Fan Fiction

Leela's Story, part 4
By James Prospect

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 aside.

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 more meaningful.

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 them.

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 many times.

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 his head.

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 wasn’t enough.”

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 enough anymore.

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 lingered.

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 stop Santa.

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 dark.

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 dark.

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 lungs.

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 kissed her.

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… Could he-?

“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 said.

The nurse smiled and left.

Leela looked up at Tim. “Tim? How did I get here?” she aksed.

“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 the head.”

“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 rapidly.

“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 fun.

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 skipped dinner.

“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 with us?”

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 it’s important?”

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 around him.

“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 these!”

“But I thought you had your memory back?” Leela said confused.

“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 drop.

Mr. Zura stopped talking about Harmony at War and turned to face Bolt, who stood timidly inside the door with a backpack over his shoulder.

“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 their misunderstanding.

“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 cafeteria.

“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 than that.”

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 dangerous.”

“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 worry about.”

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 kid?”


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 happening.”

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 said.

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 roommate!

“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 way.”

“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 mean?

“I don’t know,” Teresa said when Leela voiced her question. “It was almost a thousand years ago. It could mean anything.”

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 for:

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 overheard them?

“What do you know about ‘fallout?’” Teresa aksed.

“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 spines.

“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 aksed.

“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 between them?

“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 about it.”

“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 eating.

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 going.”

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 anything.

“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 behind them!

“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.”

“How so?”

“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 now?”

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 on.

“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.” Teresa said.

“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 situations.”

“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 that.”

“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.

“Bunk beds.”

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 consequences.”

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 mysterious strangers?”

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 peered inside.

“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 levels below.

“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 a flashlight.

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 was thinking.

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 York.

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 did—“

“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 stairs.

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 door outward.

“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 the pain.

“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—“




Tim looked shocked at how he’d given himself away. Leela slapped him.

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 them!

“Why is someone telling Brunswick to kill us?!” Sean practically shrieked.

“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 place.”

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?” Sean said.

“Yeah,” Leela added, seeming to have forgotten her anger. “Mr. Vogel at the Orphanarium was Bureaucrat. And so is Brunswick.”

“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 Bureaucracy.”

“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 this ourselves.”

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 Brunswick’s office.

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 tomorrow.”

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 palm.

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 blocked.


“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?” Tim asked.


“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 done.”

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 cavern.

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 hear us.”

“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 Voice.

“Naw, it was definitely those kids. I can feel it in the bottom of my—“

“Please don’t finish that sentence.” Deep Voice said.

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 before then.”

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!” Leela laughed.

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 door.

“Hey, Sean,” he said cheerfully. “What’s up?”

“Is Tim here?” Sean aksed.

“No, he just headed out. Said it was something to do with Leela.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Well, knowing them, if they beat each other dead, they can recover okay.”

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 it contained.

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, what with—“

“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 do.”

“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 here.”

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 letter.”

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 find out?”

Tim scratched his head. “Those idiots last night must have heard me say that we were going to the Central Bureaucracy today.” He said.

“So, you pretty much ruined it for us?” Leela said indignantly.

“More like you failed to knock them out. Some black belt.”

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 pleasant experience.

“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 sewers.”

Teresa looked on the verge of tears. “But the sludge, and the sewage, and—“

“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 sewers?”

“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.