Fan Fiction

The Diving Bell and the Bitter Fry
By Dead Composer

Disclaimer: I have seen the future and I will never own Futurama.

Gosh, it’s dark. Dark and blurry. How can it be dark and blurry at the same time? Where am I? I need to get out of this place…save Leela…but my legs won’t move! My arms won’t move either! Urrgh…grunt…why won’t my limbs move? I can wiggle my nose just fine…


Nothing’s happening. I guess nobody heard me. For that matter, I don’t think I heard myself either. What the hell’s going on? Am I dead? Is this what happens? Geez…there’s a hell for robots, why can’t there be a hell for humans?

“Can you hear me, Mr. Fry?” uttered a male voice.

Yeah, I hear you just fine, whoever you are. “Who are you?” There it is again…I speak, but I don’t hear myself speaking.

“It’s me, Fry. It’s Leela.”

It’s Leela! She’s safe! His eyelids flew open. Poor Leela…her eye’s full of tears. Well, that explains why it was so dark…my eyes were closed. He struggled a bit. And that explains why I can’t move…it’s because I can’t move!

“How bad is he, Doctor?” asked another voice. “And don’t beat around the bush—give it to me straight.”

Zapp Brannigan? thought Fry. Why is he here? With Leela? He made a futile attempt to turn his head.

“The chemical agent attacked the region of his brain that controls voluntary movement,” droned the doctor’s voice. “His entire body is paralyzed, with the exception of his nose and eyes. He has also lost the ability to speak. In the 20th century it was called Locked-In Syndrome, but today we prefer to use a more modern term—Paperweight Syndrome.”

“Doctor, I think Fry is listening,” Leela’s voice interjected.

I wish I hadn’t heard that. Am I really doomed to spend the rest of my life as an immovable lump, doing nothing but watching trashy TV shows all day?

“Fortunately, there’s a treatment,” said the doctor.

Hooray! I’m gonna get better! I can’t wait to hop out of this bed, run home to my apartment, plop down on the couch, and watch TV!

“What sorta time frame are we lookin’ at, doc?” It’s Bender! Did he actually care enough to come? “How much longer do I get to play with his stuff?” Oh.

“Best case, six months,” replied the doctor. “Worst case, the rest of his life.”

Outrage filled Leela’s voice. “What kind of crappy treatment is that?

“Treatment?” said the doctor, sounding startled. “You misunderstand. I’m talking about the waiting period.”

This would be a great time for the Professor to burst in and yell, “Good news, everyone!”

“Oh, Fry, I’m so sorry,” said Leela, her face blocking Fry’s view like a vast plain of anguish. “This happened to you because of me.”

The doctor, now revealed as a human with thinning white hair, held up a chart of blocky figures in front of the young man’s pupils. “This list is an arrangement of the letters of the English alphabet in order of frequency of usage. As I recite the list, you…”

“We’ll do this my way,” said Leela, brusquely pushing the physician aside. “Listen carefully, Fry. Every time I ask you a question, blink once if your answer is yes, or twice if your answer is no.”

What the…? How do I answer a question by blinking? Screw this! It’s too hard!

“It’ll be just like Star Trek,” Leela assured him.

Oh, yeah, thought Fry. I can do that. No problem.

“Are you comfortable?”

He blinked twice. I’ve got itches all over my body. I’ve even got itches on my itches.

“Are you hungry?”

He blinked once. I know I can’t move my mouth, but I’d do anything for a pizza right now, even if you have to shove it up my…

“Do you mind if I kiss you?”

Oh, yes, Leela! More than anything in the universe! I don’t care if I stay like this forever, as long as I have your beautiful face to look at instead of the All My Circuits marathon. Yes, Leela! Kiss me! Kiss me until my lips are rough and bleeding!

He blinked forcefully. Once.

Leela gave the doctor a bemused look. “He said he does mind.”

Chapter 2

In the corridor outside Fry’s hospital room, Leela strained to keep her venom in check. “I hope you’re pleased with yourself,” she snapped at the grinning Captain Brannigan.

“When have you ever known me to not be?” said Zapp.

“You ordered a shipment of Triskaidekaline 13,” said the indignant cyclops, “a chemical weapon banned by interplanetary treaties. What exactly were you intending to do with it?”

Zapp only shrugged. “When they told me what was inside those canisters, I was as surprised as you were.”

“Is that so,” said Leela, her eye firmly fixed. “Did it also surprise you that the Nimbus happened to be on its way to a summit with the military leaders of the planet Ramnaym?”

“Not at all,” said the man in the DOOP uniform. “My orders were to negotiate with the ruling junta for the distribution of much-needed medical supplies. I and my crew are innocent of any wrongdoing…so if you’re going to blame someone, blame Kif.”

Fry, meanwhile, was sorely feeling the absence of Leela’s face hovering above his own. Where did you go? Don’t you realize how lost I am without you? It’s because I can’t move, isn’t it? For your information, my dingle is working perfectly! The monotony of the ceiling was interrupted by the appearance of a familiar face. Oh, hi, Amy.

“You poor thing,” gushed the Asian girl. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” She looked aside at the doctor. “He is going through something, isn’t he?”

“Mr. Fry hears and understands you,” the physician told her. “Ask him any question. He’ll blink once for yes, twice for no.”

“Schmawsome,” said Amy with a vapid smile. “I have so many questions, I don’t know where to start. Hmm…okay. Fry, do you think breast implants would make me look sexier?”

Huh? thought the helpless redhead. How should I know?

“Should I marry Kif right away, or should I wait until I graduate?” was her next question.

Beats me. Who am I, your psychic?

“How much longer will pink satin remain in style? Should I replace my wardrobe now?”

Geez, Amy…

She turned to the doctor again. “Are you sure he understands me?”

On the sidewalk near the hospital doors, Zapp found himself besieged by more than a dozen reporters. Foremost among them was Morbo, who growled, “How do you account for the transfer of an illegal chemical compound to your vessel? Morbo demands an answer!”

The space captain brushed them aside with a deft wave of his arm. “It’s not good for me to have microphones shoved in my face,” he said to the assembled mob. “They cause me to experience flashbacks of the many times I was probed by aliens, not all of which were pleasant.”

“Morbo demands an answer now!” exclaimed the alien with the throbbing temples.

“Look, Triskaidekaline 13 isn’t even lethal,” said Zapp defensively. “It’s only good for crowd control through temporary paralysis. Fry was hit with a larger-than-average dose, that’s all.”

As the media circus swirled below, Dr. Zoidberg debated options with the physician attending to Fry. “I could remove his head and attach it to Amy’s body, why not? I’ve done it successfully before.”

“That wouldn’t improve his situation,” said the doctor, “seeing that his brain is where the damage occurred.”

“Then the solution is clear,” said Zoidberg. “Remove the part of his brain that still functions, and transplant it into the body of a robut.”

The doctor shook his head. “Not only would the surgery would be extremely risky, but the technology required for a direct brain-to-robot interface is still in its infancy.”

“What do you mean?” said the lobster incredulously. “Scientists have been working in this field for hundreds of years.”

Mad scientists,” the doctor corrected him. “As you well know, the Department of Medicine only legalized mad science seventy years ago.”

“Ah, what a day that was,” said Professor Farnsworth, happening upon the conversation. “That was the day I first uttered my trademark phrase, ‘Good news, everyone!’”

“Hi, Professor,” said Amy warmly. “Fry isn’t doing so well. Maybe you can answer my questions.”

“In good time,” said the old geezer. “I’d like to have a blink or two with the patient.”

“He’s over here,” said the doctor, gesturing.

Farnsworth shuffled to Fry’s side, giving the young man a new, withered object to look at. “Fry, you’ve given me a perfect opportunity to test out a neural interface device I recently developed,” he said.

Oh, God, thought Fry. Don’t force me to share my consciousness with a female elephant in heat again.

Chapter 3

“Bender, you’ve been pacing for half an hour,” Hermes chided the robot. “Leave some floor for the rest of us, mon.”

A mist of anxiety hung over the Planet Express lounge. “Amy and the Professor have been really quiet,” Leela observed. “I hope they haven’t given up.”

“Have faith, my friend,” said Zoidberg from behind his mouth flaps. “’Give up’ is not part of Professor Farnsworth’s vocabulary.”

“Neither is ‘stop or you’ll destroy us all’,” quipped Bender.

The robot took his seat, and Leela stood up for her pacing shift. “You look terrible, mon,” remarked Hermes as he watched the purple-haired cyclops drag her feet. “You should take a few days off and go someplace warm, like Mercury.”

“If I take a vacation, I’ll only spend my time feeling guilty,” she lamented. “I should be the one stuck on my back, not him. If he hadn’t pushed me out of the way of that falling canister…”

A sudden cry from the laboratory cut her off. “Amy, don’t touch that exposed wire!”


The lights in the lounge flickered momentarily. “Oooohhh…that felt good…” they heard Amy moan.


Fry, in the meantime, had nearly forgotten that there was a body connected to his brain. I’ve never been so bored. Same old ceiling…same old TV…same old busty nurse…when will something change? When will I die?

“Coming up next, the show you can’t look away from, Everybody Loves Hypnotoad!

This had better not be a repeat, thought Fry. A lumpy, brown amphibian appeared on the screen, waves of color emanating from its eyes. Crap. It’s a repeat.

Leela’s ponytail drooped as she walked back and forth. “It’s my fault…it’s my fault…” she muttered constantly.

“It certainly ain’t my fault,” said Bender. “I was nowhere near the scene of the accident.”

“That’s because you took over the controls and flew us through a wormhole!” Leela scolded him.

“You almost killed us, you did,” said Zoidberg.

“Aww, c’mon,” said Bender. “If I wanted you dead, and I didn’t need the work, you’d be dead.”

At the hospital, a nurse armed with a needle appeared at Fry’s side. “It’s time for your intravenous feeding, Philip,” she said sweetly.

All glory to the Hypnotoad…all glory to…huh? Oh, it’s you.

He scarcely felt the prick inside his elbow or the tape as the nurse laid it over his arm hairs. “It’s a shame you have to lie here for six months,” said the nurse. “When Paris Hilton’s head wanted a nose job, she only had to wait a week. It’s totally unfair, don’t you agree?”

Fry blinked once.

“She released another sex tape last week,” the nurse went on. “It’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. She and Patrick Dempsey’s head, rolling around…”

Fry closed his eyes. “Yeah, you’ve got the right idea,” the nurse told him.

Little did she know that Fry had escaped into the world of his imagination…

“T minus three seconds, two seconds, one…” He pushed the launch button, and the rocket bearing the preserved heads of Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Denise Richards, and Dina Lohan soared into space on a direct course to the sun.

Chapter 4

Farnsworth and Amy emerged from the lab with pleased smiles. “Good news, everyone!” they announced to the people waiting in the lounge.

“I’m finally glad to hear that,” said Leela.

“Have you invented something that will help Fry to lead a normal life?” Hermes asked the pair.

“Even better,” said the Professor proudly. “Show them, Amy.”

As they watched in amazement, the girl in the pink sweatsuit vanished in a puff of ions. Her place was quickly occupied by another Amy, one whose forehead was bound with a leather belt and plastered with electrodes. “Hi, there,” she greeted her friends.

“I call it the Holopersona,” said Farnsworth. “It will enable Fry to lead a normal life as a hologram.”

“Hooray!” said Zoidberg, smacking his claws together.

“How does it work, mon?” inquired Hermes.

“Uh, it uses entangled string theory, or something like that,” replied Amy.

“Wrong,” said the Professor. “Its operation is based on the principle of quantum thought wave entanglement.”

“Give me a break,” said Amy sheepishly. “I’m only a grad student.”

“If I understand correctly,” said Leela, closely examining the device mounted on Amy’s head, “then once you put this on Fry, he’ll start seeing and hearing things through a holographic copy of himself.”

“Seeing, hearing, and feeling,” said Farnsworth.

“It’s ingenious,” remarked Zoidberg. “But how far can the hologram move away from the device?”

“About two kilometers,” replied the old scientist. “Any further and the thought signal starts to degrade, stripping the hologram of its intelligence.”

“How can you tell when that happens?” Bender chimed in.

“Only two kilometers?” mused Leela. “Isn’t that a bit…limiting?”

“Oh my, no,” said Farnsworth. “I worked it out. Within a two-kilometer radius of any point in New New York, you can find anything you might possibly need—a hospital, a police station, a movie theatre, a three-star hotel, a pizza joint, a bar, a suicide booth, and at least five Starbucks outlets.”

“What about libraries?” Leela pressed him. “What about concert halls?”

“Don’t forget,” said Farnsworth flippantly, “it’s Fry we’re talking about.”

A tall, chicken-like creature strutted back and forth next to Fry’s hospital bed. “Let me reiterate that one more time, son,” he said in a casual drawl. “You don’t owe me anything—not a single red cent—unless I collect money for you, and I will collect money for you. Any questions?”

Fry blinked once.

“Is that a yes?” asked the chicken man, peering into Fry’s busy eyes. The young man blinked again. “Is it regardin’ the amount of pain and suffering damages you should expect?” Fry blinked twice. “Is it regardin’ my record of successful verdicts and settlements?” He blinked twice again.

It was then that the Planet Express team marched into the room, sporting hopeful smiles. “Good news, Fry,” announced Farnsworth. “The Holopersona is ready for action.”

The feathered lawyer shot them an irritated glare. “Could you kindly come back at a later time?” he requested. “I’m trying to educate this poor feller about his legal rights, and he’s got nothin’ but questions, questions, questions.”

“You’re going about it the hard way,” the Professor told him. “Once I strap this device to his head, you’ll find it much easier to communicate with him.”

“Let me do the honors,” said Amy, snatching the wiry object from Farnsworth’s hands.

“No, me,” said Zoidberg. “My touch is more delicate, it is.”

Something tells me that headpiece isn’t just decorative, thought Fry, staring at the Holopersona from his prostrate position.

Leela, Hermes, Zoidberg, Bender, Farnsworth, and the chicken lawyer stood to one side and watched breathlessly. Amy hummed a comforting tune as she fastened the belt and electrodes to Fry’s temples. Then, with a flourish of her wrist, she flipped the power switch.

My brain hasn’t tingled this much since the time I drank 100 cups of coffee, thought Fry.

To the others it appeared that a second Fry was materializing before them, but to Fry it seemed that they were materializing. “Eep,” he said, and for a change he heard the noise as it left his mouth.

They gasped in awe at the sight of the flickering holographic man in the red jacket. “How do we know it’s really Fry inside that thing?” asked Hermes.

“Ask him a question,” said Bender. “Hey, Fry, who’s buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” said the holo-Fry.

“Yeah, that’s him,” said Bender.

Astounded, Fry looked down at what appeared to be his hands. It’s some kind of trick, he told himself. This isn’t me. The real me is still lying in that stupid bed!

“Now that, I say, that is a wonder to behold,” said the chicken lawyer excitedly. “C’mon, boy, let’s go sue some deep pockets. Bah-GAW!”

Still confused and uneasy, Fry turned his holographic eyes towards the hospital bed. I can see my own face now, he observed. It’s disgusting! It’s like I drank five gallons of Slurm and the brain slug on my head won’t let me pee!

“Professor,” Leela asked the old man, “if I kiss him, will he feel anything?”

“Oh my, yes,” replied Farnsworth. “The tactile simulator sends signals to his nerves when…”

He stopped abruptly when the holo-Fry lurched forward, yanking the pillow from under the real Fry’s head. To everyone’s horror, he laid the soft object over the patient’s nose and mouth, and pressed down with all his might…

Chapter 5

Amy was the first to cry out. “Fry, stop! What are you doing?

The copper-haired hologram didn’t bother to glance at her. “I can’t take another day of being trapped in my own body,” he grumbled. “I want to die!” His physical form showed no sign of struggling as the pillow blocked its air passages.

“Sweet suicide of Telluride!” said Hermes.

“Don’t do it, please!” begged Leela.

“You’ll only hurt your case!” said the chicken lawyer.

“I won’t let you rob me of the satisfaction!” exclaimed Bender, and his arms began to extend in Fry’s direction.

“No!” said the Professor, stopping Bender with a hand gesture. “Fry is in no danger at all, as you’ll soon see.”

“Goodbye forever, you rotten world,” said holo-Fry, his hands quivering as he held the pillow in place. “Hey, what gives? I feel…woozy…”

His eyes glazed over, his knees buckled, and he faded out of existence on his way to the floor. The real Fry made pathetic choking sounds as the pillow rolled away from his face.

“How did you know that would happen, Professor?” asked Zoidberg.

“It’s quite simple,” the geezer replied. “The hologram is tied to Fry’s consciousness. Take that away, and you take away the hologram’s ability to function.”

The holo-Fry reappeared next to his friends, and promptly clutched his head. “Oooohh,” he mumbled miserably. “I’ve got such a pain in my gulliver.”

“That’s what happens when you try to suffocate yourself,” Leela chided him.

“Next time come to me first, you thoughtless meatbag,” said Bender, hands on shiny metal hips.

“Don’t scare me like that again,” said Amy, cuddling the holo-Fry’s waist.

He looked down at the spot where the blocks of Amy’s hair parted. “It’s…it’s like you’re touching me, but there’s a big sheet of aluminum foil between us,” he mused.

“That’s the effect of the tactile sensor array,” Farnsworth informed him. “You’ll get used to it.”

“What do you feel when we touch, Amy?” Fry asked the Asian girl.

“Warmth,” she answered. “A byproduct of the force projection beams.” Resting her temple against the holo-Fry’s chest, she added, “There’s even a synthesized heartbeat. It’s pretty catchy.”

The corners of Fry’s mouth drooped. “Can I…still have sex?” he inquired.

“Oh my, no,” said the Professor dismissively.

“You mean you could before?” said Bender. “I had no idea.”

Holo-Fry shook his head sadly. “I guess it makes no difference, since Leela’s the only woman I want to have sex with, and she doesn’t return my feelings.”

Leela’s jaw dropped. By the time Amy pulled her head and arms away from Fry, her jaw had dropped as well.

As holo-Fry beheld the shocked visages of his friends, his own face turned pale. “Oh my God,” he blurted out. “I said that out loud!

Leela’s eye seemed to shoot forth scalpels of indignation. “Fry, if everybody was like you, we’d live in a classless society,” she spat at him.

“Ma’am, I do believe he’s harassing you,” said the blue chicken man. “Fortunately for you, I specialize in harassment suits as well as personal injury. Bah-GAW!”

The Fry hologram put on a deeply apologetic face. “I don’t know how I could say such a thing, Leela. I didn’t mean it, honestly.”

“It’s true,” Farnsworth interjected. “The Holopersona has a slight technical glitch—sometimes it mistakes low-frequency subconscious thoughts for intended verbalizations.” Moving to the side of Fry’s bed, he went on, “A few minor adjustments should rectify the problem.”

He twisted a dial on the circuit box attached to the prostrate man’s head. “God, I love how Leela’s boobs wobble when she’s angry,” holo-Fry uttered unexpectedly.

The cyclops gasped with outrage. “Professor!”

“Sorry,” said the old man. “I increased the frequency threshold when I should have decreased it.”

Holo-Fry heaved a grunt of consternation. “This bites,” he complained. “Am I gonna say everything I think from now on?”

“I sure hope so,” said Bender with glee. “There hasn’t been a fresh new idea for a reality show since Cybernetic Implants Gone Wrong in 2263.”

The grim-faced Fry hologram walked toward the exit, hands in pockets. “Where are you going?” Zoidberg called after him.

“To find a suicide booth,” he said darkly. “Nice knowing you all.”

“Oh, Fry,” said Amy plaintively, and her eyes filled up with tears.

“Don’t panic,” said Farnsworth to his companions. “Nothing he does to his holographic body can harm his real body.”

That’s good to know,” said Leela, making her hands into fists, “because I’m gonna kick his holographic ass!”

Hermes boldly stepped into her path. “Don’t be stupid, mon. We all have thoughts we’d rather keep hidden. If LaBarbara could see what goes on in my brain, she’d leave me for Barbados Slim faster than a green snake out of hell.”

“I, too, have secret desires I never express,” Zoidberg admitted.

“Like what?” said Leela, peering impatiently.

“I wish I lived in a real house, with a real kitchen,” said the lobster wistfully, “so I could spend the whole day stuffing fresh fish down the garbage disposal. Oh, the smells!”

Once the morbidly obese woman had met her end, holo-Fry stepped forward to take his turn in the deadly booth on the corner. The door closed, plunging him into dimly lit silence. “Quick and painless, or slow and horrible,” he expected to hear, but nothing came.

“Hello?” he shouted. The suicide console glared mutely at him.

Chapter 6

What’s wrong with this thing? thought Fry. It’s like the universe doesn’t want me to die.

A rude pounding shook the booth, accompanied by an abrasive male voice. “Hurry it up in there! Some of us have places to go!”

With a dejected groan the Fry hologram pushed the door open, walked out of the suicide chamber, and found himself face to faces with a green-skinned, two-headed alien. “Good luck,” he said to the creature. “It’s broken.”

One of the green heads smirked at the other. “Hah! Looks like I got a stay of execution.”

“Shut up, Hank,” the other head retorted. “I’m gonna kill you even if it kills me.”

A pair of lesbian fembots clanked past Fry as he trudged aimlessly along the sidewalk. Why don’t I just throw myself off a skyscraper? he wondered. It would all be over in a few seconds, and I’d save a quarter, too. I’m a genius!

Only a block away stood New New York’s second tallest building, a monolith of glass and steel that tapered at the top and base. The city dwellers referred to it affectionately as the Toothpick, and marveled that the slender lower floors didn’t collapse under the weight of the upper portion. The best part is, I’m a hologram, so I won’t even feel myself falling, thought Fry, making haste for the tower’s entrance. Once inside, he saw before him a busy food court, an array of elevators, and a shop front whose sign read, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Head Museum. Pizza, hot dogs, and Slurm surrounded him as he made his way past the brightly lit restaurants, tempting his holographic nose with their aromas.

“Look at that,” said Amy, watching over the dead weight that was Fry’s body. “He’s drooling.”

“Oh, that’s disgusting!” exclaimed Leela at the sight of the pool of saliva forming on the helpless patient’s pillow.

“Whatever he’s havin’, I want some,” said Bender eagerly.

A high-speed elevator took holo-Fry to the 232nd floor of the building, where the doors slid open to reveal a right-pointing arrow on which the word ROOF was inscribed. After a quick circular glance to make sure he was alone, he forged ahead. I can’t believe my life’s about to end, he mused. No more suffering…no more rejection…but wait! I’m just a hologram…what if I hit the ground and nothing happens? No, Fry, don’t think things like that…you’ll only discourage yourself!

The wind switched violently, at times pushing him toward the poorly guarded edge of the tower, at times pushing him away. The whole of the city lay below him like a crowd of spectators urging him to take the fatal step. He peered over the guardrail…oh, God, it’s a long way down! I can see Madison Cube Garden…Robot Arms Apartments…the mile-high Absolut Vodka billboard in New Jersey…the pile of burning tires in Springfield. Such natural beauty, and I’ll never lay eyes on it again. Goodbye, farewell, and th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

He rested his foot on the first rung of the guardrail, and was suddenly frozen to the spot by trepidation. At that instant the wind chose to help him along, blowing him over the edge with a powerful gust. Losing his grip on the railing, the hapless holographic man plunged toward the street below…

…at a speed of about two feet per second.

His arms flailing, his rear end pointing towards the ground, Fry slowly realized the gravity of his situation…or rather, the lack thereof. Though the wind buffeted him this way and that, his downward descent was excruciatingly gradual. Crap, he thought, his head bumping repeatedly into a window on the 230th story. As a hologram, I must weigh less than a feather. I didn’t think this through very well, did I? Leela was right when she called me an idiot…and so was Bender, and so was Cubert, and Hermes, and Nibbler, and Mom, and Mr. Penucci, and that guy who won the Galaxy’s Biggest Idiot contest. Why am I such an idiot?

A warm breeze pushed him upward, carrying him across the vast city like a kite. I’m gonna have a lot of time to ponder that question, he thought.

Chapter 7

The Neptunian female stopped in her tracks. “Look, up in the sky!” she exclaimed to her husband, pointing three arms upward.

“It’s a bird!” said a red-headed Irish youth.

“It’s a plane!” said his red-headed Irish companion.

“It’s a bird,” said the first Irishman.

I say it’s a plane,” said the second Irishman with a narrow glare.

“It’s a bird, you ninny!”




Fry watched the two Irishmen exchange blows from his vantage point outside the 116th floor of the Toothpick. I’m about a thousand feet up, he thought, and I’m going down at a rate of roughly three feet per second, which means I won’t reach the ground for another…forty acres! Wait, that can’t be right…

Through the midst of the milling crowds below walked Bender, Amy, and Hermes, anxious to find their friend before he had a chance to embarrass himself. “Fry!” the Jamaican called out. “Where are you, mon?”

“There’s too many people,” said Amy dolefully. “We’ll never find him.”

“I could kill a few, if that’d help,” Bender offered.

“Maybe that cab driver saw something,” said Hermes. Stepping around the humans and aliens that blocked his path, he approached the robotic cabbie as it was lighting up a cigarette. “Excuse me, sir,” he said politely, “but have you seen a man with pointy red hair wearing a red jacket?”

The robot answered, “1001011101001011010001101…”

“Sweet canary of Tipperary, mon,” said Hermes, mildly outraged. “Learn to speak English like the rest of us.”

A few yards away, Bender felt an enthusiastic tugging on his arm. “Omigod, look up there!” cried Amy, waving her hand toward the clear sky. “It’s a floating man!”

“Floating man, eh?” said Bender peevishly. “Big whoop. What are you, a tourist?”

Deciding to take a look, he telescoped his eyes and pointed them upward. “Well, I’ll be bendered,” he said as the image became more detailed. “That’s not a floating man. That’s a floating Fry!”

“It is Fry,” Amy marveled. “How does he float like that?”

“It’s because he’s got no substance, mon,” said Hermes, rejoining them.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” quipped Bender.

Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into longer minutes, as holo-Fry began to sail past the double-digit floors. I guess this isn’t so bad, he told himself. Being paralyzed was a lot like being stuck in a diving bell at the bottom of the ocean, but this is just like being a hummingbird, or a seagull, or…or a…

He never finished his thought, as a sudden gust sent him sprawling through an open window. Wafting into a circular chamber that resembled an arena of some sort, he landed, to his dismay, face first in a pit of damp, brown mud. Blech, he grumbled, spitting the foul substance from his mouth. Why do my holographic taste buds have to be so damn accurate?

Rolling over onto his back, he discovered that a half-dozen scantily clad, extraterrestrial cat women, covered head to tail with mud, had formed a ring about him. They smiled and purred as he gawked.

“Hell-looooo, kitty,” he said sultrily.

“I didn’t feel a thing,” said Fry, his head cupped in his hands. “Seven cat girls rubbing me all over with their necks, and not a thing. Being a hologram sucks.”

“If it’s any comfort,” said Leela, “I don’t imagine they felt anything, either.”

Fry, mud stains covering his shirt and face, glanced over at his motionless real body and sighed. “What happened to that chicken lawyer? I need to ask him if I can collect damages for suckitude.”

Amy’s hands fell upon his shoulders, feeling to him like a pair of oven mitts. “Won’t you even try?” said the girl from Mars with concern. “I know it’s not much, but at least you can move about now.”

“Move about where?” said the bitter redhead. “I can’t eat, I can’t drink, I can’t even fall properly. No matter what I do, no matter what I see or hear, inside I still feel like a piece of chewing gum stuck to a desk.”

“Oh, you poor boy,” said Amy sweetly. “It must be terrible for you. When I get that kind of feeling, I put on some makeup, and it goes away…but what can you do?”

A faint twinkle, most likely the result of static charge buildup, appeared in Fry’s eyeballs. “I’ll try, Amy,” he promised. “I’ll try.”

Once Amy had left his side, Leela bent over to the chair where holo-Fry sat. Not a word passed between them as she pressed her lips to his. Amy, watching over Fry’s body, seemed to notice an upward curling of his mouth.

Leela silently removed her lips, leaving Fry with an expression of trance-like ecstasy. “Feel better now?” she asked the young man.

“Y-yeah,” was all Fry could manage.

“Good,” said the one-eyed woman. “Because that’s the last one you’re getting.”

Chapter 8

“Bender,” said Fry as he followed his robotic pal to the Robot Arms building, “what do you think Leela meant when she said, ‘That’s the last one you’re getting’?”

“Geez, Fry, how should I know?” was Bender’s flippant reply. “I’m sure it’s some kinda top-secret coded message, but I’m a bending unit, not a cryptobot.”

A bright moon ruled the sky above them. Seconds after Bender had trudged through the automatic doors, Fry attempted to do the same, only to see them slam together in front of his face. Okay, now what? he grumbled internally. Recalling his 20th-century training, he stepped on the ground several times, but the doors remained shut fast. He waved his arms frantically, but nothing changed. “Open the hell up!” he shouted, hoping the doors were intelligent enough to recognize his voice and respect his authority.

Crap and a half, he thought miserably. It’s the same thing with the suicide booth. These technological devices no longer see me as a person…they think I’m one of them!

A significantly better time was being had by Leela and Amy, who were playfully hosing down the exterior of the Planet Express ship. “These dark matter stains are almost impossible to get rid of,” said Leela as she busily scrubbed the rear aileron with a rag of steel wool.

“Yeah,” remarked Amy. “It’s like trying to wash off the sticky green spots after Kif and I make love. Sometimes I just leave them there.”

Leela giggled, took up her hose, and began to spray the windows. “Now that it’s just the two of us,” she said curiously, “I’ve been meaning to ask you a rather personal question.”

“How personal is it?” Amy asked her.

“It’s so personal,” said Leela, “that it’s not answered in the FAQ section of your web site.”

Amy shut off her hose. “That’s pretty personal,” she said with a bit of a scowl.

Leela grinned knowingly. “Tell me,” she said, her ponytail wagging as she stepped closer, “what does Kif look like…naked?

For a few moments Amy looked as if her jaw had been yanked open by a team of wild horses. Then, surprisingly, she erupted into laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asked Leela.

“I…I…” giggled Amy. “I thought it was a personal question about me, not Kif.”

Leela waited, her arms folded against her tank top, for the Chinese girl’s laughing fit to die down. “Do you have any idea how schmissed off he’ll be if he finds out I told you?” Amy choked out between chuckles.

“I won’t tell,” said Leela flatly.

Upon regaining her composure, Amy said, “Not all aliens keep their genitals in the same place. You know that, right?”

“Uh-huh,” said Leela. “Where does Kif keep his?

“Bend over,” said Amy. Leela did so, and her friend whispered a few words into her ear.

It was Leela’s turn to double over with laughter. “Oh my God!” she blurted out. “Are you serious? I’ve touched him there!”

“You’ve all touched him there,” said Amy cheerfully.

The two women laughed constantly for what seemed like an hour, but was, in actuality, only ten minutes. Water and soap dripped from the Planet Express ship and formed a reservoir around Leela’s boots.

“You know what?” said the cyclops. “I hate to say it, but…we’re just as bad as Fry.”

“You’re right,” said Amy. “We totally are.”

Chapter 9

Fry tugged uselessly against what he thought were the folds of his jacket. “It’s like the thing’s attached to me,” he remarked, “like it’s a part of the hologram. I can’t take it off.”

“Pffft,” said Bender, downing another Olde Fortran on the couch. “Why did you even put it on? It’s the middle of summer.”

With a sigh of frustration, Fry set himself down next to his robotic roommate. “And the weird part is, when I touch my own clothes they feel like real clothes, but when I touch somebody else’s clothes, or even their skin, it feels like I’m touching a radiation suit or something.”

“How touching,” said Bender sarcastically.

“But you know what the weird part is?” said Fry. “Since the Professor’s device is strapped to my real head, and my real body’s wearing a hospital gown, you’d expect my holographic body to be wearing a hospital gown too. But instead I’m in the same getup I wear to work every day. How do you figure that?”

“Let me stimulate my brain a little more,” said Bender, reaching for a bottle of liquor, “and then maybe I’ll have an answer for you.”

“And here’s the weird part,” said Fry, his tone excited. “I think the Holopersona thingy must be projecting an image of me based on my image of myself. So maybe, if I imagine myself looking different, the hologram just might change its appearance.”

“Why, that’s brilliant,” said Bender. “And you figured all of this out while you were sober. How do you do it?”

Grinning expectantly, Fry leaped to his holographic feet. “Watch carefully,” he instructed the robot, “and let me know if anything changes.” Bender, in response, stretched out his bulb-like eyes to their limit. “Now, then,” said Fry, staring into space, “I wish…I wish I was wearing a tuxedo.”

“Nothing yet,” said Bender.

Fry closed his eyes tightly. “Tuxedo,” he muttered to himself. “Tuxedo…tuxedo…”

“Fry, you’re turning into a penguin,” said Bender. “Stop it.”

The young redhead looked down. To his delight, an elegant-looking black and white suit had taken the place of his jacket and jeans. “It worked!” he exclaimed.

Bender slapped his corrugated hands together. “Bravo! Bravo!” he cried.

“What should I do next?” asked the tuxedo-clad Fry.

“Oh! Oh!” said Bender, waving his arms. “Turn yourself into a head in a jar!”

“Okay,” said Fry, and his eyes closed again. “I’m a head in a jar. Head in a jar. Head in a jar…”

His image didn’t change. Hmm, thought Bender. Maybe if I play a mind trick on him…

“Omigod, Fry!” the robot suddenly shouted. “Where’d your body go? Where’d that jar come from?”

“Huh?” said Fry, startled. His eyes snapped open, but saw nothing but Bender’s feet, a remarkably detailed carpet, and what appeared to be a strange fluid surrounding him.

From Bender’s point of view, a short glass jar was resting on the floor, bearing a plaque with the name PHILIP J. FRY. Without hesitation he rushed to the bathroom, obtained a hand-held mirror, and lowered it so that Fry could behold his own reflection.

“Whoa,” he marveled. “I really am a head. Okay, now for something less creepy…”

“What the…” Bender blurted out. “Amy? Where did you come from? What happened to Fry?”

“What do you mean?” said the head in a jar. “I’m down here.”

“You’re not Fry,” said Bender, shaking his head. “You’re Amy. You’ve got a pink sweatsuit like Amy’s, you’ve got black hair that sticks up all over like Amy’s, you’ve got a girlish figure like Amy’s…”

“I’m not Amy!” shouted Fry. To his shock, he heard Amy’s voice uttering the words instead of his own.

“Like hell you’re not,” said Bender, holding up the mirror.

When he saw the Chinese face that stared back at him, Fry let out a high-pitched scream.

“Why are you afraid of your reflection, Amy?” said Bender. “Are you so cute that it scares you?”

“Cut it out!” said Fry. He shook his fist, which now resembled Amy’s fist, complete with cherry-red nails.

“Is that a new pink sweatsuit, Amy?” Bender ribbed him. “Oh, and have you lost weight? Your girlish figure looks even girlisher.”

“Argh!” said Fry, covering his holographic ears. “I’m Fry…I’m Fry…I’m Fry…”

“I love the sound of your sweet, feminine voice, Amy,” said Bender. “Don’t ever change a thing about yourself…your button nose, your blocky hair, your pink sweatsuit…”

Chapter 10

“Your name?” asked Leela.

“Jennalynn,” replied the teenaged girl with the eager, vapid expression. “It’s Jennalynn. Omigod, I’m really inside my favorite cartoon!”

“Settle down, mon,” said Hermes, who sat by Leela’s side. “Seeing we never received a resumé from you, I’d like to ask you a few questions about your previous employment.”

“Omigod, you’re really Hermes Conrad!” said Jennalynn excitedly. She had hazel-blue eyes with a hint of gold, smooth blond hair that billowed over her shoulders, and curves in all the right places. “Say one of your rhyming things—you know, ‘sweet lumbago of San Diego’ or something like that.”

“I’d appreciate it if you’d take this interview seriously,” said Leela.

“Omigod!” said Jennalynn to the purple-haired woman. “You’re just like I imagined. Your eye is totally amazing! But when are you and Fry gonna get together? It’s, like, totally destined to happen, ya know.”

“Thank you for your interest in our company,” said Hermes. “Please take a complementary can of Slurm on your way out.”

“Omigod, Slurm!” Jennalynn wailed with delight. “I’ve always wanted to try the stuff. Oh, and one other thing…do you think you can get me a date with Zapp Brannigan?”

The next candidate was a shifty-looking, unshaven man who wore the latest Salvation Army fashions. “Hmm,” said Leela, intrigued by his resumé. “Research biologist, specializing in genetics. You’re just a bit overqualified for a delivery job, aren’t you?”

“I’ve fallen upon difficult times,” the man replied. “I’m sure I’ll have no trouble with this kind of work, as long as…as long as I never get angry.

He was followed by a man with a ghastly face and wildly unruly hair. “Your career chip identifies you as a delivery boy,” said Leela, “but according to your resumé, you used to be a barber.”

“Ah, yes,” said the man, twirling a razor between his fingers. “When one of my clients came to an unfortunate and tragic end, and I happened upon his chip by accident, I couldn’t help but seize the opportunity.”

The next applicant was the smallest of the lot, so short that Leela had to lean over the table to see him. “Your resumé states that you’ve held a variety of positions, everything from astronaut to country singer,” she said to the little white creature. “Judging from your size, I’m just a little bit skeptical.”

“Actually,” he said flatly, “I’m a laboratory mouse on a quest to take over the world through orbital mind control technology.”

“Right,” said Leela facetiously. “And I’m Peggy Bundy.”

Minutes later she and Hermes, their faces registering disappointment, walked into the employee lounge, where Bender, Zoidberg, and holo-Fry were lounging. “Any luck finding my replacement?” Fry asked the pair.

“No, mon,” said Hermes. “They’re all freaks.”

“You’re irreplaceable, Fry,” said Leela. “Normal people don’t want your job.”

“Hmm,” mused Fry. “Why not hire my evil duplicate from a parallel universe, like you did the last time?”

“No way, José,” retorted Bender. “He used some kinda voodoo magic to turn me into a zombie slave.”

“He reprogrammed you,” said Leela.

Holo-Fry stood boldly. “If you can’t replace me,” he declared, “then you’ll have to keep me. I want you to move my body into the Planet Express ship.”

“Hooray!” exclaimed Zoidberg.

“Fry, mon, we’ve been over this,” said Hermes earnestly. “It’s too dangerous.”

“What are you afraid will happen to me?” said Fry, glaring at the Jamaican. “I’m already a vegetable.”

“Your body requires expert care by competent physicians,” Hermes insisted.

“Let me take care of him,” offered Zoidberg. “He’ll be in the best of claws.”

“Yeah, why not?” said holo-Fry. “Dr. Zoidberg’s a genius. Don’t forget, he kept me alive by stitching my head onto Amy’s body.”

“He only did that ‘cause he didn’t have a jar,” Hermes told him.

“If I stick around here, I’ll be bored to death,” said Fry, his holographic image flickering as his voice rose. “Besides, there are things I can do as a hologram that I can’t do as a human being…like this.”

Turning, he walked toward the wall…and through the wall.

Every jaw in the lounge fell, Bender’s with a loud clank. Suddenly Fry reappeared, stepping through the couch as if it were a piece of phantom furniture.

“Sweet guava of Java,” marveled the Jamaican.

“That was impressive, Fry,” said Leela, “but I have to agree with Hermes. Your body won’t be safe on the ship—Zoidberg doesn’t have the right training, and the sickbay doesn’t have the right equipment. If something goes wrong, you could end up damaging your brain past the point where it can be cured.”

She’s so sexy when she’s right, thought Fry with a scowl. “Okay, I’ll stay on Earth,” he said, folding his arms, “but I refuse to enjoy myself.”

Leela labored away at the Planet Express ship’s console, humming a tune her brain had picked up from a recent episode of Earthican Idol. A well-known voice from behind her back asked, “Whatcha doin’?”

The cyclops whirled around in the captain’s chair. “I’m calibrating the instruments,” she told Amy. “It’s a long trip to Kappa Delta Phi, the fraternity planet, and it passes through some unstable regions of space, so I need everything to be accurate.”

“Sounds like fun,” said Amy glibly.

“What?” said Leela. “Calibrating the instruments, or going to a fraternity planet?”

“Uh, the fraternity planet,” said Amy, her tone unsteady. “Yeah, there’s nothing I like better than partying with the boys.”

Leela narrowed her eye. Something’s off about Amy, she thought. “Have you gained weight?” she asked her Chinese friend.

Amy merely shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t gotten weighed since, uh…”

That’s odd. How can Amy not remember the last time she weighed herself, down to the minute, second, and ounce?

“Can I ask you something?” said Amy with a goofy smile.

Her teeth are wrong, thought Leela. I know they’re whiter than that. Could it be I’m just tired?

“Sometimes I look at you and Fry,” Amy continued, “and I think you’d make a totally cute couple.”

Crossing her legs impatiently, Leela responded, “One million years from now, when Fry finally grows up, then we’ll make a cute couple.”

Amy’s cheekbones seemed to droop. “What is it you don’t like about him?” she asked with concern. “You can tell me…I’m a girl.”

Leela sighed. “Where do I begin? He’s stupid, he’s crass, he’s a slob, he has no ambition, he has zero respect for women…”

“Whoa,” said Amy abruptly. “That’s a long list. Think you could cut it down to just three things?”

“No, I can’t,” said Leela, shaking her head. “I really can’t.”

Shrugging, Amy asked, “If you hate him so much, why’d you kiss him?”

“Because,” Leela explained, “he saved me from that falling canister, and I figured I should do something to show my gratitude. But the good karma he generated is pretty much gone now. You heard the things his hologram said.”

“You mean the stuff about your boobs?”

“Yeah,” said Leela. “But I don’t hate Fry. I wish him well, and hope he eventually finds a bimbo and lives happily ever after.”

Amy remained silent for a moment. This is surreal, Leela told herself. Amy doesn’t normally talk that way. I can’t put my finger on it…

“Know what you should do?” said Amy. “You should write down all the reasons you won’t marry Fry, and give the list to him, and if he does all the stuff on the list, then you should marry him.”

Leela’s response was a shocked and defiant face.

“You never know,” said Amy cheerfully. “It might work.”

The purple-haired woman’s look gradually softened. “You know, you’re right,” she said, warmth building in her tone of voice. “Sometimes I lie awake, and I say to myself, ‘If only Fry were different…if only he would change.’ Maybe, just maybe, this is the push he needs. After all, as imperfect as he is, he does have an awfully cute butt.”

Chapter 11

The Fry hologram stood without moving in the lounge, his eyes fixed on an air vent high in the wall, his thoughts fixed on Leela. I wonder if she bought it. If she did, then maybe I should get a new job as a female impersonator.

Amy strolled in, her pink sweatshirt replaced by a pink tank top, her hands slightly soiled with grease. “Creepy,” she marveled at the sight of Fry. “You’re like a statue. I guess the Holopersona filters out very small movements.”

“Uh-huh,” said Fry. His mouth moved, but the rest remained still.

“This afternoon there’s a hair gel convention at the Hair Gel Convention Center,” Amy informed him. “Thought you might like to go with me.”

“I would prefer not to,” said Fry, continuing to gaze at the air vent.

“Okay,” said Amy with a bit of disappointment, “maybe hair gel isn’t your thing. How ‘bout the museum? There’s a new exhibit called Snow Globes through the Ages, where you can get your picture taken inside a snow globe.”

Once again Fry said, “I would prefer not to.”

“Schmeesh, Fry,” said Amy, shrugging for emphasis. “You can’t just stand there until the crew comes back from Kappa Delta Phi.”

“I’m not standing,” said the red-headed hologram, turning to face her. “I’m lying down.”

Taken aback by his bitter demeanor, Amy said, “All I want to do is help you entertain yourself.”

Leela stepped into the lounge, her purple ponytail neatly tucked into the rim of her space suit. Here she comes, thought Fry. This should be entertaining.

“Hey, Leela,” said Amy. “Aren’t you a little bit overdressed for KDP?”

“Hell, yes,” said the cyclops. “But I’m not wearing this on the planet—I’ve packed my best dress, and by ‘best’ I mean ‘most revealing’.”

“Schmawsome,” said Amy luridly. “Hoping for some action?”

“Not just any action, wink wink,” said Leela. “You see, there’s a special someone waiting for me on KDP—someone I’ve been corresponding with for months.”

“Really?” said Fry and Amy in unison. Crap, she’s taken again, thought Fry.

“It may blossom into something more,” Leela went on, “or it may not go anywhere at all. He’s got one thing going for him, however…he likes romantic movies.”

“You never told me about this guy,” said Amy, appearing confused.

“He can quote all the classics,” Leela boasted, “from It Happened One Night to When Harry Met Sally all the way up to Sleepless on Saturn. And he doesn’t just quote them—he gets them. He appreciates them, wink wink. Show me one straight man on Earth who can do that.”

“Leela,” Fry chimed in, “watching romantic movies is how straight men become gay.”

“That superstition went out with the 24th century, Fry,” the one-eyed woman retorted. “Romantic movies don’t make a man gay, they make him sensitive.”

“Uh, Leela, can we talk in private for a second?” Amy requested.

Once the two ladies were safely hidden in the ladies’ washroom, Amy asked, “What’s with the ‘wink wink’?”

“That’s how you know I’m winking, not blinking,” Leela replied. “It’s a cyclops thing.”

“Yeah, I know,” said Amy, “but what are you winking about?

Leela leaned closer to the Chinese girl. “There is no special someone on KDP,” she whispered.

“Oh, I get it now,” said Amy with a wicked smile. Is it Make Fry Jealous Day already? Schmeesh, how time flies…

Bored of watching the air vent, Fry lowered his holographic butt onto the couch. I can’t believe Leela’s falling for an intergalactic dork who loves chick flicks. I’ll bet he’s even been to the factory where chick flicks are made! It’s not fair! Why do sensitive guys get all the sexy babes?

And why the hell was Leela winking at Amy like that? It’s like she was trying to communicate a secret message, and Amy wasn’t getting it.

The 60-watt bulb in the 120-watt socket of Fry’s brain suddenly lit up.

Of course! It’s all about the things I said when I was impersonating Amy. Leela’s trying to get through to me that if I want a chance with her, I’ll have to learn to like…gulp…

In a hospital room several blocks away, Fry’s body started to lurch violently.

chick flicks!

Chapter 12




“But why, O Lord?”


“Please drink responsibly,” said the television announcer, as an image of a frosty mug of Lobräu filled the screen.

Good grief, thought Fry. One beer commercial after another. It’s like the TV is mocking my pain.

“We will return to the Beer Commerical Marathon after these messages from our sponsors,” uttered the TV voice.

Bender landed noisily on the couch next to his now-holographic roommate. “Hey, buddy, want some prune juice?” said the robot, holding up a glass.

“You know I can’t drink,” said Fry, shaking his head. “It’d go right through me.”

“That’s kinda the idea,” said Bender. After tossing the purple beverage down his throat, he continued, “Ever had a brick stuck in your colon? It’s no picnic.”

Lifting the remote control from his knee, Fry punched a few numbers to bring up the Lifetime channel. “Coming up next, Sense and Serendipity,” a sweet female voice spoke.

“Hey, what’s the deal?” his robot friend protested. “This is the network with all the non-disposable women. I am so not watching this.”

“Fine,” said Fry with resignation, “but I am.”

“Suit yourself,” said Bender, jumping into a vertical position. “I gotta go to the bathroom anyway.”

I must do this for Leela, thought Fry, dreading the appearance of the opening credits. Besides, I’ve got nothing else to do but vegetate. Pay close attention now…remember, Leela loves guys who can quote chick flicks…

On the screen, a barefoot, slovenly man in a ragged T-shirt was watching a televised game. “Hey, Mabel!” he shouted towards the kitchen. “Where are the potato chips I asked for?”

“They’re all gone, Harold,” replied his surprisingly slender and good-looking wife. “You ate them. You ate everything.”

“Dad gum it,” the man grumbled. “No more food? What am I supposed to live on…love?

Mabel made a poignant face. “There was a time when we had enough love to live on. What happened to it, Harold? What happened to our love?”

“Darned if I know. Have you checked under the cushions?”

Mabel used a wrist to wipe away her tears as she fled the house. That doesn’t make sense, Fry said to himself. She’s married to a great guy…why’s she so sad?

“Oh, dear God,” said Cindy, Mabel’s neighbor, as she welcomed the distraught woman inside. “What’s happened? Is it menopause? Yeast infection? Breast cancer? Or are you just letting off steam?”

“How could I have been so wrong about Harold?” mourned Mabel. “Men are like pandas, Cindy…cute and cuddly at first, but then you adopt one, and it’s ‘feed me, feed me’ all the time.”

“I know where you’re coming from,” said her neighbor. “I could wear you out with horror stories about men, and so could my three grown daughters.”

Geez, what a crock, thought Fry. All the men in this flick are nasty jerks, and there’s only one man in the whole flick.

A saucer-shaped vehicle landed in front of a circular mass of glowing ooze. “Welcome to the beginning of time, ladies and gentlemen,” said the tour guide. “Please don’t litter.”

Seated within the time ship next to Mabel was an impossibly handsome man wearing an impossibly well-ironed suit. “My name’s Zach,” he told the woman. “I work at an ad agency.”

“My name’s gorgeous,” she replied nervously. “Uh, I mean, you’re so bed, I want to take you to Mabel with me.”

“Have you ever seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” Zach asked Mabel.

“Uh…no,” she replied.

“Neither have I,” said Zach.

I’m going to throw up, thought Fry.

“First, you turn his head to one side, so he doesn’t choke on his own vomit,” the nurse in Fry’s hospital room explained to one of her interns.

One sickly sweet hour later…

“I love you, Mabel,” said Zach, “but I’m afraid I can’t be with you. You see, I’m engaged to marry an alien princess as part of a peace agreement between our two worlds.”

“Can’t you just call it off?” said Mabel with pleading eyes.

“I wish I could,” said Zach. “Not only does she have absolutely nothing in common with me, but she’s going to devour me on our wedding night.”

“Wait a minute,” said Mabel with a wicked grin. “I just thought of a solution to both our problems.”

The next scene…

“You are revolting,” said Princess Azkazaka, grimacing. “I know it is the tradition of my people, but I simply cannot bring myself to devour you.”

“I love you too, doll,” said Harold, resting on the couch in nothing but his royal robe.

THE END were the two most beautiful words Fry had ever seen. I’m surprised my brain didn’t climb out my ear to get away. Even a subplot with Steven Seagal beating up terrorists disguised as Amish people couldn’t save that movie. But I’ve got to endure this, because it’s the will of Leela. Wonder what’s up next…

“And now, Love in the Time of the Andromeda Strain!

Chapter 13

The rusty sound of the Planet Express ship’s landing gear as it descended drew Fry to the spaceport like a magnet. Leela and I are gonna have so much to talk about, he thought, walking directly through the wall in his impatience.

Leela emerged from the cockpit, helmet in hand, her face all lipstick and smiles. “Did you have a good time on KDP?” asked Amy, pushing her way to the front of the welcoming crowd.

“Did I ever,” said the cyclops wistfully. “I had to beat off half of the boys with a stick.”

“What about the package?” Farnsworth pressed her. “Did it arrive safely at its destination?”

“Uh…the package?” said Leela. “Oh, the package. Well, I checked the cargo bay and it’s empty, so I’m assuming it did.”

She’s just teasing, thought Fry, politely looking aside as Leela unzipped her space suit. She wouldn’t settle for a smelly frat boy, or even a whole planet of smelly frat boys.

Hermes and Dr. Zoidberg passed by him, carrying Bender’s prostrate body away from the ship on a stretcher. “Soooo…happy,” he heard the inebriated robot moan.

“You won’t be so happy in the mornin’, mon,” Hermes chided him. “Or the next mornin’.”

Leela, after dumping her suit into a decontamination unit, turned to greet Fry. “Sorry you couldn’t go,” she said sympathetically. “The guys from the break dance fraternity really missed you. They said they feel less like losers when you’re around.”

“Yeah, I tend to have that effect on people,” said Fry.

“So,” said the purple-ponytailed woman, “what’d you do for fun while we were gone?”

“I watched a lot of romantic movies,” said Fry, summoning boldness. “And I know you’ll hate me for saying this, but…they suck.”

Leela let out an offended gasp. “That is such a guy attitude. But what else can I expect from someone whose favorite movie is Saving Private Ryan?

“Hey,” said Fry with a shrug, “if there was a movie about a bunch of women getting blown to pieces, I’d watch it.”

“Tell me,” said Leela, her arms crossed, “which ones did you see?”

“Hmm,” said Fry. “First there was Sense and Serendipity, then Love in the Time of the Andromeda Strain, The Prince of Solar Tides, Neutronium Magnolias, The Sisterhood of the Time-Traveling Pants…”

“Those are all classics,” said Leela. “How do they suck? Not enough explosions?”

“It’s not that at all,” Fry went on. “After I’d watched about a dozen of them, I started to realize that they were basically the same movie. All the male characters are either scumbags or handsome Prince Charming types, the middle-aged divorced lady always has grown daughters, and it’s totally obvious who’s going to end up with who at the end of the movie, so where’s the suspense?”

“Oh, please,” said Leela. “A man rides a Scooty Puff Jr. all the way across New Manhattan to catch up with a woman he spent only one glorious night with before she undergoes elective surgery to become a robot? How is that not suspenseful?

“Maybe she’d be happier as a robot,” said Fry.

“You’re missing the point,” said Leela earnestly. “If you look at the great love affairs of history…Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Paolo and Francesca, George and Gracie, David Mamet and the F-word…you’ll find that the thread underlying them all is fate. When you’re destined to be with someone, nothing else matters, not even life and death.”

Fry gazed longingly at her single, gem-like eye. “How do you know when it’s fate?” he asked.

“You just do,” Leela assured him. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I see some Klingons that need to be scraped off the hull.”

Turning on the heel of her boot, she marched away. I don’t get this fate business, thought Fry, fondly watching her disappear. I need a really smart person to explain it to me. Bender’s drunk out of his casing, so I’ll ask the Professor instead.

Chapter 14

Professor Farnsworth lay snoring on a hard platform, his head resting on a package that bore the warning, RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL—DO NOT USE AS PILLOW. Fry, not eager to awake the geezer, playfully passed his holographic arm through a neutron laser a few times before finally speaking up. “Hey, Professor?”

“Huh? Wha…?” The old man flailed in fear. “Don’t eat my brain! I know it looks big, but it’s mostly gristle!”

“It’s me,” said Fry warmly. “I just wanna ask you something.”

The Professor’s spine creaked as he sat up. “I had the most terrible dream,” he related. “Zombies everywhere. It was like Zombiestock II all over again, only these zombies got back up after I shot them.”

“Whatever,” said Fry. “Listen, I was just talking with Leela, and she’s got the notion that two people who are destined for each other can be brought together by fate. What do you think of that?”

“Balderdash,” said Farnsworth, straightening his glasses. “The universe is governed by blind, impersonal forces that care nothing about human happiness.”

“Thanks, Professor,” said Fry hastily. “I’ll tell Leela what you told me.”

The cyclops, nestled behind her desk with a copy of the New New York Times, gave him a condescending look as he repeated Farnsworth’s statement. “That’s exactly the sort of thing he’d say,” she observed. “Balderdash, my ass. Just because he’s six times older than I am, he thinks he knows everything about life.”

“Thanks, Leela,” said Fry. “I’ll tell the Professor what you told me.”

He found Farnsworth in the lounge, playing a game of Rock-em Sock-em Robots against Bender, and repeated Leela’s remark. “That’s exactly the sort of thing she’d say,” said the oldster.

“What should I tell her?” Fry asked him.

“Damned if I know,” said Farnsworth wearily. “I can’t reason with women. Nobody can.”

“Thanks,” said Fry. “I’ll tell her that.”

Outside Leela’s office he suddenly halted, his holographic eyes wide. What am I doing? he thought with alarm. I can’t say that to her face. I’m like a stupid, mindless parrot, eating crackers and copying other people and saying the same thing over and over. What am I doing? What am I doing?

“Fry?” the purple-haired girl called to him. “What’d he say?”

I got nothing, Fry lamented. If I open my mouth at all, something stupid will come out. No wonder Leela treats me like a freak. My brain’s as useless as the rest of my body! Only one way to fix that…

Leela saw a sheepish-looking red head poking through her doorway. “Uh,” said Fry hesitantly, “this may sound silly, but…where’s the nearest library?”

The question, needless to say, caught her off guard. “You?” she blurted out, stifling a rude chuckle. “Library?”

“Hey, I’m not totally illiterate,” said Fry. “Last time I went to the library, I read a whole book of crossword puzzles.”

Leela forced her lips to smile as she composed herself. “The nearest library,” she informed him, “is the Metropolitan Library of Congress, five miles from here.”

Too far away, thought Fry.

“Alternatively,” Leela went on, “you could visit their web site. All of the Metcon’s books are online now, except for the ones people actually want to read.”

“That sounds cool,” said Fry. “Now, if I can just find a web terminal…”

“The Holopersona has a built-in web terminal,” said Leela. “Didn’t you know that?”

Fry pondered this bit of news for about two nanoseconds. Then he disappeared…

…and reappeared in front of a granite stairway and a series of Corinthian columns.

Woooow, he marveled, his eyes admiring the bronze statues and the ornate carvings in the front wall of the library’s web page. Screw reality!

“Welcome to the Metropolitan Library of Congress,” uttered an omnipresent female voice that reminded him strongly of Tress MacNeille. “If this is your first visit, please take the time to register.”

Chapter 15

The interior of the library’s web site stupefied Fry’s mind with its towering, impossibly regular shelves of books that extended infinitely in both directions. As he looked over this wonder, an anthropomorphic kangaroo wearing only a red blouse hopped lightly towards him. “I’m Hip-Hop, your guide to the Metropolitan Library of Congress,” said the creature officiously, as a list of menu options materialized in the air above her pointed ears. “To search books by subject, touch Search by Subject. To search books by author, touch Search by Author. To make me go away, touch Delete Annoying Kangaroo.”

“Hmm,” said Fry aloud. “Gotta find a book that’ll make me smart enough to impress Leela…but which one?”

“Touch Random Selection to select a book at random,” said the kangaroo, her black eyes showing no emotion.

“Uh, all right,” said Fry. With a lazy gesture he selected the randomization option, and at once the library shelves began to fly past him at unbelievable speed. Just as the spectacle was making him sick to the stomach, the endless stacks of books slowed and halted, and a particular volume with a faded blue cover leaped into his hands.

To Serve Manatee,” he repeated the title. The pages felt like thin sheets of leather as his fingers flipped them. “It’s a cookbook. But isn’t the manatee, like, endangered?”

“The manatee is extinct,” uttered a soulful female voice. “You’ve got a really old book there.”

Fry whirled around, and the library rotated to match the movement of his head. Before him stood the electronic image of a tall, blond girl with pasty skin. She clutched two or more books in each hand, and her digitally rendered smile radiated perfect whiteness.

“Er, I’ll stick with the kangaroo, if it’s all the same to you,” said Fry to the stranger.

“My name’s Carmina,” spoke the girl, “as in Carmina Burana.” A menu appeared over her bush of golden hair, featuring such options as Shake Hands, Poke, Throw a Sheep At, and Slap with a Fish. “I’m not a computerized assistant. I’m an avatar of a human being.”

“I’m Fry,” said the redhead with delight.

“Fry,” mused the blonde. “Is that a last name?”

“I guess I’m an avatar too,” said Fry, glancing down at his luminescent hands. “My body’s in the hospital, recovering from some kind of brain disease.”

“Really?” said Carmina, her cheeks sparkling. “Which disease? Do you know the name?”

“Uh…” She could see an hourglass above Fry’s head as he pondered his words. “One of the doctors called it Locked-In Syndrome.”

Carmina turned her mushroom-shaped nose to the shelves. “Locked-In Syndrome,” she said forcefully, and the mighty stacks of books began their dance anew.

“That’s so amazing,” remarked Fry. “All you do is say something, and it goes to the right book. Are you a wizard or something?”

“No, silly,” said Carmina, chuckling. “Anyone can perform a book search.” A slender tome opened itself automatically in front of her eyes, and she started to read idly. “Locked-In Syndrome, yada yada…by stroke at the level of the basilar artery, yada yada…Elle Magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, yada yada…dictated his memoir by blinking one eye, yada…”

“You’re kidding me,” said Fry, looking vigilantly over the girl’s shoulder. “He wrote a book just by blinking? That’s gotta be tough! Me, I don’t think I could even blink for help if I was drowning.”

Carmina turned sympathy-filled eyes to him. “I wonder what you really look like,” she said wistfully, “trapped in a hospital bed, with tubes going in and out, your face stuck in some horrific grimace. That’s what I love about the Internet—it lets us leave our imperfect true selves behind. I have poor coordination and body odor, but you’d never know it from looking at this.”

As Fry and the tall blonde gazed at each other, the love theme from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture started to play in the background. “Although styled an 'Overture-Fantasy' by the composer, the overall design is a symphonic poem in sonata-form with an introduction and an epilogue,” droned a disinterested nearby voice.

Chapter 16

Carmina deftly flicked her finger at a series of doorway icons, one of which expanded to the point that she and Fry were able to easily pass through. Inside, on a set of purple leather furniture, sat four other avatars—a human male with diamond-encrusted glasses, two young African-American ladies who were indistinguishable in both body and dress, and Morbo. “Hi, guys,” Carmina greeted them.

“Hi, Carmina,” said the black-haired twins in unison.

“Intruder!” bellowed Morbo. “Identify yourself or be vaporized!”

“This is Philip J. Fry,” said Carmina, waving her hand at the red-jacketed visitor. “He comes in peace.”

The green creature crossed his arms. “Morbo is pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said, almost pleasantly.

“Whoa, whoa,” said the man with the fancy glasses. “You’re not the Philip J. Fry, are you?”

Fry grinned vapidly. “I didn’t know there was a famous person with my name,” he marveled.

The man stood up, revealing a somewhat flabby physique underneath his suit and tie. “I’m Dr. Solomon Slawski, but you can call me Doctor,” he introduced himself. “I wrote my doctoral thesis on the difficulties people face when adjusting to modern life after centuries of cryogenic suspension, and your name cropped up here and there.”

“What’s with the sparkly spectacles?” Fry asked him.

“They’re my reading glasses,” said Dr. Slawski. “I only wear them to meetings of our book club.”

“This is a book club?” said Fry excitedly. “Cool! Which books? Animorphs? Nancy Drew?

“Actually,” said Carmina as she escorted Fry to a seat between the twins, “we just began studying A Series of Unfortunate Conclusions by the 24th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Clousartre.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Fry, hiding his bafflement with a smile. “I always meant to read that series, but couldn’t find the time. Didn’t even make it to the end of the third Harry Potter book.”

“Morbo will summarize,” offered the vein-headed alien. “A Series of Unfortunate Conclusions forms the basis of the pitiful human philosophy of post-nihilism. Clousartre devoted the first volume to a proof of the non-existence of God. In the second volume he responded to the Judeo-Christian argument that without God, the world would not have been created, by proving that the human race was, in fact, created by super-intelligent dung beetles.”

“Buhbuhbuh…” stammered Fry.

“I know it’s a lot to take in,” said Carmina gently. “Just keep in mind that Clousartre’s philosophy is of interest to us mainly due to its influence on the political and social developments of the last five centuries. We don’t necessarily believe in it.”

“Foolish humans,” growled Morbo, “pleading with your imaginary God to spare your wretched lives, which will soon be in our hands.”

“Not all of us, anyway,” said Carmina.

“Uh, I don’t have much to contribute to this discussion,” said Fry. “However, I do remember reading an old book where the answer to life, the universe, and everything was said to be the number forty-two.”

“Forty-two?” said one of the twins, startled.

“That’s pretty close,” said the other twin.

“In 2867, scientists succeeded in calculating the Ultimate Answer to within eight decimal places,” Dr. Slawski related. “It’s 41.9203…something. Those 20th-century scientists never cease to amaze.”

“Even though they got so many things wrong,” Carmina remarked. “Like the ozone layer. Who knew it was actually bad for us?”

“So, Fry,” said Slawski, his fingers tented, “what can you tell us about the late 1900’s that we haven’t already learned from our many, many preserved celebrity heads?”

Fry shifted uncomfortably. “Uh, let’s see…well, pizza and beer were at the peak of their popularity…”

“Ah, yes,” mused Slawski. “The Pizza Riots of 2009, culminating in the Boston Pizza Party of 2010. You must be an expert.”

“Listen up, guys,” said Fry earnestly. “I didn’t come to the Metcon so I could give a lecture on history. I’m looking for a book that’ll make me real smart, real fast, because I need to impress a girl.”

“I’m a girl, and you impressed me,” said Carmina.

“Same here,” said one of the twins.

“I’m actually a dude,” admitted the other twin.

“No, this is someone else,” said Fry. “A special girl. A girl so beautiful that I don’t know to describe her beauty, except to say that she makes all other girls look like butt.”

“Awww,” gushed one of the twins.

“What’s her name?” inquired the other twin.

“It’s Leela,” Fry answered.

“Leela?” said Carmina, intrigued. “As in Turanga Leela?”

“Yeah,” said Fry. “You know her?”

“No,” replied the blonde, “but I’m familiar with Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony, one of the few works in the standard classical repertoire to employ a theremin.”

“Tell us more about Leela,” Dr. Slawski urged.

“Okay,” said Fry. “She has long, luscious, purple hair, a great body, and a cyclops eye in the middle of her face.”

“Ewww,” said Carmina with disgust. “Purple? What is she, a mutant?”

Chapter 17

“Captain,” reported Mr. Spock, “sensors indicate the atmosphere is made up of two parts nitrogen, one part oxygen.”

Bender snatched a bottle of Olde Fortran from the end table, bit off the cap with his metal teeth, poured the bubbly contents into his gullet, and blithely tossed the empty bottle aside.

Sensors indicate the hull is shielded by pure neutronium, making it impervious to our phasers,” said Mr. Spock, and Bender promptly gulped down another helping of Olde Fortran. This time, when he threw the bottle aside, holo-Fry reached out and caught it in mid-air.

“Don’t litter, Bender,” said Fry pleadingly. “You make Indians cry when you litter.”

The robot paid no attention to his gentle scolding. “Sir, sensors indicate that Mr. Chekhov’s hairstyle is the source of the temporal distortions,” said Spock, and Bender automatically stretched out his arm for another bottle of ale.

This time, Fry rudely grabbed the Olde Fortran away from his roommate’s grasping fingers. “I’m serious, Bender,” he said, his eyes narrowed. “It’s time we stopped treating our apartment like a landfill, and started treating it like a home, because it is our home.”

“Aww, be a sport, man,” said the robot woundedly. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll switch over to Star Trek: The Next Generation, and you can have a drink every time Counselor Troi says, ‘He’s hiding something.’”

“I can’t drink, Bender,” Fry reminded him. “I’ve got all the free time in the world, and I can’t enjoy it, at least not by doing the same things I did when I could move.”

“If I had a heart, it would be breaking,” said Bender flatly.

The Fry hologram dropped onto the couch by his side. “I’m starting to discover that there are things I can do using just my brain,” he related. “I can think…I can imagine…and when I’m tired of thinking and imagining, I can use the Holopersona’s built-in web link to hang out at the Metcon’s reading rooms.”

“Reading rooms, huh?” said Bender, slightly intrigued. “Is there a reading room for robot porn, or for long strings of binary data?”

Fry shrugged. “I’ve only begun to explore, but I’ve already met some fascinating people, and learned some interesting things. For example, did you know that if you have a dollar, and you double it every day, at the end of a month you’ll have more than a billion dollars?”

“Of course I knew that,” said Bender. Now that you know it, I’m not lending you any more money, he thought.

“And another thing,” Fry went on. “Say you’re walking across the street, and I’m watching you. From my point of view, you’re moving and the Earth is standing still. From your point of view, you’re standing still and the Earth is moving. From the point of view of somebody on Omicron Persei VIII, both you and I, and the Earth, are hurtling through space at thousands of miles per minute. Isn’t that incredible?”

“Sensors indicate the robot is getting bored,” said Bender.

The next morning Fry, having no alternative plans, reported to the Planet Express building as was his custom. While the rest of the crew busily prepared a shipment of churros for delivery to Disneyplanet, he sat alone and silent in the lounge, his holographic nose wedged firmly in the most recent issue of the New New Yorker (cover story: Neck elongation—not just for the rich anymore).

Leela strolled past, plasma torch in hand, a raised visor on her brow. “Hey, Fry,” she greeted the redhead.

“Hey, Leela,” was Fry’s warm response.

“Bender tells me you’ve been going to a book club at the Metcon,” said Leela curiously.

“That’s right, I have,” said Fry.

“If you don’t mind,” said the cyclops, “I’d like to tag along.”

“Uh, sure,” said Fry, somewhat taken aback.

“Believe it or not,” Leela told him, “I was an English major in college.”

“Really?” said Fry. “What led you to change careers?”

She paused, as if retrieving memories. “Cryogenic career counselor was my first job after graduating,” she stated. Glancing sheepishly at the floor, she added, “Two years after graduating.”

Chapter 18

Having donned her virtual reality gear, Leela materialized alongside Fry at the colonnade that led into the library. Fry, having not visited the Internet with Leela for a number of months, looked over the girl’s chosen avatar. The white tank top, the heavy boots, the purple ponytail, they were all present. The only differences were the absence of her wrist console, and the presence of two eyes on her face.

“Er, Leela?” he said cautiously. “Why are you hiding your cyclops eye?”

She shook her head and scowled. “I’d rather not attract attention.”

“It’s okay to be different here,” said Fry, laying a hand on her bare shoulder. “Don’t be afraid to wear your mono-eye proudly.”

“Oh, all right,” said Leela with a sigh of exasperation.

Her face reformed itself, revealing a large white orb with a beady pupil. In less than an instant, a wall-sized popup advertisement appeared in front of her, trumpeting, “Looking for mutant singles in the New New York area? Find that special someone at Mutant Singles Online, the premier place for…” She rammed her fist into the Close button, and the window promptly vanished.

Once inside the library’s reception area, she gaped in wonder at the sea of perfectly stacked books. “I hate to admit it, but I’ve never taken the time to check out this place,” she told Fry.

Thundering footsteps heralded the arrival of a tall, armor-plated robot, armed from shoulder to toe with rocket launchers. “Tremble in fear before Hip-Hop, your guide to the Metropolitan Library of Congress!” bellowed the metallic creature.

“If you don’t like it,” said Fry to Leela, “I can bring back the kangaroo.”

One door selection later, the pair stepped into the reading room where the book club members had gathered. The tall blonde quickly stood up, extending her hand. “You must be Turanga Leela,” she said welcomingly. “My name’s Carmina Burana. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Fry’s told you all about me, I suppose,” said Leela, shaking hands with the girl.

“From the way he described you, I was expecting to see wings,” said Dr. Slawski, who wore the same suit, tie, and showy glasses as before.

“Professor Solomon Slawski,” Carmina introduced him. “And over here are the twins, Roxy and Velma.”

“Hello,” said the two African-American women.

“And you already know Morbo,” said Carmina.

“Hi, Morbo,” said Leela, waving bashfully.

“I will destroy you!” boomed the alien. “Have a seat.”

Once Fry and Leela had positioned themselves on opposite sides of Dr. Slawski, Carmina called the meeting to order. “I hope everybody had a chance to read chapters 6 through 9,” she addressed the group.

“I had a chance,” admitted Roxy, “but I ended up watching the Scary Door marathon instead.”

“So did I,” Velma chimed in.

“And I had an enormous stack of exams to grade,” said Dr. Slawski.

“Morbo had to cover the opening of a new petting zoo,” said Morbo.

Fry stuck up his hand. “I read them,” he stated proudly.

“Wow, Fry,” said Leela, staring at him.

“Hmm,” said Carmina. “Fry, since you’re the only one who read the selection, perhaps you’d like to share your impression of it.”

All eyes and mono-eyes turned to him. “Uh, well,” he said, clasping his hands, “it was interesting, but I’m not sure I’m convinced that a race of highly advanced dung beetles once ruled the Earth. I mean, the geological evidence Clousartre points out could just as easily be the result of a huge meteorite made of dung that landed in the Ukraine and, as a result of water erosion, eventually took on the appearance of a system of aqueducts.”

Leela’s jaw plunged.

“That’s a brilliant theory, Fry,” said Dr. Slawski. “Your knowledge of dung astounds me.”

“Yeah, I’m full of it,” Fry boasted.

“I can’t believe you skipped a Scary Door marathon so you could read some dry old book,” Leela marveled. “You’re crazy about that show.”

Fry shrugged. “TV doesn’t excite me as much as it once did. There’s a TV in my hospital room, right above my bed, and at first all I could do was lie there and watch. After five straight days of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad, I suddenly realized the plot wasn’t moving forward at all.”

Chapter 19

“Bender, mon,” said Hermes, looking over the sheet on his desk, “you reported twenty-four dependents on your tax form. You raisin’ a family of Sea Monkeys, or what?”

“Uh, yes,” the robot replied. “Sea Monkeys, that’s what they are. They’re a pain to care for, but they’re so adorable.”

Hermes narrowed both his eyes and his glasses. “Show me one of these Sea Monkeys,” he demanded.

Sticking a hand into his chest compartment, Bender pulled out a scaly pink creature, no more than six inches high, a trident-like trio of antennae on its head. The tiny animal shot Hermes an affectionate smile, and proceeded to grab the pens from his Reggae Sunsplash mug and hurl them in all directions.

“Aww, it’s so cute,” gushed the Jamaican. “But regulations are regulations. Sea Monkeys do not count as dependents.”

“I understand,” said Bender, stuffing the pink imp back into his chest. “By the way, I’ll be throwing a seafood barbecue tomorrow during lunch hour.”

Leela stepped into the accounting office, her lips curled upward in satisfaction. “You guys are not gonna believe what happened,” she enthused.

“The Chicago Cubs won the blernsball pennant?” said Hermes.

Less unbelievable,” said Leela.

“Calculon got hit with a paternity suit,” said Bender.

More unbelievable,” said Leela.

“You went to Fry’s book club, and he displayed actual intelligence?” said Hermes.

“Nailed it,” said Leela.

“That’s good news, mon,” said Hermes with a toothy smile. “It’s like my dear, sweet grandmother always said—you learn things through pain that you can’t learn any other way.”

“What was she, a wrist cutter?” said Bender.

“Fry was incredible,” Leela told them. “One of the members is a university professor, and even he was impressed by Fry’s ideas. He hasn’t been this smart since his body was taken over by alien parasites.”

“Alien possession would explain a lot,” said Bender. “It’s not like Fry to clean our apartment from top to bottom of his own free will.”

Leela’s eye bulged with astonishment. “Fry? Cleaned?

“He wouldn’t stop cleaning,” the robot related. “He cleaned the place faster than I could dirty it. I think he’s planning to show it off to the Space Pope or something.”

“Wait,” said Leela warily. “Just wait. Fry doesn’t really do anything when he cleans—he just lies there in the hospital, and lets the hologram do all the work. There’s no physical exertion involved.”

“True,” said Bender, “but you gotta give the guy credit—every minute he spends cleaning is a minute he doesn’t spend thinking about booze, or TV, or sex, or any of the other stuff that makes humans not want to be killed.”

“Which, for Fry, is a task that would put Hercules to shame,” Hermes added.

Leela struggled to quiet her spinning mind. Is it true? Has Fry’s accident made him a better person? Will the day soon come when I’ll no longer have to ignore my feelings…?

“Before I believe it,” she said with determination, “I’d like to submit Fry to one more test.”

The test took place at the end of the working day, as Leela strode into the hospital suite where Fry lay helpless. To her surprise, a stranger sat by the side of the patient’s bed—a rather short woman with a broad nose, naturally red cheeks, straggly blond hair, and a belly that extended a few inches beyond her skirt.

The woman stood up and grinned, letting go of Fry’s fingers in the process. “Leela,” she said in a squeaky voice. “Good to see you.”

“Who are you?” asked the cyclops, sounding more than a bit suspicious.

“Oh, I guess you don’t recognize me,” said the stranger, chuckling slightly. “I’m Carmina. The real Carmina.”

“You mean, from the book club?” said Leela.

Carmina nodded. “You might say my avatar emphasizes my good physical attributes.”

“Uh, okay,” said Leela, concealing her bemusement. “How long have you been here?”

“Almost an hour,” the heavyset blonde replied. “I visit Fry every afternoon.”

“What’s that smell?” asked Leela, sniffing the air.

“That would be me,” said Carmina with a hint of embarrassment.

She and Leela faced each other over Fry’s prostrate body. She doesn’t need to be a part of this, thought Leela. On the other hand, her reaction might prove extremely entertaining.

“Fry,” she said, addressing the face with the lolling tongue, “may I speak with the hologram for a moment?”

He blinked once. In an instant holo-Fry was at the foot of the bed, awaiting input.

“Hello, Fry,” said Leela in a sarcastically sultry tone. “What do you think of my boobs?”

“Huh?” said the startled Fry hologram.

“What…?” said the equally startled Carmina.

“Cat got your tongue?” said Leela playfully. Placing her fingers around one of the Holopersona’s control dials, she added, “Maybe this will loosen it.”

“What are you doing?” asked Fry with sudden alarm.

“My boobs, Fry,” said Leela, twisting the dial to its full extent. “Tell me what you think of my boobs.”

“You shouldn’t be doing that, Leela,” said Fry earnestly and hastily. “When you turn the frequency threshold all the way down, my hologram has to say everything I think, even if it’s intensely personal, like the fact that I once went to a sex toy shop and bought an inflatable…hey, look at that pretty landscape painting! Are those yucca flowers? It must be a picture of New Mexico. When I was a kid my dad drove me to Roswell because he wanted to show me Area 51, but the joke was on him, ‘cause I’d already been to Roswell in 1947, and impregnated my grandmoth…is it just me, or is it hot and muggy in here? Something wrong with the air conditioning? It’s so hot and muggy, it reminds me of Florida, and the time I visited there for spring break and lost my virgini…”

“Tell me about my boobs,” Leela insisted.

“Leela,” Fry rambled, “I really love your boo…your boots. Why do you wear such big boots? Do they keep you from tipping over because of your humongous boo…booooravery. You’re the bravest person I know, Leela. The bravest, the kindest, the most considerate. I’d lay you…I mean, I’d lay down my life for you, because that’s how much you mean to me. I’d give my right arm for you, and my left arm, and both legs, and my nose. I love you, Leela. I truly, deeply love you.”

I can’t take it anymore, she thought, cranking the dial to its original position. How could I do something so cruel to someone who loves me so much?

She straightened herself, and tears sprang to her eye. “I’m so sorry, Fry. I didn’t want to accept it, but it’s true…you have become a new person. A wonderful person.”

“Aww, gosh, Leela,” was all the sheepish Fry could say. Carmina, bewildered by the show of emotion, backed away from the pair.

“I…I love you, Fry,” she confessed. “It’s time I stopped hiding it.” Looking back and forth between the hologram and Fry’s body, she asked meekly, “Which of you should I kiss?”

Holo-Fry turned his eyes downward. “About the kissing…Leela, everything the hologram said is true—that’s really how I feel. However, there’s someone else I feel the same way for…someone who has a lot in common with me, and can relate to me.”

He moved toward the blond woman. The life drained from Leela’s heart as she watched the Fry hologram press its lips against Carmina’s blushing face.

Chapter 20

“What the hell?” Leela exploded. “You and Carmina Burana? When did that happen?”

“About fifteen minutes ago,” answered the short blonde, who was now clutching hands with both the real Fry and the holographic Fry.

“She’s shown me that life is more than getting drunk, and screwing around, and sleeping in,” said Fry. “I feel like twice the man I was now. I belong with Carmina, I just know it.”

The air around Leela seemed to fill with storm clouds. “You can’t do this to me, Fry,” she said adamantly. “After all the adventures we’ve had…all the times I saved your life, and you saved mine…all the times I rebuffed your advances…think of the opera, Fry. Think of the giant bee stinger-induced coma. Think of the shippers.”

“Shippers?” said Fry.

“Yeah,” said Leela, her voice quivering. “Those postal service men who delivered my dress and your tux, and then serenaded us as we left for Mayor Poopenmeyer’s gala. You don’t want to disappoint the shippers.”

“Fry has the right to make up his own mind,” said Carmina forcefully.

“You’re right, he does,” said Leela with clenched teeth. “Who’s it going to be, Fry? The sexy space pilot you’ve come to know and trust, or this interloper who’s afraid to show her true face on the Internet?”

“Hey, what’s wrong with a little embellishment?” said Carmina, glaring indignantly at her.

“You’re lucky the Internet can’t broadcast smells,” Leela shot back.

“Hey!” said Carmina sharply. “My body odor is a medical condition. I can’t help it, any more than you can help being a one-eyed mutant.”

Leela opened her mouth, stuck out her finger, and stopped abruptly. Rather than strike back with another insult, she began to weep. Tears cascaded down her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her tone full of sorrow and contrition. “I shouldn’t take it out on you, Carmina. I hope you and Fry find happiness together.”

She turned and walked toward the hospital corridor, sniffling and wiping her eye.

“She really loves you, Fry,” Carmina remarked. “I’m flattered that you’d give up someone like her for me.”

A few days passed, and then…

“Good news, everyone!”

Holo-Fry, Carmina, and the other members of the Planet Express crew were gathered at the conference table. “What’s the good news, Professor?” inquired Amy.

Farnsworth held his fists in the air as he spoke. “Captain Brannigan has assumed full responsibility for the Triskaidekaline 13 incident. Not only that, but he’s agreed to fund Fry’s brain surgery out of his very own first mate’s pocket.”

“Hooray!” cheered Zoidberg.

“Oh, so we’re not embarking on a mission of certain doom,” said Bender. “Try to make that a little clearer next time.”

“This particular surgery has a 99% success rate,” Farnsworth went on. “Fry should be up and about in less than a week.”

“That’s fantastic, Professor,” said Carmina.

“This calls for a celebration,” said Hermes. “I’ll have LaBarbara whip up some jerk chicken.”

“Oh, we’ve already got plans,” said holo-Fry, his arm squeezing Carmina’s shoulders. “I’m gonna watch my girlfriend eat some Italian food, and then we’re going to Artsy Fartsy Cinema to watch Au revoir les enfants.”

“I love French movies,” said Zoidberg. “So much food on the screen.”

“I have to admit,” said Leela to Carmina, “your taste in film is superior to mine.”

“That’s right,” said the blonde proudly. “No sappy chick flicks for this chick.”

Leela sighed plaintively. “I don’t know why this keeps happening to me. I meet a man, we get along, nothing happens, time goes by, nothing happens, suddenly I find him desirable, and poof! he’s taken away.”

“You know, if this were a chick flick,” mused Amy, “then not only would Fry have his perfect woman, but Leela would have her perfect man as well. In fact, we’d all probably be hooked up with someone before the end.”

“So true,” said Leela wistfully. “Unfortunately, this is real life.”