A Past With No Future, Part 4
By Kenneth White
Chapter 4: Lie Hard With a Divergence
Taco Bellevue Hospital
August 15th, 2983
Friday, 9:53 a.m.
Pacing. Pacing was all Fry could do as he waited for the nurse to return from the room where Sibella was being examined. It felt like an age to him. He looked up at the clock in the waiting room. Six minutes had passed.
As Fry looked up with a gasp, a young, purple-skinned female with four arms came through the door and smiled at him.
"Mister Fry," the Neptunian nurse said with a pleasant voice. "The doctor will see you now."
Fry gulped and followed one of her four gesturing hands into the doorway. Inside was a tidy office, with framed diplomas on the walls, a large bookcase and a modest wooden desk. Sitting at the chair behind it was what looked like a small dog. A Chihuahua to be exact. Fry smiled and leaned down towards it.
"Hey little fella!" he said to the dog in cutesy speak. "You keeping the chair warm for the doctor?"
"I am the doctor," the dog stated in a Spanish accent, making Fry jump. "Doctor Hoek."
"Oh, sorry," Fry said. "I'm from the twentieth century and still adjusting to things that speak here besides humans, parrots and Richard Simmons."
"Please take a seat, Seņor Fry," Doctor Hoek said with a smile before turning to the nurse. "Please assist di others with di patient."
She nodded and swiftly left the room, while Doctor Hoek opened a blue leather folder and addressed Fry once more.
"Now, about Seņorita Sibella Alexander's condition..."
"What is it, doc?!" Fry asked in a mild panic. "I can take it. Is it malaria?! Toe jam?! Small Pox?! Large Pox?!"
"No," the doctor answered solemnly. "Seņor Fry, I'm afraid Seņorita Alexander ees suffering from a brain tumour. A rather rare brain tumour at that, but we can 'opefully remove eet."
"Just like John Travolta," Fry noted with a gasp. "Will she be able to fly a plane?"
"If di operation ees a success," Doctor Hoek nodded.
"Just like John Travolta," Fry repeated. "What are her chances?"
"That's di tricky bit," Hoek sighed. "Di tumour ees a strange mutation of di generally fatal-if-left spongioblastoma. Eet will be possible to remove it, but for some strange reason a part of her brain has suffered permanent physical damage from eet. Her actual brain activity doesn't actually seem to be impaired at all by eet though, but tests show that we could do more damage by removing eet than leaving eet. On di other hand, leaving eet would most certainly see eet begin to regrow again."
"I thought this type of thing would be easier to sort out in the future?" Fry frowned. "We're here in the year two-thousand ninety-eight-three and your technology is hardly better than in my time!"
"A damaged brain ees a damaged brain, Seņor," the doctor stated. "Eet's not the technology, eet's late detection. Time ees one thing that has not changed."
"So... what are you going to do then?" Fry questioned.
"There ees another option. We can cut out what we can, and then have medication that will keep di growth in-check. Di main section of di tumour will still be there, but it shouldn't grow any more and damage anything else."
"I like the sound of that one best," Fry admitted. "But we should ask her what she wants for herself. Assuming she's in a state to decide?"
"She can be woken for a short period of time without harm eef needed."
"Do so," Fry said, making it sound like an order rather than a request.
"Very well, Seņor," Doctor Hoek agreed. "We will let the Seņorita decide."
Athena jolted forward, gasping in the air as if her lungs had no access to it. Her skin was a pale, sweat glistened blue from windowed starlight; the only illumination that entered the darkened room. Leela's eye flashed open too, the rest of her body tensing as she too woke from her semi-slouched position to Athena's right. Upon startling awake from the noise, her arms immediately straightening like rake handles, with the gun she held pointed straight ahead, but after just a few seconds of this, she relaxed a bit and looked to her left. She had been sitting beside Athena, supposed to have been guarding her, but having nodded off somewhere during the duty.
"Are you okay?" Leela asked.
Any worries about being caught napping on the job were immediately dispelled from looking at Athena. Hugging her sheet-covered knees to her chest, her eyes looking frightened and distant, as she sat in bed shivering in the long t-shirt Leela had given her to sleep in. Her head shuddered across to face Leela, lips moving but emitting no coherent sounds, and Leela saw she either couldn't respond or didn't want to.
"What is it?" Leela queried.
Athena paused for a good while, as if no answer was to come from her. Eventually though, her wide eyes flashed to Leela, and her lips shuddered to let out a reply, shivering from a force ulterior to temperature.
"It... w-was... it w-w-was... w-was... Them..."
As Athena began to break down, Leela shimmied closer and reached over to put her arms around her. Though reluctant at first, Athena accepted Leela's gesture of sympathetic affection, finding herself crying into the captain's shoulder as Leela consoled her.
"It's okay," she whispered, stroking Athena's still-loose hair that appeared almost black in the dim light. "You just had a nightmare."
"I-I know," Athena managed to sniffle. "I g-get them now and t-then. B-b-but never this bad before..."
"Ssssh," Leela cooed. "You're safe here."
As they just sat there in an embrace for a while, Leela thought about how Athena seemed to contrast herself. Before, she seemed a strong and independent woman, who came across as perhaps even tougher than she herself was, yet right now, she was completely submissive, and almost like a little girl afraid of a monster under her bed or something. Once Athena's shuddering breaths had lulled to simple heavy breaths, Leela disengaged from her and smiled, her hands still supportingly on Athena's shoulders.
"Listen, would you like me to make you a hot drink or something to help you sleep?"
Athena smiled back and gave a small nod.
"I know you said you basically live on coffee, but I don't think that'd be a good idea," Leela said half-jokingly. "How about a hot chocolate or something?"
Athena's smile vanished at that, to be replaced by an almost awed expression.
"Hot chocolate..." she echoed in a voice that almost seemed to be silenced in whisper before even being spoke.
"Something wrong?" Leela asked. Athena's face stayed blank before a tiny smile emerged.
"No," and the smile grew, "no, not at all. It's just that... my mother used to make us hot chocolates when we were kids on cold mornings."
Her smile grew warmer, and her body relaxed a shade. She pulled the covers up around her as if her talk of cold mornings had taken her to one.
"She used to have them ready for us when we arrived, with two marshmallows sitting neatly in the saucer on the side," Athena went on, then chuckled softly. "One white, one pink... always one of each."
"I'm sure we'll have some marshmallows," Leela smiled. "I'll go make us each one."
Athena didn't need to thank Leela, the smile she returned said enough. Leela slid to the edge of the bed to redon her boots, an action that would allow two people in the next room to avoid certain detection. For they heard the footsteps coming long before the door between her quarters and the bridge was opened.
"Cheese it!" a gruff whisper sounded
There was a light shuffling and clattering for a few moments before the door opened, illuminating the dark cockpit slightly more than the main monitor already had been. As Leela wandered past it with a yawn, she did a double take and looked at the screen.
"I could have sworn I turned this off," she noted to herself, then she pressed a button to blank the display and continued on into the kitchen. Once that door had closed, two shadowy figures peeked out from under one of the other consoles.
"That was close!" Fry's voice uttered quietly. "You there, Bender?"
In the darkness two eyes shone out of obscurity along with a fixed row of glowing teeth.
"Yeah," Bender whispered back gruffly. "I had to dim my optics and dentines to avoid detection. What's Leela doing up at the moment anyway?"
"She went into the kitchen," Fry noted. "She's probably just getting something to eat or drink."
"Or she's getting her stash," Bender said. "Maybe she's going to get that daughter of yours to forget her problems, aka you, with some ol' fashioned light smokable drugs?"
"Leela doesn't have a stash," Fry defended. "She doesn't do drugs."
"All I know is, somebody besides me is keeping a bag of fine West Indian hooch at the back of the pantry," Bender stated. "And I can't think of anybody else who would. Except maybe that janitor guy... what's his name..."
"We have a janitor?" Fry asked. Bender just ignored him.
"She'd better hurry up!" the robot growled. "Or we'll be at that destination instead of the Market of Cain."
"I shouldn't have told you about that," Fry sighed.
"Yeah, but you did. And for a good price too."
"I'll decide that once you tell me what those gummy bears were made of," Fry sneered.
"Trust me... they were from all natural ingredients. And now you're going to help me reprogram the course, as soon as Leela's finished in the stupid kitchen!"
"I feel like I betrayed her though, but in the future tense," Fry whispered with a mutter. "Wouldn't you rather just be watching 'The Late Late Show with Craig Killbot' as usual instead?"
"Nope," Bender answered.
The kitchen door opened, and two heads ducked back under the console. Eyes and teeth dimming once again. Leela wandered back towards her quarters, a cup of steaming hot chocolate in each hand. When she was inside, the door closed behind her, and Fry and Bender scurried back to the main console.
"Okay, hurry up, meatbag!" Bender rushed. "You're as slow as a bag of meat, and I'd like to still be able to meet some hookerbots before they upgrade and use different peripheral ports."
"Shouldn't be long," Fry answered, tapping at the keys. He pressed enter.
It didn't work. He typed again, and again pressed the enter key.
Again, it didn't work. Bender snorted.
"I thought you said you knew Leela's password?"
"I thought I saw her enter it in earlier," Fry groaned. "I would have sworn it was four stars..."
"You idiot!" Bender growled, pushing Fry aside. "Looks like I'll have to do this the old fashioned way."
He opened his chest compartment and pulled out a plug with ribboned wires attacked, then plugged himself into a slot on the console.
"What are you doing?" Fry asked.
"I'm... how should I put this... bypassing the security of the computer program illegally by direct access."
"Oh," Fry smiled. "So you're hacking the computer?"
Fry took a nasty slap to the cheek from a metal hand.
"Hey! Watch your language! You can't just say the 'H' word like that... I find it offensive!"
Inside Leela's quarters, the two girls sat upon the bed with their hot chocolates. Athena took the two marshmallows from her saucer and plopped them into the warm, umber liquid. The pink and white domes began to morph into a sticky skin.
"I hope I didn't make it too hot?" Leela asked upon observation. Athena just smiled.
"No. I always used to put them in while it was still scalding as a kid anyway."
"Well... do you want to talk about anything until it's cool enough to drink?" Leela queried. "Like... to do with your father?"
The smile disappeared, and Leela felt a little guilty. Guilty that perhaps she'd just ruined a rare moment Athena was actually enjoying. Most of her still knew that it had to be addressed though, and the sooner the better. When Athena didn't really say anything, even though she appeared to be looking for a response, Leela continued on.
"Look, I know you think that Fry's somewhat of a... monster, or something. But, it's just kind of hard to picture."
Leela paused for a moment, taking note of a rather neutral look from Athena that seemed to just encourage her to elaborate.
"I can see where you're coming from and why you'd be mad at him," Leela went on. "But, despite perhaps having an elevator that both doesn't go to the top floor and often stays in the basement for far too long, he really is such a genuinely nice guy. He'd never hurt anybody without reason, he really wouldn't. So it's hard for me to accept what you say as being true."
"Except that here I am," Athena just noted. Leela gave a reluctant nod.
"Indeed you are. But I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation. You do trust me, don't you?"
Leela leaned closer to place her left hand on Athena's right knee fondly. She also gave a heart-warming smile, and Athena managed to gain her own once again, if only for a moment.
"Of course I do," she responded, placing her own right hand gently upon Leela's. "Apart from my family, nobody else has been so genuinely kind and loving towards me in my whole life. And I can tell that it is genuine too somehow."
"Well, that's because I can somewhat relate," Leela answered. "You see, I was an orphan too, sort of... I know what it's like to have to depend on yourself and not know about your past properly and wonder how you wound up being mostly alone."
"I'm sorry," Athena said.
"Don't worry, I found out later on," Leela said. "In fact, Fry helped me out with that and actually stopped me from making a grave mistake."
"What mistake was that?"
"Killing my then unknown parents," Leela stated. This clearly shocked Athena, to the point where she couldn't even respond for a good five seconds or so.
"I see..." she eventually managed.
"Look," Leela said. "What I'm saying is, if you trust me, can you at least also trust my judgement based on Fry's character to maybe... I dunno... cut him a little slack? I'm not saying your stories about him and your past don't have their merits, I'm not even doubting them at all, I'm just saying that's what they still are in the end... stories. And no matter how much basis in fact they may have, until you actually know what Fry did and know his personality, you're being a bit unfair aren't you?"
Athena's answer was late, quiet and reluctant. "I guess so..."
"I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for whatever Fry did," Leela said. "I just wish he could tell me what it is."
"That robot..." Athena began. "What's his name..."
"Yeah, Bender. He said that my father might have run away because he was scared?"
Leela made an unsure noise.
"Possible," she managed with an air of reluctance "He's been known to be more of a coward than a hero sometimes. He often will run from problems. But, still... I can't see him doing that. Not Fry. He's not that shallow or heartless."
Athena made a grumpy pouting facial gesture.
"Look, I'm not saying he didn't," Leela added. "It's possible. But there'd have to be a damn good reason. Fry's not the type to abandon anybody like that. I should know..."
Leela's gaze seemed to drift away, so Athena asked the inevitable and obvious.
"Because he's always taken care of me," Leela told Athena. "I was in a coma once, from a giant space bee sting. It was kind of ironic because Fry had thrown himself between the bee and myself and taken the stinger right through him, but I ended up getting the venom. Anyway, while I was in there, unknown to me almost everybody had given up hope. The doctors thought I'd never make it, and apparently Hermes and the Professor had even been keen to pull the plug because I was costing the company hundreds a day because of health insurance. But Fry not only refused to let any plugs get pulled, but he stayed beside me the whole time... waiting and talking."
Leela paused, her eye that had been worlds away meeting Athena's dumbfounded face.
"He said that he thought if I heard a familiar voice telling me to wake up, I would. And I did."
Athena didn't say anything for what seemed like an eternity, she just finished her hot chocolate and placed the mug on the bedside mantle before slipping back under the bedsheets.
"I think I'll just get some sleep now," she finally muttered, and then lay back down to face away from Leela.
"Sure," she heard Leela's voice say from behind her, rather more upbeat now. "When you wake up, we should have refuelled and be on our way properly."
Leela finished her own drink, then switched off the light and resumed her guarding position beside Athena. She looked down at the girl as she took her gun back into possession.
'Perhaps I can get through to her after all,' she thought. But despite that, her mind couldn't help but wonder about Athena's claims against Fry perhaps having some truth to them.
August 28th, 2983
The grey sky was like a plate of steel, lined with clouds stroked with the bristles from a mercury paintbrush. It was late evening on that region of the planet, and the relative silence in the area was interrupted by a large ship ripping through the air. Both red and iron-grey in colour, the cargo supply vessel had a round section at the front and as it descended, four legs obtruded out to make it resemble a mechanical quadrupedal animal. As the three rear engines softened in noise, the ship made an adequate, but none too graceful, touchdown upon the surface.
"We're here!" said Fry's voice from inside, and a door on the port side swung down to form a ramp.
"Can I take the blindfold off now?" Sibella asked as Fry gently lead her out of the ship. She was also wearing a straw hat and a billowy blouse and skirt.
"Not yet," he answered with a chuckle. "We're not there yet, this is just a landing area. I'll need to call us a cab or something."
"Then why do I need to be blindfolded so soon?" Sibella moaned.
"Because I don't want you to see anything until we're at the right place."
As they descended onto the surface, a hover dolly packed with boxes, cases and crates was pushed down behind them by a tall red robot that appeared very humanoid. He had a cheerful grin on his square-jawed face, with a single gold star on his forehead and the name 'ALLAN' printed on the left of his metal chest along with an Earth flag.
"Here's all your stuff, Mister Fry," Allan said in a voice that reminded him of one of those Ninja Turtles he used to watch on TV. "Good luck."
"Thanks, Allan," Fry said, with Sibella repeating it immediately after.
"Yeah, good luck," said another robot that looked the same, except for a slightly different face with three stars on the forehead and the name 'GNR BRAD' printed on his chest. "Hope you have a good future living here."
"We will," Fry said. "Good luck yourselves with that war. Don't let that Commander you told me about get to you."
Both robots gave the two humans a friendly thumbs up as the door closed between them and their former passengers, and the ship took off again into the skies, heavy rock music blaring through the panels from the inside as it did. Fry quickly used a nearby phone and a hover taxi was there in moments.
"Where to?" asked the cabbie as they got in with a casually gruff voice. He was a short fellow with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth and a little black cap sitting between the two short horns upon his scalp. Brownish orange fur covered his body and he had what looked like goat's legs from the waist down. After looking in the mirror he did a double-take and then turned to lean on the back of his seat and regard his passengers.
"This ain't a kidnappin' is it?" he queried. "'cause those trips chose extra, onna count of me having to not squeal on youse."
"What?" Fry asked over the modest box that sat on his lap, then he remembered the blindfold on Sibella. "Oh, no. She's here voluntarily. She just can't see where we're going."
Fry passed the driver a piece of paper, producing a smirk on his chubby sorrel face.
"Oooh, nice location! Ritzy! And not in that cheap two-dollar fifty hooker kind of way."
The taxi took off, passing through a main area of many buildings with signs such as Medusa's Garden Ornaments, Chimaera Autos and Glassblowing By Typhoeus. Eventually the taxi stopped before a large and elegant gate that spanned between two marble pillars as if a spider with web of iron had strung it there.
"Niiiiice!" the cabbie breathed in awe. "That'll be fifty Olympian drachmas by the way..."
"Sure," Fry answered, in near-equal awe as he waved a plastic card across a scanner without even looking. "It looks even better than in the photograph."
"Can't I see what's going on?" Sibella whined, half-jokingly but also a tad frustrated.
"Sure," Fry said, opening the door to step out. He put the box down on the pavement and took Sibella's hand to lead her out too. Then, as the cabbie waved and took his vehicle away, Fry opened the gate and untied Sibella's blindfold to remove it. As she stared, it was as if the very act had removed all strength in her jaw muscles.
"By Zeus' beard! It's... beautiful!"
Beyond the gate stood a mini palace, sitting upon bright green grass on a coastline, beyond which lay both ocean and sky so blue it was hard to tell where the two natural cerulean entities met. The antediluvian Grecian structure itself was a pale creamy colour, three stories in height and surrounded by poplar and olive trees amongst smaller bushes. A pair of stairs led from the ground up to the main entrance on the second storey, shaped like a horseshoe at the bottom with a fountain in the middle, until meeting to form a single and wider staircase halfway to their destination. Smooth marble pillars surrounded the entrance to hold up a balcony on the floor above, and every window was framed in ancient and elegant style.
"So... do you like it?" Fry asked, Sibella not having said a word for a while. She turned her head to him, blinking in disbelief.
"Are you kidding?!" she almost choked. "It's beautiful!"
She quickly wrapped her arms around him before he could respond, but in doing so dislodged her hat. She quickly let go of him and squealed, scrambling on the ground to pick it up with one hand as she used her other to try and cover the large bald spot on her head and the scar that streaked across it. Just as she was about to put it on, Fry grabbed her arm and she stopped and looked up at him, her cheeks red with embarrassment and her eyes awash with fear and doubt.
"You don't need the hat in front of me, Sibella," he told her.
"But... I look... hideous," she answered.
"No you don't," Fry told her, and he leaned in to kiss her lips softly, causing her to let go of the hat anyway. When the kiss had ended, he looked into her eyes and stroked one cheek.
"You're still beautiful, and I'd still love you even if you had no hair," he consoled. "Besides, it'll grow back. The doctor said it would."
"It's not just the hair," she said. "It's the scar."
"I don't see a scar," Fry said. "All I see is you."
He hugged her closely and she smiled and hugged him back.
"Thank you," she whispered, and then she disengaged. "But, I have to ask... how did you afford this place? I know you sold my old apartment, but... that wouldn't cover even a tenth of what this place is worth!"
"Easy," Fry smiled. "I sold the signed Michael Jordan basketball card I had in my pocket when I came to the future. Turns out it was worth a hell of a lot to somebody in this day and age."
"I can't believe this is ours!" Sibella breathed. "It's just like a house my ancient ancestors would have owned. We should unpack straight away."
Fry suddenly jumped a bit and frowned.
"Yes," Sibella answered.
"As in, unpack the stuff we brought here?"
"Well... to unpack the stuff we brought here, we'd need to have... the stuff we... brought here."
Fry had trailed off at the end of his sentence and Sibella gasped.
"You left it on the taxi?" she queried in disbelief.
"Oh, no," Fry said. "Because I never put it in the taxi. It's... still at the spaceport."
Sibella just made a noise between a groan and a sigh. Fry picked up from the pavement the one box he had brought by the carry handles it had and gave it to Sibella.
"We at least remembered to bring Pluto," Fry said. "You might as well let him out to run around while I try to get our stuff back."
As Fry left, Sibella opened a small door on the box and out scurried the small black, three-eyed critter within.
"There we go, little fella," she smiled. "Make yourself at home, since it is your new one."
As the small creature scurried and sniffed around the yard of his new home, Sibella walked into the gate down the path to the building itself. She stopped and regarded a large statue on the lawn on the way, speaking to it.
"Here's hoping you protect our new home from harm with your strength and wisdom."
She walked on, leaving the female stone figure there, wearing a battle helmet and a long dress, with a spear in one had and a shield in the other. Upon the base a single name was carved: Athena.
Leela blinked her eye open with a grimace, an eye opened by a bright light from the window. As she slid up back to a sitting position, she could see the whole room was bathed in the thick violet light, which seemed to have a flicker to it. Athena was still deeply slumbering beside her, luckily facing away from the bright source with cheek nestled into her pillow and a peaceful expression.
Sitting up to swing her legs over the edge and let her feet meet the carpet, Leela checked her wristo-jackometer to see why the alarm she'd set on it didn't wake her, then screwed her nose up in confusion when she realised why.
'That's odd,' she thought. 'We're over two hours early?'
She got to her feet and began to cross over towards the window.
'Come to think of it, I didn't set an auto-docking program either,' her mind added. 'So why are we obviously at some place with bright purple ligh--'
Her own thoughts cut themselves off as she stared out the window at the garish neon sign that had been polluting her room. She scowled at it and gritted her teeth, then stormed out the room swiftly, leaving the words upon the sign behind: SEX! NOW THAT WE'VE GOT YOUR ATTENTION, SEX!
As soon as the door closed behind her, she yelled a certain name into the air. Though no closed door could stop that from waking Athena, even if tawdry violet beams didn't.
The bridge was empty, save for a display on the main console that told them exactly where they were. Leela mumbled a curse under her breath and slammed her hands down upon the console, proceeding to lean against it.
"I should have known!" Leela grumbled. "That sleazy, metallic bastard! Either he really did hear about it, or one of those other idiots told him about this place!"
"What's going on?" said Zoidberg's voice from behind her. "I was woken by lots of flashing. We're not in Pyrotexas are we?"
"Yeah," Amy's disgruntled voice joined. "Me too. By trampy pink colours."
Amy's voice suddenly brightened as Leela turned to face them.
"I love trampy pink colours! Are we somewhere we can buy clothes?"
"Only if you want clothes that have sparkly bits, garters attached to fish-net stockings, and cover less than five percent of yo--"
Leela halted her own sentence as she looked at Amy for a couple of seconds, then dropped the sarcastic tone to speak again.
"No, we're not. We're in the Market of Cain. And since you're both here and Fry's not, I'll wager he was the one who told Bender about it and helped bring us here."
"So, what are we going to do?" Zoidberg queried with a shrug. "Sit here eating breakfast and wait for them to come back?"
"No, we're going to go and find them," Leela stated. "As much as I hate this place, it's our best option. If we find them quickly we can kill them and drag their corpses back to the ship in good time."
Leela quickly removed and tossed Amy the ship's keys, which after much juggling she managed to keep a hold of.
"Amy, you stay here and see to getting the ship filled up again while Zoidberg and I find the others."
"Aye aye, Captain," Amy saluted.
"What about me?" said another voice. Heads turned to find Athena in the doorway, still in the long t-shirt she had slept in.
"You can either get dressed quickly and help us find your father, or you can stay here with Amy," Leela submitted.
"Where did he go?" Athena answered. "Where are we?"
"We're in a place filled with gambling, booze, solicited sex, drugs and more gambling," Leela grunted. "And your father is out there somewhere mingling amongst it all."
Within a couple of minutes, three pairs of feet descended upon the surface to observe the surroundings. That footprint-preserving surface was a dusty brown hue, or at least would be if different lights from the surroundings didn't falsify its shade with their own glow. Most of these buildings were grey, dark brown or black themselves, all rather dull compared to the beams and glows attached to them, and they basically formed a line along a singular street on the small asteroid. The horizon beyond was ever changing, as an orbit sent stars, suns, planets and other asteroids twirling in and out of sight in a smooth, but fast, arc around them. It made Athena feel dizzy, who was now standing there with Leela and Zoidberg wearing her old jacket and trousers which had since been cleaned, as well as a pair of boots and fresh white tank top from the captain's collection. Her ponytail had been restored as well.
"Okay, we'll split into two teams," Leela announced. "Athena and I will head to the right side of the street. Zoidberg, you can take the left."
"Sure," Zoidberg said. "But how am I in a team?"
"You're not," Leela shrugged. "I just liked saying it that way. Now let's go."
Zoidberg headed left as Leela directed, while she took the right, a pistol in hand, examining the neon signs as she did. Athena followed, a mixed scowl of anger and confusion upon her face.
"Why did my father come to a place like this?" Athena questioned. "I thought you said he liked to help people out."
"I'd say this was more Bender's doing," Leela answered with a sigh. "But that's still no excuse. If I find he's having fun when we come across him, it'll be his last time."
Athena didn't answer, instead just tugging her new tank top up a bit to stop the neckline slipping down too much. It was much a much looser fit on her since her frame was much thinner and chest wasn't as busty as Leela's. All the while her mind just going to work. After having given Leela the benefit of the doubt regarding Fry, her old suspicions and feelings were beginning to come back. She almost bumped into Leela as the cyclops made an abrupt halt.
"Hello," Leela said. "This could be a likely candidate."
Athena looked up to where Leela pointed and above the door was a bright blue sign reading Boba Bet's Great Gamblery and Drinktastic Drinkatorium.
"I'd wager that Bender's in there," Leela stated.
"I'll take that bet!" answered a scruffy looking old man with a tattered hat and jacket that appeared on the scene suddenly. "How much?!"
Leela just ignored this, pushing him out the way and walking into the door with a dry call of "come on" to Athena as she did. Athena followed her into the darkness, leaving the old man to groan with disappointment.
Those were the first words to escape Leela's lips, as she walked in to find the place absolutely packed with gamblers, drinkers and who knew what else. The air rang with music, yelling, and the ringing of slot machines to pollute their ears, flickering lights spun randomly bright in the dark environment to intoxicate their vision, and the thick fog of cigarette smoke and stench of sweat and liquor provided a potent onslaught against their other senses. Trying to battle these unnatural elements, their three eyes scanned the whole area, trying to pick out sleazy landmarks in the sea of degeneracy.
There seemed to be a gambling area to their left, and an exotic dancing stage at the far end ahead, with tables and chairs spread before it that would probably look elegant if not bathed in the cheap gloss of lust. Perched not far from the two new entrants to their right was a general bar area, like some vile space port that provided fuel to both sections. After the survey was complete, Leela's gaze swung to the left side once more.
"Let's check out the gambling area!" she yelled back to Athena. "Bender's more likely to be there! And stick close to me... there's no telling what sleazebags are littering this dump!"
Athena nodded in response, not speaking because she was trying not to inhale any more miasma than she had to. She followed directly behind Leela. The first sleazebag didn't take long to appear either. Just two steps forward and he turned to the cyclops, yellow teeth behind blue salivating lips and eyes that seemed to look everywhere inappropriate in one foul swoop. He however only managed an aroused grunt before a swift elbow speared into the centre of his face, sending him to the floor with a jellied thump. Witnesses who'd had similar licentiousness in their eyes initially soon lost it after that display from the violet-haired newcomer, allowing her and her follower clear passage for a while further.
"Tell me if you see Bender anywhere!" Athena heard Leela yell over her shoulder. "There's a good chance he knows the whereabouts of your father!"
Leela continued to push through the misty thicket of punters, but soon paused after hearing a distinctive yell of glee. Despite the din, the voice sliced through all others like a razor blade.
"Come on, baby! Yeah! Poppa needs a new pair of foot-cups!"
She swung around, and there beyond two heads was a grey metal hand, shaking in the air. She growled and pushed through those in the way, and sure enough, there was Bender with his back to her.
"And here I go!" he yelled.
The arm swung down and two small cubes rattled across the lush green surface below. There was silence around the table as the dice stopped moving, and a call went up from the croupier.
There was a massive cheer from everybody, especially Bender. Leela just stood there with her arms crossed, and Bender raised his arms into the air triumphantly as three floozy fembots surrounding him wrapped their arms around him.
"WOOOOOOO! Bender is the greatest! Bender is the--- YAHH!"
Bender froze there as his gaze met Leela's. She didn't say a word, because the look said all that needed to be. It was Bender who had to talk.
"Oh... hey there, Leela... I'd like you to meet Agnus, Denise and Paula."
The three fembots giggled as if that's all they were programmed to do.
"Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in?!" Leela growled.
"Not really," Bender answered like he suddenly didn't care. "There's nothing you can do to punish me so far as I can tell."
"Oh really?" Leela sneered, and she quickly grabbed Bender's head and pulled it off.
Leela peered in the hole in the bottom and reached inside with her hand.
"Hey what are you doing in there?!" Bender yelled, and then he seemed even more panicked. "Hey! That's my voice chip you're wriggl--"
The sound of his voice vanished, though his mouth lines continued to move alarmingly, while Leela produced a small green plug-in circuit board and smirked. She turned Bender's head upright and towards the table, and while all stared at her, she spoke to the croupier.
"My friend is done with his gambling now. How much did he win?"
Bender's head wriggled in her arms violently as the croupier inspected the table.
"Eighty thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars, ma'am," he answered.
"Good," Leela smiled. "Please donate it all to the Bender B. Rodriguez Orphanarium in New New York on Earth."
She tightened her grip on the robot's head as wriggling increased. The croupier smiled.
"Very good, ma'am. Courtesy of?"
"Why, Mister Bender B. Rodriguez himself of course," Leela answered, taking the headless Bender's hand and turning to lead him away from the scene. After finding the nearest empty table, she shoved Bender's body into a booth seat on one side, then sat on the other herself. Athena sat down beside her as she turned Bender's head upside down again to replace the chip.
"--ED SHE BASTARD! YOU--"
"Shut up, Bender!" Leela said to silence him, and she thumped his head down on the table. "Where's Fry?!"
"I don't know!" Bender grumbled, screwing his head back on. "He came in with me though. He's probably watching the erotic exotic dancing or something..."
Leela sighed. "Why can't you guys just do your jobs without running off and causing problems?"
"Hey, haven't you heard the saying?" Bender answered. "If you want a job done properly... pay the person you get to do it so they actually have some incentive."
"You do get paid, you idiot! Geez... do you have a twenty megabyte hard drive or something?!"
"Hey, that hurts!" Bender moaned. "If I am hurt, do I not hurt back? If I am done an injustice, do I not get revenge? If I am pricked, do I not bleed?"
"You don't bleed, you're a robot," Leela corrected.
"Yeah... well, leaking transmission fuel is good enough," Bender grumbled.
"We've wasted enough time," Leela said. "Let's go find that idiot and get the hell out of here!"
Leela and Athena half-rose to leave, but a large man who appeared to be human leaned down at them. He had dark glasses, wore what looked like a black leather jacket and had a handlebar moustache that was the same colour. He grinned down sleazily at the girls and removed his glasses, his cigar-holding mouth breathing a fetid curse to their noses.
"Hey there, darlings," he muttered sleazily. "How about giving this stud a double lap dance?"
His eyes moved down towards Athena's chest, and Athena realised had to pull her tank top up once again. She made a frown and gritted her teeth.
"Okay then," she growled. "How about I kick things off then!"
She leapt out of her seat to deal a nasty blow to the guy's groin with her right boot. He was twice her size, not just in height and girth, but also in muscle. That still didn't stop him from doubling over with a horrid wheeze. Bender and Leela both seemed just as impressed at the sight themselves, and as the target stumbled back. Athena didn't stop there either.
"There's no need to feel down," she grunted. "Keep your chin up!"
She swiped her right foot up and across to crack a swift hit right under his chin. There was a horrible crunch upon contact, and he slammed onto his back to lie as still as a beached whale. All eyes were on the once frail looking young woman who had dealt the damage, and Athena didn't come back to the real world until she felt a hand lay softly on her shoulder and she turned to see a smiling face with one eye.
"Looks like I don't need to keep an eye on you as much as I thought I did after all," it said to her, filled with pure respect. "Now we'd better find your father while you still remember how to kick ass."
Leela left the scene, and Bender salvaged the guy's cigar, then stuck it in his own teeth before ambling off to follow her. Athena stood for a while and looked back at her former prey, then zipped up her jacket before that loose top caused any more problems. She went to join the others in looking for Fry, who was standing at a booth in the far corner of the exotic dancing area. With him was what appeared to be an "Arabian" belly dancer with an aqua halter-top and mini-skirt, transparent silk and long dark hair braided with what looked like golden rings.
"What else do you want to know about me?" the woman asked him seductively, the look in his eyes equally suggestive.
"If I rub you all over, will I get three wishes?" Fry queried, trying to sound suave. She giggled and pulled him closer.
"Rub me the right way, and I'll give you unlimited wishes," she hissed lasciviously before licking her lips. Fry raised an eyebrow, but before he could do anything else he was slammed onto the table face first with his left arm pulled violently behind his back. There was a scream from the exotic dancer and an immense pressure on his back.
"Ow! Ow! OW! OW!!" he screeched in pain, but then suddenly smiled. "Wait... is that breasts I feel against my back?" a glance up at the dancer. "Is this part of some kind of act?"
"Shut up, Fry!" Leela's voice growled into his ear, pouring immense guilt into it. Leela looked up at the dancer.
"I'd go back to your palace if I were you, Princess!" she growled. "Before I go Mohammed Ali Baba on your wiggly ass and give you forty heaves into hard objects! The only cave of wonders this Aladdin will be seeing is him wondering how he's going to get himself out of this one!"
The dancer trotted off as fast as she could, as Leela increased the pressure on Fry's arm.
"I say 'open sesame,' Fry! So open your trap and tell me what the hell you were thinking pulling a stunt like this?!"
"It was Bender's idea!"
"Wrong answer!" And more pressure came.
"Ow! OW! OWW!!" Fry squealed. "Okay! OKAY! I'm an idiot, that's what! There's no explanation or excuse, I'm just a stupid idiot!"
Leela's grip loosened slightly, removing pain but keeping the sensation uncomfortable.
"It's just that... you never let us go anywhere on trips on delivery trips, even on the way back from them. Like that time last week when we were two hours ahead of schedule, and you wouldn't even let me stop off to see Tatu-ine, even though we went right past it."
"Fry," Leela said forwardly. "We were not going to stop a desert planet filled with singers who pretend to be lesbian schoolgirls! Besides, this is different anyway. You're supposed to be helping your daughter, not revelling in your own perverted fantasies."
"I thought I was though," Fry said. Leela blinked quickly before sneering at him.
"How does you trying to snake your tongue down Miss Curves' throat accomplish that?!"
"Well... I thought it might speed up the journey overall. We thought that if we took the shortcut, Bender and I could spend half an hour here first, then refuel the ship and be on our way to arrive a good hour and a half or so early."
Leela loosened her grip a bit more.
"I wouldn't have done it at all if I thought it was actually going to hamper Athena getting there quickly."
"I still would," Bender muttered to himself more than anybody, but he suddenly spoke louder and more serious. "Speaking of Athena... where is that skin-tube of a daughter of yours?"
Leela quickly let go of Fry, making him slide off the table and to the ground with a thud, and looked around. Athena was nowhere to be seen.
"What could have happened to her?" Leela asked with concern. "It wasn't five minutes ago she was kicking a big biker guy's ass!"
Fry, lying on the floor, saw something. He got to his feet and wandered past Leela and Bender to pick it up from the ground. It was a damp rag.
"What's that?" Leela asked. "Some article of discarded clothing?"
"Give me an analysis, Bender," Fry said, holding the cloth towards him.
"I dunno what the hell it is!" the robot mumbled. "Why don't you just taste it like you do with everything else?"
Leela snatched it off Fry, then waved her wristo-jackometer over it. She gasped.
"It's chloroform," she growled. "Somebody's taken her!"
"But why?" Fry asked. "And how come we didn't notice?"
"I was too occupied with you," Leela growled. "And this place is so crowded, we wouldn't have seen a thing if she was standing behind all of us."
"How are we going to find her then?" Fry asked, clearly in a panic now.
"I don't know," Leela said with a sigh. "But we're going to have to find a way. And fast."