Fan Fiction

Parallel Lives - A Road Not Taken, part 10
By Graham Dawson

Fry flew up out of the parabox with a loud yelp, swinging his arms for balance as he swept into the air, and almost immediately hit the ceiling. He seemed to hang in the air for just long enough to wonder if perhaps all those old cartoons had been true before he plummeted toward the floor, to land in a painful heap at the foot of the store-room shelves.

The box stood atop the shelves again, tilted toward the ground – and Fry – in a worrying satire of their previous journey. Fry barely had time to even laugh at the repeated events before Leela came flying out straight at him, sort of like that dream he kept having only much, much faster. He whimpered and closed his eyes.

It wasn't quite as painful this time.

“Sorry, Fry,” Leela muttered as she lifted herself up from his prone form. Fry tried to give what he hoped was a comforting reply but which came out as more of a wheezing cough. He flopped over onto his side. It was easier than trying to stay upright. For some reason the gun lying on the floor next to his head was incredibly fascinating.

Somewhere along the way Leela must have removed his rebreather and mask, though he couldn't really recall when. Had he been asleep? It seemed likely, sleep was one of his favourite occupations after all. He sat up at the sound of Bender's clunking footsteps and smiled. “Home at last... hey Bender.”

“Fry.” Bender looked down at his friend with a robot's best attempt at puzzlement gracing his otherwise immobile features. “You've been gone since yesterday. Not that I'm worried about you or anything,” he added just a little too quickly.

Fry smiled as he pushed himself to his feet. Bender, good old Bender, always there to lend a friendly laugh and a helping gripper. Well... maybe just the laugh.

“Have you seen Leela?”

“Oh sure, she was on the ship bossing everyone around like she always does. If you axe me she needs to chill out a bit.”

“She's had a hard life,” Fry said quietly. He put his hands in his pockets and then turned to Bender with a frown. Something had changed about him. “Oh, hey, you got your head fixed already? That was fast.”

“Got my what? Are you huffing altair baccy or something, Fry?”

“Never mind,” Fry said, smiling to hide his confusion. Maybe Bender just decided he didn't want to keep the memory of being shot in the face. Fry sometimes wished he could do that, erase a few memories, maybe even replace them with something else. It'd make things easier. He winced as another twinge of pain washed through his head.

“You all right, Fry?”

“Sure, I just bumped my head.”

“As long as you don't collapse and leave me to load the ship all by myself. That's what big boots told me to tell you, by the way. To load the ship.”

“Right...” Normally Fry would have complained about it but not today, when he could see just how great his life really was for him right now. Even his worst days hadn't been so bad, really, and at least he had friends. Even if they did wail on him now and then, he thought as he glanced at Bender. The ever-present cigar was back in place as the robot wandered along the boxes, tapping each one in turn. Fry looked at the paraboxes piled high around him and the smile he wore shrunk just a little, replaced by an eager determination to get the boxes as far away from himself as possible. Without another word, and much to Bender's confusion, Fry started dragging boxes to the loader as fast as he was physically able.

“Fry, buddy, you're making even less sense than normal and you're working. You sure you're all right?”

“Couldn't be better!”

Leela looked up at the re-assuring clatter of the hangar doors as they slowly drew back to reveal a crisp blue sky. For a while she simply stood basking in the bright heat of the sun with her eye closed, letting the warmth – so powerful compared to the dull world they'd left behinds – soak into her skin as if she were some sort of lizard basking on a rock. It was comforting enough that she almost managed to forget the last two days. Almost.

The doors screeched to to a halt at the end of their tracks, rocking slightly as they settled into place, snapping Leela out of her reverie. She looked around and up at the ship where Fry was, surprisingly, already unloading a large pile of boxes onto the cargo lift. She waved to him before walking up to the conference room to find the others, hoping she'd catch Hermes in a good enough mood to keep her job.

Surprisingly enough Hermes wasn't there, even though she'd know him to sit waiting for days on end to complete paperwork in the past. On the bright side the map was waiting on the table, neatly folded with a printed set of instructions for inputting its coordinates into the ship's computer, which meant they probably hadn't been fired yet. Leela scribbled a note to Hermes and stuck it to the conference table in front of his usual seat before returning to the hangar, where Fry had just finished loading the cargo lift.

“How many?”

“Two thousand, give or take,” Fry said, wiping his hands together.

“Six trips. It looks like each one is about three days out and back again.” Leela held the map up to the light and examined it in more detail, twisting it this way and that to see how sure her calculations were. “Well... could be worse, I guess.”

“Yeah. By the way, could I borrow your shower?”

“Ehh, sure, you deserve a break once in a while. But go get Bender first so we can get this over with as quickly as possible.”

Leela gave Fry a bright smile and activated the cargo lift, which quickly ascended into the belly of the ship. Fry turned away, ready to retrace his steps to the storeroom when Bender emerged, carrying one of the boxes above his head. He trotted over to Fry and thrust the box into his face.

“Fry, you wanna sneak into this universe and loot it a bit?”

“You asked me that yesterday.”

“I did?” Bender gave the box a puzzled glance then watched Fry's retreating back as he walked toward the ship. He shook his head as he made his way back to the storeroom, a single question stuck in an annoying loop around his mind.


Fry found Leela wandering around the flight deck, rubbing her head with one hand while she lifted up various loose panels with the other. He sat down at his console and listened to Leela's muttering for a while, until it got boring and he had to say something.

“Missing something?”

“The keys. I could have sworn I'd put them in the ship before we left.”

“Maybe Amy has them,” Fry said, pointing out at the conference area. Leela looked across the bridge at him, then at the conference area, where Amy had settled into a seat facing the ship with her arms folded across her chest.

“I guess she could have tidied up while we were away,” she said, slowly rubbing her chin. Amy couldn't see them inside the ship, that much was obvious, but she was staring intently at the cockpit. For some reason she didn't look happy at all.

“Lie in McDonalds?”


“Oh. Right.”

Before making her way off the bridge Leela gave it one last look, not quite sure why she felt so out of place.

Amy stood up the moment Leela reached the top of the stairs, advancing toward her with undisguised resentment. She held out the ship's keys, dangling them at arms length in front of Leela's face.

“Looking for these?”

“Yeah,” Leela said, reaching for the keys. Amy snatched them out of reach. “What's got into you?”

“Gleesh! You know exactly what's wrong, Leela!”

“Actually I don't,” Leela said as she slid into one of the seats. Fry wandered past her and leaned on the rail. Amy stared at Leela with a look of pure disbelief. She held up the keys as she sat down opposite Leela; they clattered to the table's top a moment later.

“Stop playing games, Leela. You just can't stand that I might be able to fly the ship as well as you. That's why you came back early, isn't it?”

“Early? Amy, I don't know what-”

“Do you know how much influence it takes to get a honeymoon suite at the Vatican Hilton? Do you know how many favours I had to pull in for you? I had to fill in forms! Me!”

Leela and Fry shared a look. Complete confusion was normal for Fry but now Leela thought she might have an idea of how he felt. “Amy... what are you talking about?”

“Yeah, what honeymoon suite?” Fry finally sat down. If anything his confusion had only grown deeper. “Did I miss, like, a memo or something?”

Ai yah, I can't believe you two!”

Amy stormed off at the head of a trail of Martian expletives that only cut off when the door slid gently closed behind her. And for some reason that caught Leela's attention, more than anything else, as being incredibly wrong. She looked around the conference area as she tried to work out what was going on until her eye came to rest on the deep red surface of the conference table. Deep, burgundy red.

“Oh no...”

Fry looked at Leela with a curious expression but, before he could say anything, the far slid open again and Amy returned, still muttering her constant stream of invective as she lead Hermes and Professor Farnsworth toward the conference table. Normally the sight of Hermes approaching with the expression he wore now meant there would be a need to clean ink from at least three fingers and one other appendage before the hour was up but, then, normally he would have been carrying an attaché case rather than a vicious looking laser rifle. Farnsworth pulled a pistol from his pocket as they approached, moving with more speed than his decrepit frame would suggest.

He had Leela in his sights before she could even stand up. Hermes levelled his rifle at Fry.

“Okay, now I just got off the phone wid the nice people at the Vatican Hilton and they said you two was quite firmly established in the honeymoon suite. Yet here you are.”

Fry held up his hand. “This whole honeymoon suite thing...”

“Quiet, Fry,” Leela muttered, easing herself out of her seat. She tried to smile at Hermes but it was hard; the gun made her nervous. “Look... this has all been a terrible misunderstanding.”

“You're right about that,” Hermes said as he pressed his thumb against the rifle's safety catch. The gun whined as its capacitors started to charge. “Be careful, mon, they could be dangerous.”

Farnsworth held a scanning device up with his free hand and approached them warily. He waved the device over Leela's frame, all the while keeping the pistol pointed at her head.

“It's true. Their quantum signature is out of sync with ours.”

“They were trying to steal the ship,” Amy said, pointing at Leela. “I say we blow the tyen-sah duh uh-muo back to hell!”

Leela blanched. She didn't need a translator program to figure that one out. “Amy?”

“Quiet, you... you, doo gway... whatever you are!”

The whining of Hermes's rifle faded into the ultrasonic at about the same time as a green light started to flash on its butt. The bureaucrat glanced at his gun.

“So are they the same, Professor?”

“Ohh they're evil all right,” Farnsworth exclaimed as he adjusted the scanner. He held it toward Leela again. “The question is, how evil?”

“Doo gway! Uh muo!”

“We have to test them,” Farnsworth continued, completely ignoring Amy's outbursts. He tapped his cheek as he thought. “Perhaps some combination of holy water and a cattle prod would suffice...”

That settled it. Leela edged away from the table to give herself more space, raising her hands at the same time to try and put the others more at ease. She glanced at Amy; the young intern was staring hate at Leela, repeating the same two words under her breath over and over and clutching at some pendant around her neck. She'd never seen her friend – or at least a facsimile of her friend – so worked up over anything in her life.


Demon!” Amy elbowed the Professor aside and tried to wrestle Hermes' gun from his grasp. The simple wooden cross around her neck clunked against the rifle's composite casing as they fought for possession of the gun, with Amy screaming curses at Leela and Hermes and anyone else she could name in the heat of her anger.

“Fry, for god's sake, run!”

She needn't have bothered. Fry had already bolted over the rail; Leela heard his muffled yelp as he hit the floor at an awkward angle. At about the same time Amy managed to wrest the gun from Hermes' grip only to be thrown off balance by the sudden shift in momentum. The gun fired of it's own accord when it hit the floor, blowing a huge chunk out of the conference table and Leela, seeing an opportunity, ducked away and vaulted over the rail.

She found Fry hobbling toward the storerooms, too slow to make it before Amy got her footing again. Leela grabbed his collar and practically flung him over her shoulder as she belted for the door. A laser blast sizzled past her ear as she reached the corner and cut a black burn across the concrete floor. Flinging Fry inside, Leela turned at the storeroom door to see Amy perched at the top of the stairs, eyes almost aglow with righteous anger as she struggled with the slow-charging gun. Amy swore and thumped her hand against the weapon's casing in frustration when it refused to fire. Leela took the opportunity to duck inside the room. She slammed the door closed and ran into the store's interior.

Something tripped her and skittered across the floor whilst Leela managed to stumble to a halt against the shelves. She looked back to see the gun she had brought from the previous universe lying against a sealed box, then looked around at the high-stacked shelves; almost all the boxes were sealed shut, a fact she hadn't noticed before, prompting the thought that perhaps her alternate here had been a little more careful. Or perhaps the simple belief that all the other universes were evil had been enough.

Leela picked up the weapon and made her way back through the room, seeking out Fry and a box to escape into. She found him cowering at the far end of the room behind a stack of empty storage racks.

“We're boned,” was all he could say. Leela was inclined to agree but she forced the thought aside as she grabbed Fry's arm and dragged him over to the next row of shelves. Why, she had no idea, but at least she was doing something. Unfortunately Amy picked that moment to turn up at the far end of the room, waving the gun in the air. She spotted Leela right away and aimed the gun at her without hesitating.

“Amy, wait!”

“Quiet, demon! You thought you could steal my soul but you were wrong!”

“I'm not-” Leela ducked as Amy fired again, knowing it was useless if Amy was in any way a decent shot. She wasn't. The beam arced harmlessly over Leela’s head, burning a hole in the far wall, filling the room with a stink of burned paint and scorched composite.

Muttering a silent prayer of thanks to any gods that might be listening Leela tightened her grip on Fry's arm, turned and ran down the length of the nearest shelving stack for the far side of the storeroom. She ducked to her left at the end and ran onward, Fry stumbling behind like a puppy on too-short a leash.

Up ahead, she saw a shadow – please let it be someone else! - and to her relief Bender emerged carrying a box; crucially, a box with the lid off. Leela yelled, triumphant, moments before a laser beam burned across her shoulder.

She screamed, more in shock than pain, and let Fry tumble to the floor. Ignoring the pain in her back Leela turned and let a shot rip back down the corridor at Amy, who yelped in surprise and ducked back behind the boxes, still swearing every other word. She lifted Fry up by his coat and half turned toward Bender.

“Hey big boots, what's going on?”

“Nothing,” Leela snapped. She grabbed Fry with both hands, her grip a little awkward around his coat and the gun, and bodily hauled him through the box before he could protest. “Get out of here Bender. Amy's gone nuts.”

“Aww, she's always nuts,” Bender muttered as he watched Leela's feet disappear into the box. Without knowing why he did it, Bender slid the box back onto a shelf and scampered from the store before Amy could find him.