New York, January 14th, 2000
Friday night in the metropolitan of New York came with the usual crowds ready to blow off some steam after a week of mind-numbing work. Bars and restaurants were jam-packed with people who had braved the cold weather in the search for a good time or, at the very least, an opportunity to get drunk. Panucci's Pizzeria was no exception, as it had found itself teeming with customers since the early afternoon.
The fat and bald proprietor, Mr. Panucci himself, stood behind the counter managing the till, making life miserable for just about anyone setting their foot in the shop. Meanwhile, the hired help, consisting of Leela and Fry, had worked all day with nary a pause.
It had been hours into the growing night before the two of them had managed to steal away for a moment and get some much needed rest. Skulking in the back room behind the counter, they were seated together by a rickety and worn wooden table that had seen better days, as evidenced by the numerous cracks, scuff marks and pieces missing that riddled the old furniture.
Leela had managed to get her hands on the only non-broken chair available, mostly by ignoring Fry's whining about having to sit on a soggy box that was filled with cans of anchovies that were way past their sell date.
Together they were sharing a mushroom pizza with extra cheese courtesy of a crank call. The prank had annoyed Leela, though Fry had merely shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something about it coming with the job. Ignorance seemed to be a trait in the delivery boy, Leela had observed. Right now he sat hunched over the table shuffling slices of pizza into his mouth as fast as he could, all the while completely oblivious of the rats and cockroaches’ that were scurrying over his sneakers.
At the moment, however, the cyclops was somewhat too preoccupied to care about the vermin that swarmed the naked concrete floor, but for a completely different reason. She stared somewhat absently at a slice of pizza she held in her hand. Leela's close scrutinizing was partially to make sure that it was free from any extra inedible ingredients and partially because she was mulling her current situation.
Ten days had passed since she had gone shopping with Fry for some much needed clothing. Even though that expedition had transpired without much trouble, save from the incident with the obnoxious sales lady, there was still much that had confused and frustrated her. One of the more mundane things that almost drove the cyclops to insanity was the constant manual maneuvering of any daily object; doors, cars, stoves... just about anything mechanical required a hands-on approach. The few automatic devices that existed were hopelessly primitive and dangerous
Her feelings about being stranded in the 21st century were mixed. On one hand everything was depressingly dirty and uniform. Buildings and people all the same with no variation, while the general attitudes all too well reflected why this was called “the stupid ages”. Yet, there was a strange sense of freedom in it all. There was no such thing as career chips or mandatory work requirements that led to termination if you didn’t comply. Here you could be anything or anyone whether you were actually suitable for it or not.
Despite this rather pleasant quirk of the past she longed to return back home to a familiar landscape and the steady, predicable pace and order of things. There things where at least not confusing and primitive as opposed the era she was lost in now. One thing that she wouldn’t have to deal with was Fry’s extremely dirty apartment and his questionable attitude towards personal hygiene. Having to live with her red headed friend for more than a week had been more than trying.
Despite the fact that she readily loathed her work and her employer back home, it was where home was. Leela still harbored a hope, that she nourished when things got rough, that one day, just one day, she would find her own species and in extension her parents. There was no way she could do that stuck in the past.
There was one thing that still was cause for concern regarding her only way back home. There were still no free pods available and during all the years she had been working at the cryogenic lab Leela had never seen herself being frozen in a pod. That begged the question of whether she actually ever would be able to return home. The prospect of trying to stay hidden while eking out a miserable life in a violent and primitive past was not something that she was ready to consider. The thought of it all just helped add to the stress of having to live and work in the past with this Fry character. It all felt so depressing for the one-eyed woman.
Despite her misgivings, she was, whether she actually liked it or not, starting to get the hang of the oddity that was the 21st century. There were still things that puzzled her despite Fry's best efforts to provide explanations and act as a guide. For one thing, she still couldn't believe that she was drinking cow milk. She'd just about throttled Fry when he'd told her she was drinking something that came from an endangered species. Then he'd gone and explained what was in the hamburgers that she'd been eating that made them taste so amazing. Apparently, cow meat was in everything, and she'd quickly been forced to give up and just accept it. "I guess it doesn't matter what I do, I can't do that much damage to the planet by myself." she'd said. Bizarrely, Fry had patted her on the shoulder and smiled as if she'd passed some kind of test.
"That's the 21st century spirit." He'd proclaimed sagely.
The clothing had also take some time getting used to. The cyclops had found her jeans, brown boots, white knitted jumper and a green colored jacket to be comfortable to use on a daily basis. The only thing that she hadn't quite adjusted to was not having her wrist computer with her at all times. Sure, there were primitive cellphones, but they were like bricks. And how was she supposed to learn anything knew if she couldn't immediately look it up on the Encyclowikipedia Galactica?
Leela had checked the cryogenic laboratory for free cryo pods on almost a daily basis since she had accepted Fry's offer to share his apartment. Still there were no free pods for her to use to get back home. Now, some ten days later, her living arrangements was a decision she was begin to regret, and, with no way to get home yet, staying with Fry was really starting to get on her nerves. With that in mind she addressed her co-worker. "Fry?"
"Humpf?" The delivery boy answered with one slice of pizza in each cheek while cramming a third in his mouth. Crumbs were splattered all over his cheeks. Leela groaned when she lay her eye on Fry. Why does he have to be such a... pig?
The cyclops cleared her throat. "When people live together, they sometimes do things that are... inconsiderate to one another." Leela tried, somewhat tentatively in her attempt to wrap her criticism in a more casual tone.
"I know, but I forgive you" Fry answered, with a half open mouth full of pizza. A few morsels escaped his maw and fell to the floor, where the rats and cockroaches made short work of them.
The cyclops put down her pizza slice and straightened. A disapproving frown spread over her face. "With people, I meant you and with sometimes I meant always." Came the sour reply. "You should show some consideration Fry."
The flow of pizza into the black hole at the front of Fry's face paused for a moment. "Huh? what'd I do?"
"Well, let's see." Leela said sarcastically. "You leave dirty laundry everywhere, you throw your trash in the corner and leave it there. And don't even get me started on your hygiene- or total lack of it, in your case." The cyclops pointed out with a slight sharp tinge in her voice and her one eye half closed.
The delivery boy chewed on his food very much as his mind chewed on what Leela just had said- that is to say, very slowly. He swallowed his food and replied with a shrug of his shoulder. "It doesn’t bother me." He said somewhat dismissively, his though process having digested the cyclops criticism faster than the questionable contents of the pizza he had ingested.
The red head missed the point Leela was trying to make, his eyes on what little remained of the mushroom pizza. His fingers, guided by a seemingly insatiable hunger found their way to the slice Leela just had put down. "Pfff... you're just being picky..." He retorted and guided the food this wide open mouth.
Leela glared at the table where the now empty plate resided and then at Fry. She had only managed to eat two slices while Fry inhaled the rest. "Fry!" The cyclops growled in exasperation "I'm not being picky! And did you really have to eat all of the pizza?!"
"Stop cramping my style, Leela... You've been nagging on me for days now." Having a time traveling alien living with him was no longer nearly as fun as he'd first believed it would be. The first day had been exciting but, as the dull everyday pace had set in, living with Leela had started to become boring and somewhat irritating. Half the time he had to try and explain even the most mundane task for Leela and the other half of the time he had to defend things of the 20th century that Leela complained about or called stupid. Never mind how she also complained about almost everything he did himself.
Leela didn't respond, instead she leaned back in her chair and stared at Fry with crossed arms. The purple haired woman was considering an idea that had started to take root over the past few days. As it had begun to seem that she was stranded in the past for a considerable amount of time and living with Fry wasn't all that... easy. I really should try and get a place of my own... perhaps a better job. She mused. The cyclops never had liked her job as a cryogenic counselor, though being a pizza delivery girl a thousand years in the past wasn't that much fun either.
The idea of making a living in the primitive past on her own seemed daunting at first but, then again, Fry, who wasn't exactly the most intelligent person she had met, somehow managed to survive on his own. So why shouldn't she?
Their food break was suddenly cut short by the intervention of the proprietary owner and boss of the pizzeria; Mr. Panucci himself, who poked his face through the doorway. "Hey, I don't pay youse two minimum wage to sit here and be doin' nothin'. Youse two have an order to delivers. Come on!"
Fry stared blankly at his boss for a moment before he spoke with a hint of surprise in his voice. "Both of us?"
"Youse have a problem with that?" Came the irritated and somewhat ominous reply, hinting a possible suggestion that Fry might see himself finding another career if he didn't do what he was told.
"But I don't need Leela's help." Fry started to protest, in his usual whiny tone. His attempt at rebuffing his bosses wish for him to use Leela's aid in the upcoming delivery was thwarted by the cyclops right foot meeting his left shin.
"Not now Fry." Leela growled, underscoring her desire for Fry to be silent as to any objections for her presence. Her delivery co-worker didn't say anything but replied in turn with an irritated look at her while he rubbed his bruised shin. Stupid time traveling alien. Fry though to himself. His purple haired guest picked up on the nuances of delivery pizza faster than he ever did. It was cause for concern. He couldn't afford for Panucci to realize how good a job she was doing, or, next thing he knew, Panucci would be firing him and keeping her instead.
Some ten minutes later, the two of them stood outside the pizza parlor loading a sizable stack of large pepperoni pizzas on both their bicycles. Done securing the haul, Fry glanced at the paper slip featuring the address. Knowing where it was, he took the lead by mounting his bike and drove off into the crowded night.
Leela was by now much more secure in her ability to ride a bicycle. Still, she had some troubles navigating the streets of New York and thus she was actually glad that Fry was with her on this delivery.
The reason she was still getting so easily lost was that, to her eye, the streets of old New York were bewilderingly alike. Everything was a big square box of brick and masonry. Where were the trapezoids and upside down pyramids? None of the buildings even hovered, for crying out loud. Without any landmarks to help her keep her bearing, Leela had gotten lost on more than one occasion when sent on a delivery by herself. On occasion, this has forced her to use the primitive mode of communication known as a 'pay phone' to call Fry at the pizzeria and ask him for directions. It was just about all she could do to force herself to use the dreadful things. Each time she deposited a pocket full of change into the slot she kept expecting to hear a computerized voice cheerfully ask her how she wanted to die today.
Leela did have a map of the city that she had been given, but it was a rudimentary where-we-are guide for the now defunct Happy Clown Burger chain who had been sued into oblivion by McDonalds. With oversimplified graphics and clown faces to mark the now closed stores Leela didn't find the map easy to use. Then again it had been a gift from, Fry, her 20th century "guide".
Trailing Fry on a bicycle on a busy Friday night in New York while wearing black sun glasses was anything but easy, and the cold that tore through her despite her gloves and thick clothing didn't help either. She couldn't really understand how Fry could just shrug off the cold January weather.
Luckily for Leela, they soon found themselves at the appropriate address at an upscale townhouse not far from the pizzeria. It was well lit, still featuring an obnoxious number of Christmas decorations despite being mid-January, hinting at a lazy owner. There were several poorly parked cars in the street and together with pounding music it all gave evidence they were delivering to a party.
The delivery boy locked his bike with seasoned movements and unfastened the ribbon that had held the large stack of pizzas safely secure to his two wheeled vehicle. Leela, the delivery girl, did the same thing, albeit with more unfamiliar movements. It irritated her that she still had trouble with something as simple as a bicycle chain, but the rudimentary mechanics of it was still a bit of a primitive mystery for her.
Suddenly a shadow obscured the nearby street light as she fought the lock. Irritated she looked up. "Fry! You're blocking the light!"
Fry took a quick step to the side. "Sorry... you need help with that?"
"I can handle it." The cyclops grumbled and snapped the lock shut, grabbed the stack of pizzas from her own bicycle. "Shall we?" She continued with a nod towards the building.
Fry took the lead and navigated the stone-clad walkway to the massive front door. Whoever was living in the building wasn't poor. It took some time before someone decided to answer the door despite Fry's persistent and increasingly heavy banging.
The massive gateway swung open to reveal two rather inebriated college students. The first of them was tall, blond and muscular. He was wearing a football jacket that, despite its size, almost looked to small on him. The other student also had a football jacket but was smaller and thinner with a nose that gave him a rat-like expression. His black hair was oily and lay slicked to his head.
The rat-faced student yanked the first stack of pizza boxes from Fry with alcohol-fueled excitement. "Food!" He slurred before he continued to yell over his shoulder." Hey guys! The pizza's here!"
The blond guy smiled a smug and superior smile towards Fry and Leela as he took the second batch of cartons from the cyclops. Eager hands from within the building relieved the blond student from the boxes of food. The tall footballer jammed a crumpled bunch of dollar bills in Fry's outstretched hand.
Oddly enough the student who had paid lingered while Fry sorted the money that had been thrust at him. Leela eyed the tall man with suspicion, she had a feeling that there was something wrong with the money and he knew that. It didn't take many minutes for the cyclops to be proved right.
"Hey, waitaminnit!" Fry cried upon closer inspection of the number of bills in his hand. "This aint enough!" He complained having come up with only half the amount he was supposed to have.
"Look buddy... you and your "help" was late... you don't get paid full because of that." The guy who paid Fry said and poked his oversized right index finger several times in the delivery boy’s chest underscoring each word.
"No we wasn't! We're always on time even when we're not and even then we're early!"
"I'm pretty sure you were late... besides what are ya gonna do... shrimp?" The tall guy said and pushed Fry hard in the chest sending him staggering back a couple of steps. Leela had been standing silently at some distance behind Fry, trying to be inconspicuous. She rather didn't want to become embroiled in a fight since she had no idea how the locals would feel about it from a legal standpoint.
Seeing that tall, blond man evidently was picking a fight and that Fry was stumbling into trouble, she decided that she had to intervene. She grabbed her collogue by the arm and started to drag him from the door.
"Leela?! What are you doing?!" Fry protested vehemently.
"Getting you out of trouble! Now keep walking." Leela hissed to the delivery boy leading him towards the parked bicycles.
"Yeah, you two better run!" The large college guy yelled after them.
"You red and purple, you both are yella!" The rat-faced man who just had rejoined the first one called. The both of them broke out in drunken laughter while punching each other. The cyclops gave them an angry glare over her shoulder. She had half a mind to let go of Fry, go back up there, and beat the living snot out of them both herself.
"But Leela... we didn't get paid full price... Mr. Panucci will take it out of my pay!" Fry complained.
"Fry... can we discuss this later?" Leela replied to the delivery boy who wore an unhappy face. He glanced over his shoulder towards the doorway one more time before he unlocked his bicycle.
Leela also turned towards her bicycle with the intent of unlocking the chain. When doing so she gave the two college students a full view of her posterior while bending over. This provoked a new set of jeers from the two of them.
"Hey purple! Nice ass!" The rat faced student called while his bigger companion gave a wolf whistle.
Leela froze and her head snapped back, she stared at them through her sunglass. With one hand on her hip she replied. "At least I'm not being an ass! You'd better stop, or the next time you order a pizza, you'll be eating it through a straw!"
"Aww shut up delivery girl!" The taller of the two retorted and threw a half drunken beer towards Leela. Seeing the approaching projectile the cyclops made a smooth jump over her bicycle and ducked away. His rat faced friend saw fit to join in and picked some loose rocks and started to pelt Leela and Fry. The cyclops dove behind a pair of semi-mangled metallic garbage cans.
The delivery boy, however, wasn't as fortunate in his attempts to dodge the flying objects. Instead he took a small stone square in the forehead. For a moment he simply stood there as a rivulet of blood ran down over his face "Leela? I don't feel so good." He managed to say before his legs gave out underneath him and he fainted on the side walk.
To the tune of derisive laughter from the door, Leela left her cover and approached the still delivery boy. Leela pulled of one of her gloves and felt Fry's pulse. Feeling it beat steadily under her fingers she looked up with anger flaring in her one eye towards the door. The two college students had retreated back into the warm party when the pizza delivery boy and girl failed to provide any more entertainment.
"Fry? Are you alright?" Leela asked where she knelt beside the prone delivery boy. Flickering eyelids and a semi coherent gurgle was her only response.
"I don' 'wanna 'ear the 'uke pants."
Holding Fry by his collar, the Cyclops stared back and forth between the closed door and Fry’s pale face with a stream of blood slowly running down over it. She gently propped him up against one of the garbage cans and walked in striding, determined steps towards the front door. There she came to a brief pause while the purple haired woman pressed the door bell so hard that it almost stuck.
It took a whole minute before the tall blond guy who had just previously closed the door managed to get it back open again. “Waddayawant?” Leela didn’t bother with a reply; she was already half-way through a kick which hit the muscular man right in the face. With a muffled cry he was sent flying into the corridor disappearing from Leela’s view. A moment later, there was the satisfying sound of crunching furniture and breaking glass as the football-player-turned-football came in for a landing.
As if on cue, the rat faced man showed up only to receive Leela’s wrath in the form of a fist not once but twice. He too disappeared into the hall and landed nosily on his already stricken comrade. From what Leela could ascertain from the swearing it wasn’t a very happy landing. Satisfied with what she had done the purple haired woman proceed back and addressed the stricken delivery boy.
"Come on Fry..." The cyclops said and lifted him from the cold ground trying to get him to support his own weight.
"My 'ister is Belle." Came another strange noise from the stricken Fry. Leela let out a sigh. The delivery boy had gotten hit hard enough to be delirious. Thus he most likely suffered from head trauma. Leela remembered passing a hospital on their way to the delivery. It was only a couple of blocks away. With some effort and only minuscule assistance from Fry, she managed to get him on her back in a piggy back fashion.
With Fry resting his head on her shoulder, mumbling things under his breath while drooling, Leela pondered the situation as she left the bicycles behind and started her trek towards the emergency room. Perhaps she should stay with Fry a while longer... just long enough for him to survive on his own. A wry smile flickered across her face. Amazing that he'd managed to survive by himself this long. Leela wasn't surprised at how violent and dangerous the past had turned out to be. Just that someone like Fry had managed to stay alive for so long.
A slight pang of guilt let its presence be known. If she just had managed to quell her anger and stayed silent, then perhaps the college students wouldn’t have thrown the rocks at them. I'll stay with him a bit longer... just until he has recuperated. Came a final thought as she pushed Fry up an inch, took out a longer step and disappeared into the New York night where a light snowfall had begun.