Disclaimer: If I owned Futurama, I wouldn’t have written this fanfic. Fortunately, I don’t, so I did.
The boy and his parents were walking down the sidewalk, laughing
together about the play they’d just seen. There had been so
many laughs in that room. They were on their way to their car.
Suddenly, a pair of hands grabbed the boy and pulled him down a dark
alley. His parents shouted and ran after him. They caught up to
him, sitting in the middle of the alley. The man pulled a knife on
them as they stood up slowly. The boy’s father pulled out his
wallet and held it up for the man to see.
The father tossed his wallet to the side. The man with the knife
watched it, and the father lunged at him.
“RUN!!” he shouted as he wrestled with the man.
The mother and her child ran towards the opening of the alley. The
boy tripped, and he heard his father scream in pain. Someone was
shouting off in the distance. His mother cried in anguish. She
picked him up and half-dragged him out to the car. She threw him
He stumbled across the pavement. He hit the man in the legs.
The man shoved him away and the last thing the boy saw before losing
consciousness was his mother’s throat being slit.
Tim bolted upright in his sleep. His hair was damp with sweat, and
he was breathing heavily. He felt worn out, as if he’d once
again been running from the man with the gun. He looked beside him
at the girl in his bed. Leela rolled over in her sleep, looking more
beautiful than ever in such a peaceful position. Tim smiled. He
looked over at the clock; it was three.
Tim sighed. He hated being woken up by his own dreams. He’d
dreamed of his parents’ deaths before tonight, many times, in
fact. Ever since his encounter with the masked man, he’d had
the same dream several times a week. It had troubled him so much
that he’d barely been able to string two thoughts together.
His friends had been quick to notice. Unfortunately, even three
weeks after Valentine’s Day, he was still plagued by his worst
memory, the images becoming clearer and clearer, returning not just
every so often, but every night. He shook his head and ran a hand
through his hair.
He leaned back and slipped an arm around Leela’s shoulder. She
shifted over again. He could feel her breast against his side
through their T-shirts. A series of chemicals and hormones erupted
inside his brain, sending him into arousal. He pushed his thoughts
aside and instead let himself drift off.
Leela was awakened by a loud buzzing in her ear. She felt Tim reach
over her to the bedside table and switch off the alarm clock. She
opened her eye and looked up at him. His hair was a mess, and his
T-shirt was more wrinkled than Professor Farnsworth had been. She
smiled at him.
“Good morning,” she said sleepily.
“Are you sure?” Tim said with a smile. “Are you
absolutely certain that getting up at five in the morning is, in
fact, a good morning?”
Leela giggled at their inside joke. She thought momentarily of the
morning before their trip to the mall. She sat up and slipped out of
bed and headed over to the door. Just before heading back to her own
room, she turned back to look at Tim.
“See you in a few,” she said, and she left.
Walking down the hall, Leela stretched her arms above her head. It
wasn’t easy to keep her “sleepovers” a secret, but
it was necessary if she wanted to avoid expulsion. The rules
absolutely forbade such close contact between students as sharing a
bed. She and Tim had first done it on Valentine’s Day. Both
had been nervous, but in the aftermath of everything that had
happened, they figured, what the hell? And doing something so risky
actually felt fun! She was careful to make sure that both of them
were fully clothed, however. Ever since that first night, their
nights together had become more and more frequent, until they shared
Tim’s bed every night. Leela was very grateful that Tim had
gotten a single room that year.
Leela arrived at her second-story room in the girl’s wing and
crept inside. Teresa didn’t know about this, and Leela wanted
to keep it that way. Leela had been certain that Teresa would keep
her secret, but having a secret just between her and Tim made it much
As Leela crawled under the covers of the top bunk, the light switched
on. She jumped up and looked down to see Teresa at the light switch,
her arms folded, and a wide smile on her face.
“All right, no more secrets.” The blonde girl said.
“What have you been doing?”
Leela was lost for words.
“Come on,” Teresa continued, “sneaking out late at
night, sneaking back at five in the morning? You’ve got guilty
written all over your face. What have you been doing?”
Leela sighed in defeat. She’d been caught. She quickly told
Teresa everything, making sure to get all the details and making it
clear that her activities with Tim had been G-rated.
“G-RATED!” Teresa said in a loud whisper. “Are you
kidding me?! You’ve been sleeping in Tim’s bed! That’s
gotta be PG-13 at least!”
“But we keep our clothes on!” Leela said back.
“Who cares? You guys got that close to doing it! Oh God, this
is just too perfect!”
“You’re not gonna tell anyone, are you?”
Teresa’s smile relaxed a bit. “Of course not. You guys
have gotten close enough to do this, so do it. I won’t get you
expelled for it. But man, if I haven’t heard of anything
kinkier than this!”
For a moment, Leela thought Teresa was feeling triumphant.
“So how did it start, anyway?” Teresa aksed.
Leela thought back. The first time was on Valentine’s Day.”
“Weren’t you nervous?”
Leela really had to think hard to answer this one. “Well, yes,
I suppose. As we were working up to it, I couldn’t tell if I
was ready or not. I kept thinking ‘Am I really ready to put
myself in such a vulnerable position?’ But then we just went
and did it, and it felt…right! It felt so hardcore to
break the rules so recklessly! I can’t really explain it.”
“And now you’re doing it every night?!” Teresa said
as she stifled a laugh.
Leela rolled her eye and smiled. “Yes.”
She looked over at the clock. It was barely 5:30, but after
revealing her secret she was wide awake. She went into the shower
feeling somewhat guilty. She hadn’t told Teresa everything;
like how Tim had been having nightmares. She had to let Tim have his
secrets, too, and it wasn’t as if Teresa needed to know about
Leela thought about Tim so hard that for a while she scrubbed her arm
until it was red. Tim was being troubled by his memories of his
parents’ deaths. She knew because he’d told her about it
on the beach on Valentine’s Day. The events following it were
still fresh in her memory.
“And that’s the story.” Tim finished. It had been
a long tale to tell, from his encounter with the masked man all the
way up to finding her there on Coney Island, a stone’s throw
from the Orphanarium. They had walked back and forth along the beach
Leela was awestruck. “I can’t believe you were attacked
on campus! How could a man sneak in with a weapon and try to attack
you? And why you?” Leela went from shocked to curious. “Was
it just by chance?”
“I can’t think of any other reason. He probably figured
a kid wouldn’t stand a chance against him, especially in a
place as ‘secure’ as the school. I was just in the right
place at the right time.”
“To learn the truth of my memories.” Tim said, hanging
Leela tightened her hand on his.
“But there’s more to it than that,” Tim continued.
“I told you that I couldn’t remember anything before
X-mas that year, remember?”
“And now I remember how my parents died, a few days earlier.”
“So, does that—“
“No. I can’t remember anything before that. I always
assumed that remembering how it happened would bring it all back at
once, but all I’ve got so far is the accident. I guess it just
That night the two of them had dinner at the Italian restaurant, the
same place they’d had their first date, where they once again
met the annoying waiter named Smitty. They’d both found it odd
that they hadn’t done anything together in such a long time,
and made the best of it. So they shared Tim’s bed.
They were well into March. The midterms had long since passed, and
any excitement in classes had died down to the same routine lifestyle
of copying notes and using them to do homework every night. Even
with the enjoyment Leela found in going out with Tim, and in chatting
with Teresa all night, and exchanging friendly words over the bar
counter with Sean, life had become boring. Life had been reduced to
the same thing, day in and day out. Routine, schedule, and rules.
There was no excitement to be found around campus anymore. So much
had happened to Leela in the past few months that she actually wanted
something to happen to open her eye again. School just wasn’t
It was this wanderlust that led to Leela getting her wish.
After a quick hello to Sean, Leela walked into the back room of the
Metal Keg, where Tim had told her everything had come into place and
Ivan had been revealed as the conniving calculating monster he really
was. Just thinking about him now made Leela feel sick. She hadn’t
seen him since he’d spoken to her on the rooftop, and for
awhile she’d thought he’d transferred. But then she’d
seen him across the cafeteria, and knew that she’d have to be
extremely careful. Leela stared at the single light bulb, its soft
yellow glow burning a green image into her vision that remained when
she looked away and left through the other door.
Leela blinked the green light bulb shape out of her eye and looked
down the staircase into the boiler room. The pipes were still rusty,
the wood still cracked. She descended the staircase and examined the
door of the furnace. It had been blown off its hinges during her
encounter with Santa, but had been replaced for historical reasons.
Opening it, she saw that there was no longer a gentle breeze coming
down through the smokestack. The top must have been covered up. The
furnace was now completely dark, and the warm smell of gunpowder
Pushing the door wide open, Leela stepped inside, making sure to keep
to the part of the tiny room that was lighted from the outside.
Leela took in the smell of the gunpowder from the fireworks; it
reminded her of how she’d cried into Tim’s shoulder and
how he’d had the smell on his shirt from working so hard to
Just then the door slammed closed with a loud clang! Leela screamed
as she was thrown into a dark abyss. She ran at the door, pounding
her fists and shouting for help. None came. She screamed for ages,
her panic mounting, tears coming out of her eye for fear of
suffocating and never making it out to see Tim again. Leela leaned
against the door and slid down to the floor, her tears coming in
greater torrents as her hope ebbed away into the dark.
Leela slept on the floor for a long time. When she awoke, she wasn’t
sure if she’d actually opened her eye. Then she remembered how
she’d come to be there, and she groaned. She sat up and heaved
a sigh. Now that she’d slept it off, she didn’t feel as
panicked anymore. She had her head wrapped around her situation, and
she was going to get out of it no matter what. If not for herself,
then for Tim. He must have been so worried.
Leela looked around. After sleeping for so long, the dark of the
room seemed to have dimmed slightly. Her eye slowly adjusted to the
Standing up, Leela put her hands to the wall and slowly edged around
the furnace, feeling every square inch of iron. There were openings
of pipes everywhere, but there was one pipe that extended out of the
wall and went up, making a small ‘L’. Leela reached for
the pipe, but before her hand grasped it, it twisted. A door in the
wall opened to reveal a dark passageway. Out of the passageway
emerged a hooded figure. Leela screamed in fright and threw a punch.
The figure dodged, and then held up his hands to show that he meant
no harm. Leela held her guard up, having learned not to trust every
strange person she met.
The stranger beckoned her in toward the passage and then disappeared.
For a moment Leela paused. It really did not seem like a good idea
to follow someone who wouldn’t show their face into a place she
wasn’t familiar with, but it seemed like a worse option to
starve to death in a furnace. Leela followed the stranger into the
The instant Leela was inside the passage, the door closed behind her.
The stranger appeared out of the shadows, and then started marching
down the hall.
Leela’s voice felt hoarse and unused. “Who are you?”
she called after him.
She got no reply. The stranger pulled a tiny flashlight out of the
pocket of his pants, which were black. With the feeble light, Leela
could tell that she was in a four-foot wide by seven-foot high
corridor. The walls were painted beige, and the floors were laid
with linoleum, the same kind that was in the classrooms at school.
The floor shone in the beam of the flashlight. Other than that the
place was completely empty. Even the air tasted stale in Leela’s
The stranger took a right turn at a T-section. Leela’s sense
of direction was a bit fuzzy from her stay in the dark, but she was
certain that they were now traveling underneath one of the streets on
campus, towards the administration building. The stranger led Leela
wordlessly onward, never stopping. Leela’s utter fascination
with this new secret blocked out the reality of the fact that she was
traveling with a masked person. The mere idea that this place could
exist was interesting enough, but now seeing that it was really real,
Leela came to a realization of how special this moment was. She had
come across knowledge that was almost completely forgotten! If she
and the stranger were the only ones who knew about these tunnels,
then her knowledge, and by extension she, were extremely valuable.
Just being here made her more special than her eye did!
Leela bumped into the stranger’s back. He had stopped.
Looking around, Leela saw more passages leading off in different
directions. However, the stranger ignored these, and had inserted a
key into the keyhole of a door; a door on hinges. He opened the door
and ascended a narrow set of stairs. Leela followed him, but before
entering the staircase, she noticed a light switch in the wall next
to the door. There were lights in this place! Had the stranger left
them off to keep himself hidden?
Leela quickly ran up the stairs and came to a dead end at the top.
Directly to the side, however, was a metal door that stood slightly
ajar. Leela pushed the door open and emerged inside Dr. Brunswick’s
office! Turning around, Leela saw that she had come out of the
locked metal cabinet she had seen the last time she’d been
here. Just as Leela was wondering if Dr. Brunswick knew about this a
strong blow to the back of the head knocked her unconscious.
Leela’s vision swam slowly into view. She saw exactly what she
wanted to see: Tim. She reached up to pull him into a kiss, but only
grabbed air; he was too far away. Tim laughed and leaned in and
The two separated and Leela looked around. She was in the infirmary,
lying on one of the second-hand hospital beds. The nurse walked in.
“Hi,” she said cheerfully. “Feeling any better?”
Leela tried to sit up, but relented under the pain that jumped up in
the back of her head. The stranger had hit her hard. “Not
really.” She replied.
The nurse checked Leela’s pulse and took a note on her
clipboard. “Well, you’re real lucky you were with your
boyfriend here when you had that fall. Any time alone and you’d
have been unconscious for a lot longer.”
Leela blushed when Tim took her hand, but forced a smile. She hadn’t
been with him when she’d been knocked out, unless…
“Well, I won’t trouble you two any further,” the
nurse continued. “But I’m going to keep you here
overnight while we let the injury dull down a little.”
“I’ll be sure to get her homework assignments.” Tim
The nurse smiled and left.
Leela looked up at Tim. “Tim? How did I get here?” she
“That’s what I’d like to know.” Tim said in a
hoarse whisper. “I came here for some cough drops and found
you sprawled on the bed. I only made up that thing for the nurse so
she wouldn’t aks awkward questions.”
Leela let go of his hand. She felt guilty for suspecting him even
for a second. She sighed and looked him in the eyes. It took her
nearly ten minutes to tell him everything that had happened to her,
but when she was done, Tim was a nervous wreck.
“Oh your God!” His mouth tried to form words, but no
sound came. Tim’s eyes were wider than that time Leela had
told him she was pregnant. Leela laughed at how silly Tim looked.
“Are you okay?”
“Of course not. I got the scare of my life and then got hit in
“I mean emotionally.”
“I guess so.”
“Okay.” Tim breathed with ease again. Hearing the
amount of danger Leela had been in had sent his mind reeling.
He got up off the side of the bed and started pacing. His expression
had changed from anxious to curious. His eyes were moving about
“What the hell are those tunnels for?” he aksed no one in
particular. “Where do they all go? Who was the masked man?
If he was willing to help you, why did he hide his face? And why did
he knock you out after helping you and then carry you over to
the infirmary? What does it all mean?”
Leela was too excited to care. Despite the circumstances, she’d
found an adventure just like she wanted. “Who cares?”
Leela said with a smile. “Now we know the greatest secret in
school history! Who could aks for more?”
“I could aks for some answers.” Tim said seriously.
“This is hardly a joke, Leela. You almost got killed, and then
you got hurt. If these tunnels are connected with your misfortune I
don’t want you putting yourself in danger.”
“Just when did you grow up so fast?” Leela said. “Come
on, Tim, where’s your sense of adventure?”
Tim put his hands on his hips and sighed. “There seems to be
no arguing with you on this. If you really want to go back there,
which I can tell you do, I’ll go too.”
Leela made a triumphant gesture.
“But I want to take Sean and Teresa, too.”
Leela’s smile faded a little. Tim noticed.
“Leela, they’re our friends. It would be criminal to
keep this from them.”
Leela was slow to answer. “All right then.”
It took a lot of coercion and persuasion, but Leela had managed to
get herself out of the infirmary by evening. The nurse had put up a
hell of a fight. Leela had missed half the day, since she’d
been locked up in the furnace during lunch. As she walked past the
old teachers’ residence buildings towards the dorms, she felt
somewhat resentful about Tim’s behavior. Why wasn’t he
so into this whole secret passage thing? Hadn’t he been the
one to bring Skinner down to his knees and fight Santa man-to-robot?
Yeah, said a small part of her conscience, but he had perfectly good
reasons for doing those. You, on the other hand, just want to have
Leela tried to shake the voice out of her head. There was nothing
wrong with wanting to enjoy herself, she knew that.
But at what cost? The voice whispered.
Leela shook her head more vigorously. She didn’t need angels
and demons on her shoulders pulling her in two directions. As she
neared the dormitory building, she looked over at the door to the
Metal Keg through the tall archway. She thought about what lay
inside that building. The prospect of discovering secrets and
understanding the meaning of things thought not to exist built up
inside her. She almost went back in right then and there. She
mastered the impulse and went inside.
Instead of going to Teresa’s room to later sneak out, Leela
just went straight to Tim’s room. When she got there, she
found Tim hunched over his desk examining something, the only light
in the room being the small desk lamp. Tim looked exhausted. His
hair was frizzy and he had bags under his eyes. Whatever it was he
was looking at, it had held his attention for hours.
Leela sat down and she heard Tim’s stomach growl. He’d
“What’s this?” she aksed, leaning in over the desk.
Spread across it were several pieces of large paper.
“Blueprints of the school.” Tim said without looking up.
Leela immediately pulled up a folding chair. Tim made room and the
two studied the paper carefully.
“How did you get these?”
“They were lying on the floor in front of my door. I found
them right after I got back here from the infirmary.”
Leela gaped at him.
“Someone is sending us messages, Leela. I think they wanted
you to find the passage, and I think they sent me these blueprints.”
Leela’s excitement mounted.
“I think they’re watching us.” Tim whispered.
“Remember the last person to follow us around and interfere
Ivan’s leering face popped up in Leela’s mind. She
shivered, but let it go.
“We don’t know that, Tim. It could be anyone. And
anyway, the guy in the mask didn’t seem that short.”
Tim looked agitated. “Don’t you get it Leela? Something
is going on here, it sounds big, and I don’t think it’s a
good idea to get involved with it.”
Leela took Tim’s hand in hers. “What if we’re
supposed to find this for a reason?” she said. “What if
Leela let a few locks of hair spread across her face. Physical
contact, soft voice, and shifting appearance; she had done everything
to bend him to her will.
“This weekend,” Tim said. “We’ll take the
others and explore the place.”
Leela kissed him.
That night, Leela was awoken by a jerking sensation and a jab of pain
in her head. Tim had bolted awake and pulled his arm out from under
her. Leela sighed and sat up with him.
“Is it that dream again?” she aksed soothingly.
Tim pushed his hair out of his face and nodded. Leela put her arms
“You know, it usually helps to write dreams like this down,”
she said as she leaned her head on his shoulder.
“It wouldn’t matter,” Tim said. “It’s
the same thing every time. There’s nothing I can learn from
“But I thought you had your memory back?” Leela said
“That’s not exactly it. I only remember that night. But
I can’t remember anything before then. I don’t even
remember what their faces looked like! No matter how hard I look in
my dreams, there’s nothing but shadow.”
The two leaned back on the pillows and stared at the ceiling for a
long time. Leela racked her brains for a way to help Tim, or at
least to make him feel better. The secret passage never even crossed
her mind. She finally sat up again.
“Well then all you need is another trigger,” she said.
Tim sat up, too. “Another trigger?”
“To remember the night you were attacked, you had to be
attacked again. Maybe you need to track down more about your past in
order to remember more.”
Tim stroked his chin thoughtfully. A smile spread across his face.
“I’m too tired to think hard about this right now,
Leela,” he said. “But that is a good idea.”
With that the two lay down to bed and drifted off.
Leela mumbled sleepily at her desk in English class. Tim had
promised to take her to the passages that weekend, but she’d
forgotten that it was only Wednesday. How was she supposed to
survive three whole days of solid boredom?
The answer walked right through the door, making Leela’s jaw
Mr. Zura stopped talking about Harmony at War and turned to
face Bolt, who stood timidly inside the door with a backpack over his
“Oh, I heard we were having a new student today.” He
said, beckoning Bolt into the classroom. “Guys, this is Bolt
Rollands. He just transferred from West Thompson.”
Bolt gave a small wave to the class, who looked as bored as ever.
His eyes rested on Leela for a fraction of a second. Mr. Zura handed
Bolt a copy of their book and gave him a seat, then returned to his
job. For the rest of class Leela couldn’t focus on the book.
She could feel Bolt’s eyes on the back of her head throughout
the entire class.
The bell finally rang and Leela sprang to pack her things as Mr. Zura
told them their homework. She was just about to head for the door
when Bolt appeared at her desk.
“Hey, Leela,” he said.
“Is that all you have to say?” Leela said curtly. Though
she saw him frequently during her job, they had hardly spoken since
“Is there anything you’d like me to say?”
Leela found that there wasn’t. She sighed and said: “It’s
good to see you, too.”
The two walked out of the classroom together and headed toward the
“So don’t tell me you transferred here just for me.”
Leela said suspiciously.
“No. I would have, but it was actually my parents’ idea.
They thought my grades would pick up if I learned to be more
responsible by living on my own. To be honest, I never really knew
where you went to school.”
Leela felt slightly annoyed at being reminded that he still liked
her. That single fact had been the fulcrum of many twists and turns
last month, and the memory was anything but comforting. As they
approached the cafeteria, Leela remembered that she and Tim were
planning on telling the others about their weekend plans over lunch.
What would Bolt’s appearance do to hurt their plan? What would
it have done anyway? Leela was afraid of how Tim would react to even
seeing Bolt. He had told her what he’d done last time,
and she didn’t want a repeat offense.
Bolt and Leela grabbed trays and accepted their food from the grumpy
lunch-ladybots. Leela scanned the cafeteria and immediately saw Tim
sitting down next to Sean, with Teresa across from them.
Bolt saw them, too. “Maybe I should go?” he suggested.
“No, I think it would be better if I introduced you myse-.”
Leela saw that Bolt had already left, much to her annoyance.
Leela sat down with a cheery hello to her friends.
“Okay,” Teresa said. “Sean said you guys have
something big to tell us, so let’s have it. And you guys had
better not be having a kid!”
Leela laughed, but Tim just turned green at the thought of when Leela
had last joked about this. She had laughed harder that time.
“No, Teresa.” Leela said. “It’s much bigger
Leela told them everything, first what had happened to her, and then
Tim’s involvement, and then how Tim found the blueprints.
“I think someone’s following us around and dropping clues
for us to find.” Tim said the minute Leela finished.
“Well, if that’s the case, they must have some kind of
end to which we’re the means.” Sean commented. “Could
it be Ivan?”
“We don’t know. All I can guess is that it’s
“What could be dangerous about the tunnels?” Teresa
aksed. Leela could tell she was on her side in this. She made a
mental note to treat her to a drink at the Keg later.
“Well, for starters, no one would know if you’d died down
there, and they wouldn’t find you.” Tim said.
Teresa didn’t give up. “How would you die?”
“By any means that are fatal.” Tim said. “We know
of one guy besides us who knows about that place and he didn’t
hesitate to hit Leela. Also, if my guess is correct, he’s the
one who locked her in the furnace.”
Leela glared at him. He hadn’t told her that earlier. What
annoyed her further was that there was a good chance he was right.
But why couldn’t he have the guts to go down there?
Teresa’s expression changed. Leela could tell she was starting
to side with Tim. She had to act fast.
“Okay, then here’s what we’ll do.” She said.
“We’ll go down there, and only check the place out.
We’ll walk down the halls, and see where they all go. And for
good measure, we’ll take some baseball bats from the gym. Tim
and I know kung-fu, so I don’t think we’ll have much to
Tim and the others looked thoughtful. Leela knew her proposal was
hardly objectionable, and almost knew what the others were going to
say before they said it.
Leela felt relieved, and for the rest of lunch things went smoothly.
They didn’t talk about the tunnels anymore for fear of being
overheard. As the bell approached, Leela remembered what she had to
tell her friends. She braced herself for the worst.
“Hey guys?” They all turned to face her.
“We had a new student in English today.”
“Yeah, I remember Zura telling us about it yesterday.”
Sean said. “Too bad I was skipping today. Who’s the new
Teresa froze and Tim choked on his Slurm. Everyone turned and looked
at Leela. They did not look happy.
“Are you f**king kidding me?!” Tim was stunned. Leela
couldn’t blame him. He was the one most victimized by Bolt’s
part in the scandal between them last month.
“Now Tim, don’t bounce off the handle,” Sean said.
“Yeah.” Teresa added. “It’s not necessarily
a bad thing.”
“The hell it isn’t! He nearly hurt Leela! And now he’s
coming to the same school? This is hardly a coincidence.”
“But what if it is?” Sean aksed. “I know why you
don’t like him, but what happened between us all wasn’t
his fault. He was as much a victim as you were.”
Tim calmed down. Leela had a new respect for Sean. For a moment
she’d seen Tim look the way he did on X-mas with Santa, but
Sean had stopped it. He had tamed the beast. Leela smiled.
“Fine.” Tim said. “I won’t hold the past
against him, but I’m still not sure about this. I can’t
explain why, but I’ve got a bad feeling about everything that’s
The rest of lunch progressed in silence.
“HE’S YOUR WHAT?!” Leela shrieked.
Tim put his hands on her shoulders, as if it might keep her from
going through the ceiling.
“I told you, he’s going to be my roommate.” Tim
Leela tried to form words as she backed into the desk chair in Tim’s
room. She had come to him, hoping to take another look at the
blueprints, only to find out that Bolt was going to be his new
“How could this happen, though?” Leela aksed. “I
thought you were under single arrangements.”
“Well, tell that to Dr. Brunswick.”
“Brunswick himself arranged this?” Leela suddenly became
suspicious. Usually there was an office that specialized in housing
arrangements. Why would the principal take the time to fix things
for a student? Why this student?
“Doesn’t that seem odd to you?” Leela aksed Tim.
“Kinda,” Tim replied. “But there’s nothing I
can do about it. We’ll just have to be more careful. Bolt
doesn’t know about the tunnels, and I want it to stay that
“I thought you were okay with him being here.”
“I am, sort of, but it’s still awkward.”
Leela sighed and stood up to leave. She couldn’t take much
more of this. She was almost out the door when Tim grabbed her by
the arm. She looked up at him with a bit of ice in her stare.
“Hang on,” Tim said, holding up the rolled up blueprints.
“Take these with you. I can’t risk having them here for
Bolt to find.”
Leela took the blueprints and left. The door slid closed behind her
with a swish that wasn’t nearly as satisfying as a slam would
have been. It wasn’t really his fault, but couldn’t he
have acted a little more pissed off about Bolt being his roommate?
Didn’t he realize that this was the end of their nights
together? All he seemed to care about was the tunnels, now. It
wasn’t that Leela didn’t mind his interest, but there
were more important things.
Leela went back to her room and tossed the blueprints onto the desk.
“What’s wrong?” Teresa aksed from her bed. She was
busy reading another one of her magazines. Leela told her what had
happened. Teresa wasn’t any happier about it than she was, and
it cheered Leela up to know that Teresa supported her wholeheartedly
on storming out.
“It’s like he’s completely focused on everything
but you.” She said exasperatedly.
“But why, though?” Leela wondered.
There was a slight pause as they both pondered this.
“I guess we’ll just have to find out later.” Teresa
said. She got up and unrolled the blueprints on the desk. She
looked extremely intrigued.
“These look really old,” she commented. “Look.
They get older and older. 2980…2632…1950!”
“Isn’t that the year the school was built?” Leela
said as she took the seat next to Teresa.
“No, it’s much older than that. That’s the year
they did a lot of renovations. It says so on the sign at the main
gate.” Teresa looked carefully at the blueprint from 1950.
“There’s some handwriting here.”
Leela leaned in. Written in sloppy handwriting in black ink where
the furnace was, there was the word fallout. What did that
“I don’t know,” Teresa said when Leela voiced her
question. “It was almost a thousand years ago. It could mean
Leela stared hard at the word. She had a feeling that it could be
important. What did fallout mean, though? Did it have something to
do with the tunnels? Was it a name?
Leela pulled a dictionary out from under the bed and searched through
F. The word wasn’t there.
“You won’t find a thousand-year-old word in a pocket
dictionary,” Teresa said.
The two girls went to the school library. They hadn’t been in
there in a while. Their constant detentions earlier that year had
taught them to avoid the place. Even today, Leela felt a tightening
in her chest as she entered through the large doors. She saw Teresa
sharply inhale and knew that she felt the same way. They headed over
to the reference section, where entire series of encyclopedias were
sitting neatly in rows on walnut shelves and a few students sat at
tables, poring over books, their eyes flicking back and forth across
the pages. The room smelled like ink and glue.
Leela led the way over to a pedestal at the end of a shelf where a
thick dictionary lay open. She pushed several pages aside. They
collapsed onto the inside of the cover with a thump, and a cloud of
dust spewed forth. This dictionary had been here for a long time.
The girls scanned the pages until they found what they were looking
fall’out”,n. the descent to
earth of radioactive particles following a nuclear explosion.
“Radioactive particles falling to earth?” Teresa
enquired. “What does that mean?”
“Ah, brushing up on 20th Century history, girls?”
Leela and Teresa turned around. It was the librarian. Had she
“What do you know about ‘fallout?’” Teresa
“Way back in the 1950s, people feared A-bombs more than
anything,” the old woman said. “They built fallout
shelters to go to in case a bomb was dropped. Silly really, since
any A-bomb was likely to turn everything within its blast radius into
a dusty barren desolate wasteland that even God himself would shun.
They never would have lived.”
The librarian smiled brightly and the girls grimaced.
“Thank you,” Leela said slowly. She grabbed Teresa by
the elbow and pulled her out the door.
Once outside the girls felt extremely relieved. Not only had it been
unpleasant for them to be in the library, but that librarian had
shown herself to be such a nutcase it sent shivers up both their
“A fallout shelter?” Teresa exclaimed. “That’s
what the tunnels are?”
“It’s not impossible,” Tim whispered in the hallway
outside his bedroom. “After all, the renovations had been done
in 1950. It could be that they had been added on at the time.”
“Why are we whispering?” Leela aksed testily. She was
still mad at Tim.
Tim nodded in the direction of his door. Leela understood. Bolt was
inside. She fumed again.
“Well, I guess that’s all,” Teresa said. “We
just thought we’d come by and tell you.” Teresa
immediately hurried down the hallway, faster than was necessary.
Just as Leela was about to follow her friend, Tim put a hand on her
shoulder and turned her to face him. She put on a disapproving face.
“Look, Leela,” Tim said in a soft voice. “I really
am upset about Bolt moving in here. I just got so wrapped up in the
tunnels issue that I didn’t want to let anything else bother
me. Kinda like you.”
Leela almost rolled her eye. It wasn’t the best apology,
especially since he’d compared his being guilty to her being
guilty, but it would do. At least he meant it. She smiled and
kissed him, then followed Teresa back to her room.
Tim looked after Leela until she’d disappeared around a corner,
and then headed back inside. Bolt was unpacking on the top bunk,
which had been recently carried in by one of the janitors.
“Was that Leela?” Bolt aksed nonchalantly.
Tim wasn’t convinced. Bolt had probably been trying to listen
the whole time he’d been in the hall. “Yeah, it was,”
Tim said just as plainly as he sat down at his desk. “She had
a question about her homework.”
“How does she do in school anyway?”
Tim found this question to be rather odd. He was a bit hesitant to
answer. “Okay, I guess. We don’t really talk about our
grades. It’s a bit of a depressing topic. We usually talk
about stuff on the news and things from our past.”
Tim suddenly realized that he’d been rambling on with a wide
smile on his face. His face flushed with embarrassment.
Bolt smiled, but in a sad way. “You guys really like each
other, don’t you?”
“Yeah, we do.” Tim said. “It’s kinda weird
to think about at times. Someone you think is special thinks that
you’re greater than everyone else they could have. Out of
everyone in the galaxy, that special person chose me.”
Tim realized he’d turned red again. Why was he talking this
way with Bolt Rollands? He’d harassed Leela only a month ago.
Tim realized that Bolt wasn’t paying attention to him.
“So have you guys gotten to second base?” the bulky boy
“What?! Why do you aks?” Tim aksed fretfully. Why the
sudden change of subject?
“I’m not hearing a ‘no,’” Bolt said
with a smirk.
Tim couldn’t have gone redder. “No, of course not.”
He said. “Although, sometimes when we’re alone…”
“You guys don’t…?”
“Well, I think about it, and stuff.”
Bolt laughed. “That’s all?”
Tim couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “We’ve
only been together for about three months.”
“It’s okay if you think about stuff like that,”
Bolt said. “I’d be surprised if you didn’t!
You’re sixteen. It’s normal.”
Tim was surprised with himself. Had he just received guidance from a
rival? He was surprised even further to find out that he was okay
with it. Bolt seemed to have given in to the fact that Leela was
Tim’s girlfriend and not his. Now there was nothing to stop
them from getting along. Even if it did mean Leela couldn’t
sleep in his bed anymore.
Leela woke early on Saturday. She was extremely excited. Today they
would explore the tunnels. She paced back and forth in her room from
six to eight, wondering what they might find. Now she understood why
Tim was too distracted to be upset about being separated.
At breakfast Leela whispered with Tim and the others about what their
plan was. They were going to retrace Leela’s steps from her
first visit, and explore the rest of the tunnels from there. They
would bring blue tape to leave as trail markers to lead them back to
the furnace. They were just debating what other types of tools they
would bring when Bolt came and sat down next to Tim. Leela smiled
awkwardly, but when she looked at Tim, she could tell that there was
nothing mistrustful in his smile at all. Had something happened
“Whatcha guys talking about?” Bolt aksed.
“Spelunking.” Tim said. “Teresa saw a documentary
on the Excavation Channel last night and she was just telling us
“Uh, yeah,” Teresa said nervously. She was not as good a
liar as Tim was.
For the remainder of breakfast, the five adolescents talked about
fabricated stories of unfortunate cave divers, mostly constructed
from Tim dropping hints to Teresa. Finally everyone had finished
Tim checked his watch. “Hey Leela.” He said. “Remember
we had that study date today?”
Leela looked puzzled. “Study date?”
“Yeah, it starts in five minutes. We’d better get
Leela saw through his words. The two hurried off hand-in-hand.
Teresa knew what Tim was up to. “I’ve got to go powder
my nose.” She said quickly, and ran off.
Now it was just Bolt and Sean. Sean couldn’t think of
“Uh…me, too,” he said.
Bolt was now alone, stroking his chin in thought.
Five minutes later, as Tim had covertly instructed, the four students
met in the boiler room. Tim pulled the door open. He looked excited
and concerned at the same time. Leela wondered if it was a good idea
getting him involved with this in the first place.
The inside of the furnace was exactly as Leela remembered it, with
pipes crisscrossing all over the walls, and burn marks from where the
explosives had been.
“All right, Leela” Tim said as he offered her a
flashlight. “Where do we go from here?”
Leela took the flashlight from him and aimed it at the wall to the
right of the door. There was the L-shaped pipe, standing out beyond
the others, seemingly calling to her to turn it. She did.
The secret door swung into the mysterious hallway. Leela led the way
in. As soon as she set foot in the tunnel, she felt a slight shiver
travel up her legs and through her whole body. She was as excited
and concerned as Tim had looked just before. She felt along the wall
until she found a light switch. She flicked it up, and fluorescent
lights lit up throughout the entire hallway. The walls were the same
cream color, and the floors were the same kind of linoleum.
Everything was spotless and undisturbed (not that there was anything
to disturb). It took Leela a moment to realize that Tim and Sean and
Teresa had entered the hallway behind her.
“Okay,” said Tim. “We came here to explore the
place, so let’s get started.” He started walking down
the hallway. “First thing, I want to retrace Leela’s
steps. We turn on all the lights we find along the way. From there
we explore the rest of the tunnels in the same manner. We’ll
search in pairs.”
“Good idea.” Said a voice behind them.
Everyone yelped in unison and jumped around. Bolt was standing right
“Bolt?!” Leela cried. “What in heaven’s gate
are you doing here?”
“You guys were acting weird at lunch so I followed you.”
Bolt said simply. He looked around at the tunnels thoughtfully. He
didn’t look too terribly shocked. “Nice place.”
Tim stepped toward him. “Look, Bolt, if you’re gonna be
in on this, we need it to be a secret. This knowledge is more
valuable if less people know about it. No offense.”
“None taken.” Bolt said with a shrug. “And don’t
worry. Your secret’s safe.”
“Okay then. Let’s go.”
Everyone looked at Tim in shock. How could he trust Bolt so easily
now? Had something happened between them?
As the five students walked down the hall, Leela silently fumed. She
had not wanted Bolt to be here. She was still mad about Tim not
being upset, and that his apology was short of his best. Now they
were suddenly pals? What was going on?
Leela followed Tim’s instructions perfectly, although it
irritated her that he was taking charge of the situation so quickly.
She was the one who’d found these tunnels, right? He didn’t
have to take away her fun.
They eventually reached the narrow staircase that led to Brunswick’s
office, the hallway awash with light.
“So that leads to Brunswick’s office?” Bolt aksed.
“No, my office,” Teresa said sarcastically.
“Oh, ha ha.”
“We’ll have time for jokes later, you guys,” Leela
said. “We need to get started with checking this place out.
Sean, you and Tim head that way.” She pointed back the way
they’d come. “And Teresa and I will go that way.”
She pointed in the opposite direction. “Bolt will take that
hallway there.” She pointed to a third hallway perpendicular
to theirs. Everyone agreed, although Tim looked disappointed. Leela
brushed away whatever traces of guilt she felt. She didn’t
want to be bothered with it right now. She was in charge now, and
neither Tim nor Bolt was going to ruin it for her. They all set off
in their designated directions.
Leela and Teresa rounded a corner. Teresa noticed that Leela was
walking a little angrily.
“Something the matter, Leela?” she aksed carefully.
Leela huffed before she answered. “It’s Tim. He’s
just been pissing me off a lot lately.”
“When I found this place, he wasn’t excited. All he
could think about was that guy who found me.”
“Well, he did hit you.” Teresa said. Leela glared
at her. “What? I think it’s sweet that he’s more
concerned about you than about finding secret tunnels.”
Guilt flashed across Leela’s face for a moment. “I know,
but can’t he see how important this is to me? He was all
excited about trying to kick Santa’s ass, so why be such a wimp
Probably cause he didn’t have a girlfriend to protect then,
Teresa thought. She’d decided that arguing against Leela
wasn’t a good idea right now.
“And then there’s Bolt!”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s Tim’s roommate. Now we can’t share his
room anymore. And he wasn’t even annoyed!”
“Haven’t we been over this before? Besides, I thought
he’d apologized. You told me so.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t do a very good job.”
Leela opened a door to her left and looked inside. The room was
packed to the ceiling with boxes of non-perishable foods. They moved
“And now he’s acting like he’s in charge,”
Leela continued. “It’s like he knows more about this
place than I do.”
“But you don’t know anything about this place.”
“I know a hell of a lot more than he does.”
As the two girls continued exploring, Teresa wondered what it could
be that could get Leela into such a bad mood.
Tim and Sean walked down their corridor, checking each door as they
went; Tim on the right, Sean on the left. As they passed the hallway
that led to the furnace, Sean noticed that Tim was looking depressed,
angry, fearful, and confused all at once; it was an odd sight.
“A nickel for your thoughts, Tim?” Sean aksed.
Tim looked at him. “It’s Leela,” he said. “I
can’t figure her out. She’s so into this whole tunnel
thing that she can’t think straight. She’s so impulsive
it’s dangerous. I’m worried about her.”
“You know you really don’t sound like yourself when you
talk like that,” Sean said bewildered. Usually Tim was more
laid-back and laughable. Now he was solemn.
“Well, it’s not like me to follow people into dangerous
“I can’t argue with you there.”
“This all goes against my better judgment.” Tim
continued. “I’m caught between keeping Leela’s
affections and doing what I think is best for her.”
“Because making her love you means doing something stupid?”
“Yeah.” Tim said, also bewildered. Sean wasn’t
usually this insightful. His grades spoke for themselves.
“I know exactly how you feel. I once had to choose between
something I cared about and my common sense.”
Sean stopped there. Tim had a feeling what he was talking about.
“Something to do with your parents?” he enquired.
Sean looked at him. “You know I don’t like talking about
“Sorry. But you can’t blame me for being curious.”
“I guess not. But just let me tell you about them in my own
time. Hey, did you check that door?”
Tim was a bit annoyed that Sean had changed the subject so abruptly,
but went ahead with it anyway. He opened the door.
Sean smiled. “Anyway, just a bit of advice for your Leela
problem: When it comes down to you making the ultimate choice between
Leela and your judgment, make sure you can live with the
Sean checked another door and walked around the next corner, but Tim
stood rooted to the spot. He saw now that beneath Sean’s
shirking and poor grades, there was a lot to be said for him. He was
a lot deeper than he gave himself credit for. Tim’s respect
for his best friend went up by about a thousand points.
One hour later, the five returned to their meeting place, outside the
narrow staircase. All had found many fascinating things, and with
reports from everyone, they soon had a clear idea of what this place
was. There were entrances in every single building on campus,
including the one they were standing next to. The halls had been
built as a bomb shelter, so they had reasoned that there was a layer
of lead coating the outsides of the walls. They had counted exactly
one hundred storerooms and bunks. Why all the hallways looked the
same they couldn’t figure out, although Bolt believed that it
was meant to confuse anyone who wasn’t familiar with the layout
of the halls.
“I’d say that’s about everything we can find just
by looking at the place,” Tim said. “And no one met any
Everyone looked at Leela, who glared and shook her head.
“So what now?” Sean aksed. “We’ve seen the
place, and it doesn’t seem to be very dangerous, so what do we
do with it?”
No one had an answer for this. Sean had made a good point. What
does one do with something they have no use for? It was like having
an umbrella on a sunny day. It just took up space.
“I guess we could use it to go between classes.” Teresa
suggested. “It goes between buildings.”
“If that’s the best we can think of,” Leela said,
“I say we—.”
Leela was cut off by a clanging sound at the end of the hallway
behind her. They all jumped and looked as far into the hall as they
could, before it rounded a corner.
Bolt ran down the hallway toward the sound, followed closely by Tim
and Leela. Teresa was next, then Sean, who looked reluctant.
“Shouldn’t we run away from scary noises?”
he objected as he ran.
No one listened. They rounded the corner, then another. Soon they
were in a place Leela and Teresa hadn’t seen. This hallway was
about twelve feet long, and just as wide. At the end was the door to
an express elevator, just like the one Tim had used at X-mas. It was
closed, and was probably the cause of the clang they’d heard.
But beside the elevator was a door. A sliding door that stood ajar.
Tim looked absolutely fearful. “Someone has been here.”
He said. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
He and the others turned to leave, but Leela opened the door and
“Leela, come on!” Tim said.
“There’s a spiral staircase in here.” Leela said.
“It goes on and on.”
“Damnit, Leela, let’s go!”
Leela disappeared into the door.
Tim looked livid. “Son of a bitch!” He ran to the door
and looked inside. He was standing at the top of a metal spiral
staircase inside a wide, cylindrical tube made of cinder block. The
stairs spiraled down into darkness, with no end in sight.
Tim could hear Leela’s footsteps against the metal stairs a few
“Catch me if you can!” she called up to him as she
disappeared into the abyss.
Tim growled and followed her, never taking his hand off the railing.
He could hear the others following close behind him. He knew better
than to go into a place like this, but he couldn’t abandon
Leela. He just wished she knew better, too.
Tim couldn’t find Leela at the bottom of the stairs. Nor could
he find his hand in front of his face, it was so dark. Why hadn’t
he brought a flashlight? Then he remembered: he’d given Leela
As if on cue, a bright light blinked on in Tim’s eyes. Leela
laughed and held the flashlight’s beam up to her face, casting
shadows and making herself look scary. Tim rubbed his eyes and
looked at her. He grabbed her by the shoulders.
“What do you mean by coming down here?” he yelled at her.
“Don’t you get how dangerous this is?”
“Oh, relax.” Leela said. “I didn’t pass my
black belt test for nothing.”
Tim let her go. He couldn’t argue with this. He couldn’t
risk making Leela hate him. Sean, Teresa and Bolt reached the bottom
of the stairs.
“What is this place?” Teresa aksed.
Tim looked around. They were at the bottom of the concrete cylinder.
Piled against the walls were bags of plaster and cement, handtools,
and pipes and metal rods. It looked like a construction site.
Directly across from the stairs was a sliding door, just like the
modern one at the top of the stairs. Leela approached it. Tim
looked angrier than ever, but not at Leela. Sean could tell what he
Leela opened the door and stepped through it. Everyone else
followed, with Tim bringing up the rear. Before anyone could say
anything, they stared at what they had found in awe. It was Old New
They were standing on a metal platform that was set into a wall made
entirely of stone and dirt. The wall disappeared into the distance
in both directions, where it circled around, making an enormous
column of earth. This was the foundation upon which the school
stood, which held it up amongst the futuristic buildings of New New
York. What was left of the once magnificent city lay before the
teenagers’ eyes. There were demolished buildings and heaps of
rusted cars everywhere. Plants that had once overgrown everything
now lay dead from lack of sunlight, their gnarled branches and vines
curling around every structure like dead fingers. Giant lizards
bounded through the rubble here and there.
But directly below them was a small warehouse, which had apparently
been constructed from the tools in the room behind them. It looked
brand new, and had been put together inside a clearing where all the
detritus had been cleared away.
Leela looked around. The platform on which they stood extended to
the right a bit, and on the extension was another elevator door. As
she approached the door to find the way down, she felt a sharp blow
to the back of her head. Her vision faded away.
Tim watched as his girlfriend fell to the ground, the metal rod from
inside clutched in his fists. He was breathing so hard that his body
shuddered. He was crying. None of the others said anything.
Tim dropped the piece of metal and fell to his knees. “I’m
sorry Leela,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry.”
Sean approached Tim from behind. Tim gathered himself and sniffed.
He stood up. “I’m sorry you guys had to see that. It
was not an easy choice for me to make.”
Sean nodded. “Are you prepared to live with the consequences?”
Tim looked at his friends. “If you guys will help me, yes.”
He said. “When she wakes up, we’ve got to tell her that
it was the stranger.”
Teresa looked shocked. “How can you say that?! After what you
“I’m sorry, Teresa,” Tim said. “But Leela
would never believe that I hit her to keep her out of this place. I
know that if she continues being as recklessly impulsive as she has
been, she will get herself very badly hurt. And I know, it’s
ironic that I had to hurt her to do this. But for now, let’s
get her out of here.”
With that, Tim picked up his girlfriend and carried her back up the
Tim hurried down the corridors, Leela cradled in his arms. The
others were right behind him. With difficulty he navigated his way
back to the staircase to Brunswick’s office. Tim considered
going back to the furnace, but given the possibility that they were
being followed, he didn’t want to waste any time. Besides, he
thought as he carefully carried Leela up the stairs, if something
weird is going on in school, Brunswick ought to know.
A minute later, Tim was pushing the sliding door out of the way, just
as Leela had described, and pushed his way into the metal cabinet.
The door wouldn’t budge. Tim backed up a bit, and kicked the
“Tim, what are you doing?!” Teresa cried.
“Sorry, but I had no choice. And I’ve kind of always
wanted to kick a door in. Or out.”
Tim stepped into Brunswick’s office. It was empty. All the
filing cabinets were closed, all the plaques and pictures straight.
Light was streaming in through the blinds on the window. The four
students emptied out of the cabinet and stood in the middle of the
room. Just as Sean was fumbling with the door, Leela began to stir.
“Okay guys, remember what I told you.” Tim said as he
placed Leela in Brunswick’s chair.
The others looked uncertain. Was it a good idea to lie to Leela?
Had Tim been right to hurt her to keep her out of the tunnels?
“What happened?” Leela aksed.
“It was the stranger,” Sean said. “He snuck up
behind us and hit you.”
Tim smiled at Sean. “We kicked his ass and got you out of
there as quickly as we could.”
Leela grimaced as she felt the back of her head, but smiled through
“Thanks guys. You’re the best.”
Tim struggled to keep the guilt out of his face.
“Where are we now?” Leela aksed.
“Brunswick’s office,” Teresa explained. “We
wanted to get out as quickly as possible.”
“Lucky for us he wasn’t here.” Bolt added.
“Not really,” Tim said. Everyone looked at him.
“There’s definitely something strange going on down
there, and it’s gotten Leela hurt. I think it’s high
time we told Brunswick about it.”
The others seemed to agree with Tim, but Leela looked livid. She
jumped up out of Brunswick’s chair.
“What?! You can’t do that!”
Tim tried to stay calm. “Leela—“
“I’m the one who found those tunnels; I think I should
decide what we do! And don’t interrupt me, Tim Dawson. You
may not like that I found them first, but it’s too late. If we
give away the existence of the tunnels then they’ll be shut
down and we’ll never get in there again! We’ve got to—“
“DAMNIT LEELA, DON’T YOU GET IT?! THAT PLACE IS
DANGEROUS! THE ONLY REASON I WENT DOWN THERE WAS TO KEEP YOU SAFE!!”
“I DON’T NEED PROTECTION! WHAT I NEED IS SUPPORT!!”
“YOU’RE BEING RECKLESS!! WHY DO YOU THINK YOU GOT HIT IN
THE HEAD IN THE FIRST PLACE?!”
Tim looked shocked at how he’d given himself away. Leela
For a while no one spoke. Tim and Leela stared cruelly at each
other, both with tears in their eyes. Teresa, Sean and Bolt looked
between the two. No one knew what to do or say next. It was obvious
what this meant, but no one could believe it. Tim and Leela’s
relationship was over.
A canister popped into Brunswick’s In bin. But it wasn’t
red like Central Bureaucracy canisters usually were. This one was
black. Everyone in the room stared at it expectantly, as if waiting
for it to explode.
Leela picked up the canister and twisted the top off.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Tim aksed.
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
Leela took the letter out and stared at it. Her eye widened in
terror. Noticing this, Tim snatched the letter out of her hands and
read it aloud.
“’We’ve had visitors. Take care of them.
Expect next installment by eleven.’”
Everyone knew exactly what the letter meant. They’d been seen
in the tunnels, and whoever had seen them didn’t mind killing
“Why is someone telling Brunswick to kill us?!” Sean
“Because we stumbled onto their hideout,” Tim said. He
turned to Leela. “I told you it was dangerous.”
Leela looked like she could kill him. “Fine. So now what, Mr.
Genius? You obviously know more about this than I do, so what do we
do? We can’t go to our principal about this.”
“The cops won’t believe us,” Teresa said. “We’re
just kids. They’ll think we’re pranking them.”
“But we’ve got the letter as proof. And we can show them
the tunnels.” Tim said.
“The tunnels were a fallout shelter. They’ll take that
as an explanation.” Bolt said. “And that letter is from
the Central Bureaucracy. No one would believe anything wrong of that
Tim stared at the ground in thought. “Just what is the Central
Bureaucracy anyway?” he aksed.
No one knew why he was aksing this.
“Does anyone know why Bureaucrats exist in the first place?”
“They assist in managing business, don’t they?”
“Yeah,” Leela added, seeming to have forgotten her anger.
“Mr. Vogel at the Orphanarium was Bureaucrat. And so is
“So there are Bureaucrats in every business created.” Tim
said. “Then the whole Bureaucracy thing is some program
created by the government…to control business?”
He sounded like he was grasping at straws.
“What does any of this have to do with the tunnels?”
Leela said irritated.
Tim held up the black canister. “Every time one of these
canisters is sent between Bureaucrats, it goes through the Central
Bureaucracy in between. Sort of a ‘middle-man’ deal.
Whoever sent this could probably be traced from the Central
“What are you on about now?”
Tim took a deep breath. The circumstances were getting more and more
constraining for him. This was getting way out of hand. People were
out to kill them, their principal couldn’t be trusted, and the
police were not an option. There was only one option left, and Tim
was going to hate himself for choosing it.
“I think,” Tim said slowly, “that our only choice
is…to go to the Central Bureaucracy and get to the bottom of
Everyone gaped at him, but Leela smirked.
“I know, it’s stupid, and believe me, if I could do
anything else, I would. But there’s no one we can go to, so
we’re all we have.”
Leela laughed. “You know, Tim, it was worth getting hit in the
head just to hear you say that.” With that she left
The others stared at Tim, who put his hands in his pockets. He felt
the small package he’d had since X-mas. He still hadn’t
given it to Leela.
“Please don’t say anything, guys. I don’t want to
feel any worse.”
Before Tim was out the door, he turned to face Teresa. “Tell
Leela that we’ll be going to the Central Bureaucracy at noon
Leela crept carefully down the hallway of the dormitories, her boots
making the slightest squeak every time they touched the linoleum. As
she stared at the floor, she could see that there was no light
creeping out from under the doors in the girl’s wing.
She finally reached the lobby of the dormitory building. Directly
across from her was the boys’ wing, where she knew Tim was
sleeping. At the thought of Tim, she became filled with anger and
sadness and love. She never would have believed in a million years
that Tim would hit her like that. But he had.
Leela turned right down a third hallway that faced the front door.
It was a short hallway, that had mail slots and lockers set into the
walls. Her own mail slot had cobwebs in it. The lockers, which were
way at the end of the hallway, next to the back door, were extremely
rusty. They had been there since the days when Maddick’s was a
college. After the end of the Cold War, the entrance to the fallout
shelter in the dormitory building had been covered up in a
renovation. However, Leela and Teresa had found part of the entrance
that still remained. Leela walked up to the last locker in the row.
She turned the combination lock around three times until it was on
the number 0. Teresa had figured it out by looking at the back of
the door, and had surprised Leela a great deal in the process. Leela
opened the locker door and stepped through.
The staircase beyond was wide and dark. The locker Leela had used
brought her out at the very edge, up against the wall. The entire
staircase was about four feet wide. Leela pulled a flashlight out of
her jacket pocket. The beam illuminated the landing below, where the
stairs disappeared around a corner. Leela began to descend.
It took Leela a good part of an hour to find her way back to the
spiral staircase. She’d gotten lost, and had only managed to
find the right way when she’d found herself at the door to the
furnace. She would have preferred to have started from there, but
she wouldn’t have been able to get into the boiler room in the
first place. Her only option had been to start at the dormitories.
Leela descended the spiral staircase, wincing every time her shoes
clanged against the metal. As she reached the bottom, the light of
her flashlight began to flicker and dim.
Figures, Leela thought as she slapped the flashlight against her
A bright light blinked on in her eye. Leela yelled and sprang into a
jump kick, aiming for the source of the light. Her kick was easily
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.” Tim
said. He sounded like he was smiling. The light moved away from
Leela’s face, and Leela could see Tim clearly, dressed in dark
clothing and a smirk. Leela glared at him, as she had done so many
times before they had started going out.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you, of course.” Tim replied.
“How did you know I’d be here?”
“Because I know you.”
Leela sighed sadly. Just hearing that reminded her of how close they
had once been.
“I suppose you came here to take a look at the warehouse?”
“Come on, then.” Tim walked towards the door.
“I’m not gonna follow you.” Leela declared.
Tim turned angrily to face her. “It’s either you follow
me, or I follow you.”
Leela remembered what had happened the last time that had happened.
She followed Tim out onto the platform. For a moment she was
mesmerized by the large expanse of city beneath her, stretching on
for miles and miles. Here and there she could see the ginormous
pillars that held the city above these ruins, which she knew
contained ladders that allowed people to go down.
It was only when Tim snapped his fingers in front of her eye that
Leela gathered herself enough to wonder why he was acting angry in
the first place. She followed him over to the elevator, where he had
already opened the door. Her foot touched the metal rod, which she
knew right away had been used to hit her. She felt a rush of anxiety
and distrust. Was she really going to go into an elevator with Tim
after he’d betrayed her like that?
Leela stepped inside the elevator. The door closed with a clang and
Tim hit the button. The elevator began to descend.
“Why are you so angry?” Leela asked.
Tim took a while to answer. “This is probably the stupidest
thing I’ve ever done. I’m walking straight into the
lion’s den, where people are working on God-knows-what, and
where we are probably going to die.”
“We’re both black belts,” Leela said. “I
think we can handle it.”
“Doesn’t it mean anything to you that you could die?”
“It didn’t used to.”
Tim was silent. Then he said: “Well, it does to me.”
“Is that why you hit me?” Leela aksed angrily.
“Yes. You may not have noticed this, but I care a lot more
about seeing you alive than exploring strange new places.”
Leela looked at him wide-eyed.
“Hitting you was one of the hardest things I’ve ever
The elevator reached the bottom and the two snapped out of their
moment. The door cranked up and they looked out at the warehouse
directly in front of them. It stood out, fresh and new, amongst the
depressing and decrepit ruin of Old New York.
Leela exited the elevator first, back in her explorer mode. She felt
the familiar rush of wondering what she would find. She approached
the door of the warehouse, next to the enormous loading door. She
could feel Tim right behind her. She edged the door open. The
inside of the warehouse was enormous. The ceiling stood at fifty
feet, and the entire room stretched on to a wall at the far end,
where there were most likely smaller rooms. The entire storeroom was
packed up to the ceiling with wooden crates and cardboard boxes all
arranged in towers with lanes and alleys crisscrossing in between.
The place reminded Leela of Professor Farnsworth’s limestone
Tim walked up to the nearest pile of crates and examined one.
“It’s filled with Space Honey!” he said. “What’s
Space Honey doing down here?”
Leela looked at another one. “Napalm.” She said.
Together, they looked at crate after crate, finding all sorts of
valuable or rare contents. There were Crack, fireworks, china tea
sets, jewelry, and sheet music, among many other things.
“It’s a smuggling enterprise.” Tim said as they
crouched at the other end of the room. “I’m certain of
it. They’re using this warehouse in Old New York as a storage
facility until they can unload it all. The school is the only place
they can use to get crates of stuff down here; none of the pillars
would work. Only a part of Old New York that was still on the
surface could get them down here!”
“Shut up!” Leela hissed. “Someone’s bound to
“Oh, now you’re worried about safety?”
“Who’s out there?!” a voice called.
Tim and Leela spun around to face the door in the wall. Someone was
coming out of one of the smaller rooms. They were discovered!
The two disappeared into the maze of crates just as the door opened.
“Is it you kids, again?” called a second, deeper voice.
“You won’t get far,” said the first voice as he
stepped out of the room. His shoes squeaked with each step.
Tim grabbed Leela’s wrist and pulled her around a corner and
held her against a wall of crates. For a minute Leela thought he was
going to kiss her. But instead he held an arm across her shoulders
while he looked around the corner.
Tim could see Squeaky Shoes and Deep Voice entering the alley they
had just come out of. They were carrying guns. Fear crept up Tim’s
spine and made his hair stand on end. His heart began to pound so
hard he thought it would give him away. If they weren’t
careful, these people could really kill them!
“Maybe it was just some Golden Marmoset?” suggested Deep
“Naw, it was definitely those kids. I can feel it in the
bottom of my—“
“Please don’t finish that sentence.” Deep Voice
Tim looked over to motion to Leela to start walking, but he realized
that she was gone! Tim looked around frantically and saw her
climbing a pile of crates. Immediately he knew what she was going to
do, but he couldn’t believe it. Leela stood posed at the top
of the pile, waiting for the right moment.
As soon as the two men were five feet away from Tim, he jumped out
and shouted: “Surprise!”
Before the men could even jump in fright, they felt Leela’s
boots come crashing down on top of their heads. They fell to the
floor with a crack of collar and leg bones, with Leela standing in
their midst looking triumphant.
“Are you f**king insane?!” Tim hissed. “You could
have gotten us killed!”
“Tim, we’re black belts. What good are our skills if we
don’t use them?”
“We’re going to the Central Bureaucracy tomorrow,”
Tim said. “It won’t do us any good if we’re dead
One of the men began to stir.
“Come on!” Tim yelled.
Leela followed him out of the warehouse and into the elevator. Tim
pressed the button so fast his hand was a blur. It seemed to take
them forever to reach the top of the spiral staircase and get back to
the dormitories. Tim slammed the locker door shut.
“Those guys won’t be going to church tomorrow!”
Tim turned on Leela furiously. “Leela, those guys could have
killed us! How can you just treat that like a walk in the park?”
“Pansy,” Leela muttered.
Tim took a deep breath. “Look, Leela. I know how dangerous
this is, and I wish you did too, but I still know that we have no
choice but to settle this ourselves. Tomorrow we’re going to
the Central Bureaucracy. But if things get too serious, I’m
pulling us all out of there; by any means necessary.”
The two glared at each other for a moment. They both found it hard
to believe that just a few days ago they’d been making out in
the boiler room. Then they turned their backs on each other and went
back to their dorms.
Sean knocked gently on the door of Tim and Bolt’s dorm as he
shook a bit of his reddish hair out of his eyes. Bolt answered the
“Hey, Sean,” he said cheerfully. “What’s
“Is Tim here?” Sean aksed.
“No, he just headed out. Said it was something to do with
“Should I be worried?”
“Well, knowing them, if they beat each other dead, they can
Sean laughed and Bolt invited him in. Sean sat down in the desk
chair and turned it around to face Bolt, who was sitting on the top
bunk. He tossed Sean a can of Slurm, which he opened with his teeth.
Sean looked at the surface of the desk and saw a small felt box. It
was the gift Tim had failed to give to Leela so many times.
“So how’ve you been?” Bolt aksed. “It’s
been awhile since we’ve talked.”
It was true. The cousins didn’t have any classes together, and
in the time that Bolt had been at Maddick’s they’d only
seen each other at mealtimes.
“Eh, can’t really complain,” Sean said. “Being
bartender’s been fun, but hosting theme nights and stirring
drinks has become a bit of a bore. I’m kinda glad that Leela
found the tunnels.”
“Better not say that in front of Tim.”
“Yeah, he wouldn’t like that. He doesn’t like that
we have to go to the Central Bureaucracy, but he knows we don’t
have a choice.”
“You seem to know him pretty well.” Bolt observed.
“Well, he tells me a lot about himself. It’s gotten to
the point where I can finish his sentences.”
“That’s kinda creepy, dude. Only couples should be
allowed to do that.”
“Yeah, but Tim’s relationship with Leela isn’t
exactly a typical high school romance.”
“That’s for damn sure. Leela seems to be somewhat
reluctant. They’ve only gotten to first base.”
Sean smiled. “Yeah, Leela’s something else.” He
stared at the small package on Tim’s desk, thinking about what
Bolt looked at his cousin carefully. There was something strange
about his smile. His eyes were crinkled and misty, and his pupils
had dilated. His entire expression seemed to have softened.
“You like her!”
Sean immediately looked shocked and afraid. “What? Why would
you aks that? She’s Tim’s girlfriend after all and…”
“Oh my God, it’s true!” Bolt was now leaning so far
out over the edge of his bed he could have fallen. “You’re
in love with Leela?!”
Sean sighed. “Look, I don’t like thinking about it.”
He said. “She likes Tim, and I’ve come to accept that.
There’s no chance that anything could happen between us.”
Bolt could detect the disappointment in his voice. “Well, you
know Cuz, there is a slight possibility that you have a chance now,
“You want me to catch her on the rebound?” Sean aksed in
shock. “No. I can’t do that to Tim. He’s my best
friend. And I’ve already made things difficult enough by not
telling him about my parents.”
“You still haven’t told him?”
“How can I? How would he understand it when he can barely
remember his own? What I’ve got to deal with every time I go
home is even worse. Why else would I go to a boarding school?”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t tell him about it.
It’s not like he’s proven himself to be untrustworthy.”
Sean leaned back in the chair and sighed. “I’ll think
about it. In the meantime, I’m just gonna act like I always
“Like a stand-in with nothing to contribute to the situation at
hand?” Bolt joked.
Sean laughed and tried hard to come up with some kind of retort. The
two cousins chatted for awhile, wandering back to old times, talking
of future ones, but always avoiding the subject of Tim and Leela.
Sean left a half hour later. His head was filled with thoughts of
Leela. Despite what he’d said to Bolt, he knew that this was
probably the best chance he had at getting together with Leela. But
he hated the thought of betraying Tim. Talking to Bolt had helped,
but since it had been a talk between guys, there was no way that he
could come to a conclusion about how he felt and what to do by aksing
him for advice. He decided to aks Teresa. Teresa was Leela’s
best friend, and being a girl, had to know about feelings and stuff.
Sean hurried to her room.
Sean arrived at Teresa’s door at the same time as Leela, who
had emerged from the stairwell opposite him.
“Hi, Sean.” Leela said. She did not sound happy.
“Hey, Leela,” Sean said. “You okay?”
Leela looked at him. She suddenly realized, at now of all times,
that they were the same height. “Nothing gets past you, does
it, Sean? It’s just something with Tim.”
“Did he say something to you?”
“Not really. We’re just having a hard time seeing
eye-to-eye on this whole tunnel thing.”
“Pun not intended?” Sean aksed with a smile.
Leela laughed. “Never. But what are you doing here, anyway?”
“I wanted to talk to Teresa about something, but it can wait.”
Leela looked at him suspiciously. “Were you gonna aks her
out?” she aksed playfully.
“Oh, God no.” Sean said. “I just wanted to know if
she could lend me a flashlight. The bulb in my room went out.”
“Is that all? Well, come on in. I think we’ve got one
Sean accepted the flashlight after a quick hello to Teresa and left.
He cursed himself as he walked back to his own room. He knew his
excuse had been lame. Why would someone say that aksing for a
flashlight could wait?! He knew he wasn’t the smartest guy
around, but that was just pathetic. At least Leela hadn’t seen
through it, or at least had sounded that way. He prayed she hadn’t.
The next morning at breakfast, neither Tim nor Leela mentioned a
thing about their adventure in Old New York. On the contrary, they
ate in absolute silence, along with the others. While Bolt, Teresa
and Sean were all merely nervous about their upcoming trip, Tim and
Leela were lost in thought about how much things had changed.
It was only a week ago that Leela had found the tunnels in the first
place. She could hardly believe how much trouble they had caused for
her and her friends. Now because of them she had broken up with her
first ever boyfriend. She could barely stand to think about it. And
the entrance to Old New York had taken her completely by surprise.
Stepping through the door was like walking straight into another
world. And now they were about to go into the lion’s belly, to
find the secrets of a smuggling group that had almost killed them,
which their principal was a part of. Leela had never felt so stupid
in all her life.
“Attention students,” Dr. Brunswick’s voice said
over the intercom. “According to state law, our school will
conduct a mandatory emergency lockdown drill at noon today. Please
be prepared and follow your teachers’ instructions to the
The transmission ended, and Leela stared wide-eyed at her friends,
who were as shocked as she was.
“How could he know?” Leela whispered. “How did he
Tim scratched his head. “Those idiots last night must have
heard me say that we were going to the Central Bureaucracy today.”
“So, you pretty much ruined it for us?” Leela said
“More like you failed to knock them out. Some black
Leela would have jumped up and kicked his ass right then and there if
Teresa hadn’t said: “What idiots?”
Tim and Leela quickly filled in the others on what they had done last
night, fighting for dominance in telling the story.
“And now we’re trapped here.” They finished in
unison, and then glared at each other.
“Not necessarily,” Bolt said with a smile.
“What does that mean?” Teresa asked.
Bolt just continued smiling.
At ten minutes to noon, everyone met in the back room of the Metal
Keg as Bolt had told them to do.
“Now, as you may remember, we explored the tunnels yesterday,
and learned a lot about them.” He said.
Everyone looked around at each other anxiously. It had not been a
“And one of the things I learned was that the tunnels are
connected to the sewers.”
Everyone looked at him like he was crazy.
“Are you out of your f**king mind?!” Teresa said. “There
is no way in Robot Hell that I am going into the sewer!”
“I think we have no choice, Teresa,” Tim said.
Everyone looked at him.
“Brunswick planned the lockdown to keep us inside the school.
He obviously wants to hold us prisoner until he gets a chance to
finish us off. We have to get out of here and expose the smugglers
before it’s too late. We’ll have to go through the
Teresa looked on the verge of tears. “But the sludge, and the
“I’ve got an inflatable boat.” Bolt said, holding
up a small yellow package.
Teresa was outvoted. “Fine.”
The five went downstairs and through the furnace door into the
tunnels. When they reached the next hallway, Tim stopped them.
“I don’t want to go near the door to Brunswick’s
office,” he said. “Is there another way to get to the
“Of course,” Bolt said. “The hallway I was in
loops around to the one you and Sean searched.”
Bolt led them to the left. They rounded several corners, every time
checking to make sure no one was there. Every single one of them
knew that this place was extremely dangerous. Criminals and
murderers were hidden in these tunnels, and they were right in the
middle of a huge mess. One wrong step and their heads would roll.
Finally they reached a large metal door at the end of a hallway, very
much like the door to the furnace. Bolt lifted a heavy metal latch
and pulled the door open. An acrid smell invaded their nostrils,
causing everyone to jump back a few feet in disgust. The air
blasting from inside the sewers was warm and smelly, and the fumes
made their eyes water. It was pitch black inside.
Bolt stepped forward and turned on a flashlight. The inside of the
sewer didn’t look any better than it smelled. The metal was
black-brown and rusty, with ooze dripping down the walls. A shallow
river of an unnamed mixture of colors flowed from left to right down
the endless tunnel. Bolt stepped through the door onto a concrete
platform that sat on the edge of the river, set into the metal wall.
He pulled a string on the tiny package and the boat inflated,
unfolding into a craft just big enough to carry them all.
Everyone filed in through the door and got into the boat, Teresa
bringing up the rear. An alarm sounded from above.
“They know we’re escaping!” Leela yelled.
“No, the lockdown has started.” Bolt said. “But
let’s hurry anyway.”
Tim closed the door and got into the boat. They set off.