My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

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Tanpopo
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My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:58 am

Hey, SFFC Board! I've been working on this Futurama story for a while, so I decided to post it here for comments and feedback. It's about my own character, who's like most guys - until a truck accident sends him to the year 3008. As the newest employee of Planet Express, what adventures await him? And more importantly, will his new friends help him get over his past and learn to love again?  :-\

All reviews welcome. But don't bother if you're just going to bitch because I'm not shipping Fry/Leela in this fic. I don't bitch about your fics, I just expect the same courtesy from you.
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I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.
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Meteorite
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Meteorite » Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:17 am

Welcome!  Always good to have new writers. :)

I'm interested in reading more of this.


And don't worry about us bitching about who you ship, we don't focus on that here.
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<gkscotty|drawing> most people play Pokemon games with GameFAQs or a Pokéwiki open
<gkscotty|drawing> you seem to have TVTRopes :P


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Sometimes I feel like dressing up my Gaia avatar.
Feels kinda pointless since I don't actually do stuff at Gaia, so I'm putting it here.
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Enhas
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Enhas » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:03 pm

Image

To be serious, the first chapter is written quite well and I hope that you continue further. ;)
Last edited by Enhas on Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
CROWD: What do you want?
FRY: Fry's dog!
CROWD: When do you want it?
FRY: Fry's dog!
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:52 pm

LOL. Thanks Enhas and Dark Mage.

I reuploaded the documents to fix a minor error. Don't worry, Chapter 2 will be posted soon.
I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.
User avatar
Tanpopo
New SNPP Employee
New SNPP Employee
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:21 pm

Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:14 pm

Sorry about not updating for a while, but I've had a lot of work lately. Anyway, here's Chapter 2. I've decided to post it in the main post in case there are people who can't open the files.

~

2.

When he could see again, the light was so bright that he first thought it was burning his face. He closed his eyes, but it almost stayed as strong, only tinted with red. The pain subsided almost immediately, but the light remained the only thing he could see.

“Your name?”

“Norman Robert Godwin.”

The slightest sounds of touch-typing.

“Date of birth?”

“1978.”

He briefly wondered if he'd been arrested, but the voice was too nice, a male voice with a slight accent that he couldn't place. When he even felt his body, it appeared to be lying down. He couldn't move his head to see it, but it felt like it was perfectly fine that way. Something soft, like padding, was in the way when he tried to move his arms and legs.

“Age?”

“But I just...”

His own voice had sounded odd at the start of the interview. Gradually, it returned to the sound he was used to, though maybe the problem had been with his ears. He wasn't in pain. That was one reason he didn't panic.

“I'm sorry, Mr. Godwin. I have to ask these things.” He pronounced “ask” oddly, like he had some kind of speech impediment.

“Thirty, of course.”

“Occupation?”

“Truck driver. For Arbco.” They were going to ask about it. The company was tiny. “It's a family company. It's just me and a couple other guys.”

More typing.

“Please tell us a bit about your education and previous work experience.”

That was the first thing that made him grimace.

~

Did he need to tell them about grade school? All he remembered was the prickly shrubberies where he used to walk past, rain and asphalt, and the bigger boys saying he was a Pole and should go back to his own country. Being the last one to get picked for the baseball teams. High school had been better, he'd even made friends for the first time, but by the time he finished, he was sick of school. Mom and Piotrek had wanted him to go to college, but when he got the job as a janitor, they had thought it was an OK substitute. His work experience was mopping and sweeping, until Ibrahim's uncle started Arbco. He had been twenty, it was the year Adrienne graduated medical college. He shied from the memory.

~

“City or town of residence? That will do, you don't have to give your exact address.”

“Newark.” It struck him that maybe these people didn't know where it was. “It's outside New York City.”

“Family members?” The man's voice was lower. “Are you married or in a relationship?”

“My mom and stepfather. A brother, Mike. Mike Godwin. And a half-brother, Darek.” He swallowed. “I'm not married.” Strictly speaking, that wasn't true. His marriage had lasted for such a short time, if he tried to tell anyone, they would think it was some sort of a twisted joke.

“Oh.” He knew something bad was coming. “We are very sorry to inform you that your family are dead, Mr. Godwin. You will be offered grief counseling, if you want it.”

The first thought: terrorists? An earthquake? It had happened while he was out cold on the hillside in the truck. Norm tried to shake his head, as if that could bring back the memories, but he could hardly move it at all. For the first time he felt claustrophobia.

“How?” His voice sounded so changed, it took a while until he realized it was his.

The man sighed.

“I keep telling them, there's got to be a better way of breaking this to you... anyway, they should be on record. Let me Google it for you.”

The sound of a dial-up modem. More typing.

“Piotrek Kowalski: dead in a workplace accident, 2016. Darek Daniel Kowalski, dead from enemy fire in the battle of Cony Island, 2021. Marina Goodwin: dead from heart infarction, 2036. Michael Ronan Godwin, dead from cancer, 2078.”

Norm got the idea that he was supposed to say something, but his head had gone sort of quiet.

“It's September the third, 3008. That's three thousand. Again, I'm terribly sorry about this.”

Then maybe it was some kind of practical joke. It didn't make any sense, but he couldn't think of anything else it could be.

“I know you're lying.” It sounded painfully clear.

The dazzling light became more solid, then lifted from his face with a slight hiss.

He was actually standing up, he hadn't noticed that before. Something was attaching him to the wall, like a mummy in a sarcophagus in the Saturday morning cartoons. There was nothing scary about the room: it was white and minimalistic and shiny, lit by the awesome view from the picture windows. He must be very high in some tower. There were things swarming out there, too small and close to be planes, and transparent tubes like the slides in a supermarket.

A movement pulled his attention from the window. The young man who had to be the owner of the meek voice was sat at a bright metal desk a bit to the right of him, typing away at a laptop that didn't look too odd, except that he'd never seen the brand before. His face, under short-cropped blond hair, was perfectly human, except that it was a dark purple nuance that didn't belong in human skin.

“We're sorry”, he said and waved a tentacle in an apologetic gesture while the others kept typing.

~

“Can you tell us if you look all right?”

The purple alien -he had explained that he was a second generation immigrant to Earth, his Christian name was Sean O'Neill, but he preferred to be called Alussa gar X'ichopt- held up a mirror in front of him. Norm shuddered, he was wearing nothing but a hospital coat, and took a look.

His face smiled back at him with the realization that nothing had changed, the expression framed by a black beard that was little more than stubble. His dark, not quite black hair hung a bit too long over his forehead. His wide eyebrows creased a bit over large brown eyes. As often since he left puberty, he was grateful for his own handsomeness, not too pretty, rugged.

“Better than all right”, he said and his smile widened, a bit shakily.

~

Alussa took him to a cool, shadowy waiting lounge outside a door with the legend Fate Assignment Office. The line was several hours long. All the other people in the lounge looked human, but Norm didn't try to talk to them and make sure.

He was trying to tease the little hook-edged mouths on one of the potted plants into attacking him when a squeaky-clean Black woman called him in. She clipped him on the palm with a device that looked like an oversized staple remover -it stung, but faded quickly- and gave him the address to his new workplace.

The Planet Express delivery company.

~

How do you like it? I promise the next chapter will introduce Leela, fRy and the others, but I couldn't rush this development.
Last edited by Tanpopo on Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.
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Enhas
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Enhas » Fri Jan 23, 2009 8:38 pm

I'd like to know how he ended up from an accident to (what appears to be) Applied Cryogenics.  Maybe he was too badly injured to live and it was a last resort?

Scruffy, look out for the new competition! :E
CROWD: What do you want?
FRY: Fry's dog!
CROWD: When do you want it?
FRY: Fry's dog!
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:50 pm

Enhas: I mean for that to be a mystery right now. Don't worry, you'll find out later in the story.

A bit of a short bridging chapter, but an important one. Our hero meets the Planet Express members for the first time.  :E  :fry  :amy  :leela

~

3.
They paid for a flying taxi to his new workplace.

The suit they had given him at the... hospital? Institute? wasn't too different from the fashions in the 20th century, and the new fabric felt fresh against his skin. That was all he had, though. He'd lost his gun and his new iPod -but it had only been new when he drove off the road- and his wallet with the photos of his family and... her. At least he would be able to buy new sunglasses. Did they have sunglasses in the future? The truck was hidden somewhere among other fossils in new layers of land. Thinking about it made his stomach uneasy, so he stared at the point where the road thinned ahead and tried to imagine that the car moved on wheels.

The day was cold and misty, the sky was a simple white between the monstrous skyscrapers, but during the journey, his fear went and was replaced with something better. The hovercars became graceful instead of ghostly, and the people on the sidewalks were a mixture where you could have stared for hours without seeing the same clothes, the same skin color, the same number of legs. It was exciting, though he was still grateful there was a pane of glass between him and it. The tubes looked exciting, he was going to have to try them soon. Once, a flying saucer -a cliché, but that was really the only way to describe it- zipped between the façades high above, green lights spinning around the edge.

The car stopped at a corner under a largish building with a conical, round-topped tower attached to the end. The driver had already been paid by whoever Alussa worked for. Norm stepped out, shuddering when he saw the empty space between the car body and the asphalt, and knocked on the cool glass pane in the door.

The door slid open to reveal a dumpy West Indian man in a green suit, his short dreadlocks primly parted on each side of his head. He flicked a barcode scanner over the plaster on Norm's palm and smiled at him, businesslike, but not unfriendly.

“Norm Godwin, is that right? My name is Hermes Conrad. Come along, I'll introduce you to your new co-workers and show you what you will be doing.”

He followed Mr. Conrad through a bland hallway and up a bare elevator. If he stayed in just this area, it would be like being in the real world; there weren't too many differences.

The elevator doors hissed open, and Norm stepped into a round room, bright from windows on every side. He was met by the looks of six people seated around the table. People... one was boiled-lobster pink with softly moving tentacles over its mouth, another was a robot like the Tin Woodsman in The Wizard of Oz, and there was something wrong about one of the women that made his gaze swoop away from her, but they didn't look hostile.

“Good news, everyone! This is Norm Godwin.”

The speaker was a man who looked so old that Norm could hardly believe he was alive, his bald head and wrinkled neck giving the impression of a cartoon turtle in a labcoat and Coke-bottom glasses.

The rest of the table raised a vague chorus of: “Hi, Norm!” The Robot, one leg resting over the other on the table, put down a brown-glass bottle and let its eyes whirr a few inches out of their sockets.

“Can we eat it?” it asked in a gruff male voice.

The person to his left, a young man with tousled light-red hair and a nice easy-going look to him, leant over and slapped the robot, letting out an ouch and rubbing his fingers. On the robot's other side, a young woman leant a bit forward.

“Welcome to Planet Express, Norm. I'm Leela, the captain, and these are Amy, Fry, Bender, Professor Farnsworth, and Dr. Zoidberg.” He didn't try to follow her gesture, but they would repeat their names eventually. “It'll be great, having you here. What kind of thing did you use to do, back when... before you came here?”

She was beautiful. She had only one eye, the size of his fist, but even that was beautiful, with its long lashes and iris a unique shade of hazel. Everything else about her was humanly perfect. Even sitting down he could see how tall and athletic she was. Her white tank top revealed the curve of muscles in her upper arms. Her flowing ponytail had an odd, My Little Pony-like shade of purple – what with the eye, he assumed that it wasn't dyed. She frowned.

“And what are you stari...”

Then she trailed off and smiled at him, a wide apologetic smile.

“It's all right. Stare away.”

“Norm here”, the old Professor was looking through some forms, “used to be a truck driver. Some primitive company called Arbco.”

“Truck driver?” The young red-headed man beamed. “That's almost like being a delivery boy! We'll get along great, Norm.”

“Yes, we'll all get along with Zoidberg!” exclaimed the monstrosity whose name Norm hadn't bothered to remember.

The worker to his right, a small Chinese girl with frizzled hair and a pink tracksuit, didn't say anything, but she fluttered her eyelashes a bit and smiled at him.

“I'll show Norm where he will be working”, Leela said, grabbing Norm's sleeve and pulling him along.

He felt the scent of her perfume, sporty, no-nonsense. She stepped aside as they entered a large, chilly hangar. It was the air that made him raise his eyes: the fuel smell just slightly made him think of the garage back home.

In front of them, a sleek, toy-green spaceship rested, nose pointed slightly towards the sky like a promise of something new.
Last edited by Tanpopo on Wed Feb 11, 2009 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.
User avatar
Tanpopo
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Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:21 pm

Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Mon Feb 02, 2009 9:28 pm

Finally the plot is moving ahead a bit, with Norm getting involved in an adventure! I thought it was needed to show that he's a man of action. We also find some more clues to what happened to ADirenne. (If you're a girl, you might want to get the Kleenex for that bit. LOL)

Warning: cliff ending! Don't worry, there's at least one more chapter to go on this, possibly more.

~

4.

You could get used to it.

There were places in the future where you could get 21st century food, like Wiener's just down the road. There were some odd combinations, and a lot more soy and lentils than he'd eaten back then, but it was nice to have that to go back to when the future food disturbed him. And when he finally gave it a try, on a lunch out with his co-workers, he found some things that were far tastier than anything in the Naughties, like Venus fly salad. He was also getting addicted to the brilliant green, bubbly Slurm. He bought his clothes cheaply from the local SCAD.

His new job was repetitive, but not hard. Everyone in the company went out of their way to be friendly to him. When he left Planet Express, usually late, he slept in a dorm room in the Trevor Goodchild Memorial Court that the institute had fixed for him. It was a drab building, but not run-down. The lodgers were other stout, blue-collar men who used far too many S's in their words. They didn't ask him about his past, but gruffly lent him porno and invited him to Magic: The Gathering Night.

~

Fry, the kid in the red jacket, spent a lot of time hanging out with him. It turned out he was from Norm's time and had been cryogenically frozen, too, almost a decade before Norm was. The ancient owner of Planet Express was his great-great-and-more nephew. They would have lunch at O'Zorgnax's and talk about their own time, though Fry was always most interested in finding out about the things that had only turned up after he was frozen, such as Death Note.

“You mean... in the future, you actually had notebooks that killed people if you wrote their names in them?”

“No, no”, Norm corrected him. “We just saw them in Japanimation.”

Fry's face fell a little, then he looked up. “What about if you wrote their names on TV Tropes?”

The curvy cyclops Turanga Leela, their captain, became his other close friend. Sometimes, she would come around and chat with him, and not be upset because he put the work down for a moment. She asked him nice, painless questions about his old life, but he still ended up telling her things that hurt: how he'd never had anyone to talk to, how he still hunched up when he heard people laugh, in case they were laughing at him. About how he'd slipped and fallen off the scaffolding when he was working for Piotrek on the housing development, how his back had kept hurting even when it was healed, and how ugly the scars had been, like someone had whipped him.

He didn't mention Adrienne; the person he'd been embarrassed to show his naked back became some anonymous girlfriend in high school. He convinced himself that it was because it would be wrong to talk about his dead wife with a woman he was attracted to – and he was attracted to her. He couldn't bring himself to feel ashamed about that, because any red-blooded man would be.

Adrienne would have been dead anyway.

~

When he had been at Planet Express for some time -it could have been a couple of weeks or more than a month- they went on a delivery to a planet called Wroclaw-5.

Leela smiled an encouraging smile at him when they passed through the atmosphere, and asked if he had motion sickness. His stomach had felt like it was falling through his legs for a moment, but that wasn't it, it was the sight of the roofs spinning away below the clouds. He had to remember that he was inside the ship, that there were windows. He wasn't good with heights.

Space was beautiful, packed fuller of stars than he ever believed, but every so often his gaze slid back to Leela, the way her eye narrowed when she read the displays, the way her muscles shifted under her skin when she pulled the accelerator, the way the tiniest motion of her head made the light shift on her hair. He had loved Adrienne, oh God, he still did, but Adrienne was dead. She wouldn't have wanted him to spend his whole life alone. Leela was so close, why didn't he take this chance to ask if she wanted to go out with him? The worst that could happen was that she'd say no, and then they'd still be friends.

You'd just kill her too, a little voice whispered in him.

And there was the scream of the sirens, the chlorine glare of the hospital strip lights, Mom's warm hand around his. He was afraid of stupid things, that they'd think he hit her, that he'll be in the center somehow. Him in his wedding tuxedo, the first thing he'd found when he was looking around for clothes, and when he looked down, he saw the pale yellow carnation fading in his buttonhole. The hospital bracelet on her wrist said ADRIENNE ZABINI, they hadn't got around to changing her name. When he saw her, she looked like a doll, her red hair spread all around her on the pillow and too big for her, and he knew that this was what he was going to remember.

A face that was nearly nothing but a giant eye looked down at him. Norm screamed again.

“Norm, are you with us, Norm? What's the matter?”

He shook the image out of his head. “Nothing. I just... I just had a nightmare.”

“Good.” Leela turned back to her controls. “Well... not good, but you know what I mean.”

He should have told her about it then, only because he thought she deserved to know what she was dealing with, but Fry and Bender were within hearing distance, and a few minutes later she told them to strap themselves in.

Wroclaw-5 was a lush woodland underneath them. First he expected it to be a rainforest, but when they landed on a pad of creeper-covered flagstones in a cleared area, he saw that the trees were wide, oak-like ones that reminded him of photos of the great forests in Europe. He took his first steps on a new world.

There was another ship on the landing-pad, easily twice their size, a graceless hulk in mottled gray that looked military to him. While Norm, Bender and Fry were taking several large crates -heavy, they were filled with rayguns- out of the hold and loading them onto the hover-dolly, a heavy-set man walked up to them. He was about Norm's age, perhaps a little older, with voluminous blond hair and a wide, whitened smile. His uniform in red velour was more revealing than was comfortable for anyone, but it did serve to set off his muscular build. Norm suppressed a twinge of envy.

Leela immediately soured, and his heart sprang up again.

“Brannigan”, she muttered a greeting at him. “What gives us the... pleasure?”

“Ah, the lovely Leela.” The Brannigan person stretched like a cat, incidentally pulling his uniform up a bit. “Planet Wroclaw is currently under DOOP supervision due to the rebellion.”

Leela straightened up. “So we have to leave the planet. Is that what you're saying?”

“Of course not.” Brannigan smiled even wider. “But to assure your bodacious safety, I am providing you with a military escort service while you're making the delivery. I, Captain Zapp Brannigan, am leading it, of course. If you turn it down, then you'll have to leave the planet.”

“Hrrrmmph.” Leela's eyelid lowered. Her indignation made her look stunning. “That's a bit of a low-level task for a captain of the DOOP, isn't it? Did you get demoted again?”

Brannigan put an arm around her shoulder. Norm fancied he could smell the grease of his skin.

“Well, yes, but there's nothing I wouldn't do for my sex-friend, the lovely Leela...”

Jealousy blinded Norm, and when he could see clearly again, Brannigan was rubbing his cheek.

“Anyway”, Leela went on. “I guess we'll have to accept your escort, but if it's that dangerous... Norm, I want you to wait in the ship.”

Her face softened when she looked at him.

“Why can't I come with you? I'm as much of a fighter as...” He glanced at Brannigan. “I have a gun!”

“Yeah, give him some slack”, Fry spoke up. “You never try to protect my and Bender's lives! And that's just the way we like it!”

Leela sighed. “If you're sure, Norm, then come. But if we are attacked, keep behind the... fighters. And you, if you want to escort us, then get a move on!”

Brannigan gestured to the men by his ship with his free hand. “Kif, Private Scott, Private Hall, follow us.”

The road to the capital city was good, if crumbling, and so narrow the branches of the trees closed above it and put it in dusk. Leela had suggested that they take the hover-dolly through the woods instead, but Brannigan refused to walk if there wasn't a road, claiming a heroic war injury.

Norm was pushing the dolly together with Bender and Fry, with the DOOP soldiers keeping up the rear. He had wanted to talk to Leela, but she was walking in front with Brannigan. They talked at such a low voice that he couldn't make out the words.

Norm's hand slipped to the bulge in the pocket of his overalls. The raygun was an Eliminomatic 32, the run-of-the-mill handgun in the future, but more powerful than most anything back in his day. He had bought it for his first salary at Planet Express. It made him feel safe.

“She's not actually together with him, is she?” he whispered to Fry.

Fry chuckled. “Nah. Well, unless he's really into getting kicked in the crotch. I don't know, maybe he is. Anyway, I'm glad she didn't do that. He'd fold over, and that skirt...”

At the front, Leela's voice rose so they could hear it:

“... kidding me, I'd rather go out with Norm!”

Norm drew a deep breath. Suddenly, the air was full of sweetness, the moisture of the earth and living things. He could see spots of sunlight dancing on the old yellow blocks of the road.

Brannigan slowed down to walk next to him, to his right so he didn't have to push.

“Aren't you full of yourself, Godwin?” he muttered.

Norm didn't know how to reply.

“Leela is mine, remember that. I'm a dashing DOOP captain. I have a law named after me! Do you have a law named after you?”

A branch cracked. A moment later, they had to slow down because they were surrounded by people in camou and facepaint. There were more moving between the trees. Dozens of rayguns were trained on them, gleaming dully in the bad light.

Leela put her hands up.

“These crates are full of guns”, she said. “You can have them, if you promise to let me and my employees return unharmed to our...”

Brannigan interrupted her:

“That's exactly the kind of weak, cowardly bargaining you'd expect from a woman! Leela, just shut up and look pretty. You, get off the road or we'll slaughter you all!”

Fry put up a hand. “That guy does not represent our sex.”

One of their ambushers stepped up to Brannigan and floored him with the butt of their gun. The face-paint hid much, but the body was that of an athletic woman.

“Now that idiot is out of the way, let's negotiate”, she said to Leela.

They were at the center of attention. No-one was looking at Norm. He crouched behind the dolly and slipped the gun out of his pocket, slowly, like it was a rehearsal. The leader wasn't standing too close to Leela, there was no risk of hitting another friendly target. He'd got her in his sight now.

She whipped around, yelling without words, and Norm saw a flicker of blue light in the barrel of her gun, like the sparks from a lighter. Then he didn't see anything more, but felt a pain that was so gigantic, it couldn't last long.

Strangely, he felt himself falling.
I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.
User avatar
Tanpopo
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Fri Feb 06, 2009 6:29 pm

The fifth and penultimate chapter. Things are just getting worse for poor Norm. This one has another cliffhanger ending, but not as bad as the last.

WARNING! PG-13 for sexual themes.

~

5.

He is standing on the balcony of a ruined tower, high above a thick carpet of forest. He isn't afraid of the height anymore. He swan-dives over the edge, and finds himself flying, occasionally rolling like he's in water.

Then everything thins out except the light, and he sees Adrienne. His parents are there, too, older than he remembered, and his brothers. Mike is as old as Mom and Piotrek, and Dad. Little Darek is painfully young.

They don't care, they are forever. They are smiling.

There is someone else with them.

He is standing in their midst, holding Adrienne's hand, Piotrek's arm resting on his shoulders. Norm looks at the impostor, as if he can force him out of existence with sheer strength of will, and he sees a black beard that is little more than stubble, dark hair hanging a bit too long over his forehead, large brown eyes with wide eyebrows, a face that is handsome but not too pretty.

His scream was what woke him up.

~

A male robot nurse unplugged him from the healing tank and took him to the shower to wash the life-support fluid out of his hair. Once he'd switched into his non-work clothes and walked out in the corridor, Leela was waiting for him.

“It's only been four days”, she said in reply to his question. “We took you here to the Taco Bellevue as soon as we got to Earth. How are you feeling?”

He felt a bit stiff, like he'd overslept, but otherwise better than he had since he woke up in the future. He told her as much.

“It's funny, well, not funny, but you might have saved us all by getting shot”, Leela told as they walked out in the chilly autumn morning. “I told the rebel leader you were mentally disabled. Turns out the Wroclavites think people like that are sacred... they think the gods speak through them, or something. The leader had to let us take you to a hospital, or your death would have cursed her forever.”

He felt dizzy when he looked at her – she was so brave, and so intelligent. The faint sunlight made her face almost delicate.

“That was brilliant, Leela. How did you think of that?”

She smiled at him, but so sadly, it was barely a smile at all. On an impulse, he took her arm through her thick faux fur-lined coat.

“Leela... how about dinner tonight? I'll pay.”

Leela's eye glanced away from him, but only for a moment.

“Sure, Norm. Where do you want to go?”

~

The only mirror in his room was in the bathroom, so that's where he had a look at his appearance. The cold draft from the badly insulated window stung on his fresh-shaven cheeks. He hadn't spent a lot of his salary, there had been more than enough to book a table for two at Elzar's Fine Cuisine and buy himself a suit. He had got himself a pair of sunglasses too, gloriously shiny. The guy in the mirror looked different, sleek, confident, almost in black-and-white. If it hadn't been for the dull stitching pain in the skin on his back, it would have been perfect.

Another memory, just a brief sting, of Piotrek and Mike helping him get into his tux, and Mom tying a bit of wet cotton around the stalk of the lapel flower so it wouldn't wither in the church. He let the memory come and leave.

He took out the caplet he'd bought and dropped it in a glass of water. It fizzled, and turned into a bouquet of flowers that shot up from the glass.

~

Leela was there when he got to the table, shining in a sleek black dress. He stuck the insta-flowers in a vase, and she smiled a wide nervous smile.

He ordered giant slug with truffles and pickled kelp, but he was so unable to focus on what it tasted, he might as well have ordered the Generic Food option. It was Leela who talked, about how few deliveries they were getting, about Fry's plans of going to music school. He wanted to add things, but looking at the quivering light on her eye and mouth seemed to sap his thoughts.

Leela trailed off, too, and they ended up looking at each other.

“Leela...”

Just saying her name drained him like it was the hardest exercise he would ever do. Leela's gaze flitted towards him.

“Leela, I'm sorry. This isn't going to work.”

He wanted to embrace her and immediately unsay what he'd said. It was so hard, he had to clutch the edge of the table to make himself remain seated.

“What do you mean?” Leela gasped.

He couldn't look at her any more. He stared down at the pale reflection of himself in the glass on the tabletop.

“Leela, I... I can't love you. I'm sorry. I mustn't.”

“What?”

He swallowed, but it sounded like a sob.

“It's not that I don't want to. I want to. You're so brave, and beautiful, and strong. Leela, I love... I love you. But it's not allowed.”

“Norm, what are you talking about? What's wrong?”

Then she was next to him, and her warm arm was lying over his shoulder. He tried to fight it, at least he tried not to breathe through his nose and smell her hair, but he couldn't pull away.

“I had a girl I loved, back... back then”, he began. Every word came out like a little sob that hurt. “Her name was Adrienne. She was... she was everything. Beautiful, smart. We met in high school. She went to college and started work as a nurse. We were going to get married.”

He drew a deep, shivering breath.

“We got married.”

The pain went away when he got to the bit that hurt most. Maybe he was in shock. It was good, his body's own systems were protecting him. No, not shock.

“The wedding night was the first time we, we did it without... without protection. We were just finished and she... she passed out. I called the hospital, and they tried to revive her, but she died there.”

His eyes hurt so much he didn't know if the tears were running yet.

“It was my fault that she died. The doctor told me she went into anaphylactic shock.” It was a more difficult word than any he normally used, but he was never going to forget it. “It's like, like she was allergic to my fluids.” He had wondered if she had ever known that she was going to die, if she had regained consciousness before darkness fell.

Leela didn't say anything, but she was hugging him tight. Right now he was too weak to free himself.

“And that's why I can never love you!” He felt a single tear roll down his cheek. It was warm. “Only as a friend. You would die, and it would be my fault.”

“Norm...” He felt it when she drew a deep breath. “I'm not in love with you!”

That was when she let go. He felt cold, like he was ill.

“I'm sorry.” She shook her head as she went back to her chair. “But I had to make sure it would go through. You know, it was wrong of me to go for this meal with you. I'm not doing that any more. Maybe if Fry and Bender come along...”

“But you... you...”

He couldn't say more. He was looking deep in her eye and didn't see anything else.

“I was just trying to be nice to you!” She calmed herself down, forcibly. “I must have given you the wrong impression... I'm sorry about that. But I'm not in love with you. It's that simple. And even if I were, I... I'm not sure it would be all right.”

A few minutes later, they parted under the awning outside the restaurant. She hugged him, like you'd hug a child, and patted him on the shoulder.

“I'm so sorry, Norm. But it wouldn't have worked.”

He glanced around at the lampposts, the tall billboards in languages that hadn't existed in his time. He had no idea how to get back to the Trevor Goodchild Memorial, but the taxi drivers, the taxi pilots would know. He must have drunk more of the wine than he remembered, it had left a sour metal taste in his mouth. His lower back felt cold, almost like it was wet.

She called out to him.

“Norm! Come back!”

He went back to the puddle of light falling through the restaurant door.

“When you came to the future... didn't they tell you the truth about you?”
I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.
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Tanpopo
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New SNPP Employee
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Re: My Futurama fanfiction: "The Answer Lies Within"

Postby Tanpopo » Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:27 pm

And here it is! The final chapter of the story, where Norm finds out the repulsive truth about why he is in the future.  :leela

~

Epilog

Asking questions
Search for clues
The answer's been right in front of you

– Dream Theater, Octavarium

“The examination was Leela's idea”, Doctor Zoidberg said. “All your bodily fluids are perfectly normal, for a human. Your wife had a million-to-one overreaction. Which doesn't make it any less regrettable, of course. But there is no chance you could ever poison another woman like that. What was your semen doing in her womb, anyway?”

Norm was too numb to answer. When he rose from the chair, his back scraped against the plastic, and he winced and let out a moan.

“What's that?” Zoidberg said. “No, don't be afraid. I'm just going to look this time.”

Norm pulled his shirt up, the cold making him shiver a bit. Zoidberg leant closer, his fishy but not unpleasant smell getting stronger.

“That doesn't look good”, he muttered. “Want me to heal it? It'll only take the push of a button...”

Norm's mind resurfaced from the mire of suffering. “What are you talking about? My scars...”

“Those are no scars!” Zoidberg screamed.

But when he held up a hand-mirror for Norm to see, there was nothing near the horror Norm had imagined. It was just that the wounds were new and bleeding. When Zoidberg finished spraying on the Liquid Skin and dusted him off, there was nothing there except pink skin that looked like everywhere else on him.

~

He turned on the light in the shadowy hangar, unlocked the cleaning cabinet and brought out his hover-trolley. He didn't mind the work – now it took his mind off things. He had just been hoping that getting to come with them to Wroclaw-5 would have meant a promotion to delivery boy.

Take his mind off things. When he grabbed the electric mop, he noticed disgusting dark spots on the aluminum -or something, this was the future- of the handle. When he rubbed them with his fingernails, they came off in a powder that tasted like iron. It was blood.

You did like this... you twisted the plastic grip off the end of the mop handle, then you had an aluminum pipe with a jagged end that was sharp enough to cut yourself with. You unbuttoned your cleaner's overall and held the pipe behind your shoulders and scraped it down until it broke the skin.

He hadn't remembered doing that, either.

He brought it to Mr. Conrad's attention, and the next morning he found it replaced with 100% soft plastic mop.

~

“We are incredibly sorry”, Alussa said, a few of his tentacles fiddling with his reading glasses.

Norm swung his gaze out the window, at the pattern of gridlocked hovercars, while the clerk went on:

“You are a clone of Norman Godwin, truckdriver for Arbco, born in 1978 in the United States of America. He died in a traffic accident in 2008, aged thirty.”

All he could think of now was the science fiction films he'd used to watch on VHF with Mike. Funny, he'd lived in one for months. He remembered bodies like big flabby babies in tubes of fluid.

“You were created as part of a final examination for the New New York City Clonologist College... they're two floors down from us. Creating a clone from ancient material and programming them with their archived personality is the standard final test.” His gaze went to the diploma on the wall. Norm only saw it blurred. “Unfortunately, personality recording technology was still at an early stage in the time of your original... they used magnetic tape. Often, personalities are... damaged.”

He looked straight at Norm, ruefully.

“All we can do is apologize. So, you're technically... mentally disabled. We've given you a job you can handle... and if you want, I have the number to a few adult remedial education classes. We don't know how much your mind might improve from just the right stimulus.” He smiled softly. “I'm always for putting failed clones down, but the higher-ups go on about the sanctity of life.”

Norm glanced towards the door, but before he got up, he asked one last question.

~

The cemetery was huge, but it only took him about half an hour to find the tombstone on its narrow mound of pale weeds.

NORMAN ROBERT GODWIN
1978-2008
Be still, my son, you are home.

It would have been nice if he'd brought flowers, but he hadn't thought of that either.

Norm turned and walked back to the cast-iron cemetery gate. The clouds ahead were brightening.

The End.
I am not driven by hatred.
I am not driven by fear.
I am not driven by desire,
Duty, or any rationale.
I can no longer feel any of these.
All that remains for me now is:
Retribution
Cold and hard and final.

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