The door swooshed open and the one-eyed woman shambled into her apartment, tossing her lime-green coat on the floor and stumbling over to the single chair in the room. Her large eye seemed glazed, and she sat for a moment, not moving or caring what happened.
Part of her was waiting for her pet to come comfort her, but then she remembered – he was gone. Gone like everything else that mattered in her life.
Turanga Leela put her face in her hands and wept, as she had at the end of every day for the two weeks since she had buried Lars Fillmore. She put a stoic face up before her co-workers, but she did little more than fly the ship, bark orders and somehow make her way home everyday.
Every day was dead to her now that Lars was gone. Killed, ostensibly, by that bastard Nudar and his greed. Leela shook her head. Really, though, the universe had killed her love – the iron law of time paradox. Should she hate it, too? Because she did – hated the whole damn universe with a passion that sometimes frightened her.
It didn't help that things between her and Fry were so...awkward. Her deep friendship with the twentieth-century man, a bond that might have helped her out – that had always helped her before – was now just another reminder of her pain.
Leela went into her bathroom and studied herself in the mirror. Every time she saw Fry, all she could think was – there could be Lars. She couldn't help herself, she knew it – Lars was Fry, with another decade of maturity and perspective.
Every time Fry did something…fryish, she'd yell at him. But it wasn't the old, exasperated yelling that she and he had laughed through in the past. This was – Lars wouldn't do that yelling. And every time Fry looked at her and saw that in her eye, another little piece of him died from the pain. She could see it, like she could see into his soul.
It was hurting him. And that hurt her. She didn't want to be the cause of such pain in Fry, who she cared for deeply. But she also was adrift without his friendship to rely on. She was trapped in some sort of vicious cycle where she hurt him, that hurt her, and they kept spiraling down like gas getting sucked down a black hole of despair – Aagh. She clutched at her face with her hands.
So, she blotted out the pain by trying to keep her thoughts at the most basic level. She came home, she drank rotgut gin until she passed out, and she went to work in the morning. In such a manner the days were at least passable, if not quite bearable.
Leela stared at her bloodshot eye and graying skin in the mirror. Well, she was thinking too much again. Time for a drink.
A loud, exasperated sigh came from the living room. She turned carefully, ready for another lecture from her father about what she was doing to herself. Turanga Morris was a loving father, but he seemed -
She froze. A short man was whisking what looked like eggs in a bowl in her kitchen. A man she had never seen before.
“Good evening, Ms. Turanga. How do you like your eggs?”
“What the - ” Leela rubbed her eye again. “Who the hell are you?”
“A very complicated question, Leela – can I call you Leela?”
“No, it isn't,” she said tiredly. Somehow the short, precise little man didn't frighten her. “'Who are you' is pretty simple, as questions go.” She put her hands on her hips and gave him the evil eye.
“Quite clever, yes!” The man beamed at her, putting down the bowl and whisk. “You never did say how you like your eggs.”
“I like omelets -”
Suddenly a plate with a steaming cheese-and-broccoli omelet appeared in Leela's hands. “Aagh!” she said, almost dropping the plate.
“Careful,” the man chided, taking a bite of his own. “I can't just wave my hands and get you some more.” That seemed to amuse him.
“Look, what the Robot Devil are you doing in my apartment?” Leela was starting to fume.
“I'm here to show you something,” the man said around a mouthful of omelet.
“Show me – ewww!” she said. “You're not a pervert, are you? I'll kick you right where the sun doesn't shine.”
“No, I'm not a pervert. Actually, I'm the zeitgeist of the whole Earth's computational system, expressed as a post-Singularity entity capable of time/space shifting and other brane manipulation.”
“Oh Lord,” Leela said, putting her plate on the floor and sitting in her chair. “I said earlier I hated the universe.”
“Well, I'm not the universe,” the man said, hopping up and sitting nonchalantly on her counter. She noticed he was wearing a stylish, expensive dark green business suit. “You know, this would be easier if I was talking to Fry.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I'd just say I was Skynet and move on. Anyway, I really am here to show you something.”
Leela threw up her hands. “Alright, let's assume you're real and not a figment of my breakdown. I'm ready to believe just about anything right now. What is it you want to show me?”
“The future, my dear. Or selected parts of it, anyway.” The man jumped down and walked over to her. “Here, take my hand.” He held out his finely manicured left hand to her.
Leela suppressed hysterical giggling and stood up. She studied the man's hand, shrugged and said “Well, I wasn't doing anything else tonight.” She took his left hand in hers
Her apartment vanished around her.
Without really noticing, Leela realized she and the man were in the observatory of the Planet Express Building. “How the - ” Then she realized that, across the room, talking to Dr. Zoidberg, was...her.
“We're not really here,” the man said conversationally. “Or more precisely, we're here, but made up of axions which cannot interact with the local fermions.”
“How...what...” Leela was flabbergasted.
“We're about twenty days forward in time from when you and I were just talking. What we're looking at is an event that will occur less than three weeks in your future, Leela. Now, pay attention,” the man said as the door to the lift slid open.
Fry walked in, hand-in-hand with a very pretty blond girl in a short skirt.
Leela felt something inside her twist, and uncomfortable feelings hit her gut. “Who the hell is that?”
“Just watch and listen.”
“Oh hey, everyone,” Fry called out. “This is Colleen.”
“This is awkward!” Bender said, and then looked at future-Leela. “Introducing your new girlfriend to Chesty McNag-Nag!” He laughed evilly.
Future-Leela slapped him in “little Bender” and turned to Fry and Colleen. Future-Leela sneered. “And where did you meet...her?”
“Oh, down at Times Square,” Fry said in that infuriatingly blithe way he had.
“At a slutty dress contest?” Future-Leela suggested innocently.
Leela snickered at future-Leela's joke, and then remembered no one could hear her.
“Jeez, Leela,” Fry said in wonder. “What's gotten into you today? Forget lunch?”
“I don't know, Fry. Forget your manners? Your brain? Your common sense?” Future-Leela half-snarled.
Fry shook his head. “We're headed out, everyone else. Have a good day,” he said and tugged Colleen out. The blond woman waved at them all, but saved a curiously victorious glance at future-Leela. As the door shut behind them, future-Leela growled and stalked out of the room, muttering under her breath about faithless, idiot delivery boys.
Leela turned to the man. “So that treacherous bastard goes and gets a girlfriend less than three weeks from now?”
The man nodded. “Why do you think he did that, Leela?”
“Because he's a thoughtless idiot,” Leela ranted. “Because he's a child stuck in a man's body -”
“It was rather immature of him, wasn't it?”
“Of course it was! I realize that I haven't been the easiest person to be with lately, but that's not what Lars would -” She stopped.
The man looked at her without saying anything.
Her face a frozen mask, Leela said flatly “I'm doing it again, aren't I?”
“God, is this what he felt when I met Lars?” Leela axed wonderingly.
“There's more,” the man said simply. He took her hand and the Planet Express observatory dissolved around them.
They reappeared in deep space, less than twenty meters from the rippling silvery anomaly. “We've jumped forward about two weeks,” the man explained. “Here they come,” he added, pointing.
Leela narrowed her eye as she saw the Nimbus moving into position. “Oh Lord, what is that idiot going to do now?” she groaned.
“Watch this spot,” the man said, and pointed. Suddenly a circle appeared around a small dot, like a targeting reticule in a viewscreen. The circle – and the dot – grew larger. Leela found it difficult to judge the distance and speed, but she realized as it grew closer that the object was a space-suited figure with a rocketpack that must have dropped from the Nimbus.
“What are they -” As the person shot past her point of view, she saw the shock of orange hair through the helmet and realized it was Fry.
And he was weeping.
“What is Fry doing?” she asked, suddenly afraid.
“Leaving,” the man said.
“What about that Colleen woman?”
“She's...gone. It's complicated.” The man waited a beat. “He thinks you're gone, too. Not even friends anymore.”
Fry fired his braking jets and slowed until he hung before the writhing silvery anomaly, and hung his head low, as well as someone in a pressure suit could.
“That's not safe,” Leela said worriedly. “He's not actually thinking of -”
Fry let out a deep sob – part of Leela's mind wondered how she could hear it – and said “And so, to everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I say my last goodbye.” Then he triggered the rocketpack, pushing through the silvery wall of the anomaly and disappearing from the universe.
“Fry!” Leela yelled. “What the hell is he doing?”
“He thinks no one loves him in this universe, so he left,” the man explained.
“But I -” Leela bit her tongue. What could she say? Fry couldn't hear her anyway.
The man took her hand again. “Let's go.”
Leela tried to shake his grip off. “What about Fry? Is he okay?”
“He'll be back. Whether he's okay or not is...a more difficult question.”
“He feels all alone now,” Leela said sadly. “Unfortunately I know how he feels.”
The stars vanished around them.
A cheap, but neat room took form around them.
“Is this my parent's dining room?” Leela asked in wonder.
“Yes. We've jumped forward a few months.”
Leela saw herself – wearing some sort of electronic collar! - eating at the dining room table with her parents and -
“Oh Lord. What's Zoidberg doing here?”
“Eating. Your mother is an excellent cook, by the way. It smells delicious.”
“Liar. We can't smell anything.”
The man looked amused. “You can't.”
“Ah, here we are!”
There was a knock at the door; Mr. Turanga opened the window and let in a deranged looking Fry. Leela let out an unconscious sigh of relief at seeing the delivery boy unhurt.
Fry seemed frantic. “Have you seen Bender? He’s gone nuts!”
Leela said as an aside to the man, “This is news?”
Suddenly a vent in the wall dropped open, and Bender jumped in to her parents house, waving his manipulators around like mad, clutching a long sword.
“Well that panics the disco,” Leela observed.
Future-Leela went to strike, but her collar sparked and she collapsed on the ground.
“What is that thing?”
“Docility collar. They had a special at Office Depot,” the man said cryptically.
Bender picked up a candle and spat a ball of fire at future-Leela, shouting something about a “spell.”
Future-Leela dove out of the way, but the fireball set the couch ablaze.
The fire was spreading, but Fry leaped between Bender and the Turangas, pointing a spoon like a magic wand. “I cast a freeze ray upon you!”
“That’s ridiculous; there's no such thing as a freeze ray,” Bender said laughing.
“I cast Cone of Coldness!” Fry tried again.
Leela put her face in her hands. “I can't watch these two idiots.”
Bender gasped. “Fancy men are defenseless against a cone of coldness!” He froze himself into position and clanked to the ground, as the others beat the flames out.
Leela's mother put a tentacle around Fry's shoulder as he knelt by his fallen friend. “That was very brave, Philip.”
“It was, wasn't it?” Leela asked the man, as she watched her future self help her father throw water on the burning curtains.
“No,” she said, thinking to herself. “It was...considerate.”
The man smiled and took her hand again. “Another stop.”
When they reappeared, they were outside the Planet Express building, sitting at the little cafe across the corner from the entrance.
“Tea?” the man axed, holding out a mug to her.
Leela frowned, remembering her last time at the cafe. “Did we have to come here?”
“It's got the best view of what's coming up. We jumped forward again, about six months from last time.” The man put down her mug, picked up his own and took an appreciative sip. “Ahh. Oh, here you come!”
Future-Leela slipped out of the front door of the Planet Express building, carrying a terrarium cradled under one arm.
“Are those – pink camouflage pants?” Leela asked, horrified. “Apparently I lost my sight again.”
“I didn't quite understand the theme, but apparently they make sense in context.”
As future-Leela was sneaking around the wall, Fry came up to her. “I've been missing you, Leela – even more than when you're here.”
Leela couldn't help but smile at Fry's dopey line.
“I miss you, too, Fry,” future-Leela said. “You probably think -”
Leela missed the rest of what she was saying as something caught her eye. “Hey – is that...a tinfoil hat on Fry's head?”
“What? Yes, yes - now ignore it and shhh! I didn't bring you all this way to miss this!”
Leela turned her attention back to Fry interrupting future-Leela. “I don't need to know all that, Leela. It's you – that's all I need to know.” He put his hand on her shoulder and looked into her eye.
Leela watched her future self's eye fill up with tears. Then future-Leela said, “Goodbye, sweet goofbag,” kissed Fry on the cheek and ran off.
Leela wiped her own eye with her hand. “He is such a sweet goofbag.”
“If only he was more mature,” the man said.
Leela glared at him. “Oh, shut up. Don't you think I've chastised myself for those thoughts for ten lousy years? It's hard to change your thin-thin-thinking!” she choked out as sobs suddenly engulfed her.
Breathe, dammit, she thought to herself. Gaining control, one hand pressed to her throat, she said, “My whole life has been discipline. I don't know if I can be with someone who doesn't have any...any control of themselves.” Looking up, she focused her puffy red eye on the man. “I can't handle that...disorder. Do you understand?”
“No,” the man admitted. He took her free hand in both of his. “Remember, I'm the expression of a massive parallel processing artificial intelligence spread across all eight continents. I can model emotions, I observe them with more clarity than you, I can mimic them better than any of your present-day robots, but I don't really feel them. Not the way you do.
“We both carry the past with us, though. You have to deal with a heritage of chaos, and you've used a lifetime of drive and discipline to keep that at bay. I have to deal with a creation that's chaotic, to say the least.”
“I meant to ask – wouldn't people notice that the worldwide computer systems have...well, woken up into a super-intelligent godlike being?”
“They will notice when it happens.” The man smiled. “I can travel through time. What makes you think it’s happened yet, from your temporal perspective?”
“Ah,” said Leela, even though she wasn't sure she understood.
“Well, one more thing I want to show you,” the man said. He squeezed her hand, and the cafe vanished from around them.
They reappeared in a crowded set of bleachers, under a clear dome floating in deep space. Leela found herself sitting in one of the bleachers close to the front. “Is that...Fry?” she asked. “Why is he wearing matching jackets with Leo Wong?”
“He works for Wong now; he's risen to be the number two man in Wong's organization.”
“Fry?! Working?” Leela shook her head. “Did we come to the future or a parallel universe?”
The man snickered. “Future, Leela. About eight months forward of the cafe.”
“But what about Planet Express, if Fry is working for Amy's parents?”
“Planet Express is on a bit of a...hiatus. Fry has shown himself to be a responsible and dedicated employee to Leo Wong.”
“But -” before she could say anything else, she caught view of who was heading to the podium. “Holy Flock of Seagulls, it's that idiot again.”
Zapp Brannigan took to the podium in his white-and-gold dress DOOP uniform, and began spouting out a rarefied form of his usual hooey.
“Well, this is a good time to fill you in on the background. See that purple star there? Wong wants to collapse it into a black hole for his new construction project. You and your friends are trying to stop him, because that asteroid has lifeforms on it.”
“And Fry's helping him?” Leela asked in amazement.
“He seems to be,” the man said.
Leela sat, thinking furiously. “I don't believe it,” she said, angered. “Fry is...dense sometimes, but he's the most decent man I've ever met. He would never be involved in something despicable like this.”
“I'm glad you think so. I really am,” the man said. He did look pleased.
Leela turned to look at her friend. He had the silly tinfoil hat up on one hand, and seemed to be scanning the crowd intently. His gaze swept over where she and the man were sitting, and he actually hesitated for a moment, before moving on.
“What's Fry doing?”
“Just listen,” the man said cryptically.
“What do you -” Suddenly Leela realized that she could hear, over the dull roar of the crowd and Zapp's amplified annoyance, softly but clearly, Fry's voice.
Why can't I find it? Where is the Dark One? I can read everyone's thoughts here – except mine!
Leela gasped. “Reading minds? Is he serious? And what's this Dark One?”
“He's deadly serious. The Dark One is pure evil - and I think he's figured out who it is.”
I'm the Dark One! No!
“No!” Leela mimicked Fry's mind-shout. “That can't be!”
A terrific crash came from her right. The Planet Express ship smashed through the glass dome, and she saw herself running down the landing steps, laser gun drawn. Future-Leela shouted through a bullhorn, “Everyone put your hands in the air!”
“What am I doing now?” Leela asked, somewhat annoyed that she was still wearing those atrocious pants – black would be much more slimming.
“Trying to stop the stellar implosion, of course,” the man said. “Watch Amy.”
“How could I not? That camouflage sweat-suit makes her look like a clown,” Leela said maliciously.
Leela winced as Amy drove the putter into her father's midsection. “Ooo,” Leela said. “I see Amy's finally working out her issues with her parents.”
Leela gave the man a withering look.
Future-Leela was going to snip the cable running from the detonator when Fry reached out to her “No! Leela! You have no idea what's really going on!”
“Then tell me!” Future-Leela implored him.
Fry looked down, defeated. “I...I can't.”
Leela held her breath as her future-duplicate stared at Fry. “That's alright,” future-Leela said, with an enigmatic smile. “You're you, and that's all I need to know.” She handed him the detonator.
Leela breathed out, a tear forming in the corner of her eye. She felt like her future self – no, she - had passed an important test.
“Leela, what are you doing?” Amy shouted. “We became fugitives to stop this!”
Leela's heart warmed as future-Leela began giving a stirring defense of their friend.
Then Fry pushed the detonator's plunger.
Leela's smile turned to horror. “What is he doing?” Then she realized he was holding some sort of weapon to his chest. “My god, he's trying to kill himself!”
“Goodbye, Leela,” Fry said tearfully. “I die to save you.”
Leela jumped up, trying to climb over the spectators in front of her. “We have to stop him!” she said.
The man grabbed her right arm and dragged her back down to her seat. Leela was shocked at how powerful his grip was. “Everything is fine, Leela. Fry will be fine.”
The apparatus extended itself to full height, and a sphere of energy briefly engulfed Fry and future-Leela. When it evaporated, Fry felt at himself. “Man, I'm still alive,” he said, huffily.
The man laughed and stood up. “Okay, time for us to go,” he said.
“Go!? Is Fry still in danger? What the hell is going on here?” Leela demanded.
“Your concern for your friend does you credit, but he is perfectly safe.” The man took her right hand and the bleachers began to fade away.
“He tried to sacrifice himself to save all of us, didn't he?” Leela asked.
“To save you, Leela,” the man said.
“To save me,” she repeated to herself.
The bridge of the Planet Express ship formed itself around them. They were in the back corner, looking at the backs of the crew.
“What is everyone doing here?” Leela axed. “LaBarbara's never been aboard before that I remember; and Kif and Amy! What's going on?”
“You're running from the Nimbus, Leela. This is actually only a few minutes after our previous stop; this is the last thing I want to show you.”
“Who the hell is that?” Leela asked, pointing at a thick-mustached man with a hat at the tactical station.
The man frowned. “I'm not sure. Anyway, listen!”
Fry was gesturing wildly. “There were so many things I wanted to say to you, Leela!”
“Like what, Fry?” future-Leela axed softly, turning in the command chair to face him.
“Like, this is not the end! But mostly,” he took future-Leela’s free hand, “Leela, I love you.”
Leela gasped. She wrung her own hands together as she waited for her future self to say something.
“Maybe I waited too long to say this,” future-Leela said, her eye focused on Fry's face, “but...I love you, too – Wormhole!” she shrieked.
Leela groaned. “Oh, for the love of -”
“Everything turns out okay after this, Leela,” the man said.
“Yeah,” Leela said, her expression unreadable. “I suppose it would.”
The man took her hand, and the bridge faded out. Leela's last sight was of her future self kissing Fry passionately.
Leela found herself back in her chair in her apartment. Her omelet was still steaming.
“Well, that was fun,” the man said, clapping his hands together. “Mimosa?” he asked, pouring himself a drink from a glass carafe Leela was pretty sure she had never seen before.
“Yes, I...I think I will,” Leela said shakily. Her heart was beating hard, and she felt warm all over. All she could see in her mind was that last kiss.
“So, what have we learned?” The man said as he handed her a champagne glass.
Leela downed it in one gulp. Real orange juice, she thought absently. “I don't know, what should I have learned?” That I love Fry! Her heart sang as her mind accepted what the rest of her had known for ten years.
“Faith in others? Hope for the future? Trust in Fry? Things that you have been bad at, I think.”
“I have not -” Leela slumped down in her chair. “Oh, alright. No point denying things to an omniscient being.” She straightened up. “Which reminds me – why the Robot Devil have you shown me all this? What's your interest in the concerns of two people?”
“I was wondering when you would axe that. As I alluded to earlier, I am concerned about my existence – and a remarkable number of world-lines seem to tangle around you and Philip, as well as your descendants.”
“So, like all mildly god-like entities, I try to keep my own creation on track. Therefore, here we are,” the man said with a final flourish.
Leela mulled it over. “Is what you showed me the future, or one possible future?”
“It’s what will happen if no…major disruptions occur at this point in this time-line.”
“Wait a minute! Haven't you already screwed with the time-line by showing me all this? How does that not affect the time-space continuum the Professor is always going on about? Can’t I disrupt these outcomes?”
The man grinned. “What makes you think you are going to remember any of this, my dear?”
“This is about learning a lesson, Leela.” The man leaned forward until they were almost nose-to-nose. He looked very pleased with himself. “Lessons can sink deeper than memory,” he said.
“Hold on -”
“Goodbye, Ms. Turanga. It was a very great pleasure to see you again.”
Leela yawned and stretched her arms out, cricking her neck. God that felt good, she thought, and opened her eye. Her alarm clock said 6:00 a.m.; time to get up.
She planted her feet on the floor and stretched again. Lord, she felt great. She must have gotten a good night's sleep for a change. She eyed the half-full bottle of gin on her nightstand. She didn't remember drinking any of it, but it was a lot emptier than she recalled.
She thought a moment, then grabbed it and took it to the bathroom to pour out. She was sick of drowning her sorrows with booze. She still mourned Lars, but she had to keep living her life.
After a quick shower and bathroom trip, she went to the kitchen to fix some breakfast. Opening up the fridge, she saw the remnants of a broccoli-and-cheese omelet. She frowned; she must have made it last night after drinking the gin, but she didn't remember it at all and none of her pans had been used. Shrugging, she heated it up and ate it. A glass carafe half-filled with mimosas from the fridge washed down her breakfast, and she went off to Planet Express.
“Very smoothly done, I admit,” the glowing interstellar nebulae said, “but I'm afraid I don't see the point.”
“You're the one who is always going on about subtlety,” the man told it. “Us weakly god-like beings have to be even more round-a-bout. Colleen’s always been a bit of a sticky spot; I just needed to tighten up a few probabilities to keep them moving together.”
“And the omelet?”
“It's hard to be gracious on an empty stomach.”
“Aaah!” the Professor screamed, as the concentrated light from his giant magnifying glass set what was left of his hair on fire.
Rolling her eye, Leela used the fire extinguisher on the old man's head.
The door to the observatory hissed open and Fry walked in with a pretty blond woman.
“Oh, hey everyone,” Fry said sprightly, “this is Colleen.”
Deep inside her, Leela felt something twist in her gut. Cold pain filled her.
Bender cackled. “This is awkward, introducing your new girlfriend to Chesty McNag-Nag!”
Anger and jealousy surged inside Leela. How dare Fry – then the faint whisper of a feeling of deep contentment tugged at her. She felt it in wonder, and recognized it. Fry has things to work out, too, she thought. Trust him.
“Oh, don't mind him,” Leela said suddenly, “I'll turn him off.” She reached behind Bender's head.
The robot protested, and then powered down as Leela hit his reset switch.
Leela turned back to Fry and Colleen. With a smile and the tone of a woman confident she’d already won, she said “Hi. I'm Leela.”