Fan Fiction

The Leelazarus Effect, part 3
By SoylentOrange

The impact never came. Leela cautiously opened her eye. Through the front viewport she could see a sea of low sand dunes stretching to the horizon. Her first thought was “Oh crap, all that and it didn’t even work”, but then she noticed something. The dunes weren’t as big as they had been five minutes ago, and Nibbler was nowhere to be seen.

Leela reached down to pick up the time device from her lap where she had left it, but her hand came up empty. Startled, the cyclops jumped out of her seat and began searching frantically. It only took a moment to find it where it had rolled between a bulkhead and a piece of navigation equipment. The PE captain bent over to pick it up. A hologram flickered into existence over the device as soon as Leela touched it. A message blinked in the air: “destination reached. Travel time -1000 years, 4 days” A moment later the message flickered and went out as the last bit of power was drained from the device. Leela had made it; she was in the past.

Feeling optimistic for the first time since she’d fallen into the cryotube a thousand years ago, “no,” she corrected herself, “just over a day from now,” Leela gently put time gizmo in a safe place and sat back down in the pilot’s seat. A quick scan of the HUD showed that the PE ship had come through the rift in time virtually unscathed; another testament to the professor’s skills as an inventor. “I’ll have to be sure and thank Farnsworth when this is all ov… wait.” Leela had caught sight of the radar screen out of the corner of her eye. “Hold on, that can’t be right.” The whole outer edge of the screen was full of static, as if something was interfering with the signal. “Maybe not everything was as well built as I thought.”, she muttered. But wait, was it her imagination or was the inner edge of ring of static a little closer to the ship than it was a second ago? More curious than worried, Leela stood up and walked to the viewport. Holding one hand over her eye to block the intensity of the desert sun, the PE captain stared at the horizon. If she squinted hard enough she could just barely make out a tiny black speck, probably nothing more than a vulture looking for dinner. But then another speck came into view right at the edge of sight. “Eh, just a couple of birds. No big deal… Ok, make that three, four, err, five birds…” her words trailed off as more and more specks came into view. Within a matter of moments there were dozens of them, but Leela wasn’t watching anymore.

The engines of the Planet Express Ship awoke with a low grumble. Leela’s hands flew over the controls. “Come on damnit, wake up you worthless hunk of metal!” she yelled futilely at her ship. The PE captain glanced furtively out the front viewport. The sky was now full of tiny specks, so many that the radar screen was saturated with them. Whatever these things were, they were coming in fast, and the engines weren’t quite warm. It was going to be close.

The lead dot grew in size as it approached until it’s lumpy pink shape was unmistakable. A green light blinked on the HUD. “Ok, time to leave!” Leela yanked up on the stick as hard as she could. The PE ship reared back on its haunches, paused for a moment as if to take a breath, and blasted into the sky. The converging tide of brainspawn swept skyward a moment later.

Rays of pale green arced by the Planet Express ship, sometimes missing by just a few meters. Leela gritted her teeth and yanked sideways on the stick, sending everything outside the viewport into a crazy spiral. Somehow the brains were staying with her, though how they were managing it when Nibbler had made it a point to mention that they were completely blind, she had no idea.

“How did they know where to find me?”, she wondered. “And how did they get there so fast?” It didn’t make any sense. One of the brains strange glowing weapons hit the laser turret, and passed right through. There was no hull breach, but all of the systems in that part of the ship immediately lost power. Leela countered with a series of complicated evasive maneuvers, but the damned brains just matched her move for move. It was time for a new strategy. Leela redirected power from all systems to the engines and sent the ship into a broad turn to port until she could see her target in the distance. The Planet Express Ship hurtled into an asteroid field at breakneck speed. The brains followed.

The cockpit jumped up, down, left, right as Leela sent her craft careening between asteroids. Her eye squinted in concentration; it was all she could do to keep herself from becoming a radioactive crater. The gap between her and the brainspawn slowly increased. Every once in awhile one would make a bad move and find itself smeared evenly over half a square kilometer of barren space rock. One of the brains calculated the risk and decided it was time to end this chase before too many of its fellows got themselves killed. The blob of grey matter accelerated toward and past its quarry until it was stationed a short distance ahead of Leela’s bow. Leela’s face contorted in an evil grin. She laughed aloud and accelerated. A glimmer of understanding shot through her enemy a split second too late. The Planet Express ship smacked into the brain at thousands of miles an hour. Leela turned on the windshield wipers and veered to starboard, nearly missing a jagged lump of cratered iron.

The brains started pulling back. Maybe they had seen what Leela had done to their friend. Still Leela did not slow her ship. When the brains finally circled the perimeter of the asteroid field Leela intended to be long gone.

The asteroids began to whiz by the ship less and less frequently, until there was only one solitary rock up ahead. As the Planet Express ship drew closer it soon became apparent that it was not really an asteroid, but a small dusty moon that had been ejected long ago by its parent planet. Leela brought her ship in low over the moon and hugged its surface, hoping the giant ice ball would hide her exact course out of the star from any brain that had happened to make it through the asteroids intact. She was not prepared for the squad of brainspawn that had been lying there in wait for her.

Skimming only twenty meters or so off the surface, Leela crested a ridge and suddenly found herself face to face with a dozen brainspawn, including one that was much bigger than the rest. Luckily the very ridge that had kept them hidden from Leela also had kept her hidden from them.

Leela aimed for the center of the mob as a dozen green tendrils enveloped the Planet Express ship. Power failed, systems crashed, and the engines went out with a ‘whump’. Leela felt the effects of the brains’ fields as they worked within her. It became impossible to think clearly, though in truth there was really nothing she could have done anyway. Psychic force fields were sucking momentum from the ship. Speed dropped off at an alarming rate. The brains just needed a few moments more and it would all be over, a few moments that, unfortunately for them, they were not going to get. Now nothing more than a projectile, the PE ship crashed through the squad of brainspawn, scattering them every which way and taking out two who had been a little two slow to get out of the way.

The stupefaction fields vanished for a moment as the disoriented brains tried to reacquire their target. Leela felt her wits returning. Unfortunately, the power was still gone. All she could do was watch as gravity slowly pulled her ship toward the surface of the moon.

The ship hit at just over two hundred kilometers an hour and skipped like a stone. Leela was thrown around in her restraints like a rag doll. Up ahead in the distance a jagged cliff rose five kilometers in the air. The ship dug long furrows in the regolith as it bounced and skidded over the surface. The wall of rock loomed larger and larger until it filled the whole viewport. Leela groaned as she realized she wasn’t going to stop in time. “I am so tired of crashing into things.”

The big brain hovered over the crash site for a long time. The scar left by the doomed human’s pitiful little spacecraft ended abruptly in a pile of rubble at the base of a cliff. The impact had sent a sizable chunk of the cliff face crashing down so that now only the section of the vessel aft of the laser turret was visible to human eyes. The big brain saw a good deal more.

A few of his underlings approached, having finished tending to the injured. They floated about anxiously, not quite sure if they should disturb their leader’s concentration. Finally one of them asked if there were any life signs in the buried ship. As if the answer wasn’t obvious. The big brain watched as the offender began to glow in embarrassment under his superior’s scrutiny. <That one must learn discipline if he is to survive against the Nibblonian menace> the big brain thought to himself. Then to his followers:

<Come, there is nothing left to be done here, and much to be done elsewhere. Signal the others; I have come to a decision. At long last it is time for us to come out of hiding>

Excited queries jumped back and forth between the underlings. None of them knew what to make of this announcement. It was amusing that they did not realize he heard every last one of their thoughts. Finally one of them had the courage to ask directly.

<Sir, does this mean that the war has begun?>

<Yes. Spread the word; the invasion of Earth begins in 12 hours, and this time we will let nothing stop us.>

When Leela opened her eyes she found herself sitting in the dark, restrained to a chair. It took a moment for her to remember why exactly that made any sense. Before she tried to move she first did a mental survey of her own body. She ached all over, but at least nothing felt broken. Forcing her stiff body to cooperate, Leela switched on the dim light of her wristamajig and carefully untangled herself from her harness. Standing was a little easier than she had expected it to be. Carefully she worked her way to the emergency supply closet that was at the back of the bridge. She easily found the emergency candles and matches behind the clown suit. “Someone really needs to get rid of this thing,” she remarked to herself for the hundredth time, but she knew it would never happen. Somehow the clown suit had become a traditional part of the ship, just as important as pre-blastoff ice cream sundaes and in-flight drinking games.

Once there was enough light to see by, Leela knew her next objective should be restoring some power. Candle light was good and all, but all the candles in the universe couldn’t protect her from the brutal cold of space that was seeping through the hull, or provide her with clean air to breathe. Unfortunately there was no response from any of the bridge consoles. The only way that all of the emergency power could fail at once was if every last battery onboard had been completely drained. “That’s what those weird green rays did,” Leela realized. ”Somehow they sucked the energy right out of the circuits.” If she was going to get power back she would have to get the darkmatter reactor working again, which meant she had to get to the engine room. Still, Leela found herself reluctant to leave the safety of the bridge and go rummaging about the dark corridors by candelight. “If only Fry and Bender were here, it wouldn’t be so damned spooky.” Suddenly she remembered the urgency of her mission. She had to get to Earth, and she had to do it immediately if she was going to complete her mission. “Pull yourself together Turanga,” she commanded herself. “If the brains knew I was still alive they would have gotten me already. They aren’t hiding in ambush in the hallways.”

Unconvinced but refusing to show any kind of weakness even to herself, Leela grabbed a candle in one hand and headed toward the hatch. She hesitated a moment before opening it. Reaching a decision, the PE captain took a few steps backward and reached into the emergency locker. She rummaged around for a moment before her hand found what she was looking for. She pulled out a sleek little laser pistol and checked it’s charge. It wasn’t much, and she wouldn’t need it, but it would make her feel better to have it. Now Leela walked to the hatch with a bit more confidence in her step. She hit the manual release and stepped back. The door creaked as it was slowly drawn apart by hydraulics hidden in the bulkhead. Brandishing the most primitive of lights in one hand and the most modern of weapons in the other, The PE captain took a deep breath and walked into the dark corridor.

Leela reached the engine room with the blood pounding in her ears but otherwise without incident. She was relieved to find that the reactor was in good shape. It had shut itself down when it detected a power loss to its monitoring systems, but the darkmatter was still hot enough that Leela soon had it running as good as new. The lights came on a few moments later.

Back on the bridge, Leela ran a full diagnostic on all of the ship’s systems. Life support was chugging away at full capacity, the reactor was running smoothly, navigational and defensive systems were up and operating. The engines, however, were another story. The exhaust nozzles had gotten pretty banged up while the ship was skidding along the ground. They were fixable, but it was going to require some sledge and blowtorch work. Luckily the professor insisted on keeping those exact tools onboard at all times, just in case some incriminating fender damage had to be removed in a hurry.

It was a bit of tricky business trying to wriggle through the laser turret dressed in a bulky spacesuit. Normally Leela would have made Fry do it, and then gotten Bender to give him a quick shove through the narrow spaces. Still, Leela managed to work her way up the ladder, squeeze between the chair and the firing console, disengage the clamps that held the transparent dome to the top of the ship, and then lift the dome and climb out onto the hull without getting hopelessly stuck. The PE captain shook her head to clear it of the headache that she felt coming on. The throbbing dissipated but didn’t go away; maybe she hadn’t quite come out of the crash unscathed after all. Oh well, a headache was easily ignored. Leela did a quick scan of her surroundings. The radar hadn’t shown any brains nearby, but you didn’t survive long as a Planet Express employee by relying on instruments alone.

The landscape was typical interplanetary space rock. A flat, grayish plain stretched to the too-close horizon in one direction. It was unbroken save for a few small craters and the deep trough that the Planet Express ship had cut as it had come down. The other direction consisted of an impossibly high vertical wall.

Leela activated her suit’s maneuvering jet and flew the short distance to the damaged engines. She sighed when she saw the damage. The metal was bent and warped where it had smashed into the surface of the moon. The fusion torch glared into life with a flick of a switch. Leela’s helmet immediately increased its opaqueness to compensate. Sighing again and shaking her head to clear it, Leela maneuvered to within reach of the hull and started to work. She didn’t notice the bright white spark that flew by overhead.

Progress was slow, much slower than she had expected. The damage was extensive, and it had to be fixed perfectly. If the engine exhaust was deflected by any kind of impurity in the nozzles it would send the ship careening out of control. Leela’s body was screaming at her to drop everything and take off. It was everything she could do to supress the urge and concentrate on what she knew had to be done. Worst of all, time was running out. Nibbler had purposely sent her back in time so that she would get back to Earth only a few hours before the brains attacked. After all, if Leela altered the series of events that had led to her past-self falling into the freezer tube, who knows what could happen? Unfortunately, Nibbler hadn’t taken into account the possibility of being marooned for six hours on a lump of rock… “Stupid brains,” she muttered between slams of her anvil, “what the hell were they doing on that planet anyway? They can’t have known that I was going to be there, could they?”

Eventually there just wasn’t any more time. Leela could float around pounding at her ship for the next ten hours or the next hundred years. It wasn’t going to matter, she was still going to be too late. Making one last inspection, Leela clicked off her torch and slid it back into its pouch at her waist. Satisfied, she throttled up the jet at her back and coasted expertly over the ship’s tail section and back to the laser turret. It was even more difficult going in than it was coming out.

Leela bolted for the cockpit, shedding bits of spacesuit as she ran. Once she was buckled into her captain’s chair she paused to think for a moment. What were the chances that she was going to blow herself to hell? Small, but not nil. Good, those were better than average odds for any mission she’d ever flown for Planet Express. Leela jabbed the button that would start the engines. There was a low hum which steadily built to a roar. Something clanged loudly several times. Leela held her breath, but nothing else happened. Cautiously, The PE captain pulled back on the throttle, pushing the ship into reverse. There was a great deal of scraping and grumbling as the ship shook itself free, but after several tense moments there was nothing outside the front viewport but the blackness of space. One last check of the radar yielded no contacts. Leela put a course into the navigational computer and shoved the throttle as far forward as it would go. Finally, and at long last, she was going home.

The Planet Express ship flew uncontested through empty space. Leela, having run out of things to do hours ago, occupied herself by pacing up and down the length of the cockpit. She was worried. The crash had eaten up too much time. By the time she made it back to Earth the brains would have already begun their attack; it was too late to stop it. Somehow she’d failed her mission before it had even really had a chance to begin.

“At least I’ll still have a chance to save Fry,” she reassured herself. “… if I don’t somehow manage to screw that up too.”

Unfortunately, Nibbler didn’t know the exact time that the PE building had gone up in a fireball. However, he had mentioned that the sun was going down when it happened. That made it sometime around 6pm, plus or minus ten minutes or so.

There was a timer displayed on one of the bridge monitors. It was steadily ticking down until the ship’s computer would signal that the ship had re-entered the solar system, which it had estimated at about 5:35. Leela glanced at it for the hundredth time. An hour and a half to go… The Planet Express ship was one of the fastest ships in existence but to Leela it seemed as though she was clunking along like some primitive 20th century space shuttle. She sighed and went back to pacing.

The Planet Express ship rocketed out from behind the cover of the sun and set the tiny glimmer of Earth in its sights. The brains had done a thorough job. Sensors showed the space around Earth littered with the wreckage of the DOOP navy.

A legion of brainspawn rose up from the planet’s surface to meet the intruder as Leela passed the orbit of The Moon. They tried to block her path, but this time their enemy was ready for them. A torpedo arced away from the ship. The brains tried to break it apart as they had done to all of the DOOP weapons that had gotten too close, but Nibbler had warned Leela that they would try this. The torpedo detonated remote detonated as soon as the brains got a grip on it with their strange appendage-like force fields, coming well short of its target. Leela had known that that would happen too. That’s why she’d spent a good portion of her trip home searching the ship for things she could pack inside the torpedoes. Bits of silverware, rubble from the crash, and even the sledge hammer she had used to fix the ship went flying in all directions. They pounded on the brains and on the ship with equal number and force. The brains however, didn’t have the luxury of a metal hull. The PE ship held its course and hurtled through the stunned squad, and entered the atmosphere a few moments later. The ship’s clock read 5:36.

The towers of New New York came suddenly into view as the ship broke through a patchy layer of thunderheads. The city was still there! The brainspawn were everywhere. A group of them gathered over one of the taller skyscrapers. The building began to glow softly green and then all at once erupted in a pillar of flame. Horrified and furious, Leela altered course to intercept the brains that were gathering about the giant torch. She fired her other torpedo and caught the mob off guard. The fireball engulfed a dozen of them and the shrapnel took care of the rest. Down on the ground their was the sound of cheers, but Leela couldn’t hear them through the hull.

The brains had been too distracted with their rampage to pay much attention to one harmless-looking spaceship, but now Leela had their full attention. At least a hundred brains broke off to engage the Planet Express ship. Normally Leela would have taken them on, but there wasn’t any time. Rolling over and putting her ship into a backward summersault, Leela took off toward Planet Express. The brains chased her through the tangled maze of metal and concrete. Bender had been bugging Leela to let him take the ship on a joyride through the streets of New Manhattan for ages. Now Leela remembered why she had always said no.

Finally, with one last gut-wrenching maneuver, Leela sent the ship rolling sideways through a gap between two close buildings and across the water to Planet Express. It was still intact! That meant Fry was still alive! One of the brains’ greenish rays passed close by to port. Leela pushed the nose downward and held course for a split second more. Hoping to catch her pursuers off guard, she suddenly threw the engines into reverse, suddenly stopping the ship in midair. The brains went streaming by on all sides, not having had time to react. They’d be back soon enough. Leela extended the landing gear and cut the engines entirely. The ship dropped the couple of meters to the ground and landed in the middle of an empty street with a jarring thud. Having come to the decision that she didn’t want the brains to get their grubby feelers on her time-amajig while she was gone, Leela grabbed it and rushed off the bridge. The ship’s clock read 5:42.

It was only a short run to the Planet Express building. God it was good to see it in one piece again. The sound of laser fire from somewhere inside the structure woke Leela from her momentary reverie. She stepped forward cautiously, waiting for the automatic door to sense her presence. The door swished open, and Leela rolled through the sudden opening. She took shelter for a moment behind an overturned table and waited for any sign that she had been spotted. Sure enough, a single brainspawn came floating boldly into the hall. It stopped a meter or so from her position and stopped, as if listening. Leela grew impatient; there wasn’t enough time for stealth damnit! She jumped from her hiding place and leveled her pistol at the giant hovering space-nerd. Unbelievably, it started to laugh at her.

<Hahaha… Foolish human, did you really think you were hidden from me behind that pitiful piece of furniture? I saw you the moment you entered the building. I also see the time travel device that you are holding behind your back. You will now hand it over to me or I will reduce you to a babbling moron.>

Leela’s eye narrowed. “I don’t think so bub. If you’re vision is so good then you also see the laser I have pointed at your squishy head, err, face, err whatever you call that wrinkly mess. Now shut up and tell me, where is Fry?”

<The crazy idiot with the spiky red hair? I killed him. His screams were most amusing.>

“Liar!” Leela fired her weapon, blowing a chunk out of the wall not six inches from the brain. “Now listen very carefully. I am not in the mood for mind games with some giant hackeysack. If you try and lie to me again I swear I’ll shoot you full of holes and then beat you until you look like a wad of used chewing gum, understand? Now let’s try this again. Where is Fry?”

Now there was some uncertainty in the brainspawn’s voice. <N-now let’s not be hasty. I wasn’t serious. I don’t even know who you’re talking about. Who’s Fry? The Mighty One? Never heard of him…>

Leela’s finger started to depress the trigger.

<Alright, alright! He’s barricaded himself in one of the rooms in the tower, but it doesn’t matter. The Big Brain just sent word; its got something special planned for him. Just wait a few minutes and Fry will be easy to find. He’ll be everywhere!> The brain started to laugh hysterically.

It was too much for the PE captain. She screamed and fired, sending the abruptly silent brain plopping to the floor. Panic stricken, Leela ran through the halls without regard to her own safety. Fry was in the tower! She had to get there before it was too late!

A pair of brains spotted Leela as she ran through the building. They gave chase. Leela dodged them until she reached the turbolift. Two quick shots from the cover of the closing turbolift car dropped one brain, and then the other. There was the sensation of movement as the lift bore her upward. A few moments later the doors swished open again.

The brains floated one after the other through the smashed windows. Fry stood with his back against the iron bulk of the chimney cover, blasting away at whatever had the misfortune to blunder into his sights. The rest of the crew sat in a group at his feet. It was all Fry could do to convince his stupefied friends to keep still while he attempted to save their asses. “What a day for Leela to mysteriously vanish,” he thought as he dodged a stray shot. The brains had quickly given up trying to use their dumbifying fields. Now they were using some kind of concentrated mental beam. From the smoking holes in the walls the delivery boy had deduced that it wouldn’t be a good idea to get hit by one.

Fry saw the brain that had just tried to, well, fry him. It was still a long way off, coming in over the water. Closing one eye, the delivery boy steadied himself and took aim, slowly depressing the trigger. “Careful… Careful…” he whispered to himself. The brain floated into his crosshairs. “Almost…” The elevator door swished open.

Fry’s body whirled around to meet this new threat. His finger squeezed the trigger instinctively as Leela came rushing into the room. The beam of yellow light cut through the air and buried itself in a barrel; a barrel marked: “Danger, antimatter! Do not store near epic battle.”

Fry and Leela stared at each other, then the barrel, and then once more at each other. Then the world exploded.