice, folding his hands behind his head and staring at the ceiling.

“I know, I know, welcome to your world,” Leela muttered. She was getting a little frustrated by the lack of a seat and Fry rocking back and forth, apparently contented to just lie there, didn’t help her mood in the slightest.

“You didn’t have to sleep with him.”

“No. Not that you should care.”

He sat up again, straddling the hammock so he could rest his arms on his knees. Fry stared at the wall. Perhaps it made a change from the ceiling. “I care...”

“Well stop it, it’s clouding your judgement.”

“Leela, I care. I do understand how you feel and I also know every time you go out with one of these rich power-mad control freaks you end up getting hurt. I don’t-” he closed his eyes in surrender and lay back in the hammock again. “What’s the use, you’ll just act like I’m being an idiot, same as always.”

“You’re not an idiot, Fry. I...” Leela’s voice disappeared in her throat. She could sense something, almost like a shockwave rushing toward her in some twisted set of dimensions locked away from her normal perception. She shivered.

“Leela?”

“I...”

It came like a simultaneous punch to her head and solar plexus, tearing away any sentient thought for a brief moment just long enough to be noticeable. All Leela could do was grab her head and wail as an inexplicable terror washed over her, stripping away all the barriers she’d built up around her most intimate fears. She closed her eye and screamed, her mind filled with images too horrific to bear, driving Leela to her knees. To pound the deck with clenched fists, as if that would drive out the demons birthing inside her skull.

Leela felt hands grabbing at her arms. Arms pulling her back into the darkness, the tunnels where the- the lies were hiding so she lashed out, trying to escape the creatures holding her and trying to steal her soul. Out of the corner of her eye Leela saw a flash of red. Her fist connected with something soft and yielding and she heard a swallowed yelp.

The terror left her as suddenly as it had arrived. Leela found herself lying on the floor, shivering terribly, her clothing soaked in cold sweat. Two pairs of feet opposite her face shuffled back and forth.

“She’s been like this for nearly ten minutes, I don’t know... she just yelled and punched me in the face and then went crazy.”

“Maybe she’s on her period.”

“Urgh! Why do women always...” Fry choked back his words as Leela opened her eye. She peered up at him through a disorienting haze, unable to properly see his face, only able to make out a vague red and pink blur where his head should be. “Leela! You’re awake?”

“Either that or I’m having the worst nightmare I ever remember,” she replied, feeling the soreness in her throat. Surely she hadn’t been screaming that much? But it hurt to talk, even so. “Help me up.”

They both grabbed her arms. Leela instinctively stiffened as they pulled her upright, remembering just for a moment the feeling of being dragged down by the monsters in her terror. She forced herself to relax.

The air felt cold and clammy and her hair was plastered to her skull, soaked with sweat. Every part of her body felt as if it had been pummelled by the pain monster, even her eye, which felt dry and puffy. She’d been crying, that much was obvious, but over what?

“Fry, what- oh!”

“Yeah.” Fry gingerly rubbed the livid bruise around his eye and shrugged. “It’s ok, you weren’t really thinking straight.”

“I’m sorry, Fry. You know I’d never do that on purpose.”

“Unless it was really important,” was Fry’s solemn reply. He fingered the bruise again whilst Amy examined Leela’s face.

“What happened?” The intern-cum-engineer was showing uncharacteristic concern for her, from Leela’s experience of this universe.

“If I knew...”

Leela swayed a little, overcome by a sudden dizzy spell. She looked around herself for a seat before remembering where she was. Amy and Fry, both taking the hint, grabbed one arm and walked her out of the room.

“Thank god the sickbay is on the same deck,” Leela muttered as they marched her down the corridor. She didn’t want to think about the pair of them manhandling her down the access ladders.

They manoeuvred her into an examination chair in the sickbay. Fry dutifully provided a very large glass of water and Amy managed to surprise her by completely forgetting the animosity she’d displayed earlier. It was almost like being home again.

“Home!” She sat up, spilling her water on the deck as her hands spasmed from another very brief flash of fear. “We have to get back, she’s...” Leela grabbed Fry’s arms and pulled him close. “We have to get home! Now!”

Buddies