I: Goddess of Efficiency
“What exactly does this machine do?” asked Morgan Proctor in a stern tone.
“Oh, this?” the Professor replied, “it’s nothing.”
“Nothing? That won't cut any ice with the Bureaucracy. Whatever it is, I'll have to give it a classification - humor me, Hubert.”
“I haven’t even thought of this contraption in a long time. This, Morgan, is the What If machine.” He proudly wiped some dust off the top of the machine, which resembled an old television set with a microphone sticking out the front and a hand crank on its side.
“You heard right – it’s the What If machine.”
“Well, what does it do? I have to know how to classify it.”
“You simply ask it a question, and it shows you the answer. I’d be more than happy to demonstrate it for you.”
“I don’t know if I trust you…the last time you demonstrated one of your devices, I had pink and blue hair for a week.”
“Oh, piffle-paffle. Give it a whirl.” The Professor switched the machine on and it came to life. Meanwhile, Leela, and Fry came in to see what was going on.
“Demonstrating the What If machine?” asked Leela. “This ought to be amusing.”
“Hush you…now just speak into the microphone here. Think of your deepest desires. What have you always wanted to be? What if you could re-do something in your life. What if you had all of your desires fulfilled? Give it a try.”
Morgan thought about it. “Hmm…okay machine – what if I was…a goddess?”
“Oh, brother,” moaned Leela.
The machine came to life, and its screen was filled with wavy lines and snow...
Deep in the halls of Olympus an angry Zeus dug through his desk looking for a piece of paperwork; the top of his desk was littered with papers and scrolls. “Blast it all!” he said, as a loud crack of thunder echoed through the halls. Hera entered his office.
“What are you so upset about, dear?” asked his wife.
“I can’t find a blessed thing in this office of mine. Hera dear, do we have a Goddess of Efficiency?”
“Well, no. We used to, but you changed Genevieve into a dung beetle in a fit of rage. You really must contain your temper.”
“I need her back…”
“She was eaten by a hawk. Her soul is in the Underworld. You could talk with Hades...”
“Drat…well, is there a mortal that we can bring up here? I really need a help with this office…and fast.”
“Well, there is this young woman in Athens named Morgana,” Hera offered. "She's a real pain in the patoot from what I hear."
“A pain? Totally anal you say? Sight unseen, she’s hired.”
On a hill overlooking the city of Athens, Morgana was busy scolding several older men engaged in a deep discussion. In the midst of them was a man holding several scrolls.
"What exactly am I doing wrong?" pleaded the man with the scrolls.
"Saul of Tarsus? Or, that's right - you go by the name of Paul now. We've talked about this before. Everywhere you go you seem to stir up crowds and start riots with your new religion. You'll be lucky if you don't get killed someday or at least spend the rest of your life in prison. But that's not what brought me down here."
"Then what is the problem? My friends here don't seem to be offended..."
Morgana cleared her throat and pointed to a sign with Greek lettering on it. "See that sign? You are philosophizing on land owned by the city of Athens - you need a permit." She scribbled on a small scroll, and handed it over to Paul. "If I catch you preaching on city land again, it'll be 20 drachmas and a court hearing."
The crowd pointed to a small cloud coming down to the ground in front of them, which settled softly on the grass. A low, booming voice came out of the cloud. "Morgana," the voice said, "climb onto the cloud."
Morgana looked around at the men, almost as if to get approval, and then placed her sandaled feet on the cloud. The cloud then lifted up and floated into the sky.
An older Greek gentleman blurted out, "Now that's something you don't see every day."
Morgana finally made her way into Zeus' office, and knocked on the marble doorway.
Zeus turned around. "Oh, you finally made it..."
"You didn't have signs showing the way up here. I got lost. Signage doesn't cost that much. Also, many parts of this palace aren't up to current building codes."
Zeus looked at Hera with an approving smile. "You were right dear - she is totally anal. Yes, Morgana, we’ll get right on that," he said with a chuckle.
"Give her powers and immortality...you promised," nudged Hera.
"Oh, yes - I almost forgot." Zeus snapped his fingers, and Morgana emitted a strange golden glow that floated around her body.
"You mean I have god-like powers?" Morgana asked as she watched tiny sparks fly off of her fingertips.
"Yep. And you'll live forever. So, give us a little demonstration."
Morgana gazed at Zeus' messy desk through squinted eyes. "I'll start here." She snapped her fingers, and the desk suddenly erupted in a whirlwind of flying papers. When the papers settled, the desk was tidy and organized. "I'm going to like this," said Morgana with a smile.
On a road in Athens, Leela and Fryicus walked up to a large temple. The two turned to face several young children who were shouting insults at Leela.
"Why are those kids making fun of you, Leela?"
"You know...it's that stupid story that Homer wrote - the one with Odysseus? Ever since he wrote about that cyclops on the island, I've had people make fun of me. They're making the kids read it in the schools now." She gave the kids an angry stare. "No," she told them, I don't live in a cave, and no, I don't raise sheep!" The children laughed and ran away. "Brats," she said.
"Hey," Fryicus said, "our buddy Arachne is here."
The two walked over to a new statue standing outside of the temple. Arachne, their young blonde friend, looked at the statue in anger. "Doesn't this make you furious?" she asked.
"What's this?" asked Leela.
"This is that pesky bureaucrat Morgana - they made her a goddess! She's the same pain in the butt lady that gave me a ticket for parking Daddy's chariot in a no parking zone. This has got to be a fluke. How does she rate? I wish they’d cart this stupid statue out of here." Arachne turned to see a horrified look on Leela's face. "Oh God...she's right behind me, isn't she?"
"Yes I am," said Morgana. "I am, after all, omniscient and omnipresent.”
“Omni-shunt?” asked Arachne.
“Look it up in the dictionary. You’re young and slow, but that doesn't get you off the hook. You've not only insulted me, but you've insulted my bureau as well. I don't think my employer in the home office will be too amused."
Arachne gave a sheepish grin. "So, do I get another ticket?"
"Well, now that I'm a goddess, I need to give you a much more Olympian punishment." Morgana snapped her fingers and Arachne turned into a spider sitting in a large web in a nearby bush.
"Hey," Fryicus spat, "that's our friend...that's just wrong."
"So you think my methods are harsh, do you?" Morgana's eyes shined with a bright red glow.
Leela grabbed Fryicus by the arm and smiled nervously. "Oh, but we're not disagreeing with you...Fryicus here just gets ahead of himself sometimes. He's not the fastest chariot in the Roman Coliseum."
Morgana gazed into the eyes of the two terrified mortals. "Are you two up to date on your tax paperwork? I thought as much." She stooped down and picked up the spider by a strand of web; the creature gracefully began spinning more web as it hung upside down. "The poor dear looks so hungry..." She looked up at the two and snapped her fingers. As she peered back down at the web, she said, “I want all of you to remember this little lesson well; always have your paperwork in order.”
As the spider made her way down to investigate the two struggling bugs now stuck in her web, one of the bugs yelled at the other in a high, squeaky voice. "Fryicus, you and your big mouth!"
II: Just Like Me
"Hey," Amy protested, "you're using that What If thingy again."
"You don't miss much," Leela told her. "It didn't work out well for Fry and I. We ended up becoming a meal for a giant spider."
Morgan had a wicked smile on her face. "Actually, I was fairly impressed with the demonstration; I wouldn't mind seeing more."
"But I never got to use it. I got cheated," said Amy.
"You're rich...you have everything anyway," Leela pointed out.
"Step up here," Professor Farnsworth announced, "give it a bash."
Amy stepped up and spoke into the microphone. She smiled and said, "I wonder what things would be like if everyone was just like me?" Again the screen grew fuzzy and blurry.
It was a bright sunny day in the massive open air mall. Amy spotted her friends among the crowds and shouted out to them. "Hey, guys!"
Leela looked down at her pink sweatsuit. "Oh, crud - my belly is showing." She then looked over to Fry, who had a similar outfit on, only his belly didn't show. His suit was light blue, and his hair was chopped Amy fashion. "Fry, whatever you do, don't get near a mirror."
"Guh," Fry said. "Hey, did you like bring your new credit card?"
Leela reached into her pocket and pulled out a credit card. "Wow...a Platinum Diamond Card. These have a million dollar limit."
"Yeah, like check out my new boots." She noticed that his boots looked just like Amy's, only they were a dark blue. Leela began to look around at the people in the mall, who were all apparently dressed in the same pink and blue outfits.
"Hey Fry," Amy said, "you bought new boots!"
"How can you tell?" asked Leela. "Everybody's boots look alike."
As they walked a little further, Leela looked up at a large statue of Amy in the middle of the mall; the figure was smiling, and held a credit card high in her hand. At the statue’s base, an inscription read: “Shop ‘til you drop, buy ‘til you die, consume ‘til you entomb.”
“Oh Lord,” moaned Leela.
"Hey, I've got an idea," Amy told them, "let's go shopping!"
As the three of them made their way over to Costington's Department Store, they spotted a man standing outside with a sign and a tin can in his hand. Amy walked up to see if she could help him. His sign read, "Lost money on tech stocks. Every little bit helps."
"Amy," Leela warned, "you're not going to talk with that man, are you?"
"Nonsense. You poor man...how are you holding up?"
"Oh, it's been hard," the man told them. "I had to sell my Rolls Royce and get a Lexus. I also had to sell my beach house and move into a luxury condo downtown. I haven't had lobster bisque or caviar in days...I've had to survive on steaks and shrimp."
Amy pulled out a huge wad of dollar bills and put it into the man's can.
"God bless you, sister."
"That was really nice what you did there," Leela told her, "helping out the indigent."
As they walked into the store, first familiar face they saw was Zoidberg.
“Friends,” he said, “I’ve just discovered the food court. All you can eat, I tell you…and I’ve got all the money in the world to buy food with. Life is good...”
The next person they saw was Morgan Proctor, who was advertising an upright vacuum cleaner on a strip of carpet. “This will make you a Goddess of Efficiency,” she told them. “Would you like a demonstration?”
Amy then spotted the prefect sweatsuit on a sale rack. “Oh my, there it is…” She gently pushed Fry and Leela aside, and made her way over to it. "Hold on guys, I'll be right with you."
Before she could get it, the withered, elderly hand of Mom reached out and grabbed it.
"I believe I spotted this first Mom," Amy growled.
"Spluh, I think I was here first...you little skank. I could buy and sell you!"
“That’s where you’re wrong, Mom – everyone here is as wealthy as you. And we all have fabulously wealthy parents. Isn’t that right, Leela?”
“Momma and Dad just bought a new mansion in the sewers,” Leela said with pride.
“I’m from a very wealthy family in the 20th century,” said Fry. "We invested well."
“And I’m a very successful doctor with a thriving practice,” added Zoidberg.
“Double-drat! My money doesn’t give me any special privilege…I’m just like the average Joe Schmuck on the streets. But I did see this sweatsuit first, twerp! Prepare to be run through!”
The two squared off for combat; each one of them grabbed an empty coat rack and prepared for battle. Before they could ram each other, the store manager intervened.
“Ladies,” the manager announced, “the sale doesn’t start until Monday.”
The two relaxed and put their coat racks down. They both faced each other and said, “I’ll see you on Monday.”
As they walked on through the store, Leela could see that Amy looked glum. “What’s the matter, Kiddo? You look like you just lost your best friend.”
“This fantasy isn’t as great as I thought it would be. Everyone is just like me…we all look the same, act the same, and think the same. Now I can see why it’s so fun when people are different. We should celebrate diversity.”
“Hey, I know what’ll get you out of that blue funk,” Leela volunteered, “let’s do some more shopping!”
A smile broke across Amy’s face. “That’s a great idea – let’s get going!”
III: Immortal Janitor
“Let’s see,” said the Professor, “just about everyone has gotten a chance to use the machine…”
“That poor janitor hasn’t,” added Amy.
“Janitor?” asked Fry.
“Who is he, anyway?” asked Leela. "I don't even know what his name is."
“Scruffy’s the name, ma’am,” he said as he tipped his gray cap.
“Would you like to join us?” asked Amy. “Just speak into the microphone here.”
Scruffy thought a minute, and then spoke. “Scruffy has always wondered what it would be like to live forever…”
For a third time, the screen began to get blurry…
As the blazing hot Egyptian sun burned down in the afternoon, the court magician was glad to be inside the newly completed pyramid. He grabbed a torch and made his way into the great chamber with his bag of elixirs. Once there, he bowed to the Pharaoh. “Sire…you sent for me…”
“As a matter of fact, I did. I have something troubling me.”
“Long live the great Pharaoh…may he have no troubles…”
“Yes, yes. What’s troubling me is this – now that my splendid pyramid is finished, who will keep it clean? Our janitor does a fair job, but he's sure to die someday. What will happen then? My pyramid will fall into shambles."
The magician pulled out a small glass vial from his bag. "Sire, I think I've got the answer to your problem. Let me find the janitor."
After leaving the Pharaoh's presence, the magician tracked down the janitor reclining in a hammock with a scroll; the scroll was filled with pornographic drawings. "Oh, there you are. Janitor, I'm going to need you for a minute."
He continued to enjoy his scroll. "Sorry...Scruffy has got a schedulin' conflict."
"Oh, this will just take a minute. Just drink this vial down...all of it."
Complying, Scruffy drank the potion down. "Is that all you need Scruffy to do?"
"That's it. How do you feel?"
"Scruffy feels a certain vigor that he hasn't felt since his youth. He feels like he could live...forever. Can Scruffy go back to his work break now?"
"Why, certainly," said the magician. “Good day - be seeing you around.”
Days, months, and years began to flow past. The Pharaoh died, and another one took his place. Scruffy the janitor watched the magician grow into an old man, and then didn’t see him around anymore. As long as Scruffy was supplied with his two copper pieces a week and the occasional dirty scroll, he didn’t seem to notice. Political alliances shifted, periods of upheaval came and went, but things were pretty quiet for the janitor.
One hot August day in 30 BC, an advisor to the throne tracked Scruffy down in his usual hang-out spot in the employee break room. “I suppose there’s somethin’ you need for Scruffy to do,” he said as he gazed at his scroll.
“Can you clean up a blood and body spill in the temple hall? Mark Antony has stabbed himself to death and our Pharaoh Cleopatra has killed herself with an asp – it’s a hell of a mess in there.”
“As soon as he’s done with his break, Scruffy will be right in there.”
Scruffy managed to hold on to his job in Egypt, until the British invaded in the 1880’s. He somehow managed to book passage to England in 1890, where he secured a job as a janitor for an eccentric old Professor named Farnsworth in the suburbs of London. A young Chinese maid took him into the house and showed him the basement laboratory. Scruffy gazed in wonder at all the wires and test tubes and electrical equipment. “The Professor needs to keep this lab very clean,” she told him in a thick Cockney accent, “but ‘e doesn’t want anyone muckin’ about down here.”
“That will be all, Miss Wong – I’ll take it from here.” The Professor’s son Cubert gave Scruffy a guided tour of the lab. He showed him a mechanical man on a metal table. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of a robot, have you?”
“No sir…Scruffy ain’t heard of such a thing.”
The young red-headed Cubert proudly showed off his father’s work. “An amazing chap…he calls him ‘Bender,’ although I don’t quite know why. Now, watch this.” Cubert flipped a switch on a panel, and a mechanical voice came from a speaker.
“DEATH TO HUMANS,” the voice said.
“Amazing, isn’t it? Anyway, Father plans to pay you a farthing a day, and provide you with an army cot in his erotica library. That will suffice, won’t it?”
“I’m sure Scruffy will make do…”
Again, as in Egypt, the years went by and Scruffy faithfully did his job. One night, as he was busy cleaning the lab, he noticed a loud thump that seemed to shake the entire flat. Scruffy then spotted a man digging through the Professor’s paperwork in an alcove of the basement.
“Hey, you…Scruffy was told by Miss Wong not to let anyone down here.”
The reddish-gray haired man turned with a look of surprise. “Miss Wong? She hasn’t worked here in years. She’s in a retirement home in Reading.”
“But these are the Professor’s things…”
“The Professor’s been dead for three decades. Look – don’t you know me? I’m Cubert! I’m getting the last of his papers…when I’m done, the two of us have got to get out of here!”
“Why do we have to leave?”
“Don’t you hear those explosions? Jerry is starting to bomb over here…it’s only a matter of time before they get this flat. Come with me…there’s a tube station nearby, but we’ve got to go straight away!”
Another loud explosion went off. “Can Scruffy take his broom?”
“I suppose so…but we’ve got to go now. The rest of the Professor’s work will have to wait…”
The two made a mad dash down the street amid the wailing of sirens, and bounded into the nearby tube station. Within minutes a 250 pound bomb dropped from a German Heinkel bomber wiped out most of the flat. Buried amid the ruins sat an amazing mechanical man in the basement that the world would never get to see. He continued to croak out a message in a low-pitched machine voice over and over again: “I am Bender…please insert girder.”
After the London Blitz, Scruffy did janitorial work for the American Eighth Air Force at RAF High Wycombe. In the 1950’s, he found himself on a ship headed for the United States, where he settled in New York.
For a number of years, Scruffy found himself working at a major television station in New York City. One night, when Scruffy was enjoying another work break, an excited young pizza delivery man named Philip Fry ran into the room. “They’re here! They’re here! I was so lucky to see them!”
Scruffy popped up an incredulous eyeball. “Who is here?”
“Them! Them!! The Beatles!! In the studio warming up!”
“Oh, not them again…Scruffy thought he got rid of ‘em. This time Scruffy won’t give them a chance to get warmed up.”
Scruffy walked into the studio where the band was setting up their instruments. Without delay, he began spraying bug killer all along the baseboard of the room. Paul McCartney stopped tuning up his Rickenbacker bass and asked, “’Oo’s this then?”
John chimed in. “Yeah, old geezer, what are you trying to do in here with your filthy chemical ways?”
“Scruffy was told that there were beetles in here…the young feller seemed pretty excited about it, so I came right up here…thought I’d gotten rid of them dadburn things last month. I hear that there’s a famous band playing tonight, so there’d best be no bugs.”
“Could we get on with it?” asked George. “We haven’t got much time.”
“Right,” answered John. “ ‘All My Loving’, from the top.”
As Scruffy left the room to sweep the hallway, he couldn’t help but whistle to the tune. They ought to write a song about a submarine, he thought, I like songs about submarines…
The economy in the late 2030’s was in a terrible state; even the eternal janitor Scruffy was laid off after being replaced by an android. Despondent and not knowing what else to do, Scruffy took his Mercedes-Hyundai west and decided to see the country. One afternoon, on a desolate stretch of New Mexico highway, Scruffy spotted several shiny flashes in the crystal blue sky. Suddenly his car stalled and he drifted to a stop by the side of the highway. As he popped the hood and glanced in at the engine, he spotted a large saucer shaped vehicle landing nearby.
Overcome with curiosity, he walked up to the ship. A large door opened on the bottom of the vessel, and a walkway extended down to the ground. A middle-aged woman came down, wearing a dark gray business suit and holding a clipboard. Around her neck was a metal collar with several colored lights on it. She looked Scruffy in the eye.
“Name?” said the woman.
“That would be Scruffy, ma’am.”
She peered up above her reading glasses. “Do you always answer in the third person?”
“Pretty much…Scruffy does, ma’am.”
Before she could ask her next question, a second woman stepped down the walkway. She was wearing a silver spacesuit and had a helmet on. As soon as she took the helmet off, her long purple hair fell down past her shoulders. The woman also sported a singular cyclops eye. “That’ll be all, Miss Proctor.”
“But I wasn’t done interviewing the detainee…”
“That will be all…I’ll take it from here.”
“But…you never give me a chance. This is my life’s work…this is what I…”
The cyclops woman placed her index finger on a button on a control panel on her right sleeve. Miss Proctor smiled nervously as she put her hand to the collar around her neck.
“Oh, no – you don’t have to push the bad button on me, Miss Turanga. I’ll be good…I swear I’ll be good…I remember my last lesson very well…you’ve been very fair with me…”
“Well then, get on the ship.”
“Right away, Miss Turanga…going on the ship right now…on the ship…”
As soon as she was gone, Miss Turanga addressed Scruffy. “Bureaucrats,” she said, “They’re a pain, but they have their uses. She acts like she’s the Goddess of Efficiency.”
“Pardon me for asking, but Scruffy is curious to know who you are. Scruffy was also inquisitive about the single eye, iffin you don’t mind Scruffy asking.”
“Oh, you might not have heard yet. We’re your new masters. I’m General Major Turanga Leela of the Cyclopean Star Empire. As of 3:00 Eastern Standard Time today, your planet Earth will become a protectorate of our empire. You will surrender all weapons, and await your work instructions. After a little downsizing, most of you humans will be utilized as workers for our new starports to be built here. Those deemed unnecessary will be cryogenically frozen until such time as needed. And, of course, a few of you will be taken back to the homeworld for experiments. And you won’t need your gas-combustion vehicle anymore – I’m going to vaporize it with my pistol as a demonstration of mindless alien aggression. Oh, and you’ll be needing this book – it’s called ‘Now That I’m a Part of the Cyclopean Star Empire. – English Version.’ Any questions so far?”
“Can Scruffy take his broom with him?”
“I don’t see why not. We might have use for a janitor on the homeworld.”
Scruffy grabbed his broom out of the car, and Turanga Leela promptly vaporized the vehicle into a small smoking lump of metal with her laser pistol. As he stepped up the walkway, she fastened a metal collar around his neck, identical to the one on the bureaucrat.
“What would this thing be?” Scruffy asked.
“Oh, it’s a collar of obedience. We are, as the humans say, the bringers of pain and pleasure. Everybody gets one, even your world leaders.” He peaked inside the ship, and the American president waved at him.
“Oh.” Scruffy paused. “Do you have porn on your world?”
“We have porn you haven’t even dreamed of yet,” she said with a smile.
“Scruffy thinks he’s going to enjoy your new world order,” he said, grinning.
Turanga Leela pressed the button to close the hatch door. “Miss Proctor, mark this one in as a janitor – not to be frozen or liquidated. Or to be experimented on.” As the door sealed, the ship arose and joined thousands of the disc-shaped vessels in an interstellar battle fleet arrayed in a large ‘V’ formation. “We’ve got a full afternoon ahead of us,” she told her bureaucrat, “parts of Spain and Alabama haven’t been conquered yet.”
Morgan continued to scribble notes. “Indeed – lots of disorganized chaos in Alabama.”
Bureaucrat Morgan Proctor finished scribbling a few notes on her clipboard. “I’ve come up with a classification, Professor.”
“Well, what is it?”
“I’ve classified the What-If machine as a ‘worthless artifact.’”
Moans of disbelief erupted from everyone there.
“Oh, banana juice,” said the Professor as he waved his hand in disapproval.
“Worthless artifact?” asked Leela.
“Well, it serves no real function,” Morgan continued.
“What-freakin’-ever,” said Amy as she left the room. The others followed her out.
“Professor,” Morgan asked as he was leaving.
“I still think this machine does warrant more study. Would you mind terribly if I took it home to research it more?”