were stood outside the rather run-down looking Sisters of Petulant
Mercy clinic a little way from the corner of Quatzl Avenue. The
street itself was still wet from the rain that had fallen all night,
but the sun – feeble as it seemed to be on this world –
was rising high and the sky was as clear as when they’d
arrived, so that the wet concrete and stone sparkled like polished
glass, making their surroundings almost too bright to look at. All
three of them had to shade their eyes against the crystalline glare
as the sunlight chased down the length of the street, leaving them no
shade to turn to.
shrugged the Applied Cryogenics jacket she’d borrowed a little
closer to her neck and then turned up the collar. Despite the bright
light this world still felt much cooler than she was used to, though
her counterpart seemed to have no such problem.
was necessary,” she said, feeling a little put out. “Besides,
he’s friendly for-”
get it,” the other answered, cutting off Leela before she could
utter the hated word. Blue glanced down at the pack of mineral
supplements and energy bars gripped between her fingers. “You
could have mentioned it’s a V.D. clinic.”
wouldn’t have gone,” Leela replied. She looked up at the
sign, which gave little clue as to what the clinic actually did
beyond being a medical institution. “It took my parents a whole
day of arguing to convince me to go for a check-up.”
winced as soon as she heard the word “parents” and, for a
moment, Leela was worried she’d make a scene or retreat back
into the almost catatonic weeping she’d resorted to the night
before. She made a mental not to avoid mentioning the subject for a
while and turned away to look up the street, which she’d always
remembered being busier than it seemed to be on this world. In fact
there was barely even a queue of traffic.
Blue swallowed the mouthful of energy bar she’d tried talking
through and licked her lips. “What’s weird?”
seems so quiet here. Where is everyone?”
looked up and down the street in obvious confusion. She narrowed her
eye at Leela. “Your world must be awfully crowded if you think
this is quiet.”
and Fry looked at each other, then at the street, unspoken but
jealous thoughts passing between them.
doesn’t matter,” Leela said shortly, shrugging at her
coat again. There were some
disadvantages to this world. “We’d better head over to
the D.M.S.V. and see if we can get your license sorted out. Have you
got the forms?”
Blue said, holding up a sheet of paper with an official looking stamp
on it. “The doc said I was in good shape apart from the mineral
deficiency. This should be a snap!”
stamp came down heavily on the form with a loud and very final thump
that splattered just a tiny bit of ink on the page. The stamp’s
owner, a young woman who would have been attractive if she ever
smiled, but was otherwise merely intimidating, placed the stamp back
in its niche and pushed the form across her desk with a single
finger, as if she wished to have as little contact with it as
sorry, your re-licensing request has been denied,” she said
briskly before turning to her computer screen. “If you wish you
may apply for a new license application form with Request eleven
thirty-two B, however you will need to fill out request requisition
forms fifteen and thirty six as well as declaration-”
mind,” both Leela’s said simultaneously. The clerk raised
her eyebrow and gave them a pointed
sideways glance before returning her attention to the screen. Fry
leaned forward to see if he could get a view of what she was writing
but the clerk spotted him and pushed the screen around and out of
sight. She raised her eyebrow again; somehow it had a strangely
commanding effect on him... and then she did smile.
Fry hurried to turn away before she could speak and followed Leela
toward the doors.
was a bust,” Blue said, staring at the red stamp on her papers.
When she looked up again her eye was starting to water; the
beginnings of a tear started to trickle down her cheek until she
roughly wiped it away and stuffed the papers in her pocket. “Well,
thanks for the help. I’m going home to get drunk again.”
there has to be some way we can sort this out,” Leela said. She
pulled the papers from her counterpart’s pocket, ignoring her
protesting squeak, and held them up to the light. “These were
in perfect order, I don’t know why they would have denied
don’t particularly care. Can I go now?”
shook her head but her companion was already pushing her way out of
the door. She sighed, grabbed Fry’s arm and followed her out.
was a surprise waiting for them as a familiar voice spoke. “Leela,
halted just past the threshold of the door and looked around, trying
to gather her bearings. She peeped past the edge of the door and saw
her alternate self a short distance away, staring down the street at
a copy of Fry, though this Fry was relatively smartly dressed in a
button-down suit and sporting a Bureaucrat badge on his lapel. Of
course his shirt was hanging loose and he was still wearing sneakers
but the effect, Leela had to admit, was quite impressive. She gave
her own Fry a sideways glance and then returned her attention to the
her doppelgänger’s voice shuddered as she stared at Fry.
“Where were you?”
I... well, when I lost
you I eventually realised I’d need to get work somewhere.
Professor Farnsworth didn’t want to take me in so I decided to
go back to the Cryogenics lab.”
ran the tests again and, well, here I am.” He smiled at Blue
and held out his hands over his suit, but then his smile faltered as
he regarded the woman. She had her hands over her mouth. “Are
were you!” Blue took a step toward the new Fry, her fists
raised, her face flushed with anger and pain as she glared at him. He
backed up a step, eyes wide with fear even in the bright sunlight
streaming down between the buildings. “You bastard, you weren’t
there when I... you let... WHERE WERE YOU?”
brother, Leela thought. She
touched Fry’s chest, indicating he should stay where he was and
then stepped out on to the street.
alternate Fry stared at one Leela and then the other in confusion.
Leela could see the fearful question in his eyes as he considered the
possibility of suddenly being beaten up not once, but twice, and so
she held out a placating hand.
this isn’t how it looks. I’m not even sure how it looks
double seemed to finally gain control of his jaw, which snapped shut,
though his eyes were still wide. He looked at Leela again.
as such,” Leela said. She turned away from him and took hold of
her counterpart’s arms again, ready to wrestle her back in case
she did something stupid, but Blue’s fight was already gone.
Her unseeing eye stared off into the distance and her skin, far from
the ruddy flush it had shown moments earlier, had taken on a
deathly-looking pallor. Leela snapped her fingers in front of her eye
a few times. “Great. She’s in shock or something, we need
to get her somewhere quiet.”
can use my office,” Fry’s counterpart said, pointing up
at the second floor of the building. Leela blinked in surprise and
looked up at the bank of panoramic windows that wrapped its way
around the second floor.
have an office?”
sure. It’s right this way, I’ll just sort it out with
security. And call me Phil,” he added as he rounded the corner.
wait!” She let go of her alterself and turned to stop him but
he’d already rounded the doorway. There was a beat as Leela
considered what might be happening, whether she should go and find
out, and then Phil
returned, pale-faced and clutching his lunch bag to his chest. He
looked at Leela, and it seemed as if he was exercising a considerable
amount of self-control as he spoke again.
am I standing in the doorway?” His voice shook a little as he
you see...” Leela looked skyward, trying to think of a way to
explain their problem. Was there time? “We’re from
another universe,” she finished lamely. Well, there was nothing
like the truth in times of trouble.
like Star T-”
wouldn’t say that if I were you...”
yeah.” Phil shrugged and turned to watch himself walk out from
the door. He frowned at the sight; Fry frowned back at him,
unconsciously mirroring his counterpart’s actions. “Does
my hair really look that geeky?”
Fry frown grew even deeper and he pinched at his counterpart’s
clothes. “I’m not the one with the dorky suit,” he
not the one who evidently wears the same scruffy pants every day of
put up his fists and started bouncing from one foot to the other in a
pathetic parody of a boxer's hop. “I’ll show you who’s
scruffy you stuck-up-”
enough!” Leela grabbed both Frys by the hair and pinned them up
against the wall.
I don’t care what you two think of each other. She...”
Leela looked over at her counterpart, still stood in the middle of
the sidewalk, only now she had her left hand clamped around her right
wrist and her arm seemed to be shaking. “I
need help, apparently, so both of you had
better knock if off before both of me do
men slipped down the wall on to their rear ends when Leela let go.
Fry rubbed his head and stared up at Leela with a hurt expression;
Phil just stared at the ground for a moment, then turned to look at
Fry, curiosity tempered by worry in his eyes.
we should take the back door,” he said slowly as they stood up,
regarding each other from a short distance apart. “It would
seem odd to have two of me walking in together.”
pretend they’re all drunk,” Fry said, before
demonstrating what he meant by stumbling around the sidewalk. He
laughed to himself, a sound that faded away when he noticed his
alternate wasn’t laughing with him. “Jeez, did they ram a
rod up your ass when you got that badge or something?”
was meant to be funny?” Phil rolled his eyes and motioned
toward the corner of building. “Come on, we can get the
elevator from the parking lot straight to my floor, that way only my
secretary will see us.”
stopped in her tracks. “You have a secretary?”
elevator opened on to a brightly lit corridor, facing a blank, pale
grey wall that seemed perfectly smooth until you got up close enough
to see the faint stucco of a badly applied spray paint. Phil leaned
out and peered up and down the corridor, then stepped out, and
hastily tucked in his shirt. “Come on, this way.”
followed him out, Fry and Leela supporting Blue under each arm. Her
head lolled against her chest but she seemed to be paying at least
some attention to
where they were; every now and then she’d open her eye and look
around, though most of the time she just fixed a gaze on Fry. It
didn’t seem to matter which, the dark look of betrayal was
always the same. Fry had tried returning her stare a few times but
the gaze was so steady, and so empty,
that eventually he gave up trying.
the streets were deserted, the interior of the building felt emptier
still. Fry glanced up and down the corridor a few times as they
followed Phil, certain he could feel eyes burrowing into the back of
his head every time he looked away, but when he glanced behind him
there was just more empty corridor. Not even a security camera –
though he was sure they could hide cameras in just about anything
halted at a door just before what seemed to be the corner of the
building. He leaned over the door and tapped a code into a keypad at
we go, make yourselves at home,” he said as he pushed the door
open and disappeared inside.
office was spectacular, with windows along two walls of the office,
though the far window was partly hidden by a partition that separated
what was evidently a waiting area and the secretary’s desk from
Phil’s own private office. Fry's nostrils flared slightly as
the scent of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the air just as
Phil turned back from a small pot that was perking by the secretary’s
desk and held up a mug.
is incredible,” Leela said. She helped Blue down to a couch by
the window and then turned to look out at the city. After a moment
she turned back and took the coffee from Phil’s hand, then
offered it to her counterpart. Blue, her eye fixed on a spot just
beyond the coffee table, pushed the drink away.
the view isn’t that
spectacular... how on earth did you get an office like this?”
I was going to explain that to you, um... her...”
Phil’s voice faded away as he regarded the two Leela’s.
He didn’t look confused, though, which Leela found interesting.
More puzzled. “When they re-ran the aptitude tests the computer
came up with a different occupation for me. I’m a flying
instructor attached to the central bureaucracy, or I was for a while,
until I got promoted. Now I just stamp things.”
picked up a rubber stamp from his secretary’s desk and held it
up to his face with a dismissive air. “It pays well, but I’d
rather be flying again.”
having trouble with this idea that you could actually fly anything,”
Leela said with a dubious glance toward Fry. He was standing by the
window, staring up at what few clouds had stuck around since
last-night’s rain, completely oblivious to the conversation.
computers said I had a natural aptitude for it. I guess all that time
on Falcon Four did it.”
played those lame flight simulators?” Fry turned from the
window with a dismissive sneer. “No wonder you’re a
blinked at the insult and raised his eyebrows but, again, he refused
to be drawn. He turned to the secretary’s desk and leafed
through a few pieces of paper.
tell me, what were you in here for?”
put down the coffee – it smelled good, but she wasn’t
trying to get my, her,
space captain’s license back. The clerk downstairs denied it,”
she added. Leela leaned down and plucked the papers from Blue’s
pocket. Blue made a half-hearted grab for the papers but was just a
little too slow for Leela, who held them out of reach until she could
hand them to Phil.
I can’t see why she would do that,” he said, pausing on
the second page. “I mean apart from the obvious depth
perception problem there’s nothing here that would count
against you. I’ve licensed one-eyed pilots with far worse
records than this.”
looked up. “You have?”
there was this one guy... wait a moment.” Phil stood up, placed
the papers on the desk and smoothed them out, then pressed an
intercom button. “Sandra, are you in there digging through my
voice that replied sounded very blonde. “Uh... I
don’t know, am I?”
you are,” Phil said with a small grin. He winked at Leela and
let go of the button for a second.
told here there’s an incomplete section twenty six in there
somewhere, she’s spent the last month trying to find it”
he said with a chuckle. Leela figured it must be some sort of
bureaucrat joke. “Sandra, can you find an eleven sixty-two
stroke B and a fifteen dash Z requisition please?”
on it...” Phil leaned back
on the desk. A moment later his office door opened and a – yes,
blonde, Leela thought with a sigh – woman in a pink dress and
hair tied up in a severe bun walked out holding a small folder in her
hands. She stopped when she saw Leela and stared right at her.
say eye,” Leela said, bunching her fists before she could stop
herself. Sandra blinked and smiled.
wasn’t thinking it. Oops!” She put the top of the folder
over her mouth and giggled nervously. “Sorry, I’m all
over the place today. You...” Sandra’s voice trailed off
as she turned and spotted Blue. And then Fry. She blinked again a few
times and placed the folder on the desk as she turned, very
deliberately, away from the scene. “You want me to cancel your
afternoon appointments, Mr Fry?”
eyes now fixed on Blue, nodded slowly. “Sure. Oh, and can you
go and find out who denied this application downstairs please?”
away, Mr Fry,” Sandra said, taking the note Phil handed her
before wiggling out of the office. She paused at the door, looked
back at the strange group and, for a moment, her brow twisted up in
confusion, then she was gone. Phil got up from the desk, wandered
into his office and closed the door behind him, leaving the three
alone in the reception area.
can’t believe that jerk.” Fry slumped down on a
convenient chair with a loud sigh. He picked up a magazine and
thumbed through it aimlessly, then tossed it back on the table. “How
come he gets all this great stuff and all I get is a stupid delivery
heard that,” Phil said
over the intercom. Leela turned to Fry and mouthed a silent reprimand
at him, but Fry just buried himself in another magazine and ignored
her. Phil opened his door again and wiggled a finger at her. “Can
you all come in here please?”
retreated back to his office again. Leela and Fry looked at each
other and shrugged, then turned to follow until Leela realised her
counterpart was still sat down. She turned around and looked at
herself. Blue hadn’t moved an inch from the place she’d
sat down, not even to look at the magazines. She was staring at the
table, her face slack and blank.
come on, this is your job, not mine. You should be dealing with it.”
can barely deal with being sober.”
flopped over on her side and let out a plaintive sigh. Leela waved
Fry into the office and walked back over to Blue, who groaned as
Leela dragged her upright again but didn't resist.
embarrassing yourself,” Leela said. She hooked an arm under
Blue’s shoulder and lifted her to her feet.
can’t you just leave me be?”
I want to go home, and getting you your job back is apparently the
only way I can do that.” Even if you are possibly
insane, she didn’t add.
tugged at her counterpart again and, by degrees, managed to lurch her
into Phil’s office, where she dumped Blue on the chair in front
of Phil’s desk and then went to lean against the wall, panting
slightly from the exertion of dragging herself across the room. I
need to lose some weight.
smiled at them both from behind his desk. In the far corner, Fry
stared at his counterpart with barely disguised contempt, but Phil
seemed quite determined to ignore him as he tapped away at his
screen. For a while the sound of his industrious typing was the only
thing that broke the silence in the well apportioned office until he
looked up at Blue with a sour expression.
right, I’ve found out why you were denied. Someone’s put
a permanent block on your license.”
would do such a thing?” Leela walked over to her counterpart’s
chair and put her hand on the back, just far enough forward that her
fingers brushed against Blue’s shoulder. She looked up at
Leela, resignation clouding her eye, and then down at her hands that
rested limp on her knees.
know who...” she turned to look at Phil, suddenly very earnest.
“Can you do anything about it?”
have a look,” he said as he tapped at the screen again. A
warning popped up though, oddly, Phil smiled at the sight.
like I can help you after all. There’s supposed to be an
accompanying request for confirmation on a block like this but there
wasn’t one recorded, which means that the block isn’t
actually permanent. I’ll just remove the block and you can have
your license back.”
Blue leaned toward Phil with an almost hungry look on her face.
leaned back from her sudden eagerness. He laughed nervously. “Right
about now,” he said, as a slot opened up in his desk. A message
tube rose up and then ejected a message capsule into Phil’s
waiting hands. Phil opened up the capsule and pulled out a sheet of
‘voilà’,” Fry muttered. He pointed at Phil.
“Yeah, I can speak French better than you do, how do you like
earn forty thousand dollars a year,” Phil said without looking
around. Fry’s shoulders sagged in defeat. He slumped back
against the panelled wall and grumbled under his breath. Phil
flattened out the papers on his desk before holding a stubby pen
just need to sign here and here. And here. Initial here here and
here, nose-print there,” he added, holding out an ink pad while
Blue rattled off a string of signatures. Leela and Fry looked at each
other, a strange understanding passing between them as Phil rattled
off a list of extra places to sign or mark. She walked over to stand
by Fry while they watched.
like he’s Hermes.”
more handsome?” Fry finished. He held up both thumbs toward
himself and grinned. “You know that’s what you were gonna
actually, I wasn’t going to say anything,” Leela
retorted. She folded her arms and looked away for a moment, but
couldn’t help her view dragging back to the sight of Phil’s
industriously bureaucratic rambling. Her eye narrowed. “He
might be rich and better dressed, but...”
unfinished sentence hung in the air between them. Fry, in a moment of
unusual clarity, realised he probably shouldn’t say anything to
Leela right at that moment, so he clenched his jaw and
watched his mirror-self shuffling paper instead. He could feel
something wiggling inside his gut at the thought of what she might
have said but, after so many disappointments from that quarter, he
didn't know if it was worth the trouble to find out.
final stamp and a smiling Phil handed over a completed pilot’s
license to Blue.
done. I’ll just-”
was interrupted by the buzzing intercom. Phil rolled his eyes and
reached out to press the flashing line button. “Yes?”
a Miss Proctor on the phone for you, Mr Fry. She said it was urgent.”
Morgan... put her through.” Phil looked up at Blue again and
his smile faltered. She was staring at him, her brow wrinkled and her
expression frozen in shock. “Are you all right?”
you know... her?”
Sure, I... hang on,” he added as the phone on his desk rang.
Phil picked it up and settled it to his ear. “Hi honey, how’s
turned away from the desk and looked out of the window. Every ear in
the room strained to hear the other half of his conversation but he
had the phone pressed to close to his ear. “Right. I’ll...
Leela mouthed at Fry. He shrugged and shook his head as if to say
don’t go there. They both looked down at Blue again to see how
she was reacting, though Fry probably knew better than Leela herself;
he could easily recognise the sort of closed look Leela had when she
was about to chew him out for something, but this
Leela’s lack of confidence seemed to have betrayed her now, to
the point where she seemed unable to work up the courage to say
anything. He was almost thankful, even if it was a loser version of
himself that would have got the dressing-down. Leela in a bad mood
was not a sight he liked to see.
right, I’ll look into it. Yeah. I love y- right. I... right.
See you later.” Phil turned back to his desk and put the phone
down, then he carefully rested his hands on the sheer ebon surface
and rattled his fingers a few times. He fixed a thoughtful look on
Blue and tipped his head to one side as he considered his options.
“That was... educational. Does someone want to tell me what’s
know Morgan Proctor,” Blue said. It wasn’t a question, in
fact it sounded more like an accusation than anything else. She
gathered up her papers and pushed the chair back. “Thank you
for your time, Mr Fry, but I think I’ll be leaving now.”
Phil stood up and put his hand on the papers. He looked into Blue’s
eye, his own eyes wide with... something. Longing? Whatever it was
seemed to give Blue pause to think, as she slowly sat down again.
Phil smiled a little sadly at her. “Morgan... Miss
Proctor... just told me she was
the one who placed the block on your file.”
knew it! That bitch-”
my wife,” Phil finished coldly. He glanced over at Fry. “I
guess you never met her in your universe?”
we did,” Fry said quietly, shaking his head at the memory. The
idea of marrying that
woman was more than a little scary. Then again what could you expect
from someone who played flight
you two are married...” Leela said, just as quietly.
she had me fired,” Blue added with some feeling. She brandished
the papers at Phil like a shield. “She always had it in for me,
ever since she came in to replace Hermes. So I had a few crashes that
week. Everyone crashes their ship now and then, they’re
practically built to be crashed! And then she refuses to give me
compassionate leave to bury my own damned parents, and these people
say you were supposed to be there to stop me killing them!”
leaned over the desk, grabbed Phil by his lapels and dragged him
across stacks of paper and stationery, knocking them all over the
floor. “You’re in it together aren’t you! You and
her, you made me crazy so you could, could have... have something,
I don’t know what it is but you... you...”
struggled against Blue’s grip. “I didn’t even know
she was working there!”
fast as she'd grabbed hold of him, Blue let go again. Phil fell on to
the desk with a loud thump. Blue slumped back into her chair,
completely spent, and heaved out a gut-wrenching sob that had Fry and
Leela by her side in an instant. They looked at each other across her
head; Fry shrugged and backed off again to lean on the wall, leaving
Leela alone to deal with the problem. Phil joined him a moment later,
surprisingly unperturbed by the whole ordeal, though he looked at Fry
with renewed interest.
spend a lot of time with this woman?”
nodded. “Yeah.” He looked at his alter-ego, took in the
suit and the still-ruffled shirt, then turned to look around the
office before letting his gaze rest back on Leela again. “This
is one screwed up world.”
me about it,” Phil said quietly. He held up his hand. There was
a ring on his finger, and when he saw it Fry felt a pang of jealousy.
Every single version of himself he’d met so far – all two
of them – had been married. Happy. It wasn’t fair!
let his hand drop again. “I don’t think Morgan would...”
voice trailed off and they looked at each other. Of course she would,
they both thought at the same time.
my world she tried to have Bender’s mind erased so she wouldn’t
robot. He’s my friend,” Fry said. He was looking at Leela
again, unable to take his eyes off her in case she disappeared or
something. He managed a quick glance at Phil.
always wanted a robot for a friend,” Phil said. Even Fry could
hear the sadness in his voice. He patted his alter-self’s
shoulder and tried to smile as Phil continued speaking. “Morgan
said it was a stupid idea. She thinks all robots should have their
personalities removed because it makes them inefficient.”
you ever disagree with her?”
don’t disagree with Morgan.” Phil’s reply was
accompanied by a smile that withered almost as soon as it appeared.
He looked around his office and when he spoke again there was a
bitterness in his voice that hadn’t been there before. “She’s
my wife. I’m supposed to love her and sometimes... sometimes I
see that woman I fell in love with. Mostly all I see is... she didn’t
even take my name, said it was a waste of resources to change all the
paperwork. Can you believe that?”
nodded. He definitely could believe that of Morgan. There had been
flashes of a woman who might have been fun to know but a lifetime of
bureaucracy had wrapped her up in an impenetrable shell of red tape
and efficient bluster. With everything he'd learned, it was getting
hard to be angry at this rich and successful version of himself.
Well, maybe he could be a bit angry; the guy did have such a nice
office. Probably had a nice house in the suburbs too. And
turned, ready to let forth with another jibe to needle at the nerd
but he was already gone, kneeling beside Blue, holding her hand and
patting it gently while Leela looked on from a short distance.
try and help you. You need to have your flying skills assessed by a
flight instructor before you can officially fly again,” Phil
was saying. He picked up Blue’s papers and handed them to her
as he stood up. “Morgan can be prickly but I’m sure I can
reason with her over this. She can’t place a block on your file
without a very good reason, and once I’ve assessed you she
won’t have it.”
took the papers and looked into Phil’s eyes. “You...
you’d do that? For me?”
It’ll get me out of the office for a couple of days.
Besides...” he sat on his desk and regarded Blue for a moment
before going on. “If these two are anything to go by we could
have been good friends and I guess I sort of owe you for how things
have turned out.”
winked at Fry again and then smiled at Leela before standing up. Fry
was starting to find that wink annoying. Phil made his way back
around the desk and poked his intercom again. “Sandra, I’m
going out for a couple of days, take care of the paperwork for me
on it, Mr Fry,” Sandra
replied. Phil picked up an attaché case was in the process of
loading it when the intercom buzzed again.
I be duplicating all your paperwork now, sir?”
why would you do that?”
No reason.” The intercom
clicked off. Phil stared at it for a moment, then looked up at Fry,
his brow furrowed in something like confusion. He finished packing
his case and snapped the lid shut before looking at the assembled
I’ll just swing by my place to pack some things and then meet
Express,” Blue said. She stood up. “It’s where your
wife keeps my
smiled again, though more nervously this time. He held up a placating
hand. “I’ll talk to her. Just meet me outside the
building in an hour.”