Leela sprawled on the couch, staring at the blank TV screen without really seeing it as she tried to work out what was wrong with her head. They were stuck in a parallel universe and all Fry could think about was... but that wasn’t strictly fair, was it? He was probably as confused as she was about the whole thing. And it had been Amy making all the moves, not Fry.
And what about his brother? Leela didn’t have siblings, or at least her parents hadn’t mentioned any, so she didn’t really understand the dynamics of the situation. Yancy seemed like a nice enough guy from what she’d seen of him, as long as you ignored that tendency to assume the worst about everything. He was like an uptight version of Fry. Kinda cute, in a way. Fry didn’t seem particularly happy to see him. His only family. It was a bit callous, wasn’t it?
She put it down to the stress.
A lot of things were down to the stress, she thought, peering at her reflection in the screen. Her eye was a little bloodshot and her brow had that annoying wrinkle in it, the one that took a little longer to fade away every time she frowned. Leela shut her eye and massaged her forehead. She was stuck here for at least a week from what the Professor was saying. A week. They’d be fired again. She’d lose her job thanks to the idiot.
No, that wasn’t fair either. Technically it was her own fault, if ‘Evila’ or whatever she was calling herself could really be considered ‘her’. What was it she’d thought? A mad version of herself with a big gun and a bloodlust? Funny how the world kept dealing these situations out to her, almost as if it wanted her to go crazy.
Well, she was gone now, finally. As long as they didn’t stumble across her again it’d be all right. Leela opened her eye again, a little more confident than before. So what if they were stuck for a little while? Hermes would probably understand once they got back. She could swing something. She was a successful space captain! Something would come up. Something always came up.
Leela glanced at the clock. With a jolt she realised she’d been asleep for nearly two hours. Asleep! She hadn’t even noticed. Leela sat up, rubbing the tiredness from her eye as she looked around the room. There seemed to be some sort of a commotion coming up from the lobby, accompanied by thumping footsteps as someone climbed the stairs to the lounge. A moment later Amy and a large, walking pile of shopping bags emerged.
“I don’t see what the problem is.” Amy tossed her handbag onto the coffee table and started pulling bags from the pile.
“When you said ‘shopping’ I didn’t think you actually meant shopping,” the piled up bags exclaimed with Fry’s voice, before giving out a plaintive sigh and falling to the floor. Fry pulled his hands loose from the bags wrapped around him and shook his head. “I thought you meant, y’know, going to a bar for coffee or something.”
“Gleesh, and miss the ten percent sale at Alien Overlord and Taylor? Are you out of you mind?”
“Apparently,” Fry muttered, staring at the goods piled up around his legs.
He pushed through the bags as if walking through drifted snow, ignoring Amy’s annoyed yell about damaged goods, and slumped down on the couch next to Leela. Amy, muttering in her strange Martian dialect, started dragging her purchases to the far end of the room. Leela waited until Amy was lost in her labour before turning to Fry.
“I hate to say I told you so.”
“So don’t... wait, you didn’t tell me anything!”
“I would have done if you’d given me the time.” Leela folded her arms with a nod. That would show him. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to. Fry narrowed his eyes at her and slowly leaned back, frowning.
“You pretty much accused me of wanting to get Amy in bed and then just ran off,” he said with a terrible, narrow stare. Leela blinked and looked away, searching her memory. She hadn’t, had she?
“But...” Leela looked up to see Fry moving to join Amy, several bags under his arm. “Fry, wait.”
He rounded on her as she approached, ignoring Amy’s annoyed yell as several of her more intimate purchases flew from one of the bags Fry was carrying and flopped to the floor.
“Be-ecause...” Leela was taken aback for a moment. This wasn’t the Fry she knew, the affable kid who never stayed mad at anyone. Stress. Had to be stress. She could feel a headache coming on too. Leela grit her teeth, massaging her temples. “Look... I’m... I’m sorry, all right?”
“You’re sorry. Everyone’s sorry.” He knelt down to pick up Amy’s smalls, barely even noticing what they were as he stuffed them back into the bag. “People keep apologising to me for treating me like an idiot. They don’t seem to think maybe they should just not do it in the first place.”
“I’m not treating you like an idiot, Fry. If you hadn’t noticed, we’re stuck in a parallel universe! It’s a very stressful situation for both of us.”
“Yeah,” Fry muttered. He stood up, ignoring the packets that flopped afresh from half-open bags. “Maybe now you know what it feels like to be stuck in someone else’s world.”
“Fry, what are you...” The words died in her throat. Fry gave her a look of unguarded anguish that lasted but a moment before the more familiar, slightly vacant, though frowning expression returned. He turned away before she could say anything else and dragged the bags toward Amy. The young intern shot her a look somewhere between confusion and disgust. I am way out of my depth here...
The loud buzz of the reception bell cut off Leela’s train of thought before she could take it any further. Without really thinking she started down the stairs to the lobby, only to realise where she was once she’d reached the reception door. She stopped dead in her tracks and swallowed; just ahead, behind the reception desk, a Neptunian secretary sat with her back to the inner door clattering away on a keyboard with two hands as she held a third to an automated manicure machine and spoke into a telephone held in the fourth. She seemed completely oblivious to whoever was trying to get in.
A busy reception just didn’t figure in Leela’s view of the company which, let’s face it, had never been particularly well known or profitable for most of its life. It was strange how ‘classy’ the reception seemed compared to back home, too. Where theirs had a couple of faded posters extolling the somewhat dubious virtues of Planet Express, an outdated calendar and very little else, this place had an entire wall dedicated to service awards and high-profile client endorsements. Al Gore, McWendyKing, even Mom’s Friendly Robot Company had used Planet Express at some point. And been pleased with it, too.
The door buzzed again, gleaning an angry glare and a hissed complaint from the receptionist. She apologised to the telephone and dropped it to the desk in order to activate the intercom. Apparently the idea of taking her fingers from the manicure machine never crossed her mind.
“Ya know that sign about staff training is there for a reason, yeah,” she grumbled as the screen came to life. A flicker of desaturated brown hair passed in front of the intercom camera as whoever was at the door leaned over to peer at the notice. “If ya want to make an appointment ya come back tomorrow, see?”
“How about you let me in and I don’t have you arrested for obstructing a government official in the course of business,” Leela’s voice said over the intercom. Leela stifled a gasp and backed away into the shadows behind the door. She was here already!
The receptionist rolled her bright blue eyes and shrugged with her free arms. Oddly, though, she seemed to be smiling just a little. “A moment.”
Leela realised she wasn’t entirely alone. She looked over her shoulder and found Hermes watching the lobby with distant interest. He glanced at her and, realising she was looking at him, put on his customary frown.
“You might want to go back upstairs,” he muttered, frowning even harder at the receptionist as she finished up her work and leaned over to buzz the door open.
Leela nodded and made her way back up to the employee lounge. Fry was gone and Amy, too, which put all sorts of unsavoury thoughts in her head, plus no small feeling of betrayal. Hadn’t he realised how much what he’d said had hurt her? But even now that accusation rang slightly hollow in her mind; she’d hurt him just as much... but then he didn’t have to go chasing after Amy all the time did he? Conniving little-
“-take a little time to get back, they’re stuck at a checkpoint apparently.” Hermes voice echoed just beyond the door as two pairs of footsteps drew to a halt outside the lounge. “Which is fortunate,” he continued. “There’s someone you need to meet first.”
“Really. This isn’t McDiarmid trying to get into my pants again is it?”
“Not your robot trying another scam?”
“We haven’t seen him all day,” Hermes said, sounding strangely amused by the idea of Bender not being around. Perhaps he was just enjoying the thought of not having the pay him. “It concerns one of the Professor’s inventions.”
“Oh great... well, let’s get it over with.” And with that she pushed the door open and stepped into the room.
There was a moment’s silence as she stared at Leela, lips parted into something that looked like it was about to turn into a sneer, eye widening in shock. Leela looked at herself once again, took in the cryogenics lab uniform and clipboard and travelbag, the permanent half-frown she remembered wearing back when she’d worked there, and the dark brown hair. Brown?
“You have got to be kidding me.”
Leela gave herself a lame little wave and a smile. Funny how quickly she was getting used to the concept of seeing herself everywhere, though she wished Fry were around to distract both herselves from the sight of each other. Right about now he’d say something cute or stupid to break the ice and they’d be able to get on with it all. She glanced around the room, wondering if he’d conveniently turn up with that idiot charm at full blast, they way he normally did. No such luck.
It was her counterpart who eventually performed the ice-breaking, after narrowing her eye at Leela’s hair. “Is this some sort of a joke?”
She threw her clipboard and bag onto the couch as she advanced toward Leela and paused a few feet away, still frowning, which gave Leela time a chance to see how ugly that frown made her look. Hermes moved quietly past her and held out his arm.
“Turanga Leela, meet Turanga Leela.”
“Right.” She looked Leela up and down with an icy expression. Leela could almost swear she felt the temperature in the room drop a few degrees. “The minute I let that lunatic professor of yours take a blood sample I knew I’d end up talking to a clone.”
“Hey, watch it with the clone talk!”
“I’ve tolerated a lot from this place, Mister Conrad, but this time you’ve gone too far.” The ParaLeela retrieved her clipboard from the couch, ignoring Hermes’ protests as she made her way back to the door. Finally he did something almost unbelievable; he slammed his hand against the door to prevent Leela’s counterpart opening it. She turned to him with that same icy expression.
“Get out of my way.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Turanga-” was all Hermes managed to say before an oversized dart whipped through the room and struck the ParaLeela in the neck. She blinked in surprise and tried to reach for the dart but its contents were apparently too fast acting. Her eye drooped and, very slowly, she toppled backward into a snoring heap on the couch. Leela felt her stomach leap into her throat, followed by a momentary bout of nausea. It was a very odd feeling to see yourself shot.
“Well that could have gone better,” Hermes muttered, turning from the door. Professor Farnsworth wandered in, holding a high-power dart gun under one arm and a dart in the other. He was in the process of re-loading when Leela found her voice.
“What did you do that for?”
“She was going to leave before I’d done my tests,” Farnsworth stated. “I wasn’t ready for that yet.”
“Oh calm down, dear, it’s only a mild sedative, by the time it wears off my scans will be completed and then you two can be introduced properly.”
And with that he raised the gun toward Leela and fired. The dart hit her in the shoulder, flooding her body with a strange, prickling numbness that seemed almost like a relief after the insanity of the last few days. Then the lights in the room grew incredibly bright and hot. She tried to brush the sweat from her forehead but her arm refused to cooperate, preferring to weave a small pattern in the air in front of her face. Hermes was shouting something, but Leela couldn’t see what it was because the smell of the ceiling was too purple. Then she felt her feet floating into the air and the floor came up to say hello just before turning out the lights.