Fan Fiction

Green Storm Rising
By soylentorange

Prologue: Somewhere in Deep Space

“What do you think it is?”

“It’s just space junk, Fry. Look at it; it’s probably been abandoned here for centuries. Can we please just go now? The weekend officially started...” Leela glanced at the thing she wore on her wrist. “…Two hours ago.”

“No, not yet!” Fry plastered his face against the glass of the forward viewport and stared bright-eyed at the hulking shape that lay beyond. Brimming with excitement, he spun to face his Captain. “Hey, you know what would be awesome?

Leela moaned inwardly. The delivery boy’s definition of awesome didn’t quite match her own.

“Let’s go explore it!” Fry finished, inevitably.

The delivery boy’s limitless enthusiasm for anything new that he came across usually ran the gambit from adorable to mildly annoying. But this was the third time in a month he’d made her stop the ship so he could watch some rusted-out piece of garbage float by. She’d made the mistake of indulging his childish desire to board the first two abandoned ‘ships’- the first one was obviously an old tool shed that had drifted loose from someone’s property, and the second was a decrepit space porta-john, but she hadn’t felt mean enough to tell Fry that.

Bender rolled his eyes. “Come on, meatbag. What’s with this obsession of yours with garbage we find on the side of the road, anyway?”

“It’s not garbage!” Fry insisted, pointing. “Look at it! It could be a spaceship holding the last survivors of some super race of aliens in stasis, or some kind of doomsday laser that’s all like kapow, zap! And all the planets are like, whaaagh! Garhgh! Or, or maybe it’s a ghost ship, and the whole crew went nuts from-”

“Alright, alright!” Leela exclaimed, throwing up her hands in defeat. It had been a long, painful delivery. The cyclops wanted only one thing at that moment- to get home, take a long shower, and have a series of strong drinks, but she was still a few hours’ flight from Earth. The last thing she wanted to deal with was an over-stimulated delivery boy babbling on and on the whole way home about what might have been contained in the pile of scrap metal that hung to port. In the long run, it would be less painful to let Fry poke his head around for a few minutes, get bored, and come back to the ship. “We’ll go check it out.” When Fry broke into a huge grin, Leela held up a hand, palm out, in the hope of dampening his enthusiasm before it got out of control. “For ten minutes. Then we’re leaving. Okay?”

Fry let out a whoop and grabbed Bender by the arm. “Come on Bender, let’s go!” The robot reluctantly let himself be dragged from the bridge, but only after shooting Leela a dark look for giving in to the redhead. The cyclops could only shrug apologetically.

When Fry and Bender were gone, Leela went back and let herself drop into the Captain’s chair. For a moment, she leaned over the wheel and rubbed her temples, idly wishing that she had Fry’s seemingly limitless supply of energy. Then she pressed the button for the intercom and patched herself through to Amy’s quarters.

“Amy, are you awake?” Leela asked tentatively. She really didn’t want to wake the intern, but neither did she want to leave Amy alone on the ship without telling her first.

“Hi, Leela! What’s up?”

Leela was relieved to find no hint in Amy’s voice that she’d been asleep. “Nothing big. We drove by some old space wreck- a big one this time- and Fry and Bender are going to go explore. I just thought I should tell you I’m going along too, to make sure they don’t do anything stupid.” There was a beat. “-er than usual.”

To the PE Captain’s surprise, Amy’s voice took on a hint of excitement. “Oh clool, I love stuff like that! Can I come too?”

“Sure, why not.” Leela replied with a sigh. I’m surrounded by children. Can you be ready in five minutes?”

The wreck was a black smudge against the soft greens and reds of the nebula in which it sat. Whatever the thing was, it was deceptively large. That’s the problem with space, Leela mused. There’s no way for the eye to judge distances. Not that her eye was any good at that anyway. As the PE Ship approached, details started to appear on the pitted metal surface. Basically, the object was a series of rounded boxes stacked on top of each other, with a few long, needle-like, cylindrical protrusions sticking out in a seemingly random fashion. A large cone- perhaps an engine of some kind- was mounted on a sort of scaffolding at the end of the wreck’s long axis. The whole structure was maybe a hundred meters long and half as wide and deep. Hundreds of circular windows dotted the surface. Leela made her way to the single, rectangular hole at the end of the structure that was farthest from the ‘engine’, which looked like it might be an entry point. As she worked for a moment to match her velocity to the structure’s lazy spin, the ship’s headlights came to bear on the hole and illuminated a space just large enough to accommodate the ship.

Surprisingly, the hulk still had some artificial gravity. It was closer to lunar gravity than Earth gravity, but something was better than nothing- especially since tethering the ship to a spinning object in microgravity was a royal pain in the ass.

Donning their space suits, the PE Crew disembarked and congregated under the Planet Express Ship’s bow. The flashlights mounted on their helmets cast little pools of light here and there as the crew looked around the small hangar that contained the ship. There wasn’t much to see aside from a few micrometeorite holes in the bulkheads, and a bit of wire that hung from the ceiling.

Fry spotted a hatch and, after he wandered over to it, the rest of the group followed somewhat reluctantly. The abandoned hulk was decidedly spooky, which Fry would realize when his excitement wore off. Leela had just managed to catch up to the delivery boy when he turned a handle and hauled the hatch open. Bits of dust and corroded metal floated to the floor in slow motion. The crew was standing at the entrance to some kind of long hallway. The combined light of the crew’s flashlights revealed a series of evenly spaced, closed doors that ran the entire length of the corridor. Fry made an excited noise and headed for the nearest doorway, but Leela caught his arm.

“Remember what we agreed on, Fry. Ten minutes. Then we’re going home.”

The delivery boy began to protest, but knew from his Captain’s tone that she wasn’t going to compromise with him. “Alright. Ten minutes.” Leela let go of him.

The first few rooms didn’t contain anything interesting. There were a couple of abandoned desks, what looked like a smashed desk lamp, a bed with sheets that crumbled to dust the moment that Amy touched them… Leela found herself bored almost immediately.

After a few minutes, the rest of the crew seemed to have forgotten the initial creepy feeling that the abandoned hulk had given them, and Bender and Amy started to peak into some of the compartments on their own. Leela just stood in the corridor leaning against a bulkhead, idly playing Tetris on her wrist computer. This is stupid. I’m going to miss The Simpsons’ 1,019th season premiere. She looked at her watch. Twelve minutes had passed.

“Okay, time’s up. Come on Fry, let’s get back to-”

“Whoa, what is this?” Fry had just opened another door. Bender and Amy poked their heads out of a nearby compartment. “Does it look valuable?” Bender asked eagerly.

“I dunno. Come check it out!” To Leela’s infinite annoyance, Bender and Amy walked over to Fry and the three of them disappeared into the room. A second later a burst of excited chatter crackled over Leela’s radio. Sighing dramatically, but curious despite herself, Leela stood and strolled toward the open hatch. On the other side was a large open space filled with computer consoles. Rack upon rack of electronics lined three of the walls; the fourth wall consisted of a single large viewport. In the center of the room was a low pedestal on which some giant device of inscrutable purpose was perched. The object consisted of a clear cylinder about five feet in diameter and twice that tall, sitting on its end. The cylinder was at the center of half a dozen hovering metallic rings that spun around in alternating directions. Although the computers that lined the room were dark and still, the device in the middle of the room glowed a soft blue-white. Leela’s coworkers were clustered around the machine.

“What do you think it is?” Amy asked no one in particular.

“I dunno.” Fry replied. “What do you think, Bender?”

Bender’s eyes zoomed in on the device. “It looks like easy cash to me.” He said after inspecting it. “Let’s take it with us. We can say it’s some crazy alien artifact or something, and sell it to the highest bidder.”

Leela interrupted before the conversation’s stupidity levels could reach critical mass. “We are not taking that thing with us.” She declared. “We don’t have any idea what it does. Now let’s get the hell out of here before we end up exposed to some kind of deadly radiation… or something.” She turned and started to make her way to the exit.

And then Bender said the seven words that Leela feared more than anything else in the universe.

“Hey, I wonder what this button does?”

Leela whirled to find the robot hunched over the pedestal. His hand was perched a few centimeters over a very large, very red button.

“Bender, no!”

But it was too late. A rumble started to build in the deck. To Leela’s horror, the compartment hatch slid closed. When the PE Captain tried to force it open again it didn’t even budge. In the center of the room, the mystery device began to glow brighter. The rings that surrounded it began to spin faster, and oscillate slightly up and down. Soon the light was so strong that it hurt Leela’s eye. She had to turn away. The rumbling in the deck began to mount, and it became impossible to stand.

“What’s going on?!” Fry was screaming somewhere to Leela’s left. The cyclops tried to crawl to him, but couldn’t find him in the intense blue glare. Somehow she ended up on the far side of the device, by the viewport. Amy was there too. The two women grabbed a hold of each other for support against the shaking.

“What are we gonna do?!” Amy screamed over the radio, her helmet touching her Captain’s.

“I don’t know!” Leela hollered back, and the light grew even brighter.

Fry materialized out of the glare and propped his body against Leela’s. On impulse the PE Captain reached out and grabbed a hold of Fry’s hand, and then Amy’s. As the shaking in the deck grew to impossible levels, the three humans huddled together. Leela shut her eye against the blue light that seemed to be coming from all around her. Everything seemed to retreat to a great distance.

Pop. Leela felt the sound more than she heard it. Suddenly the intense glare of the machine was gone and the deck was motionless. For a long moment, Fry, Leela and Amy didn’t move, but it was like the craziness of a few seconds earlier had never happened.

Leela cautiously got to her feet and Fry and Amy followed suit. Bender was standing nearby, seemingly unfazed. In the center of the room, the device was emitting irregular pulses of light that occasionally cast the robot in an odd blue. Bender was staring out the viewport while idly smoking one of his cigars.

Leela was livid. “What in Atheismo’s name were you thinking?!” She demanded, grabbing Bender none-too-gently by the arm. “You could have killed us, you insufferable, metal jerk!" Bender shrugged and continued to smoke. “Are you even listening to-” Leela fell silent. Her eye had been drawn to the device, which was still emitting random bursts of light. A network of cracks had developed on the surface of the clear cylinder. As she watched, one of the cracks seemed to grow noticeably. Okay, so that can’t be good. Luckily the compartment hatch had opened the moment the room had stopped shaking. Why it had locked them in the room in the first place was anybody’s guess.

“Come on guys, let’s get out of here. I don’t like what this thing is doing.” Leela gestured to the device. As if on cue, there was a bright flash, and there were twice as many cracks as there had been a moment earlier. The exit hatch closed halfway but stopped amid a shower of sparks.

Leela nodded. “Uh-huh, time to go. Come on!” Leela dashed for the exit with Amy and Fry a step behind her. Bender, giving his retreating coworkers a disdainful look, tossed aside the remains of his cigar and sauntered after them.

By the time Leela and her two human crewmates had made it back to the small hangar, another tremor had started building in the deck. It wasn’t constant, but came in intermittent bursts like the light streaming from the device had done. Whatever it was that the device was supposed to do, it wasn’t doing it right this time.

Leela bounded up the flight of stairs that led into the ship and was in the pilot’s seat scant seconds later. With the whole ship shaking around her, Leela started up the engines and strapped herself into her chair. Bender appeared in the hatchway outside the PE Ship’s front viewport. Seemingly unaffected by the bursts of heavy shaking that were enough to drive Leela’s teeth together, the robot nonchalantly swaggered over to the ship. As soon as Bender was aboard, Leela retracted the landing gear and threw the vessel into full reverse. The shaking cut off abruptly the instant that the ship lifted off the deck.

When the ship was clear, Leela threw it into a turn and pushed the throttle as far forward as it would go. The engines screamed in protest as the Planet Express Ship hurled away into space. Leela felt some kind of wrenching in her gut, and there was a massive explosion directly astern. A colossal fist reached out at the retreating ship and the whole universe seemed to turn bright blue. Leela closed her eye, but the brightness only increased. Somewhere, someone was screaming. Maybe it was her…

Part I: Circuitous Parallels


Leela’s eye shot open as she bolted upright. Fry looked over at her curiously from the other side of the worn, yellow couch. He had a beer in his right hand.

“You alright, Leela?” He asked, putting his drink down by the little wooden end table that was by his right elbow.

Leela’s eye locked on the delivery boy. “W- What’s going on?” She demanded, bewildered.

Fry gave her an odd look and scratched the back of his head. “What do you mean, what’s going on? We’re just watching TV, like we’ve been doing for the last hour.”

Leela looked around her. She was in the Planet Express building, sitting on the couch in the lounge. The television was on. Morbo had just said something- she hadn’t caught what- and Linda was chuckling at him. The big bay window that took up the entire south wall was pitch black, except for the dim, moonlit outline of the skyscrapers from across the water.

Leela’s confusion began to mount. “How did I get here? I was just on the ship!”

Fry cocked his head at her. “Huh?”

“What do you mean, ‘huh’? You were there too!”

“When was I where, now?”

Leela sighed in frustration. “Bender activated some machine we found on the way home from our delivery, and we had to run away. Then there was some kind of explosion; I think the-”

Shaking his head, Fry cut Leela off. “You must’ve had a bad dream, Leela. We hurried back from the delivery so you could see that season premiere, remember? We didn’t find any crazy machines on the way home.” He smiled at her. “You said you were really tired. You must have fallen asleep right after you turned on the news.”

“But, but the blue light, and the explosion- I was just there!”

“Just where?” Leela turned at the new voice to find Bender standing in the doorway to the conference room. He had a twelve pack of Olde Fortran tucked protectively under one arm.

“Hey, Bender’s back with more beer!” Fry drained the remains of his Lobraü and accepted the beer that Bender held out to him. “Leela fell asleep and had some crazy dream.” Fry explained to the robot.

Leela began to argue with the delivery boy but, now that the adrenaline was wearing off, she was starting to wonder if maybe she really had been dreaming. It was just so real.

“Crazy dream, huh?” Well, there’s only one way to cure that.” Predictably, Bender thrust a beer into Leela’s hand.

Leela looked at the drink for a moment and then put it on the floor next to Fry. “Sorry guys. I don’t know what just happened, but I’m too shook up to drink right now. I- think I need to go for a walk.”

Leela stood, and Fry looked up at her with an expression that was full of concern. “Are you sure you’re alright? Do you want me to walk you home, you know, so you can have somebody to talk to?”

“No Fry, I’m okay. I just need to clear my head.” She couldn’t help but notice the hint of disappointment that crossed Fry’s face a split second before he could hide it from her. “I’ll see you guys Monday.” Leela retreated from the room before Fry could object further.

Outside, a cool breeze came in off the Hudson and played with Leela’s hair. The fresh air coupled with the quiet murmur of the city was enough to partially soothe the cyclops’s frazzled nerves. She’d been dreaming; that had to be what had happened. But it was so vivid in her mind: she could remember every last detail of the blinding blue light, the shaking in the deck, the feel of Fry and Amy’s hands clasped in hers as the space hulk had seemed to come apart around them… Maybe Bender was right. Maybe I do need a drink.

Before long, Leela was back at her apartment. The clock built into the thing she wore on her wrist said the time was 10:13. Leela frowned. It was too early to go to bed, but she was in no mood for going out on the town. “Well, I guess I might as well turn on the TV.” Leela said unenthusiastically to the empty room.

It took some searching, but Leela finally managed to find the remote under her chair. She grabbed it and clicked on the television before heading into the kitchen, where she rummaged through her small stash of alcohol and pulled out the small bottle of Venusian Whiskey that she reserved for the nights after particularly awful deliveries. Tilting her head back, she took a swig of the fiery liquid. She made an unpleasant face when the whiskey went down, but carried the bottle with her as she headed back to her armchair.

The television was muted. Annoyed, Leela had to rummage around for the remote- which she soon discovered she was sitting on- before lightly tapping a button.

“-imited time offer! Act now! Remember, that’s Malfunctioning Eddie’s Antichrysler-Plymouth, located in-” Leela cringed at the sudden onslaught of sound and jabbed another button.

“What Senator Obama’s head doesn’t seem to understand is that- wait, what were we talking about again? Where am I? Snnnoooooorrrrreee….”

“John, your head’s service to your country is beyond question, but you seem to be forgetting one key fact: namely, that I have been ordained by almighty God to lead the people into the promised land of holy Change. Behold all ye mortals my perfect teeth, and despair!”

“And what neither of you hippie beatniks seem to understand is that neither of you are going to be president, because I’ve already rigged the voting booths. Arrrooooo…”

Ugh. Politics. No thanks. She tapped the channel up button.

“Petertron, how could you eat your own daughter’s science experiment?”

“You think that’s bad, Loisbot? Remember the time I arm wrestled Arnold Swarzenneger while playing the tuba?”

Aaahhhhhh! Leela hurriedly changed the channel, and was relieved to see Morbo and Linda appear on the screen. That was close she thought, feeling her heart race. Another five seconds of that, and I’d have been done for.

“- Which will make my race’s eventual annihilation of the puny human species all the easier.” Morbo shuffled some papers while Linda chuckled next to him.

“In other news” Linda said moments later, “reports of exploding manhole covers have increased steadily this week in the city of New New York.” Linda’s face was replaced by black and white security camera footage of a New Manhattan street. A steady stream of hover traffic and pedestrians passed by the camera as Linda’s disembodied voice told the viewer to pay attention to a manhole cover that was positioned in the middle of the street. Abruptly there was a loud noise, and the manhole cover went flying up into the air and out of the field of view. It crashed to the ground moments later at the center of a rapidly expanding ring of fleeing New New Yorkers.

Leela took another swallow from the bottle she had cradled in her lap. She had been just about to change the channel again, but her interest had been piqued. I didn’t know we had a problem with exploding manhole covers. She thought to herself. She’d never seen one blow up, at any rate.

Morbo and Linda reappeared. “Scenes like this one have become common in New New York over the past few weeks. The culprit is thought to be bubbles of methane gas which build up under the street until the pressure blasts a manhole cover into the air and the gases escape.” Linda shuffled her papers. “When questioned about what the city plans to do to stop these explosions, Mayor C. Wendell Poopenmeyer had this to say.”

The screen switched to a view of the inside of the Mayor’s Office. Mayor Poopenmeyer was standing behind a large wooden pulpit with the official seal of the city draped over the wall behind him. The mayor was hunched slightly over the pulpit, obviously reading from a prepared speech. “Citizens of ah, New New York City.” The mayor began. “It has come to my attention that manhole covers have been exploding. After consulting with my Secretary of Waste and Sanitation, I have decided to approve a groundbreaking urban renewal project for our great city.”

Looks like my taxes will be going up again. Leela took another swig of whiskey.

For a split second the screen flickered, and then Morbo and Linda were back. This time it was Morbo that spoke. “Mayor Poopenmeyer’s plan would result in the complete reconstruction of the crumbling New New York sewer system. When asked how this would affect the communities of puny mutated humans that inhabit the city’s sewers, the mayor stated that they would have to find ‘some other pit’ to live in.”

A jolt of electricity shot up Leela’s spine. “What?!” Suddenly she was on the edge of her seat.

“I’m sure the mutants will find a nice cozy place in the ruins of the old city.” Linda added lightly. And Morbo turned on her.

“When my race’s mighty attack fleet arrives, you will all be living amongst the ruins of your cities!” The green alien began to laugh evilly, and Linda chuckled again.

Leela turned off the television. For a full minute she just stared at the dim reflection of her face in the blank screen. Oh my god. How could they do this? Leela asked herself, horrified. How could they do this to my parents?

“What do you mean, move?” Munda was saying as the barest hint of hysteria crept into her voice. “We’ve lived here all of our lives. We don’t have anywhere to go!”

“I know, mom.” Leela replied gently. “Don’t worry. I’m going to go talk to the Mayor on Monday. He knows me; I’m sure he’ll listen. I’ll make him listen.”

Morris put an arm around his distraught wife and leaned into the camera until his face loomed large in the videophone mounted on the bookshelf across from Leela’s bed. “But honey, are you sure that’s a good idea? You don’t want to attract any attention to yourself. You know what’ll happen if the government finds out that you’re a mutant.”

Leela sighed and looked away from her videophone for a moment. Of course she knew what would happen. The thought that she could be discovered at any moment never fully left its perch near the back of her mind. But she could hardly be annoyed at her parents for warning her for the umpteenth time. They were parents, after all. “Yes Dad, I know what will happen. But someone has to do something. They can’t just kick you out of your homes and tell you to get lost. It’s- It’s… Inhuman.”

“But Leela, we are inhuman.” Munda said between sobs. “I mean technically.”

Leela’s eye flashed. “Don’t ever say that! You are just as human as anyone that lives up here on the surface. And just because you have tentacles instead of arms- or your mouth doesn’t open in the same direction as everyone else’s- that doesn’t mean you don’t have the same rights as anyone else!”

Munda and Morris shared an uncomfortable look before turning back to the camera to face their daughter. It was Morris who spoke. “It means a lot to your mother and me to hear you say that.” He said. “But the government thinks we’re inferior genetic scum. We did everything in our power to give you a shot at a real life. We’d never forgive ourselves if that life got taken away from you because of something we did.”

“But Dad, you and Mom didn’t do anything!” Leela countered. “I’ll be careful; I promise. But I’m not letting them do this to you.” When Leela fell silent it was with a finality that made any argument impossible. Morris and Munda looked at their daughter, and Leela could see the pride in their eyes. “I’ll call you guys back on Monday, alright? Tell the other mutants that they’re not going to have to go anywhere.” Leela broke the connection.

Leela was sitting in the small reception area adjacent to the Mayor’s office the moment that it opened Monday morning. She didn’t have an appointment of course; anyone wanting to see Poopenmeyer was supposed to arrange it with his office six weeks in advance, and the fat secretary sitting behind the desk by the Mayor’s door was quite obviously annoyed that Leela had not bothered to follow the proper procedure. The woman made Leela sit for half an hour in the empty room while she studiously scribbled away at a stack of white forms. It was only when the secretary finally realized that Leela was not going to go away- and was quite willing to sit there and stare daggers at her for as long as was necessary- that the secretary finally put down her pen and pressed a button on the intercom that was by her elbow.

“Mr. Mayor, there’s a Miss Turaynga Leela here to see you.” Leela let the obviously intentional mispronunciation of her name slide. It was only 8:30 in the morning, still a little too early for physical violence. Biting sarcasm, on the other hand…

“Miss Leela you say?” The mayor’s voice was a bit scratchy over the intercom. “That doesn’t sound familiar. Does she have an appointment?”

“N-” Leela pushed her way into the Mayor’s office before the secretary could finish the thought. She shut the door lightly behind her.

“Mr. Mayor, I’m Captain Turanga Leela.” Leela began as she strode to the center of the room. “I’m here to talk to you about this plan of yours to rebuild the sewer system.”

Poopenmeyer regarded Leela for a moment then grinned. “Say, I remember you! You’re part of that crew that saved the city from that giant ball of garbage!” The Mayor stretched out a hand, and Leela took it and grasped it firmly before letting go. Poopenmeyer withdrew, and, leaning back in his overstuffed buggalo leather chair, clasped his hands behind his head. “Well, whatever it is that you need, I’ll do everything in my power to help. This city owes you and your crewmates a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Leela was slightly taken aback by the warm reception, although, truth be told, Poopenmeyer had always seemed like a fairly decent guy, as politicians went. But he’s still a politician. Leela reminded herself. He’ll only help me if it somehow helps him. Most important of all, she had to pay close attention to every word that she said, lest Poopenmeyer get wind of her secret heritage. “Uh well, you see, I’m a little worried that the sewer renewal program might adversely affect some of New New York’s citizens.”

That got the Mayor’s attention. In his mind, ‘citizen’ was synonymous with the word ‘vote’, and, this being an election year, votes were more important than life itself. Poopenmeyer straightened in his chair. “Adversely affect, how?” He asked.

It had taken Leela a good part of the weekend to come up with a suitable argument against the renovation that didn’t involve the mutants. “Well sir, there is a lot of methane down there. If some of it were to be accidentally released during the renovation, it could cause all sorts of problems for people living on the surface. Professor Farnsworth believes that we’ll need to spend a lot of time mapping out the gas pockets before the project can be done safely.” It was a bluff, of course. She hadn’t actually asked Farnsworth what his opinion was, but she could always claim that the senile old genius had simply forgotten their talk- and the opinion that he’d held at the time- if anyone bothered to check her story.

Poopenmeyer shook his head. “None of that is an issue” he said, dismissively. “My science advisor ensures me that, even if a methane pocket is disturbed, it will just spread around the sewer system until it accumulates somewhere else. We’ll have plenty of time to deal with that situation if it arises.”

Crap. Well, so much for that argument. “But spreading elevated levels of methane throughout the sewer system could make thousands of people sick!”

The mayor gave Leela a confused look and crossed his arms in front of him on his desk. “I don’t follow you. How would filling the sewers with toxic gas make anyone sick if the gas couldn’t get to the surface? There’s no one down there to breathe it.”

“I’m talking about the mutants.” Leela cringed inwardly. Suddenly she was on dangerous ground.

“The sewer mutants?” The Mayor replied in surprise. “But they aren’t even citizens.”

Very carefully Leela clamped down on her body so that her emotions couldn’t give her away. “But they live here.” Her voice was so tightly controlled that it sounded almost robotic.

Poopenmeyer waved dismissively. “Eh, I’m sure the mutants will find somewhere else to live. Maybe they can find homes in New Jersey; they like to live waist deep in filth anyway, right?” Leela couldn’t quite keep the flash of anger out of her eye. Poopenmeyer noticed the lapse in her self control and favored her with an odd look. “Why are you so interested in the sewer mutants anyway?”

Leela froze. “Uh, no reason. They’re inferior genetic scum, of course. I just thought, you know, that their rights should be respected…”

“But they’re mutants. They don’t have rights.” Poopenmeyer hesitated for a moment as he remembered something. “Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t you come in here once looking for one day mutant surface passes?” When Leela didn’t say anything, the Mayor nodded to himself. “Yes, that’s right; I remember signing two of them as a favor to you. You never did explain why you needed them.”


“You seem to be spending a lot of time worrying about the mutants.” The Mayor paused, just for a split second, and suddenly he was looking directly at Leela’s single, large eye. A ball of ice formed in the PE Captain’s stomach as Poopenmeyer’s gaze passed back and forth between her eye and her outrageously purple hair. “Now, you said you were an alien, right?”

Trying to conceal the shaking of her hands, Leela began to slowly back away toward the door. “Yeah that’s right, an alien.” Her back came up against the brass doorknob, and she grabbed it. Suddenly she was conscious that she was sweating; she had to resist the urge to wipe her brow. “Listen Mr. Mayor, I’m sorry to have to do this, but I have to get to work. The ship won’t go anywhere without the pilot behind the wheel, you know.” Leela smiled weakly as she opened the door and stepped over the threshold.

The Mayor stared at Leela for an uncomfortably long moment before shrugging. “Of course. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.”

Leela nodded and closed the door behind her. She ignored the secretary’s curious stare as she fled in the direction of the elevator.

By the time Leela had made it to Planet Express, her heart had started to beat at a normal rate again. Her mind, however, was in turmoil. The Mayor had guessed her secret! Most likely, the only thing that had saved her was his inability to imagine a mutant being able to live above ground without being discovered. It was too much to deal with. She had to talk to somebody- to straighten out her jumbled thoughts and emotions before she called her parents and told them the news.

Unfortunately for Amy, that someone ended up being her. As Leela was walking through the building toward the Planet Express Ship, Amy was walking in the opposite direction carrying the preflight checklist on a digital clipboard. Without warning, the intern suddenly found herself cornered.

“… not fair! The government is going to kick my parents out of the city! They can’t get away with this. I don’t care if the Mayor suspects that I’m a mutant, I’ll-”

Amy held up the clipboard against the force of the tirade that had erupted at her out of nowhere. “Spwhoah, Leela. Calm down! What happened?”

Leela sputtered to a halt. She took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Sorry Amy.” She apologized. “It’s the Mayor’s new plan to stop the exploding manhole cover problem by fixing up the sewers. Have you heard about it?”

Amy nodded. There had been an article about it in Sunday’s Rich and Popular magazine.

“Well,” Leela continued bitterly, “one of the things that they’re going to do when they ‘fix’ the sewers is kick out all of the sewer mutants. Including my parents.”

Amy’s eyes went wide. “What?! They can’t really do that, can they?”

Leela sighed. “I’m starting to think they can. I went to talk to Poopenmeyer this morning, and all I managed to do was come within an inch of blowing my cover. This whole weekend has been like one long, bad dream.”

Amy nodded sympathetically. “That’s really awful, and I know it probably won’t make you feel any better, but you’re not the only one who had a bad weekend.”

For the first time, Leela realized that there were dark circles under the intern’s eyes. “What’s the matter? Having trouble sleeping?”

Another nod. “Yeah, I had this crazy dream on Friday. Well, at least, I think it was a dream. I’ve been up most of the weekend thinking about it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear- wait, a weird dream? What was it about?”

Amy shifted her weight uneasily. “Well I mean, like I said; I think it was a dream.” She shook her head in confusion. “It was really weird. I dreamed that you and I- and Fry and Bender- were coming home from Friday’s delivery and we went to go explore this thing we found. Bender touched some button and-“

“And the deck started to shake, and everything turned bright blue?” Leela finished, goose bumps starting to rise on her arms.

The intern gaped at her Captain. “Yeah, exactly. How did you know that?”

“Because I had the same exact dream.” Leela replied, an uneasy feeling starting to form in the pit of her stomach. “Everything turned bright blue for awhile, and then it stopped. I yelled at Bender for being stupid, and then we had to run away when the device thing started to go off again. We got to the ship, took off, and then there was some kind of explosion…” Leela fell silent.

“Yes! That’s exactly the dream I had!” The intern said excitedly. “Everything in the ship turned bright blue and I heard you scream. Or maybe it was me. But I heard somebody scream, and then there was this loud pop, and suddenly I was standing next to my hovercar outside of Planet Express, holding my car keys. I thought maybe I’d been daydreaming or something.”

Leela frowned and shook her head. “No way. We couldn’t have both had exactly the same dream at exactly the same time.”

“Then what was it?”

“I don’t know.” Leela confessed. “But we’d better go talk to the Professor before we take off. Maybe he’ll be able to figure out why we both have memories of something that never happened.”

“So that’s the situation, Professor.” Leela concluded. “Can you find anything wrong with us?”

Professor Farnsworth stopped waving his gizmometer around and looked carefully at the little digital readout that was at the device’s rear end. “Hmm, remarkable. Yes, quite remarkable, indeed. According to this, the two of you are experiencing a sort of quantum ambiguity. Also, my hot pockets are ready.”

Leela waited for further explanation, but the scientist seemed to think that he’d been perfectly clear, as he started to wander off in the direction of the microwave. “And that means?” She prodded gently. She’d learned from long experience that she had to be patient with the senile old inventor if she ever wanted to get anything out of him.

“Eh wha? Oh yes, of course. It means that some of the quantum numbers associated with the particles that make up your bodies seem to be fluctuating wildly between two values.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Amy asked uneasily.

“Oh my no. At least, I should think not. I need to run some more tests on those blood samples you gave me before I can be absolutely sure.”

“But we didn’t give you any blood samp- Ow!” Something had come buzzing in out of nowhere and had bitten Leela in the forearm. The cyclops automatically moved to swat the annoying insect, only to find a tiny clear dart with wings embedded in her skin. In an instant it had filled itself up with blood, dropped to the table, and begun scurrying away on little robotic legs. Leela thought she was going to be sick.

“Ah, well that takes care of that. Now, I believe you two youngsters have a package to deliver.” The scientist began shooing them toward the door.

“But Professor, what about-”

“Off you go!

“Glosh, this is so totally weird.” Amy was saying as Leela followed her out of the Professor’s lab and toward the silent bulk of the Planet Express Ship. The PE Captain, her mind occupied by what the Professor had said about her quantum state, or whatever, was idly scratching the welt that had been left by Farnsworth’s Mosqneedle- who would bother to invent anything like that anyway?- and only half paying attention to what Amy was saying.

The intern didn’t seem to notice Leela’s preoccupation. “It’s like we read each other’s minds or something. How else could we have both had the same dream at the same time?”

It took a little too long for Leela to realize that Amy had stopped speaking, and that she’d asked a question. “Uh… I don’t know Amy. I’m sure it’s nothing. The Professor will-“


“-work it out.”

“Huh? Work what out?” Fry asked.

Leela froze. Amy, Farnsworth’s lab, the hangar and the ship… all of it had just disappeared into thin air. Somehow she was now on the bridge of the Planet Express ship, sitting in her seat behind the wheel. Fry was to her right, looking over his shoulder at her from his spot at tactical while a steady stream of stars floated past the viewport behind him.

Leela bolted to her feet and looked wildly about the small compartment. “What the hell?! How did I get here?” Her eye locked on Fry’s. “What the hell is going on?!”

For a moment Fry looked very confused, but his features soon locked into his signature worried look. “You can’t remember how you got here?” He asked apprehensively.

“No! I was walking out of the Professor’s lab with Amy, and suddenly I’m here in the middle of deep space…” She had a sudden alarming thought. “Oh god, time must be skipping forward again!”

When Leela looked at Fry again the troubled look in his eyes was enough to stop her in her tracks. “What?” She asked, suddenly off balance.

“What do you remember from the last couple hours?”

The question was so unexpected that it took Leela a moment to answer. “Umm, well, I went and talked to the Mayor and then came back to work. Then Amy and I discovered that we’re having the same dreams, and so we went and talked to the Professor. He jabbed me with some kind of flying needle robot or something. Then Amy and I started walking toward the ship and, poof, suddenly I’m here.” Leela fell silent, exasperated.

Fry sighed. “Leela, we left Earth half an hour ago. You’ve been flying the ship the whole time.”

Leela absorbed that bit of information, then started pacing the length of the bridge. “Ok, so time’s skipping forward again. We’d better go tell the Professor. He’ll need that badass gravity pump out of storage.”

Slowly, Fry shook his head. “No, Leela. Time isn’t skipping forward. It’s you. There was an accident; we think you bumped your head. It’s been making you forget things and remember things that didn’t happen.”

Leela stopped pacing and turned to her friend. “What are you talking about?” She asked. What Fry had said was more than a little unsettling. Exactly what he had just described had happened to her while she’d been in a poison-induced coma a few years earlier.

“We were coming home from a mission on Friday and there was an accident. You and Amy got hurt somehow; you couldn’t remember how you’d gotten there. When we got the ship home, Dr. Zoidberg took a look at you and couldn’t find anything wrong, so then we took you to see a real doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong either. He told us that maybe you guys hit your heads or something, and your memories of the accident might come back eventually.”

“Wait, wait, wait. What accident? There was no… Oh.” The hairs on Leela’s neck began to stand up straight. “This accident, it didn’t happen to involve Bender pushing a button on a device that emitted lots of blue light, and then ended up exploding on us as we tried to run away, did it?”

Fry’s worried look was replaced by one of surprised excitement. “You remember what happened?! The doctor said it might be weeks or- or even months!” The delivery boy reached out and grabbed Leela by the arm. “What else do you remember?” He asked eagerly.

Leela thought about it for a moment. “The whole deck was shaking.” She said finally. “We ran for the ship, and I took off. We got maybe a hundred miles and then something came flying up at us from behind.” She paused, trying to piece together the memory. “All I remember is blue. Everything was blue, and somebody was screaming. That’s it.”

Fry was ecstatic. “That’s it! That’s exactly what happened! Leela, this is great! Ten minutes ago you couldn’t remember anything about the accident at all!”

After pulling herself free of the delivery boy’s grasp, Leela gave him a baffled look. “But I’ve been the one insisting that the accident really happened. You told me Friday it was a dream!”

The exuberance on Fry’s face was replaced by his most confused look yet. The delivery boy was just about to open his mouth to reply when the bridge hatch whooshed open and Amy hurried into the compartment. “Here are the results from that dark matter injector system diagnostic that you wanted me to run.” The intern announced as she thrust a piece of paper into Leela’s hand.

Leela looked at the printout. The paper was blank save for a single large smiley face printed at the center. “Uhh, okay.” The PE captain said, and handed the paper off to Fry. “Say, Amy, could you remind me, what did you and I do this morning?” Leela knew it was a weird question- and that it would make Fry worry about her mental state even more than he already was- but her instincts were telling her that more was going on than simple memory loss and dream-confusion. And, if she was right, the key to figuring it all out lay with Amy.

Not surprisingly, Amy was completely caught off guard by the question. “H- what?” She stuttered. “You mean like, what did we do before the mission? Can’t you remember?”

“Please Amy, just humor me.” Leela replied with more irritation than was probably warranted. “Tell me everything that you remember about this morning, starting from when you got to Planet Express.”

Flustered, the intern took a spare seat and started to think. “Um, well, not much happened.” She said. “I got to work and started running through the preflight checklist thing. Then Bender and Fry showed up; I think Bender said something about staying up all night to rob old people at the hospital… Anyway, he’s still asleep in his cabin.”

“What about me?” Leela prodded.

“Oh, yeah. Umm, I don’t remember when you got to work. I saw you making some of that awful, black coffee you like, and then we started the mission.” Amy shrugged and then looked from Fry to Leela, and then back to Fry. “Why are you asking me? Am I in trouble or something?”

Leela shook her head. “No, no. It’s nothing like that.” Leela assured her friend. “But, you don’t remember anything about being tested by Professor Farnsworth because we were having the same dreams?”

Amy frowned. “N- noooo.” She said slowly. “I mean, he tested all four of us on Friday after the accident because you and I had the wrong memories. He said our quantum-something was in two places at once, or something like that.”

Friday?! But that happened ten minutes ago! Leela’s head was starting to throb in protest. I’ve never been this confused in my life.

And, of course, the universe chose that moment to make things worse. Bender came strolling onto the bridge, his coming heralded by the acrid smell of cigar smoke. “Hey chumps, would one of you mind telling me how the heck we got here?”

“That’s it. We’re turning the ship around!” Leela proclaimed. There was just no way she was going to continue to fly a mission when half of the crewmembers had no memory of actually starting it.

“So now you can’t remember how you got here either, Bender?” Fry was saying.

Bender moved the cigar a few inches from his face and blew a cloud of smoke into the delivery boy’s face, causing him to cough loudly. The robot snickered. “That’s what I just said, isn’t it?”

As an annoyed Fry fanned smoke out of his face, Amy moved to stand next to him. “But Bender, you said you were asleep in your cabin.”

“Yeah, which is code for ‘I don’t want to work, so I’m going to pawn it all off on you and Fry’.

“It’s true.” Fry interjected. “I saw his codebook.”

Leela was in her Captain’s chair, busily entering navigation data into the ship’s computer. When she’d finished she looked up from the console and twisted in her seat so that she was facing Bender. “So if you weren’t asleep, what were you doing?” It only occurred to her after she’d said it that maybe she really didn’t want to know.

The robot shrugged. “Eh, going through Fry’s stuff, like I always do right after payday. Oh, and just to warn you, he got you another crappy present.”

“Bender!” Fry shouted from Leela’s left. The cyclops put an arm out to restrain the redhead before he could break his knuckles by punching Bender in the face. “Calm down, Fry.” She muttered impatiently, and then added “I’m sure it’s great.” The delivery boy shot his captain a surprised look and grinned at the unexpected statement, and Leela felt a twinge of guilt that she’d just been trying to shut him up.

“Anyway,” Bender continued, “I heard this weird popping noise, and I looked out the window to see if one of you meatbags had died or something- because, you know, that would have been so hilarious- and there were stars outside the ship, which is crap, because I never heard the ship take off.” The robot took another pull on his cigar.

Popping noise? A little light switched on in the PE Captain’s head. Both times everything changed around me I heard a loud pop, and Amy said she heard the same thing- well, back when Amy was saying we were having the same dreams. And now Bender too? No way that’s a coincidence. “Alright, well it’s pretty clear that something weird is going on.” Leela said aloud. “And since we don’t know what it is yet, I’m going to tell the autopilot to take us back to Earth. Maybe the Professor has had some time to run some of those tests he talked about this morning- err, Friday, err, whenever it was.” Exasperated, Leela shook her head.

“Ah, you’re back!” Farnsworth exclaimed. Leela felt her heart sink. It was never a good sign when the Professor was standing by the debarkation ramp to welcome the crew home; generally it meant someone was about to become an unwitting guinea pig for some new experiment.

“Hi, Professor.” The rest of the crew mumbled unhappily. They also knew what the scientist’s appearance would mean.

Farnsworth, as always, was completely oblivious to his employees’ lackluster response. “I have good news!”

“Oh boy.” Fry muttered under his breath. Leela shot him a sympathetic look out of the corner of her eye.

“Please, everybody follow me.” The feeble old scientist continued, gesturing in the direction of his lab. “I’ve finished the tests on the four of you that I started last Friday, and I need to show you the results right away!” Farnsworth began shuffling off in the direction of his laboratory. Of course, the crew immediately passed him. Fry and Amy found places on the work table to sit while Bender and Leela stood with their arms crossed and waited for the old man to finally appear.

Eventually Farnsworth was able to haul his arthritic old frame to the lab, at which point he shuffled over to a computer and started pressing some buttons. A small hologram flickered into existence in the middle of the room.

Leela regarded the glowing green image in front of her curiously. It looked to her like a rubber band that someone was stretching in all different directions. The little whatever-it-was was shimmering and pulsing in a hypnotic rhythm; Leela found herself fascinated by it.

“Neat screensaver.” Fry said approvingly.

“It’s not a screensaver.” Farnsworth replied with faux-patience. “It’s a superstring- well, a heavily simplified model of one, anyway. I couldn’t afford the holographic projector that could present something in eleven dimensions.”

“What’s it do?” Leela asked.

“I’m glad you asked that question, Leela.” The Professor said with that slight air of condescension that always made Leela want to roundhouse kick him in the face. “You see, physicists first came up with the idea of superstrings in the 20th century as a way to confuse outsiders into thinking that physicists actually knew what they were talking about. Ironically, it was discovered two hundred years later that superstrings really do exist.” Farnsworth chuckled. “Any who, scientists discovered that all of the information about an object- its mass, spin, flavor, sexual orientation, etcetera- all of it is stored in little quantum ‘bits’ that manifest themselves as vibrations on these tiny little superstrings.”

For some reason, Fry seemed to think he needed to raise his hand and wait to be called on. “So what does all of that have to do with us?” He asked when the Professor finally called on him.

“Ah well, one of the bits of information that gets stored on these strings is called the reality coefficient. Modern science predicts the existence of an infinite number of parallel timelines that occupy our universe simultaneously, with each one corresponding to a different reality coefficient. We experience one timeline as ‘real’ and think of all of the others as ‘imaginary’ because the reality values in the strings that make up our bodies never change. Or at least, they aren’t supposed to.”

Leela waited for a moment, but the Professor was done talking. “Let me guess.” She said. “Our reality coefficients are changing.”

“Yes!” Farnsworth was suddenly overflowing with excitement. “Your bodies’ reality coefficients are oscillating back and forth, and my discovery that reality coefficients can be altered will most likely win me another Nobel Prize! Just imagine what would be possible if we had the ability to access an infinite number of alternate timelines at will! It would be the biggest scientific breakthrough since the discovery of where all the socks go when you’re doing your laundry!”

Amy looked at Leela in confusion. “Uh, I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?”

Leela was just about to hazard her best guess when Farnsworth overrode her. “The big deal is that, with your reality coefficients randomly changing back and forth between two values, the superstrings that make up your bodies get confused and can’t remember which timeline is ‘real’ and which one is ‘imaginary’.”

“So does that mean we’ve been bouncing back and forth between two different realities?” Leela asked.

“I expect so.” Farnsworth replied. “And when you enter another timeline, superdupersymmetry would require that the version of you that inhabited that timeline would get bumped into our reality and take your place. That would explain why some of you have certain memories that others of you don’t. I suspect that at least some of you are actually from another reality.”

Suddenly everyone was on their feet. There was a collective “What?!” followed by a flurry of suspicious glances from one person to the next. “So, you’re saying that Amy might not really be Amy, or Leela might not really be Leela, but some kind of evil parallel-Leela from one of those parallel universe box dealies?” Fry asked the old scientist, and shot another glance in Leela’s direction.”

“Huh-wha? Who said anything about parallel universes?”

Fry looked around himself uncertainly. “Uh, I thought you did.”

“Not parallel universes, you orange-haired ignoramus! Didn’t they teach you anything about multiple worlds theory in high school? There are no alternate universes involved here. Those yellow boxes in the storage locker have nothing to do with this.”

“Oh… So then what’s the difference between me from this timeline and the me from the other timeline? Are we the same?”

“Hmm, well I suppose it would depend on your definition.” Farnsworth replied calmly after a few moments of thought. “The fluctuations in your reality coefficients are extremely small, so the reality you are visiting must be almost identical to ours, though not exactly the same, of course. So if you mean, are you identical down to the subatomic level, then yes, you are the same people. You also have almost exactly the same memories and experiences, and identical personalities. But I suppose you could technically say that you’re two different people. As for who belongs to which reality, I suspect that you are really ‘our’ Fry, since you remember the accident that occurred on the way home from your delivery last Friday. And Leela is ‘our’ Leela for the same reason. But Amy here seems to remember a slightly different version of history, am I right?”

Amy realized the question was aimed at her. Wide eyed, and obviously not sure what to make of anything that was going on, the intern tried to say something intelligible. “Uh, well, I don’t remember any accident last Friday.” She conceded uncertainly. “I thought I remembered getting back from the mission and getting ready to drive home. But, I mean, didn’t I dream that?”

Farnsworth shook his head. “On the contrary, you remember getting back from the mission on Friday evening without there having been an accident because in your reality that is exactly what happened.

“Wait, so then if she isn’t Amy, then where is Amy?” Fry asked. Amy just stood nearby looking increasingly uncomfortable.

“She’s over in the other timeline.” Leela realized. “I talked with her this morning. We thought we were having the same dreams, but we were remembering something that had really happened to us.” She paused for a second when something else occurred to her. “Hey, what about Bender? Which reality is he from?”

Everyone turned to stare at the robot, who was once again smoking a cigar. “Well, let’s see…” Bender began, not particularly worried. “I don’t remember this accident you all keep yapping on about, so I’m probably from the other timeline.” He paused for a moment. “Besides, you’re all losers; I can’t be from this reality.”

A few seconds passed in silence while everyone regarded everyone else. Almost unconsciously Leela and Fry moved closer together and Amy edged toward Bender. Eventually Amy found the nerve to ask the obvious question. “So if this isn’t our timeline, then how do we get home?”

“Oh, well that part is easy!” Farnsworth assured her. “Eventually your counterpart will bounce back into this timeline, and you will be thrown back into your own reality. Of course, you’ll continue to oscillate back and forth until I can come up with a way to stabilize you- err, the other you- err, whatever.”

“So then how long are we stuck here?” Bender asked, feigning disinterest.

“Sadly, there is no way to know. You could be in this timeline for the next five minutes, or the next five months.” Farnsworth shrugged.

“Great, just what I needed. Up to five months stuck with a bunch of jerks from another reality.” Bender grumbled. “That other Bender had just better not touch my stuff while he’s in my timeline. It took me years to steal all that-“

Suddenly Amy gasped and jumped about a foot in the air. “Ai-yaaah! What’s going on? Where am I?”

“Alright, does everyone understand what’s going on, now?” Leela asked desperately. She and the Professor had just finished explaining everything to Amy- the one that was originally from her timeline- and then had had to do it all again when Fry had spontaneously switched places with his alternate.

All that Leela got in response from her crew were a series of uncertain half-nods and a few shrugs. The cyclops sighed. “Well, whatever. Just as long as everyone gets that there’s two of everybody. Which reminds me, we need to find some way of figuring out who is who.”

Fry perked up at the suggestion. Leela was pretty sure that it was still the ‘other’ Fry. “Hey, yeah! Let’s all come up with cool new names for ourselves!”

Bender thrust himself into the middle of the group before anyone else could respond. “Whoah, whoah, whoah.” He said, crossing and uncrossing his arms in front of him. “Not so fast. Why should I have to change my name just because some second rate copy of me can’t keep his quantum-whatevers out of my reality?”

“Well, I’m not changing my name if Bender doesn’t have to.” Amy added.

Leela sighed again. Why did everything have to be so difficult? “Alright, fine. We’ll flip a coin. If it’s heads, then anyone not from this reality has to pick another name. If it’s tails, then everyone from this reality has to do it. Is that acceptable to everyone?” Leela’s eye narrowed pointedly at Bender.

“Whatever you say, thunder buns.” Bender retorted.

Ignoring the jab, Leela reached into one of her front pockets and pulled out a coin. It was one of the new quarters, of the kind that had an image representing one of the fifty inhabited locations in the Solar System stamped on one side. This one was a Callisto; Leela didn’t think she had one of those in her collection yet.

Leela skillfully tossed the coin straight up in the air and, catching it in the palm of her right hand, quickly covered it with her left. Fry and the others leaned in to see what the result would be, but Fry spoke before Leela had a chance to uncover the coin.

“Hey, wait a sec. If we’re flipping this coin here, does that mean the us from that other universe where Leela and I are married are flipping a coin too? And they’ll get the opposite of whatever we get?”

Everyone just stared at Fry for a moment. “Fry, just shut up.” Bender said finally, shaking his head while one robotic palm was planted against his forehead.

Leela uncovered the coin. It was heads.

“No fair! I demand a recount!” Bender hollered, but nobody paid him any attention.

Fry, on the other hand, seemed perfectly happy. “This is great! But what name should I go by?” The delivery boy seemed to mull it over momentarily. “Oh, I know! From now on, everybody call me ‘Lex Luthor’.”

Amy and Leela exchanged glances. “Uhh, maybe you should just go by Philip?” Amy suggested.

Fry looked to Leela for support. “But Lex Luthor is so much cooler.” He whined.

“We are not calling you Lex Luthor.” Leela said shortly. “How about we call you Phil?”

Fry tried to argue, but his voice petered out in surrender. He sighed with disappointment. “Alright. Call me Phil.”

“Good. Now, since Amy and I are from this timeline, we don’t have to change our names. What about you, Bender?”

The robot crossed his arms. “Forget it. Bender doesn’t change his name for anybody. And if you meatsacks don’t like it then you can bite my shiny metal ass.”

Leela frowned dangerously. “Now listen, Bender. You lost the coin toss, and if you don’t start being part of the solution rather than part of the problem, I’m going to kick your shiny metal ass until it’s as dull as dirt. Understood?”

A loud pop cut off the robot’s witty comeback, and Leela’s surroundings abruptly changed. “Oh, for the love of-.” Leela groaned.

It took the whole rest of the day to get everyone in both timelines up to speed. Luckily, Fry and the alternate Amy- who had eventually decided to go by the slightly different pronunciation Aimee- had both heard the entire duplicate-timeline conversation before they’d been yanked back into the other reality- or the beta reality, as Leela found herself calling it. By the time Leela had ended up in the beta reality, Fry and Aimee had already filled the Professor and the other Leela in on what was going on.

The other Leela. What a weird concept that was. Leela remembered the surreal experience of falling into another universe and finding a near duplicate of herself, but that wasn’t the same thing. The other Leela had looked slightly different than her, and she’d been married. To Fry. It had been impossible for Leela to really think of her Universe 1 duplicate as being her. But now there was some copy of her from the same universe running around in her reality. A copy that was her, right down to the subatomic level. And to make things worse, Leela could never meet her. The two of them couldn’t even exist in the same reality simultaneously.

Amy had popped into the beta reality an hour or so after Leela had. The intern had informed her that Leela’s duplicate had decided to go by ‘Tura’. Apparently she’d thought Turanga was too much of a mouthful and hadn’t been able to come up with anything else on the spot. Leela wasn’t really sure how she felt about that name.

When it was time to go home for the day, Leela was still in the alternate timeline. Fry was with her, but Amy and Bender were back in the alpha reality. The PE Captain was starting to notice a pattern. Every time a switch between timelines occurred it involved two people. When Leela switched places with her duplicate, Tura, someone else would also swap realities with their duplicate. The result seemed to be that only two of the four PE crewmembers with screwed up quantum bits were in a given timeline at once.

As Leela worked her way through the Planet Express building toward the front door, Fry came jogging up behind her. “Wait, hold on a sec, Leela!” He called.

Leela waited for the delivery boy to catch up. “Mind if I walk with you?” He asked. “I know everything’s exactly the same here as it is at home, but, well, it’d be kinda nice to have someone from my own reality to talk with.”

“Well…” Leela searched the delivery boy’s face but saw no sign that this was an attempt to get her alone so he could ask her out again. “Alright.”

The two of them headed for the door and turned right onto the street that headed downtown. Fry kept looking around at the buildings as if he expected to find something that he’d never seen before.

“Hey, Fry.” Leela said after they’d walked a block in silence. “You never really told me what happened after the accident.”

Fry didn’t take his eyes off his surroundings. “Oh, right, you weren’t really there. Not much happened. Bender and I woke up on the floor, but you and Amy were still passed out. I told the autopilot to send us home, and then I tried to wake you guys up when we got back to Earth.”

“What about the space station? Did you see what happened to it?”

“Yeah. There’s nothing left of it, just some chunks of metal and stuff.”

“Oh.” She’d been hoping the station had somehow survived the accident. Maybe the Professor would have been able to figure out how the thing worked and fix the reality jump problem, but that wasn’t going to be a possibility. If only that station existed in this reality… The sensor logs from this reality’s Planet Express Ship showed no evidence that the station had been there when the ship had passed near where it should have been on the previous Friday’s delivery.

Leela noticed that Fry was still looking for some difference in the cityscape. “Give it up, Fry.” Leela said after awhile. “The Professor said that this reality is almost identical to ours. You’re not going to find anything different.”

“Yeah, but there was no accident on Friday in this reality. So other stuff might be different too, right?”

Leela considered that. “True.” She conceded. I wonder if that’s why I’d never heard of an exploding manhole cover problem until Friday night? Maybe that’s not a problem in our reality. She hadn’t been back in reality alpha long enough in the last few days to actually go find out. That would have to be her top priority when she and Tura switched places again, whenever that was going to be. With a start Leela realized that Tura might not even know that her parents were in danger of losing their homes. Tura had spent most of the last few days in Leela’s reality. If it was as Leela thought, and it was only the mutants in this reality that were in danger, then it was likely that Tura had no idea that anything was going on.

“Fry, I need to ask you a big favor.” Leela said.

“Sure, anything.” Fry replied instantly, still looking around him for a sign of something new.

“Remember how I was telling you about the Mayor’s plan here to rebuild the sewers and kick my parents and the other mutants out of the city?”

“Yeah. I remem- Hey, that donut store was never there before!” The delivery boy’s face fell. “Oh wait, never mind. Yes it was.”

Leela grabbed the delivery boy’s arm angrily. “Fry, this is important! Tura’s parents are going to lose their homes, and there’s a chance that mine might too! When you get back to our timeline you have to warn Tura, and find out if the Mayor is planning to rebuild the sewer system back in our New New York. I’d do it myself, but you might end up back in our reality before me, and Tura and I can’t ever be in the same reality at once.”

Catching the seriousness in his Captain’s eye, Fry stopped looking around and concentrated on her. “Ok Leela. I’ll let the other Leel- Tura- know the next time I see her. And I’ll find out about your parents. I promise.” Satisfied, Leela smiled and released her grip on her friend’s wrist. Fry absently rubbed the red mark that had appeared where his Captain’s hand had been.

Presently, Fry and Leela found themselves at the intersection where their paths would diverge. For a moment they stood at the edge of the sidewalk and just sort of lingered there, neither of them saying anything. Feeling awkward and not knowing quite why, Leela waved. “Uh, so I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I guess. Goodnight.” Fry replied and reluctantly turned away.

When Leela got home there was a message on her answering machine. It was from her parents. No, Tura’s parents she reminded herself. Briefly she mulled over whether or not she had the right to answer it. The message wasn’t really for her, after all. Still, she was fairly certain that she’d want her duplicate to answer the message if their situations had been reversed, in case there had been some kind of emergency. Guess I’d better. She thought, and pushed the machine’s blinking red button.

An image of Tura’s parents appeared on her apartment’s television screen. Tura’s mom looked ragged, and her eyes were red and puffy as if she’d been crying recently. Her husband looked even more worried than usual. “Hi honey.” Tura’s mom began. “We didn’t want to bother you, but we wanted to make sure that you were alright. You never called us back after your meeting with the Mayor. We’re starting to get a little worried.”

Oh shit. With all of this transreality crap going on, she’d never had the opportunity to call Tura’s parents. They must think the government found out that I’m a mutant and had me arrested. Leela cut off the message and began to dial the videophone. She had a duty to let Tura’s parents know what was going on.

The phone rang twice before someone picked it up on the other end. Tura’s father’s face loomed large in Leela’s giant wall screen. “Leela!” The mutant exclaimed, relief flooding over his face. “Your mother and I were so worried!” Morris turned and called over his shoulder “Munda, it’s Leela!” Tura’s mother immediately came bustling into the field of view. Her eye was even redder than it had been in the message.

“Leela?! Are you alright?!” Munda demanded.

“I’m fine, uh, Mom.” Leela reassured her. “No one found me out.”

“Then the police didn’t get you? Or the government?” Morris asked.

“No, no I’m fine. Really. I just, ah, was stuck somewhere most of the day where I couldn’t call.” How do I tell them?

Morris and Munda looked at each other. “Where?” Munda asked.

“Well you see, the truth is…”

“So, you’re not really our Leela?” Munda was asking.

Leela shook her head. “No, I’m not. Not quite. Look, I’m really sorry Mr. And Mrs. Turanga, I didn’t know until after I got back from the Mayor’s office this morning.”

Tura’s parents cringed when Leela called them by their family name. “Please, call us Mom and Dad.” Munda implored her.

Morris nodded. “You might not be exactly from this reality, but you’re still Leela, and that means we’re still your parents- I mean, as long as you want us to be.”

Leela smiled affectionately at her almost-parents. “Of course, Dad.”

When Leela was finally certain that Tura’s parents understood what was going on, and had explained several times that she had no way to know when they’d be able to talk to Tura again, Leela confessed that she was unbelievably tired and Tura’s parents let her go after saying goodnight. The PE Captain made a beeline for her bed and collapsed on top of it. She was out like a light before her head hit the pillow.

The next morning, and in a different reality, Fry forced himself out of bed. He’d been up most of the night thinking about everything that was going on, and every time he got close to sleep he kept thinking he heard a popping noise and he’d be awake again, wondering if he’d just crossed the barrier between timelines. By the time his exhausted body had finally drifted off into unconsciousness, dawn was only a couple of hours away.

Groggily, Fry wrestled his way into his clothes and grabbed a Dark Energy breakfast bar from an overturned box that was lying on the floor under a dirty t-shirt. The box’s label- partially obscured- proclaimed in bold letters “Dark Energy Bars- expand your mind, and your universe!”

On the way to work Fry tried again to find something- anything- that might serve to indicate which reality he was in. He made a mental note- which he instantly forgot- to put up a sign in his room when he’d figured it out so he wouldn’t ever wake up again with no idea where he was.

A few of the crewmembers were sitting around waiting for the morning briefing to begin when Fry entered the Planet Express Building conference room fifteen minutes later. The delivery boy began to slide into a seat between Amy and Bender when he remembered that he wasn’t really sure that that’s who they were.

Awkwardly, Fry leaned over the chair and asked the intern to his right “Uh, which Amy Wong are you?”

“I’m Amy. You’re Phil, right?”

“Uhh, no. I’m Fry, the one from your timeline.”

“Oh, okay.” Amy replied sweetly. “And, umm, you’re still the other Bender, right?” she asked the robot to Fry’s left.

Bender’s head swiveled ninety degrees to favor Fry and Amy with an insulted look. “Do I look like the Bender from your loser reality?”

“Umm, yes?”

“Well, I’m not” the other Bender replied drily before turning away.

Fry regarded the robot for a moment or two and then shrugged. He turned back to Amy. “So, which reality are we in, again?”

“Ours, I think.” Amy replied, a little uncertainly.

One of the Leelas dropped into a seat to Amy’s right. “Yes, this is your reality.” She said, nodding. “That’s what your Professor just told me, anyways.”

Fry caught the use of the word ‘your’. I guess that means she’s Tura, not Leela. He thought. Suddenly he remembered the important message that he was supposed to relay to her. “Tura, there’s something Leela wanted me to tell you.” He started.

At the mention of her double, Tura seemed to pause. “Oh. Uhh, alright. What is it?” Tura stuttered, obviously a little unsure how to handle being faced with a message from herself.

Before Fry could answer, Professor Farnsworth came shuffling into the room with Hermes at his heels. “Good news, everyone!” the old inventor declared, inevitably, as he gently lowered himself into his padded armchair.

“What, did you find a way to stop the reality-jumps already?” Tura asked eagerly.

Farnsworth hesitated and began to stare at the cyclops. “Eh, the reality what now?” There was a beat and then he adjusted his glasses. “Say, who are you, anyway?” Hermes whispered into Farnsworth’s ear as Tura rolled her eye in exasperation. “Reality fluctuations?” He said when Hermes had finished. “That’s imposs- Ah, wait. I seem to remember something about that. Yes, yes that’s right. The four of you are jumping randomly back and forth between two timelines.” Farnsworth made a sweeping gesture, encompassing Fry, Amy, the other Bender, and Tura.

“Right, Professor.” Fry said. “Right now, Leela and Bender are in the other timeline-dealie; I think Leela was calling it Reality Beta and this one Reality Alpha. But anyway, that’s Tura, Amy, and- umm- the other Bender. Oh, and I’m Fry.”

Tura shook her head in confusion. “This is getting to be too much.” She said. “We need to come up with a way to tell each other apart without having to explain it every five minutes, especially since any one of us could switch places with our doubles at any time and nobody else would know.”

Fry nodded. “Yeah okay, but how?”

Tura considered that for a moment. “I know.” She said. Reaching up over her head, she wrapped her fingers around her hair band and pulled her ponytail free, causing her hair to cascade down her shoulders. “There, now if you see me with my hair down, you’ll always know that I’m me- and not that other Le- I mean Leela.” She said as she tried to pull a few errant strands of purple away from her face.

It took awhile for Fry to realize that he was staring. He hadn’t seen his Leela with her hair down more than once or twice. He liked it. A lot. Luckily, Tura was so distracted by the last few strands of hair that refused to do what she wanted of them that she didn’t notice that Fry was gawking at her.

“Hey, that’s a nice look for you, Tura.” Amy said with an approving look. “It’s not all uptight and boring like your usual look.”

“Gee, thanks.” Tura muttered before getting up from the conference table. The cyclops strode over to the refrigerator in the nearby kitchenette and reached for one of the many magnets that adorned the refrigerator’s surface. She missed the little Slurm magnet that she’d been aiming for, having misjudged its distance by a few inches. When her fingers came away empty she looked at them for a moment, puzzled, and then let out a mildly annoyed sigh before trying again. The rest of the crew studiously didn’t notice. In their experience, acknowledging a lapse in their Leela’s depth perception only led to physical pain.

Tura’s aim was better the second time around. Still annoyed at herself, Tura spun on one heel- causing her newly-freed hair to whirl about her obnoxiously- and strode back to the table.

The other Bender eyed the magnet suspiciously as Tura approached him with it. “Hey, what’re you doing with that thing?”

“Relax,” Tura said before leaning over and sticking the Slurm magnet onto Bender’s chest before the robot could flinch away. Straightening, Tura put her hands on her hips. “That ought to set you apart from the Bender that comes from this timeline.”

As Tura moved back to her original seat, Hermes shuffled a stack of papers. Standing, the bureaucrat began to address the crew. “Alright, with that all taken care of, I’ll go ahead and start da briefing.” Hermes reached for the holographic projector’s control panel, which was built into the table. “Today you’ll be deliverin’ two million units of Top Rama’n to Gradstudious VI, the graduate student planet. Without it, their entire society could starve to death within a matter of weeks.”

“Oh, boo-hoo.” Bender said.

Fry soon found himself alone on the Planet Express ship bridge with Tura. Tura was piloting the ship, something that Fry knew should not make him feel weird. There was just something odd about the idea that someone other than his Leela was captaining the ship. The fact that Tura was identical in almost every conceivable way was just somehow not enough to keep him from sneaking a glance in her direction every once in awhile, as though she might steer the ship into a star at any moment. And it didn’t help that she kept messing with her hair, which just distracted Fry from his navigation screen even further.

Time passed slowly, as it often does in the big empty reaches between galaxy clusters. The other Bender was somewhere in the aft portion of the ship- doing who knew what- and Amy was resting up for her shift. Tura was staring straight out the front viewport, clearly bored out of her mind. Eventually the cyclops stirred and looked around her. Fry waited patiently for her eye to scan the bridge and then finally come to rest on him. It was a familiar pattern. Leela- or Tura, as it happened to be- would realize that she was in danger of falling asleep at the wheel and would look for someone- anyone- to help her stay awake. That someone almost inevitably ended up being Fry- even when other crewmembers were present- but Leela’s eye always scanned the entire compartment, as if she kept expecting there to be someone new to talk to.

As he’d expected, Tura shifted around in her chair to face him and started to fumble for something to talk about. “So uhh… How ‘bout them-? Hey, hold on a sec, didn’t you have something you were supposed to tell me?”

Fry’s eyes widened as he remembered the message that Leela had asked him to ferry across the timeline barrier to her double. You idiot! He chided himself. How could you have forgotten that already?! “Oh, crap! That’s right, I had something really important that Leela wanted me to tell you.”

“What is it?” Tura asked, more curious than worried.

“It’s about your parents.”

Suddenly the expression on Tura’s face was dead serious. She sat up straighter in the Captain’s chair. “What about my parents?”

Fry sat back in his chair and frowned, not quite sure how he should break the news. “Umm, do you know anything about exploding manhole covers?”

Tura cocked her head to one side, her sudden worry momentarily forgotten by the sheer unexpectedness of the question. “Exploding what now?”

“Manhole covers.” Fry repeated. “They keep popping off of manholes and flying into the air. At least, that’s what they’re doing in your timeline. I don’t think that’s happening here.”

“Oh right, I remember that. There was a story in the news a couple weeks ago. Some poor schmo got hit in the head. The paramedics got there in five minutes, but he’d already died of a completely unrelated heart attack.” Tura paused. “But what’s that got to do with my parents?”

“Well, the Mayor thinks the only way to fix the problem is to completely rebuild the sewer system. He’s going to kick all of the mutants out of the sewers when they install the new system.”

When Tura didn’t say anything, but just stared fixedly at his face, Fry began to grow more and more nervous. He noticed that Tura’s hands had balled themselves into fists and that her face was beginning to turn a shade of red that- on Leela- was usually indicative that someone’s spine was about to be severed. “Uhh, Tura…?” He tried tentatively.

“How could they do that?!” Tura demanded, her voice a dangerous growl. “How could they do that to my parents?”

Not sure how to respond, Fry was only able to shrug and pray inwardly that Tura didn’t decide to kill the messenger.

Tura got up from her seat and began to pace the length of the bridge, her long hair jerking back and forth as she walked, and serving to highlight her fury. After a few seconds of silence in which Fry tried to make himself as unattractive a target as possible, Tura whirled on him. “I have to get back home. Right now.”

“But Tura, the Professor hasn’t figured out how to send you back yet. You’re gonna have to wait until the next time that you and Leela switch places. And anyway, Leela’s in the other timeline. She’ll take care of everything while you’re gone. Leela is-”

“Not me!” Tura interrupted. “I know she’s really, really close to being me, but she’s not me! I should be over there in my reality taking care of this, not her!”

There wasn’t anything that Fry could say to that but, even though he knew words of comfort he could offer would be meaningless, he felt like he had to say something. While he was fumbling for something that didn’t sound completely stupid and inadequate, Tura continued to pace. While she was facing away from Fry, she muttered something that he couldn’t quite hear. “What?”

“I’ll kill somebody if they force my parents from their home.” She repeated, turning to face him again. She wasn’t quite able to keep her voice from wavering. Fry saw the tear in the corner of her eye before Tura could wipe it away. “I mean it.” She said, and suddenly she was no longer the terrifying, take-no-prisoners starship captain. Instead, Fry found himself face to face with the vulnerable and insecure part of Leela that usually hid deep beneath her protective shell. Then Tura started to cry.

The abrupt change in Tura was frightening. Instinctively Fry stood and moved to her side. She wasn’t technically his Leela, but he still knew enough about her to know that nothing could shake her up like a threat to her parents. Tentatively the delivery boy put an arm around Tura’s shoulders and steered her toward the couch at the front of the compartment. Tura allowed herself to be guided, and miserably sank into the couch cushions. “I- I’m sorry, Fry.” She said between sobs. “I shouldn’t be making you see me like this.”

Shaking his head, Fry sat down next to her. “No, no. Don’t apologize.”

Tura looked at him out of the corner of her eye and gave him just the tiniest hint of an appreciative smile before turning away to self-consciously wipe her eye free of tears. After a few moments of noticeable effort she managed to get control over herself. As Fry watched, the armored mental shell that surrounded her began to slowly snap back into place. He wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or saddened.

A long while passed. Fry and Tura just sat together on the couch, allowing themselves to be hypnotized by the passing stars. It was only when Tura heard the muffled thump and scream that signaled that Amy was awake that she stirred from her position. Fry turned to her as she stood, and Tura smiled down at him. Then, to Fry’s utter surprise, she bent down and lightly squeezed his hand. “Thank you.” She said, and then left the bridge.

“That was an awful delivery.” Fry was saying as the crew debarked from the ship and headed for the conference room. Aimee, who had switched places with Amy just as the PE ship had been approaching Gradstudious VI, looked curiously at the delivery boy.

“Gwuh? It wasn’t any worse than they usually are- well, at least, where I come from.”

Fry did a double take when he turned to look in the intern’s direction. The method that Aimee had settled upon to distinguish herself from her double was… distracting to say the least. Apparently it was possible in the future to change your hair color by fiddling with a knob on a little remote control. It was going to take awhile for Fry to get used to having a blonde version of Amy around. “Are you kidding?” He replied before turning away for a moment to hit the button for the elevator that would take them to the second floor. “It was much worse than usual. First, we got there and had to haul the packages a mile by hoverdolly to drop them off. Plus, you and I had to wear shielded spacesuits to protect us from the dangerous levels of MSG in each package.”

“What are you talking about Fry?” Bender interrupted. “I didn’t wear any crappy meatbag spacesuit.” Bender, who’d stashed the Slurm magnet in his chest cabinet once its purpose had been explained to him, had swapped places with his double at the same time as Amy. It was beginning to seem like a pattern; only two of the four of them that were switching between timelines were ever in the same reality at the same time.

Fry scowled at the robot as the three of them tried to squeeze into the small elevator. Fry started to hit the ‘door close’ button, but noticed Tura hurrying down the ship’s ramp at the last moment and decided to wait. Turning back to the robot, Fry said “I was talking to Aimee. All you did was sit on your ass and complain.”

Tura squeezed her way into the elevator with the others and hit the button for the second floor. “Yeah, that and shred about 200 dissertation papers. We almost didn’t make it out alive… again…”

“I sure learned one thing.” Fry remarked, shaking his head. “Never mess with graduate students. They don’t have anything left to lose and they all pack heat.”

“I know I do.” Aimee replied.

Before anyone could respond to that little revelation, the doors slid open, and Zoidberg waved to them from the nearby conference table.

Seeing the Decapodian, Bender reached for the ‘door close button’. “Oops, wrong floor” he announced. Sighing, Tura hauled the robot from the elevator, and the others followed.

As Fry approached the conference table he started to hear the sound of snoring coming from the Professor’s leather chair. Sure enough, when Fry rounded the conference table and could see who was sitting in the chair, he discovered the sleeping form of Professor Farnsworth.

The crew sat around the table and looked at each other. “Uhh, Professor?” Fry tried. He got no response.

A few seconds passed. “Yo, old guy! Wake the hell up!” Bender yelled, but the snoring continued. Bender sat back in his chair. “Well, I’m out of ideas.”

Tura made an irritated noise. “Ugh. I don’t have time for this.” She cleared her throat. “Wernstrom.” She said flatly.

Farnsworth reacted as if he’d been shocked. Bolting upright, the senile old scientist looked wildly in all directions- including, to Fry’s confusion, toward the ceiling. “Wernstrom? Who said Wernstrom?” Farnsworth demanded.

“No one, Professor. You must have been dreaming.” Tura said.

“Huh, wha? Are you sure?” When Tura nodded, the scientist reluctantly sank back into his chair, giving the room one last sweep with his rheumy old eyes. “Well alright, if you’re certain.” He hesitated, seemingly noticing for the first time that his entire crew was assembled around him. “Now, what are we doing again?”

“We just got back from the mission.” Fry explained patiently. “So it’s time for the debrief-“ Someone kicked him in the shin. “Ow!”

“What Fry meant to say was that we just finished the exceedingly long, pointless debriefing, and you were about to tell us whether or not you’ve made any progress on finding a way to stop the reality-jumps.” Tura said.

“Uhh, yeah. That’s exactly what I meant.” Fry added as he gingerly massaged his left leg.

“Oh yes, the reality jumps.” Farnsworth nodded to himself. “Yes, I believe I have come up with a vaccine that will stabilize the cosmic strings in all of your bodies. Of course, it’s just a prototype, but-”

“Where is it?” Tura was out of her seat. “Is it ready to be used?”

“Well, I suppose… But again, it’s just a prototype.”

“Will it kill me?”

“Wha?” Farnsworth thought for a second. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Then give it to me! I need to get back to my own reality as soon as possible. It’s an emergency.”

“Hmm… Well, I suppose it can’t do any harm.” Farnsworth stood. “Everyone follow me to my laboratory.”

“You’re sure this won’t hurt her?” Fry asked nervously. The delivery boy harbored a deep dislike of needles, and the one that the Professor was carrying around with him was the largest he’d ever seen. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Farnsworth was busily filling the syringe with a glowing blue liquid. No combination of that could be a good thing.

“Oh, don’t worry. Tura will be just fine.” Farnsworth assured.

“Then why is she strapped to that table?” Aimee asked, pointing to a white medical table upon which Tura lay on her back, her arms and legs secured by leather straps.

“Oh fuff. That’s just a standard precaution. Nothing to be alarmed about.” Having finished loading his syringe, Farnsworth shuffled over to the bed and swabbed the space above one of Tura’s arm veins. “I don’t want Tura to get loose and smash up the lab equipment if she seizes like all those lab mice did.”

“Hey, hold on. You never said…” Tura winced as the needle entered her arm. Farnsworth emptied the contents of the syringe, and Tura’s arm momentarily glowed blue before the liquid spread through her bloodstream.

“Well, that hurt.” Tura muttered as the needle was withdrawn. Nothing else happened. “Uhh, so how long should it take before we know whether it’s working?”

“Hmm… I’m not quite sure.” Farnsworth said. “Not long, I would think.”

“Well, I don’t feel anything-”

Pop. “-yet.” Whoah. Neither Tura nor Leela had ever experienced double vision, but this was close. The Professor’s lab was right there in front of her, but so was the conference room. “What’s going on?” Who said that? “Am I in the conference room now? That must mean it worked!” What worked? “Who’s talking?” Wait, is that my voice? “Leela?” Who is this?! Pop. Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.

“Quick, somebody call a doctor!” Fry hollered over his shoulder. He was kneeling on the table over the heaving form of the purple haired cyclops. He was trying to keep her from hurting herself, but so far all he was managing to do was get kneed repeatedly in the crotch.

“I’m a doctor.” Zoidberg replied excitedly, holding up the medical kit that he’d brought with him from his nearby office.

“No, I mean a real doctor!” Fry yelled back. Abruptly the table stopped its wild heaving and was still. Fry froze, and the cyclops’ eye fluttered open.


“Fry, what are you doing?” She managed weakly. Fry, realizing that he was straddling her, turned a deep shade of scarlet and slid to the floor.

“Uhh, nothing. Are you okay, Leela?”

The cyclops sighed. “No. I’m not okay at all. It didn’t work, Fry. I’m Tura.”

Part II: Rights


“What? What’s remarkable?” Fry tried to steal a glance over the Professor’s shoulder at the gizmometer that the scientist was waving around Tura’s head. The delivery boy was trying- unsuccessfully- to hide his worry as he hovered around the bed that Tura was still strapped to. He knew that Leela- and therefore Tura- hated it when anyone worried about her. It was like she couldn’t stand the thought that anyone might think her incapable of handling any given situation by herself.

“Hmm… I’m not quite sure.” Farnsworth said, waving the device some more.

“Professor, please.” Tura tried to sit up but was thwarted by the straps that still tied her to the table. “Would somebody just get these things off me, already?!” Fry waited for Farnsworth to object, but when the scientist didn’t give a sign one way or the other, the delivery boy bent down and loosened the bonds.

“Thanks, Fry.” Tura sat up and crossed her arms. “You’ve been waving that thing around for ten minutes” she snapped at Farnsworth. “What’s it telling you? What happened to me back there?”

The gizmometer beeped. “Oh my, well this is terrible news. Absolutely terrible.” Farnsworth shut off the device and walked over to a nearby tool cabinet, where he began rummaging around.

Fry hovered behind the scientist. “What’s terrible? Is Tura hurt or something? Is she going to be alright?”

“Oh, no. She’ll be fine. Where did you get a moronic idea like that? The gizmometer is just out of batteries.” Farnsworth’s hand emerged from the tool cabinet clutching a couple of β+β- (also known as double B) batteries.

“Ai ya! Professor, would you please just let us know what’s going on?” Aimee called from where she sat perched on a nearby lab table.

“Very well.” Farnsworth opened a little hatch in the back of his gizmometer, pulled out the dead batteries, slid the new ones into place, closed the hatch, and then set the device down on the table next to him. “It seems that my vaccine was only partially successful.” He said. “It was able to temporarily dampen the fluctuations in Tura/Leela’s reality matrix, but there was some kind of interference. From what Tura has told us, I would say that she and Leela briefly occupied the same reality at the same time, which is, of course, forbidden by the Uncertainty Principle.”

“That is the single biggest load of crap I have ever heard” came a new voice. The crew turned to find Cubert standing in the doorway to the laboratory, arms crossed. “Your explanation is pure gibberish. What does the Uncertainty Principle have to do with anything? Next, you’ll be saying that this ‘interference’ as you called it somehow affected this ‘reality matrix’ that you just made up, and that-”

“I’ll be right back.” Bender said to the crew as he started briskly walking in Cubert’s direction. Cubert, mid rant, didn’t really notice the robot’s approach until one long metallic hand snaked out and grabbed him by the hair.

“Come on shrimpy, you know the drill” Bender said, and after struggling futilely for a second or two, Cubert nodded once and let Bender briskly drag him from the room. The door swished shut behind them. A few moments later there was a loud bang and the lights flickered briefly, and then Bender came sauntering back into the room. He moved back to his original position. “All fixed” he said, lighting a cigar and gesturing for Farnsworth to continue.

“Right. Well, as I was saying, The interference from the violation of the Uncertainty Principle somehow affected the reality matrix, causing a degenerate space-time inversion in reality-space.”

“Uhh, okay.” Tura said, blinking. “So… all of that means…?”

“It means that, for the time being at least, you shouldn’t experience any more jumps between realities. The quantum numbers that define your reality- your reality coefficients- have stabilized. It looks as though you are stuck in this timeline, for now.”

There was a collective gasp. “So I’m stuck here?” Tura’s face was twisted into a mask of horror. “But my parents are in danger! I have to get back to them!”

“I’m sorry, but I did say that this was a prototype cure. It wasn’t guaranteed to work. You will just have to wait until I can come up with another vaccine.”

“And how long will that take?”

The Professor shrugged. “Who knows? I could have it ready this afternoon, or next Xmas. You can’t put a due date on science.”

Instinctively Fry inserted himself into the conversation before the storm that was gathering on Tura’s face could manifest itself as physical violence. Beating up the Professor would do her no good, and might even delay the cure. “Well Professor, I guess we’d better leave then and let you get started sciencing.” The delivery boy started pointedly walking toward the door.

Fry’s remark seemed to break through Tura’s anger, because her posture relaxed noticeably. “Yeah, I guess we should go.” She agreed with another long sigh. Slowly she slid off of the table to the ground, still somewhat sore from the self-induced beating of a few minutes earlier. Fry waited to make sure that she was following him before he hit the door release and strode out of the room. He turned the corner into the hallway and waited for the rest of the crew to file by. Tura was the last to emerge from the lab, and when she passed Fry started to walk beside her.

“Listen, Tura, I’m really sorry.” He began.

Tura snorted and rolled her eye. “Thanks. Because, you know, being sorry does me all kinds of good right now. Just go away and leave me alone.”

Fry felt like she’d punched him in the stomach. “I was just trying-” His voice trailed off. He sighed. I give up. Moments later, the two of them passed a closed door. Fry, sensing an escape, opened it and strode inside as though he had any reason to be there other than to put distance between himself and Tura. It was a particularly hard act to pull off, considering the room was a supply closet.

Fry waited for about a minute before returning to the hallway and heading in the direction of the main exit. He’d have hid in the closet for a few minutes longer, but the room’s light switch wouldn’t turn on and the vague smell of cooked meat that permeated the place was making him hungry.

To his surprise, Tura was standing by the front door when he got there. Not sure whether to keep going or to turn back, he ended up just standing where he was at the entrance to the building’s anteroom. Tura took a few steps toward him.

“Fry, I’m sorry.” She said softly. “I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”

Fry hadn’t been expecting an apology any more than he’d been expecting the Spanish Inquisition, so his response was nothing more than a jumble of half-thoughts that averaged out to “It’s alright. I know you didn’t.” Of course, it really wasn’t completely alright. And he was pretty sure that she had meant it, but, as always, he found himself swallowing his hurt feelings in order to make her feel better.

“No, I mean it.” Tura was saying. “I’m pissed off at a lot of things right now. The Professor, the Mayor, the laws of physics… But not you. I know you’re trying to help even though there’s not much you can do, and I appreciate it. Really.” Then, shockingly, Tura reached out her hand and clasped one of Fry’s. “Come on.” She said. “I could really use someone to talk to on the way home.”

“Define ‘stuck here’.” Leela demanded, her eye narrowing dangerously. Aimee and Bender exchanged nervous glances, each of them wishing that Fry was around to deliver the bad news. Leela always seemed to go easier on him than anyone else. Unfortunately, Fry was still back in the alpha reality, leaving the two of them to suffer the brunt of Leela’s anger.

Bender had ended up in the beta reality about an hour after he’d witnessed the failed attempt to send Tura back to her timeline. He’d waited for reinforcements before trying to explain the situation to Leela, who’d gone home by the time Aimee had shown up. Now the two of them were standing in Tura’s apartment- which Leela was using for the time being, of course- wishing that there was more than a sole chair between them and the purple haired cyclops.

“The Professor invented some kind of vaccine to stop the reality jumps.” Aimee’s tone was meant to be soothing, but it came across to Leela as just a little too condescending. The PE Captain crossed her arms as the newly-blonde intern continued. “Tura made him try it on her before he was ready, so it malfunctioned. The Professor says you two are stuck where you are until he can come up with another way to stop the jumps.”

“What?! Oh, well that’s just swell. And how long is that going to take, exactly?”

Aimee and Bender shrugged. “He doesn’t know.” Bender said.

Terrific. Leela started to say something but then gave up and dropped into her armchair with a sigh.

When a few seconds had passed in silence Aimee walked up to Leela and put a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, it’s not that bad.” The intern said cheerily. “Our timeline isn’t much different than yours. So what if you’re stuck here for awhile? And anyway, your Fry, Bender, and Amy will be in this reality half the time anyway.”

Leela looked up at Aimee. “Almost the same?” She repeated sarcastically, prompting Aimee to withdraw her hand. “Yeah, except for the fact that, in this timeline, my- Tura’s- parents are about to be kicked out of the city, and, since she’s not here because I’m sitting here taking her place, it becomes my responsibility to stop it. How the hell am I supposed to do that?”

Aimee blinked once. “Uhh, the same way Tura would?”

“Okay, sure. I’ll make sure and ask her for some advice the next time I see her.” Leela retorted.

Half an hour later the robot and the intern were gone, and Leela was in a foul mood. As she waited for her microwave to cook her dinner she mentally went through the long list of people that she was currently angry with. At the top of the list was Fry, as usual, this time for scaring Tura into making the rash decision to try and use Farnsworth’s cure before it was ready. Farnsworth was in second place for actually letting Tura use the cure at all. Aimee and Bender were on the list as well, as were the Mayor, Hermes- though she could no longer recall why-, the citizens of New New York in general for going along with the sewer renewal plan, and Nibbler, for once again failing to use the litter box. She, herself, was also on that list, though she couldn’t quite put into words why she was so furious with herself. No, not myself. My selves. Leela thought. Tura was an idiot to use something that Farnsworth cooked up without getting it tested first. And I keep making nasty comments to my friends when they’re just trying to help. Why do I do that? And anyway, I should have known that Tura would try and get back into this reality. I mean, I would have, in her position.

For a second Leela hesitated, not quite sure if she’d just mentally called herself an idiot, but then the microwave chirped softly and she opened it and retrieved her steaming plate of leftover tuna cassiopeiaroll. She turned up her nose at the smell that the unattractive glob of food was emitting, but carried it over to her dinner table anyway. Before Aimee and Bender had come over to drop their bombshell on her, she’d been debating having a wild night out on the town. She was in a different reality, after all. She could do anything she wanted and not have to face the consequences, as long as she managed to get back to her own timeline in the end. The prospect was exhilarating. She wasn’t about to go screwing up Tura’s life for her, but she could do anything she’d ever wanted without feeling guilty that someone she knew might find out.

Leela set her plate down and headed over to the refrigerator to grab a carton of soy buggalo milk. She couldn’t help but notice that the fridge was mostly empty. If she was going to be stuck here for awhile she was going to need to go buy groceries, which meant she was going to have to start using Tura’s money. It wasn’t stealing; she was practically borrowing the money from herself, but it still made Leela uneasy, and so she’d put off buying absolutely anything.

That same strange feeling that she was somehow stealing something from Tura had eventually persuaded Leela against going out that night, even before Aimee and Bender had shown up and put her into such a bad mood. Leela sat at the table and began to force herself to eat. The stuff was awful, almost as bad as some of the better things that Bender had prepared aboard ship. She’d gagged down about a quarter of it before she dropped her fork. “Screw this.” She said, pushing the plate away from her. “If I’m going to eat something that tastes like sewage, I might as well go do it in the sewer.”

After taking a long walk to calm herself, Leela found herself standing in front of the house of her parallel-parents. The place was exactly the same, down to the one board on the front porch that squeaked when she walked on it. Automatically Leela reached for the doorknob, but she stopped herself at the last moment. Technically, this was not her parents’ house. She couldn’t just walk in. Suddenly she felt terribly out of place. This was a mistake. Leela thought to herself. I shouldn’t be here.

Just as she was about to turn away, the front door opened, releasing a pool of warm yellow light into the eternal darkness of the mutant’s sewer village. “Leela!” Morris exclaimed excitedly upon finding her daughter standing on the front porch. “I thought I heard that board squeak. What are you doing standing out here in the cold? Come on in!”

“It’s like 70 degrees out here, Dad.” Leela replied without thinking. It wasn’t until Morris had ushered her inside and closed the door behind her that she remembered how uncomfortable she was. “Umm actually, Mr. Tu- I mean, Dad- I’m not your Leela. I’m the other Leela, from the parallel timeline.”

Morris nodded and then called over his shoulder. “Munda, Leela’s here!” Turning back to Leela, he smiled and put one of his big paws on her shoulder. “Oh, I know. Your friend Fry called a little earlier asking if you were here. He filled us in on what’s going on.”

“Wait, what? How did…” But Morris grinned and held up his hand. “Come on, dinner’s on the table. We’d better get to the dining room, or there won’t be anything left for us.”

By this point, Leela was so confused that all she could do was shake her head and follow Morris to the dining room, where she found a scene that made her head spin. There were not two, but five plates of food sitting on the table: one each for her mother and father, one that was apparently for her, and one each for Fry and Aimee, who were sitting around chatting amicably with Munda.

Fry was the first to notice Leela staring blankly at them with her mouth agape. “Hi Leela!” He called, gesturing to the sole empty seat.

“Wh- how? What?” Leela took a deep breath. “Someone please tell me what’s going on before my brain breaks.” She said as she took her seat.

Morris laughed and slid into his seat. “You’d better ask your friend Fry. He’s the one that seems to know you better than you do.”

Leela turned to Fry, not quite sure what to make of her father’s comment. “I don’t even know which Fry you are.” She said helplessly.

The delivery boy caught the lost expression on her face and grinned at her. “I’m your- I mean, the Fry from your timeline, Leela.”

“What’s going on? What did Dad mean by ‘knowing me better than myself’?”

“I just thought you might, you know, need some cheering up after Aimee told you that you were stuck here for awhile, so when I got to this timeline I called Aimee. We were gonna surprise you at your apartment, but you’d already left, so I called your parents and asked if they’d mind telling you that we were looking for you.”

And, of course, Mom, being Mom, immediately invited both of them over for dinner. “But how on Earth did you know I was coming here?”

Fry shrugged. “Cuz that’s what Tura said she was going to do. All you had in your refrigerator was this casserole thing, and it smelled awful.”

Leela blinked at the grossed out face that Fry made. How would he know what it smelled like, unless… “Fry, what exactly were you doing in my apartment?”

Fry paused for a moment, surprised. “Huh? Oh, nothing. Tura invited me over for a few minutes.”


“I walked home with her, and she invited me in for a drink.” He shrugged. “We talked for a few minutes while she hunted for something to make herself for dinner, and then I left.” He gave his Captain a confused look. “Did I do something wrong?”

Leela was so stunned that she barely managed to squeeze out an unconvincing “no, nothing.”

“You sure?”

Leela nodded weakly.

“Uh, alright. Well, anyway, Tura said she was going to go eat at her- well, I guess, they’re actually your- parents’ house.”

“Did she invite you?” Leela had no idea why the question had come bursting out of her. For some reason it was very important to her that she know the answer.

“Oh, I didn’t ask. I’d already promised one of the Benders- I don’t remember which one it was anymore- that I’d go drinking with him tonight.

Well, at least she didn’t invite him to go with her to dinner. All he did was walk home from work with her, it’s not like he- Wait, why am I reassuring myself that nothing happened? First of all, I shouldn’t care, and second of all, nothing happened! “So, what, you and Phil switched timelines and you figured I’d make the same decision that Tura had and head over here?”

Aimee spoke up from across the table. “It’s not that crazy, Leela.” She said. “You and Tura are exactly the same; of course you’re going to have the same thoughts and feelings.” There was a beat. “Say, you don’t look so good. Are you alright?”

Leela grimaced. No, she wasn’t, though she had no idea what her problem was at the moment. “Yeah, yeah. I’m okay. I just haven’t eaten anything edible in like forever. That tuna thing tasted even worse than it smelled.” Leela pointedly began shoveling food into her mouth.

Morris chuckled at Leela’s sudden gusto. “That’s my girl. See Munda, I told you she takes after me.”

“Except she’s not twenty pounds overweight.” Munda teased, prompting Fry and Amy to each suppress a laugh.

“Hey, I told you, I’m starting a new diet.” He hesitated and shot a glance at his plate. “Just not tonight.”

“Right, just like you were going to start a diet six months ago? Or how you’ve been planning to start fixing that squeaky board on the front porch for more than a year?”

“I did start a diet six months ago, and I stuck with it too.”

“You’ve been eating four full meals every day!”

Morris laughed. “Yeah, so imagine how much I’d be eating if I wasn’t dieting.” He winked at Leela, and Leela smiled back politely around a mouthful of food. Normally she loved it when her parents’ pretended to tease each other like this. But the weirdness of the whole situation was just too much, and she was still busily trying to figure out why she’d reacted so strangely to finding out that Fry had been to her apartment.

Dinner didn’t take long, not with Fry and Morris there. It seemed like the two of them together managed to devour more food in that one sitting than Leela had eaten in the last week. Fry kept making a big show of finding everything delicious, which annoyed Leela and thrilled Munda to no end. Leela managed to keep from rolling her eye at the delivery boy’s faux-enthusiasm, but only for her parallel-parents’ sakes. The Turangas didn’t have many guests over for dinner, and especially not from the surface. Having someone from above ground praise her food- even if it was Fry- would put Munda in a good mood for a week at least.

When the last of the food had vanished into Fry’s insatiable stomach, Munda got up to clear the dishes. Leela immediately got up to help, as, predictably, did Fry. The doorbell rang amidst the clatter of dishes, and Morris went to go answer it.

Leela leaned over Aimee’s shoulder to get her the intern’s plate, and Aimee, looking like she knew she was supposed to be doing something but unable to figure out what, whispered in Leela’s ear. “Leela, what’s going on?”

“We’re cleaning up the dishes.”

Amy was startled. “Why? Is the butler sick?”

Grunting, Leela picked up the dish and walked away. Aimee started to follow but paused to pick up a single fork that was still on the table. She regarded the little instrument and then watched as Leela disappeared into the kitchen. Picking up the fork and shrugging, she moved to follow.

Two minutes later Leela was standing by the doorway to the kitchen, trying desperately not to laugh as Fry and Munda tried to teach Aimee how to wash dishes in a sink. The intern seemed unable to believe that the mutants had somehow ‘invented’ a way to clean dishes without using a mechanical washing unit. Of course, soon she’d discover that the soapy water was pruning up her hands, which would be even more fun to watch.

Suddenly Leela was aware of a presence behind her. She turned to find her parallel father standing nearby, a worried look on his face. Before Leela could say anything, Morris put a hand to his lips and gestured for her to follow him.

Morris led Leela down the hall to the family room. When he was sure they were out of earshot of the rest of the group, he motioned for Leela to take a seat in one of the old, faded armchairs and then sat across from her on the couch. Mittens, who had been asleep on the couch, woke with a start and scampered away.

“Okay, Dad. What’s this about?” Leela prompted when Morris didn’t immediately say anything.

“Shh, not so loud. I don’t want your mother to overhear this until I’ve had a chance to talk to her alone.” Morris looked around him, but there had been no changes in the noises coming from the kitchen. “That was Raoul at the door just now. He had some… bad news.”

“About the sewer renovation?” Leela guessed

“Yes. A big construction crew just blew up a section of sewer over on 3rd Avenue in the Bronx.”

Leela’s eye went wide. “Was anybody hurt?” She asked.

Thankfully, Morris shook his head. “No. Luckily there weren’t any mutants living there. But it still means that the Mayor is serious about this. He’s really going to try and force us out.”

Leela cursed loudly, and then looked toward her para-father apologetically. Morris just shrugged. “That’s pretty much what I was thinking too.” He said.

“So what are the mutants planning to do?” Leela asked.

“We’re having a big town meeting in a few minutes to decide what to do.” Morris said. “And I’d like you to come.”

“Me?” Leela was taken aback. “Why?”

Morris, obviously torn, wrestled with himself for a moment before he spoke again. “I really hate putting you in this situation, Leela, but we need someone who has above ground experience. You know how things work up there; most of the rest of us haven’t even seen above-grounders- except for your friends that you bring down here every once in awhile. I know you’re not really from this timeline, so it’s not fair to ask you to do any of this. But, well, we could really use your help.”

Leela stood. “Of course I’ll help!” She exclaimed. “You’re my parents, remember?”

Morris smiled and took her hand. “Thank you.” He said softly.

“Can I help too?” Leela and Morris whirled to find Fry leaning against a doorway at the far end of the room. A half eaten cookie was in his right hand. The other half made a prominent bulge in the side of his mouth, giving him the appearance of a chipmunk suffering a stroke.

“Fry? How long have you been standing there?” Leela asked, more surprised than angry.

“Meh, long enough.” Fry replied around a mouthful of sewer chip cookie.

Morris hesitated for a moment. “I really appreciate the offer, but I don’t think we can ask you to-“

“You don’t have to.” Fry interrupted with a shrug. “I volunteered.” The gallantry of the statement was all but ruined by the spray of cookie crumbs that spewed from his lips.

The meeting was held outside Undercity Hall, a ramshackle conglomeration of plywood, tin, and miscellaneous detritus that served as the mutants’ administrative center. Raoul, recently re-elected Supreme Mutant, stood behind a podium on the building’s front steps. On the podium was the mutant’s green and brown seal, upon which were written the words ‘E Pluribus Mutatum.’

Leela took a look around her. The crumbling boardwalk upon which this part of town was built was packed with mutants of every size, color, and description imaginable, and a few that bordered on unimaginable. Fry, Morris, and Munda were there with her. Aimee, claiming that she had an early morning class at Mars U that she absolutely couldn’t sleep through, had apologized and headed for the surface. Leela thought it much more likely that the intern was just uncomfortable with the prospect of standing around with hundreds of mutants, but decided not to hold it against her. Aimee had been perfectly nice to her parallel-parents; that’s all she could reasonably ask.

Fry tapped Leela on the shoulder. “I didn’t even know there were this many mutants.” He whispered. “How can this many people live down here?”

Fry’s usage of the word ‘people’ didn’t go unnoticed by Leela or her parallel-parents. Morris gave Fry a long look, as if re-evaluating him. “It’s a big sewer system.” Leela explained.

A hush fell over the crowd. Raoul was preparing to speak.

“My fellow mutant-Americans” the supreme mutant began. “Today we are plunged into a crisis the likes of which we have never seen. Several hours ago, working under the authorization of the Mayor of New New York, maintenance crews entered the sewers in the first phase of a project designed to completely redesign and overhaul the entire sewer system.”

A nervous murmur rolled through the crowd but was quickly cut off when Raoul began again to speak. “As of this moment, above-grounder maintenance crews are rerouting sewage away from several locations in order to prepare these areas for reconstruction. The rerouted sewage has already caused minor to moderate flooding of homes in the communities of Ratview and Sludgeton. FEMA- the Federal Emergency Mutant Association- has been dispatched to help, and you should start to see aid flowing into the hardest hit areas within a matter of years- er, I mean days. There have also been reports that an abandoned stretch of tunnel in the Bronx has been demolished by some sort of controlled explosion, although, thankfully, there were no casualties. Until a solution can be found to this problem, we must all expect the demolition to continue. Everyone should be vigilant for the sound of flash floods, and immediately report any above-grounder activity. Your government is working on a way to bargain with the above-ground government and to resolve this crisis. I will pass on any new information as soon as I have it. Thank you.” Raoul stepped down from the podium and disappeared into Undercity Hall.

Fry and Leela turned to look at each other. “That was it?” They both said at once.

Morris inserted himself between the two of them. “That’s it for the public.” He said. “We’re here for the real meeting. Come on.” He began to push himself through the gradually dispersing crowd. Leela, Fry, and Munda followed in the wake that Morris left as he shouldered his way toward the podium. A few other mutants joined them as they reached the bottom of the building’s plywood steps. Leela recognized Vyolet, Dwayne, and Leg Mutant amongst the dozen or so mutants that followed them into Undercity Hall.

The interior of the building was surprisingly impressive. The place consisted of a single large room with a sloping floor. A series of benches, arranged into half-circles, filled most of the floor space. At the far end of the room, at the center of all of the semicircles, was a raised platform upon which sat an impressive-looking podium. The walls were draped in green and brown cloth of some kind, possibly the remnants of an old Macy’s Parade balloon or two. A colossal painting of a crocodile clutching a plunger hung over the podium.

“What is this?” Fry asked, a little intimidated by the fancy surroundings.

“It’s like the senate, except all the senators are mutants.” Leela replied.

“Oh… So what’s the difference?”

“There really isn’t any.”

The little procession made its way toward the innermost semicircle of benches, where Raoul was waiting for them. Fry, Leela, and the mutants settled into a tight cluster in the middle of the first three rows of benches. Raoul, who was seated on the foremost bench, turned around and waited for everyone to get situated.

“That was a nice speech.” Vyolet said.

“Thanks.” Raoul replied, acknowledging the complement with a nod. “It took forever to find toilet paper that was tough enough to write it on. Now, I’ve called you all here for a reason. I need your help figuring out how to deal with this crisis.”

“But shouldn’t the government be doing that?” Leg Mutant asked, which got a good laugh from everyone.

“The government, handling an emergency?” Raoul chuckled. ”That’s a good one. I’m glad to see that some of us are still able to keep their sense of humor. But seriously people, we need to find a solution before things get out of hand.”

“Can we offer them something to get them to stop?” Leela asked.

Vyolet snorted. “Offer them what, exactly? A few metric tons of excess sewage? Half of our crocodile stock?”

“Alright Vyolet, that’s enough.” Raoul said gently before turning to Leela. “To answer your question- no. We don’t have anything to offer that anyone would want. We need to think of another way.”

“We could try negotiating with them, president to president.” Morris offered. “Kissinger Mutant said-“

“That’s not what Kissinger Mutant said. I’ve known him for thirty-five years!” Raoul interrupted. “Besides, we are not legitimizing that tyrant Poopenmeyer by sitting down at a table with him. Does anybody else have any ideas?”

There was silence for a short while as everyone tried to think, but, eventually, Fry got up the nerve to raise his hand. “Uhh, excuse me?” He said hesitantly. “I know I’m not really a mutant or stuff, but I think I have one of those idea thingies.”

Immediately after Fry spoke, Leela heard Vyolet mutter something under her breath. The PE Captain turned to look at her and discovered that Vyolet was favoring Fry with a nasty look. When she realized that Leela was looking at her, her hostile eyes locked onto Leela’s, challenging her. Then she turned away.

“Well what is it, dear?” Munda prompted from over Leela’s shoulder.

Fry cleared his throat, obviously nervous. Remembering the look that Vyolet had just given him, Leela was starting to wonder if he didn’t have a reason to be, though what that reason could be she hadn’t a clue.

“I mean, it’s sort of a last resort type of thing, but don’t you guys have that unexploded nuclear bomb sitting around here somewhere?”

Everyone stared at Fry, wide eyed. “Fry, what in Truman’s name are you suggesting?!” Leela gasped.

Fry looked around at the horrified faces that surrounded him and blanched. “What? I didn’t mean- I didn’t say we should use it!” He stammered, aghast. Leela had barely enough time to hear Vyolet mutter “What do you mean, ‘we’, normal?” under her breath before Fry’s increasingly frantic voice cut her off. “Geez, don’t you guys know anything about mutually insured destruction?”

Morris scratched his head. “Mutual insurance? Does that have something to do with hovercar crashes, or something?”

“No! Mutually Insured Destruction! Haven’t any of you ever fought a Cold War?”

“Fry, the common cold was wiped out seven centuries ago.” Leela reminded him gently. “Although it did put up quite a fight…”

“What? No, not the common cold! I said Cold War!”

“What’s a ‘cold war’?” Raoul asked.

Fry sighed in frustration. “It’s when there’s two sides, and neither of them wants to blow the other side up, but they both pretend that they do so the other side won’t blow them up. That’s a cold war.” He explained. “Back in my time, Russia and the United States each wanted to be the biggest, baddest country in the world, but they couldn’t both be in charge, so they built a whole bunch of nukes and big guns and told each other, ‘see, I’ve got all these nukes and big guns, so if you blow me up I’ll blow you up.’”

All eyes were riveted on Fry. “What happened?” Dwayne asked eagerly when the delivery boy didn’t continue.

“Nothing.” Fry shrugged. “Russia ran out of money to spend on bombs, and the US won. Well, at least, until a Russian invented Tetris.”

“That’s it?” Vyolet blinked. “That was the worst story ever, you idiot! We’re mutants; we don’t have lots of money to spend on building weapons to scare the Mayor, and, if we threatened anyone with a nuclear bomb, we wouldn’t be dealing with just the Mayor; we’d be dealing with the military! They’d dump nerve gas in the sewers and kill us all!”

Fry’s face fell. “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m s-.” Leela’s hand on his shoulder cut him off before he could finish the apology. The PE Captain had jumped to her feet and was now glaring flaming daggers in Vyolet’s direction.

“Hey, at least Fry’s trying!” She shot back. “I don’t see you coming up with any better ideas, and what’s your problem all of the sudden, anyway? You never cared that Fry was a ‘normal’, as you so eloquently put it- before today!” The other mutants frowned at Leela’s use of the derogatory word. “He may not be one of us, but he’s my friend so-”

“Us?” Vyolet spat. “What makes you think that you’re one of us? You don’t live in the sewers. Your clothes don’t smell like stale crap. No one is threatening to level your house just because it’s in an inconvenient place. You’re just as much of a goddamned normal as he is.”

Now Morris and Munda were on their feet. Fry, not sure what he was supposed to be doing, got to his feet as well. “That’s my daughter you’re talking about!” Morris roared.

“People, please!” Raoul pleaded, reaching over the back of his bench to restrain Morris. “This isn’t helping!” Something in Raoul’s eyes gave Morris pause. There was a tense moment where no one was sure what was going to happen, but the big cyclops finally dropped back onto his bench, where he sat simmering quietly to himself.

Raoul turned to Fry and Leela. “Turanga Leela, you know that you’ll always be one of us. No one, including Vyolet, thinks you’re an outsider. Heck, I held you as a baby before your parents did what they had to do to give you a better life, and Leg Mutant was there when you were born. You’ll always be part of this community, no matter where you live or what your clothes smell like. And that goes for you too, Fry. Any friend of the Turangas’ is a friend of all of ours. We’re just all having trouble dealing with what’s going on.”

“It’s okay.” Fry immediately said, shrugging. “No biggie.”

Leela wasn’t quite so easily assuaged. Fry didn’t have the background to know the significance of what had just happened. Being called a ‘normal’ was about the worst insult imaginable among the sewer mutants. It was like being called a fat hippie Nazi used car salesman lawyer, only fifty seven times worse. Still, the meeting was too important to let it be ruined by infighting. She could kick Vyolet’s ass afterwards. “Thank you, Raoul.” She managed, and regained her seat, which prompted Vyolet to stand, make an offensive noise, and stomp away.

“Well, now that that’s over, does anybody else have any ideas?”

Raoul’s question was met with silence that seemed to stretch on and on forever. Everyone was thinking the same thing, that there was nothing that they could do. How could a few thousand sewer mutants stand up to the almost unlimited power of the Upper City? The mutants had no resources, nothing of value to bargain with, no political power… They were completely and utterly at the mercy of New New York. They were an afterthought, as easily forgotten as a made-for-television DVD.

Munda sighed. “That’s it. There’s nothing we can do. We might as well start looking for a new place to live right now so we can be ready for them to come tear our houses down.”

Leela didn’t like the tone of resignation in her parallel-mother’s voice, but she couldn’t come up with anything to say that wouldn’t sound empty and meaningless. Fry gave her a pained look and made as if to speak, but cut himself off. “Fry, what is it?” Leela asked, making sure to be loud enough for everyone to hear. “Do you have another idea?” The instincts that Leela had picked up during her time as Captain were telling her that something needed to be done about morale. Even if Fry said something stupid it might help break this mood.

“Yeah, I mean, well, no. It’s just that- there’s just something I don’t get.”

“What don’t you get?”

Fry frowned as if he knew what he was about to say was going to come across as moronic. “Why can the Mayor do this? He’s taking away your rights.”

Leela winced. Reminding the sewer mutants that she and Fry had rights that they did not wasn’t going to help matters. I should have just let him keep his mouth shut. “Fry” she whispered pointedly, “maybe you and I should have that conversation later.”

Unfortunately, as was often the case, getting Fry to close his mouth was much more difficult than getting it open in the first place. “Thomas Edison once said that every man has the right to life, puberty, and the pursuit of campiness. Or something like that. Why aren’t you all out protesting this?”

Morris cleared his throat. “Because we’re not allowed on the surface. And the Mayor isn’t taking away our rights. Only people who live on the surface have any rights.”


“It’s true.” Leg Mutant said sadly. “We’re not even Earthican citizens.”

“You’re illegal aliens?” Fry asked incredulously.

Leela sighed. “No Fry, they’re not illegal aliens. The government just doesn’t want to acknowledge their existence. Mutants are sort of like the leprechauns of your day. Everyone knows that they’re real, but no one really wants to admit it.”

“Then why can’t you make them admit it.”


“By writing a mutant Bill of Rights, and nailing it to the Mayor’s door.”

There was a collective gasp. “But Fry,” Raoul protested, “none of us have any experience writing political documents. We wouldn’t have a clue how to even begin!”

Chuckling, Fry cracked his knuckles. “Then this is your lucky day. It just so happens I took a government class in high school… three times!”

“But, even if we manage to write it, how will we get the Bill to the Mayor if we can’t step foot on the surface?”

“I’ll do it.” Leela volunteered, but Fry immediately shook his head.

“No you won’t.”

Leela blinked, surprised. “What? I won’t? Why not?”

“Because it’s too dangerous. The Mayor already thinks you might be a mutant. If you get caught…” The delivery boy fell silent.

“He’s right, Leela.” Munda said. “It’s too risky. Someone else will have to go.”

Of course, everyone present knew that that someone would have to be Fry.

When the meeting ended, Leela said goodbye to her parallel-parents, who still had a few things to discuss with Raoul. She and Fry- who had the newly minted mutant Bill of Rights tucked under one arm- made their way toward the door and emerged onto the small landing from which Raoul had made his speech to the public. When they’d made it about halfway down the shoddy staircase, Fry went tense. Leela turned to follow his gaze and saw Vyolet standing under a nearby lamppost across the boardwalk from the base of the stairs. She was watching them.

What is her deal? Leela wondered. I’ve known her for years. Well, technically it’s a different her, but they should be exactly the same. Why does this Vyolet hate people that live on the surface so much?

Fry caught Leela’s glance in Vyolet’s direction. “What should we do?” He asked uncertainly.

In response, Leela grabbed him firmly by the arm and guided him to the bottom of the stairs. She immediately turned left and began briskly walking away. Regardless of the thoughts she’d had of knocking Vyolet’s lights out back in the town hall meeting, she really didn’t want a confrontation. Adding a few more dents to the mutant’s face wouldn’t serve any purpose, and besides, in Leela’s timeline, the two of them were friends.

But Vyolet hadn’t just been standing around idly; she’d been waiting for the two of them. As Leela half dragged Fry down the boardwalk she could hear the clunk of Vyolet’s hurried footsteps as she hurried to catch up. “Hey, Leela! Wait!”

Leela’s grip on Fry’s arm tightened subconsciously and then relaxed as she came to a stop and waited for Vyolet to catch up. I don’t need this right now. She grumbled silently to herself as she let go of Fry to cross her arms across her chest.

Vyolet skidded to a stop in front of them a few moments later, lungs- and gills- heaving. “I’m sorry.” She said between coughs. Leela was more than a little alarmed by the amount of trouble that Vyolet was having breathing; she’d only run a hundred meters or so. She’d told Vyolet several times that she needed to ease up on the smoking. Leela made a mental note to redouble her nagging when she got back to her timeline. Assuming I want to continue being Vyolet’s friend when I get back to my timeline.

“Look Leela, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean all of that stuff I said in there.”

“It sure sounded like you meant it to me.” Leela retorted.

“I didn’t. Really. It’s just, well, like Raoul said. We’re all going through some seriously tough times right now. But it’s the other people who live on the surface that I’m mad at. Not you.”

“I don’t think saying you’re sorry quite cuts it in this case, Vy. You basically said I don’t belong down here, and you called Fry a normal. A normal.”

Fry looked at Leela in confusion. “So?” He said. “I don’t get it. I am a normal. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal” Leela replied “is that being called a normal is the worst insult in the book. It’s like being called, uh… It’s like being called Saddam Hussein, or Dr. Kevorkian.”


Leela sighed. “Judas?” Fry shook his head. “How about Rupert Murdoch?” Blank stare. “Ugh. Darth Vader?” Fry’s face went white.

“I know I screwed up.” Vyolet continued. “But I want to make it up to you, to show that I really mean I’m sorry.”

“Make it up, how?” Leela asked skeptically.

“By helping you guys out. I can’t go up to the surface like you can, but I can help keep track of what’s going on down here in the sewers.”

“Well, uh, thanks.” Leela said. “But Fry and I aren’t in charge. I mean, we’re doing what we can, but if you really do want to help out you should probably talk to Raoul. He’s the one who-”

Vyolet laughed. “Raoul? Hah. What can he do? Sure, he’s the one who’ll decide where to put the people who’re being forced out of their homes, but he doesn’t have any more power than any of the rest of us. We’re mutants, Leela.” Vyolet hastily put up a hand to silence Leela before she could reply. “Yeah, you’re a mutant too. I know. And you really are one of us. I just said you weren’t before because I’m jealous. Horribly, horribly jealous.”

“What?” Leela blinked a couple of times. “Uhh look, my life might not be quite as great as you’ve been led to believe.”

“Leela, you live in an apartment. An apartment. I’ve never even seen one of those except on television. You get to walk around on the surface whenever you want. You’ve been to space. Most of us only even see stars a few times a year, and only through the grating in a storm drain. You get to vote, to buy your clothes in a store that gets their goods from a warehouse instead of from city dumpsters. You-”

“Alright, I get the message.” Leela interrupted. Man, no wonder she was angry at me. Here I am in my clean clothes, designer wristolojackomater, and contact lens, smelling of perfume and nothing else, and she has to swallow the fact that she has none of it. Maybe she had a point when she called me an outsider. “I guess I forget that I have some things I take for granted that you guys don’t. I don’t mean to rub it in your face.”

Vyolet shook her head. “Oh, I know you don’t. And after I went stomping out of the town hall meeting and had some time to cool down I realized that I was being an absolute tapeworm for being angry with you because you have things that I don’t. It’s not your fault that I’m stuck down here in the sewers and you’re not; that’s just genetics- the luck of the draw. And you’re really trying to help us- which I remembered eventually. And you’re the only one who can help us because you have all of those things that we don’t. You can walk around on the surface. You can petition the Mayor. And you’ve got nor-, uh, non-mutant friends that want to help out.” Vyolet nodded in Fry’s direction. “I’d be stupid to not want your help, Leela.”

“Well, now hold on.” Leela cautioned. “Don’t get your hopes up. Just because there’s a document somewhere that says I have the right to this and that doesn’t mean I have any real power. The government pretty much does what it wants. The only right they really worry about very much is the right to pay taxes.”

“You’re still our best shot. Which is why helping you any way I can is the best thing I can do. Raoul is technically in charge of the government down here, but he knows as well as anyone else that it’s you that’s going to solve this mess, not him. You do know that everyone walked into that town hall meeting knowing that everything hinged on how much you were willing to do for us, right?”

Leela tried to digest that little bit of information, but her brain was unable to formulate a response. Eventually she just gave up and didn’t say anything.

Vyolet laughed at Leela’s blank expression. “Man, I really was out of line saying that bad stuff about you. You’ve got to be the most modest surface dweller I’ve ever met. Well, of the few I’ve met, anyway, which means you, the friends you’ve brought down here, and that one bum who’d been sleeping in a ditch and got washed down a storm drain during a thunderstorm one night… Oh, by the way, what is the plan for handling this? You did come up with one, right?”

“Actually yes, there is a plan. But I didn’t come up with it. It was Fry’s idea.” She gestured to the document that was still tucked tightly under Fry’s right arm. “We’re going to go plant a mutant Bill of Rights in the Mayor’s office. That ought to get the media all fired up, maybe enough to make Poopenmeyer worried enough about his image to stop the renovation. It’s a long shot, but it’s better than doing nothing.”

“Uh, Leela?” Fry asked hesitantly.

Leela turned to face the delivery boy. “Yes?”

“I don’t know what’s going on.”

Oh. “Phil?”

“Yeah. I just popped in here.”

Leela hesitated when she remembered that she was still in the middle of a conversation. Morris and Munda knew that she wasn’t the Leela from this timeline, but so far she hadn’t told any of the other mutants, and explaining all of that to Vyolet now when the two of them were still on shaky terms wasn’t a good idea.

Vyolet glanced back and forth between Phil and Leela. “What’s going on?”

Leela tried her best at nonchalance. “Hmm? Oh nothing. Fry’s just, ah, feeling a bit ill. It happens to people who spend most of their time on the surface. The radiation down here can make you feel lightheaded.”

“What? I’m not sick. I just crossed over from the other timel-” Leela’s glare stopped Phil in his tracks. “I’ll shut up now.” He amended, wisely.

“Will he be alright?” Vyolet asked.

“Yeah, he’ll be fine. But I’d better get him back to the surface right away.”

“Oh, okay, sure. The nearest manhole is over-”

“I know where it is.” Leela replied, a little more forcefully than she’d intended.

“Right, of course you do. Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Leela grabbed Phil- who was still completely silent- by the arm and began to pull him down the boardwalk.

Pop. Suddenly Fry was in a tubeway, hurtling headfirst over a dimly illuminated New New York street. The abrupt change in his surroundings caused his body to stiffen reflexively, which was a bad thing, because, at that precise moment, he arrived at the end of the tube and was spit out into the air about three feet above the ground. Moments later he was lying on his back, groaning and rubbing the spot on his head where the twelve pack of beer cans- which apparently he’d been carrying for some reason- had decided to give him the gift of its momentum. A couple of pedestrians slowed down to stare at him as he slowly collected himself from the pavement, but, this being New New York, no one offered to help.

“Oh man, my head.” Fry moaned as he bent down to retrieve the booze. His skull was pounding like a Hollaren musk ox during mating season; he was having trouble just trying to keep his balance. Now, over the years, Fry had experienced enough blows to the head to be quite familiar with what they felt like, and this wasn’t it. I’m drunk. He realized with confusion. How can I be drunk? I haven’t had a beer in more than a day! He looked down at the case of beer and, bending down, retrieved it from where it had come to rest on its side. Then he remembered what his original plans had been for the evening before he’d ended up over in the beta timeline: to go drinking with Bender. Bender must have gone drinking with that jerk Phil, instead. Great. So now I get to deal with the hangover Phil gave my body while he gets to be with Leela, all nice and sober.

The walk back to Robot Arms was a bit long, but the weather was nice and the cool air and light exercise helped to clear Fry’s head a little. When he arrived at his apartment he was a bit surprised to find the front door standing open. Bender’s room was empty, but when Fry opened the door to his closet he was met with a scene that made his heart skip a beat. Bender was lying face down in the middle of the floor, surrounded by broken beer bottles, articles of clothing, and smashed furniture. The place looked like it had been through World War Eight.

“Bender! Bender, are you alright?!” Fry ran to his roommate and began to shake him as hard as he could. The five hundred pound robot moaned softly and rolled onto his side, muttering something that was too garbled for Fry to make out.

“What? Who did this to you? Was it ghosts?”

“Best. Party. Ever.” The robot said again, and then, collapsing to the floor, began snoring loudly.

Fry sighed and stood up. Stupid robot. I just hope none of that broken furniture is mine. The delivery boy tiptoed around a pile of clothing which, when he accidentally tripped over it, turned out to be an unconscious floozybot wrapped in a bed sheet. One of Fry’s bed sheets. Don’t think about it. Fry told himself. That was not a fembot in one of your sheets, which means there were no robots doing anything gross in your room.

Luckily, when Fry opened the door to his bedroom, there really weren’t any robots doing gross things. In fact, the place looked like it had been spared most of the ‘fun’ that had occurred on the other side of the door. Although, really, Fry’s bedroom was such a mess anyway that it was hard to tell.

Fry grabbed a few anti-hangover detox pills from an overturned pill bottle and let himself drop onto his bed, which provoked a series of creaking protests from the worn out springs in its stained mattress. Lying down felt incredibly good, so incredibly good that he immediately decided that he wasn’t going to move an inch until the next morning. But then, just before he was about to close his eyes and let himself sink into sleep, he noticed a piece of paper sitting on the mattress beside him. Rolling onto his left side, he picked the sheet of paper up and brought it closer to his face. It was a note, written in his own handwriting:


If you read this before tomorrow afternoon, sorry about the hangover. Bender put rubbing alcohol in my beer again. Good thing you keep your antidote in the same place I do, so I didn’t go blind again at least. Tura called asking about what’s going on in the other timeline. I think she’s mad at me again.


Grudgingly, Fry hauled himself to a sitting position. He’d forgotten about Tura. She had been nice to him so far today, no reason to spoil it by risking making her angry by not telling her what was going on back in her timeline. Although, do I really want to call her this late? It’s already 11pm. He debated his options for a moment, but eventually decided that it was smarter to risk angering Tura by waking her now- when she was several kilometers away in her own apartment- than to risk angering her the next morning by revealing- in person, and therefore, within range of an ass kicking- that he hadn’t immediately told her what was going on.

Fry rolled over onto his stomach and reached under his bed. His hand came across several things crammed into the narrow space: a few wads of clothing, what felt like old pizza, a couple of Slurm cans, something amorphous and squishy that- if Fry hadn’t known better- almost sounded like it squealed when he touched it…. Finally his hand closed around a familiar shape, and the redhead pulled his telephone up onto the bed next to him. He dialed the number for Leela’s apartment and waited. There was no answer, which either meant that Tura was ignoring the phone, or that she was still out somewhere. Fry decided to try her cellphone- if that’s what you were supposed to call a phone built into a device worn around the wrist.

Tura picked up after two rings. A dull, washed out hologram of her head and upper body appeared in the air over Fry’s phone.


“Hi Tura. It’s Fry. Phil wrote me a note that said to call you. I just got back from your timeline.”

“Oh, good. Tell me everything.”

“Well, we think we’ve got a plan to make the Mayor stop destroying the sewers.” Fry explained how he’d ended up at Tura’s parents’ house with Leela and Amy, and filled her in on the plan to bring the mutants’ plight to the public spotlight by nailing a Bill of Rights to the Mayor’s door.

Tura seemed to like what she was hearing. “You know, that might actually work. Most New New Yorkers don’t hate the sewer mutants; they just don’t care one way or the other. I bet a lot of people don’t even know that mutants really exist. I mean heck, I didn’t think they were real until we had to go look for Nibbler in the sewer that one time.”

“Yeah, that’s what Leela said too. Hey, why are you out so late on a weeknight, anyway?”

Tura frowned a little, and Fry winced inwardly. Great. Now she’ll be mad at me for a week for violating her privacy.

But, for once, the frown wasn’t aimed at him. “I don’t really know.” She admitted. “I went to go have dinner with Leela’s parents, but when I got to the house, I just couldn’t make myself go in. It just felt too weird. I’ve been wandering around the city ever since.”

“That’s too bad. Your mom made great burgers tonight. You could really taste the Ebola.”

“Gee, thanks. Just what I needed right now was for someone to remind me of food.”

“Huh? You haven’t eaten?”

“No. I tried to order something at a burger Emperor, but Leela’s bank account was empty. Bender must have sweet-talked her credit card into giving him her PIN.”

“Damn. That’s the second time this year. I woulda thought the savage beating she gave him the first time would have been enough to persuade him not to do that anymore.”

“Well, I don’t know about Leela, but when I was giving my Bender that same savage beating, I knew it wasn’t going to stop him from doing it again. I sure felt good when I was doing it though. But anyway, any thoughts on what I can do for food? Anyone who can survive two weeks in a robot insane asylum must be good at scrounging for dinner.”

“You could come over here and we could order a pizza.” As soon as he’d finished saying it he was mentally kicking himself. You idiot! Why did you say that? She’ll take it the wrong way. She’s a Leela. They always take stuff like that the wrong way!

“Eh, alright.”

See, I told you- Wait. What?! “Umm, huh?”

“I said alright. You can tell me more about what’s going on back at home while we eat. I’m about half a mile from your apartment. It’ll take me a few minutes to get there.”

“Good God, what happened here?!”

Fry frowned and shot a poignant look in the direction of his roommate, who was still sprawled out in the middle of the floor. “Bender threw a party.”

“Looks like it was a good one.” Fry and Leela cautiously made their way across Fry’s part of the apartment to a couch that sat by the window. The couch, having been at the farthest point in the room from the stack of empty beer kegs that lay toppled in one corner, had survived the party relatively unharmed.

“The pizza guy will be here in twenty minutes.” Fry said

“Good. So tell me about this Bill of Rights again. What’s in it? How is it going to get to the Mayor?”

It seemed to Fry that Tura’s eye was going to bore right into his forehead, so intense was her gaze. Fry, still unnerved by the fact that Tura was even in his apartment in the first place, found himself fumbling for words. “Umm, well, you know, like I said before, it’s, uhh…”

Tura frowned and cocked her head, which just served to draw Fry’s attention to the long locks of purple that flowed down her shoulders. “Fry, are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” The delivery boy grinned weakly.

“No you’re not.” Tura countered, crossing her arms in front of her. “You’re jumpier than Zoidberg around boiling water. What’s going on? Did Phil write something about our argument in that letter you mentioned?”

Fry looked around for a distraction but there was nothing. Tura had that whole crossed arms, cocked head, slight frown thing going on that he’d come to know after years of working with Leela meant ‘I am not letting this go until you tell me’. “No, Phil didn’t say anything about an argument. Well, I mean, he did say that he thought you were angry at him again, but…” Sorry, Phil. He amended silently, knowing that he’d just put his parallel self in the dog house.

“Angry at him?” Leela snorted and looked away. Her eye settled on an owl that was futilely trying to extricate itself from an immense spider web. “Yeah I’m angry at him. I heard from Aimee that he forgot to tie down the primary buffer panel before the delivery this morning. Apparently there was ‘too much on his mind.’ My guess is there was too little. As usual.” About two seconds passed before she realized what she’d just done. She froze and, her face turning bright red, turned to look at the delivery boy. Fry wouldn’t meet her gaze.

“Fry, I’m sorry.” She leaned over and put a hand on his shoulder. Fry drew away a few inches. “I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes you did.”

Tura winced and sat up straight. She sighed. “Alright, so maybe I did mean it a little. But not because I think he’s- you’re- stupid. It’s just, you know, sometimes it feels like Phil doesn’t think anything through.”

Says the woman who got herself stuck in an alternate timeline. Some of the thought must have leaked into Fry’s expression, because Tura’s already red face abruptly turned a shade darker.

Thankfully, the exponentially increasing awkwardness of the situation was broken by a knock on the front door. Fry worked his way over to the front door and, opening it, found himself face-to-face with an adolescent-looking wheeled robot dressed in a red and white uniform. The robot opened a compartment in his chest and pulled out a cardboard box while a pizza slid out of a small oven. “That’ll be $14.96 please.” The robot said in a bored voice.

Fry reached for his wallet, and was mildly surprised to find that it was actually there. Bender must have given it to Phil to go buy that case of beer, he guessed. “Here you go.”

The robot silently took the money, dumped the pizza in the box, and shoved the box into Fry’s outstretched arms before pivoting on his wheels and rolling away. Fry took a long whiff of the aroma that the pie was giving off and felt his stomach grumble. Apparently Phil’s dinner hadn’t been as large as his.

Fry dropped down on the couch and placed the warm pizza box between himself and Tura. Tura immediately tore into the pizza like it was the last of its kind in the quadrant. Fry tried not to find Tura’s ferocity endearing, but he quickly gave up. He just wasn’t built to stay angry at what was essentially Leela.

Soon there was nothing left but a grease-stained cardboard box and a few strands of cheese. Fry’d managed to get two pieces. The two of them sat in silence for awhile, neither quite sure what to say. Over in the middle of the apartment floor, Bender moaned, rolled onto his side, and then fell silent. The awkwardometer began to creep upward again.

Finally, Tura spoke. “Look, Fry, about what I said earlier…”

“Forget it.” Fry said immediately, and then kicked himself for not being able to stand up for himself.

“No, no, listen.” She implored. “I’m going to regret this conversation later, but I already do, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I know I’m mean to Phil, that Leela’s mean to you. Meaner than we should be. We say and do things that probably look like they’re designed to hurt you, and we get angry and say things that we don’t mean. But we don’t do it on purpose.”

“Well, then why do you do it?”

“Because we’re Captains! Do you have any idea how hard it is to have your best friend also be on your crew? If something ever happened to Phil I’d be devastated. That’s why I push him so hard. And every time he makes a mistake I think about what could have happened to him, and that makes me angry.”

Fry thought for a moment. “So Leela is mean to me all the time because she cares about me?”

“Basically, yeah.”

The look that Fry gave Tura was full of skepticism. “I dunno. Leela’s awful mean sometimes. She’d have to care a heck of a lot. And she’s never said that’s why she yells at me all the time.”

“Well, no, she doesn’t admit it.”

“Why not?”

Tura froze for a moment, realizing too late that she’d given away far too much. “She just can’t, not any more than I can tell my Fry why I’m so mean to him all the time.”

“Then why can you tell any of this to me?”

Tura smiled. “Because you’re not my Fry.”

The next day, and in the beta timeline, Leela trudged wearily into work half an hour late. She hadn’t gotten back to her apartment until one o’clock in the morning, and then she’d been unable to get her brain to shut up and let her sleep.

Hermes was waiting for her in the Planet Express Building’s anteroom. He didn’t look pleased. In fact, he seemed to be talking to her. She just stared blankly at the Jamaican and waited for him to stop lecturing her. She wasn’t hearing a word that was coming out of his mouth; her mind was still in its early morning fog. Hermes really ought to have known that she wasn’t worth dressing down until she’d had her first two cups of coffee.

Eventually the bureaucrat frowned, said something about how being from an alternate reality was no excuse, and then started to walk off in the direction of his office. Leela, on autopilot, soon found herself in the hangar, where Aimee appeared and thrust a steaming mug of coffee into her hand. Leela looked down at the drink and saw that it was as black as space itself. Just the way she liked it.

Leela was soon completely alert, and, within fifteen minutes of her arrival, had managed to get Phil and Bender to load the cargo, downloaded the mission profile into the ship’s computer, yell at Phil for once again forgetting to tie down the primary buffer panel, and get the ship prepped for launch. When all was ready, Leela pushed the throttle to maximum, and the little green ship leapt eagerly into the sky.

“So, explain to me again why we delivered a bunch of empty boxes to another galaxy?”

Leela and Phil were walking down a busy sidewalk not far from Planet Express. The crew had returned from the delivery about an hour earlier. “For the last time Phil,” Leela said with a frustrated sigh, “they weren’t empty. They were full of air.”

Phil blinked twice. “So… they were empty?”

“Ugh. The space station we delivered that shipment to relies entirely on recycled air. Oxygen is extremely valuable there, so valuable that they even use it as a unit of currency. The little bit of oxygen we delivered was worth a small fortune to them.”

“Oh. Why don’t they just go get some somewhere for free?”

“Because, until Aimee stupidly asked them that very question, they didn’t know they could just go somewhere and get it for free.”

“Is that why they demanded we give them their money back and then chased us with laser guns?”

“That and because some of the boxes turned out to be filled with Jell-O rather than air, yeah.”

Up ahead was O’Zorgnax’s pub, where Bender had insisted the three of them meet after work. Phil and Leela had been discussing the plan that the mutants, Leela, and Fry had devised the night before, and debating how to get the Bill of Rights to the Mayor. Phil wanted to play it safe and just nail the document to the outside of City Hall, but Leela felt like the Mayor might take it more seriously if the Bill mysteriously showed up on his desk within his locked office. When Leela had asked Bender to help her break in to a public building, he’d almost blown his enthusiasm circuit.

Bender- the one from the alpha timeline- was already waiting for them when Phil and Leela entered the pub. The robot was sitting at a booth in the back corner, whistling happily to himself while using a laser etcher built into one of his fingers to write ‘Bender is great’ into the table’s scuffed surface. Leela sat down across from him, and Phil slid in beside her. Leela noticed the delivery boy shoot the robot an irritated look, no doubt because Bender had snuck away from work half an hour early and left Phil to scrape out the ship’s exhaust nozzles by himself.

When Bender didn’t acknowledge their presence, but just continued vandalizing the table top, Leela cleared her throat. The laser etcher switched off and the robot looked up at her.

“Hey, it’s Captain Depth Perception!” The robot chuckled when Leela’s eye narrowed dangerously at him. “Oh, relax chump. We have a burglary to plan, remember?”

Leela’s eye narrowed further, and she crossed her arms. “This is not a burglary, Bender. We’re breaking in, dropping off the mutant Bill of Rights, and then leaving.”

Bender snorted. “So you’re going to go through all the trouble of breaking into City Hall, avoiding the alarms and security systems, sneaking into the Mayor’s office, and getting away without being caught, and you’re not even going to pick up some swag while you’re there? And you want me to put my shiny metal ass on the line to help you? Why the hell should I do that?”

Leela started to speak, but the only answers she could come up with involved morality, decency, and loyalty to one’s friends. In other words, she had nothing. She closed her mouth, stumped.

Luckily, Phil, who, unlike Leela, had never been able to simply beat Bender until he did what he was told, had learned some tricks over the years to get the robot motivated. “Yeah, you’re right. There’s no reason for you to help us. And besides, those guys were probably right. You couldn’t break into the Mayor’s office without getting caught anyway.”

Bender sat straight up in his chair. “What?! I’m the greatest burglar that ever lived! I can break into any building, any time.”

“Well, I dunno, these guys said-”

“Who said?! I’ll kill ‘em!”

“Oh, just these two guys.”

Bender’s eyes shifted back and forth between Fry and Leela. “Leela, do you know anything about this?”

Leela hesitated, then caught herself. “Uh, yeah. Totally. There were these- well, like Fry said. These two guys. And they said you couldn’t break into City Hall without getting caught, because you’re not that great.”

“Yeah? Well I’ll show them! I’ll break into City Hall tonight, and I’ll do it so no one ever knows I was even there. Then we’ll see who’s not great.”

As the three co-conspirators sat hunched over a steadily growing collection of empty beer bottles, a plan of action began to slowly emerge. The first snag appeared when it became apparent that Leela was not going to agree on a plan in which she did not take part. It didn’t matter how many times Phil explained to her that it was too dangerous for her to be involved; she was not going to sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

Eventually a compromise was reached. Fry and Bender would do the actual break in while Leela monitored their progress and offered advice from the safety of Planet Express. Leela didn’t like the idea of sending Phil into danger- where he could get hurt, or, much more likely, screw up- but she didn’t trust Bender in City Hall after hours with no one there to keep an eye on him. Next thing, she’d be hearing that a new law had appeared in the books declaring every Thursday to be ‘Pay Twenty Dollars to Bender Day’. She didn’t relish acting as mission control back at the PE building either, but Phil had chosen this, of all times, to show some backbone and refuse to take part if she went anywhere near the Mayor’s Office.

Ironically, the first step of the plan was to break into the Planet Express Building, even though Phil and Leela- though not Bender, for obvious reasons- had been given the security code for afer-hours access. Unfortunately, the building’s security system would log that they had been in the office after hours, and Hermes would start asking questions. If the bureaucrat found out what his crew had been up to, well, they might suddenly find themselves looking for new jobs.

Leela had been wondering how Bender was planning to sneak into the impenetrable fortress that was the PE building. The solution ended up being far simpler than she would have expected. Bender simply sauntered across the street to the dumpster of Family Bros. Pizza, scooped up a glob of unidentifiable detritus, dumped the pile of foul smelling ooze by the building’s rear fire door, and waited. A few minutes later the fire door flew open, and Dr. Zoidberg launched himself at the garbage. Bender reached out and nonchalantly caught the door before it closed, and Phil and Leela followed him into the darkened interior of Planet Express.

There was a lot of fumbling around in the dark before Phil finally stumbled on the light switch. Leela blinked at the sudden brilliance and then made her way over to Bender, who was waiting impatiently at the other end of the hangar by the locker of his alternate-timeline self.

“About time.” Bender grumbled when Phil and Leela arrived. “What moron designed you humans without night vision, anyway?”

“Just open the locker, Bender.” Leela replied with a sigh. She was in no mood for dealing with his charming personality right now.

The robot complied and, after rummaging around in the locker for a moment or two, withdrew the items that he had been looking for. Phil took the tiny objects and put them up to his eye one at a time.

“What are these?” He asked curiously.

“Just some things the other Bender stole from the old guy.” Bender explained with a casual wave of the hand. “That little black disc is a camera that sticks to any surface. The Professor was putting it on rats so he could see what they saw when they ran through a maze. It works a lot better as a spy camera.”

“So that’s how my Bender got that incriminating footage of me in the shower.” Phil said. “What does this doohickey do?” The delivery boy held up a tiny red pill-shaped object.

“Hey, isn’t that the Professor’s prototype walkie-talkie-in-a-pill that he’s been looking for for three weeks? We all assumed Zoidberg swallowed it.”

Bender shrugged. “He did, but I bribed him with a bucket of chum to go retrieve it for me.”

Phil turned an interesting shade of green as he realized the significance of that. “Ewww.”

It took some coaxing, but Leela was eventually able to convince Phil to swallow the tiny pill-shaped communications device after immersing it in soapy water for ten minutes. Once the device had affixed itself to Fry’s central nervous system it was only a matter of tuning her wrist computer to the right frequency, and the two of them could communicate as if over walkie-talkies. The Professor’s miniature camera, which would send streaming video to the conference room’s gigantic television, was then affixed to his forehead.

Phil was bubbling over with excitement. “This is awesome! I’m like James Bond, only without the accent, and every car I get into doesn’t end up exploding… unless I’m driving it.” Phil was interrupted by a loud clang and then the noise of metal being scraped across concrete coming from behind the Planet Express Ship. “Hey, what’s that?”

“Oh, that must be the mutants.” Leela took a few steps in the direction of the noise. “It’s alright, guys” she called. “Come on out. It’s safe.”

To Phil’s astonishment, Turanga Morris’s head popped out of a hole in the floor that led to the engine exhaust tunnel that had been built under the hangar. The grate that usually covered the hole lay on the hangar floor next to the hole.

One by one Leela’s parents, Raoul, Vyolet, Leg Mutant, and Dwayne all emerged from the exhaust tunnel and huddled under the bulk of the Planet Express Ship. Leela began to walk toward them and, after Phil and Bender shot each other nervous glances, her two friends followed.

“Hi Mom. Hi Dad.” Leela said, hugging the two uncomfortable-looking cyclopses. “You’re just in time. Phil and Bender were just about to get started.”

Munda looked around the empty hangar and took a seemingly unconscious step backward so that her back was to the ship’s starboard landing strut. “Are you sure it’s safe to be here?” She asked nervously.

“Yeah Leela, what’s the deal?” Phil asked. “If somebody sees them on the surface…” He didn’t have to finish the thought. Everyone knew exactly what would happen.

“Oh please.” Leela scoffed. “Who’s going to see them? The Professor sleeps like the dead, and he’s the only one nearby except for Zoidberg, who we locked outside when we got here.” The PE captain turned to address the mutants. “Trust me. It’s completely safe here. You have nothing to worry about.”

Leela led the group to the conference room, but Phil caught her arm as they came out of the elevator. He waited for everyone to pass and then said in a whisper “What are they doing here?”

Leela double checked to make sure everyone was out of earshot before replying. “They deserve to be here Phil. They are about to stand up to the Mayor of New New York for the first time ever. Since I’m going to be stuck here useless while you and Bender do the break-in, I decided I might at least have some company.” She gestured toward the mutants. “I wanted to give them a chance to be able to say that they were part of this; that they didn’t have to totally rely on someone else to do it for them.”

“Yeah, but geez Leela.” He shook his head.

Leela smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. “Relax, Phil. Nothing will go wrong.”

Phil frowned and gave Leela an uneasy look. “When the Professor says that before a mission, my Leela always tells me to bring along the extra laser rifles.”

The street outside City Hall was deserted, as was to be expected this late at night. Phil and Bender were standing in an alley by one of the building’s ground floor windows. Leela, her parents, and the other mutants watched from the Planet Express conference room as the televised image of Bender laughed at the thick iron bars that stood between him and the glass window pane.

“What are you gonna do, bend those bars?” Phil asked. His voice sounded a little strange, probably because the microphone that was recording everything was planted inside his body.

I wonder if that’s what Fry thinks his voice sounds like? Leela wondered.

“Gee moron, you think?” Bender retorted before grabbing two of the iron bars and pulling outward. The rods of metal bent with little effort, and soon came free of the concrete that held them in place. Bender tossed the mangled iron to the pavement and started to do a little dance.

“Oh yeah, who’s great? Me, Bender. Bender’s great. Oh yeah.”

In the Planet Express conference room, there were a few puzzled glances exchanged by the onlooking sewer mutants.

“Is this some kind of above grounder victory dance, or something?” Vyolet asked.

Leela rolled her eye. “No. You’ll have to excuse my friends. They’re idiots.” The cyclops pressed down on a button on her wrist computer. “Stop showing off, Bender” she ordered, her disembodied voice, which emanated from the pill that Fry had swallowed, lagging behind by a fraction of a second. “We’ve got a job to do.”

Bender stopped dancing and snorted rudely. “Alright, fine. Fry, or Phil, or whoever you are right now, give me that tool I aksed you to hold for me.”

The camera that was generating Leela’s field of view was mounted on Phil’s forehead, so she couldn’t see his reaction, but, based on the fact the camera suddenly dropped an inch or two, Leela would have guessed that he’d just furrowed his brow. “Tool? What tool?”

“What are you, stupid?” Bender put up his hands before Phil could respond. “Wait, sorry, dumb question. That diamond glass cutter I gave you. I need it.”

“You mean that wasn’t a piece of rock candy? Huh. Well, that explains why it tasted so awful, and why my throat is bleeding.”

Bender slapped his forehead and then looked directly into the camera. “Leela, permission to strangle Phil until he passes out?”

“Negative.” Leela replied. “Switch to plan B.”

“Roger that. Come on, Phil. Help me look for a rock.”

The camera started to jostle around as Phil bent over to help search. Leela turned away in frustration and walked to the conference room railing. A moment later, Munda appeared behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. “Leela, honey, are you sure it was a good idea sending those two on this mission?”

Leela put up her hands in a helpless gesture. “What other choice was there? It’s not like I have tons of friends who I can trust with knowing my secret heritage and are willing to risk their lives to help you.”

“I guess that’s true.” Munda admitted before moving to Leela’s side. The older cyclops wrapped a tentacle around the worn metal railing and looked out over the hangar. “So this is where you work,” she said, fascinated. “And that is a real life spaceship.”

Leela followed her alternate-mother’s gaze to the bow of the ship. Her ship. “Yep.” It was inadequate, but it was all that Leela could find to say.

“Your father and I are very proud of you, Leela.”

“I know Mom. And someday, I’m going to take you and Dad up into space in that ship.”

“I’d like that very much.” Munda said, and the two of them embraced. The hug was brief, however, as Leg Mutant called them back to the television screen. Bender had found a brick lying on the ground somewhere, and he was winding up to toss it through the window that he had de-barred.

“Isn’t this going to set off an alarm?” Raoul asked Leela.

“Well, normally, yes, but Bender already bribed the program that runs the building’s security systems. As long as they don’t run into an actual guard or trip any of the non-bribable, non-robotic alarms, they should be fine.”

There was a loud crash followed by a chuckle. Leela looked up at the screen to see shards of glass raining down from the now-vanished window. Bender walked over to the hole and sent his extendable arms probing into the room. Eventually he found something sturdy enough to satisfy him, and his arms began to retract. The robot’s body slid noisily up over the window still and disappeared from view. A moment later, a robotic arm reappeared in the window and Bender’s left hand planted itself firmly right below the camera’s field of view, right where Phil’s neck would be. The camera angle tilted crazily. Leela blinked once and suddenly a plush, blue carpet filled the television screen.

Moments later Phil had stopped gasping for breath, regained his feet, brushed himself off, and obliged Leela’s request that he look around so that she could see his surroundings. I gotta hand it to him. Leela told herself. He can recover from physical trauma pretty fast. That was probably due in no small part to the nanites that were now permanent residents of his bloodstream. One of Farnsworth’s few good inventions.

Leela thought she recognized the part of the building that her two friends were in. “That’s one of the main hallways.” Leela whispered into her wrist computer. “You want to turn right. That should be the way to the stairs.” The camera shook up and down, which was probably Phil forgetting that she couldn’t see him nod his head.

After a few moments of walking in silence, Phil suddenly made a left turn into a darkened room. Bender, who’d been in front of him, continued walking, oblivious to the fact that Phil wasn’t following him anymore.

“What’s Fry doing?” Raoul asked Leela.

“I don’t know.” She said, perplexed. “Maybe he heard somebody coming. But if he’s hiding, then why didn’t he warn Bender?”

A light flicked on, illuminating Phil’s surroundings. “He’s hiding in the restroom next to the lobby. That idiot. Someone will see the light under the crack in the door.” Leela reached for her wrist computer but stopped herself. If the light didn’t give him away, Leela’s voice certainly would.

Phil wandered slowly to the other end of the small space. “You know, he doesn’t really look like he’s trying to hide from somebody.” Morris commented. “It looks more like he-”


“Abort! Abort!” Raoul was yelling frantically. Leela averted her eye just in time, but Vyolet wasn’t so lucky.

“Ahhh! I’m blind!”

“Phil, remind me to kick your ass when this is over.” Leela growled into her wrist computer.

“Look, I’m sorry.” The delivery boy whined. “I forgot you were watching.”

“Just keep moving.” Phil’s breathing was becoming labored. Bender had been waiting for him at the bottom of the building’s southern staircase, and the two of them were now working their way toward the floor that held Poopenmeyer’s office.

“Tell me again why we couldn’t use the elevator?” Phil wheezed.

“Because one of the guards would hear the elevator running.” Leela answered impatiently. “It’s only three flights of stairs, Phil. A little exercise will be good for you. If it doesn’t give you a heart attack.

After much wheezing and gasping, Phil and Bender made it to the right floor. Bender cautiously opened the fire door and leaned out into the hallway beyond. He signaled to Phil that the coast was clear, and the two of them made their way to the waiting room outside Poopenmeyer’s office. Bender moved to the locked office door while Phil looked around the waiting room. In a matter of moments, Bender had the door open.

“Wow.” Phil remarked, obviously impressed. “You bypassed that security system already? I don’t think even R2-D2 could have done it that fast.”

“Pfft. Bypassed, nothing.” Bender retorted. “I knew the Mayor’s security lock back in high school; he’s like the biggest drunk ever. All I had to do was offer him a couple of bottles of booze and he let me in.”

Leela watched as Phil set the mutants’ Bill of Rights down on the Mayor’s polished oak desk. The PE Captain looked around her at the mutants. Each of them wore expressions of extreme concentration. They had just made a move that there was no turning back from, and they all knew it.

Phil started to head for the door, but he stopped on the threshold. The camera whirled to face Bender, who was still by the desk.

“Hey Bender, are you coming?” The delivery boy asked.

“Yeah, just a sec. I’m looking for a- Ooh…” The robot held up a gold-plated analog watch that had been hidden in one of the desk’s lower drawers. “This thing’ll pay for a month’s worth of gambling!” Opening his chest cabinet, Bender tossed the object inside. “Alright, let’s get the hell out of here.”

Phil and Bender left the office, worked their way back along the corridor, and started to descend the building’s staircase. They’d made it about halfway to the ground floor when they heard footsteps coming from below. Fry and Bender froze.

“Hide, you morons!” Leela hissed into her wrist computer. Her voice broadcasted over Phil’s communicator louder than she’d anticipated, but the rhythm of foot falls from below didn’t change. Bender grabbed Phil by the collar and dragged him up a few stairs to a landing that they had passed moments earlier. The two of them hurried out of the stairwell into the hallway beyond and tried to shut the fire door behind them as silently as possible. They’d run maybe a third of the way down the hall when the door they’d just closed began to open.

“Quick, in here!” Bender whispered, tossing Fry through the nearest doorway. The robot shut the beat up metal door behind him and chuckled. “Heh, heh. The perfect getaw- aww, crap.”

Fry turned around to follow Bender’s gaze, and the camera planted on his forehead panned across several computer consoles and a bank of blank televisions before finally settling on the two security officers who were staring, dumbfounded by what was going on. A moment later, the door opened behind Phil, who whirled around to look. Another guard stood in the doorway holding a bag of Dinkin Donuts, staring at the robot and the delivery boy in much the same way as his fellows.

“Uh, I caught the intruder.” Bender said, pointing at Fry.

Part III: Revolution

“Leela, you can’t do anything for them right now. Please, just let go of the death ray and come with me.”

“Phil and Bender are in serious trouble, Dad. They’re going to be killed!” Leela brought the antimatter rifle up to chest level and pumped it like a shotgun. The metallic click of the device’s mechanism made all of the mutants- except for Morris and Munda- take one step backward. “I was the one who screwed up and let them go on this crazy mission without proper supervision. I’m sure as hell not going to let them be executed for it!”

After Phil and Bender had been arrested and carted off for questioning, one of the guards had found the Bill of Rights sitting on Poopenmeyer’s desk. The camera that Phil had been wearing had been confiscated and stashed in some drawer somewhere, so Leela had only been able to tell what was going on to her friends by listening over the communicator that was, by now, probably lodged somewhere in Phil’s small intestine.

Leela and the mutants had listened fearfully to the police interrogation. At first, things were fairly docile. The cops seemed more interested in how Phil and Bender had managed to get past the alarms than anything else. But the mood changed drastically when it was discovered that the mutants were involved, and that the police seemingly had no record of Fry beyond the fingerprints that had been taken during his arrest during that ridiculous bank robbery trial. Suddenly the questions were all about mutant conspiracies and plots to overthrow the government. It had taken Leela a moment to realize what was going on, and when she finally figured it out her heart nearly stopped. The cops didn’t have any record of Fry’s identity: no birth certificate, no social security number from before the year 3000, no history that he had even existed before the new millennium. Phil tried to explain that he’d been unfrozen in a cryogenics lab on New Year ’s Eve of 2999, but Applied Cryogenics had no official documentation of that because Fry had run away before Leela had been able to enter it all into the computer. Of course the police weren’t going to buy such a farfetched story, not when there was a much simpler explanation. They thought Fry was a mutant.

Now Leela was standing under the ship’s bow, cradling Farnsworth’s experimental antimatter rifle- her favorite weapon- in one hand, while busily trying to wedge a quintessence pistol into her waistband with the other.

Turanga Morris, who’d anticipated where Leela’s blind fury was headed, was standing on the ship’s embarkation ramp, blocking Leela’s path. He had both arms outstretched as he pleaded with his parallel-daughter.

“Wait, Leela. Think about this. What are you going to accomplish? If you try and break your friends out, you’ll just end up dead!”

“So what should I do, just give up on them? No way. I should never have let you guys convince me to stay on the sidelines in the first place. I’m sure as hell not going to just sit around on my ass now.”

“But, even if you manage to rescue your two friends, what will you do then?” Munda asked from her husband’s side. “You’ll be fugitives forever.”

Leela blinked once. She hadn’t really thought about what was going to happen after the violence. Her plan consisted of flying the ship into police headquarters, beating people up until she found Bender and Phil, blasting the door off of their cell, and then… Well, that was pretty much all she had at the moment.

The PE Captain took a step toward the ship, but Morris stood his ground. “Please, Dad. Get out of my way.” It had been intended as a terrifying growl but, for some reason, it hadn’t come out particularly convincing. Leela was just no good at standing up to her parents.

Morris, sensing victory, took a cautious step forward. “Why don’t you come with your Mom and me down to the sewers? Raoul and I will help you figure out how to fix this once you’ve cooled down a little, right Raoul?”

Raoul, clearly not happy to have been placed in the crossfire, nodded weakly.

Leela mulled over what her father had said for a moment. Dad’s going to try and stop me if I do this. Leela realized, finally. And what am I going to do, shoot him? “Alright, fine.” She said aloud. “I’ll come with you to the sewers to ‘cool down’.” She held up her rifle. “But I’m taking this with me.”

“You did what?!”

“We’re sorry! Just please, please put down the rifle now, okay?” Leela, her parallel parents, Vyolet, and Raoul were all standing in the Turangas’ family room. It was a tight space; there wasn’t nearly enough room for the sewer mutants, Leela, and Leela’s blazing fury. Although, then again, if someone didn’t take the antimatter rifle from the infuriated starship captain in the next few seconds, there was a good chance the room would get a lot less crowded.

Leela’s eyes burned with a light that Morris and Munda had only seen on one other occasion, the moments before their daughter had discovered their true identities. That time, all that had kept Tura from shooting them both between the eyes was Phil’s last-second intervention. Now they faced their daughter’s parallel self, also armed, and with that same glint of borderline insanity in her eye. Morris was keeping an eye on the rifle. Leela didn’t have it pointed at them,- she wouldn’t do that, obviously- but she had an awful tight grip on the thing, and that was making him more than a little nervous. If she didn’t calm down she was liable to blow a six foot hole in the side of the house, and he doubted that the insurance company, MutLife, would be particularly understanding.

Luckily, Leela dropped the weapon, and then kicked it away from her when it landed against her leg. “How could you have done this without telling me?” She demanded. “Do you have any idea what this is going to mean?!” Her eye fixed on Vyolet; it seemed to bore right through her and into the far wall. “Well?!”

“Well, somebody had to do it.” Vyolet replied, and Leela was surprised by the defiance in her voice. She was used to yelling at Fry and Bender, both of whom melted like butter in a microwave when she gave them the whole wrath-of-Atheismo routine. Vyolet, though, seemed to have a spine.

“Yes, and that somebody should have been me, not you! If I’d gone in there and trashed the place, I would have worn a ski mask, or my old Clobberrella costume. No one would have known it was me! But now they have video footage of sewer mutants breaking into a city building- police headquarters for god’s sake! The news media is going to have a field day! And you can forget about getting the sewer renovations overturned. It was a long shot before, but now…” Leela shook her head and dropped into an armchair. When she looked up at Vyolet again her face was absolutely drained. “I wish I smoked, because I think I need a cigarette.”

Vyolet seemed a little less confident now. Leela’s words had obviously shaken her some. “But Leela, you said it yourself. They were going to kill them.”

“Then why, exactly, wasn’t I included in this little scheme?”

Vyolet started to speak, but thought better of it. She glanced quickly in Morris’s direction, prompting the big cyclops to clear his throat nervously. “Leela, honey, think about it for a minute. You were ready to go running in there, guns blazing. People would have gotten hurt, maybe killed. Your mother and I didn’t know anything about this- and I’m a bit angry that my wife and I were being used to keep you occupied while this was going on-” Morris shot a glance sideways at Raoul. “-But it makes sense. Dwayne, Leg Mutant, and Vyolet could sneak through the building’s sewer pipes and the spaces between walls. All they had to do was pop out at the right spot, grab Phil and the robot, and sneak away. No one even saw them.”

Leela crossed her arms. “Yeah, no one except for half a dozen security cameras I’m sure. Dad, they snuck through the walls of police headquarters, took an air duct to the cell block, burned a hole in the cell door with a plasma torch, rescued two convicts on death row, and then left the way they came. I can just see the headlines now: ‘Mutants are in your walls!’ This is going to put the mutant cause back by decades, maybe centuries!”

“I don’t understand.” Raoul said. “We rescued two prisoners; I can understand why the government will be angry with us about that, but surely we can convince the Mayor that this has just been one big misunderstand–”

“You’re missing the point!” Leela yelled. “Breaking Phil and Bender out of prison had to be done. We all know that. It was how you went about doing it. Up until now, people have thought you were all some kind of urban myth, or just some curiosity that didn’t affect their lives in any way. That’s why we created that Bill, to make people wake up and notice you! Now, after tonight, everyone in the city will have seen you on µ-tube, and, after they see you come bursting out of the ceiling, they’ll think you’re all horrible monsters, lurking in their walls and under their floors. They’ll be afraid to let their children sleep alone at night, and’ll warn them to stay away from sewer drains! This is huge, you guys! Huge!

“What’s huge?” Phil asked. Leela whirled around to find the delivery boy leaning against the railing at the bottom of the stairs. All of the screaming had woken him up, and he’d come down from the room that he’d been given to see what was going on. One look at the expression on Leela’s face however, and he was backpedalling out of harm’s way up the stairs with his hands held protectively in front of him.

When Leela knocked on Phil’s door an hour later, there was no response. She waited impatiently for a few moments, and then tried again. The door finally opened, revealing a fully awake- but only half dressed- delivery boy. Leela pushed her way into the room before her friend could say anything and sat heavily on the disheveled bed. Somehow it irritated her that he’d only been using the room for a few hours, and yet the place was already trashed.

When Leela made no move to say anything, Phil cleared his throat. “Umm…?”

“Shut up, Philip.” Leela replied dourly. She knew she was just being spiteful, but that didn’t stop her from being just a little annoyed when Phil didn’t seem at all fazed.

“Okay… But if you don’t want me to talk to you, then what are you doing in my room?”

Something between a laugh and a snort managed to sneak its way past Leela’s lips. “Your room. Nice. This is my parents’ house, and yet I’ve never had a room here. But you manage to get yourself arrested for breaking into the Mayor’s office, and now suddenly you’re living here like you own the place.”

Phil blinked twice, frowned, started to speak, and then fell silent again for awhile, brow furrowed as if he were trying to understand why he couldn’t balance a checkbook. Finally he shook his head and said “Leela, what are you talking about?”

Leela sighed and let herself fall onto the rumpled bedspread. “I don’t have the slightest idea.” She rubbed her eye for a moment before speaking again. “I’m in way over my head, Phil. I thought I could handle all of this on my own, but it looks like Vyolet was right. I’m too much of an outsider to understand how things work down here. I let the mutants completely blindside me and go mount that stupid rescue mission. I should’ve anticipated that they would try something like that. They’re so tightly knit down here, and, after you volunteered to help, they consider you to be one of them almost as much as they do me. They have no understanding of how things work on the surface; of course they were going to try a rescue. I should have seen it, but I didn’t. And now we’re all boned.”

“You really think the Mayor cares that much about sewer mutants?”

Leela sat up again. So he was listening to what I said downstairs. Not that that was surprising. Leela had been yelling loud enough that anyone within a city block would have had trouble not listening. “Phil, as far as the cops are concerned, a gang of sewer mutants just broke into a jail and rescued two suspects involved in some kind of sinister political plot. It’s just a matter of time before riot police knock down my parents’ front door.”

Phil’s eyes went wide. “But we went out of our way to make the mutants look peaceful!”

Leela snorted. “Yeah, and Vy and friends undid all of that in about 30 seconds.”

To Leela’s surprise, Phil began to pace, as if he was deep in thought. In her experience, ‘deep’ and ‘thought’ didn’t often appear in the same sentence when one was referring to the delivery boy. The word ‘thought’ appearing in such a sentence by itself was rare enough as it was. “Phil, what are you doing?”

“Trying to think.” He said, distractedly.

“Huh? Why? Doesn’t doing that usually give you a headache?”

Phil nodded absently. “Yeah- Hey, wait a minute. The cops are after me and Bender, right?”


“So, if we go turn ourselves in, then the mutants will be left alone.”

“You’re forgetting about the part where you and Bender are on death row.” Leela forced herself to bite off the rest of her sentence, which would have gone something like “which is stupid, even for you.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, then we should at least get as far away from here as possible. Bender’ll know a good place where we can hide until the heat is off. That’s what fugitives say, right? ‘Until the heat is off’?”

Leela shook her head. “No way. Once you step above ground, the police will have homed in on your career chip in two minutes. In the sewers, all the rock and concrete blocks the tracking signal that’s built into everyone’s chips. You’re safest right here.”

“But, what if the police find me here? Won’t that make things worse for the mutants?”

Leela stood. “Phil, when the police finally do find the mutant village, it’s not going to matter one way or the other whether you’re here or not. The mutants have been treated like the sewage they live in for hundreds of years, and I don’t think they can take the abuse much longer. They are in danger of losing their entire way of life. They’re on the brink of something; something bad. We only got a glimpse of it when they rescued you, but when the cops get here, and they start breaking down peoples’ front doors, the situation is going to get out of hand.”

“But you’re going to stop it, right?” It was said matter-of-factly. After all, she always stopped it, no matter what it was.

“No, Phil, I don’t think I can.” Then she looked squarely in his eyes, and her whole body suddenly went rigid. “And after what the government was about to do to you and Bender, and just for trying to help these people, I no longer want to.”

In the other timeline, Fry was awakened in the predawn hours of the next morning by the insistent ring of his telephone. Bleary eyed and only semiconscious, the delivery boy poked his head out from under the covers. He was immediately rewarded with a blast of frigid air that quickly found its way into the depths of his blankets and robbed him in an instant of the precious pocket of warm comfiness that he’d been patiently building all night long.

The phone continued to ring. Muttering something obscene under his breath, Fry disentangled himself from his sheets and reached under his bed for the receiver.

“Ungh?” He said into the device.

”Fry! Thank god I got a hold of you! Amy just called. She just got back from the other timeline. You need to get over here quick, there’s been an emergency!”

“Ungh?” Fry blinked and looked out his window. He couldn’t even see the outline of the buildings across the street.

The voice on the other end of the line- Fry was just recognizing it as Tura’s now that his brain was starting to function- didn’t even pause for an instant. “Phil and Bender were caught during the break-in! Leela let the mutants break them out of prison! It’s a disaster!”

“T- Tura? What time is it?”

The question was enough to derail Tura’s monologue and send her train of thought crashing off a suspension bridge. She sputtered to a halt. “Huh- what? It’s 4:37 in the morning, why?”

Fry just let the silence grow between them.

Finally Tura seemed to catch on. “Oh. Oh. I guess you were sleeping, huh? Sorry, but like I said, there’s been an emergency over in my timeline, and we need to-”

Fry let Tura rant for awhile while he massaged his eyes with the palms of his hands. He put the receiver down on the bedspread and waited for a break in the torrent of noise that was flowing out of the phone. There was really no point in listening to what Tura was saying; the volume would just give him a headache, and, judging by her tone of voice, she was that special kind of angry that Leela got into every once in awhile where he’d get to hear the story several more times anyway. He’d gotten the important information: namely, ‘emergency’ and ‘come here’. Maybe someone had gotten hurt, or there had been a fire, or possibly the Earth was under attack again. At least his name wasn’t being used in conjunction with too many expletives, which hopefully meant that, whatever had happened, it wasn’t his fault this time.

At long last, Tura fell silent. Fry quickly picked up the phone again. “Wow, that’s terrible, Tura. Why don’t I meet you at Planet Express in half an hour?” It was the only possible response. Anything else would inevitably end up causing a black boot to kick down his door in a few minutes, and then he’d be dragged to Planet Express anyway..

Some of the edge went out of Tura’s voice. “Thanks, Fry. I really appreciate it. I’ll be waiting in the conference room.”

“Sure, no prob. Do you want me to bring Bender along?” No way that jerk gets to sleep in if I don’t.

“Uh, no, let him sleep. Didn’t you say he tried to sell your organs to the meat grinder the last time you woke him up in the middle of the night?”

“Oh. Yeah, you’re probably right. Okay, see you in thirty.”

Fry never liked walking up to the Planet Express building alone after dark. The security system supposedly knew not to blast him if he tried to get into the building, but Hermes had once told him that the thing had malfunctioned a year and a half before Fry had unfrozen, and accidentally vaporized the company delivery boy. Actually, now that he thought about it, a lot of Hermes’ stories ended with “and accidentally vaporized the delivery boy.”

Luckily, the security system wasn’t on the fritz, and it didn’t hesitate to let him in. Fry worked his way through the darkened building to the conference room. As he passed through the lounge he noticed a half-finished box of pizza and half a dozen empty Quasarbucks coffee cups sitting on the room’s table. The television was on, but muted, and was playing an early-morning news special. Tura’s jacket was draped over the back of the couch. It looked all the world like his temporary Captain had camped out there all night long.

Tura was leaning on the conference room railing when Fry arrived. She stood at the sound of the door and turned to face him. Fry felt his heart skip a beat. She looked haggard, like she’d been up all night working. Judging by the dried grease stains on her tank top, that was a distinct possibility.

“Fry! Good, you’re here! We might not have much time!” Whatever her physical appearance, Tura was, for the moment- wide awake.

Fry allowed himself to be led to the conference table, where he waited while Tura fiddled with the controls to the holographic projector. When Tura hadn’t spoken for a few seconds, Fry started to say something, but Tura overrode him.

“I can’t believe she let this happen. How could she have been so stupid?!”

“What? Who?”

“Leela! She let Phil convince her to stay behind and let them break into the Mayor’s Office by themselves and gee, surprise, those two morons did something stupid and got caught.” There was a slight hesitation when Tura realized what she’d just implied by calling Phil a moron, but Fry was careful to make no outward sign that he’d caught the insult, so Tura continued. “Leela was going to mount a rescue mission, but my parents persuaded her not to. That’s right, my parents! She actually invited them to watch the break-in from Planet Express. That- that bitch put my parents in danger so she could show off for them!”

Fry couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. A part of him demanded that he defend his Captain’s honor, but another part of him wasn’t sure if he could be angry at one Leela for badmouthing another. It was all too complicated.

Tura was still talking, and the moment for Fry to say anything quickly passed. “I still can’t believe she didn’t see that my parents were distracting her so that the mutants could rescue Phil and Bender without her. Apparently Raoul suggested that Mom and Dad take Leela for a walk through the village so that she could ‘cool down’, and, when they got back, Phil was lounging on the sofa watching television and Bender was asleep in the broom closet.” Tura shook her head. “I don’t know what the hell to do with this mess.” She said, and sank into the Professor’s padded chair.

The conference table’s holographic display console beeped softly to remind Tura that she hadn’t finished feeding it instructions, but both Fry and Tura ignored it. Tura just stared at the scuffed green surface of the table while Fry stared at her. This arrangement lasted for a good ten seconds, at which point the control panel beeped again. Tura still didn’t move, and Fry grew a little concerned. Standing, he moved around the table and went to her, and she turned away from him.

“Tura, are you alright?”

Her head whirled to face him, revealing the tears that she’d been trying to hide. “No, I’m not alright!” She snapped. “Just about everyone I care about is in danger and I can’t do a damned thing about it. And, to top it off, my clone from another timeline is over there making things worse, so even though I didn’t do any of this, it’s still sorta all my fault!”

Fry didn’t say anything- he knew he didn’t have the words to make her feel better- but sat down next to her and rested a hand on her shoulder to comfort her while the sobs worked their way out. Eventually they did, and Fry asked: “Tura, why did you ask me here?”

Tura sighed and gently removed Fry’s hand from her shoulder. “I don’t know. I was going to try and come up with some plan to fix things that you could give to Leela, but now I think that was just an excuse to get you here so I could vent at you. I’m sorry.”

“Oh.”Fry said simply.

A moment passed. “You’re not angry with me.” It was more a statement of fact than a question.

Fry shrugged. “No, not really. You’d be surprised how many times Leela has made up dumb excuses to get me to meet her, just so she can vent. I’m pretty much used to it.”

Tura looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, right, dumb excuses…”

“Did you camp out here all night?” Fry asked suddenly.

“Uh-huh. I haven’t slept much in the past few days. Leela’s apartment is a constant reminder that this isn’t home. I mean, Not really. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep tonight either- not with the break-in happening in my timeline-, so I figured I might as well stay here and work on the ship. The technobabbleator needed flux-phasing, and working with my hands is a good distraction.” At Fry’s look, she quickly added “and I’ve had eight cups of coffee and two Red Minotaurs, so I’ll be fine to pilot the ship today.”

“Yeah, sure...” Fry replied, skeptically. Even Tura couldn’t stay awake indefinitely on coffee and energy drinks alone, and just what he needed was for her to fall asleep at the wheel during a delivery. With his luck, the caffeine would wear off right in the middle of the delivery’s ‘run for your lives’ phase.

A minute passed and neither spoke. Fry considered asking about what had happened in the other timeline again, but he hesitated to risk upsetting Tura again. In the end, his stomach decided for him. “I just realized, I haven’t eaten anything yet.” Fry said. “I’m gonna go get some donuts, or something.”

Tura was so deep in thought that it took a moment for the delivery boy’s words to register with her. “Huh, what? Oh- oh, okay. Bring me back a couple.” She yawned. “And a coffee. The biggest, blackest coffee you can find.”

When Fry returned half an hour later, Tura was still sitting in the Professor’s chair. She was fast asleep.

Tura slept all morning and into the early afternoon. Fry didn’t mind; she could sleep as long as she wanted. He didn’t mind putting off the moment in which she awoke and found out he’d made up some story about her being too sick to fly so that Hermes would give her the day off.

When Fry had gotten back from the donut place down the street and found Tura snoring softly in the Professor’s padded conference chair, he’d been unable to make himself wake her up. She just looked so beautiful like that, her body relaxed and her mouth slightly open as she breathed gently in and out. He knew the moment he said something to wake her that the tension would creep back into her features, and her face would lock into that ever-present half-frown that hid what she was thinking and what she was feeling from the outside world, and from him. There was no way he was going to ruin her moment of peace by forcing her back to reality. And so he did what he did best; he acted on impulse without regard to how much trouble it would create for him .

The Professor’s chair had a built in antigrav-pump, which Fry managed to activate by randomly pressing buttons on the chair’s armrest control panel. When the chair was finally hovering, he carefully guided it through the sliding door into the lounge. There was probably a button that activated robotic software of some sort that could have guided the chair on its own, but Fry had decided not to look for it when one random button push had deployed a set of nasty looking laser cannons.

When the chair was hovering next to the couch, Fry awkwardly placed his arms around Tura’s back and transferred her as gently as he could to the couch’s worn yellow cushions. Tura stirred and muttered something unintelligible, but didn’t wake. She lay there until two in the afternoon while Fry hung around and made sure that no one disturbed her. With Tura ‘sick’, Amy was acting Captain, and it hadn’t been hard- even for Fry- to get the gullible intern to buy the excuse that he couldn’t go on the day’s delivery because he needed to stay behind and make sure Tura got well. It hadn’t occurred to him at the time that, when Tura woke up and discovered that she’d slept through the day’s mission- and through whatever events were happening at the same time in the other timeline-, he’d be right there in the crosshairs to take the brunt of her anger.

Fry was lugging a box of tax forms through the lounge on the way to Hermes’s office when Tura’s eye finally snapped open. Her still-fuzzy brain must have caught the change in her surroundings and overreacted, because she jumped into a sitting position so suddenly that Fry, startled, dropped what he was carrying and sent a stack of carefully sorted papers tumbling all over the floor. The delivery boy winced, but didn’t even attempt to pick up the pile. He had a bigger bullet to dodge first.

“How’d I get in here?” Tura asked with a yawn. “I must’ve dozed off for a couple of minutes.” The cyclops stood, stretched, and made her way over to one of the coffee cups that was still sitting on the table from that morning. Fry waited nervously as Tura reached her cup and turned to him. “So, did you get those donuts- agh, stupid sun.” She blinked hard against the bright afternoon sunlight that was streaming in through the bay window. Then she blinked again, and her eye slowly swiveled toward Fry. The delivery boy coughed and smiled back sheepishly.

“Fry, this is the part where you tell me Proxima Centauri just exploded, and that’s why it’s bright and sunny at 5:00 in the morning, or I kick your ass.”

“Uhh yeah, well you see, the thing about that is…”

“I still can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“Oh, come on, Tura. You can’t just sit around the office and wait for the Professor to come up with a way to send you back to your timeline. If anyone that’s been over in your timeline shows up with some news, they’ll call you and let you know. Everybody knows how important this is to you.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tura frowned and looked down at her drink.

Fry looked around. He’d always liked this place; it held some good memories. He’d first discovered that there was a coffee shop right across from Planet Express a couple years earlier. It had been one of his and Leela’s favorite hangouts until… Well, maybe the memories weren’t entirely good. I told her that I loved her. I tried for so long to find the right moment to say it. And she almost loved me back. Almost. If, only… “I was so close…”

“Yes, I remember.” Tura murmured into her tea, but Fry was staring wistfully off into the distance and didn’t hear.

The two of them sat and chatted well into early evening. It was only when the sun began to sink behind the nearby buildings that they finally decided to take the waitress’s not-so-subtle hints that it was time for them to go. Fry offered to pay, as he’d been doing every time he and Leela went anywhere almost automatically for years. Leela invariably refused, but Fry always got the feeling that she thought it was sweet of him to make the gesture, so he kept on doing it anyway. It had become sort of a ritual between the two of them, even a game perhaps. He would offer to pay, smiling to show that he knew what the answer would be, and then she would smile back, thank him, and tell him that it “wouldn’t be necessary”. So when Tura smiled and said “how about next time?” he almost choked on his own tongue.

Tura just stood there and smiled patiently while all of Fry’s synapses tried to fire at once. Later, he would realize how funny he must have looked, sitting there twitching while he looked at Tura like she’d grown an extra head. “Did, did you just…?” Fry’s voice trailed off.

To her credit, Tura had managed to keep a straight face this whole time. “Yes Fry, I did. I can’t really believe it myself, but I did. How about Elzar’s, tomorrow night? Maybe right after work?”

Somehow, Fry managed to agree, say goodbye, and get away without exploding all over the sidewalk under the pressure of the thoughts and feelings that were roaring around inside his skull. Tura had just asked him out on a date! He’d been waiting for that to happen for so many years that it didn’t even seem possible that it could have finally happened. It was the most incredible, most perfect day of his life. Or at least, it should have been. So why was there a small part of him that was telling him that this wasn’t right, that it wasn’t what he wanted?

I’ve been trying to get Leela to go out with me ever since that cruise where the ship got sucked into a black hole. Why am I not happy now that she said yes? He thought about it for most of the way back to his apartment before he finally figured it out. Because Tura isn’t Leela. He shook his head. But that’s stupid. The Professor says they’re exactly the same. They’re both Leela; what difference does it make which timeline Tura came from?

Fry sighed long and hard. It seemed so typical of his life that something that seemed so wonderful could happen to him, and yet, when it happened, it would turn out not to be what he had expected at all. What he really needed was a good friend to talk this over with, a friend that wouldn’t try to blackmail him with the information later. That usually meant Leela, or Scruffy, though the janitor wasn’t really around all that much to talk to, for some reason.

Fry laughed derisively at himself. Yeah, that’s just what I need to do, ask Leela for tips on what to do about being asked out by her exact duplicate. That’d go over well. Leela was going to find out eventually, though. Tura would probably tell Aimee, and then everyone else would know ten minutes later. It’s probably better if I tell Leela in person. Better for their friendship, anyway. Probably not for his mental health. And then there was the other problem. What about Phil? Fry tried to think how he himself would react if Leela had offered to go on a date with Phil. I’d probably want to kill him. Great. So I’ll get to be the first person to kill myself on purpose without committing suicide. Hopefully I’ll at least have some more time in this reality before I get zapped over to Tura’s reality and have to face Leela. Actually, come to think of it, its been awhile since I was over there in-


Suddenly he was running flat out down a dark passageway, guided only by a blur attached to a ponytail. Damnit.

Leela had spent most of her day underground with the mutants, but she’d finally risked a trip up to the surface in the early afternoon, once she realized that the predicament that she, Bender, and Phil had found themselves in would likely spread to everyone at Planet Express, if she didn’t do something to cover the fact that Phil was employed there. It had taken a lot of willpower to explain to Hermes what was going on, and that she had been using Planet Express as a base of operations for it, but in the end the Jamaican wasn’t as furious as she’d expected. After a flurry of phrases of the ‘sweet X of Y’ variety, he’d actually thanked her for warning him early enough that the police were likely going to be looking through his office, so that he could ‘dispose of a few things’. Whatever that meant. The important thing was that Hermes had changed his books to show that Phil had been fired six months earlier, which ought to clear Planet Express- and its employees- from any suspicion of being involved in any mutant conspiracies.

A sort of reality check had settled in over the mutants during the course of the day. The adrenaline fueled excitement and self-assuredness had worn off and a hint of uncertainty slowly crept into the atmosphere. The problem was that nobody really knew what was coming. The police would respond to what the mutants had done in order to protect their image, everyone agreed on that. Less certain, however, was what the scale of the response would be. Would it be a couple of cops in riot gear poking their nightsticks around, hoping to find Fry hiding in a closet somewhere, or, on the other extreme, would they send the national guard into the sewers, and use allegations of a mutant ‘plot’ as an excuse to expel the mutants by force? Leela expected something somewhere in the middle. The internet was buzzing with demands for the government to get rid of the ‘monsters under our streets’, but, realistically, that wasn’t going to happen. It would be up to Poopenmeyer to give the order to clear the sewers. Leela thought she knew the politician well enough to be reasonably sure that he wouldn’t overreact and send an army into the sewers. Not when he had no way of knowing whether the mutants could fight back.

The real trouble, Leela knew, wouldn’t come from the above-grounders, but from the mutants themselves. They had always been peaceful in the past, but then, no one had ever threatened to tear down their homes before. Now that the mutants had finally made a move against the oppressive Upper City, there was no way she could prevent the retaliation. Her job now was to make sure it didn’t escalate out of control. If the mutants overreacted when the retaliation came, things could end up in a downward spiral leading straight to Robot Hell.

Everything really revolved around Philip Fry, as things seemed to do a disproportionate amount of the time. To the mutants, the delivery boy had become a symbol of their stand against the Upper City; they wouldn’t give him up without a fight, a fight that could not be allowed to happen. But, at the same time, Phil had to be protected, or he’d very quickly end up being executed for some combination of fleeing police custody and being some sort of imagined mutant terrorist bent on overthrowing the government.

Much of the day had been spent trying to figure out what to do with Phil. The easiest thing would have been to just put him and Bender somewhere out of harm’s way deep in the sewer where no one would be likely to find them. The trouble with that approach was that Phil and Bender couldn’t go hide in the sewers alone without ending up hopelessly lost, drowned, eaten, or all of the above, and no one wanted to volunteer to cower around in the tunnels while the Surface Dwellers were threatening to invade their homes. Leela would have volunteered, but she had to reluctantly admit to herself that she didn’t know the sewers any better than her two friends did. Finally Vyolet, of all people, was the one who volunteered for the job. Apparently she still felt guilty for the trouble she’d caused earlier. Phil hadn’t been too thrilled at the prospect of Vyolet being his tour guide, and neither had Leela, but there wasn’t really any other alternative.

Another issue was what Leela herself was going to do when the police showed up. Leela was the mutants’ only link with the world outside the sewers. It wouldn’t exactly do to have a bunch of New New York’s finest see her below ground. Of course, with the mayor already close to guessing her true heritage and with two of her coworkers suspected of being involved in a sinister mutant plot, it wouldn’t be long before the cops started to turn up the heat on her anyway. No one had any incriminating evidence that could be used to arrest her yet, but it would not be long before the authorities realized that she was somehow involved in all this. She would have to be careful when she ventured out to the surface, and never stray too far from the nearest manhole.

Leela arrived at a manhole cover that was suitably far enough from Planet Express and knelt down. She was in a side alley; there didn’t look to be anyone around but her. Satisfied, she removed the manhole cover and clambered down the ladder, pausing only long enough to silently slide the cover back into place, relieved at a clean getaway. All she had to do now was to keep the mutants’ nerves from fraying. The police had no idea where the mutant village they were looking for was located; everyone agreed on that. And it would take days for them to figure it out, all the while the mutants would be feeding Leela information. When the raid finally came, there would be ample warning.

It happened that evening just before sunset. Leela was in her parents’ living room, lecturing Phil on why he had to go hide like a sissy and she didn’t, when the lights went out. In a big way. The house lights, the streetlights, even the giant floodlights mounted on the rock ceiling far overhead; they all went out in an instant. It was the agreed upon signal that surface dwellers were on their way.

Leela quickly grabbed her pistol from the flour jar where her mother- who disliked the whole idea of having guns in her house- had forced her to put it. Her father picked up the big antimatter rifle and hefted it experimentally. Leela didn’t like the idea of her father having a gun any more than her mother liked her having one, but she couldn’t exactly say no.

As Leela, Morris, Phil, and Bender hurried through the streets toward Undercity Hall- the designated assembly point in case of an armed assault on the town- Leela kept expecting to run into a firefight, but the only people she saw in the almost perfect darkness were nervous faces peering out of windows lit by candlelight or the occasional mutant standing on a porch with a two-by-four held at the ready.

The lights came back on as the group was reaching Undercity Hall. That was the all-clear signal. Leela silently hoped that it had just been a false alarm, or maybe even a poorly-timed power failure, but she needed to check things out, just to be sure. There was a small group of mutants standing in the open at the bottom of Undercity Hall’s wooden staircase. Curious, Leela jogged up to them to ask if anyone knew what was going on, only to hear a familiar voice desperately call out to her for help from the midst of the mob,


“Amy?! What are you doing here?!” In the center of the ring of mutants armed with clubs and metal bars was the Martian intern, covered from head to toe in brown sludge, and looking just about as miserable and scared as humanly possible.

“Hermes sent me! The police showed up at Planet Express, I guess to search for Phil. They asked us a bunch of questions, and one of them wanted Hermes to tell him everything he could about you!”

“Uh, is she, like, a bad guy, or what?” One of the mutants asked in confusion. Leela ignored her for the moment. A little alarm was going off in the back of her head.

“Why did the cops want to know about me?” She asked.

“I don’t know. They just said they wanted to ask you some questions, but Hermes looked really worried. He sent me down here to tell you not to risk coming above ground anymore.”

So much for me being the mutants’ connection with the outside world. Leela thought glumly. “Okay, but then what was that blackout all about?”

“I can answer that.” Came Raoul’s voice from down the boardwalk. The head mutant moved to Amy’s side and guided her out of the middle of the well-armed mob. “It seems your friend slipped on the ladder when she was descending into the sewer; it’s just a good thing that the only sludge that causes mutation on contact is in the town lake. Anyway, someone heard the scream and the splash, and sounded the alarm.”

Leela was just about to reply when the Other Bender cleared his throat. “You know, I probably use this word so often that it’s lost its effect, but...” He made a noise as if he was clearing his nonexistant throat. “You’re all a bunch of stupid chumps.”

Leela turned to regard the robot. Frankly, she’d completely forgotten that he was there. “What, Bender?”

“Look, the cops are trying to find this place so that they can grab this Fry and me, but they don’t know where it is, right?”

“Yeah, so?” asked a mutant that Leela didn’t know.

“So, how do you find someone when you don’t know where he is, and the only people that do know where he is ain’t talking?”

There was a moment of confused silence, and then a sudden jolt of electricity shot up Leela’s spine. You idiot! Why didn’t you see that?! “You follow that person’s friends until they lead you to him.” She cursed loudly. “Everybody, get back to your homes! Phil, Bender, you’re with me. We have to get you out of here!” Leela pushed Phil and Bender in the direction of the tunnel where they were supposed to meet Vyolet in case the robot and the delivery boy needed to disappear in a hurry. Hopefully she was already on her way there to meet them.

Before Leela could take off running, a voice called out to her from behind. “Leela!” came her father’s voice. The PE Captain spun around to find Morris watching her from a few meters away. He had the big antimatter rifle cradled in his arms. “Be careful, alright?”

Leela ran to him and the two of them embraced. “I will Dad. Watch after Mom for me.”

Bender cleared his throat. “Are you squishy meatsacks about done? I’d like to be gone before people start shooting at us. Getting bullet dings out of my ass aint exactly a picnic, you know.”

“Coming Bender.” Leela let go of her father, squeezed his hand, and rejoined her friends. They began to run.

A minute later the lights went out a second time. This time they stayed out.

Running at full tilt, Leela turned a corner and took off down am alleyway between two ramshackle stores. She held one of Phil’s wrists in one hand and her pistol in the other- on stun of course. It wouldn’t be good for their cause if above grounders started turning up with gaping holes in them. It was dark, probably pitch black to Phil’s standard human eyes. For Leela, there was just enough filtered light seeping through grates and manhole covers in the distant ceiling to get a bearing on her surroundings. The sun was setting though; even her eye wouldn’t be able to see much longer. Pretty soon they were going to have to risk blowing their cover and turning on a light.

Something moved up ahead. Leela jumped behind a pile of rotting boards and dragged Fry down with her. Bender silently crouched down behind them.

“Leela, what-“

“Shh!” Leela hissed, slapping a hand over Phil’s mouth. “Bender,” she whispered. “I thought I saw something over by that grayish blob over there.” She pointed off into the gathering darkness in the direction she hoped the movement had come from.

There was a mechanical whir as Bender’s eyes telescoped out to their full extent. “Well, from my infrared vision, it looks like there’s a guy sitting over there with his back to a wall. He’s got something in his hand; I can’t tell what. Oh, and my smission detectors are detecting a robot standing next to him. From what I can tell, neither of them have much cash.” Bender made as sound as he if were sniffing the air- a very strange thing for a being with no nose to do. “Ooh! But I think the robot has a credit card!”

“Leela, please, what is-”

“Not now, Phil!”

“But I’m not-” The delivery boy cut himself off when someone spoke.

“I hate these standard issue police flashlights. They never work- ah, there we go.” Leela had to close her eye against the pool of light that sprang into existence at the opposite end of the alleyway. Two figures were illuminated, a robot and a human, like Bender had predicted. Both were wearing the blue and white of the New New York police department.

“Hey, I remember these guys.” Bender said quietly. “They arrested me for shoplifting… and robbing a bank… and stealing a fancy cigar… and dumping oil on a bunch of penguins… and…”

“Yes, Bender, we know who they are.” Leela whispered. The two cops were Smitty and URL, two of New New York’s finest, which was a little sad, when she thought about it.

Leela half-heard, half-felt Bender shift his weight. In the process, he must have bumped the pile of wooden boards they were using as cover, because a couple of them moved just enough to make a low clunking noise. Leela dove on top of Phil, knocking him down and out of the way right before Smitty’s flashlight beam swept by. Leela, Bender, and Phil held their respective breaths/60 Hz buzz while Smitty swept the air over their heads with his flashlight.

“Think we should check it out, baby?” That was URL’s voice. Leela recognized it from the day she’d met Fry.

“You nuts?” Smitty replied. “We’re in a sewer crawling with flesh eating mutants, and you want to go check out a weird noise coming from down an alley?”

URL chuckled. “Aww yeah. You’ve been watching too many old horror movies. Now come on, we need to find that mutant that escaped from headquarters. He’s got to be down here somewhere.”

“Yeah, but I don’t get it. Isn’t he the same guy that got away from us that one New Year’s Eve? We got our asses kicked by that cyclops, remember? Didn’t she say he was an escaped cryogenic defrostee, or something?”

“Yeah that’s him. Word is the cyclops chick is a mutant too. The whole thing was some kind of setup.”

“We’d better keep an eye out for her too, then.” He chuckled. “Get it, an eye, as in, one eye?”

The flashlight beam disappeared. Leela hazarded a glance over the rubble pile and saw the two police officers walking out of the mouth of the alley. She stood, noticing for the first time that she’d been crouching with her knee planted in Phil’s face.

The delivery boy stood, and before Leela could say anything, he blurted “Leela, what’s going on here?!”

Leela groaned. Right, of course, because things weren’t complicated enough already. “Wow, what a swell time for you and Phil to switch places. Here’s what you’ve missed. Phil and Bender got captured while planting your Bill of Rights, but the mutants broke them out, so now the cops are searching the sewers for them. And by them, I mean you. Oh, and apparently somebody, probably the Mayor, has put two and two together and figured out that I’m a mutant.” Leela fought to keep her voice from cracking. They know!

Fry completely missed the poorly-concealed panic in his Captain’s tone. “Yeah, I heard most of that already. Tura was really worried that-“

“I don’t give a damn what Tura was worried about!” Leela snapped. Then she forced her mouth shut. Keep it together, Turanga. Nobody can afford for you to lose it right now. They figured out you’re a mutant; you knew that was probably going to happen. Sure, they figured it out a little earlier than you expected, but you can cope with this. Don’t let it beat you. Leela took a deep breath and, deciding to pretend that her last statement had never happened rather than waste time apologizing for it, she pressed onward. “Alright, here’s the plan...”

I really hope this was a good idea. Leela thought as she crouched behind a trashcan a few feet from the mouth of the alleyway that they’d left a few moments earlier. Bender was somewhere to her right, though she had no way to know where in the now-total darkness. She knew where Fry was. He was standing not ten feet away, making enough noise to attract anyone within a two block radius. Which was the point, actually.

It didn’t take long for Smitty and URL to take the bait. A beam of white light blinked on and bathed the delivery boy in sharp relief. Fry raised his arm up against the glare.

“Hey, that’s him! That’s the guy we’re after!” Smitty said excitedly. “Alright, punk,” he continued, this time speaking to Fry, “put your hands up and don’t move. You’re coming with us.”

Fry obliged, putting his hands way up over his head. Leela felt a momentary pang of guilt when she saw how hard he was shaking.

Smitty and URL took a few steps toward the delivery boy. Leela tried to gauge how far away the two police offers were. She couldn’t quite tell if they were close enough yet.

The cops’ heavy footsteps stopped. “Something doesn’t feel right.” URL said. “My smission is grooving some funky jazz coming from over there.”

“Well, yeah, we’re in a sewer.”

“No, man. I think there’s somebody over there.”

Well, so much for that. “Fry, hide!” Leela yelled. The delivery boy didn’t need to be told twice. He high tailed it to the nearest doorway, and was quickly pulled inside by the mutants that had been standing there in the shadows watching. Leela didn’t wait to make sure Fry was safe. The cyclops rolled and entered a crouch. She drew her pistol and fired off a couple of quick shots. One of the purple beams caught URL straight in the chassis. Unfortunately, the stun setting wasn’t powerful enough to do anything to a robot. Smitty dove for cover the moment he heard Leela’s weapon discharge. URL drew his own weapon and pointed it at her, but he faltered for a moment when he recognized her and Leela safely made it into cover behind a fence.

“URL, was that who I thought it was?” Smitty called from his hiding place behind a mailbox.

“Aww, yeah.” URL replied.

“The city doesn’t pay us enough for-“ A loud clang echoed down the street. Leela and URL both whirled to find Smitty lying face down on the boardwalk. Bender was standing over the limp form, calmly smoking a tiparillo. “What?” He asked, innocently. “There’s no law against assaulting a police officer.”

A split second later, Leela’s right boot attempted to interface with URL’s central processor. It succeeded.

“You’re not going to eat our brains, right?” Smitty asked nervously.

“Man, you just keep going on about that.” URL replied derisively. The two cops were sitting on the ground in the middle of the boardwalk street, not twenty feet from where they had been ambushed. Leela, Bender, Fry, and a small crowd of mutants that had been hiding in the nearby buildings formed a circle around them.

“Nobody is going to eat anybody’s brains!” Leela snapped. “Now, just tell me what you know and I’ll let you both walk away. What are your orders? How many of you are down here?”

“And why should we tell you that?” URL asked evenly. Leela frowned at the robot. He acted like someone had set his coolmostat too high. She doubted if she could actually intimidate him. Smitty, on the other hand… “Because, if you don’t, I won’t be able to stop this mob from beating the tar out of you.” A few sneers from the assembled mutants served to underscore the threat.

Smitty, predictably, cracked like an egg. “Whoah, now hold on a second!”

“Yes?” Leela prodded.

“There’s about two dozen of us cops down in the sewers looking for them.” Smitty pointed at Fry and Bender. “We were told to find them and bring them back to the surface.”

“And what if you couldn’t find them, or the mutants were protecting them?”

“I don’t think anybody knew there was a whole other city down here. We just sort of expected to walk in and grab them.”

“What about Leela?” Fry interjected. “You said something about her before.”

“We got word that the Mayor thinks she’s a mutant.” Smitty explained.

“Guess there’s no question now,” URL added.

Those five words, spoken so matter-of-factly, were enough to make Leela’s stomach sink into her feet. They knew. The whole world knew. She’d just betrayed Tura’s greatest secret and ruined her life forever.

“Yes, I’m a mutant.” The PE Captain said sadly. “Congratulations, you finally figured it out.”

“Leela, no!” Fry exclaimed.

“It’s pointless for me to deny it, Fry.” Leela said gently. “I’ve got one eye, and they just caught me hanging out with a bunch of sewer mutants in the sewer.” She turned to Smitty and URL and put her hands on her hips. “Yes, I’m a mutant, though I didn’t even know it until a few years ago. But Fry isn’t a mutant; he’s a defrostee from the stupid ages that just happens to be kind enough to help his friends. And he’s not responsible for any plot. There is no plot. All the mutants ever wanted was to be treated like everyone else. Why should we be second class citizens, just because our DNA is a little different? Aliens’ DNA is different, and they aren’t forced to live waist deep in sewage! In fact, I spent most of my life thinking I was an alien, and I was allowed to have an apartment, a job, a real life. But, now that it turns out that I’m human after all- just not the right kind of human- all of those things get taken away? It’s wrong! And that’s all we wanted, to say that it’s wrong, and have somebody listen. We don’t want to overthrow the government or to take over the world, we just want our rights, like everybody else.” Leela tapered off, surprised at herself. Her cheeks were flushed and her body was shaking with the force of her emotion. She happened to catch Fry’s gaze for a moment. He was smiling at her, and he looked… proud.

“But you’re mutants.” Smitty insisted. “You don’t have rights.”

Leela ignored him. He was too stupid and ignorant to waste her time on. URL, however, was not quite as dumb as he looked, and his flash memory would have recorded her little speech in minute detail. With luck, the news media would be playing it in a matter of hours. The PE Captain knelt in front of Smitty, bringing her eye as close to his face as absolutely possible. She studied the man for a moment, watching the fear and disgust play across his features. For some reason, it popped into her mind that this was only the second normal human that knew she was a mutant that she’d gotten so physically close to.

When Smitty was suitably uncomfortable, Leela spoke. “This is what you’re going to do.” She declared. “You’re going to call the other police officers that are wandering around the village and tell them to head for the nearest ladder to the surface streets. Then you are going to follow them. Fry and Bender are innocent of anything except for breaking into a building. They will both surrender to you the moment any other charges are dropped.” Leela motioned for the crowd to step back, and the two police officers stood. “Until that time, they stay down here, with us.”

“You’ll be arrested for harboring fugitives.” Smitty countered. “And we’ll find your two friends eventually.”

Leela scoffed at him. “There’s hundreds of miles of sewer system down here, plus the ruins of the old city and its sewer system. You won’t find them unless we let you. And don’t think that arresting me will make this all go away. You’ll have to arrest each and every last one of us, and there’s more of us down here than you realize.”

Smitty looked around at the hard faces of the mutants that still formed a loose ring around himself and his partner. No doubt he was imagining what would happen if he even tried to pull out his handcuffs.

“Now, like I promised, I’m going to let you go. When you get back to the surface, you are going to go straight to the Mayor, and you’re going to give him a message for me.”

“What message?” URL asked.

“Tell him that the Captain of the crew that saved millions of lives from a ball of garbage, warded off the Omicronians twice, and foiled Nudar is speaking for the mutants now. All I want is for these people to have their rights. And somehow, one way or the other, I’m going to make it happen.”

Smitty bristled. “Is that a threat?” He demanded.

“No.” Fry said before Leela could reply. “When Leela says something like that, it’s a promise.”

Leela’s body shook under the force of the firestorm that was consuming her mind. They know! They know! The words just kept beating at the back of her eye with a pulsing rhythm that did not cease. The pressure was of such ferocity that Leela futilely tried to close her eye against it. For an instant, there was a blessed respite from the pain, but then something appeared in the darkness behind her eyelid. A dim shadow began to form, a grayish blob that twisted and changed as the throbbing built again. The thing evolved into a face. A face with one eye. Her face, twisted with anger and hatred. And yet she knew with a certainty that this vision of rage that looked at her with an eye full of silent accusation was not hers, and as this realization came, the vision began to speak in her voice- in Tura’s voice- “They know.”

Leela’s eye snapped open. Fry was looking at her. The realization tore through her despair like a hot knife. Fry was real, a part of her reality in this place that was going to hell all around her. She didn’t say anything to him; didn’t even acknowledge his presence. She didn’t trust herself to try. Her eye stared straight ahead into nothing.

The delivery boy sat down next to her. She was on her parent’s couch. How she’d gotten there, she had no idea. Still she made no move to show that she even knew that he was there. Her mind was screaming; it wouldn’t stop. Uncertainly, Fry reached out to her. Maybe he said something. She didn’t hear.

The touch of his hand on her forearm was like an electric shock. She jumped. Alarmed, Fry started to take his hand away. He mumbled something to her. An apology, probably. Then he started to stand, and Leela’s hand reached out for him. Fry hesitated, and when Leela’s eye swivelled to meet his, he looked solemnly back into it for a long time. Neither of them said anything, but Fry slowly let himself sink back down into the couch cushions.

Again there was silence. “Leela, I-“

Fry cut himself off as the cyclops buried her head in his shoulder. Well, he thought, it’s dayjayvoo all over again. He put a practiced arm on her shoulder, and waited, patiently, for things to get better.

“I- I’m sorry, Fry.” Leela said between sobs. “I shouldn’t be making you see me like this.”

“It’s okay.” Fry assured her, patting her shoulder. He was silent for a moment. “You know, you’re the second Leela to say that to me.”

Leela hesitated. “What?” She asked, caught off guard.

“Tura said that after I told her about what the Mayor wants to do all of the mutants here in her timeline.”

Leela slowly drew away from the delivery boy, suddenly self-conscious now that her emotions were coming back under her control. “Oh. What did you tell her- after she said that, I mean?”

“I told her not to apologize. It’s okay to be upset sometimes, you know?”

Leela thought about that. Somehow it didn’t feel ‘okay’ to her. Showing weakness in front of someone she cared about put a burden on them to take care of her because she couldn’t do it herself. She knew that if she said as much to Fry he’d just shrug and say ‘that’s what friends are for’, but she couldn’t bring herself to believe that. Her weakness was her own fault. It wouldn’t be fair to Fry to make him suffer for it too.

When Leela didn’t say anything for awhile, Fry spoke again. “Are you going to be alright?”

The PE Captain sank a little deeper into the couch. She certainly wasn’t alright now. The seeds of panic had started to grow in her the moment that she’d overheard URL make the comment to Smitty that the police thought she was a mutant. Action had kept her fear at bay, but after the two police officers had slunk away and the mob of sewer mutants had dispersed, she’d quickly found herself sinking into a pit of despair that she was only now starting to climb out of.

“I think so.” She said at last. She knew it was what Fry needed to hear. “I guess that, in a way, it ought to be sort of a relief. Now the whole world knows I’m a mutant. I don’t have to hide it anymore.”

“That’s true. And now maybe we can convince everyone that mutants aren’t inferior genetic scum, so they’ll let you live on the surface still.”

When Leela heard that, a jolt of electricity shot through her, though she wasn’t immediately sure why. Then it hit her. He said ‘let you live on the surface’, not ‘let Tura’. He doesn’t think I’m ever going home! The thought that Fry had given up on her was terrifying.

“There’s still a good chance that the Professor will find away to stop all this reality jumping and get me back home!” Leela protested. “It’s only been a few weeks!”

Fry was visibly confused. “Yeah, I know that. Who said anything different?”

“But you just said-“

“I meant until you get home. The Professor said he doesn’t know how long it’ll take to fix all this. It might be awhile.”

“Yeah...” Leela looked down at her lap for a moment while she thought about that. “I guess I can’t really go home right now, anyway. Not after I’ve made a mess of everything.”

Fry shot her a surprised look. “Huh? What do you mean?”

Leela let out a grunt and folded her arms across her chest. She could appreciate that he was trying to put a positive spin on everything in a misguided attempt to cheer her up, but sweet Zombie Jesus... “Are you kidding?! I’ve only been here a few weeks, and I’ve managed to get you and Bender sentenced to death, cause a wave of anti-mutant hysteria in New New York, and reveal my parallel self’s deepest secret.”

Fry shook his head at her. “Leela, none of that was your fault! Just because bad stuff happens doesn’t mean you’re to blame for it. I mean, Bender and I- or maybe it was the other me, I don’t remember anymore-“ He shook his head, having confused himself. “Anyway, we volunteered to go break into City Hall. If you’d been there you probably would have figured out how to get us out of there without getting arrested, but I wouldn’t let you go, remember? I was afraid of what would happen if you got caught. That was my fault.”

“Uh huh.” Leela replied sarcastically. “And I’m sure Tura completely understands that things just ‘happen’.”

Fry hesitated for a second. “Uh, yeah. Sure, she totally underst-“

“Oh, shut up, Fry.” Leela snapped. “Amy told me how mad she is. I’ve ruined her whole life in less than a month. She probably has dreams at night about strangling me with my own hair scrunchie.” Fry’s sudden grimace made Leela wonder if her last caustic remark had been closer to the mark than she’d even realized.

“She is taking this pretty hard.” The delivery boy admitted. “I keep trying to explain how it just looks like you’re screwing up because she hasn’t actually been here to see what’s going on. Stuff looks different when you’re watching from far away, you know? She just won’t believe me.”

“Fry...” Leela’s voice trailed off as she searched for the right words. She was about to enter sensitive territory. “Tura feels frustrated because her friends and family are in trouble and she can’t help them, no matter what she does. She has to let some other person-me- take care of everything for her while she sits back and watches, helpless. She’d hate me even if I was making all the right decisions, which I’m not.”

“I just don’t want people to blame you for things that you didn’t do.”

“I know, Fry” Smiling, Leela squeezed Fry’s shoulder. “You’re the most loyal friend I’ve ever had.” It had been meant as a compliment, so Leela was absolutely dumbstruck when Fry flinched like she’d hit him.

Reflexively, Leela drew back. “What? What is it?”

Suddenly, Fry wouldn’t meet her gaze. “Nothing.” He muttered into his lap. “I- I’d better go.” He began to stand, but Leela grabbed him by the wrist.

“Fry, what’s wrong?” She asked, alarmed. The delivery boy simply didn’t act this way.

Fry sank back down onto the couch with a defeated sigh. “I don’t want to make you angry right now.” He said, finally.

Leela watched him for a moment, worried by the sudden change that had come over her friend. “Fry.” She said, and waited for him to finally make eye contact. “After everything that has happened in the last few weeks, there’s nothing you can say that’ll make me angry at you right now.” There was a look of doubt in Fry’s eyes, but Leela had been speaking the truth. She was emotionally and physically exhausted. She doubted if she had the strength to summon her anger even if she wanted to.

“Well...” Fry swallowed nervously. “Okay. But this isn’t how I wanted to tell you.”

Leela waited, but the delivery boy just licked his lips. “Fry...?”

“I’ve going on a date with Tura tomorrow night.” The words burst from Fry’s lips like birdshot from the end of a shotgun. Leela just stared at him, mouth open, and the world began to tilt and spin.

Part IV: War

“So how’d she take it?”

It was late afternoon the following day, and Fry was back in the original timeline helping Amy complete some minor repairs on the ship. Fry’s upper body was buried in the guts of the ship’s underbelly, so Amy couldn’t see him grimace. She didn’t have to see his face to get the message, though. The two of them had been working together for so long that Amy could easily read the slight deflection in his posture. The tensing of the muscles in his back and the shift of his weight told her everything that she needed to know.

She winced in sympathy as she imagined just exactly what that situation had to have been like for him. “That bad, huh?” She asked.

“Well, I mean, she didn’t actually hurt me, so I guess it could’ve been worse.” Fry’s head emerged from the hull as the hover platform he was standing on descended to the hangar floor. The delivery boy thought he caught the very tiniest of twitches in the corner of Amy’s mouth as the platform landed. No doubt she was thinking that anyone else would have just used the nearby wooden step ladder to get up into the ship, rather than fussing with that old, finicky hovering pile of garbage. Fry couldn’t be bothered with the ladder though. Not when there was something cool that floated in the air that he could use instead.

“You can take a man out of the Stupid Ages-“ Amy said, smiling sweetly.

“-But you can’t take the Stupid Ages out of the man. Yeah, yeah, I know.” It was their little private joke, well worn with far too much use. “Anyway, the repairs are all done.”

“You coupled the primary drive manifold to the autonomous navigation matrix?”

“Uh… I connected the blue thing to the green thing?”

“Right, and what about the primary weapon power buffer? Did you remember to re-sequence it?”


Amy sighed in frustration. “The purple thing?”

“Oh! Yeah, I plugged it back in, just like you said.”

Amy nodded and started to reply, but then cut herself off to wave at someone. Fry turned around to find Tura standing at the balcony that overlooked the hangar. She was leaning over the railing watching them.

“Hi Amy, hi Phil!” Tura called.

Huh? Phil? Fry thought, a little confused. Then he remembered. Oh right, I took my jacket off while I was working on the ship so that I wouldn’t get grease on it. No jacket is supposed to mean I’m Phil. “Actually, I’m Fry.” He called back.

“Oh, okay, good. If you’re still Fry in three hours, remember that we’re meeting at Elzar’s!”

Fry started to nod, but then hesitated. “Uhh, actually Tura, we need to talk.” Oops. Okay, bad choice of words.

Half a second of absolute silence passed. Out of the corner of his eye, Fry could see Amy staring at him in absolute disbelief. And then suddenly Bender was there, as if by magic. The bending unit could seemingly smell drama unfolding from the other side of the galaxy.

“Ooh, I feel somethin’ juicy coming on.” Bender muttered excitedly, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

“You’re cancelling our date?” Tura asked, her expression belying something between incredulity and hurt.

Fry shook his head emphatically. “No, no, no! It’s not that at all! It’s just that- umm-“ The delivery boy glanced at his two other coworkers. Leela told me to tell her in private so that, if she doesn’t take it well, she won’t have to deal with the shame of having other people see her not taking it well. That doesn’t make much sense to me, but I guess I’d better listen. “I uh, I think we’d better talk in private.”

Amy had time to give both Fry and then Tura a worried look before her brain caught up with her. She nodded to herself. “Right. I guess I’ll go hit the showers, or ask Hermes why I haven’t been paid this month, or otherwise not be here. Come on, Bender.” The intern grabbed the robot forcefully by the arm and started hauling him in the direction of the door to the hangar. Bender tried to resist, of course. He wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to cash in on whatever information was so sensitive that his pet wouldn’t discuss it in public. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for Fry, Amy knew all about the faulty magnetic shielding that surrounded the robot’s inhibition unit. She’d claimed in the past that she’d started carrying a magnet with her at all times, after the time Bender had glued Kif’s eyelids shut as a joke. It was probably a bluff, but when Amy’s hand moved pointedly to her front pocket, Bender weighed the probabilities and decided not to take the chance. For now, he’d have to rely on the bugs he’d planted in the walls and ceiling to record the conversation for him.

Once the intern and the robot were safely out of earshot, Fry climbed the metal ladder that was mounted at the far end of the balcony and joined Tura by the conference table. Something in his expression must have registered with Tura, because she was now frowning deeply.

“What is it?” She asked. “What’s wrong?”

Fry sighed and sat down at the conference table. Tura sat down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Fry. Out with it. Whatever it is, I promise I won’t be mad at you.” Of course, neither of them actually believed that, but Fry appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

“Something really bad happened in your timeline today. Leela told me not to tell you when everyone else was around so it wouldn’t seem quite as bad.”

That made Tura pause. No doubt Leela knew that she and Fry were going out on a date; even if Fry had tried to keep it a secret, Leela would have known something was up and wrestled the truth out of him. Tura knew Leela’s secret, and Leela knew that Tura knew her secret. Leela could hide her feelings for Fry from the entire universe If she wanted to, but she couldn’t hide them from herself, or, in this case, herselves. Tura had those same feelings for Phil; it had taken years, but she was finally able to admit it to herself. She’d never been able to act on those feelings; not with Phil being part of her crew. But now, here was Fry, and she had her chance.

No doubt Leela hated Tura right now almost as much as Tura detested Leela and her incompetent bungling. Leela would think that Tura was intentionally trying to hurt her in the only way she could, by stealing Fry from her. Considering that, whatever had happened in Tura’s timeline to convince Leela to coach Fry on how to spare her emotions must have been truly catastrophic.

Fry watched Tura’s face as she absorbed his words. He could imagine a hundred different scenarios flashing through her mind, none of them good, as her brain tried to figure out what could have happened. Not being very bright did have some advantages, he knew. One of them was an inability to summon enough brainpower to contemplate all of the possible horrible things that could happen to him.

“Are my parents alright?” Tura asked, fighting for calm.

Fry wasn’t surprised that that was her first question. “Yeah, they’re fine. Your dad borrowed Leela’s big death ray thing, so they’ll be fine unless Cyborg Nixon attacks again. It’s not-”

“What about the other mutants, and my crew. Aimee, my Bender, Hermes, the Professor; are they all okay?”

“Yeah, everybody’s fine Tura. Well, everybody except-“

“Me.” Tura finished for him. There were only three situations that she could imagine where Leela would set aside her anger and try to soften the blow to Tura’s psyche. If nothing had happened to her parents or her friends and loved ones, then that meant something truly awful had happened to her, or at least, to the life that Tura would resume once she returned to her reality.

Fry was a little nonplussed, having been interrupted twice now. “Uhh, yeah.” Until that moment, his eyes had been firmly planted on the scuffed surface of the old conference table, but now he swiveled his chair to look right at her. “Tura, I dunno how to tell you this. I know I’m not good with words or stuff, but-“

And Tura interrupted him again, this time by touching her index finger to his mouth. Startled, the delivery boy fell silent.

Tura gave her friend a very serious look. “Fry” she said. “Wait.” For a moment the focus seemed to leave her eye as she retreated deep into herself to think. Fry waited patiently for her to stir, and when she did, she nodded to herself. “If you tell me right now, will I somehow be able to tell you something that might help the next time you get sent back to my reality?”

Fry thought about that for a moment. “Uhh, no. I mean, I don’t think so.”

Tura nodded again, this time with more certainty. “Then don’t tell me.”

Fry looked at her like she’d just dared him to put a live baboon in his pants. Which was bad, because the Professor actually had one playing solitaire in his lab at that very moment. “Umm, what?”

“I said don’t tell me. Not now. Do you remember what you said back at the coffee shop? About how I can’t just sit around and wait for the Professor to find a way to send me home?” Tura waited for Fry’s acknowledgment. “Well, I had a lot of time to think about that while the ship was on autopilot today, and I realized that you were exactly right. If I keep torturing myself over what is going on back in my timeline, well, eventually it will drive me insane. If there’s nothing I can do that will change anything, and the only person that is going to be affected by whatever happened is me, then don’t tell me right now. “

The redhead looked uneasy. “I don’t know Tura. I kinda think you oughtta know.”

“Then tell me tonight, after dinner. If it’s as bad as it sounds like it is, then I don’t want to hear it right now, not if I can’t do a thing about it.”

Fry gave Tura a long look, uncertain whether or not he had a right to keep to himself the fact that Tura’s mutant identity had been revealed. A part of him felt like Tura had the right to not hear the news, but somehow it felt deceitful not to say anything. It was easy for Tura to ask him to keep her in the dark when she didn’t know what it was that he wanted to tell her, but how would she react when he finally did tell her? Would she be furious with him that he hadn’t told her earlier, regardless of what her wishes had been at the time? Eventually, simple mathematics won the delivery boy’s internal war. Math wasn’t normally his strong suit, but even he was able to figure out that risking the possibility that Tura would be angry with him in the future for not telling him was worth the certainty that Tura would be angry with him right now if he did tell her. “Well… Alright. I mean, if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.” Tura said confidently. Fry really hoped that the confidence was real, and not just faked to make him feel better. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my apartment and change my clothes. My tank top is still covered with dog hair from today’s delivery to Westminster II, the dog show planet.” Tura squeezed Fry’s shoulder as she stood. “I’ll see you at eight. Oh, and before you go home and shower-“ Fry couldn’t help but notice the slight emphasis on the word shower- “make sure you put the fusion plasma injector back where it goes. You must have disconnected it when you were helping Amy fix the ship. It’s still sticking out of your back pocket.”

Alarmed, Fry slapped his right pocket, and sure enough, felt the telltale bulge of the injector, sitting right where he’d put it so that he wouldn’t forget about it. “Oh, uhh yeah. Sorry.” He apologized sheepishly.

“It’s alright. Just put it back. I’d rather not explode tomorrow when I turn the ship on.” She smiled. “See you in a few hours.”

“Yo, meat-sack. Wake the hell up!”

“Mggf nh hlmm.”

Bender hesitated. A brief search through his onboard Hitchhiker’s Guide to Human Behavior returned no matches for that sequence of syllables. He leaned closer to the prostrate mammal, whose face was buried in a pillow. “What’d you say?”

“Ung snnh, Mggf nh hlmm.”

Bender leaned closer and exhaled a large cloud of cigar smoke. “What?”

There was a brief pause, and the figure seemed to slump a little bit into the plush bedding. Then. abruptly, a single fleshy hand flew up out of nowhere and shoved him backward. He collided with the wall as Leela sat up.

“I said, go to hell.” She muttered, rubbing her eye.

Bender just took another pull on his cigar and sauntered back over to the bed. “Been there, done that, stole the t-shirt.”

Leela turned to the robot and favored him with a glare that would have made Fry spontaneously combust. “Bender, you’d better have a very good explanation for waking me up, not to mention somehow breaking into my room, which I know I locked. “

“Eh, I found the key when I was going through your mom’s purse.” The bending unit ignored the nuclear bombs that were going off in the back of Leela’s eye. He knew he was usually safe from physical harm until she’d had a cup of coffee or two. “Anyway, I woke you up so you’d go fix Phil. I think somebody broke him.”

The name Phil suddenly brought a maelstrom of memories from the night before to the surface of Leela’s mind. The mental onslaught was a bit more than her still-groggy mind could process. Holding her temples, she collapsed back onto the bed with a groan. “What’s wrong with him?” She asked finally.

“Oh, he saw some boring news program about how Planet Express is being raided and Hermes and the Professor are fugitives or something.” Bender waved dismissively. “Nothing Bender, related. He won’t stop blabbing on about it. I figure the only way to shut him up is for you to badger him until he starts to hate himself, you know, like you always do.”

The only solid object that Leela had within arm’s reach was the pistol that she had hidden under her pillow. In one fluid motion it appeared in her hand and then sailed through the air in a smooth, parabolic trajectory toward Bender’s head. Leela turned away to climb out from under the sheets, but she was quite pleased to hear the series of clangs that marked each time Bender’s head bounced off the floor behind her.


At the sound of Phil’s voice, Leela could feel her hands start to ball themselves into fists. She marveled at her own reaction. She hadn’t thought that she could have been more devastated than she had been right after blowing Tura’s secret, but then Fry had dropped that bombshell on her. It’s revenge. She thought for the thousandth time. That’s the only reason she’d do it. She knows this is the only way she can get back at me. Leela could feel her anger mount, and poor, unwitting Phil had just made the tactical error of appearing along her line of sight. This is Phil, not Fry. Remember that. Phil. Not Fry. Don’t lose control of yourself, Turanga.

Leela was at the top of the stairs in her parent’s house, and Phil was at the bottom. He had been on his way up, probably to check and see if she was awake, when he’d realized that she was on her way down. However happy he was to see her, his expression turned to stark terror when he saw the look that she was giving him. When he took an involuntary step backward, and tripped over Nibbler in the process, Leela snapped back to reality. Phil’s arms pinwheeled for a moment before he tumbled backwards onto the carpet. Luckily, Phil, like any Fry, seemed unusually hard to injure, probably thanks to a combination of the nannites in their bloodstreams, thick skulls, and just a little excess flab. By the time Leela made it to the bottom of the stairs Phil was already trying to stand, and Leela wordlessly held out an arm to help.

“Thanks.” The delivery boy smiled sheepishly.

“Sure. Now, what’s going on? Bender said something about Hermes and the Professor being fugitives?”

A little light went on in Phil’s eyes. “Oh, right.” He nodded. “Yeah, come on. I’ll show you.” He gestured for her to follow him toward the dining room.

When Leela turned the corner into her parents’ small dining room she was surprised to find her parents, Aimee, and Raoul all sitting grim-faced, around the table, facing a small television. In order to see the television, Phil and Leela had to squeeze into the small space between the far wall and the chairs in which everyone else was sitting. Before she looked at the screen, Leela couldn’t help but think how bizarre the whole situation was. At some point she, Fry, and Bender had become part of her parents’ household. It had just sort of happened. There were plenty of places they could stay down in the sewers while they managed to fix the mess they were all in, but somehow they’d ended up here. Of course, she knew her parents wouldn’t have had it any other way, but still. It was weird sleeping in her parent’s house, knowing that Fry and Bender were in the next room. At least Amy can still go back above ground. Otherwise I’d probably be sharing my room with her, like she was a sister. Leela shuddered. The narrow space also meant that Leela and Phil were now squeezed close together. As close as Fry and Tura will be when they-

The commercial for Torgo’s anti-tentacle powder playing on the television disappeared and was replaced with the bulbous green head of Morbo the anchormonster.

“Good afternoon, puny humans.” Morbo growled.

Afternoon? Good grief. How long was I asleep?

“We now continue our live coverage of the ongoing mutant crisis. Joining us live is our own insignificant human female, Linda.”

Morbo abruptly disappeared and was replaced with a disturbingly familiar sight. Linda was standing in the middle of an intersection, just beyond a line of yellow police tape. In the background was the hulking mass of Planet Express, safely cloaked in its all-but-impenetrable, retractable diamondium shutters.

Leela felt her heart sink.

“Thanks Morbo.” Linda said, “Behind me is local package delivery company, Planet Express. Its owner, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, an upstanding citizen who has claimed for years to have aspirations of taking over the Earth with armies of atomic supermen that he breeds in his basement, recently attracted police attention as a possible conspirator in what our producer advises me to call ‘the ongoing mutant uprising’.”

Uprising?! When did they start calling it that?!

“Viewers may remember the video recently leaked to the press that featured mutant leader and renowned Starship Captain Turanga Leela’s claims that the mutant plot was a figment of the government’s imagination. This video, ostensibly taken in the mutants’ secret sewer lair, claimed that the mutants are peaceful, and only want the same rights as those of us who live on the surface. Today we have some developments that seem to make these assertions less believable. At 11:48 am this morning, police and S.W.A.T. teams attempted to storm the building. Unfortunately, the building’s occupants were somehow tipped off and attempted to flee in their company starship. I am told that they didn’t even manage to get their ship out of the hangar before Captain Zapp Brannigan, who had just arrived in his flagship, the Nimbus, stuck their ship- and several nearby apartments- with a volley of heavy laser fire. The fugitives’ ship did not appear damaged, but the occupants apparently gave up, closing their hangar doors and encasing the entire building in this protective shell that you see behind me. The DOOP corps of engineers is currently attempting to-“

Linda was interrupted as a blue tentacle thrust itself into the camera’s field of view and handed her a piece of paper. Linda’s eyes quickly scanned it before she once again looked into the camera. “This just in. The DOOP has managed to drill its way into the building, and has found it deserted. Somehow the fugitives managed to escape, but they appear to have left behind a massive stash of weaponry, including laser rifles, plasma guns, various explosives and- is this right?” Linda looked off camera for a moment, ostensibly at whoever had handed her the note. “-and many devices capable of destroying the Earth, the Solar System, and in some cases, large portions of the Galaxy. This of course sheds a whole new light on the capabilities and aspirations of the subversive sewer mutants…”

The television kept droning on, but nobody was listening to it anymore.

“W- what…?” Phil started. Everyone else just stared at the screen, speechless.

No, no. This can’t be happening. They think we were planning to use the Professor’s doomsday weapons on them?!

And then Bender appeared. “Hey, I found these chumps standing around outside, and figured I’d let them in before they died of exposure and started to make this place smell even worse than it already does.”

Everyone turned as one to find Hermes, the Professor, and their respective families all standing with Bender at the threshold to the dining room. The three humans looked tired and scared, and they were all covered with brownish-green sludge up to their waists.

By the time Fry had gone home, reacquainted himself with his shower, changed, and tubed his way over to Elzar’s, he was a nervous wreck. His palms were sweating profusely, and when he’d had to sit down on a bench at one point to tie his shoe, he found that his foot wouldn’t stop bouncing up and down long enough for him to tie a knot. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the restaurant’s front door open and went inside. The beating of his heart seemed louder than the soft Neptunian classical music that was playing in the background. Calm down. He silently chided himself. You’re acting like some dumb teenager who’s never had a date before. You’ve been on dates to Elzar’s plenty of times. As he said them he knew the words rang hollow. Sure, he’d been on other dates to Elzar’s. But none of those dates had been with Leela. Although, technically this isn’t Leela either… That doesn’t matter though. Right? Any further self-reflection immediately became an utter impossibility. He’d just caught sight of Tura, and every last one of his brain cells had stopped firing.

Tura was sitting at a table near the back of the restaurant. She was wearing a lime green mini dress with a matching pair of boots that came up almost to her knees. The outfit, though revealing, still managed to be tasteful, and both matched her hair and complemented her ample figure. In his wildest dreams, Fry would never have imagined that she had owned such a thing as this.

The sound of a plate crashing to the floor somewhere in the kitchen snapped Fry back to reality. Sheepishly, he walked over to Tura’s table, thankful that she apparently hadn’t noticed him staring at her like an idiot, his mouth flapping open. When Fry slid the chair back to sit, Tura looked up at him, surprised. She’d been staring blankly at the menu, probably lost in thought. She started blushing before he’d even had a chance to open his mouth.

“Uh, about the outfit…” She began.

“You look amazing.” Fry said wholeheartedly. “I’ve never seen you or Leela wear that before.”

Tura turned a shade redder. “Thanks. It was all I had. Leela’s, er, I mean my apartment has a bit of an owl problem; the landlord keeps promising to get it taken care of, but he never does. Nibbler found an owl in my closet this evening and he ate it- and my whole wardrobe in the process, except for this. I’d forgotten I even had this… thing. I got it for a New Year’s party a few years ago and then never ended up wearing it.”

“Well, it looks great.”

Tura smiled. There was what looked like real relief in her eye, as if she somehow could have thought that Fry’s reaction would have been anything else but stunned approval. “Thank you.”

“So, what’ll it be, kids?”

Fry and Tura both turned to find Elzar standing over them with his trademark grin.

“Uhh, I guess I’ll have the Neptunian methane pasta.” Fry replied, handing Elzar his menu.

“And I’ll have the soup of the day.” Tura added.

Elzar nodded, scribbled something on his notepad, and bustled away. Tura watched him go. “Why do you think they call it methane pasta?” She asked. “I mean, Neptune has a lot of methane. Do you think they somehow make the pasta out of it?”

Fry thought about that for a moment and then shook his head. “Nah. I always assumed it was because of what happens after you eat it.”

Tura nodded absently and broke off a piece of the loaf of slightly-moldy bread that had just been thrust at them by a harried-looking waiter. She chewed on the hunk of bread for a moment, then swallowed. “So, I hear Leela didn’t take this very well.”

Fry sat back in his chair and frowned. “No.” He admitted. “She didn’t.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t really think about what sort of position I was putting you in.”

Somehow, Fry thought that unlikely. He knew how Tura’s mind worked. She was a Leela, and Leelas never did anything without trying to think through all of the possible consequences. Still, he knew what she was trying to say.

“It’s okay, Tura,” he reassured her. “Leela was mad. Real mad. But I think it helped her forget a little bit about-“ Fry caught himself just in time “-about that other thing that happened.”

“Did she tell you why she was mad at you?” Tura asked. Fry completely missed the slight hint of apprehension in her voice.

“Well, no, but I mean, it’s gotta be weird for her. She says no every time I ask her out, but now it’s like I’m dating her anyway without her permission.”

Tura’s face was carefully neutral. “Yeah, that’s got to be it.” She looked away for a second. “But she’s still mad at me?”

“Yeah. She kept telling me that you’re just using me to get revenge on her.”

Tura nodded. “I’m not surprised. I know we’re supposed to be identical and everything, but she seems to be really nasty to everyone. Not to mention she’s made a mess of my entire timeline.”

Fry’s mouth automatically opened to rush to his Captain’s defense, but Tura put a hand out to stop him. “Wait, wait. I’m sorry.” She said. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have brought that up. Let’s- uhh- let’s talk about something else.”

Fry’s mouth clicked shut. He nodded. “Yeah, okay. So, umm, how did the mission go today? I was only in this timeline for the ride home.”

Relaxing a little, Tura broke off another piece of bread. “Same as usual. Phil misread the navicomputer, and we took the wrong ramp off of space interstate 95i into a really sketchy neighborhood. We had to pull over so Bender could ask a space hooker for directions-” Tura was momentarily interrupted as their food arrived.

“That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“-and then we had to outrun her space pimp’s Space Cadillac when Bender stole her wallet.”

“Oh.” Fry blinked once. “Huh. So, a normal day, then.”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

The following silence started to approach being awkward, and Fry desperately fished around for something to say. He wasn’t good at small talk, so he finally asked what he had been wondering all day.

“Is Phil mad at you?”

Tura sighed. “I haven’t told him yet,” she admitted. “I made the Amys and the Benders promise to keep their mouths shut until I get a chance to talk with him. Maybe I can find a way to explain it in a way that won’t make him hate me.”

“He won’t hate you.” Fry said immediately and automatically. “Not even me. He’ll just hate himself.”

A little burst of air escaped Tura’s mouth as she choked on her dinner. “Gee, thanks. That makes me feel much better.”

“No problem.” Fry replied innocently. Perhaps it was the Midas sulfite wine, but the questions dammed up inside him were flowing easier now. “Umm, about Phil. If you and I are doing, you know, this, does that mean that Phil and Leela are-?”

Tura’s eye went wide as she followed Fry’s line of thought to its conclusion. “I- I don’t know.” Tura said uncertainly. “You and Phil are the same, and Leela and I supposedly are too, so, I mean, I guess it might.”

Fry and Tura now shared what could only be described as a truly awkward moment as they each imagined what their counterparts might be doing at that moment. Great, Fry thought. So, on top of everything else, now I have to compete with myself?

“But Leela wouldn’t- I mean, I don’t think-“ Fry’s voice trailed off.

“Why not? We are.” Tura said defensively.

“Well yeah, but she’s been too busy trying to save the mutants to even have time for a relationship.”

“How do you know? You’re only over there half the time, and only when Phil isn’t around.” Tura nodded, her face darkening, but not from embarrassment. “Yep, I’ll bet that’s exactly what’s going on. It’s the perfect way for her to get back at me, and it explains why Phil has been screwing up more than usual.”

Fry thought about that. Phil’s been screwing up more than usual? That probably meant he was distracted. But Fry knew his own brain well enough to know that just about anything was enough to distract him. Having a secret relationship with Leela would certainly do the trick, but so would lack of sleep and stress, both of which he and Phil were experiencing in copious amounts right now, what with the randomly jumping between timelines. Would Leela really do that to me? He wondered. Could she really date his twin in secret? Tura’s willingness to date Fry certainly seemed to make it a distinct possibility, but Leela’s current situation was nothing like Tura’s. Leela was stuck managing a war. And she seemed really surprised when I told her about me and Tura, he remembered.

“I don’t think Leela is in the mood for relationships right now.” Fry said after awhile. “She’s got all of the mutants to take care of.”

Tura looked into her soup. “Yeah.” She said, obviously less than convinced. “Maybe you’re right.”

Leela looked around the room at the faces of her friends, family, and just about everyone whose lives had just been destroyed by their common misfortune: to have become involved in her life. Some of them- Phil and Hermes- looked angry, but neither of them hesitated to meet her eye. She could read in their hard expressions that their anger was not directed at her, but at those that had put them in this situation. Others were scared. Amy seemed not to know that she had been painting the same fingernail for the past five minutes. Her cell phone was sitting on the table in front of her. It had fallen out of her purse when Amy had been rummaging around for the nail polish, and the intern was so distracted that she had never put it back. LaBarbara’s eyes kept darting back and forth between Leela, her parents, Raoul, and Vyolet- who had joined the group a few minutes after The Farnsworths and the Conrads had arrived. Labarbara held Dwight’s wrist in a death grip. Several years ago, Leela had asked her friends to keep her secret confined within the walls of the Planet Express building. Tura had, of course, made the same request, so this timeline’s Hermes hadn’t told his wife that Leela was a sewer mutant. She probably thinks we’ll eat her brain. Leela thought sadly.

“Alright, let’s recap the situation so far.” Leela said. She wasn’t entirely able to keep the frustration out of her voice. She had been crammed into her parents’ tiny dining room with nine other scared people for hours. With so many bodies compressed into such a confined, un-air conditioned space, the temperature had risen through the roof, and it was a bitter struggle to keep her temper from doing the same. Supposedly, she was helping to take part in a meeting to help plan their next move. In reality, there had been a good deal of baseless conjecture, lots of panicking, and very little else.

“Planet Express is being combed over by just about every cop in the city. Someone found the Professor’s doomsday device collection, and got it into their heads that, because Fry and I work there, and they think we’re both mutants, the devices are part of this stupid imagined plot to take over the government.”

Hermes pounded the table with his fist. “Has the whole world gone crazy?” He raged. “Why do dey keep insistin’ on this Jah-damned conspiracy?”

The question generated a lot of uneasy shuffling of bodies. Leela was the one to voice everyone’s frustration. “I wish I knew.” She replied. “Sure, there was the botched break-in, and Fry and Bender’s rescue, but it’s like the whole city is suddenly paranoid.”

LaBarbara looked at Hermes, and then at Leela. It was clear that the woman was terrified. “So, there really isn’t a plot?”

Hermes jumped in before Leela had time to say anything, which was probably a good thing. “Jah, no! How many times do I ‘ave to tell ya?”

“But the newsmen, dey all say that the mutants are tryin’ to…”

“To what, exactly?” Leela growled.

LaBarbara hesitated, then looked confused. “Well, actually, come to think of it, dey don’t actually say for sure what they- you’re- tryin’ to do. Dey just keep putting up pictures of de attack on the police station and kids playin’ near open manholes. And they keep calling in experts that say all sorts of scary things.”

So it’s the media. Of course! They’ve gotten caught up in their frenzy for ratings, and they’ve been happily working everyone into full-blown paranoia by feeding them sensational half-truths and bogus ‘expert testimony’. Those bastards. Millions of years of evolution- and eleven centuries of Hollywood movies- had programmed the human race to fear the dark, the unexplained, the different. The media had found in the mutants the perfect way to stoke these fears, and now that what looked like evidence to support the media’s sensational claims had been found in the form of the Professor’s doomsday weapons, that dormant fear had erupted into an all-out firestorm. “LaBarbara, you’ve known me for years. Have you ever had any reason to think I was trying to take over the world?”

“Well, no.” Labarbara conceded. “But den again, I didn’t know you were a… a-“

“A mutant?” Leela finished for her.

The Jamaican woman nodded. “Look, Leela. I’m real sorry. This is all new to me. Hermes didn’t ‘ave much time to explain.”

Leela knew that was true. Hermes, the Professor, and Cubert had been the ones that had tried to escape Planet Express in the ship. When they’d been forced to retreat back to the building, they’d put up the protective shutters. The Professor had built the diamondium armor to repel just about anything, but even his genius was unable to repel a crew of DOOP demolitions experts. With no other way out, the bureaucrat had tossed the Professor over one shoulder, grabbed the protesting Cubert by an ear, and stolen away into the exhaust channels that ran under the hangar, and from there through a small gap in the crumbling bricks into the sewer system. After trudging blindly through the sludge for a few blocks, he’d risked sticking his head above ground long enough to call his wife and son. He hadn’t had time to explain anything, just to tell them to drop what they were doing and meet him at the Fishy Joes that was next to the manhole. From what Hermes had told her, LaBarbara had heard what had happened at Planet Express on the car radio as she drove to the restaurant. The two of them had waited in a state of near panic for Dwight to appear, all the while expecting the police to realize that Hermes was no longer at Planet Express, and that they could track his career chip while he was above ground. Dwight had just made it to the establishment’s front door when the first sirens had started wailing in the distance. Upon hearing the sound, Hermes had grabbed his wife with one hand and run out of the restaurant, stopping just long enough to grab Dwight as he passed. But when Hermes ran to the center of the street and removed the manhole cover, LaBarbara had panicked. Hermes had had about twenty seconds to explain that the mutants were friends before a cloud of police cars descended upon them. Still, Labarbara refused to enter the circle of darkness. That is, until a couple of poorly aimed laser rifles kicked up puffs of vaporized concrete a few feet away.

Hermes had led Dwight and Labarbara through the dark tunnels to the spot that he’d left the Professor and his clone on a slab of stained concrete that rose above the mean level of the sludge. Although both Hermes and the Professor had been to the mutant village several times, they had absolutely no familiarity with the almost endless maze of twisting corridors that ran under the city. It was lucky for them that one of the spotters that Vyolet had been sending out to report on the condition of the sewers had heard strange voices coming from an unused corridor, and had taken his ramshackle swampboat to go investigate.

Raoul cleared his throat, and all eyes turned to him. “I know this must all be very confusing and frightening for you right now.” He addressed the Conrads and the Professor. “You’ve been forced from your homes, accused of participating in a plot that doesn’t even exist, and there are warrants out for your arrest. I can’t help but feel like its partially our fault-” he gestured to the mutants in the room- “that you’re in this mess.” He shook his head sadly, but then he smiled. “But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Any friend of Leela’s is a friend of all of ours. You’re all welcome here as long as you need to stay.”

Raoul extended his right hand- the one that didn’t stick out of the side of his head- and offered it to LaBarbara. It clearly took all of her strength, but she finally took it. “Thank you.” She said tightly. Leela couldn’t help but notice the look of disdain with which Vyolet favored the exchange.

“-And we promise not to eat your brains.” Morris added.

“Morris!” His wife exclaimed, mortified. She’d missed the pointed look that her husband had given Vyolet when he’d spoken. Leela, however, had caught the subtext: I still remember how you acted that day at Undercity Hall. These people are our guests. You’ll treat them as such.

“What about me?” Amy asked abruptly. Leela was a little surprised to hear the intern’s voice. The last time she’d looked over in Amy’s directions, the woman had still been nervously painting and repainting her fingernails, seemingly oblivious to what was happening around her.

“You’re welcome to stay here with us.” Munda replied immediately, which made Leela wince inwardly.

Looks like I get to share my room with Amy after all.

“Wait a minute.” Phil interjected. It was the first time that the delivery boy had spoken since this little impromptu conference had begun. Something was clearly troubling him, something above and beyond what was happening here.

I guess Tura hurt you just as much as she hurt me. Leela thought silently. I’m so sorry, Phil. It occurred to her then that it was, by now, late evening. Which means that Tura is probably sitting all nice and safe at my Elzar’s right now, wearing one of my nice evening gowns. Eating dinner. With my Fry.

Phil was still speaking. “Wait, why can’t Amy go back to Mars? You know, to Aimee- I mean, to her parents’ ranch?”

A dozen pairs of eyes turned to Hermes, the only one among them who knew the slightest thing about the legal system. The bureaucrat pursed his lips. “Hmm. Dat might be possible.” He said. “Amy isn’t technically an Earthican citizen. If she can get to Mars, then de police would ‘ave to get the Martian courts to extradite her, and since The Wongs own all of de courts on the whole planet, that isn’t going ta ‘appen.”

“But how will she get away from Earth?” Fry asked.

“In her car, genius.” Bender retorted.

“But won’t the police have impounded her-“

“I’ll stay here.” Amy interrupted. When everyone looked at her in surprise she reddened slightly. “I want to help.” The intern’s eyes met Leela’s. “You shouldn’t have to do this by yourself.”

The two women shared a smile. Then Cubert came running into the room. Farnsworth, knowing that his clone was perfectly safe in the Turanga household, had gently encouraged him to go sit in the living room and watch the television after Leela had threatened to put her boot through the little genius’s forehead several minutes earlier.

“Hey, idiots, there’s something on TV that you might want to see.” Cubert sneered.

Swallowing the sharp reply that was forming on the tip of her tongue, Leela just shot the little jackass a look of pure disdain.

“Why, what’s happening now?” Munda asked fearfully.

As an answer, Cubert reached across the table- Leela couldn’t help but find some satisfaction in the difficulty he had reaching- and turned on the small television that the group had been watching earlier. Suddenly Leela found herself compressed by a wall of bodies as everyone that had been sitting in a position where they couldn’t see the screen tried to cram into one corner of the small dining room. Even LaBarbara, momentarily forgetting her unease, squeezed her way into the group.

Richard Nixon’s flabby head, perched atop a wooden dais decorated with the seal of the Oval Office filled most of the screen. Apparently a presidential news conference was underway.

“…will not be tolerated. The cache of doomsday devices, small arms, miscellaneous explosives, and other weapons found at the Planet Express delivery company headquarters- which my experts tell me was, in reality, a cover for the development and storage of weapons of mass destruction to be used by the mutants, as well as Saddam Hussein’s head- proves that these dangerous terrorists are planning an all out assault on the innocent voters of New New York City. And so, as the first act of my third term as president, I will crush the band of pitiful mutant terrorists that have been secretly preparing to wage war against the city of New New York.”

Gasps and panicked chatter erupted all around Leela. She cringed at the sudden onslaught of sound. “Quiet!” She roared, automatically falling into her accustomed role of command. “Everyone shut up. This is important!” The noise cut off like a switch.

“-to help us remove the mutants from their sludge pits. And that person is none other than the universe’s most decorated military officer-“

Oh. Oh, please no. Leela groaned inwardly.

“-the Hero of Pacifia VII, the man who reduced the home world of the murderous Furbies to a smoking cinder, Captain Zapp Brannigan!”

“Hey Leela, it’s that idiotic-“

“Bender, utter one more syllable and I swear I’ll take a cheese grater to your motherboard.”

The robot fell silent. On the TV, the secretary of transportation picked the president’s head in a jar up from the top of the podium and carried him away. A new figure appeared from somewhere off of the right side of the screen and strutted toward the microphone. The man’s white admiralty uniform, blonde toupee and cocky smile brought up a tide of memories that left a sickening taste in Leela’s mouth. The fact that the camera was still aimed downward, at Zapp’s crotch level, didn’t help things any.

“Thank you, thank you.” Brannigan called as he reached the microphone. His assistant, Lieutenant Kif Kroker, appeared at his side, adjusted the camera upward, and began to roll his eyes in trademark fashion as Zapp continued to wave to the cheering crowd.

Brannigan cleared his throat. “Fist, let me congratulate President Nixon on winning his third term in office. What a tragedy that all of the other candidates mysteriously vanished the night before the election… But I degrease. As Nixon said, these mutant terrorists must be stopped at all costs. Now, the mutants live under the streets of New New York City, so a precision surgical strike will be necessary to avoid civilian casualties. We will use a gentle touch, soft like this velour uniform, and, with my superior war fighting skills, we’re going to carpet bomb these mutants back to whatever planet they came from!”

The roar of the crowd swelled. Zapp burst out into another grin of confident self-satisfaction. Kif, however, looked uneasy. Leela had accidentally impregnated him a few years back, and she’d had to tell him about her secret heritage when she’d later found out herself. He’d had a right to know that his children were half mutant human.

He must know that Amy and I are involved in this. Leela realized. I wonder what he’s been told.

Leela reached out and, with a quick flick of the wrist, shut off the television. The others turned to look at her, surprised. Leela let out a deep sigh and looked up at the faces of everyone that was still crowded around her. She pursed her lips. “We need to leave.” She said.

Leela found herself met by nine blank stares. “Huh?” Phil asked.

“We have to leave. You heard the velour jackass. The DOOP is going to attack the sewers, and there’s no way a few hundred mutants armed with rotting two-by-fours are going to have a chance against soldiers armed with laser guns and positron-shooters.”

Leela’s last remark got nods of assent from Hermes and Fry, but Raoul and Leela’s parents were exchanging looks of confusion and fear.

“But Leela,” Morris protested, “this whole mess started specifically because we decided not to leave. ”

The PE captain found herself unable to meet her father’s eye when she replied. “Dad, there’s a big difference between standing up to Mayor Poopenmeyer and his thugs and trying to survive a war with the military. We had a chance before, but now… It would be suicide.”

“But Leela, you said-“

Leela shook her head, cutting Raoul off. “Look, I know what I said, okay? That was when we might have actually had a chance. If we could have gotten some public sympathy for our cause, then Poopenmeyer might have decided not to risk a financially and politically expensive war removing us from the sewer. All of us that worked at Planet Express would probably still have been screwed, but there was a chance for the mutants. But now we’ve got Zapp to deal with. He doesn’t care about public opinion; as far as the public is concerned, the man walks on water. He’s got unlimited resources, unlimited men, and he’ll gladly massacre every last one of us without a second thought. We have to get out of here. There is no other option.”

“You mean evacuate the entire sewer system? “ Raoul replied, aghast. “We couldn’t even if we wanted to! What about the sick, and the elderly? How would we even get the signal out to everyone in time? And where would we even go?”

“Old New York.” Phil said. Leela shot him a surprised look. “We can hide out in the ruins.”

The conversation was interrupted with a loud, derisive snort. “Yeah, I think not.” Cubert sneered. “First of all, what part of Zapp Brannigan’s plan to ‘carpet bomb the sewers’ are you morons not getting? There’s no way the nine of us in this room are going to get away before that happens, let alone every mutant in the sewers. And even if we did get away, then what? Hang around in the old ruins until we starve to death? And even if we somehow managed not to starve to death, the DOOP-“

Bender cleared his throat. “Excuse me for a moment.” He said politely. Before he could stand, however, Amy put her nail polish down on the table next to her cell phone and motioned for him to take his seat.

“I’ll take care of it, Bender.” The intern was already looming over the ranting little genius. She looked down at Cubert, who swallowed uneasily when Amy gripped his left ear. Cubert’s eyes darted wildly across the room, but the Professor, who was his only potential ally, was fast asleep.

“Be back in a sec.” Amy said brightly, and proceeded to drag Cubert from the room. Amy soon reappeared alone.

When Amy retook her seat, Bender rolled his eyes. “You didn’t even beat him hard enough for us to hear it on the other side of the house? See, this is why they shouldn’t let humans deal with children.”

Leela let out an exasperated cough. “Could we please just concentrate on the matter at hand? You know, that whole ’impending doom’ thing?” She shook her head, floored at Bender’s ability to be nonchalant in the face of impending disaster. “Now, what were you saying Phil?”

“What? Oh, oh right. We can hide in New York. There’s got to be all sorts of places we can go where no one will find us, and there’s got to still be stuff to eat, like canned food, and ramen, and twinkies. “

You know, that might actually work. Leela thought to herself. “Phil’s right.” She said. “We’ll have to head for Old New York. Fry knows his way around the city; that should give us the advantage we need to stay alive, at least long enough until we can come up with a new plan. We’ll have to spread out though, so that, if the DOOP spots us, they don’t find everyone.”

“But what about what Cubert said?” Hermes asked. “How are we going to keep the DOOP occupied long enough to evacuate all dese people? They’re probably on their way here right now, getting ready to dice us up like sugar cane in a sugar cane thresher!”

Leela smiled mirthlessly. “That, at least, I think Amy can prevent.”

“Buh-huh? Me?” Amy asked. “How?”

“By answering that.” Leela gestured toward the intern’s cell phone, which was still sitting at the other end of the table, entirely forgotten by its owner. It was vibrating madly back and forth, causing it to emit a faint buzzing noise that had, until now, been completely drowned out by the conversation. The word ‘Kif’ was displayed on its tiny videoscreen.

In an entirely different worldline, Tura and Fry were walking back toward what Fry had just caught himself thinking of as Tura’s apartment. Neither spoke, but a furtive glance in Tura’s direction told Fry that the silence was still an amicable one. The purple-haired cyclops seemed content to walk at his side and admire the displays in the shop windows as they passed.

Fry was not sharing in his companion’s tranquility. Something had been eating him up from the inside since the moment that he’d entered Elzar’s, and he was fairly sure that, for once, it wasn’t anything that the Neptunian had cooked for him. It had started as a little knot of guilt in his stomach, and had slowly grown to the point that he was barely able to conceal his distress from Tura.

This is crazy. Fry admonished himself. What’s my problem? I’m finally on a date with Leela; I’ve been waiting for this date for more than eight years! And it had been a great evening. Not even a great evening: a fantastic evening. So why do I feel like I’m doing something really wrong?

The answer came back at him with enough force that he almost tripped over his own feet. Because she’s not my Leela!

After first making sure that Tura hadn’t noticed him stumble, Fry turned inward again. He marveled at his own outburst. There was no difference between Leela and Tura. The Professor had told him that time and time again. It wasn’t even like Tura was a clone or a parallel universe duplicate. She was Leela.

No, Leela is the woman you left crying in the sewers last night.

Fry winced at the memory. That hadn’t been one of his proudest moments. Not that it was entirely his fault; he’d tried really hard to keep Leela from catching on to his date plans with Tura. After having the truth about her heritage exposed to the public, Fry really hadn’t thought it a good idea to bring it up, and he had been right.

Leela’s reaction to Fry’s confession about the date had been… strange. The only thing Fry could think of to compare it to was the game that he and his brother Yancy had played when they were kids. One of them would sit in the swivel chair in their dad’s makeshift bomb shelter and close his eyes while the other would spin the chair as fast as he could. Fry remembered trying to stand up afterward and feeling like the world was still reeling madly around him. That’s how Leela had looked when he’d told her, like everything had been spinning wildly all around her.

She wasn’t mad at him. That had surprised him- and worried him- most of all. Maybe it was because she was so shocked, or maybe she’d gotten all her anger out when she’d kicked URL. One kick wasn’t usually enough to do that, though.

When Aimee had asked about the conversation, Fry had told her that Leela had yelled at him for ‘managing to find a way to date her without her permission’ and then stormed off, but that isn’t even close to what had happened. He’d just said that because he’d wanted some time to think about what had transpired. In reality, after she’d recovered from her apparent dizzy spell, she’d looked up at him with an expression of absolute non-comprehension and asked, simply,


When he repeated himself, she stared blankly at him for so long that it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Then she stood, mutely. Fry reached out to help steady her, and she jerked away and started to walk in the direction of the staircase. Fry pleaded with her to wait, but she just kept walking mechanically away.

Later, as he’d passed her room on the way to the one he was sharing with Bender, he could hear sobs emanating from under her door. He’d been too much of a coward to knock.

And now, here I am, walking home with Tura like none of that ever happened. Leela is over there in that other timeline- who knows, she might even be getting shot at right now!- and I’m on a date. He knew that it was stupid to feel like he was somehow being disloyal- he didn’t exactly have any control over which timeline he happened to be in right now- but the image of Leela crying into her pillow absolutely refused to go away.

And then, when she’s as miserable as I’ve ever seen her, I go and remind her that, while she’s stuck in some crazy parallel timeline thing, I still get to have a normal life. Suddenly he remembered Leela accusing him of giving up on her. She thinks that we’ve all decided that she’s not coming home. So that’s why she was crying! It’s not because I’m dating Tura; it’s because I’m dating at all! It must look to her like all her friends are continuing on with their lives here in our timeline, and slowly forgetting about her!

And maybe I am. Fry realized with a shock. I accidentally called Tura ‘Leela’ today, and I’m already thinking of Leela’s apartment as belonging to Tura. At this rate, even if Leela does get back…

Fry stopped cold in his tracks. It was a couple of seconds before Tura realized that the delivery boy wasn’t next to her anymore. She turned, and, finding him staring ashen straight ahead, hastened back to his side. “Fry, are you alright?” She asked.

The delivery boy didn’t reply. Even If? Did I really just think that? Oh no, Leela was right! I have started to think that she might never get back to our timeline! I’m giving up on her!

“Fry?” When the delivery boy still didn’t say anything, Tura grabbed him by the wrist to try and jerk him out of his funk. All Fry did was swivel his head to look right through her, which was spookier than Tura would have cared to admit.

“Hey, Fry, wake up! What the hell’s wrong with you?” She shook him again.

This time Fry blinked, and the focus slowly crept back into his eyes. “Huh? Oh. Uh, sorry.”

Tura gave the delivery boy a baffled look. “Sorry?” She said, letting go of his arm. “What do you mean, sorry? You look like you just saw a ghost!”

Fry’s mind raced to find an excuse for his strange behavior. Unfortunately, he might as well have been trying to win the Space Daytona 500 with a tricycle. “No, it was, uhh, nothing.”

“That was an awfully big nothing.” Tura replied skeptically. When just continued looking down at the sidewalk, she shook her head. “Fine, keep your secrets.” Then she crossed her arms. “So, are you coming up, or not?”

Fry’s head snapped up in surprise. “What?”

“I said, are you coming upstairs?” Tura repeated. “You were going to tell me after dinner about what happened in my timeline, remember? And I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to stand around out here in the cold.”

Upstairs? What the heck is she- With a jolt, Fry realized that they were standing on the sidewalk not ten feet from the entrance to Leela’s apartment building. He’d been so preoccupied that he hadn’t even noticed. “Oh.” And then he remembered the conversation that they’d had earlier, and the bad news that he’d promised to deliver. “Oh! Right, that.” He thought for a moment. “Yeah, maybe we should go upstairs.”

Tura led the way up the two flights of stairs to Leela’s apartment. When they got to the door, Tura reached for the fingerprint scanner that would unlock the door for her. She paused for a moment before touching the screen. When she turned and saw Fry’s curious look, her face turned red. “I know, I know; I’m being stupid. Every time I open the door I just feel, you know, like I’m breaking in or something.” The door swished open. “It’s not really my apartment.”

Fry nodded as he followed Tura into the apartment. He still felt a little strange every time he went to sleep in Phil’s apartment, knowing that it wasn’t really his bed that he was lying in.

While Fry stood in the middle of the front room and waited, Tura rummaged through her small pantry. Soon she was thrusting a glass full of something blue- and, if the smell was to be believed, highly alcoholic- into his hands. The delivery boy looked at the drink, then at Tura, and then at the drink again. Cautiously, he raised it to his lips and took an experimental sip.

He must have made a face, because Tura smiled at him. “Venusian whiskey. My dad recommended it to me. The way you were talking earlier, I don’t think either of us wants to be entirely sober when you tell me what happened in my timeline yesterday.”

Fry thought about that. Makes sense to me. He took a long swig of the fiery liquid.

The only real furniture in Leela’s apartment that could be sat on was the overstuffed armchair that sat squarely in front of her television, the bed- and Fry’s brain couldn’t even process the idea of being near that- and two folding chairs that went with the card table that Leela generally ate her meals on. Fry made his way to the table and sat down, and Tura sat down across from him.

“So,” Tura said, taking a sip of whiskey and putting her glass on the table. “What happened?”

Fry nervously cleared his throat. “Well, you see…” He stopped himself. Okay Philip, now think this through. He told himself. Don’t say anything stupid. Right after Smitty and Url had slunk away from the sewers with their proverbial tails between their legs, Leela had turned to Fry and told him to be very careful when he told Tura what had happened. She’d said that he needed to make sure to tell her when he was alone with her, to warn her first that there was bad news to lessen the shock, and, above all else, under no circumstances whatsoever just simply blurt out-

“They know!” Oops.

Tura gave the delivery boy a look of total confusion. “What? What do you mean, they kn-” The cyclops’s brain managed to catch up to her.

As Tura’s face turned dangerously neutral, Fry, knowing he had royally screwed up, started to babble. “Look Tura, I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have said it like that. Leela told me to be real careful, but I guess I got nervous or something. But it’s okay, because Leela is going to fix everything so that-“

“Who knows?” Tura asked coldly, cutting through Fry’s chatter.

Fry gulped. She’s gonna kill me. He thought. I dunno if it’ll be this Leela or the other one, but, either way, Leela is gonna kill me. “The, umm- the whole government, and the DOOP. And the media. Oh, and-“ Shut up! His brain ordered.

Tura grimaced like she was in pain. Fry noticed that her hands were shaking slightly. She was obviously trying to hide her emotions from him, and he could only wonder if what she was concealing was grief, or anger.

“How?” Tura managed through clenched teeth.

Probably anger, Fry guessed. “There was nothing anybody could’ve done.” Fry said hurriedly. “The police think Phil’s a mutant, and they found out where he works, and that you work there too. They sorta, you know, pieced everything together from there.” For some reason, Fry found himself unable to continue. What are you doing? That’s only half of the story! A voice cried in his cried out. That’s not what gave them the proof that Leela was a mutant, and you know it! But whether it was out of some need to protect his Captain, or simply his own subconscious sense of self-preservation, Fry was unable to mention the ambush in the sewers and Leela’s admission to Smitty and Url.

Seconds ticked by for an eternity while Tura rigidly stared at- or possibly through- the delivery boy. At some point, Tura had taken hold of her whiskey glass. Fry could see the tendons in her wrist straining with the force of her grip.

Fry was just about to risk warning her to loosen her grip, lest she shower them both with alcohol and shattered glass, when Tura stirred. “So then, there was no way anyone could have stopped it?” She asked, softly.

“No. No way at all.” Why am I not telling her the whole story?!

Tura sat back in her chair and exhaled like she was decompressing. She looked down at the table for a few moments and then back up at the delivery boy. When her eye met Fry’s, the delivery boy’s heart skipped a beat. He’d seen this expression once before, just a little more than twenty-four hours earlier. It was the same look of despair that had descended over Leela soon after the police had left the sewer.

The last time, Fry had tried to give Leela some space, thinking that his presence would just make her feel worse. But, this time, he knew that was the wrong answer. With a silent certainty, Fry stood, picked up his chair, and sat down next to Tura. She clung to him as a person would cling to a life raft in the middle of a stormy sea. Here we go again. Fry thought to himself as tears started to roll down Tura’s face.

Amy’s been in there a long time. Leela thought to herself. The intern had retreated to Leela’s bedroom- the nearest room with a door that offered any semblance of privacy- in order to talk to Kif. Even with the door, the plywood walls weren’t particularly soundproof, so Leela had stood guard outside the door to keep the others- by which she meant Bender- from eavesdropping. Of course, she couldn’t be blamed if she happened to overhear some of the conversation in the process.

When Amy finally emerged from the bedroom, her expression was impossible to read. There was a hint of moisture at the corners of her eyes.

Leela wasted no time. “So, what happened? What did he say?” She asked.

“He’s going to try and help.” Amy said. Her voice caught, just for a moment, as she said it. “I told him about what’s really been going on. Not the parallel timeline stuff, but the rest of it. He promised to try and help, but he doesn’t think he’ll be able to stall Zapp for very long.”

“How long does he think he can give us?”

“He… didn’t say.” Amy replied.

Leela regarded her friend for a long moment. Amy tended to be such a ditz; Leela almost never got to see this side of the woman. It had taken a deep pool of courage and strength to face Kif, and then to ask him to help circumvent the very DOOP military that he was sworn to serve.

“That’s okay. We’ll take whatever he can give us. Thanks for doing this Amy; I know its hard for you after the troubles that you two have been having. It took a lot of guts to ask him to- hey, wait a minute.” Leela raised an index finger and pointed It in the intern’s direction. You’re Amy, not Aimee. Which means that that wasn’t your Kif that you were talking to.”

“Yeah, so?” Amy replied defensively.

“So why were you crying? You got that emotional over someone that isn’t your boyfriend?”

The intern immediately put a hand up to her left eye. Apparently she hadn’t realized that her previous weakness was plainly visible for all to see. “What? Oh. No, I wasn’t crying about Kif.” Amy replied in that faux-innocent tone of voice that Leela new all too well was just camouflage netting for the loaded howitzer underneath. “I was crying because I realized that, if we go hide in Old New York, I won't have any clothes to wear. I’ll have to borrow stuff that you brought with you when you snuck back to your apartment to get Nibbler! It’s like, fashion suicide!”

Leela stopped herself from decking the intern. She’d provoked that biting critique of her fashion sense by asking a question that she’d had no business asking. Still, she couldn’t prevent herself from giving Amy a caustic look.

“And you’re one to talk about getting emotional over someone that isn’t your boyfriend.” Amy continued lightly, before pushing past Leela and heading for the stairs. She stopped on the landing and turned around to smile sweetly in Leela’s direction and, seeing Leela’s look of unease, giggled. “Just kidding, Leela.” She said. “I can’t be mad at you anymore. We’re like sisters now!”

As Amy turned away and headed down the stairs, Leela was wondering if, just maybe, letting herself be carpet bombed by Zapp Brannigan wasn’t such a bad option after all.

It wasn’t so hard for Leela to figure out what Amy had been getting at when she’d teased Leela about getting emotionally tied up with someone.

Fry’s date with her twin had her steaming mad. She was mad at Fry, mad at Tura, mad at herself for wasting time being angry when she had so much else to deal with, and, now, she was mad at Amy for bringing it all to the front of her mind again. I can’t afford to be thinking about this right now. The PE Captain told herself. I’ve got work to do!

It was a losing battle. There was activity all around her. Mutants were running to and fro like chickens with their heads cut off to follow the sudden evacuation order, but all Leela could do was stand rigidly in the middle of the boardwalk street with her arms folded, and scowl while her brain came up with all sorts of scenarios for what could be going on at that moment in the other time line.

I’ll kill him if… The thought trailed off. If what? This was Fry that she was thinking about; he wasn’t going to try anything. He’d be too afraid that Tura would turn around and break every bone in his pudgy little body, as Leela had always threatened to do. If anyone was going to do anything, it would be Tura.

The idea of Tura kissing Fry- her Fry- was enough to make her lip curl. If she thinks that she can get back at me like that, she’s got another thing coming. Leela thought. If I find out that anything happened, I’ll make her wish she’d never been born.

There were all sorts of ways that Leela could get her revenge, if need be. The most obvious one was sitting on her parents’ front porch, about twenty yards behind her. The last time she’d looked, he’d been blissfully picking his nose. Me, date Phil? It seemed completely ridiculous. How was she supposed to have a relationship while cowering in a pile of rubble in the old city? Where would they go on their first date, the crumbling ruins of some restaurant that had been abandoned eight centuries in the past?

Under different circumstances, she might have seriously considered asking Phil out. After Fry’s opera of many years earlier, she’d finally begun to admit to herself that she had strong feelings for him. She’d kept those feelings hidden from him, of course. If she ever let something happen between the two of them, her judgment as Captain would have immediately been worthless. Making a decision in an emergency based on emotional attachment was a great way to get everyone killed. As long as she was Fry’s Captain, she could never let him know how she felt about him. But Phil… Phil was a different story. He wasn’t part of her crew.

If only I hadn’t screwed everything up. Leela looked over her shoulder at Phil, who tried to look like he hadn’t been watching her. She turned back and looked into the crowd of mutants rushing down the street toward Undercity Hall.

Her reaction to being told about the date hadn’t been one of her prouder moments. She remembered getting enough of a hold on herself that the room stopped its spinning, and then trying to make an escape for the stairs before she could do anything that she’d regret later. Whether that thing that she would later regret would have been crying, admitting her feelings, or hitting him, she wasn’t sure; she just knew that she had to escape.

Once she’d gotten to her room, she’d closed the door, mechanically undressed herself, and then spent the next three hours alternately crying and cursing into her pillow. Earlier, she’d made the observation that she doubted her ability to summon her anger. Unfortunately, she’d been right. Anger was like a shield for her; it allowed her to isolate herself to some extent from things, and provided a well of strength that she could use to move on from whatever had happened. Without anger, her mind wasn’t distracted, and she couldn’t help but face the reality that she might have just lost Fry to someone else.

I could never date Phil. Leela realized. Not even to get back at Tura. Maybe before I found out that Fry and Tura are together, but not now. Even if we weren’t facing imminent death and we could have a normal relationship, it’d just be a constant reminder that, somewhere, Tura and my Fry are doing the same thing.

The flow of mutants down the street had started to ebb. It had been two hours since Amy had gotten off the phone with Kif. That gave her half an hour before she had to be at Undercity Hall to join the march out of the village. Most of the mutants that were going to heed the evacuation order were no doubt gathered by now, waiting nervously to be told what to do. Hopefully those that ignored the order would reconsider before it was too late.

A loud clang resonated through Tura’s parents’ house. Leela turned again and looked at the ramshackle structure. Morris and Munda were still somewhere inside, busily cramming treasures into a burlap sack. Amy, the Farnsworths, and the Conrads were already waiting at the assembly point. Raoul had gone off to try and convince people to join the evacuation, and Vyolet had, under protest, agreed to use the network of spotters that she’d developed to spread the message to other settlements. Vy was fuming mad when she’d left the Turanga household; she’d hated the idea of running away. There was no other option though, and, if the mutants were going to survive, then everyone had to hear the word. Get out now, before it was too late.

Phil, like Leela, had had the honest intention of helping the Turangas with their emergency packing, but Fry’s clumsiness and Leela’s assertions that they could only afford to take what they absolutely needed had worn out their welcome in no time flat.

With a sigh, Leela left the street and went to go sit at Phil’s side. The delivery boy looked over at her and started to say something, but then stopped himself.

“What is it, Phil?” Leela asked.

Phil gave her an uncertain look. “Umm, nothing, Leela.” The delivery boy crossed his arms and looked away. “Well, it’s just… I’m sorry for what that other Fry’s doing. It- it’s not fair.” He frowned, which Leela recognized as the look he got when he was trying his best to think. “It’s like that time I downloaded Lucy Liu into a robot, and dated her without the real Lucy Liu’s permission. Only, this time it’s worse, because my Leela isn’t a robot. She’s real.”

Leela stared at him, amazed. The woman that you’ve been chasing for years uses your duplicate as a tool to get back at me, and you’re apologizing to me because Fry is going along with it?! “What about what she’s doing to you?” Leela asked. “She asked Fry out, not the other way around. She knows how you feel about her, and she repaid you by doing this. You don’t have anything to be apologizing to me for. Tura is the one that should be apologizing, and she should be apologizing to you.”

Before Phil could reply, the screen door opened behind them, and Morris came trudging out onto the porch. Leela and Phil both stood. Morris was carrying Leela’s antimatter rifle in one hand. His other hand held the lip of a filthy burlap sack that he had slung over his shoulder. Munda appeared a moment later, clutching a bag protectively under her arm.

Morris handed Leela the weapon. She took it reluctantly, for once not in the mood for gratuitous violence. Unfortunately, chances were good that she would need to use the weapon in the near future. She’d given her small pistol to Amy, who, despite being a clutz, was, ironically, the only other person Leela trusted to handle it. Together, the pistol and her rifle comprised their entire arsenal. I guess the good news is that, if I have to use this, I won’t have to use it for long. Leela thought darkly. I doubt we’ll make it thirty seconds in a fire fight with a squad of DOOP soldiers. Of course, she wasn’t about to tell anyone else that.

“You guys ready?” Phil asked.

Morris and Munda looked at each other, then at their house, and then at Leela. Amazingly, Munda wasn’t crying. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Leela thought. It probably won’t feel real to them for days.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Morris said.

With one final glance at the rotting conglomeration of plywood and sheet metal that had been the only home the Turangas had ever known, the four of them marched single file down the dirt path that connected the house with the street and joined the handful of other mutants that were still heading in the direction of Undercity Hall.

Time passed; Fry wasn’t sure how much. The bloated white disc of the moon, only a couple of days past full, was climbing its way over the tops of the city’s taller buildings, casting the view from the apartment’s new window in an eerie, almost sickly pallor.

Tura stirred and, just as Leela had done the night before, seemed to grow suddenly self-conscious. Fry removed his arm from around her shoulders and watched her draw away from him. She didn’t look at him. Instead, she just wrapped her arms around herself and stared into her lap.

If the way Leela had acted the night before was anything to go by- and it seemed to Fry like it ought to be- then Tura probably wasn’t angry with him right now. Fry remembered that Leela had apologized to him for letting him see her so upset.

“Do you remember what I said that time on the ship?” Fry said quietly.

Tura didn’t respond, but Fry could tell she was listening.

“It’s okay to let other people see you when you’re upset. It shouldn’t make you feel embarrassed.”

Fry knew instantly that he’d guessed correctly. Tura went rigid, and she turned to him with a look of shock. No doubt she was wondering how the delivery boy had read her so easily.

“I know you sorta think that everyone’s counting on you to be tough and strong all the time.” Fry continued. He’d had a long time to think about the conversation that he and Leela had had the night before. It always felt like he was never quick enough to say the right thing when he really needed to. Now he was getting a second chance. “I mean, if it weren’t for you being strong, Bender and I would have died a hundred times by now, but nobody can be tough all the time, Tura. That’s part of what makes us human.”

Tura looked away. “Yeah.” She said. “human…” With her right hand, the cyclops reached out and lightly gripped her drink. Fry’s drink remained where he’d left it, forgotten, at the far end of the table. Tura brought her glass up to her eye and watched light glint off of the crystal. “You know,” she said as she played with the glass, “I spent most of my life secretly wishing that I was human. I was proud to be an alien- of the people I thought I was a part of- but I always knew that the first thing anyone here on Earth ever thought when they met me was ‘she isn’t one of us’. Then, that day in the sewers, I discovered that I wasn’t really an alien after all, and it was a dream come true… until I realized that it didn’t matter. I still wasn’t human.” With a sudden movement, Tura drained her glass and set it down on the table.

“But, Tura, you are human.” Fry protested. “Your ancestors were perfectly normal, un-mutated people! The mutants' high-school history teacher mutated from my neighbor, remember?”

“So what?” Tura said desperately. “None of that matters. Before, when I was an alien, people just gave me funny looks. Now, if I go back home, anyone that sees me will think I’m some sort of monster.”

Fry frowned. “I dunno, Tura. I mean, sure, people are a little nervous about the idea of mutants living in their sewers, but I don’t think anyone sees them as monsters.”

Tura actually laughed. “Fry, do you know what we used to do at the Orphanarium when I was little? At night, after warden Vogel had gone to bed, we’d sneak into the gym, and the older kids would try to scare the younger kids with stories about how evil sewer mutants would climb out of the sewers and snatch little children from their beds, and, if you listened very carefully, you could hear their tentacles reaching through the water pipes for their victims. I remember being good at coming up with those stories. It was one of the few things that made the other kids like me.”

“But, kids do stuff like that all the time.” Fry countered. “Back when we were both in elementary school, my brother and I used to try and scare each other make up stuff about a monster that lived in our basement.” The delivery boy chuckled at the memory. “Neither of us would go down there with the lights off until we turned seventeen.”

“Uh-huh. And how do you think you’d react if that monster you thought you’d made up walked up to you on the street and said hello?”

“Well,” Fry said, “I’d probably run away screaming like a little gir- Oh.”

“Yeah,” Tura said drily, “’oh’ is right.

“Well, then we’ll just have to show everyone that you’re not monsters.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Tura asked. “Face it, Fry. I’ve got one eye and purple hair. My mom has tentacles, for Asimov’s sake! We’re right out of a bad horror film from a 2940’s black and white holodisc!” Tura sighed and looked back down at her lap. “How are we going to convince everyone that we’re not just a bunch of revolting monsters?”

On impulse, Fry reached out and put a hand on Tura’s shoulder. “You don’t have to convince everyone that you’re not a revolting monster.” He said gently. “I already think you’re the most beautiful, wonderful human being that I’ve ever met.”

When Tura turned back to face him, the delivery boy smiled at her. She reached out and took his hand, and then smiled back at him. The two of them stayed like that for a moment that lasted forever, and Fry thought it was the most magical moment of his life. He didn’t even notice that Tura’s face had drawn closer to his until her eye was mere inches away. Then she was kissing him, and nothing else mattered.

Undercity Hall was a zoo. It looked like most of the village had gotten the message, and had decided to listen to it. Leela had to admit that she hadn’t expected to get the town mobilized so quickly, but she’d apparently misjudged these people. I’m thinking like a surface dweller still. Leela admonished herself. How long does it take to collect your most prized possessions when you have no possessions to collect? It wasn’t material things that mattered to the mutants, it was their history, their culture. It was this place that mattered to them, this city of rotting buildings that they’d pieced together bit by bit over the course of their entire lives.

Leela was standing at the top of the stairs that led up to Undercity Hall. Phil, Bender, and Amy flanked her, with the rest of refugees from the surface, Raoul, the Turangas’, Dwayne, and Leg Mutant standing behind her. Before her were mutants packed shoulder to shoulder- or equivalent- dozens of rows deep.

“People, please! Quiet down; let Leela talk!” Phil called desperately into the crowd, but the nervous chatter of the mob easily drowned him out. He’d been trying for a few minutes to get their attention; Leela was getting impatient.

With a little noise of irritation, Leela snatched her pistol from Amy and fired one quick shot into the air. The little weapon let out a loud crack and a fierce blue-hot ball of plasma screamed away into the distant ceiling. When the echoes from the shot died away, the crowd was silent. Leela thrust her weapon back into the intern’s hands.

“Everybody listen up!” Leela’s voice rang out across the square. “The DOOP could show up at any time. You’ve all seen the news reports by now.”

A nervous grumble rolled through the crowd. Leela cut it off by raising her hand. “We can’t afford to be here when they arrive. We have to leave.”

“Where will we go?” someone called out. “They’ll capture us if we leave the city!” There were a few mumbled words of assent from a handful of mutants.

“For now, we’ll head for the old city.” Leela replied confidently. “Fry used to live there; he knows his way around. With his help, we’ll be able to hide from the DOOP long enough to find a better solution.”

“You want us to hide in a hole and wait for the Army to get us, one by one? Someone else yelled.

“We should stay and fight!” A third mutant added. The statement was met by cheers from a group of mutants at the back of the crowd. Leela recognized some of them as being a part of the ‘communications network’ that Vyolet had put together. Maybe I should have paid more attention to what that group actually does. Leela thought. And where is Vy, anyway? Is she still managing the effort to get the alarm out to the other mutant villages?

“We’re not leaving our homes!” The first mutant yelled. “We’ll fight them with our bare tentacles if we have to!” Some of the mutants cheered.

Soon, the whole crowd was yelling. Some of the mutants were urging others to listen to what Leela had to say; others were demanding that they all stand and fight for what was theirs. The situation soon threatened to get out of hand as a few punches were thrown on both sides.

Phil shot Leela a nervous glance, and Leela turned to him.

“Looks like I need to get their attention again.”

Almost nonchalantly, she hefted the antimatter rifle that she had slung under one arm. With a casual flick of her wrist, she turned the weapon’s gain to high and aimed it at an old, abandoned dry cleaners down the street. A rending torrent of antiprotons tore their way through the air, illuminating the entire cavern in a harsh, violet glare that matched Leela’s ponytail. The blinding beam of light collided with the exterior wall of the drycleaners and hungrily annihilated itself in a blast of gamma radiation. The entire building vanished in a flash of bright white. A huge concussion swept through the crowd, knocking a handful of mutants off their feet. A moment later, the light had vanished, leaving only a smoking crater where the cleaners had been.

Again there was absolute silence. Leela raised her rifle over her head and waited for every pair of eyes in the crowd to swivel toward it. “This,” Leela proclaimed, “is an antimatter rifle. “Each DOOP soldier will carry something this powerful.” The PE Captain nodded at her newly excavated piece of real estate. “That is what the DOOP will do to this entire village. What match are you with your pitchforks and two-by-fours against something like that?”

This time, no one challenged her. Funny, I wasn’t in the mood for violence half an hour ago. Leela thought to herself as she lowered her weapon. Looks like I’m starting to warm up to the idea again. She had always really liked the rifle. It was sleek, powerful, and had a nice heft to it. Also, it matched her hair when she fired it.

Sensing that Leela had finished, Raoul squeezed his way between Phil and Bender and addressed the crowd. “We’ve got a long walk ahead of us.” He said. “You all know the route to the Old City. Once we’re there Fry will tell us where we’re going.”

It had been decided earlier that their exact destination would remain a secret until the mutants had gotten as far away from the village as possible. There was a chance, however unlikely, that Poopenmeyer- or the DOOP, for that matter- had somehow managed to put listening devices in the sewer system. It was something they couldn’t risk, even if it meant that other mutant villages, as well as stragglers from their own village that didn’t heed the evacuation order in time, wouldn’t know how to find them. The runners that had gone out to the other villages had been instructed to tell anyone that would listen to take shelter wherever they could find it. It would be up to the leaders of the other villages to decide whether the best shelter was in New New York’s sewer system, the old city, or the old city’s sewer system. After a few days, and every few days after that, members of each community would meet in a predetermined location to strategize and exchange news. No one group would know the current location of any other group. That way, no one could give them all away if they got captured.

“I will lead the group.” Raoul continued. “Everyone else should follow as they can. “Leela and her crew will take up the rear, making sure that no one that wants to go gets left behind.” The part where Leela and Smy had the only weapons, and were the mutants’ only protection if the DOOP caught up to them went unsaid.

Without another word, Raoul descended the steps and started to work his way to the edge of the crowd. Dwayne and Leg Mutant followed him. A buzz of anticipation started to build through the mutants as Raoul made it to the head of what was slowly becoming less a mob and more a column.

Leela realized that the eyes of her parents, her coworkers, and their families were on her. Raoul was the leader of the mutants, but she had her own band of people that were expecting her to take the lead. The PE Captain looked at each of them in turn. Dwight and Cubert looked scared; Leela hadn’t considered the effect that firing off her rifle would have on the children. The adults, though grim-faced, had an air of determination about them. Well, all except Bender, who was clearly bored. But Bender was, well, Bender. He didn’t count. Even Labarbara, who had stood unflinchingly next to Dwayne for the last fifteen minutes, seemed to be with her. Leela had always liked the woman; now she understood why.

“You guys ready?” Leela asked.

“Always.” Phil said instantly, and Amy nodded her agreement.

“We’re with you, dear.” Munda added.

“Can we just do this, please?” Bender snapped. “The only reason I’m even going with you is that Phil thinks there might be some old, abandoned liquor stores down there in Old New York. The sooner we get there, and the sooner I don’t have to listen to all you meat bags jabbering on at each other, the better.”

Despite herself, Leela laughed. Bender’s ability to be un-phased by absolutely anything usually was enough to make her grind her teeth together. Right now, it was a welcome glimpse of a time before things had gone spinning out of control.

Leela turned and led her friends down the stairs. A ripple was starting to move through the column as the mutants near the front started to follow Raoul away from Undercity Hall. Leela and her crew waited at the bottom of the stairs for the mutants to pass, and then slid into place at the rear when the last of the mutants finally went by.

The column worked its way down the town’s main street and toward the yawning mouth of one of the sewer pipes that emptied into the cavern. Here and there, a mutant stood by the side of the boardwalk and watched them pass. Leela regarded these few, hard-eyed mutants with sadness. She could only hope that they would follow their fellows into hiding before it was too late.

The column followed the boardwalk out of the town and around the edge of the lake. Eventually, the boardwalk ended and was replaced with the bare cavern rock. Up ahead, the sewer pipe jutted out of the wall like an obscene mouth. The bottom lip of the pipe was a good fifty feet above the floor of the cavern, and a moderate flow of greenish water cascaded from it into the edge of the town lake.

At the base of the falls, the column crossed a footbridge and began to snake its way up a series of rickety, wooden ramps. When Leela reached the top, she turned to look out over the town. The decrepit buildings, now mostly empty, seemed to huddle together for support. The town water wheel, which provided the mutants with their electricity, was visible on the other end of the lake, still slowly turning. The town was a wretched place. Leela had always thought so. A wretched, horrible place. But it’s all that the mutants had, and, now, it was being taken away as well.

Someone touched Leela on the shoulder.

Leela turned to find Amy and Phil standing next to her. “Now?” The PE Captain asked.

“Yes.” Amy replied.

Leela nodded. Kif had called Amy a few minutes earlier to warn her. He couldn’t distract Zapp any longer; the DOOP was coming.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Phil asked.

The PE Captain didn’t say anything, but just continued looking out at the town. The rear of the column had disappeared into the pitch darkness of the tunnel behind them, leaving the three of them alone.

Shafts of light suddenly sprang into existence in the ceiling over the town. Searchlights, Leela realized, coming from the manholes. Long ropes were now unrolling from a dozen entry points, and, moments later, streams of tiny figures were sliding down them. No more than ten seconds after the first figure reached the ground, the lights went out in the town. The entire cavern was thrown into a blackness, now only punctured by light streaming in from the manholes.

For two minutes, Leela stood at the lip of the sewer pipe and watched, mesmerized, as more and more DOOP soldiers poured into the mutant village. Then Phil grabbed her wrist. In the dim light from the distant searchlights, she could just barely make out his expression.

She nodded. “Let’s go.” She whispered. Before the shooting starts.

Part V: Exile

The morning after their date, Fry found himself sitting in a chair in the Planet Express conference room, trying as best he could to ignore the stares of Aimee, Hermes, Zoidberg, and one of the Benders. Tura had left to go find the Professor a few minutes earlier, and Fry wished with every fiber of his being that she’d hurry up and get back. With her gone, his coworkers knew that it was only a matter of time before their stares caused him to crack like an egg in vacuum.

Fry was able to avoid making eye contact with anyone by keeping his eyes glued to the edge of the table immediately in front of him. Eventually though, he had to look up to see if he was still being watched, and his eyes locked with Aimee’s.

The intern started to speak, then stopped. She frowned, unable to come up with the right way to ask the question that was written all over her face. Over the next few seconds, a handful of halfway-coherent syllables escaped from her mouth before she finally gave up, defeated.

“So. Did you two do it?” Bender asked, exhaling a cloud of cigar smoke.

“Bender!” Aimee yelled, dismayed.

Fry wasn’t nearly as offended as he would have been if it had been anyone else that had spoken. After being the robot’s best friend for the majority of a decade, nothing Bender said was enough to get to him anymore.

“Uh.” Fry said cautiously. “Tura asked me not to talk about it.”

Bender slapped the table. “Hoo-yeah! Way to go, sausage link!” The bending unit turned to Hermes. “You owe me five bucks, Hermes.” Turning back to Fry, he continued. “I knew you two must’ve been going at it when you didn’t come home last night.”

Aimee looked a little puzzled. “I don’t know, Bender. He’s not blushing. He’d be bright red if they’d done it last night.”

All eyes turned back to Fry, who looked away again.

After awhile, Hermes spoke up. “Fry, mon. You’ve got to tell us! I don’t want to have to give dat alcoholic tin can any of my money! He’s stolen enough of it as it is!”

The Jamaican’s plea elicited a wince from Fry. “Sorry, Hermes. I can’t. She made me promise.”

“They so did it.” Bender said confidently, taking another pull on his cigar.

“Why would Tura make you promise not to-”

“Because it’s none of your business.” Tura replied. The cyclops was standing with the Professor at the entrance to the lounge; no one had heard the door swish open. Hermes, Aimee, and Bender all jumped in unison at the sound of her voice. Bender’s cigar tumbled to the floor and went out.

Tura crossed the few feet to the conference table and took a seat next to Fry. She returned her coworkers’ stares with a look of cool indifference while the Professor shuffled his way to his padded armchair. Fry, meanwhile, let out a very loud sigh of relief.

That’s twice today I managed to keep my mouth shut. The delivery boy thought to himself. The Leelas would be proud of me, if they weren’t both on the list of people I have to keep my mouth shut around. Leela would probably kill him if she found out about what had transpired between him and Tura the night before, and then Tura would probably try to kill Leela if she heard about what was going on in the other timeline at the moment- whatever exactly it was that was going on.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Fry had awoken in the beta timeline. Rather than finding himself staring at the mildew-stained ceiling of the Turanga’s extra bedroom, he was, for no logical reason that his brain could deduce, standing in the dark with what felt like hundreds of other people, shuffling down a narrow trail. On one side of him was broken rock of some type, or maybe concrete. On the other side was a drop-off that had no visible bottom. It had taken awhile for the delivery boy to convince himself that he wasn’t just having a very strange dream. But then he’d tripped on something loose, and the abyss loomed large in front of him. He toppled over, and he had just enough time to think to himself that this is when he should be waking up before an arm came out of nowhere and he was hauled upright. Leela had, by sheer good luck, been only a few feet behind him and had reacted. The reality of the situation had hit him like a blow to the chest when he saw the terror that was written all over her face.

When the fear and adrenaline that had come with the recognition of his near brush with death had ebbed, Fry had tried to speak. The instant he’d opened his mouth, Leela has put a finger to his lips, silencing him. It had occurred to him then what had really convinced him that he was dreaming in the first place. There were people everywhere; he could see them in the pale light that was barely illuminating the landscape. He was near the end of an enormous column. Hundreds of people, and they were all being perfectly silent. Now that he knew this was all real, a little chill went down his spine. Whatever was happening, it couldn’t be good.

The line of people had continued moving while Fry had gotten his bearings. Fry and Leela had to hurry to catch up with them. Running along the narrow trail had seemed a bad idea, but something was telling Fry that there was something bad behind them, and time spent exposed on this cliff face was something to be kept to a minimum.

The column soon reached the bottom of the cliff- which was not nearly as large as Fry’s brain had made it in the dark. There it turned to the left, and entered a long, narrow canyon. In the darkness, Fry was completely clueless as to where he was. That is, until the passed a sign for 110th street. He’d been right in the middle of realizing that he was walking through the ruins of Old New York when, ‘pop’, he was back in the alpha timeline. The whole time he’d been marching, no one had said one word to him to explain what was going on.

Whatever the case, telling Tura about it would just ruin the good mood she was in.

All the while Fry had been remembering the weirdness of the night before, Aimee had been sitting across from him, trying to wrestle something out of Tura. Tura, by this point had exhausted her tiny supply of patience, and finally cut her off. “Enough, Aimee! Just drop it!”

Tura’s outburst elicited a raised eyebrow from Hermes. Amy and the Jamaican exchanged a smirk. Tura rolled her eye dramatically and looked toward the ceiling, as if imploring the Almighty to save her from the tide of stupidity in which she found herself awash.

Zoidberg cleared his throat, sensing a way into the conversation. “Friends, if, as the only one present who is an expert on humans, I might make an observation-”

“No.” Bender cut in.

“In the last stage of the human mating cycle, the female devours the head of the male, which takes at least one week to grow back. Fry’s head is still clearly attached to his sternum, so he and Tura couldn’t have been spawning last night.”

“Zoidberg, you idiot. Wipe that Jah-damned smug look off your face.” Hermes spat. The bureaucrat made it a point never to miss an opportunity to rag on the Decapodian. I’ve eaten lobsters that were bigger experts on humans than you.”


Fry was just about to say something- not to defend Zoidberg of course, which was always tantamount to committing social suicide- but to at least shift the group’s attention away from the poor creature, when Professor Farnsworth’s agitated voice cut him off.

“That’s enough!” Farnsworth’s voice was soft and shaky, but it still managed to command almost instant obedience. Having a reputation for being a mad scientist had its upsides. “We have a delivery to make! If you don’t all shut up so we can start the morning briefing, I’ll send you all back to the other timeline and leave you there!”

Quiet descended upon the room as if a switch had been thrown. Somehow, in a way that Fry couldn’t have even begun to explain, the abrupt silence seemed even louder than the yelling that had preceded it.

“You’ve found a way to send us home?” Tura finally asked.

“Huh, what?” The Professor suddenly grew flustered. “No, of course not! What makes you think-“

“We all heard you say it, Professor.” Aimee said.

Farnsworth’s eyes swept the table. Each of his employees was staring intently back at him. The senile old inventor nervously licked his lips, made a few halting attempts to speak, and then, resigned, slumped deeper into his padded armchair. “Very well, then. Yes, I’ve discovered a way to send Tura and Aimee back to their timeline. After watching the video feeds from the spacesuits you were wearing when you went to explore the derelict space station, I’ve discovered how the device you found there worked, and I can build a machine to imitate it.”

“Professor, that’s terrific!” Aimee exclaimed. The intern beamed a smile in Tura’s direction. “Did you hear that, Tura? We can finally go home!”

Tura didn’t return the smile. She sat with her arms crossed, frowning, and carefully watched the Professor. Fry thought he knew what she was thinking. If he’s found a way to send them home, then why was he so hesitant to mention it?

“So what was da blasted piece of junk supposed to do, then?” Hermes was asking, referring to the blue device on the station that Bender had activated.

“It’s quite simple.” The Professor replied. “The device was designed to allow travel between our timeline and one of an infinite number of parallel timelines.”

“Well, it worked then.” Tura commented drily.

“Yes it did, but not in the way it was supposed to.” The Professor continued. “When Bender activated the device the first time, I believe it successfully sent Fry, Bender, Leela, and Amy into the other timeline.”

“Into our timeline, you mean?” Aimee asked.

“Yes. But sending a person into a parallel timeline isn’t as simple as, say, sending him to a parallel universe through one of those boxes I keep hidden in the storage closet. Superdupersymmetry requires each timeline to have exactly the same amount of mass-energy. You can’t take mass-energy from one timeline and put it in another without taking the same amount of mass-energy from the second timeline and putting it back in the first one.”

“Is that why we keep jumping back and forth?” Tura asked.

The Professor shook his head. “No. That’s different. When your consciousnesses switch from one timeline to the other, your bodies don’t. That’s why you can be in the spaceship, halfway to another galaxy one moment, and then jump to the other timeline and be back on Earth. If your bodies were travelling back and forth, you’d jump from the ship to that exact location in space in the other timeline.”

“So, if the ship didn’t happen to be in the exact same place in the other timeline…” Tura trailed off as the implications set in.

“Precisely.” Farnsworth nodded.

“But wait, if the machine sent us to the other timeline before it exploded, then how did some of us get back?” Fry asked slowly. He looked from one coworker to the other, trying to read in their expressions whether his question had been a stupid one.

“It malfunctioned.” The Professor replied. “When the device sent the space station into the parallel timeline, it had to also act as a conduit for all of the mass-energy flowing from the parallel timeline back to ours.”

“Where did all the mass-energy come from?” Aimee asked.

“ The space station was sitting in an emission nebula, doy!” Farnsworth slapped his forehead, and the intern broke into tears. “Anyway, the station was in such disrepair that it probably couldn’t handle the strain of channeling all that energy, so, when the device tried to send my crew back to our timeline, it gave out, much like my bladder did after breakfast this morning.”

“So, that’s why it exploded?” Fry asked after he was finished making a disgusted face.

“Indeed. The moment the device began to send the station, the ship, and my crew back to our timeline, all the mass-energy that was flowing backward from our timeline into the beta timeline was released, causing the whole station to be destroyed before it could finish the transfer. Fry, Leela, Bender, and Amy were most likely stuck in some sort of higher-dimensional limbo. For several seconds, they occupied both timelines at once, and their quantum states became entangled with their counterparts from the beta timeline, causing all of you to randomly jump back and forth between the realities.”

Hermes, who had been dozing off, suddenly looked up at the mentioning of the word ‘limbo’, but he soon realized that it was a false alarm and his eyes immediately glazed over again.

“Fascinating.” Tura said, less than enthusiastically. “But what does any of this have to do with sending me and Aimee home?”

Farnsworth shot Tura a fiery look. “I was getting to that, damnit!” He yelled. “Once I realized that the device sent actual, physical matter across the barrier between timelines rather than just altering the quantum states of people’s individual consciousnesses so that they jump back and forth, I was able to come up with a way to do it myself. I’ve already sent two mosquitoes to the other timeline.”

There was a burst of excited chatter. “Professor, that’s great!” Fry exclaimed. “We can bring Leela home!”

Tura looked at the delivery boy in surprise.

Farnsworth shook his head. “Alas, it’s not that easy. I may be a genius, but even I can’t deduce an entire theory of inter-reality travel based on grainy images taken from a spacesuit holo camera. So far, I’ve been unable to build a device capable of handling the strain more than once.

I can send Tura and Aimee back to their timeline, but the device they use to get there will then be too damaged to bring anyone in the other timeline back here.”

Tura shrugged. “So then we’ll bring a spare with us to the beta timeline. That way, your crew will have a working one for the trip home.”

“Precisely. Which reminds me. Everyone that is experiencing the reality jumps will have to accompany Tura to the other timeline. Getting into close proximity with your duplicate should cause the body-swapping to stop.”

“Why would that matter?” Aimee asked.

“Because I said so!” Farnsworth snapped. “I’m on sabbatical; I don’t have to derive abstract theory for graduate students!” There was a beat. “Anywho, I’ll need an hour to prepare two devices, and then we can get started. Aimee, I’ll need your help with the Styrofoam cutter.”

“Right, Prof-” Aimee started, but Tura cut her off.

“Wait, hold on a minute.” The cyclops said. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Professor?”

“Huh-wha?” Farnsworth scratched his head. “Well, I can’t seem to remember who that lad with the red hair is, and I seem to have forgotten where I am, but other than that… no, I don’t think so.”

Tura sighed in annoyance. “It’s pretty obvious that you’ve been hiding this invention of yours from us. You only told us about it just now because you misspoke and we caught you. I’m guessing there’s something wrong with it that you haven’t mentioned.”

The Professor frowned at the PE Captain. He thought for a moment before replying. “Hmm. Yes, that does sound familiar. Do you happen to remember what it was that was wrong?”

“Ugh. If I knew what it was, would I be asking you about it?”

“No, I suppose not.” The scientist paused. “Ah, yes. That’s right. Of course!” Farnsworth brightened. “Yes, there is a small problem with the devices; nothing terribly important.”

Suddenly, everyone in the room was on guard. On a scale of one to ten, a problem with one of the Professor’s new inventions that the senile old inventor deemed ‘not very important’ generally ranked at least an eight.

“So, umm, what exactly is the catch?” Fry asked.

“Oh, nothing to worry yourself about, whoever you are. I simply haven’t found a way to channel the energy coming from the other timeline yet. A single mosquito sent into the other timeline transfers as much energy into our timeline as is given off when a spaceship hits a mountain. With my current equipment, I could barely keep my experiment from blowing up Planet Express. If I send a person, it will destroy a big piece of New Manhattan.”

Fry, Aimee, and Tura exchanged looks of shock. Bender and Hermes didn’t react. For the robot, blowing up a city wasn’t any cause for alarm, and the bureaucrat had long ago given up on the conversation and started stamping paperwork that had seemingly appeared out of thin air.

“Professor.” Tura said at last. “I’m pretty sure that blowing up the city to stop the reality jumps is not a viable option.”

“Why don’t we just move the device to some asteroid?” Aimee piped in. “No one will care if we blow up some ugly rock in the asteroid belt.”

“Hey, now that’s not a bad idea.” Tura replied excitedly. “Or better yet, skip the asteroid all together. We can just put the devices in the ship, fly somewhere far enough into space that we won’t blow anything up when we turn the device on, and then- hey, wait. Professor, you’re smart enough to have figured this out already. Why didn’t you come up with this plan on your own?”

The Professor was frank. “I did.” He said. “But I didn’t want to risk you blowing up my ship if the device doesn’t work correctly. I have no way to know if the device works until someone comes back from the other timeline and tells me.”

Another volley of nervous looks crisscrossed the table. The company motto played itself unbidden in Fry’s head. Our crew is expendable; your package isn’t.

“Uhh, Tura, maybe we should wait until the Professor has a chance to test this invention some more.” The delivery boy said uneasily.

Tura shook her head vehemently. “No. We’ve been sitting around long enough, waiting for a way to fix this mess. It’s time to take action. I have faith in the Professor; his invention will work.”

Yeah, well, let’s hope it works better than the last one did. Fry thought darkly. He wished he wasn’t too much of a coward to say it aloud.

It took so little time to get the Professor’s inventions loaded into the ship and then to get the ship a safe distance into space that Fry was feeling a bit lost. Not an hour earlier he’d thought getting Tura home was going to take months, if it happened at all. Now, somehow, he was standing on the ship’s bridge, staring at the box that was Tura’s ticket back to her timeline.

“Stupid old man.” Tura was grumbling. “He’s had these things sitting in his lab for a week, and he waited all this time to tell us.”

“Well, he did say that he wasn’t sure that it would work.” Aimee replied. She was favoring what they were all quickly getting into the habit of calling ‘the briefcase’ for its size and shape with a decidedly nervous look.

Tura caught the worried tone in the intern’s voice and turned to face her. “Look, I’ve got a few hang-ups about doing this too.” She admitted. “But you heard the Professor. The only way to prove that this thing works the way it’s supposed to is for someone to use it”

“Yeah, relax Aimee.” Fry added in an attempt to make her feel better. “If it blows up, none of us will probably ever even know.”

Tura glared at the delivery boy for his stupidity. Bender just laughed in the background while Aimee’s face turned several shades whiter.

There was a hiss of static, and Hermes face appeared spontaneously on the overhead view screen.

“Alright, den.” The bureaucrat said. “The Professor says you should be far enough away from da planet by now to activate the device. He also wanted me to tell you to record the jump to the other timeline so that he can study it later.”

“How sure is he that this’ll work, again?” Aimee asked.

“Oh, don’t you worry. He thinks everything will be just fine.”

At that moment, Farnsworth, somewhere off camera, called to the Jamaican. “Hermes, stop whatever you’re doing and find me the box of new employee applications. I’d do it myself, but I’m busy designing a replacement spaceship.”

“Ah, right away, Professor.” Hermes looked into the camera and coughed. “I, umm, have to go,” he said, and the screen went blank.

A few moments of tense silence passed on the bridge of the Planet Express Ship. Finally, Bender sauntered over to The Briefcase and, giving it a light kick to show his disdain for the whole enterprise, gestured at Tura with his cigar.

“So, are we going to do this, or not? I don’t care either way, but the sooner we get this over with the sooner I can get back to Planet Express and steal Hermes’ latest anniversary gift to his wife from his office.”

“Bender’s right.” Tura announced at length. “I mean, about the first part.’ She quickly added to correct herself. “Not the other part- you know what I mean.”

Tura bent over the device and started flipping switches. Fry watched her, curiously.

“Do you know how this thing works?” He asked.

Tura nodded. “The Professor showed me. The briefcase only has two settings: ‘current location’ and ‘destination’. I flipped the one switch upward to tell it that we’re in the alpha timeline, and the other switch downward to tell it that we want to go to the beta timeline. Then I just have to press this little button here, and we’ll either get sent to the other timeline or be blown into tiny pieces.”

Aimee winced, but Bender’s eyes actually literally lit up.

“Ooh, let me press the button.” The robot said eagerly. “I want to be able to say I killed all humans- even if it was just in my general area- when I get to robot heaven.”

“Bender,” Tura retorted, “if there’s one person in this universe that shouldn’t be trusted with a device that could unleash enough energy to destroy a city, it would be you.”

Bender started to protest, but Tura just talked over him. “The Professor said that we should experience a smooth transition into the other timeline, but experience tells me that we should all be buckled into our seats before I press this button.”

Aimee and Fry nodded in assent and went to strap themselves into their duty stations. Bender just fumed silently, until a dangerous look from Tura convinced him it was wise to do the same..

As soon as Tura was safely strapped into the Captain’s chair, she set the briefcase down by her left knee. She took one last look around her, waiting for Aimee and Fry to confirm their readiness with a nod. Fry thought Tura’s eye had lingered in his direction just a moment longer than necessary, but he didn’t have time to say anything to her before Tura bent down and pressed the button.

The transition was, in fact, just as smooth as the Professor had predicted. The briefcase had let out a hum, which had grown in volume until it had made Fry wince. Then there had been the same blue-white light that had enveloped them at the wreck, followed by the familiar popping sound, and the light and hum vanished.

Judging that it was safe, Tura unstrapped herself from her chair and bent down to pick up the device. Luckily, Aimee was sitting where she could see what was about to happen.

“Tura, no! Wait!”

Tura froze and looked down at the briefcase. Her hand jerked away reflexively when she saw what was left of it. The device was red-hot. Parts of its metal frame had actually melted partially, causing part of its upper half to buckle inward.

“Holy bejesus!” Fry exclaimed when he’d disentangled himself from his chair and moved to a position where he could see. “The Professor wasn’t kidding when he said the device couldn’t handle the strain.”

“Good thing we brought a spare.” Tura replied as she walked toward the forward viewport. Her three friends followed her, and together they surveyed the scene outside the ship. What they were looking for, exactly, none of them knew- the timelines were identical except for a few minor things back home on planet Earth- but they all looked anyway.

“I guess the only way to know if it really worked is to get back to Planet Express.” Tura said finally.

Fry nodded, but then froze as his weird experience from the night before popped into his head. Something from that march through the dark told him that going back to Planet Express was a very, very bad idea. Hermes and The Professor were there. He realized. They wouldn’t have been there with their families unless something bad happened to Planet Express. Whenever something bad happened, the Planet Express crew and their families fled to the shelter of the Professor’s fortress of a building. Since something bad was clearly going on, and they were not at Planet Express, that meant whatever had happened had happened at- or to- the Planet Express Building.

“Fry?” Tura asked, for what the delivery realized now was at least the third time. “Fry, wake up! What’s the matter?”

“We can’t go to Planet Express.” Fry said.

Aimee and Tura shared a look of surprise.

“What? Why not?” Aimee asked/

“The delivery boy frowned as he tried to concentrate on his memory of the night before. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Bender asked.

“I was in the beta timeline for a couple of hours last night, after I tried to go to sleep.” Fry hurried on when he saw Tura’s look of surprise. “I still don’t know what I saw.” He said to Tura. “That’s why I didn’t tell you earlier. I was walking in the dark with Leela and a whole bunch of other people, and I think we were running away from something, because everyone was being perfectly quiet.”

“Sounds like a dream.” Aimee remarked.

“That’s what I thought at first too, but it wasn’t.” He decided to omit the details of how he’d come face to face with the reality of the situation. "I might be completely wrong about what was going on because no one would talk to me, but Hermes and LaBarbara were there, and so was the Professor.”

Tura looked worried. “Do you know where you were when all of this was going on?” She asked.

“We were in Old New York for most it.”

“Old New York?” Aimee repeated. “Why would Leela be leading a group of people through the ruins of the old city in the middle of the night?”

“And why don’t you know about this already?” Bender added. “We all know you spent last night going at each other like squirrels.”

“Something must have happened.” Tura replied to Aimee, ignoring Bender entirely. “Something big. Have any of you been to the beta timeline since the police went into the sewers to find Phil and Bender the night before last? Other than Fry last night, I mean.”

“Only for a couple of minutes.” Aimee said with a shrug. “Then I popped back into the alpha timeline.”

“How about you, Fry?”

Fry gulped at Tura’s accusatory tone of voice. “No, just that one time. I promise.”


“Yeah, I was there most of night Leela blabbed about being a mutant.”

Fry made a sound like a hover truck has just landed on him when he realized what Bender had just given away. Luckily, the robot noticed the deliver boy’s terror before Tura had a chance to recover from her sudden confusion.

“I mean, I assume she blabbed. I wasn’t paying much attention.” Bender continued without skipping a beat. “Anyway, I didn’t stick around long enough to find out what was going on. There was a whole parallel timeline to rob, you know.”

For a fraction of a heartbeat, Fry wasn’t sure if Tura was going to buy it, but when the moment passed and there was still no hand around his neck, he breathed a silent sigh of relief. Of course, Bender didn’t cover for other people for free. I’d better watch myself for awhile. He thought to himself. He couldn’t afford to wake up in the morning to find any more kidneys missing.

“So then we have no idea what the situation is.” Tura said, more to herself than to her crew. She shook her head. “First things first. We still don’t know if we even made it to the beta timeline. Let’s get back to Earth, and then come up with a plan when we have a little more information.”

“Oh, I think we can be pretty sure that we made it back to our timeline.” Aimee said.

Tura furrowed her brow. “Huh? Why’s that?”

Aimee pointed out the front viewport. “Because the Nimbus wouldn’t be shooting at us if we were still in Fry’s timeline.”

Tura dashed for the ship’s controls just as the first volley hit. She ship shook violently under the impact, throwing everyone to the deck. Tura was up in a flash and was securely behind the wheel before the second round of incoming fire had crossed the space between the Planet Express Ship and the rapidly closing DOOP warship. Fry managed to regain his footing and started to run toward the rear hatch. Tura grabbed him as he passed by.

“Don’t waste your time.” She yelled over the sound of fresh impacts. “Our gun won’t do anything against that.”

Fry didn’t have time to argue. Tura sent the ship into a tight roll to port, and the delivery boy was immediately sprawling on the floor again.

Fry managed to heave himself into the chair by the nearest work station and buckle himself into it. He could no longer see the Nimbus. The blue marble of the Earth had replaced it in the front viewport.

A sheet of plasma fire tore by overhead, and Tura pushed the throttle forward. Everyone present knew from past experience that the Planet Express Ship couldn’t outrun the Nimbus, and they couldn’t hope to win in a gunfight. If we fight, we’re dead. If we run away, we’re dead. I just hope Tura has a plan. Something big impacted astern, sending the ship lurching forward. Why is the Nimbus shooting at us, anyway?

Up ahead, Earth was growing at an alarming rate. Fry looked over at Tura with concern. “Uhh, Tura, what are we doing?” He asked.

“Hold on.”

“But Tura-”

“Trust me, Fry.”

Now the Earth loomed in front of them.


“Just hold on.”

North America swelled in the viewscreen. What had to be New New York became visible as a tiny blemish on the continent’s Eastern face, and then disappeared as the ship hit the atmosphere and became encased in a screaming maelstrom of white-hot plasma.

“Tura, we need to slow down.” Fry said as panic started to build in him. He couldn’t see anything in the glare, but he knew the ground was somewhere nearby ready to swat them like an oversized mosquito.

Still Tura waited. And waited. And waited. Then, sensing somehow that it was the right moment, she pulled up on the stick with every ounce of her strength, and then cut the engines. The sudden deceleration was, for Fry, like a blow to the stomach. The ship shook hard enough that the delivery boy was certain it would break apart. Then the view cleared as the ship slowed below orbital speeds, and Tura had just enough time to react, sending her ship into a halfway-controlled roll away from the skyscraper that was in the middle of their flight path.

Aimee and Bender were screaming. Fry couldn’t stop yelling “slow down, slow down!” over and over again.

Tura ignored the noise and dodged another building. The death grip she had on the steering yolk was the only visible sign of her own stark terror. “Everybody get ready to run.” She said. Fry caught the slight flick of her wrist as she made a final correction to their trajectory. Up ahead was Central Park.

Fry looked from Tura to the rapidly approaching swath of green that marked the park, and then back to Tura. Bizarrely, all he could think when he realized what was about to happen was that the Cygnoids from the pizza place across the street from Planet Express would be upset when they discovered that the Blernsball field was out of commission.

As crash landings went, Fry would have rated this one a two out of ten. He was alive; somehow. So was everybody else, but he was pretty sure that his body felt a bit more liquidy then it had before.

Apparently, shell shock was no excuse, because the ground hadn’t even stopped heaving before Tura was dragging him by the scruff of the neck toward the ship’s rear outer hatch. Bender followed behind them with Aimee leaning on his shoulder for support. The robot wasn’t likely to put up with that for long. Once he decided that he wasn’t going to need any repairs, his mechanic would no doubt find herself discarded like so much excess baggage.

The world started to clear and the ringing in Fry’s ears faded as Tura half threw him out of the hatch. His reaction times were still a little too slow to keep him from plowing face-first into a pile of upturned sod. The ship lay on its belly; Tura hadn’t even bothered to waste time with such trivial matters as landing gear.

Tura, Aimee, and Bender dropped down next to the delivery boy, and he was promptly hauled to his feet again.

“Move!” Tura ordered. A look skyward at the smooth, white shape of the Nimbus, which was quickly descending in their direction, was all the motivation that Fry needed. He ran.

There were two things that the crew of Planet Express had become exceptionally skilled at through long years of practice. One was sensing that they were in immediate danger of losing their lives. The other was running away. It was not surprising, then, that Fry, Tura, Bender, and Aimee easily lost the gaggle of DOOP soldiers that was sent after them.

As soon as Fry had caught up with his friends at the edge of Central Park, he was being shoved into an open manhole. He nearly ended up falling head-first into the river of brown sludge at the bottom, but, in what felt like the first bit of good luck he’d had in months, his jacket got caught on one of the rusty ladder rungs and, though he banged his head against the wall of the shaft, he was able to get his hands around the ladder and hobble down to the ground with at least some of his dignity still intact.

After leading her friends on a random course through the sewers for about ten minutes, Tura called a halt. The DOOP had been close enough behind them to see them disappear into the manhole, but even Fry knew that they had no realistic chance of finding them in the maze of sewer tunnels that snaked under the city. For the moment, they were safe.

“Alright.” Bender said as he scrambled his way out of the knee high sewage onto a small concrete shelf built into the side of the tunnel that the others were standing on. “So. does anybody have an idea what that was all about?” he asked.

Fry shook his head, and then realized that no one could see it in the dim glow cast by the light that was built into the thing Tura wore on her wrist. “No.” He said.

“Wait.” Aimee said suddenly, putting a grime-covered hand on Fry’s shoulder. Fry jumped, having not realized in the darkness that she was that close to him. “Fry, you said that you thought Leela and the others were running from something last night. It must have been the DOOP. Poopenmeyer must have called in Zapp Brannigan, or something.”

“Looks like it.” Tura agreed. “But let's not worry about that now. We need to concentrate on finding Leela and the others.” Her voice became a low growl. “They can explain what’s going on here.”

Fry frowned. He didn’t like Tura’s tone. It had ‘going to make things worse’ written all over it. All this time he’d been hoping for Tura’s sake that the Professor would find a way to send Tura back home; funny that it hadn’t occurred to him until just now that it might not necessarily have been a good idea to do so.

“Umm, Tura?” Fry asked uncertainly.

“What is it, Fry?” Tura asked.

“Where are we going, anyway?”

Tura turned to him in surprise, as if she thought the answer was obvious.

“To my parents’ house.” She said.

Fry, Bender, and Aimee exchanged glances.

“Uhh, Tura, wasn’t Fry in the middle of telling us about how he spent half of last night running away from that particular location? Bender reminded the cyclops.

“That’s why I’ve got to go.” Tura replied. “I have to find out what happened.”

Bender laughed. “Yeah, you have fun with that. I’ll stay here. I’ve been shot at enough today, thanks.”

Tura jumped down from the ledge and landed in the sludge with a soft splashing sound. She turned to face the robot.

“Fine. You’ll be safe here until we get back. Killer tapeworms hardly ever wander into this part of the sewer system.”

“Killer tape worms?” Bender’s voice had gone up in pitch by about an octave.

“Oh yeah, Leela and I saw one once.” Fry said. “Teeth as big as your head.”

Bender processed that for a moment. “You know.” He said, finally, “on second thought, I’d better come with you. I mean, it would be irresponsible to let three humans wander around in the sewers without supervision.”

Trying to traverse the sewer system on foot was hard, treacherous work. It was hot, it stank, and it was riddled with chunks of broken concrete, potholes, and feral owls. Progress was slow, and it was no time at all before Fry was bone tired. It didn’t help that he was becoming absolutely certain that Tura had no idea where she was going.

Behind him, there was a familiar, piercing scream followed by a loud splash. Turgid water cascaded over Fry’s back. He turned just in time to see Aimee’s head reappear from under the brownish ooze.

“Dasinae!” The intern sputtered. “I’ve had enough of this. Tura, just admit that you’re lost, already!”

“I am not lost!” Tura snapped. “The village is about half a mile north of the park. We should be there any moment n- Ow!” The meager light streaming from the thing Tura wore on her wrist abruptly vanished as her forearm collided with the tunnel wall. “Dammit, Fry!”

“What did I do?” The delivery boy whined.

Tura, unable to come up with anything, just muttered something under her breath.

“Are you alright?” Fry asked, his hurt feelings immediately forgotten. It was pitch dark now, and Fry had to fumble his way the half dozen feet or so to Tura’s side with nothing more than the woefully inadequate blue glow cast by the tiny screen on his cell phone.

Tura was cradling her right arm with her left. She looked angrier than hurt.

“I think I’ll survive.” She said drily. ”Get that cell phone out of my face.”

Fry withdrew slightly. “Sorry.”

Tura grunted dismissively. “I don’t think it's broken.”

“What, your arm or the thing you wear on your wrist?”

“Either one.” Tura replied. “Shine the light on the wristcomp so I can see what it looks like.”

Fry obliged. The little computer had a nasty dent running down its length.

“Damn.” Tura randomly tapped a few buttons with her left hand, but the thing didn’t respond. “This is why I don’t buy American anymore. Anybody else have a li-”

What happened next occurred much too quickly for Fry’s brain to process. Tura reached for a small button set into the face of her wrist computer that would allow her to take it off, but the motion was never carried through all the way. Instead, Tura jumped about two feet into the air. Fry never even saw the roundhouse kick to the side of the head coming. By the time he’d even interpreted the information that he was flying through the air, he’d already struck the tunnel wall and was in the process of sliding into the sludge like a damp rag into a swimming pool.

“Fry, wake up!”

The delivery boy’s eyes fluttered open. “Ungh. What happened?” He moaned. “I feel like I got hit by a flying cement mixer.” There was a tremendous throbbing pain right above his left temple. He was sitting up to his waist in dirty water with his back against the tunnel wall. Apparently he hadn’t been out long, since no one had tried to move him yet. There was a brilliant white light shining on him; the source soon coalesced into Bender’s familiar shape. Oh right, his eyes light up. Why didn’t we remember that before? Next to the robot were Aimee and Tura. Tura was bent over him and had a hand on his knee. She wore one of the guiltiest expressions that he’d ever seen.

“I’m so sorry.” Tura was saying. “I didn’t know it was you. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I swear.”

“What do you mean, you didn’t know it was me?” Fry replied doubtfully and with a little anger now that he was remembering what had just happened to him. “We were in the middle of a conversation!”

“Not quite.” Aimee said, and, for some reason, Tura held up her ponytail for him to see, as if that explained absolutely anyth-

Comprehension dawned. Tura wears her hair down. “Leela?!”

The cyclops nodded, holding up her hands to quiet him. “Don’t ask how. I don’t have a clue. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I think so.” He said after looking himself over. It’s not like you haven’t kicked me in the head before. I’m getting used to it. Leela offered him a hand and, with her help, he managed to regain his feet.

“So, you and Tura are swapping places again? Is that why I just got kicked in the face?”

“Looks like it.” Leela nodded. “All I know is that, one moment, I’m in Old New York helping Phil search for food, and then, all of the sudden, I’m standing in the dark with some shadowy figure standing next to me. I don’t know what could’ve changed that would let us swap places again. We’ll have to tell the Professor as soon as we can.”

I bet I know what changed. Fry thought. We’re all in the same timeline now. Wow, I feel dizzy all of the sudden.

“So, what are we-” Leela grabbed Fry around the waist as the delivery boy began to fall over. Apparently he wasn’t quite as unfazed as he claimed. “-doing in the sewers? Did you guys get lost trying to visit my parents, or something?”

Fry looked to Aimee in surprise. Leela doesn’t know that we’re in the Beta Timeline? “Didn’t you guys tell her?” He asked.

Aimee shook her head. “Haven’t had time to yet.”

“But you just volunteered.” Bender added.

“Tell me what?” Leela asked. “Are we in the sewers for some other reason?”

“Uhh, well, yes and no.” Fry replied. “We were sorta in the sewers to go see Tura’s parents… and you.”

Leela cocked her head, unknowingly parroting Tura’s earlier look of confusion on the bridge of the Planet Express ship. “But Tura’s parents are in the beta timeline like I was.”

Fry nodded.

There was a slight pause. “Which means you wouldn’t find them by going into the sewers back home.”

Again, Fry nodded.

Another pause. “Which means we’re not in the sewers back home, are we?”

Fry shook his head.

Leela digested that for a moment. “Huh. Well, that might explain why Tura and I are switching places again. So, the Professor found a way to send people from one timeline to another?”

“Yes!” Aimee replied. “Which means you’ll finally get to go home, Leela.”

“I can’t go home. Not yet. There have been a few changes to the situation since the last time either of you have been over here.”

“I was here last night.” Fry said. “I almost fell off a cliff, and you wouldn’t tell me what was going on.” He wasn’t quite able to keep the accusation out of his voice.

Leela blinked. “That was you? I thought Phil just was being clumsy and couldn’t keep his mouth shut like I told him too. I’ve been yelling at him about that all day.”

Fry nodded. And he didn’t tell you that he was in the other timeline? And wait a sec, if Phil was in the alpha timeline while I was with Leela, then what was he doing all that time? I was still in Tura’s apartment when we switched places!

“If you were here, then I guess you saw that we were retreating into the old city.” Leela said.

“Yeah. Why? What happened?”

“I’ll bet is has something to do with Zapp trying to kill us.” Amy grumbled.

“The DOOP saw you?” Leela suddenly grew tense. “Do they have any idea where you went?”

Bender made an offended noise. “Saw us? Yeah, they saw us. They saw us right into a crater in the middle of Central Park.”

Leela, now realizing that maybe she didn’t have her priorities straight, grimaced a little. “Sorry. Is everyone alright?” Clearly, everyone was, minus the welt sprouting from the side of Fry’s forehead, but it still should have been the first thing she’d asked.

“We’re alright.” Amy said. “The Nimbus came at us out of nowhere, but Tura managed to get away by flying us back to Earth so we could land and hide.”

Leela jerked in surprise. Fry, who still had one of her arms around his waist to hold him up, was yanked about like a limp ragdoll. “Wait, you have a ship?!” The cyclops exclaimed. “Where is it?!”

Fry carefully extracted himself from Leela’s iron grip. He didn’t need the support anymore, and, although Leela seemed not to have remembered it yet, things between them were a little too awkward for him to be comfortable being that close to her.

“Well, uh, maybe ‘land’ isn’t the right word.” Aimee said hesitantly.

“You kidding? Wiggles over there has caused crashes that weren’t that bad.” That was Bender, of course.

“Hey!” Fry protested.

Now Leela looked annoyed. “Just answer my question! Do we have a ship, or don’t we?”

“It’s pretty smashed up.” Aimee replied, undaunted as ever by Leela’s tone. The woman seemed to have made it a hobby to be oblivious to her captain’s anger. “We had to run, so I didn’t get to look at the damage, but it’s crawling with DOOP soldiers by now, so we can’t get to it anyway.”

Leela seemed to deflate a little at the news, which Fry found a little disconcerting. “Why is having a ship so important?” The delivery boy asked.

“Because the mutants can’t hide in Old New York forever. Things are… not going well. If we don’t find a way off the planet soon…” She fell silent, apparently unable to complete the thought.

“Leela, what happened here?” Aimee asked gently. The switch from clueless airhead to sympathetic friend was so sudden and so complete that it left Fry wondering if one of them might possibly be an act. The million dollar question was, of course, which one.

Leela tried as best she could to keep her emotions in check while she explained what had occurred over the last couple days. She was more or less successful, although she couldn’t help but choke up a little when she described the solemn march out of the village. All those mutants that stayed… I wonder what happened to them?

“So you found a way from the sewers into the ruins of Old New York, and now you’re hiding there?” Aimee asked. “The DOOP hasn’t found you?”

“The mutants don’t really go into the old city much,” Leela replied. “But there are ways to get down there when they- we- want. We took one down into what used to be Manhattan. So far, the DOOP hasn’t figured out where we’ve gone, and I’m sure that finding the Planet Express Ship flying around past the orbit of the Moon will have them even more confused, especially when they remember that there is another ship sitting in the hangar back at Planet Express. But, even if that buys us a little time, it’s only a matter of time before somebody starts going over Old New York with a fine toothed comb.”

Something made a dull splash a long way down the tunnel from which Fry, Aimee, and Bender had come. It could have been anything: a harmless sewer owl, a piece of concrete falling from the crumbling ceiling… In the darkness there was no way to know. Still, it made the hairs on Leela’s neck stand up. We’ve been here too long.

“Should we, umm, be going somewhere?” Fry whispered as he nervously cast a glance over his shoulder in the direction of the sound.

“Yeah.” Leela said slowly. “Yeah, I think so.” She gestured for Bender to cut off his spotlights, then cursed when the much dimmer light on her wrist computer didn’t activate.

“Why is my wrist light not working?” she hissed. “Bender, turn on your eye lights again, but keep them on low.”

The robot complied. Just as Leela motioned for her crew to follow her there was another splash, closer this time. Later, she would realize that she’d let herself over react. DOOP soldiers wouldn’t be sneaking around in the dark like bogeymen. They’d be well lit, and making enough noise to be heard a mile off. Some primal fear had overwhelmed her sensibility at that moment, and her imagination conjured up all sorts of shadowy figures hiding just beyond the dim pool of light that surrounded them like a shield. Or a beacon.

Nothing sinister attacked them as Leela led her friends deeper into the sewers. She soon began to recognize tunnels. We’re almost at the village! She realized. Tura must have been leading Fry, Aimee, and Bender there. She couldn’t help but be a little annoyed that no one had bothered to tell her that. She wouldn’t have let them stand around and talk for as long as they had if she’d known they were only a couple blocks from the town, which was no doubt still crawling with DOOP soldiers. She briefly thought about changing direction and heading for the relative safety of the old city, but, in the end, she couldn’t make herself do it. She had to know what had happened.

The four of them emerged from the tunnel through which the mutants’ sewage lake overflowed. It was the same tunnel that they’d taken when their hunt for Nibbler had led them to the mutants so many years earlier. Thankfully, the sewage was much shallower this time, as all of the demolition occurring elsewhere in the sewer had diverted much of the flow.

The mutant village looked to be fairly intact. Leela had expected scorched Earth, gutted houses, and fires burning unchecked across the town. Zapp Brannigan did not use the term ‘fire bombing’ as a figure of speech. She sensed Kif’s work.

The streets of the village were clear. Leela cautiously led her band down one of the main arteries that bisected the village, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. Here and there a window was broken, or a door kicked in. A discarded combat helmet and a handful of wrappers that Leela recognized from her brief stint as a soldier as coming from an MRE lay forlornly on a street corner. There was none of the senseless carnage that was inevitably produced by men operating under the orders of Zapp Brannigan. It looks like the DOOP swept the town, realized that we’d already gone, and then left. The question, of course was why.

“Leela.” Fry whined from the rear. “I don’t like it here. It’s creepy.”

It always amazed Leela how Fry’s brain worked. Whereas she had to systematically think through a situation, considering the ramifications of every minute detail with which she was presented before coming to a conclusion based on logic and experience, Fry seemed to work on instinct alone. If she asked him why the town was creepy- after all, he’d spent so much time in it lately that, by now, it had to almost feel like home to him- he would undoubtedly have no answer. But, somehow, without even knowing how he’d done it, he’d come to the same conclusion that she had.

Something’s off. Leela told herself. The town shouldn’t be deserted. Most likely, the DOOP, having found the town more or less abandoned and unable to figure out where the mutants had gone, were waiting for their quarry to come blundering back into their arms. Which is precisely what we’re doing. Leela admonished herself. You’re stupid for coming here.

“Fry’s right.” Leela said to her companions. “This has ‘trap’ written all over it. I’ll bet a couple of these buildings are less deserted than they look. Let’s get out of here before we get ourselves shot.”

Leela led her friends down a side street, through a dirt lot, and then across a wide boulevard to the safety of a sewer tunnel that would lead them to an entrance into the old city. She called a halt several times and waited silently for the sound of pursuit, but there was nothing.

Fry found himself on yet another grueling march through knee-deep sludge. By this point, Fry was exhausted, soaking wet, and freezing cold. He could tell from her look of pure misery that Aimee was in as bad a shape, but neither of them had energy to waste trying to complain to Leela. Even Bender, who hadn’t had any alcohol to fuel his power cells since that morning, had gone quiet to save energy. In the almost total darkness, with the tunnels stretching away into the distance, the only sound the steady sloshing of the water as they moved through it, Fry’s mind began playing tricks on him. He started seeing shapes and colors, even entire shadowy figures out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to look, however, they were always gone.

Finally, the tunnel turned a corner and dead-ended at a sealed metal hatch. Fry took one look at the thing and felt his heart sink, but Leela put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t worry.” She said. “We didn’t make a wrong turn. Hatches like this one keep sewer water from flooding the ruins.” The PE Captain began running her hand along the tunnel wall a few feet from the hatch. “The lever should be… Ah, here we go.” Her hand disappeared into a small alcove that was hidden in shadow. She apparently found what she was looking for, because she gave a forceful yank, and something protested loudly with the sound of rusty metal being forced into motion. The hatch squealed and groaned, but the four of them together managed to get it open far enough to let them squeeze through.

To Fry’s surprise, the space on the other side of the hatch was brightly lit. His eyes, accustomed to the paltry light given off by the lamps built into Bender’s eyes, were momentarily overwhelmed by the glare.

“Oh yeah, sorry.” Leela said. “I forgot to mention, the DOOP installed lights in the ceiling above the ruins, probably so they could search for us easier. They don’t know for sure that the mutants are hiding here, but they’ve had a few patrols around all day looking. We shouldn’t stay in the open long.”

It took a moment for Leela’s words to reach Fry, distracted as he was by the spectacle that surrounded him. New York City- his home- was laid out before him, still breathtaking even in its state of near total decay. This was the first time that he’d seen the ruins lit in any meaningful way, and the sight of what was still recognizable as the old skyline was so heartbreaking that it almost brought him to tears. He was standing on what had once been a high-rise office building, but had long since tipped over and fallen against the wall that had been built around the old city. The resulting pile of twisted wreckage served as a steep ramp that led from the sewer hatch down to street level. Directly in front of him were a handful of apartment buildings that had survived better than most. They partially blocked his view of the towering behemoth that was the Empire State, one of only a handful of buildings to survive the third millennium intact. It’s not right. Fry thought as he took in the scene. They shouldn’t have let this happen to New York. It’s not right.

Leela was about to scold Fry for not paying attention, but, when she saw the emotion in his eyes she understood. While Aimee and Bender nervously watched the street below for soldiers, Leela waited for Fry come back to her from wherever it was that he’d gone. When his eyes refocused at last, he looked at her, nodded curtly, and followed her quickly down to the street.

There was no way that any of them could have known, but the rotting skyscraper that the mutants were using as a hideout was aptly chosen. The tall, twisting obelisk of glass and steel was none other than New York’s old Freedom Tower, still standing proud amidst the rubble. Now Leela found herself leading a second band of refugees into the protection of its colossal shadow.

Leela and her crew had made it through the mile or so of broken city streets completely uncontested. The DOOP patrols had seemingly disappeared. Finding Tura in Earth orbit probably confused Zapp to no end. Leela thought. The image of him giving himself a hernia trying to figure out how the Planet Express ship could be under guard at Planet Express and yet, at the same time, be at the bottom of a smoldering crater in the middle of Central Park brought a rare smile to her lips. That confusion will buy us some time.

The Freedom Tower looked deserted, which was, of course, the whole point. It was only when Leela and her group got within a few dozen feet that two shadows detached themselves from the gaping thirty-foot hole that served as an entrance and moved to intercept them. The two sentries were Vyolet and Dwayne, and they looked very confused.

Vyolet waved in greeting and tucked the pistol that Leela had loaned her into the strip of torn fabric that she was using as a belt. Leela waved back. “Hi Vy, hi Dwayne. We’re back.”

Vyolet and Dwayne exchanged puzzled looks. Leela had been out with Phil to hunt through the nearby buildings for supplies when she and Tura had swapped places. For now, the plan was not to give away that there was two of everybody. Until both PE crews had had a chance to come up with a plan of action, telling the mutants about the whole parallel timeline thing would just make an already complicated situation that much worse. Of course, there was always the chance that Tura had already told everyone what was going on, but the body language of the two mutants that were standing in front of Leela gave no sign that they knew what was really going on.

“Uhh… Leela? How did you get back outside?” Vyolet asked

Leela feigned confusion. “Back outside? What do you mean?”

“After you came back from scouting for food with Philip.” Dwayne replied. “We didn’t see you leave again after that.”

Leela’s nodded to herself. She’d expected something like this. If they think they’ve seen Fry and me come through here in the last few hours, then that means they really saw Tura and Phil. “Uhh, Bender found another way out of the building. It’s well hidden; I’m sure nobody saw us leave.”

That seemed to satisfy Dwayne, but Vyolet seemed to be about to ask another question. Leela quickly cut her off. “Do either of you guys know where my parents are?” She asked. “I need to talk to them.”

Vyolet shrugged. “I haven’t seen them since you, Philip, your parents, and Raoul disappeared into that little conference room by the elevator shafts. I really thought you were all still in there.”

“Maybe we are.” Leela muttered.


“Nothing. Come on guys.” Leela gestured for Fry, Aimee, and Bender to follow her into the building. After everyone had passed she turned back to Vyolet and gestured to the weapon that lay at her hip. “Sorry, Vy, but I think I’m going to need that back now.”

“Why, is something wrong?”

Leela smiled darkly. “Ask me again in an hour.” She said, before disappearing into the building.

It was worse than she’d expected, finally meeting Tura face-to-face. Even having met her parallel-universe self once before, there was just no way that she could prepare herself for opening a door and finding herself on the other side. It was simply a situation that the human brain was not equipped to deal with.

Equipped for it or not, there really hadn’t been much of a choice, so, swallowing her misgivings, Leela had opened the door to the room that Vyolet had pointed out to her. On the other side, she found Tura, her parents, Raoul, Phil, Amy, the Professor, Hermes, and Bender all sitting on the floor huddled in a half-circle around a small camp-lantern, which was the room’s only illumination. With Leela blocking the doorway, Fry and Aimee had to lean in over her shoulders to see into the room. When the two groups laid eyes on each other, they froze. No one spoke for a good thirty seconds before Leela finally took the initiative and stepped forward into the pool of lamp light. Tura stood and faced her, and the two women regarded each other.

To anyone else, Tura’s face would have been an inscrutable mask, but, to Leela, it was an open book. She read anger, fear, and just a hint of shame in Tura’s expression, and couldn’t help but wonder what Tura was reading in hers.

The tension in the room had risen to the point that it could have been cut with a knife. Everyone was waiting for the two Leelas to make the next move. And what’s it going to be? Leela wondered silently. I’ll let her choose. Leela was now wearing her pistol at her waist. She truly hoped that she wouldn’t need it, but it was there, just in case things got out of hand. At least Tura seemed to be unarmed.

Finally, the silence was broken. With what was clearly a colossal effort, Tura smiled and held out a hand. “It’s good to finally meet you” she said with a tightness that rendered her words hollow. “We have a lot to talk about.”

The moment that Leela’s hand touched Tura’s, both women experienced a jolt almost like a mild electric shock. For the slightest of instants, there was a sensation of being in two places at once followed by a wave of vertigo, and then nothing.

Leela blinked in surprise at what had just happened, but her counterpart was unfazed as she withdrew her hand.

“According to your Professor, that’ll stop us from jumping into each other’s bodies again.” Tura explained.

Fry, Aimee, and Bender waited to make sure that nothing else unexpected was going to happen, and then cautiously made their way into the room. Tura retook her seat in the middle of her group, and the newcomers sat down across from her, effectively completing the ring that surrounded the lantern.

Leela waited for Tura to say something, but soon realized that Tura was herself waiting for Leela to start. Why is it that we’ve wanted to rip each other’s heads off for weeks, and now that we finally meet, neither of us can even figure out what to say?

“Well, now that everybody’s decided not to kill each other, I suggest we figure out what to do next.”

It was Hermes that had spoken. Leela turned toward the Jamaican and wished she had the proper equipment to raise an eyebrow. Hermes was sitting up straight with his hands clasped in front of him as if he was about to give the morning mission briefing.

“Easy.” Tura replied coolly. She nodded in Leela’s direction. “She goes home.”

“Now, Tura, we talked about this.” Munda replied soothingly. “Leela did the best she could.

Tura shot her mother an annoyed look. “Mom, why do you insist on defending her?! She got you all kicked out of your homes, and now the DOOP is trying to hunt you down like animals!”

The words hit Leela in the chest like a fist. Fry saw her cringe and felt his anger start to rise. No one talked about his Leela that way. Not even his… other… Leela… This is going to give me a headache. Hey, that’s not fair!” He protested.

“Isn’t it?” Tura spat. “Look at us.” She said, gesturing around the room. “We’re sitting huddled around a lantern in an abandoned building, waiting for someone in a tank to come crashing through the front door! Don’t tell me it isn’t fair!”

Much to Fry’s surprise, Leela immediately jumped to his defense. “Don’t you yell at Fry!” she growled. “You don’t have the right! Besides, you’re mad at me; he didn’t do anything wrong, and you know it!”

“Actually, you know what? You’re absolutely right.” Tura replied as she leaned in over the lamp. “I’m not mad at Fry. And I certainly wouldn’t want him to get caught in the middle of our fight. Maybe I should just kick your big fat ass now so we can all move forward, hmm?”

Leela crossed her arms and rolled her eye. “Yeah, right, because you’re so far above using Fry to fight your battles. And it’s your fat ass too, big-nose.” Okay, weak comeback.

The insult may have been weak, but even a meager attack can be effective if it hits a sensitive enough target. Tura’s eye flashed, and it was only with clear effort that she kept herself from leaping across the room at Leela’s throat. “Hey, that’s not fair either, Leela.” Fry said tentatively. He was beginning to realize how precarious his situation was becoming. The two Leelas looked like they were going to tear each other apart at any moment, and he had ended up thrust right into the middle of it.

Off to Fry’s left, one of the Bender’s tapped the other on the shoulder. “Hey buddy, check it out. Fry’s girlfriend and his nanny are going to kill each other!”

The other Bender laughed. “Yeah. I got twenty bucks riding on the girlfriend!”

Leela whirled on the robots. “I do not act like Fry’s nanny!” There was a beat before the cyclops added: “And she’s not his girlfriend!”

“Pfft, yeah. I’m sure there was some other reason why Fry spent all of last night in Tura’s apartment.” Bender retorted, high-fiving his double.

“Bender!” Fry hollered. But it was too late. The damage was done.

Leela’s eye swiveled and bored into Fry’s head in the terrifyingly dangerous way that only an angry woman can seem to manage. The delivery boy tried to meet her gaze, but the weight of her accusation was too much. He looked down at the ground.

“You- you slept with her?” Leela couldn’t quite bring herself to believe it. She felt as if someone had come along and sucked all of the air out of the room. It was as if she was suffocating. How could he do that to me? She wondered. How could he sleep with her? Doesn’t he know that- can he really be so dense that he doesn’t realize that I- That we…?

“I- I can’t tell you.” Fry mumbled, still staring down at the dirty concrete floor. “I made a promise.”

“You can’t tell me?!” Leela repeated incredulously. “You’d damn well better believe you’re going to tell me!” Leela’s anger was starting to rise to the boiling point, smoothly covering any sign that she’d been wounded at all.

“He didn’t.” Fry’s voice replied. But it wasn’t Fry that was speaking, it was Phil. “He didn’t sleep with her, I mean.”

Everyone looked at Phil in surprise. Fry felt his pulse quicken. How much did his duplicate know about the night before? What exactly had happened while Fry had been in the beta timeline?

“What? Phil, how do you know what happened?” Leela asked.

“Because I was there!” Phil replied. “Ever since this whole mess started you guys all kinda forgot about me.” His eyes lingered on Tura to drive home the point. The cyclops’s gaze slid away uneasily at the accusation. “Everything’s been ‘Fry’ this and ‘Tura’ that, but I’m here too!” Another pointed look in Tura’s direction.

Fry watched Tura react to Phil’s accusations. She was trying her best to hide whatever it was that she was feeling, but she turned bright red when she saw that Fry was watching her. The delivery boy gave her a confused look. Why is she embarrassed? He wondered. We didn’t do anything that should embarrass her. I never made a move, and she never… well, nothing happened. I don’t even understand why she asked me to keep this secret in the first place.

Since Phil had spilled the beans anyway, it seemed to Fry that it was probably safe for him to open his mouth. He knew Leela well enough to know that she’d always be suspicious that something had happened between him and Tura unless he swore otherwise a few times. He was in the middle of deciding exactly what to say when he caught a change in Tura’s expression. The embarrassment had abruptly changed to something else. Her eye opened a little wider, and her mouth opened slightly. Her eye darted in Phil’s direction, and then locked on Fry. The color slowly drained out of her face.

Before Fry could say anything, Amy, who had remained oblivious to what Fry had just witnessed, turned to Phil in surprise. “Wait, you were in Tura’s apartment last night?” She asked. “But you and Fry couldn’t have been there at the same time, so how could you know what happened?”

Leela caught Tura mouth the words “Oh no.” She looked like she was going to be sick, and with a sudden certainty, Leela knew exactly what had transpired. She offered, but Fry refused. Except, it wasn’t the Fry that she thought it was.

With a jolt, Leela realized that Phil was about to answer Amy’s question. Fry will die if he finds out! Before the delivery boy could say anything, Leela jumped in. “It doesn’t matter how he knows.” She said quickly. “But if Phil says he can vouch for Fry, then I believe him.”

“Uhh, Leela, that doesn’t make any sense.” Aimee protested. When faced with withering stares from two Leelas at once, however, she quickly added “I’ll just, ah, shut up now.”

Oddly enough, the revelation that Tura had wanted to sleep with Fry- and had almost actually done it with Phil- did more to defuse the situation than to make it worse. The two Leelas withdrew into themselves while each tried to get a handle on the situation. The others knew that they had missed something significant, though not a one of them knew exactly what. Nor did they particularly care, as long as it meant that the chances of the room erupting into laser fire had decreased somewhat. So while the two Leelas mainly sat staring at the floor, one looking horrified and the other grim (and just a tiny bit spiteful), the conversation continued around them.

After everyone had finally caught up with what was going on in whichever timeline he or she hadn’t been to recently, the matter of what to do next arose again. No one that had been part of the supposed ‘rescue mission’ was really clear on what the plan had been once they’d actually gotten to the beta timeline. Getting there had been the priority, and then they’d been too busy dodging the DOOP and trying to find the mutants to worry about what was going to happen afterward.

The whole purpose of the mission was supposedly to fix the reality jumping problem and send everyone that was originally from the alpha timeline back home. The first of those two objectives had already been accomplished. A simple handshake between duplicates seemed to have been enough physical contact to put an end to it. The trouble was that no one present from the alpha timeline, except for Bender, whose opinion didn't count for much, could quite bring themselves to proclaim mission success and walk away. Over the past month, the beta timeline had become just as much home to them as to their duplicates. They’d made friends with the mutants and with their crewmates from the beta timeline; they couldn’t just leave, not now. Not that there was much of a choice, really. The only way back into the alpha timeline was with the device that they’d brought with them. There had been no time to find it after the crash. No doubt it was still somewhere at the bottom of the crater that the Planet Express Ship had dug into the turf of Central Park.

If going home wasn’t an option, then neither was staying. The mutants had needed someone that could lead alongside Raoul, someone that was familiar with the surface world and yet that they could still trust. Tura had been that person. Unfortunately, Tura had, until now, been stuck in an alternate timeline, and Leela had had to take her place. Other than Tura’s parents, only Raoul- and he only at Leela’s insistence- had been told that Leela wasn’t quite who she was pretending to be. Most likely, it would have been safe to tell anyone that had known the Turangas even remotely well what was really going on, but the mutants as a whole would never have agreed to take advice from someone that wasn’t even from their reality. It had been easy enough to keep the secret thus far, but no one could help but notice that Tura and three of her friends from the surface suddenly each had identical twins. And when they found out, they were not likely to be very pleased about it.

“Da way I see it, everyone from de other timeline will have to go.” Hermes said. “Unless anyone ‘as a good idea for explainin' dis to everybody.”

No one did. “We can’t just leave!” Fry protested. “Where would we even go? We don’t have a ship, and that briefcase doohickey that sends us home is gone!”

“Nobody wants you to leave, Fry.” Aimee assured the delivery boy. But, if you stay here, the mutants will probably kick all of us out, and then what will we do?”

“Ooh, I could teach you how to take care of your hair!” Amy offered excitedly. “We have got to do something about that blonde... thing on your head.”

Aimee’s eyes flared. Whatever her response was, it was in the wrong language for anyone but Amy to understand. From the way Amy had looked down at herself, Leela guessed that, whatever Aimee had said, it had something to do with her double’s grime-soaked pink sweatsuit. That seemed a bit odd though, considering that Aimee was dressed in an identical suit that was soaked in sewage from seam to seam.

As the two Martian interns’ contribution to the group deteriorated into a string of insults that Bender would have found impressive had he been able to understand them, the others tried to think.

Presently, Leela stirred. “You know, I just might know how to get us all out of this.” She said, nodding to herself. “Yeah.” She laughed. “I can’t quite believe it, but I really think I do.”

Tura gave her a distasteful look. “And what part of this situation is it exactly that you can possibly find funny?”

Leela was too distracted to react to the insult. “I was just thinking, we can’t all stay here, whether the mutants accept that there’s two of everybody or not. You and I have… issues to deal with, the Amys are already screaming at each other, and it probably won’t be long before the Frys are too. The only thing keeping the Benders from ripping each other’s arms off like a couple of titanium wookies is their love for anything that reminds them of themselves, and that’ll wear off the moment one of them steals a beer from the other. We’ll all probably be trying to kill our respective duplicates before too much longer.”

Phil and Fry looked at each other, wondering.

“Leela, I’m afraid I don’t see where this is going.” Raoul interrupted.

“Don’t you get it?” Leela replied enthusiastically. “That’s exactly how we’ll fix this! By trying to kill each other!”

“Leela!” Munda gasped in horror.

“Uhh, Leela, I’m not sure that really solves our problems…” Phil pointed out. The others just sort of looked at each other uneasily.

“Wait, I actually think I see where Leela is going with this.” Tura said slowly. She nodded. “I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but yes, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’ll just have to make sure we tell Kif what’s really going on.”

“Of course.” Leela replied.

“By Jah!” Hermes shouted in exasperation. “Are you two looney toons plannin’ on telling us what you’re talkin’ about, or should we just go find the doctor and ask for a couple of strait jackets?”

“Sorry, Hermes.” Leela apologized. “I was thinking earlier about how confused Zapp would have been if he’d broken down the front door, and found Tura and me trying to poke each other full of laser holes.” She gestured toward her duplicate. “It just occurred to me a few seconds ago that we could use that confusion to our advantage.”

“How?” Fry asked.

“Easy.” Tura said. “The DOOP thinks the mutants are being led by some sinister mutant terrorist, right? And that I’m her?”

Fry nodded.

“Well, then we’ll give them their mutant terrorist.” She gestured at Leela. The two women met each other’s eye, and, just for that moment, forgot any animosity that they had for each other.

Whatever tenuous bonds of mutual respect might have been growing between the two Leelas, the bonds that kept the others’ sanity from evaporating into smoke were slowly starting to fray. Leela saw the looks of total confusion and decided to take pity on her friends.

“It’s like this,” she explained. “The government thinks that Tura is leading some kind of mutant uprising against the upper city. The fact that she’s not, and that she couldn’t even if she wanted to, doesn’t matter. The news has them all pumped up on fear, which blew up into full on hysteria when they found the Professor’s doomsday devices. They’re not going to stop hunting the mutants until the ‘mutant leader’ and her ‘co-conspirators’ from Planet Express are hunted down, captured, or killed.”

“What’s a coke-on-spear-ator?” Fry and Phil asked at the same time. No one paid them any attention.

Without missing a beat, Leela continued. “But, what if the mutant leader isn’t who we all think she is? What if it turns out she’s an evil imposter from another timeline trying to destabilize the government for some sort of evil, moustache-twitching invasion?”

“Wait.” Farnsworth said. It was the first thing that the scientist had said since Leela and the others had arrived. No one had even realized that the old scientist was paying attention to what was going on.

The Professor coughed once before continuing. “Let me make sure I understand what you’re advocating, here.”

“Professor, whatever Leela’s plan is, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve avocadoes.” Amy said gently.

“Uh, right, moving along.” Tura shook her head in exasperation. “What Leela and I are planning-” there was a marked emphasis on the I- “is to trick the DOOP into thinking that Leela and her crew are the ones that are responsible for everything. Once we convince them, my crew and the mutants will help ‘capture’ Leela’s crew-”

“-And, even though Fry, Amy, Bender and I will slip back into our own timeline right before we can be captured, Tura and the mutants will have saved the day,” Leela concluded.

Something in Tura’s expression hardened momentarily when Leela included Fry’s name in the list of people that would be going, but it quickly vanished. “With a little help from Kif to keep the top DOOP brass too distracted to ask questions, we might even be able to convince the Mayor that the mutants helped save the city. They’d be hard-pressed to try and kick us out after that.”

An hour passed while they fleshed out the plan. Gradually, members of the two crews wandered away from the circle around the lantern as Leela and Tura began, unintentionally, to dominate the conversation. The two cyclopses, excited by what they were planning, completely forgot for the moment that they hated each other.

Morris and Munda watched the two versions of their daughter. Later, this more than any other would be the part of the ordeal that would stick with them, seeing their daughter talking so freely and openly with another person, even if all they were discussing was war. Tura’s eye was bright and her posture relaxed. She and Leela sat hunched over the lantern talking in conspiratorial whispers. If they tried hard enough, Tura’s parents could almost believe that all of this mess was just a terrible dream, and that they were back home sitting in their front room, watching their daughter get to know her long-lost twin sister. Munda squeezed her husband’s hand. They both knew that this moment needed to be treasured, for it wouldn’t come again.

Hermes and LaBarbara eventually realized that they had no real need to continue to hang around, and left to go check on Dwight. They took Farnsworth with them. Aimee and Bender went off to find something to wash off the grime that had collected on them after their trek through the sewers and the ruins of the old city. Aimee suggested that Fry do the same, but the delivery boy just gave her a blank stare, confused. When the intern repeated herself, and Fry laughed, Munda shot the hapless redhead that look that is universal to mothers of all species. It had been years since Fry’s own mom had used it on him; he’d forgotten just how potent a force it could be.

“You know, I think I could use a shower after all.” Fry squeaked, backing toward the door.

When Fry got back from the most miserable bathing experience of his life, he found Phil sitting off to one side of the meeting room with his back pressed up against the wall. He was watching Tura and Leela whispering to each other. The lamplight cast very little illumination beyond a little pool in the center of the room, so Fry could barely make out his duplicate's face.

On impulse, Fry crossed the small room and plopped down next to Phil, startling the other delivery boy, who had been immersed in his version of deep thought.

“That was the worst shower, ever.” Fry declared matter-of-factly. He shivered dramatically to emphasize his point. “I think it was actually colder than that month where dad made me clean myself with snow because the commies were bugging the water supply.”

Phil nodded in sympathy. He’d used the ‘shower’ that morning. A thousand-year-old ruined skyscraper doesn’t have much in the way of water. Someone had managed to stumble across a pipe that trickled ice-cold, but relatively clean-looking, water from some unknown source high up in the ruin. “I know what it’s like.” Phil assured his double. “Leela made me take a shower right after we got here. Just be glad no one made you use any shampoo.”

“Sham what?” Fry asked, horrified.

Phil shuddered. “It’s some gross gel-stuff that the mutants invented, I guess. You don’t wanna know.”

After Fry’s brain processed that for awhile, he suddenly remembered why he’d gone over to join Phil in the first place. “So, umm, thanks for vouching for me back there.” Fry said after a short awkward silence.

“It’s okay.” Phil replied. “I know you would never have slept with Tura.”

Fry was taken aback. “I wouldn’t? Why not?”

“Same reason as why I would never sleep with Leela.”

Because she’s not your Leela, just like Tura isn’t my Leela. The thought crashed through Fry’s head like a drunk driver through a 7-11. He’d had this thought before, as he and Tura were walking home from their date at Elzar’s. It had confused him then, and it confused him again now. Why do I keep thinking that Tura isn’t my Leela? He asked himself. How long do I have to know Tura before she counts as ‘my’ Leela? And besides, Leela was never any more ‘mine’ than Tura is.

“I know what you’re thinking.” Phil murmured softly. “I’ve been trying to figure out the same thing- except, you know, the other way around.”

“Oh.” There was a beat while Fry realized that his double had just revealed that he had feelings for Leela. “What did you figure out?”

In response, Phil slid a few inches down the wall. “I dunno.” He admitted. “Remember those sandwich worms we had that one time? Remember how they made us smart?”

“Yeah. Man I wish I had a few of those right now. Then maybe some of this would make sense.”

Phil nodded in agreement.

Fry looked at his double out of the corner of his eye. “You know, I sorta thought that you were going to hate me when I got here.”

Phil seemed to think about that for a moment. “Huh. Actually, I kinda thought so too. But now that you’re here, I’m not mad at you. I guess I feel like you and Tura dating is sort of like Tura and I are dating I mean, we’re technically the same person, right?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” He didn’t show it on the outside, but inwardly Fry was incredibly relieved. He’d had no idea until that moment just how much he had been dreading meeting his alternate self and discovering that his duplicate hated him.

The two delivery boys fell silent then and soon found their eyes wandering in the direction of the Leelas. The two PE Captains were still ironing out their plan to dupe the DOOP. Fry and Phil both chuckled in unison when it occurred to them simultaneously that, whatever complicated plot the two Leelas were scheming up, it would never happen. In the delivery boys’ experiences, any so-called ‘battle plan’ disintegrated into confusion and chaos the moment anyone started shooting.

“She thinks you’re going to stay.” Phil said eventually, not looking at Fry.

Fry nodded, having only half-heard what had been said. When the words finally sank in, he gulped audibly. “I know.” He replied uneasily, turning toward Phil. “And Leela thinks I’m going to go back with her.”

“What are you gonna do?”

Fry thought about it a long time. He felt like he owed his duplicate a truthful answer. Lying to himself- himselves?- wasn't going to do him- them- whatever, any good. In the end, he gave up with a defeated sigh. “I don’t know.” His brain just wasn’t built for handling these kinds of situations. He could barely wrap his mind around what was happening, let alone clear his head enough to make life-changing decisions.

Several hours later, Leela lay in the dark with her back against the crumbling concrete of what they had dubbed the conference room. Whatever its original purpose had been, there was no way to know, but she found herself imagining what it might have looked like filled with its original inhabitants in their bizarre clothes, preparing for the next mammoth hunt, or whatever it was that people did back in the Stupid Ages. All that remained now were a few pieces of barely recognizable wood and some metal bits that were so badly rusted that their original purpose was a mystery. The only thing to remain intact was a small plastic bottle that Leela had discovered buried in the dust when she'd sat down. The plastic was badly degraded after so much time, but she could just barely make out the words 'Diet Coke' pressed into the bottle. She made a mental note to ask Fry about that later. She hadn't realized that there'd been such a drug problem back then.

The antimatter rifle that she'd taken with her during the evacuation of the mutant village sat casually at her hip as she sat facing the door. There had been no way to lock it, and barricading it would have raised questions. No one was likely to wander into this particular room, but Leela would have to stay alert all night in case she got unlucky. If somebody did happen to walk in on her and her crew, she would have to try and bluff her way out of it. If all else failed, she had her weapon. She'd never shoot one of her own people of course, but she could threaten to. Nobody had to know that the safety was on.

A dim glow crept in under the door and cast just enough illumination for her to make out Fry, Bender, and Amy. The robot looked to be fast asleep, but the intern and the delivery boy would toss and turn every once in awhile to try and get comfortable on the cold concrete floor. It occurred to her that this was the first time that the four of them had been together in a month.

Tura, her crew, the Farnsworths, and the Conrads had all retired to the rear of the building, where hundreds of cots originally made for refugees fleeing the sewer renovation had been repurposed for the evacuation. Leela would have done just about anything to crawl onto one of those cots right then, but the plan that she and Tura had cooked up required that everyone from the alpha timeline stay hidden until the next morning. For everything to work, there could be no question in the minds of the mutants who belonged to the 'good' Planet Express crew, and who was part of the 'evil' one.

The plan was a good one, she immodestly thought. They had a good chance of success. She just wished that she had been able to come up with something that didn't involve tricking the mutants into thinking she was evil. Everything depended on the DOOP seeing the mutants, led by Tura, chasing Leela and her crew through the streets. It had to look real, or the DOOP wouldn't buy it, and so it would be real, probably right down to rocks whizzing by her head. She was just grateful that she and Tura would be the only ones with actual weapons. Of course, Tura would have to take occasional potshots in Leela's direction in order to keep up appearances.

Let's just hope one of those 'potshots' doesn't 'accidentally' nail me in the back of the head. Leela thought, darkly. It wouldn't happen. Tura would know that her parents would never forgive her, and neither would Fry.

Fry. How could she have tried to sleep with him? Was she really that desperate to hurt me? It had been easy enough to imagine Tura as some sort of conniving little harpy-bot bent on her demise when they'd never even met, but now...

It was like looking into a mirror.

It was one thing to know intellectually that Tura was an exact duplicate right down to the cellular structure and thought patterns, but it was something entirely different to actually see it. Every minute detail of facial expression and body language was there, right down to the way that she cocked her head slightly when she was listening intently, or the way she tended to tap her fingers against her knee when she was thinking was duplicated by Tura. After an hour together, they'd even begun to finish each other's sentences like some old married couple. This was no strange person with incomprehensible motives.

Leela now found herself unable to believe that Tura had been using Fry to punish her for the simple reason that she herself could never have done such a thing in Tura's place. When she considered it, she could even imagine how, had things been different, she and Phil might have become very close. She just couldn't imagine how anything physical would have ever happened. Even after she's forced the shampoo on him.

What did Fry do that he didn't tell me about? Leela wondered. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he lay at the other end of the room. Abruptly, he rolled over on his side. His jacket made a soft scraping noise against the floor.

Fry had his flaws- he was childish at times, unmotivated, and not particularly bright- oh who was she kidding? She'd come across dark matter that was more luminous than he was- but, for all that, he was unfailingly loyal. Time after time he'd gone to the ends of the Earth (and well beyond, for that matter) for her. She wished she knew what he'd done for Tura- what he'd said- and found herself guessing how things would have been different if she'd given in, like Tura seemingly had, and acted on her feelings.

And, as dangerous as it was for her to admit it, even to herself, the feelings were there. Fry had done so many things for her over the years. There'd been the opera of course, and the weeks that he'd spent at her bedside while she was in a venom-induced coma. He'd tried to get her and Lars back together despite his own feelings in order to make her happy. He'd saved her from what would have been a disastrous marriage to that creep Alkazar, and he'd even saved her life a couple of times. She'd repaid all of it by dating a steady stream of slime balls, creeps, and lowlifes. She suspected that, by now, it probably felt to Fry like she genuinely enjoyed ripping his heart out and then stomping on it repeatedly. She hated doing that to him, and she hated herself for doing it, but she'd managed to convince herself time and time again that it was for the best, secure in the knowledge that Fry would never give up on her, and that there would always be time in the future for things to work out between them.

Things between Fry and Leela had always been complicated. When he'd first started to show an interest in her, she'd thought it was sweet, and hadn't taken it very seriously. After all, Fry's attention span was often rivaled by the owls that scuttled around in the basement of Planet Express. As time passed, however, it started to become clear that the delivery boy was serious, and she'd tried her best to discourage him. He was sweet, sure, but at the time she just couldn't have imagined a relationship with such a childish, unmotivated slob.

The trouble with Fry was that he was so endearing, and, as every day passed, she found herself a little less put off by the idea of the two of them together. Then Fry had written her that opera, and suddenly things had come into focus. Fry had poured every ounce of his being into that piece of music, and, minus the unexpected solo from the robotic prince of darkness, it had all been for her. He'd professed his love several times before that, but the opera was where she'd finally understood that he meant it. What she hadn't been ready for was the revelation that she loved him too.

Leela had never been very good at dealing with her emotions. Endless torment by her peers had forced her to suppress them until she'd come to- subconsciously, at least- associate any emotion that didn't help her kick somebody else's ass as a weakness that could be exploited. Being in love left her vulnerable. It didn't matter that Fry was probably the last person that would ever intentionally hurt her.

What separated Fry from anyone else in her life that had gotten too close was his own peculiar brand of stubbornness. He never gave up. It didn't matter how many times that Leela, in her state of denial, did something to hurt him. He just rolled with the punches, and he was still there when the latest prick left her for the nearest woman with two eyes. So, finally, after years of pretending that she was a heartless bitch who wanted nothing to do with him, he'd finally started to break through her defenses and, after what had happened between her and Lars, she'd been forced to at least acknowledge to herself how she felt.

Unfortunately for both of them, Leela still had one reason left that she was clinging to that kept her from giving in to Fry's relentless onslaught of gentle advances. The idea that she might be romantically involved with a member of her crew immediately conjured up memories of a dozen circumstances where her job had put her and her crew in a situation that required her to make split-second decisions that could easily result in someone's death. Could she really order Fry to do something that would put him at risk if she allowed herself to give in to the feelings that she had for him? Could she trust herself to make the logical, unemotional decisions upon which depended the lives of the entire crew? She just wasn't sure. And if something did happen- if somebody other than Fry died- she'd spend the rest of her life wondering if it had happened because she'd played favorites.

Since Lars's death, Leela had been justifying rejecting Fry because she did not plan to work at Planet Express for the rest of her life. With the career chip that she'd received from Professor Farnsworth and her many years of experience as a space captain, she'd have no trouble finding a better job. When the thrill of laser battles, time travel, and all of the other crazy things that she'd experienced working for Farnsworth finally started to wear off, she'd go find a nice, cushy job as a pilot for a cruise line, or maybe for one of those survey ships that charts unexplored star systems. And when her days as a glorified truck driver were over, and she was no longer responsible for Fry's life, she'd finally let her emotions sweep her away, in a careful, pre-planned sort of way, of course.

That had been her plan. Late at night, when she was at her weakest, she'd been able to keep herself from picking up the videophone and calling Fry by reminding herself that it would all work out. Calling would be a mistake. She just had to wait. But Tura had found a loophole in their plans, and, worse, it was beginning to look like all of her plans and excuses were nothing more than that same denial that she thought she'd finally discarded.

What if he decides to stay with her? It seemed impossible that he wouldn't. And Phil must be feeling so betrayed by now that he'll want to be as far away from Tura as possible. Leela tried to imagine Phil coming back with her to the alpha timeline. Somehow, it wouldn't be the same. She liked Phil, but he would be a constant reminder that, somewhere, somebody else was with her Fry.

Somehow I've got to convince him to come back with me. Leela told herself. Tura doesn't love Fry; she loves Phil. She's managed to convince herself that it doesn't matter which reality Fry is from as long as it means that she can be with him, but that will only last until Phil is gone and she realizes what she has done to him. I can't let her wreck all of our lives.

Unconsciously, her eye narrowed.

One way or the other, Fry is coming home with me.

Part VI: Desperation

It was a long, cold night. The ruins of Old New York were like a gigantic cave; the temperature was always a cool fifty degrees, and the air was permeated with a dampness that never seemed to quite go away. When he'd been moving around, it had seemed almost pleasant to Fry, but after a couple of hours of laying on his side on the concrete floor he could feel the heat leaching out of his body. In the end though, his discomfort wasn't enough to stave off sleep

He awoke to the sensation that a small truck had parked on his stomach. Fry tried to scream, but all that came out was a dull wheeze. He couldn't breathe! One of his arms was pinned under the massive chunk of what must have been debris that had fallen from the ceiling, but, in a state of panic, he clawed desperately at it with his other. The debris, for its part, didn't approve.

"Hey, what's the big idea?" Bender demanded as he rolled off of the delivery boy's stomach.

"Bender?!" Fry wheezed. "What... the hell...?"

The robot crossed his arms and gave Fry his best simulation of an offended look. "Sure, two humans share a little body heat and its perfectly fine, but when the robot tries to join in, he gets his eyes scratched out." With one hand, Bender unscrewed one of the tubes that functioned as his eyes and held it out for his other eye to inspect. After muttering something unintelligible, he placed the eye back in its socket.

"Body heat? Wha-?" But there was Amy right next to him, only half awake, blinking at the robot like he'd grown a second head.

Amy must have come over to lay next to me sometime last night to stay warm. Fry realized. "But Bender, you're a robot. you don't have any body heat."

This, of course, set off a whole new round of offended noises from the bending unit, who had no doubt intended for things to play out this way from the very beginning just so he could be the center of attention for a few minutes.

Unfortunately for Bender, Leela had been sitting at the other end of the room all night long, cold, sore, and wide awake. Any last trace of patience that she might have otherwise had for the robot's little games had vanished about the time Amy had stopped shivering and muttering under her breath and had gone to nestle next to Fry. It wasn't like she was jealous or anything. Somehow, she just felt that, if she had to sit there and freeze while she kept watch, then someone else should have to also. She'd spent a good chunk of the pre-dawn hours muttering words to pretty much just that effect while absently fidgeting with the safety mechanism of her rifle. But, in any case, rather than just waiting for Bender to get bored with his little game and shut himself up, she rose to her feet, grabbed her antimatter rifle, and walloped him over the head with it.

Fry and Amy both grimaced at the loud clang the rifle made when it hit Bender's skull. They could all clearly hear muffled voices coming from somewhere down the hall- no doubt from Tura setting their plan in motion- and getting caught in this room now would not be in any way pleasant.

Sure enough, there was a knock at the door a moment later. The three humans looked at each other nervously, and Leela leveled her weapon. Bender made a meek whimpering noise and tried to hide behind Fry.

The door opened a crack and an arm appeared, followed by Tura's father's familiar voice. "It's me." He whispered. "I'm going to come in, now. Nobody's going to shoot me, right?" There was a slight pause. "Right, Leela?"

Leela rolled her eye when Morris finally decided it was safe enough to take a cautious glance around the edge of the door. Not that an inch-thick imitation-wood door from a millennium earlier would have been much protection.

"Oh come on, dad. It's not like I'd shoot you. Anyway, I left the safety on-" She squeezed the trigger to demonstrate, and a pencil-thin ray of violet flashed from the weapon and buried itself in the wall with a puff of vaporized concrete. Everyone jumped about a foot into the air.

"Ohh, what do you know, this is the safety over here." Leela said sheepishly

The first phase of the plan that Leela and Tura had devised had been put into action late the night before. Aimee had called Kif and arranged for a DOOP surveillance drone to park itself over the street near the entrance to the mutants' hideout. She didn't tell him why the drone was needed, only that it would "answer a few questions".

Phase two had been a little trickier. When most of the mutants had awoken, Tura had wandered over to Vyolet and made the comment that she didn't like the ruin that they were hiding in.

"There's only one way in and out." Tura explained. "If the DOOP finds us, we're stuck."

Vyolet didn't give Tura the response that she'd hoped for. At least, not right away. Vy had already burned through her stash of cigarettes and was feeling the first twinges of withdrawal. The craving was distracting, and she wasn't really listening to what Tura was saying.

Tura wasn't about to give up. She'd been practicing this conversation all night long, and Vyolet was going to play the part that Tura had written for her in her head, whether she liked it or not. "If only there was a back door or something, so we could sneak away if we had to."

Vyolet nodded in irritation.

Still Tura pressed on. "Have you seen any other ways that we might be able to get out of here, you know, in an emergency?"

"How about that hidden back door you were using yesterday?" Vyolet snapped back. The moment the words came out it was obvious by her slightly shocked expression that Vyolet hadn't meant to say them that way, but she didn't apologize.

Bingo. Tura thought. "What are you talking about?" And, right on cue, Phil came sauntering up to join in the conversation.

"Yeah, what back door?" The delivery boy asked a little too eagerly. "Because we didn't find any back door yesterday that we could, like-" His voice cut out with a yelp as Tura stepped down hard on his foot.

"Wait, yes you did." Vyolet responded. Tura had finally managed to catch her full attention. "You and Phil came back from looking for supplies, but you left again later with Aimee and the robot. Remember? You came back through the front door a second time and asked me for your gun back? Dwayne and I were confused because we didn't know how you got back outside?"

Tura forced herself to speak a little more loudly. She wanted to make sure everyone heard what she was going to say next. "But Vy, that couldn't have happened. I never left the building after the first time I went out looking for supplies."

"Yeah, me neither." Phil added.

"W- what?" Vyolet stuttered. "Yes, you did. You both did. The first time you went out through the front door and you were carrying your big rifle, then you went back inside a few hours later. But then, a few hours after that, you came in through the front door again, and the second time you didn't have your gun with you."

"Wait a minute, Vy. That doesn't make sense. I would never have gone outside without something to defend myself. Especially not if I had three other people with me."

"But, but you did." the poor mutant insisted. "Didn't they, Dwayne?"

By now everyone in the crowded room was listening in on the conversation, including Dwayne. "Yes, that's how I remember it-" he said.

Inwardly, Tura was about to explode under the tension. Laser battles she could handle, but manipulating people was something that she just wasn't hardwired to be good at. It was too damned slow! Keep it together. She ordered herself.

Tura made a big show of stopping to think. "Tell me-" she said at length. "Did I seem nervous the second time you saw me?"

Vyolet considered that. "Yeah. Actually, you kinda did." The mutant paused before continuing. "And, you never actually said what you were doing out there the second time, or why all four of you went that time, or why you needed that gun when you came back."

"Ok, Vy. This is really important." Tura tried to put as much worry into her voice as she could muster. "Was anything different about me, or about Phil or the others? Anything at all?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Nothing was different? How about the hair? Or maybe the clothes?" Come on, Vy, remember the clothes.

"No, I really don't- wait. Yes, yes there was something different. All of you were covered in wet sewage, like you'd just come down from the sewers."

"But Vyolet, if I was only gone for a few hours, how could I have gotten to the sewers and back?"

Vyolet clearly had no answer to that. "How about anybody else? Has anyone else seen me, Phil, Aimee, or Bender in a place that didn't make sense?"

That was Morris's cue. "I thought I heard Bender's voice in the hallway in front of me last night, but he was standing right beside me."

A few whispers started up around the room.

"I thought I saw Aimee walk by the door way this morning, but she was asleep in her cot." Raoul added.

"I haven't left this room yet today." Aimee assured everyone.

The whispers became a steady undercurrent of concern. A few worried glances were made in the direction of the door.

Munda cleared her throat to get everyone's attention. "Yesterday, I saw Phil go use the shower." That alone produced some gasps, but Tura's mother wasn't finished. "Twice."

The room erupted into noise as everyone started to talk at once. A small undercurrent of fear started to mingle with the stench of too many bodies packed too close together.

Looks like it's time. Tura thought. She nodded to her father who, without a word, got up and quietly left the room without being noticed.

Tura's plan now was to buy as much time as possible, to put the brakes on what she had tried so hard to start. Arguments started to spring up around the room. Some thought maybe the ruin was haunted. Others claimed that all of the strange occurrences could be explained away as too much stress coupled with not enough sleep.

At least two or three minutes passed. Morris reappeared and took his seat. He nodded to Tura. Everything was ready.

Someone shouted over the racket "What's going on, Leela?" Of course, the question was addressed to Tura.

"Clones." Tura replied, firmly. The room fell silent at the sound of her voice. "The DOOP must have found some human DNA and robot RNA that belongs to me and my crew and used it to make clones of us, and now I'll bet they're using those clones to spy on us."

There was stunned silence. "That's ridiculous!" Someone yelled.

Someone else asked "Can they really do that?"

"Absolutely." Actually, the whole idea was so cliché that she was having a hard time preventing herself from wincing. She'd gotten the idea from an old episode of "All My Circuits", where Calculon's evil half-brother replaced Calculon's best friend with a duplicitous, mustached clone. It hadn't seemed quite as ridiculous last night when she and Leela had been fleshing out the plan.

Luckily, the mutants didn't seem to have watched that episode, or to know that, in reality, growing a set of clones took years. You couldn't just take a hunk of DNA and create a mature clone in a couple of days. That's why Cubert, who was a clone of the Professor, was just a kid.

"What do we do?" asked the a mutant with an extra foot growing out of the top of his head. The question was repeated half a dozen times from all around the room.

"Uh, well, the first thing we have to do is-" Someone screamed loud enough to make Tura's ears ring. Someone had just noticed that, shortly after Morris had returned, a second Amy had wandered into the room.

Fry, Leela, and Bender were standing in the decaying remains of the Freedom Tower's old lobby when the screaming started. The plan was to let the mutants see the second Amy after Tura had filled their heads with this 'evil clone' nonsense, and then let themselves be chased from the building in full view of the DOOP surveillance drone that was just down the block.

Judging by the muffled cries of 'get the clone!', things were actually going the way they were supposed to. That made Leela a bit nervous. Things always had a tendency to spiral out of control at precisely the moment when it occurred to her that they were going well. I just hope dad was able to block the doorway for a moment like he planned and give Amy a bit of a head start.

No sooner had she processed the thought than Amy came barreling headlong down the hallway. Fry, the moron, asked her how it had gone, but all he got in return was a long, doppler-shifted "Aaiiiiii!" as the intern went flying past. Leela was impressed. She hadn't known Amy could run that fast.

A loud yell echoed down the hallway as someone spotted her. A wave of mutants- bathed in torchlight- was rushing down on her. She caught the glint of steel reflecting off of the orange light.

Where the hell did they find pitchforks and torches?!

Tura was out front of the mob, trying simultaneously to look like she was leading it while actually slowing it down. She wasn't doing either of those things very well, as she was practically being propelled down the hallway by the mutants behind her. She looked terrified.

"Umm Leela?" Fry said pointedly.

Oh right, should probably be running now.

Far away, in a velour-lined compartment aboard the great ship Nimbus, Captain Zapp Brannigan slept hard and fast when the intercom chirped.

"Captain, sir, sorry to interrupt, but you're needed on the bridge."

Brannigan cringed and pulled the chintz covers over his head. "What is it, Kif?" he demanded, making it clear by his tone what the consequences would be if it wasn't something important.

"Well, uhh, sir, it's just that, you see..."

Brannigan rolled over and sat up. The image of his first officer looked back at him from a wall screen on the other side of the room. "Kif," the Captain began in a patronizing voice, "I've told you time and again not to disturb me unless there is an emergency, or unless some hot alien babe needs to be rescued somewhere." He hesitated for a moment. "That's not it, right? There's no busty alien hottie in distress?" He reached for his comb.

Kif sighed in disgust. "Actually sir, one of the surveillance drones in sector 7G found something you're going to want to see."

The lieutenant's long-suffering face dissolved into an image of a rubble-strewn street corner flanked by rows of decaying old buildings. Zapp didn't know what sector 7G was- only a weak mind listened to mission briefings- but, wherever the place was, it was a dump.

After a few moments, four small figures appeared out of a yawning hole in a particularly big building about half a block away from the nearest intersection and began running in the direction of the drone's camera. They were immediately followed by a large mob.

When the figures got a little closer to the camera, Zapp felt a twinge of recognition, as well as twinges in other places. The leading figure was Kif's girlfriend. Poor Kif still didn't realize that the only reason a girl like that would date a meek little weakling like him was as a ruse to get close to the real man, Zapp Brannigan. Now what had he been thinking about, again? Ah, yes, the camera. Behind the girl- Ashley, or Stacey, or something- were that obnoxious robot and red-headed kid that he was supposed to be chasing, and taking up the rear was none other than the lovely Turanga Leela.

But if that was Leela, then who was the purple-haired, pistol-wielding figure chasing her down the street, flanked by a horde of angry-looking mutants? Zapp ordered the computer to pause the recording and to zoom in. The figure had one eye.

Two Leelas? Brannigan shut off the recording and Kif's face reappeared.

"Lieutenant, ready my shuttle, and make sure it's hot top is set to 'bubbly' instead of 'kill'. One of my sexy dreams has just become a reality."

Under the drone they went. Fry looked up at the squat little robot as he passed and it swiveled its head around to look back at him. The delivery boy waved, grinning foolishly.

Up ahead, Leela was yelling at Amy to slow down. The intern had managed to gain a good fifty meters on the rest of the group, and there was a danger that she might get separated from them in the ruins. A violet flash lit up the street, and something impacted high up to Fry's left. A billowing cloud of smoke exploded from the mass of concrete and rebar that lined the roadway. A few blernsball-sized fragments of concrete rained down over Bender as he ran past.

"Hey, watch where you're shooting, you lunatic!" The robot yelled back at Tura, who was keeping pace with them from the head of the mob.

Bender turned to Fry. "This is our best escape plan yet. Even the good guys are trying to kill us."

"Shut up, Bender." Leela snapped. "If she was trying to hit you, you'd have been vaporized by now."

"He has a point, Leela." Fry ducked as a good-sized rock went sailing a few centimeters over his head. Somebody back there must have been named Trebuchet Mutant. "Even if Tura doesn't accidentally kill us, the mutants will."

Up ahead, Amy tripped over a loose cinder block and tumbled to the ground. She didn't get to her feet right away, but, in an uncharacteristic show of coordination, Fry and Bender each grabbed her under one arm as they passed and hauled her along with them. When Fry looked down for a moment he saw blood oozing from a nasty series of scrapes that ran down her leg.

Bender noticed the blood a moment later. His eyes telescoped out to get a closer look.

"Neat." he said. He never even saw the enormous I-beam that jutted out from the rubble at the precise height to hit him square in the nose. Had he had a nose, of course.

When Fry heard the loud 'thunk' he looked to his left to discover that Bender's decapitated body was still keeping pace with him. The robot's head was lying in a scummy puddle in an old storm drain.

"Leela, stop!" Fry yelled. "Bender's in trouble!"

The cyclops looked over her shoulder, saw Bender's head lying in the mud with the mutants closing in on him, and lurched to a halt. Fry hadn't been expecting that, and he almost dropped Amy just trying to keep from running into her.

"Leela, what-?"

"Just keep going!" The cyclops ordered. "I'll be right behind you!"

Fry thought about commenting that that's what the scifi heroine always said in the movies right before she was eaten by the horrible monsters that were chasing her, but Amy, who had at some point become the one pulling him along, tugged him away.

Leela turned to face the oncoming mob and hefted her rifle that she'd had slung over her right shoulder. Calmly, she turned a dial and waited as the weapon began to hum. Maximum setting. She thought about that. She'd always wanted to try it out, but had never had the chance.

The mutants weren't very far away. She only had a couple of seconds to wait before she had to take aim. The weapon made a staccato chirping sound and a little green light went on. She fired.

Whump. The recoil was like a punch in the gut. A blinding ball of electric-blue light erupted into existence and ripped its way through the air. Some of the mutants screamed, and many of them threw themselves to the ground. Obviously though, Leela hadn't been aiming at them.

The blue ball of antimatter continued its way down the street, leaving a softly-glowing trail of ionized particles as it went. A hundred pairs of eyes watched it as it made its almost leisurely way over the tops of the nearby shattered buildings toward a distant skyscraper. Leela had wanted to hit one of the tall ones. It would be showier, and had the added benefit of being far enough away that they wouldn't all get a deadly dose of gamma radiation.

With all of the mutants some combination of distracted and terrified, Leela was able to quietly walk the few steps to where Bender's head lay face-down in the puddle, shove him under an arm, and jog away. It wasn't until about five seconds before the ball of antimatter impacted that Leela realized why the target building had looked vaguely familiar. It was one of the apartment buildings that Fry had been so moved by when they'd first reached the ruined city.

"Whoops." She whispered, casting a guilty look in Fry's direction. Luckily the delivery boy was facing the other way when the whole city was suddenly bathed in the glow of a light that rivaled the noon day sun.

Amy and Fry dove for cover when they saw the flash. As Leela came running up, Fry's head poked out from around the remains of an old public bus.

"What the heck was that?!" He asked. His eyes drifted to the rifle that Leela still clutched in her hand. The end of the barrel was red-hot.

"Did you do that?!" He asked.

"Yes." Leela hurled something at him. "Now shut up and screw Bender's head back on. We've got to get out of sight."

"I think they're gone."

"I think you're right, Fry, but we have to be sure. See anything Bender?"

"Nope. Just three ugly humans and the world's best-looking robot."

Leela just ignored him. "Alright, then let's try and work our way down to street level. The DOOP will be here any moment now."

The four of them were holed up in a small second story room that overlooked the street. A few mutants, led by Vyolet, had filed by a few minutes earlier. Most of the mob had no doubt thought better of chasing enemies armed with death cannons, and had gone back to their hiding place in the Freedom Tower.

Leela motioned for the others to wait as she clambered down from their perch and worked her way into the street. She was relieved to see that they were alone; the mutants had missed them.

The cyclops waved to her friends, signaling them that it was safe to come down. This was a real close call. She told herself as she waited. Tura and I just assumed that it would be easy for us to get away once we were in the streets. If I hadn't thought to fire off that shot...

Her wrist computer beeped, startling her. She was getting a text message from Kif. The others, who were just now emerging from a gaping hole that had once been a store front, crowded around her. The message said simply: "Twenty minutes."

Everyone looked at Leela. She stared back at them. "What?" She said eventually.

"What do you mean, what?" Bender scoffed. "What does the message mean, sausage brain? What happens in twenty minutes?"

"How the hell should I know? I haven't talked to Kif since before you blew up that space station and got us all into this mess to begin with!" Leela turned to Amy. "Amy, do you know what it means?"

Amy shook her head.

Leela sighed. "Well, let's hope it means that he'll be here in twenty minutes, and not that that's when they set off the nukes, or something." She started to walk in the direction of the Freedom Tower. "Come on." She said, motioning for them to follow her. "We've given the mutants plenty of time to put some distance between them and us. Let's go find an open place and wait for Tura and the others to find us."

They didn't have to search very long before they found an abandoned construction site down a nearby side street. There were some metal beams and a few gigantic concrete sewer-pipe sections lying around, but not enough cover that they wouldn't be easily spotted from the air.

It took a little while for Tura and her crew to find their counterparts, even with Leela guiding them over her wrist computer. By the time the two crews were facing each other across the construction yard, they could already hear the drone of a small shuttle craft.

As the sound got closer, the two crews scrambled for cover. It wouldn't do for Brannigan to see them chatting with each other like old friends. When everyone was in position behind sewer pipes and piles of rusty metal, Leela nodded to Tura, who fired a few rounds into the air.

No way Brannigan missed that. Leela thought as a few bits of concrete rained down on her from the ceiling far overhead. Concrete. Everything here is concrete She thought. I want out of this place.

It looked like she was going to get her wish. The engine noise grew to a dull roar as a stubby, winged DOOP transport soared by overhead and settled slowly into the open space between the two crews. It settled onto its landing skids and hissed gently with exhaust, as if it were glad for the rest after a wearying flight.

A hatch opened on the rear of the vehicle, and half a dozen DOOP soldiers came tumbling out. It was hard to tell if they were hurrying to take defensive positions, or if they were trying to escape from the lander. Considering who the pilot most likely was, it was probably a bit of both. In either case, they quickly set up a perimeter around the rear hatch. Kif Kroker then appeared and squeezed his way between two of his men. Leela couldn't help but notice that he was unarmed. She wasn't sure that she would have been, in his position. Before Kif could say anything, the reason for the soldier's hasty retreat from the shuttle strutted out the hatch and into the light.

Zapp Brannigan moved to stand by Kif and surveyed his surroundings as if he were some great commander inspecting the beachhead after a heroic landing at Omaha Space Beach. He quickly caught sight of the two crews hiding in the debris.

"I'm placing you all under arrest!" Brannigan bellowed. "Lay down your weapons and surrender!"

"Yeah, and what if we don't?" Bender shouted back.

Brannigan turned to face the robot. "Then you would be disobeying a direct order from a DOOP military officer, and I would have no choice but to... place you all under arrest!"

Leela groaned as she stood and leveled her rifle. Why am I doing this? I should have just let the mutants kill me.

"Put down the gun, Leela." Kif called. "We want to help."

Fry watched in amazement as the lieutenant actually took a couple of steps toward Leela. The delivery boy happened to have the luxury of knowing that Leela wan't planning on shooting him, but Kif sure didn't.

"Stay back!" Leela commanded. "I'll shoot!"

"She will! She's evil!" Tura hollered. Neither of them were all that convincing. Leelas, regardless of which reality they were from, just didn't make good actors.

"Ladies, ladies!" Zapp said in his best attempt at a seductive voice. "There's no need to fight over me. Why don't we all put down the guns and settle this like adults... in my private chamber."

"No one's fighting over you, you arrogant son of a-" Aimee hastily jabbed Tura in the ribs before she could continue.

"I'm, uhh, Evila, captain of the Planet Express Ship. The, uhh, evil Planet Express Ship."

"Yeah." Amy said. "Stay back or we'll, like, use your souls to power its engines... or something."

Kif looked over his shoulder at Zapp. Brannigan shrugged.

"Oh, for crying out loud, you're a bunch of amateurs." Bender groaned from his hiding place behind a hunk of concrete. "I'll show you how to be evil."

Almost casually, Bender walked out into the open between his crewmates and the DOOP soldiers. He cleared his throat, reached into his chest cabinet, and pulled out something brown and limp. "Alright, listen up." He said. "Take one more step, and the kitten gets it."

There were gasps all around. "I don't think any one of us expected him to say that." Amy whispered to Fry.

The DOOP soldiers looked at each other in confusion. "Uhh, but that cat's already dead." One of them replied.

Bender looked down at the lump of fur that was dangling in his left hand. "Hmm, so it is." He seemed to think about that for a moment. "Weird. He was alive when I put him in there last month." The robot shrugged and pulled what had to be one of his last cigars out of his chest cabinet. "Oh well, I'm out of material." He said, waving dismissively at the soldiers before sauntering back to his hiding place.

"Ai-ya, enough of this!" Amy, apparently unable to take any more of this painful charade anymore when her boyfriend and a ticket out of the nightmare she'd found herself in were perched only a few feet away, jumped to her feet and snatched the laser pistol from Tura's hand. "She's going to shoot!" The intern screamed.

Aimee squeezed off three shots before Tura wrestled the gun from her. Each of them hit the dirt about ten feet from where Leela was standing, leading Fry to the comforting, yet completely irrelevant, conclusion that at least one other person working at Planet Express was a worse shot than he was.

Leela returned fire, aiming at the DOOP rather than the other crew. When the soldiers dove for cover, Leela screamed for Fry, Amy, and Bender to follow. By the time the DOOP could think about returning fire, they were all long gone.

It was a good thing that the DOOP didn't appear to be following them, Leela thought, because the sound of Fry's pathetic wheezing was loud enough to hear from a mile in any direction. Weakling. She half-thought, half-muttered under her breath as she looked back at him over her shoulder. Instantly, she felt bad. She was just using him as a conduit for some of the excess hatred that Zapp's presence always filled her with. Luckily, the universe decided to save her the trouble of chastising her for the lapse, for by looking back over her shoulder she was breaking the number one rule of running with one eye: keep it pointed forward.

Amy shouted a warning just a moment too late. "Leela! Fire hydr- Gleesh… Nevermind..."

Leela suddenly found herself lying face up on a slab of scummy concrete. The others crowded around her making concerned noises and asking if she was alright. Bender seemed genuinely disappointed when she nodded and put up a hand to forestall all of the fussing over her. Then Fry started to kneel down next to her, as though he was going to try and help her up, and Leela was annoyed to discover that the fall had knocked the wind out of her. So, rather than gently assuring the delivery boy that the only thing that she'd hurt was her dignity, she had to settle for wheezing in his face. Apparently the message got through though, because the delivery boy nodded and collapsed into a heap, his own hacking and coughing joining hers.

"Uhh.." Amy looked around and then gave an uncertain sideways glace toward Bender before nodding at Leela. "Let's take five."

It didn't take five minutes for Leela to catch her breath, but she wanted to wait for Fry. It was easy to get so wrapped up in her own problems that she forgot about everyone else around her. She'd had Fry running around all morning. He hadn't eaten a real meal in atheismo-knew how long or slept in a real bed, and, wait, how long had he been down here in the old city with her? Less than 24 hours? Maybe it was the depressing, monotonous gloom of the place that made it seem as though those few hours had stretched into months. Whatever the case, he was at his limit, and he had yet to utter a single word of complaint. Part of that was the constant terror; there hadn't been much time for whining. But still, she was a little proud of him, and since they appeared to be in the unaccustomed position of not having to worry about imminent death, there was no reason not to give him a break.

Amazingly, Amy didn't seem all that fazed by what was going on. Leela suspected that the intern was anxious to get home to her own timeline and was only going along with what must have felt to her like a waking nightmare because she knew it was almost over. I have to give her credit. Leela thought. She could have gone back to Mars to live with Aimee's parents, sitting on the sidelines enjoying an almost normal life until this whole mess sorted itself out one way or another, but she stuck it out anyway. She slept on a concrete floor last night- Leela wasn't quite able to keep herself from adding next to Fry- and put herself in danger when I asked her too. Leela was sitting up with her back against the hydrant that had sent her tumbling a few minutes earlier. She had her eye almost closed as if she were napping, but through her eyelashes she was watching Amy leaning against the support column for a fractured street light. The intern was, in turn, watching Bender, who was having no luck rooting through the shattered front windows of a nearby store front.

A slight breeze- part of the sluggish convection currents produced by the temperature gradient between the cool Earth and the warm concrete of the surface overhead- began to swirl around Leela's legs, chilling her through the damp fabric of her black sweatpants. Damp. Everything down here is cold and damp. If I get out of here, I'm taking a long vacation to Arizona.

The cold air was enough to drag Leela to her feet and, seeing her rise, Fry followed suit with a groan. Technically this was a complaint, but Leela decided not to count it against him. After her spill she wasn't much more enthusiastic about continuing than he was.

"So, what now?" Amy asked after she'd waited for her two human companions to stretch and dust themselves off. "It looks like the DOOP isn't coming after us. I guess Tura and the others are keeping them distracted."

Leela nodded. "Yeah, but we still shouldn't hang around. We have a lot of walking to do."

"What, more walking?!" Bender protested. The robot was strolling toward them from across the street, having given up his search. "That's all we've done since we got here!"

"I know, Bender. I'm not looking forward to it any more than you are, but it's the only way we're going to get out of here."

"And what, you expect me to trudge through sewage again?" Bender snorted derisively. "Yeah, I put up with that mutant crap once. Not again. I only did it the first time because I had to. You don't have enough dirt on me to make me do it again."

"But what about-"

"Cram it, Amy! I already told you, those nuns were dead before I ran them over."

"Aww, come on Bender. You've gotta come with us. You can't stay here," Fry prodded.

Leela waved the delivery boy silent. "It doesn't matter. We aren't going back that way."

Fry looked at her quizzically "Huh? We aren't?"

"But, Leela, we can't use the ladders to the surface." Amy protested. "Those are the only other way out of here. Somebody will be watching those exits for sure."

"Right, which is why we aren't going to be using the ladders either."

"Then how...?"

Leela pointed.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Fry asked nervously. "I mean, this place was getting kinda old even back in my day."

In fact, Leela knew that it was okay. At least, it wasn't showing any signs that it was going to collapse at any moment. Still, as she looked up at the sulking mass of the lower Empire State Building, she couldn't quite escape the notion that this was one of the stupider ideas that she had ever had.

"I had some of the mutants check it out before we came down here, when we were still looking for a good place for the village to hide out. The building isn't even one piece anymore. There's a thick metal bulkhead that separates the lower half from the part that sticks up above street level."

"So why didn't you use it as a hideout?" Amy asked. It was clear she was expecting a catch. Working at Planet Express, one quickly learned to always expect a catch.

"Too obvious." Leela replied. "It's the one building that pokes above street level. If anybody was going to think of a building to search, it would be this one. Now come on, we've wasted enough time." Leela motioned for Bender to lead the way, which he did with minimal enthusiasm.

The interior of the Empire State was unsettling. The lofting, pillared lobby, bathed in the light cast from Bender's eyes, was like the entrance to some ancient mausoleum. Or, as Fry couldn't help but think, to the Temple of Doom. Most of the gaudy splendor of the chamber had faded and tarnished with age, and a large piece of the domed ceiling had crumbled to the ground. It was creepier than any of them had expected, and each of them was only too happy to put its morbid, decaying splendor behind them.

In the semidarkness of the old building, it was easy for Leela's mind to imagine all of Old New York not as the monument to a bygone era that it was meant to be, but as a grotesque graveyard, with each rotting building a gravestone. A shiver worked its way up her spine.


She started. She couldn't help it. "Damn it, Fry! What?"

"Sorry." His eyes slid away from her in embarrassment. "I didn't mean to do that. I just, I dunno. I just thought maybe some talking would be good. It's a little spooky in here, kinda like a bad horror movie or something. You know, like when everyone knows that the slimy, black tentacle-monster is sneaking up on them from somewhere, but they don't know where it is yet."

"Not helping, Fry." Amy muttered.

Trying to make up for her embarrassing overreaction, Leela tried a feeble joke. "Don't worry. We've already done that. Only, the tentacles were pink. Besides, there's nothing alive in this building besides us, some rats, and about fifty trillion spiders."

"Yeah, and him." Bender added, pointing over their shoulders.

Leela sighed. "I don't want to turn around, do I?"

"This isn't happening!" Leela hollered in frustration. "I've been through too much crap over the last few months to suddenly be stuck in some cliche fifty dollar horror movie!"

"With your acting skills, you'd be lucky to get that." Bender retorted.

"Shut up and brace the door." Leela snarled back.

"With what?"

"With your ass, for all I care!"

They were in a stairwell on the ground floor, if you could really still call it that when half of the building was buried below street level. The flight of stairs that connected with the level above them was intact and appeared to be in good shape. In the other direction, the stairs descended three steps before disappearing into a pool of murky water.

Leela and Bender were pressed up against the fire door that separated the stairwell from the first floor. Fry had gone up a level to look for something to use to barricade the door against the incessant pounding it was receiving from the other side.

Amy, standing on her toes, was peering through a tiny hole in the wall. "It's a snake." She said, quite unnecessarily.

Bender rolled his eye (he'd been forced to give the other to Fry as a light source). "No shitz, ditz."

A snake. A fracking snake. Forty feet long at least, maybe four feet in diameter. Leela shook her head in exasperation. Where the hell had it come from?

"What does it eat down here?" Amy asked, her train of thought having closely paralleled Leela's own.

Bender laughed. "You mean besides us?"

"Probably rats and whatever else is dumb enough to wander by." Leela guessed as she shifted her weight against the door. A series of bangs lay testament to the fact that their friend on the other side wasn't giving up just yet.

At that moment Fry tumbled into view from the landing above them.

Leela gestured him over to her. "Did you find anything, Fry?"

The delivery boy handed Bender the eye that he'd borrowed and then knelt by her side. "All I found was this." Proudly, he handed her the fruits of his search. It was a dime.

Leela stared in disbelief at the little metallic cylinder cupped in her hand. "A coin?!" She sputtered "What the hell are we supposed to do with this?!"

Fry shrugged. "Nothing. I just thought it was cool that I found it down here."

Groaning with what was almost physical pain, Leela got to her feet and tossed the coin across the stairwell. It plunked forlornly into the pool of water and sank immediately out of sight. "Amy, start heading up the stairs. Get as high as you can and then wait for me." The cyclops then gave Fry, who was also standing again, a hard shove in the abdomen, propelling him in Amy's direction. "Take this with you." She ordered. "I'll be right behind you."

Amy started to protest, but Leela jabbed at the air with her finger, pointing up the stairs. "Go!" She thundered, and Amy tore off up the stairs with a reluctant Fry in tow.

When Leela climbed a couple of stairs after them, one of Bender's extensomatic arms shot out and clasped her firmly about one ankle. 'What, and now you're going to leave me here?" The robot's head clanged against the fire door as it was hit by a particularly savage blow. "Not in your dreams, meatbag."

"Relax, Bender." Leela turned to face him. She'd been carrying her antimatter rifle slung over one shoulder since fleeing from the DOOP. She couldn't use it on high power in close quarters- at least, not without substantial risk of vaporizing herself along with what she was shooting at. In the more open space of the stairwell, however, she might be able to hit the fire door with enough energy so as to fuse it to its door frame, without having to stand so close to it that she ended up applied to the walls like a new coat of paint.

Cradling the weapon against her right shoulder, she took careful aim at a spot six inches above Bender's head.

The robot's eyes went wide. "Now, hold on a minute." He protested. "If this is about those unicorns I killed, it was only so I could sell their ivory on the black market. I swear!"

"I'm not going to shoot you, Bender." Stupid robot. "That door should hold long enough for you to get out of the way. Wait for my signal, and then go find Amy and Fr-" Leela cut herself off with a sigh as the cowardly bending robot pushed her out of the way and went flying up the stairs, trailing a stream of terrified babbling noises in his wake.

Shaking her head, Leela composed herself, turned the power dial on her rifle down to medium, and pointed the weapon. The whole mass of metal was quaking under the snake creature's unrelenting assault. Leela judged that it wouldn't hold for more than a few seconds. The doorknob rattled under the onslaught. Locking the door had been impossible. At least we're not dealing with something that has thumbs. Leela thought.

The rifle beeped softly to let her know that it was fully charged. She wasted no time. I have had it with this mother-fracking snake in this mother-fracking building! A narrow lance of violet connected with the door, briefly illuminating the stairwell in an unnatural light. From the other side of the door came a bloodcurdling screech, and then silence. Leela fired one more round into the fire door, which was now glowing a dull, angry red, and, satisfied, retreated up the stairwell to rejoin her friends.

On the other side of the fire door, the "snake" nursed its wounds. Other members of the faculty at the university had warned him that the humans were violent and backward. He'd dismissed the warnings as foolish and unenlightened. Such foolishness certainly hadn't been enough to keep him from seizing on the chance to explore one of the most perfectly preserved pre-space travel archeological sites in the galaxy. He'd been working down in the ruins for months, carefully cataloguing and documenting a treasure trove of priceless artifacts. Then, a few days earlier, a gang of hooligans- the professor was sure that's what they had been- wandered through his beautifully preserved site and, in two hours, threatened to make all of his long months of research worthless by stepping on, moving, and destroying everything they got within ten feet of. He'd stayed hidden during that first intrusion. There was no sense in getting himself hurt, he'd reasoned. But later he'd felt ashamed for doing nothing, so, when this second gang of four vandals appeared, he wasn't able to let himself lie coiled in a wall. Even if he couldn't speak their language, he knew he could make them feel bad for what they were doing to this historical treasure. After all, he was a professor. Making people feel bad about themselves was a specialty. He just hadn't counted on them being armed. These humans were every bit as dangerous as his colleagues had let on. When he got home, he decided, he was taking a long sabbatical.

Whatever that thing had been, and wherever it had come from, there didn't appear to be any more of them lurking around, not that any of them had felt much like looking around to make sure. Instead, Leela decided on the direct route, leading her weary band straight up the seemingly endless flight of grubby stairs. By the time they finally reached the end of their climb, not a one of them could breathe, though truthfully, as a robot, Bender didn't breathe anyway.

At floor sixty two, the vertical shaft of the stairwell abruptly ended in a rivet-studded, matte grey ceiling. It was like whoever had been building the skyscraper had gotten that far and, suddenly bored, had given up and gone home.

"Well that's it." Bender said upon seeing the barrier. "I'm bored. Let's give up and go home."

"We're trying to go home, you idiot." Amy snapped, exhaustion having given her a short fuse. "Spleesh. Don't you ever use that positronic brain of yours for anything besides porno storage?"

"Hey, it takes a lot of memory to store a 5-dimensional HD image!”

Leela broke in as Amy rolled her eyes. "Enough, you two. Save the bickering for somewhere where we don't have to worry about being eaten by giant snakes, okay? Now come on, Bender. This barrier is the bulkhead that separates the new city from the old one. All we need to do is get through it, and we'll be out of here."

"Yeah, well, what do you want me to do about it?"

Everyone just stared at him.

"Hee hee. Just kidding. Stand back and we'll see who's great." With a great show, Bender crouched on one of the uppermost steps and, bracing himself, began to push mightily at the heavily reinforced plasteel. It reluctantly gave under the pressure, protesting with a metallic screech that made the humans' jaws ache. If anyone on the other side of the barrier was anywhere nearby, they couldn't help but hear and come running. Leela knew that there weren't any other viable options, though. And besides, the top floors of the Empire State had been given over to a museum on ancient 20th century history, and this was the middle of a week day. There wasn't likely to be anyone around.

With one last protest, a six square foot section of the bulkhead gave way with a shower of snapping rivets. Bender let out a cry of self-impressed glee and, true to his name, bent the twelve-inch thick plate that had come loose in two, pulled it through the hole that he'd made, and slid it over the stairs' guard rail. A distant boom rolled up from below just over six and three quarters seconds later.

While Fry and Bender were busy telling each other how cool the panel must have looked when it hit the ground, Leela poked her head through the hole in the barrier and cautiously looked around. It was dark. Somehow that surprised her, though she knew it shouldn't have. Why would the museum bother lighting and maintaining a stairwell that didn't lead anywhere anymore?

Confident that no one was nearby, Leela bent down and held out an arm. Amy took it and let Leela haul her up.

"Huh. The air smells better up here." The intern remarked.

Leela nodded. She'd noticed it too. Who knew how many centuries the air they'd been climbing through below the barrier had been sitting stagnant in the dark?

In a moment, Fry and Bender joined their friends and they were climbing again, though this time with much more caution. They'd already made enough noise to attract the deaf and dead, but the knowledge that they were back in New New York, where a sizeable fraction of the population wanted them either jailed, beaten, or worse, kept their steps light and soft.

After only two flights of stairs, they came upon a low gate that blocked their path. Leela unclasped the latch that secured it and led her friends onto a landing that was obviously being used as a storeroom. A single archaic incandescent bulb- likely there in keeping with the museum's 20th century theme- cast a handful of nondescript, imitation-cardboard boxes that were stacked in a corner in a sickly, pale white hue. Every door that they had come upon thus far since breaking through into the new city had been sealed, but here was a modern automatic door, seeming even more an anachronism in this ancient ruin due to the fact that Leela hadn't seen one in many days. Presumably, it led into the museum.

Leela walked over to the door and pressed the softly-glowing green button that was mounted on the wall to the right. She breathed a sigh of relief when it opened. If it had been locked and they'd been forced to turn around... Then I'd have blasted a hole in the wall, and to hell with staying inconspicuous. There's no way I was going to climb down all those stairs.

A furtive glance into the lit- and, Leela thought, blessedly dry- corridor beyond was enough to convince her that they were alone. "Alright, everyone follow me." She whispered. "I can see an exit sign, so the exit is that way."

Leela began to move, but was stopped by someone's hand that had appeared around her wrist. Startled, she turned and saw that it was Fry that had grabbed her. None of the others were making any move to follow her.

"Fry, let go!" The PE Captain protested. "We've got to get out of this building before someone finds us."

"But Leela, then what?" Fry asked. "We'll be arrested the moment anybody sees us, and we don't have anywhere to go."

Suddenly it occurred to Leela that she and Tura had never actually had the time to explain the whole plan to anyone. They've been following me around all day with no clue as to where we're going or what we're doing. Wow, way to drop the ball on that one, Turanga.

Her face turning a little red, Leela leaned back into the stairwell and let the door woosh closed behind her. She sat down on a nearby box, which gave a little under her weight.

"Sorry guys. I guess I was so busy trying not to get killed that I forgot to actually tell you the plan."

"No crap." Bender snorted.

Ignoring that, Leela shifted her weight and began to explain. "You already know why we arranged it so that Tura and the others got picked up by Zapp."

"So they could get him to believe that we tricked the mutants into taking part in this imaginary uprising thing, right?" Amy asked.

"Right." Leela nodded. "That way the mutants are off the hook and we-"

"Are royally boned." Bender finished for her. At Leela's annoyed look, he then proceeded to add "No, you shut up."

"Anyway," Leela continued, "that's why we're in such a hurry. Pretty soon, the cops and the military will be concentrating their efforts to come after the four of us specifically, rather than on catching thousands of mutants scattered over Old New York. Worse, we can't even hide in the old city anymore, because now the mutants are after us too!"

"But, where are we going to go?" Fry reiterated. "Bender looks like any other bending robot, so he can go out in public, and Amy and I might not get recognized right away, but well..." He looked anywhere but at Leela's eye. "Well, you know."

"Thanks for being so subtle about it." Leela said drily. "We're not going far, just to Central Park. To the crash site. We need that second briefcase thing that you brought with you so that we can get back to our own timeline. It ought to still be in the ship, and the ship might not have been moved yet. I'm sure Bender will be willing to, uhh, liberate us some disguises from the museum store."

Bender's eyes lit up immediately.

"And if it's not there?" Amy asked.

"Then," Leela replied grimly, "everything will be up to Tura."

"We are so going to get caught." Fry whispered.

"We are not." Leela hissed. "Now stop looking so suspicious. Just pretend to look at the exhibits."

"What else would I do in a museum?"

Leela rolled her eye and tried to look like she was particularly absorbed in... whatever it was that was in front of her. She was standing not twenty feet from the entrance to the museum gift shop, which Bender had swaggered into a couple of minutes earlier. Fry was next to her, and Amy was somewhere across the large central room that served as the entrance point to a series of long halls filled with dusty display cases. A few larger artifacts had been arranged around the central room, and Leela and the others were pretending to be inspecting them.

Next to her, Leela could hear Fry fidgeting nervously. "Why didn't we just hide in the stairwell until Bender could get the disguises for us?"

"What, and trust him to actually come back?" Leela replied drily. "Relax. There's no one around, and I'm the only one that's likely to get recognized, as you were so quick to point out."

"I know Tur- I mean Leela. Sorry, it's the hair."

She nodded. Everyone was looking for a cyclops with a ponytail, so she'd put her hair down like she'd seen Tura do, and was standing with her back toward anyone that might wander by. If someone did somehow recognize her though, and the cops were called, she was defenseless. Her rifle- which she couldn't exactly walk around with without attracting attention- was hidden in the barrel of an Abrams main battle tank which was the centerpiece of the exhibit on 21st century warfare.

"Wow, look at these glyphs!" a voice exclaimed not six inches from Leela's right ear. Luckily, the cyclops recognized it as belonging to Amy a split second before her reflexes were able to get her set up for a roundhouse kick.

"What?" Leela managed as she dealt with a mix of ebbing adrenaline and rising irritation.

"Uh, this thing you've been staring at for the last five minutes?" Amy replied, giving her friend an odd look.

Leela- who'd been watching the souvenir shop door out of the corner of her eye, not the exhibit- truly noticed what Amy had been talking about for the first time. It was a slab of dull white concrete, roughly rectangular, and ever so slightly concave inward. It measured three or four feet across. On it, in faded white and red, was scribbled some sort of intricate script, more pictograph than written message.

Amy pointed to a plaque that hung on the wall over the artifact. "It says here that this rock comes from Metroglyph National Monument, the site of the old Washington D.C. subway. The runes are sometimes drawings of plants and animals, or act as messages for the gods."

Despite herself, Leela found herself interested. "Huh. I wonder what these particular glyphs mean?" She put a hand on Fry's shoulder's to get his attention. "Hey Fry, you're from that time. Maybe you can tell us. What is MS 13 supposed to mean?"

Fry looked down at the exhibit, then back to Leela. "Uhh..."

"Hey, if you meatbags are done doing whatever it was that you were doing while I was risking my shiny metal ass shoplifting for you- shoplifting, at a museum! The lamest crime imaginable! Do you have any idea how long it would have taken me to live that one down if I'd gotten caught?

"But you didn't get caught, right?" Leela asked. She couldn't help but notice that the robot wasn't carrying anything.

"Who, me? Never! What do you take me for, something less than great?" Actually offended, the robot reached into his chest cabinet and pulled out a sweater, three pairs of sunglasses, three blernsball caps, and a tiny figurine of Napoleon Bonaparte, which he quickly shoved back inside.

"I get the hats and the shades, but why the sweater?" Amy asked.

"For the rifle." Leela explained. "I was hoping Bender would be able to snatch something a little bigger, like a flag, or a blanket or something- those had been invented by the 20th century, right Fry?- but I guess I'll have to make do rolling the gun up in this."

A few minutes later, the four of them were making their way up 6th Avenue in the direction of Central Park. They were all in good spirits, Bender because he'd gotten away with another petty crime, and the others simply because they were outside in the fresh air and sunlight again. They must have been a sight in their wet, stained, putrid clothing, but- this being New New York- there were much stranger sights all around them. Leela almost got the sense that she could take off the sunglasses and the ball cap, brandish the rifle she had hidden in the rolled up sweatshirt that was cradled in her arms, and start wildly jumping up and down without soliciting even a second look. She wasn't quite confident enough to test that, however.

Central Park was... green. After spending weeks living in the dark, muted grays and browns of the subterranean world under the city, the lush grass was almost painful for Leela to look at, even through her cheap sunglasses. She stopped for a moment to take in the scene. A few dozen people were scattered here and there in groups of three or four, picnicking under the trees or sunbathing out in the open. A toy sailboat, being controlled from shore by a young neptunian girl, drifted slowly on the slight breeze. As Leela watched, a tiny toy airplane buzzed in over the boat. Something dropped from the toy's undercarriage, and emitted a loud pop as it struck the little sailboat, which, all at once, listed to one side and sank out of sight. As the little girl looked on in shock, another neptunian child holding a remote control- probably her brother- jumped up and down in glee.

Ah it's good to be back on the surface. Leela thought, hurrying to catch up with her friends.

Fry, Amy, and Bender were already at the crash site by the time Leela caught sight of them again. The three of them were standing by the lip of the shallow crater that had been gouged into the earth, giving each other uneasy looks. Leela didn't need to ask why they looked worried; she'd noticed it from a long way off. Rather than a smashed-up green spaceship lying in the bottom of the crater, there were only a few scraps of blackened metal and an idling backhoe.

"Where'd the ship go?" Amy whispered tensely into Fry's ear.

"Maybe it shrank!" The delivery boy whispered back.

"Maybe your brain shrank." Bender suggested sarcastically. Leela thought it a plausible hypothesis.

"The DOOP must have carted away the wreckage, probably under some pretense of national security." Leela guessed. "Normally there's a major investigation after a spaceship crash in a public place like this. I wasn't expecting the wreckage to be moved for days."

"Well, now what're we going to do?" Amy asked.

"First, we're going to get the hell out of here before somebody wonders why four people are so interested in an empty hole in the ground." Leela replied.

"And then what?"

"I don't know. Let's hope Tura can answer that for us."

Several hundred miles straight overhead, the sleek shape of the DOOP's flagship, Nimbus, cruised through the blackness. Tura liked the blackness; it matched her mood.

How did I get suckered into this? She wondered as she watched the Earth's dazzling bulk slide by outside a porthole. How did I end up here with Zapp while Leela is down there with nothing to worry about except a horrible, gruesome death? Compared to dealing with Zapp, that's practically a vacation. The fact that the plan had been at least half her own idea somehow wasn't quite enough to convince Tura that she hadn't somehow been duped.

At least I'm not in the brig this time. Tura reasoned. So it's not as bad as it could be. Although, at least in the brig there'd be a force field between me and Brannigan. As it was, she'd had to sneak away and hide when Zapp had been distracted by a videophone call from President Nixon. That's how she'd ended up sitting in the dark in a padded chair on the ship's deserted observation deck. As she waited for her inevitable discovery, she'd found herself strangely hypnotized by the glowing blue and white jewel that hung suspended above her like God's colossal eye. The Frys would be blown away by this, she thought, the corner of her mouth twitching into the barest hint of a smile. Briefly she considered finding Phil and showing him, but that would mean venturing out of her hiding place, and likely running into Brannigan.

When Leela, Fry, Amy and Bender had taken off running, Tura, Phil, Aimee, and the other Bender had found themselves facing a squad of heavily-armed DOOP soldiers that had suddenly developed very twitchy trigger fingers. And all Tura had to defend her crew with was her little energy pistol, which she couldn't use on the DOOP soldiers anyway.

Zapp had been only too eager to accept their surrender. Once aboard the shuttle craft, Tura and her friends were handcuffed and forced to sit on the deck at the vessel's stern. It had been a bit uncomfortable, but nothing unbearable. It was only once the shuttle had docked with Nimbus, and Brannigan was no longer preoccupied with flying the shuttle, that her frustration began to rise to dangerous levels.

Explaining the situation- or, at least, the lie that Tura was presenting as the true situation- had been remarkably easy. Zapp had led her and her crew- still in handcuffs- to the bridge and demanded to know what was going on. As patiently as she could manage, she'd explained how an evil, duplicate Planet Express crew from another timeline had been manipulating the mutants into revolting against the surface-dwellers. Once the mutants had realized that they were being tricked, however, they'd tried to capture the duplicates so they could be turned over to the DOOP. Of course, the slippery evil duplicates had sensed what was coming and had escaped, which had led to them being chased through the old city by an angry mob. Tura had expected to have to repeat the concocted story half a dozen times. She'd practiced it on the shuttle ride, studying it from every angle to make sure it was air tight. Brannigan, however, had been perfectly happy to swallow the tripe she was feeding him. All that had been necessary was to stroke his boundless male ego a little bit by telling him that, by landing his shuttle craft and boldly marching out to meet the imposters, he'd scared them so badly that now they were most likely hunting for a way to escape back to their own evil parallel timeline. He'd bought it hook line and sinker.

Of course, not long after had come the inevitable invitation to join him in his quarters for, as he termed it, a "private de-briefs-ing", which she'd politely declined by breaking his nose. (Velour did have its uses, as it turned out. It was remarkably good at hiding blood stains.) Then had come a transmission from Nixon, and Tura had managed to slink away while Zapp filled the president in on "what was really going on".

Behind her, there were some muffled shuffling noises as someone climbed the ladder that led up to her hiding place. Tura sighed. Looks like they found me.

It was only Kif. The scrawny green alien slid into her field of view and waited for her to acknowledge him, which she did only grudgingly.

"Amy told me what's really going on." Kif said when Tura's eye finally rose to meet his. "Actually, I guess it's 'Aimee' right now, at least until the others find a way to get home." He shook his head. "This is all so confusing."

Tura snorted. "Tell me about it. I've been living it for I don't even know how long, and it still doesn't make any sense to me."

Kif nodded, and then pointed at her arm. "That thing on your arm is buzzing."

Tura looked down at her left arm. Sure enough, it was vibrating slightly. Somebody was trying to call her. Groaning, and trying to remember the last time somebody had called her bearing something other than bad news, she hit the 'receive' button and Leela's face appeared. She’d been expecting that.

"Leela, what are you doing?!" Tura hissed. "We can't be seen talking to each other like this. It'll ruin everything!"

Leela's eye narrowed. "Why don't we just pretend that I already knew that, shall we?" She said coolly. "I'm calling because I had to. I need you to find something for me."

"Find something for you?" Tura blinked. "What are you talking about?"

"I need you to find that ship that you flew into the ground."

"It's in Central Park. Have Bender and Fry take you to-"

"I know where it's supposed to be, Tura. It's gone."

"What do you mean, gone?"

Leela rolled her eye. "What, do you want me to spell it out for you? I mean gone. As in, it's not there anymore. As in-"

Tura rolled her eye back. "Yeah, thanks, I think I get it."

It was childish, and Leela knew it, but she felt an immense sense of satisfaction upon seeing the look of irritation on Tura's face. Then she remembered that the lives of herself and three of her closest friends were now entirely dependent upon the woman that was now favoring her with a decidedly hostile expression.

Changing tactics, Leela tried her best at what she'd heard was called a 'disarming smile'. Unfortunately for Leela, Bender had been absolutely right about her acting skills

Tura's eye narrowed in suspicion. "I know that look. I use it on Phil when I've just called him a moron and then remember that I need him to go clean out the ship's grease trap."


Tura sighed, and then the view on Leela's wrist computer changed wildy. Probably Tura had moved to rest her head in her hand or rub her temples, forgetting- or not caring- that the camera that allowed Leela to see her was mounted in her own, identical wrist computer.

"What do you want from me?" Tura said presently, even though she already knew.

"You need to talk to Brannigan. With a big crash like that, there should have been a big investigation. First, guys in hazmat gear should have gone over the wreck with a fine-toothed comb to make sure there was no reactor leak or chemical spill before anyone was even allowed near it. Then the cops would normally have done an investigation to see what the ship was carrying, who was on board, why it crashed- that sort of thing. That ship should have been sitting in the bottom of that crater for three days at least, maybe even a week. It's only been a little over 24 hours; there's no way it should have been moved by now, and especially not every single last piece of wreckage. There's only one person that has the political clout, machinery, manpower, and reckless disregard for public safety to risk moving the wreck- and potentially blowing up half of Manhattan by disturbing a potentially unstable reactor."

"You mean Brannigan."

Leela opened her mouth to answer, but hesitated. She cocked her head sideways as she thought. "Actually, I meant Nixon," she said at length. "But you're right. Brannigan has the men and the power to pull that off. I don't know about a motive though. Nixon would want access to the Planet Express Ship for the engine and weapons technology. What would Brannigan want with it?"

"I, uhh- I don't know." Tura looked uncomfortable. "Maybe he thought there might have been something in the ship that you might need and come back for?"

Leela was doubtful. "That's an awfully competent thing for him to think." She said. Tura's moment of apparent discomfort hasn't escaped her. Is she really that bent on showing me no sign of weakness that admitting to not knowing something like that actually bothered her? That's a bit much. .

"Yeah, you're probably right. It was probably Nixon."

Leela nodded. "It doesn't really matter either way. Let's just stick with the plan. Part of the reason you had to be up there on Nimbus was to keep Zapp off our scent long enough for us to track down the Professor's inter-timeline-travel-briefcase-device-gizmo if the ship had been moved before we could get to it. If Zapp was the one that moved it, then so much the better. You'll be able to tell us exactly where to go to get the briefcase back.


Leela noted the total lack of enthusiasm in Tura's response. She thought she could guess the reason for it. "I know coaxing information out of Brannigan won't be pleasant. If it makes you feel better, I almost got eaten by a snake a few hours ago, so you're no worse off up there on Nimbus then you would have been if we'd decided to swap places."

Tura nodded. That did make her feel a little better.

"I'd better go. I've been standing alone in the open too long. Eventually someone is going to recognize me, even with my disguise. Plus, I can see Fry, Amy, and Bender coming. Good luck with Brannigan."

Leela cut the connection and looked around. No one appeared to be paying her any undue attention. She had been standing a few feet off the sidewalk on a patch of tall, seedy grass that was in desperate need of a good laser trimming. Amy, Bender, and Fry were headed in her direction across the grass. Leela had sent them off to go find something to eat. Really she'd just wanted to give them something to keep them occupied while she consulted with Tura, but when she saw the bags that Fry and Amy were carrying she quickly remembered that she was absolutely starving.

Apparently, Fry didn't see her. She'd moved a little from where the four of them had split up, and he was probably having trouble recognizing her, what with her hair and eye being hidden behind a blernsball cap and sunglasses. Shoving the rifle- still barely concealed in the folds of the museum sweatshirt- under one arm, she waved. Grinning, the delivery boy waved back.

There was a nice shade tree just down the sidewalk. When Fry trotted up, Leela gestured to it and the two of them walked slowly in that direction, giving Amy and Bender a chance to catch up.

Once under the pleasantly cool shade, Fry let himself drop to the ground with a contented sigh. Leela was just about to badger him for acting as though this were some afternoon picnic when the whole city was after them, and then realized that she didn't really have the energy for it. "To hell with it." She said, and plopped down next to the delivery boy. "What do we have to eat?"

"Hot dogs." Amy announced as she lowered herself to the ground. "We didn't have the cash for anything else." She added apologetically.

"Hot dogs are fine." Leela reassured the intern. Or at least, that's what she'd meant to say. Her mouth was so crammed with food by that point that all that came out was gibberish, but Amy got the message.

"So, what did Tura say?" Fry asked after demolishing his lunch in under two minutes.

Surrounded by friends, sitting in the cool grass, eating lunch under a gnarled old oak tree in Central Park, it had been easy to forget for a moment the mess that they were all in. Leela wasn't particularly grateful to Fry for the quick jolt back to reality. "She's going to talk to Brannigan, see if she can figure out where the ship is being stored."

"We don't really care about the ship though, right?" Amy piped in. "I mean, as long as we have the briefcase, we can always find another ship."

"Ooh, grand theft auto!" Bender rubbed his hands together in glee. "This day just keeps getting better and better!"

"Cool it, Bender." Leela ordered. "We won't be stealing any space ships. All we need is the briefcase."

Amy and Fry looked at each other. "Uhh, but Leela, how are we going to get away from Earth without a space ship?" Amy asked.

The question caught Leela off guard. "Huh? Why would we need to leave Earth?"

Amy started to reply, but her tendency to not want to look unintelligent in front of Leela finally won out and she fell silent. Fry, on the other hand, held no illusions about which of them was smarter, and didn't hesitate to speak up.

"But, how are we going to use the make-us-go-home-thingy if we don't leave the planet?"

Leela looked at each one of her friends in turn. A decidedly bad feeling was starting to wedge itself into her gut. "Why, what happens if we use the device on the Earth?" And why do I suspect that I really don't want to know the answer?

Amy cleared her throat. "Boom." She said, grimly.

Leela groaned. "Terrific."

"What the hell are you trying to pull?!"

Tura blinked in surprise at the force of the accusation that had come blasting out of her wrist computer. She'd been expecting the call, but not so soon.

"I see you figured out what happened to the ship." Tura responded heavily.

"You mean how you told Brannigan to clean up the wreckage so that I wouldn't be able to get to the briefcase? Yeah, I figured that out when I learned that our whole plan, which hinges on me using the thing down here in New New York, had a minor flaw in it that you seem to have forgotten to tell me about." Leela's eye smoldered as it glared out of the screen. "And by minor flaw, I mean it would vaporize most of the city!"

"Now, hold on-" Tura protested, but Leela spoke right over her.

"I'll bet the first thing you did when you got aboard Nimbus was feed Zapp some crap story to convince him that the wrecked ship might be valuable to him. That's the only way it would have disappeared so fast. What I can't figure out is why you'd set me and the others up like this. You obviously aren't planning to help the DOOP catch us or there'd have been a nice ambush waiting for us at the crash site."

"No, of course not! I would never-"

"Then what?! Are you so paranoid that you did this because you somehow still can't make yourself trust me?"

"I think we can both agree that neither of us is exactly the trusting type."

For a split second, it looked like Leela was actually going to argue. "Okay, granted." She allowed grudgingly.

"Look, Leela, I'm sorry I did what I did, but I had to. I've got hundreds of lives depending on me to get this whole crazy plan that we've put together exactly right. If I screw up, the mutants end up dead. And you-"

"Are in the way." Leela finished for her. "What you mean, is that you can’t stand the idea that you're not entirely in control of the situation. You're afraid I'll do something- you don't even know what, I'll bet, but something- and so you conjured up some way to make sure that I have to do exactly what you tell me to. I can't believe you are so controlling that you'd sabotage an ally- hell, not just an ally, we’re practically twin sisters!- like this."

Nervously, Tura looked around her. Leela's voice had been getting steadily louder- as had her own, no doubt, and Tura was starting to worry that they might be overheard. She'd been forced to give up her hiding place on the observation deck a few minutes earlier when Brannigan had come looking for Kif and had found the two of them talking together. When Leela called the second time, Tura had been on her way to find the ship's head. Actually, she'd been looking for it for awhile now. Somehow the toilet was invariably nearly impossible to find on board a starship.

Luckily, the corridor appeared deserted. "Don't you get all high and mighty with me!" She shot back when she was sure no one was eavesdropping. "Do you really want to tell me- and remember, as you’re so fond of pointing out, that we're precisely identical down to the brain chemistry- do you really want to tell me that you would have handled things differently, in my position?"

"That argument only works if I assume you haven't gone completely nuts since back when this whole mess started, and I'm seriously starting to wonder." Leela retorted, and then, unexpectedly, her voice softened. "Look, maybe neither of us can handle the idea of not being in total control of a situation. But how could you possibly think that I'd take the Professor's device, find a ship, and abandon you and the mutants? It almost sounds like you're starting to buy this evil parallel timeline crap that you're supposed to be feeding Brannigan."

"Of course you wouldn't just take off and leave us." Tura replied. "But I had to ask myself, if I was in your situation, and I ended up in a position where I had to risk the lives of my own crew to save the lives of a bunch of parallel versions of the sewer mutants, what would I do?"

Leela thought about that. "And you decided that you'd choose your own crew?"

"Well, you tell me." Tura shrugged. "I couldn't decide what I would do. Just like you can't either. I couldn't risk all of those lives on the assumption that, if the situation arose, you'd decide the way I wanted you too. I did what I had to do, Leela."

"No, " Leela countered, "what you did was dream up an unlikely scenario as an excuse to arrange things so that you can hold all of the cards for as long as absolutely possible, because you find it absolutely impossible to rely on anyone else for anything."

Tura had managed to let all of Leela's previous jabs bounce harmlessly off of her, but what Leela had just said managed to find a crack in her armor. She bristled. "That is not true!"

Leela looked back up at Tura from the softly glowing videoscreen on Tura's wrist. She smiled sadly. "Isn't it? I think you were the one that just pointed out how much we have in common. "Trying to lie to me doesn't do either of us much good."

But now Tura was angry, and she didn't feel like conceding to Leela's small victory. "Whatever."

"Yeah well, speaking of 'whatever', how exactly am I supposed to get myself and my crew back home if we're down here, and the device that we need is up there on the Nimbus? I assume you thought things through past the point where you got to screw me over?"

"Yeah, it may have crossed my mind once or twice." Tura replied sarcastically. "The plan is the same as before. You'll get the device, my crew and I will pretend to try to stop you, and you, Bender, and Amy will go back to your own timeline."

"I notice that you forgot to mention Fry." Leela remarked, matching Tura's sarcastic tone. "He'll be coming with me as well."

Tura's response was cold. "We'll see."

"Yes, we will. But before then, how exactly do you expect us to get aboard Nimbus? We can't exactly just stroll up and ring their space doorbell."

"True, but you won't have to." Tura smiled. "Or did you forget about the other Planet Express Ship? You know, the one that didn't end up in a crater in Central Park?"

"So your doppelganger screwed us over, huh?" Bender puffed on a cigar. "See, that's why I never trust anyone that's not made out of metal. You skin sacks are a bunch of backstabbing, amoral, sleazebags. Not like us robots."

"Hey Mr. Moral, put down that stolen cigar and help us, would you?" Leela demanded, her voice straining from exertion.

"Yeah, come on, Bender." Fry added. "This thing is heavy!" He grunted as he tried to get a better grip. “And don’t talk about Tura that way. I’m sure she didn’t mean for things to happen this way.”

Bender gave the delivery boy a pitying look. “You really are a sucker, you know that? And, sheesh, stop struggling so hard. You’re trying to move a dark matter manifold, not an ocean liner. It ways what, a few hundred pounds? Didn't you humans build the pyramids?"

Fry’s response was to halfway drop the bulky machine, nearly crushing his foot in the process.

“Fine, Fine. Make the robot do all the work, as usual.” Bender ducked under a rusted pipe and shoved Fry out of the way. The delivery boy tripped over some anonymous piece of machinery bolted to the deck and crashed headlong into the port bulkhead. Leela winced.

Tura’s idea that they steal the Planet Express ship that was still parked at Planet Express had seemed fine until Leela realized that it would mean breaking into Planet Express again, and this time while it was being guarded by a platoon of DOOP soldiers. The last time they’d needed entry, they’d been able to use Zoidberg to circumvent all of the building’s security systems, but no one knew what had become of the Decapodian.

I wonder what happened to him. Leela thought idly. We always seem to forget about Zoidberg.

The DOOP certainly wasn’t letting him stay in the building while they were around. Getting in would mean somehow deactivating the security systems and distracting or neutralizing a squad of bored, trigger-happy soldiers. Luckily, Amy knew how to do both.

The Martian intern had been quick to point out that there are only two sure ways to distract the male mind. One, of course, is with sex, and the other is with carnage. Once Leela had explained several times to the intern why her original plan- which involved option one- was unacceptable, Amy had come up with their current plan.

Across the street from Planet Express was an old abandoned lot that no one ever seemed interested in building on. The professor had made some vague remarks a couple of times about radioactivity that “wasn’t at all my fault”, but nobody seemed to know the whole story. The lot had more or less become a dumping ground over the years, and one of the things to end up there was an old hulk of a spaceship that bore a passing resemblance to the Planet Express Ship. Only the rear half of the ship was there, but that was the part that housed the dark matter reactor, and that’s the part that they needed. If there was one thing everyone knew, it was that you don’t run a dark matter furnace without any dark matter in it. They tended to blow up when that happened.

That ought to distract those dumb army guys for awhile. Leela thought to herself. A fiery explosion followed by the inevitable gaggle of fire trucks would provide plenty of cover for the PE crew to sneak into the Planet Express Building under the cover of darkness. Even if they set off an alarm, they’d be in the ship and halfway to orbit before anyone knew what was going on.

Amy's voice hissed at Leela from out of the darkness, making her jump. "Do you hear something?"

Leela let go of the manifold that’s she’d been helping Bender drag out of the way and stopped to listen. She motioned for Bender to do the same. After a few moments of silence, Leela heard it. She looked at her companions, and they nodded. They’d heard it too. Something in the ceiling was making an unnerving slurping noise.

“Rats?” Amy whispered. “Or owls, maybe?”

“I’ve never heard rats or owls make that kind of noise.” Leela replied.

“Giant snakes?” Fry added nervously.

With that thought hanging in the air, Leela lifted a sturdy copper pipe off of the floor and cautiously made her way toward a small hatch that was built into the ceiling of the abandoned ship’s engine compartment. When Leela and the others had snuck into the abandoned lot just after sunset, they’d made a quick dash for the ship to avoid being noticed by the DOOP soldiers that were lounging around on the deck that surrounded the top of the Planet Express Building’s tower. They hadn’t given any thought to making sure the abandoned lot was actually abandoned.

Leela looked up at the ceiling hatch. It was recessed into the ship’s hull by about a foot and a half. A set of rusted metal rungs welded to the bulkhead provided access. It was hard to tell in the semidarkness provided by Bender’s infinitely-useful eye lights, but it looked to Leela like the hatch might have been slightly ajar.

After looking up at the hatch and then back to the others, who each gave her a definite “what are you, nuts?” look, Leela started to work her way silently up the rungs. When she reached the hatch, she shifted her makeshift club to her other hand and carefully pressed upward. The rusted metal hinges screeched like an animal in pain, causing everyone present to jump halfway out of their skins.

Down below, Fry tried to convince his heart to stop trying to beat its way out of his chest. He looked up at the hatch, expecting some horrible alien monster to erupt out of it and devour his spleen, but Leela just continued to stand there, the top half of her body sticking through the hatch into the guts of the ship beyond. After a handful of seconds that stretched into forever, Leela clambered down a couple of rungs and leaned out into the engine compartment.

“It’s alright.” She said. “There’s pigeon nests up here. There must be a hole in the hull somewhere they can get in and out of. I must’ve scared them off when I opened the- wait.” Leela’s head disappeared through the hatch again. “Wait, that didn’t sound like a pigeon. What the-"

Fry heard two screams. The first one was unmistakably Leela’s. The other one was too distorted as it echoed around the compartment to make out. It definitely wasn’t human. Leela’s body violently twisted sideways, almost causing her to lose her balance on the rung that she was standing on. A split-second later, Fry heard Leela’s pipe collide with something with a sharp crack. Then there was a muffled thud, followed by silence.

As Fry, Amy and Bender rushed to the base of the rung ladder to help, Leela disappeared completely through the hatch. Fry, in a state of panic, desperately called up to her.

“Leela?! Are you alright?!”

There were some shuffling noises in the darkness, followed by a low curse. Leela leaned out of the hatch. “Umm, so uhh… I found Zoidberg.” She said, deadpan.

They dragged Zoidberg’s limp body out of the ship and dumped him in the dumpster behind the Cygnoids’ pizza place. He was still breathing when they rolled him into a pile of moldy pizza boxes. When he came to, he’d find himself in the middle of what he’d call a feast. Leela felt her stomach heave.

With the Decapodian taken care of, there was nothing left to do but hide in the shadows and wait. It didn’t take long. Amy had shown them how to disconnect all of the safety measures that were supposed to prevent some moron from accidentally turning their spaceship into a bomb, so there was no warning. The beat-up green spaceship was simply there one moment, and gone the next. A nice big fireball climbed almost lazily into the night sky.

Lights went on throughout the Planet Express Building. Leela led her crew through the alleyway behind the pizza joint, across the street that dead-ended at Planet Express, under a fence that, for some reason, brought back memories of some strange, forgotten dream involving giant flying brains, across another street, and then to the barrier wall that ran along the Hudson River. Leela didn’t even break stride when she got to the wall. Using her right arm for leverage, she vaulted right over the wall and dropped out of sight with a splash. Her companions weren’t quite so ready to trust in fate. They waited for Leela to surface and verify that the river really was as deep as they thought it was before clambering over the wall and dropping one by one into the murky water.

It was only a short swim to Planet Express, but they were all breathing heavily by the time they hauled themselves out of the water and onto the sloping roof of the building’s southern extension, which jutted out into the river.

Now soaking wet, the foursome clambered up the roof to the balcony that housed, among other things, the freedom tub. Leela hauled herself over the railing and un-slung her rifle, which by this point seemed a permanent part of her attire. While she waited for her crew to join her on the balcony, she tried without luck to get her hair to stay out of her face. As soon as she could safely put her rifle down, she was putting her hair back up. Staying in disguise was a bit pointless now, anyway.

A dull orange glow was reflecting off of the Hudson as the Planet Express Crew snuck along the building’s red brick exterior. The shrill whine of fire engines was drawing nearer.

Leela stopped at the door that would lead into the hangar. She tried it, even though she knew it would be locked. Something beeped softly the moment she touched the doorknob. A polite, computerized voice asked her for her authorization code. She had one, of course, but if the DOOP had been smart enough to activate the building’s built-in security, then certainly they would have deactivated the codes. Entering an invalid code would end badly. There were some decidedly nasty defensive measures built into hidden compartments all over the exterior of the building.

“Uhh, just a second.” Leela told the machine. “I have it written down here in my purse.”

The computer wasn’t quite that dumb. “You do not appear to be carrying a purse.” It commented, still polite and unthreatening. Something ticked in the wall.

Leela thumbed the charge button on her rifle.

“In fact.” The computer continued. “You appear to be carrying a mark VII Antiproton Rifle.”

“What, this old thing?’ The nose of the rifle came up and Amy, Fry, and Bender edged away from their Captain. “Yeah.” Leela replied casually. “It belongs to someone that works here. I’m returning it.”

The security system mulled that over. “That seems unlikely.” It decided. “I’m afraid I am going to have to ask you again for your authorization code, or I will have to insist that you leave.”

“Oh, I see.” The antimatter rifle began to chirp as it reached a full charge. “Well, as the owner of this company would say, good news! I’ve just found my code.” Leela began to depress the trigger

“Access granted.”

Leela froze. “Wait, what?”

The door swung open, revealing a pudgy, dreadlocked silhouette.

"Sweet laser gun of Livingston! You know,” the shadow added conversationally, “if you wanted in, all you had ta do was knock.”

Leela, Amy, and Bender just stared, open-mouthed. Leela’s rifle beeped at her, as if asking what the holdup was.

Fry waved. “Hi Hermes!”

“Alright.” Leela managed once the Jamaican had ushered them inside and locked the door behind them. “Do you mind explaining just what the hell you’re doing here?”

Hermes laughed. “You didn’t think I was going to hang around in the sewers and wait for the DOOP to come pick me up, did you? The moment you took off with that gang of crazy mutants chasing after you, I got my wife, Dwight, and de professor and dat boy of his together, and we took off in da opposite direction. We climbed up into the sewers- almost got caught doing that- and den made our way back to the rocket exhaust tunnels that go under Planet Express. We’ve been hiding out down dere ever since.”

“But how did you know that we were here?” Amy asked.

Hermes shrugged. “Easy. We felt the ground shake, and a bunch of DOOP soldiers started yelling. We knew you four had to be involved somehow. When I came up out of the tunnel to see what was going on, da whole place was deserted. I manually set the security system and locked down the building. Then I heard the security system talking to someone that was trying to get in the back door. It wasn’t hard to guess what was going on.” The Jamaican grinned, obviously proud of himself.

Leela allowed herself a rare smile. “I have to say Hermes,” she said, “it’s a relief to see you here. I didn’t like leaving you down in Old New York like that.”

“It’s alright.” The Jamaican reassured her. “You did what you had ta do.” The Jamaican led the group to the conference table and leaned against one of the chairs. For an instant it felt eerily like the events of the past couple of months were all a dream, and it was just another evening at Planet Express. Any moment, Hermes would start in on his requisite post-delivery debriefing, and they’d all gather around the conference table. As the bureaucrat would start to drone on about quotas not being met, Fry would help keep Leela awake by silently mocking the bureaucrat when he turned his back, and making Leela fight to keep herself from laughing.

Remembering, Leela touched one of the chairs and looked up at Fry. The affectionate smile with which she favored him was rewarded with an explosive grin. Then Leela remembered that this wasn’t really Planet Express, and that a different Fry had sat here keeping some other Leela from sleeping during the evening debriefing. Reality set in like a punch to the face.

“Is everything, alright, Leela?” Hermes asked.

“What? Oh yes, I’m fine.” She reassured him. “I was just thinking- no, never mind. It’s nothing.”

“Well, alright den.” The Jamaican sounded unconvinced. “We probably don’t have much time before one of the army guys realizes that they’ve been locked out. We’d better get the four of you into the ship.”

Leela nodded. “Yeah, you’re right.” Her voice was tinged with regret. “As much as I’d like to, we can’t afford to be standing around here talking like this. We’d better go.”

Hermes led the way through the building to the elevator and then back out to the hangar. Leela had her rifle ready in case they met some soldier that had still been in the building when Hermes had locked it down, but they met no one.

As they approached the bow of the Planet Express Ship, the grating that covered the entrance to the exhaust tunnels slid aside. Cubert’s head appeared for half a second, and was gone. He reappeared soon after and climbed out onto the hangar floor. He was followed by Labarbara, Dwight, and then the Professor.

For Fry, Leela, and Amy- and Bender, had he been able to admit it- it was a relief to see the friendly faces again after spending the day feeling as though the whole universe was out to get them.

Leela had a sudden thought. “Hermes, do you know what happened to my, I mean, Tura’s parents after we left?” The moment she’d blurted it out she knew it was a stupid question. How could he know that if he left the same time we did?

Again, Hermes smiled. “Why don’t you ask dem yourself?” He nodded toward the hole in the floor that the professor was still trying to haul himself out of. As Leela watched, a purple tentacle crept up from below and wrapped itself around his waist. With the added support, Farnsworth finally dragged himself over the rim of the hole and collapsed on the hangar deck. Leela recognized the tentacle immediately.


“We couldn’t have found our way through the sewers without a little help.” The bureaucrat explained.

Leela rushed to the lip of the hole, practically vaulting over the prone, wheezing form of the Professor. Sure enough, the faces of Turanga Morris and Munda were there looking back up at her.

"It's good to see you again, Leela." The three cyclopses shared a long embrace. "Your father and I didn't think we were going to see you again before you went home."

Leela and her temporary parents had said their goodbyes down in the ruins of the Freedom Tower, but the exchange had had a bit of a surrealistic quality to it. It had just not seemed possible at the time that Leela would go her way and Tura's parents would go theirs, and none of them would meet again.

Hermes tapped Leela on her shoulder, forcing her back to reality.

"It's good to see you guys too." Leela replied. Hesitantly, she disengaged herself from the tangle of arms and tentacles. "I wish we could stay and talk, but there isn't much time."

Something clanged against the building's tough diamondium hide, emphasizing Leela's point for her.

"We know, dear." Munda replied.

Leela embraced her parents one last time and then turned to go. She paused. "Mom, Dad." She turned back to face the mutants. "This is our last chance to fix this mess. If we don't pull this off..."

Morris and Munda exchanged glances. "We know, Leela." Morris replied.

"I know you do. What I'm trying to say is... Don't be anywhere near New New York. Get as far away as possible."

"What, you mean like try to make it to one of the other cities? Hide with the mutants under D.C or Boston?" Morris sounded dubious. "Your mother and I can't walk that far without getting caught."

Leela shook her head. "No, that won't be good enough. If we screw up, it won't be long before what's happening here spills over into other cities."

"Then what-"

"Break into an impound lot. Steal a ship. I don't know. Just get away from Earth and take as many of the other mutants with you as you can."

"Leela, you're scaring us." Munda said, wide-eyed. Another concussion rattled off of the building's armor.

"Come on, woman. We 'ave to go!" Hermes hollered at her from the embarkation ramp. Leela and her parents were the only ones still out in the open. Hermes' family, and presumably Farnsworth and Cubert, had retreated back into the exhaust tunnels- which was perfectly safe as long as Leela took off vertically, in which case the tunnels weren't used- and the rest of Leela's crew had disappeared into the ship.

"I know Mom, I'm sorry." Leela said hurriedly. "But if you don't hear from Tura or me in three hours, I want you to promise me that you'll gather up anybody that you can find and get out."

"We promise." Morris replied firmly.

Leela was visibly relieved. "Good. Now, you'd better go. The DOOP will figure out how to get back in eventually."

The two older mutants nodded. Leela hugged them one last time and then made a dash for the ship. She watched from the bridge via an external monitor as her parents lowered themselves out of the hangar and dropped the grating back into place. Leela knew that, whatever happened in the next few hours, she would never see them again.

"What are you waiting for? Get us out of dis place!"

Leela whirled at the voice. "Hermes?! What are you doing here? You can't come with us!"

"Why not?" The bureaucrat demanded. He was buckled into a seat near the bridge's rear bulkhead. He crossed his arms as if daring anyone to try and dislodge his considerable bulk.

"Because you're from this timeline. If anyone sees you with us, they'll think you're part of the 'evil crew' that Tura's been trying to convince Zapp is instigating this imagined revolt."

"I already explained that to him." Amy said. "He insisted on coming."

Hermes shrugged. "If we get caught I'll claim to be a hostage that you used to get access to the Planet Express Building." He uncrossed his arms and became a bit more serious. "Look, you and Tura are either going to pull dis off, or you're not. If you do, den everything goes back to normal. If you don't, then me wife and son have to spend the rest of their lives living in a sewer. I'd never be able to live with myself if I knew I'd had a chance to help prevent dat and hid in a hole in the ground instead."

Arguing looked like it was going to be a waste of time, and if the steady stream of harsh bangs that were resonating against the Planet Express Building were any clue, they didn't have much to waste- so Leela turned back to her flight console and pressed the button that would open the shielded hangar doors. A rumbling groan enveloped the ship's bridge as the diamondium shutters were drawn away. The regular hangar doors slid aside soon after and the ship soared straight upward into a sky that was thick with smoke. Some small arms fire from the DOOP platoon that had been locked out on the sidewalk pinged harmlessly against the PE Ship's thick hide. Leela pulled back on the yoke and the ship reared back on its haunches. A well-practiced flick of the wrist sent the vessel soaring into the night. Leela had to battle the disturbing notion that there was a good chance that at least one of them would never step foot on the receding Earth again.

In the ship's cargo bay, a lone figure squatted behind an empty crate. It listened patiently, waiting for the telltale change in the throb-throb-throb rhythm of the engines that would signal that the ship was airborne. The time came to risk making a move. Slowly, the figure crossed the dark compartment and headed for the bridge deck. No one on the bridge noticed as a shadow crept by the hatch, down the ship's central corridor, and into the Captain's Quarters.

The alarm wrenched Tura out of a fitful sleep. It was strange, she'd only been in the DOOP army for a few days- and that had been several years ago-, but that distinctive shrill wail brought her training rushing back to her. Instinctively, she reached for her rifle, which, of course, she'd returned to the company quartermaster the day that she'd been discharged. Reality flooded back to her. She was not here as a soldier, but as a renegade mutant, and that alarm meant that Leela had successfully stolen the Planet Express Ship.

Aimee bolted upright in the cot next to Leela's. The two of them were sharing a compartment about the size of Kif's. Neither of them wanted to be alone, for obvious, velour-clad reasons.

"Is that them?" The intern asked, presumably meaning Leela and her crew.

"Probably. We'd better get up to the bridge."

Aimee nodded and threw on a clean, pink sweat suit. Tura was insanely jealous. The Nimbus had laundry machines, obviously, but Tura's clothes still smelled vaguely of sewage after three washes, and the stains were likely to never completely come out. Aimee hadn't had to wash her clothes; they'd gone straight into the incinerator. She always kept a clean set in Kif's stateroom in case she spent the night.

Leela waited for her friend to finish dressing and then led the way to the turbolift that led to the main bridge. Bender and Phil were waiting for the lift when she and Aimee walked up.

The alarm was still blaring at them out of the ship's intercom. Phil's eyes darted nervously up and down the corridor, as if some deranged boarding party was going to show up at any moment with guns blazing. The lift arrived, and Tura dragged Phil and the others in with her. A DOOP lieutenant and a full colonel from the Nimbus's attached Army brigade clambered in after them. The door whooshed shut, and the lift rocketed upward.

The lift door opened onto a scene of frenzied activity. Zapp stood in the middle of the bridge, arms crossed behind him, watching the familiar green Planet Express Ship flee ahead of him. Around Zapp, but somehow not including him, the well-oiled bridge crew shouted commands and compared sensor readings. Lieutenant Kroker sat at his station, listening intently as he was briefed by a crewman. Brannigan was just a gaudy ornament, there to look impressive and occasionally to get in the way. Kif really ran the ship- everyone except Zapp knew that.

"Ah, Leela. I'm glad you're here." Brannigan stated grandly upon seeing the cyclops standing near the rear of the bridge. The two officers that had joined Tura and the others on the turbolift fled to their stations. They didn't want to risk attracting any attention from their commanding officer.

"Uhh, thanks." It felt weird being called Leela again. She'd been going by Tura long enough that she'd started to actually like the name. There was no easy excuse that she could feed Brannigan to explain why he shouldn't be calling her Leela, though. She'd just have to deal with having two names for the time being.

Brannigan turned back to the viewscreen as Tura and her crew joined him by his Captain's chair. "It looks like you were right." Zapp said, nodding toward the Planet Express Ship. "That evil duplicate of yours broke into Planet Express and tried to get away in your ship. But they can't escape. Not with me in charge."

Tura suppressed a groan. Just play along. She told herself. You need him.

"Just remember," Tura reminded him, "you want them alive. To interrogate. We still don't know what their motives are, and we'll never find out if they're dead."

"But how do we stop Leela's, I mean, the enemy ship without destroying it?" Kif asked worriedly. He knew exactly what was really going on, and, knowing how much firepower the Nimbus carried, he was afraid that the Planet Express Ship would be pounded into a cloud of debris before Leela and Tura could enact the next phase of their plan.

"Easy." Tura replied. "That's my ship. I know its vulnerabilities." She walked up to the viewscreen and put her finger over the fleeing Planet Express Ship's upper hull, midway between the vertical tail fin and the laser cannon. "This is the weak point." She declared. In reality, it was the most well-armored part of the vessel, and contained no vital systems whatsoever. "A few direct hits from your laser gun ought to knock out the engines without puncturing the hull."

"Excellent!" Zapp replied, trying his best to assume an air of command. "Kif, fire as soon as they're in range."

"We're already firing," came Kif's signature passive-aggressive reply.

Sure enough a steady stream of yellow laser fire was arcing away from the Nimbus toward the Planet Express Ship. Tura watched as Leela jinked up and down and put her ship through a series of well-executed barrel rolls. Tura was impressed, though she wondered if that made her a bit vain, considering that she was practically admitting to being impressed with herself.

There was a burst of return fire, which bounced harmlessly off of Nimbus's shields. Tura just hoped that the PE Ship's laser turret was being controlled remotely from the bridge. She didn't like the idea of Fry being up there right next to the spot where she'd told Nimbus's crew to aim. Truth be told, she didn't like the whole situation.

Maybe Leela was right. Maybe I did all this just because I can't stand to not be in complete control of the situation. It was distinctly unpleasant to consider the idea. The plan that she'd worked out with Leela had involved the two PE crews putting on a grand show of fighting each other in Central Park with Brannigan watching, with the alpha crew (minus Fry) ultimately getting away at the last minute using the briefcase. Of course, Tura had left out the bit where, by 'getting away', the alpha crew would destroy the city. She'd let Leela believe the plan was feasible so that she'd be preoccupied while Tura got Brannigan to retrieve the briefcase. Tura wasn't proud of the trick, but there was just no way to be certain that- if the opportunity arose- Leela wouldn't bolt for her own timeline at the first sign of trouble and take her crewmates, including Fry, with her. At least, that's what Tura kept telling herself. To be safe, Tura needed to make sure that she, not Leela, had the briefcase until it was time to use it. Now, with the briefcase safely aboard Nimbus, Tura could be absolutely certain that it wouldn't be used until she wanted it to be.

Tura had gone over the logic behind what she'd done a hundred times. It still seemed sound. Risking the lives of the mutants on the assumption that she could trust Leela was unacceptable. So why did the sight of the Planet Express Ship being pelted by Nimbus's lasers make her feel like such a ball of scum?

As she watched, a stream of the Nimbus's laser fire connected with her old ship's upper hull. Tura winced. This is nuts. Here I am watching while someone shoots at my ship, crewed by my friends, and not only am I not doing anything to stop it, I'm helping!

As soon as the laser hit the location that Tura had indicated, the PE Ship's engine flickered out. The vessel began to list to one side, and the interior lights dimmed. Nice touch. Tura thought approvingly.

"The enemy ship has been disabled, sir." Kif announced. He looked more than a little relieved.

"Very well. Put it in the docking bay. I want everyone onboard that ship handcuffed and thrown in the brig."

"Aye sir." Kif nodded to a crewman, who hurried to a computer console to relay the orders to the ship's security detail.

"I, uhh, think I'll go supervise the boarding." Tura said. "They might need my help getting onto the ship." The cyclops started for the lift before Brannigan could come up with a reason to argue.

"We'll go to." Aimee added, herding Phil and Bender after Tura. "For... some reason."

Zapp just nodded and stared out of the viewscreen. With his hands clasped behind him and his feet spread, he looked like one of the legendary space heroes of old, ready and waiting to answer the call to duty. Tura thought she was going to hurl.

"Alright, we surrender. We're unarmed. Nobody shoot us, okay?" Leela opened the exterior hatch a crack and looked out at a sea of DOOP soldiers. A swarm of red guide lasers painted her forehead, but nobody fired off a shot.

"We're coming out." Leela called, and slowly swung the hatch open. The little red marks on her forehead swarmed about like bees on her skin. The Planet Express Ship was lying on its belly in the Nimbus's main hangar. Leela hadn't been able to deploy the landing gear since she was faking that her ship was crippled.

The drop to the hangar deck from the PE ship's side hatch was just a little too far to jump safely. Fry squeezed his way into the airlock next to Leela and handed her the emergency escape ladder- a mass of steel chain and hooks that neither of them had actually used before. Experimentally, Leela placed two hooks at the end of the contraption into holes in the deck that appeared to be positioned in the right place, and let the rest of the ladder slide out of the hatch. With a few shakes, the ladder unfurled and Leela carefully worked her way down it to the deck. Fry, Amy, Hermes, and Bender followed her one by one.

Half a dozen soldiers broke away from the ring that surrounded the Planet Express Ship and approached Leela and her crew. The beta crew was with them, and Tura appeared to be in charge of what was going on. Which is either a good thing, or not. Leela thought.

Tura walked straight up to Leela and announced that she was under arrest. Leela held up her hands, wrists together, to show that she was surrendering. Fry, Amy, and Bender did the same. There was no need to put on a show- and risk getting shot full of laser holes in the process- with Brannigan not around to see it.

As a sergeant stepped forward and fixed a pair of laser cuffs to Leela's wrists, Tura bent forward and whispered in her ear. "Everything's under control."

It was hard for Leela to be convinced of that as she was led away into the depths of the ship.

Zapp strutted into the brig a few minutes after Leela and her crew had been unceremoniously dumped there. Leela did her best to sound deranged and evil as he tried to question her. He was as bad an interrogator as he was a Captain. He asked a few questions- where she was from, why she was riling up the mutants- that sort of thing, but he didn't know what to do when, rather than answering his questions, Leela and the others just hurled insults at him from the other side of the force field that served as their cell door. Eventually Zap just gave up and, pretending that he'd gotten what he needed, headed for the hatch.

"Well, that was refreshing." Leela remarked cheerfully as the hatch slid closed behind him.

"Yes. Yes it was." Amy agreed.

The hatch whooshed open again. Oh god, I spoke too soon. he's coming back. Leela grimaced, but it wasn't Brannigan that appeared in the hatchway. It was Kif. The lieutenant swept the brig with his eyes before waving over his shoulder. Tura and her crew appeared behind him.

Kif pressed a series of buttons on a panel mounted next to the brig's hatch, and a red light blinked on, signaling that it was secured. No one would be getting in or out. Tura then walked over to the cell that housed the alpha crew and, with the flick of a switch, deactivated the force field. Leela caught her double's eye.

"You know, I wasn't sure you were actually going to let me out." She muttered.

"What, and leave you in Zapp's custody?" Tura snorted. "Even I don't hate you that much."

"Great." Leela noticed that Tura wasn't carrying anything. That wasn't part of the plan. "You don't by chance hate me too much to hand over the Professor's invention so my crew and I can go home, do you?"

Tura nodded in the direction of Kif. "Oh, I'd love to, but you'll have to talk to him about that first."

Leela gave the Amphibosian a questioning look. Kif wilted under her gaze.

"I've put the device in a safe place." He was making a considerable effort to try and sound tough and in command, but the shaking in his legs just made him seem even more pathetic than usual. "Leel- Tura- told me what it does, but well, with all of these rumors going around about mutant terrorists and plots to overthrow the government, I have to be sure I can trust you." He spread his arms. "Prove to me you're who you say you are, and I'll give you the device."

Leela felt her heart sink. They didn't have time for this.

"Kif, we don't have time for this." Tura said. "And Aimee and I have already explained what's going on to you."

"I know." The lieutenant looked like he was in pain. "But I can't just-"

There was a knock on the hatch. Everyone froze.

"Kif, are you in there?" It was unmistakably Zapp's voice. "There's a growth on my back that I need you to look at- say, why is this door locked, anyway?"

Kif went white. Only one code could override Kif's and open the door. The Captain's. "Back in your cell, now!" He hissed, but there wasn't enough time. The door slid open and Brannigan took a few steps into the compartment.

"The computer said you were here- what the?!" His eyes took in the empty cell, Kif, and the two sets of Planet Express Crews.

"Sir, I- I can explain." Kif's voice was a feeble squeak.

Brannigan was slowly backing toward the hatch. "Right." He said. "Of course. I'll just, ah, be going now."

The two Leela's dove at Zapp, but he was just a little bit out of their range. Leela's hand got a tenuous hold on his Captain's jacket, but Brannigan pulled free and bolted down the corridor.

While Tura gave chase, Leela grabbed Kif by the arm. "Time to decide." She ordered. "Are you with us, or not?"

"I, um, well, that is..."

"Come on, Kif." Aimee pleaded. "Don't you trust me?"

"Yes, of course. It's just that, I mean..." The lieutenant sputtered to a halt, defeated. He went limp. "Fine. It's in my stateroom, under the bed."

"Good. Lead the way." Leela shoved Kif out into the corridor. Tura, who had given up the chase, almost barreled into him as she came jogging around the corner.

"What? But, I'm not going with you!" Kif protested.

"Zapp just saw you talking to us." Leela explained impatiently, propelling him down the hallway. "You're part of the evil mutant conspiracy now. Congratulations."

Reluctantly, Kif led the band of fugitives through the ship. Tura called a halt at the armory and passed out standard issue DOOP laser rifles. Leela was pleasantly surprised to find that both her antimatter rifle and the quintessence pistol that she'd lent Tura had been stored there as well. Tura made a move toward the antimatter rifle, but Leela snatched it first, Leaving Tura with the pistol. Kif, predictably, refused the weapon that he was handed.

The group easily made it to Kif's quarters and retrieved the briefcase, which was entrusted to Hermes. They passed a few crew members in the corridors, but each of them had been unarmed and had scattered the moment they realized what was going on. It was only when they'd gotten halfway from Kif's quarters to the hangar bay that they started meeting armed resistance.

Rather than risk getting into a firefight, the two Leelas- with Kif's help- guided their friends around each barricade. It was a slow process involving lots of ducking into private quarters, crawling under galley tables, and squeezing into maintenance tunnels, but they successfully made it all the way to the main hangar without having to fire a shot.

Zapp was standing at the hangar's only entrance with a dozen men. Fry peeked at them from around a bend in the corridor.

"What are we going to do now?" He whispered to Leela. "They're all just standing there, like they're waiting for us."

"Even Zapp knows that the ships in the hangar are the only way off of Nimbus." Leela whispered back.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Aimee asked. She cocked her rifle. "Let's go." The other intern enthusiastically nodded her assent.

The two Leelas exchanged a knowing look. The Amys had recently come to have the same opinion about Zapp that they'd had for years.

"We can't just shoot all of dose soldiers." Hermes protested. "Dey're just following orders."

Tura nodded in agreement. "Hermes is right. I still don't know why he's here at all, but he's right. We're trying to save lives, not take them."

One of the Benders, though it was impossible to tell which, rolled his eyes. "Well that's great." He snorted. "So what, you want us to walk up there and stick flowers in their gun barrels?"

"Not quite." Tura replied. "Kif, is there any place nearby where we can find oxygen masks?"

A loud hiss erupted from every direction at once. Leela tightened the strap that held her re-breather in place.

"That should do it!" Kif hollered over the din.

Metal clangs echoed up and down the corridor as airtight hatches automatically closed as sensors detected a sudden decrease in atmospheric pressure. A strong wind came up out of nowhere, and then was gone just as quickly.

The hissing died away. Kif had activated the ship's fire fighting routines, tricking the computer into thinking that they were taking part in some kind of drill. Fire needs three things to burn, fuel, heat, and oxygen. On a starship, where every atmospheric detail is controlled to an almost paranoid level, lowering the air pressure in a few compartments- and starving any potential fire of oxygen before it could grow out of control- was an easy task.

In this case there was no fire, but humans tend not to do well without oxygen either. By the time Tura and Leela had led their group back to the hangar, Brannigan was out cold. Alarmingly, the squad of soldiers that had been with him, however, had mysteriously vanished.

"Uhh, where'd they all go?" Fry asked nervously.

"Who cares?" Phil replied. "Come on, the ship's right there!" He started running. The others followed, which was good, because that was the precise moment when the squad of soldiers- who had been drilled heavily on what to do if a compartment lost pressure- shambled around the bend in the corridor dressed in bulky pressure suits and started shooting.

Leela and Tura ducked behind the folded-up wing of a landing craft and returned fire, keeping both of their weapons on low power. Each of their shots missed, as they'd intended, but the soldiers dove for cover, buying the PE crewmembers some time as they clambered one by one up the metal escape ladder into the safety of the Planet Express Ship.

As the Two Leelas continued to lay down covering fire, one of the soldiers took a chance and, leaning out into the line of fire, placed a respirator over Zapp's face. Tura sent a few rounds screaming into the deck a couple of feet from the soldier, who, showing courage uncharacteristic of a DOOP enlistee, ignored the incoming fire and dragged his commanding officer to safety.

Tura dropped down behind the shelter of the wing. She gave Leela a look of pure incredulity "Did that guy just risk his neck to save Zapp?"

"Yeah." Leela's rifle barked. "He must be new."

Tura looked over her shoulder. Everyone else was onboard the Planet Express Ship. "Time to go." She said.

And so it was. Leela fired off one last sustained burst of sizzling photon death, draining her weapon's batteries. Then the two of them made a mad dash for the ship, instinctively ducking their heads against the incoming fire.

From the hatchway overhead, Aimee and Hermes tried as best they could to provide cover as first Leela, and then Tura climbed the ladder and were ushered into the Planet Express Ship. The last thing Tura saw before the ladder was dumped overboard and the hatch clanged shut was Zapp Brannigan running across the hangar after them, arms flailing, as he hollered at the top of his lungs through his respirator.

By the time Tura had made it up to the bridge, Leela was already in the pilot's seat madly flicking switches. The low hum of the engines built to a comfortingly familiar, guttural roar as they quickly came online.

"Phil," Leela called. "I need a door. Now."

The delivery boy pressed a button, and the ship rang like a bell. A hollow cylinder catapulted out of the ship's underbelly, ignited its own tiny ion engine , and sped off across the hangar. As the torpedo mindlessly hurtled toward a patch of the Nimbus's outer hull, Amy pointed out a lone figure- Zapp- running at full tilt for a nearby parked shuttle. He was going to make it. If it was one thing Brannigan excelled at, it was saving his own skin.

Ah well. Leela thought.

The Planet Express Ship's weapons would have splattered harmlessly against Nimbus's ten billion dollar electromagnetic shields, had they been up. They weren't. And even if they had been, no spaceship ever built had been designed to take a torpedo hit from inside.

A sizeable chunk of the Nimbus's hangar disappeared into a ball of fire, which went out almost instantly. All at once, every object not nailed down- including the Planet Express Ship and the space suited soldiers- took off flying in the direction of the gaping hole that had appeared in the ship's hull. The instant the Planet Express Ship was free, Leela banked hard to port to avoid a shuttle that had been catapulted into space alongside them and pushed the throttle forward. The Nimbus dwindled to a point and was gone.

"We did it!" Phil screamed when it was clear that no one was giving chase. Everyone was too busy exchanging high-fives and grinning like idiots to hear the bridge hatch swish open.

"Thank god." Amy said, embracing her twin. "Now we can finally go home."

"What?" Leela turned to her in surprise. "No we can't. Not yet. I mean, sure, we got the briefcase away from Zapp, but now he knows that Tura has been lying to him. He'll wipe out the mutants!"

"Oh." The intern hadn't thought that part through yet. "Oh, yeah." The flush of excitement slowly left her cheeks. "But now we have a way home, right? So at least we can go back to our timeline once we stop Zapp."

"Bad news. everyone. I'm afraid that won't be possible."

Everyone on the bridge turned to face the owner of this new voice. They were shocked to discover Professor Farnsworth standing near the back of the bridge. In one arthritic hand he held the briefcase that had just been liberated from DOOP custody, and he gripped the pistol that Tura kept in her quarters firmly in the other.

"Professor?" Aimee blinked in confusion. "What the shmell?"

"I'm sorry," the old scientist continued sadly, "but I can't allow any of you to leave this timeline now, or ever."

"What? Why the hell not?" Leela demanded. As if you and that little pop gun could stop me. She silently added.

"Well, you see, I've had a lot of time to think over the past few weeks, and I've come to realize something shocking."

"What, that you've gone completely nuts?" Tura volunteered.

"No! It's about the nature of our timeline, and of the one that we've been calling the 'alpha' timeline."

"What about them?" Fry asked.

"It occurred to me this morning while I was trying to clean raw sewage out of my ears that we may have had good reason to call the other timeline the 'alpha', and this one the 'beta.' When we talk about parallel timelines, that's not the same as talking about parallel universes. All of the parallel timelines exist in the same universe."

Leela was growing impatient. "Yes, yes. We've heard all of that before. The other Professor Farnsworth explained it to us."

"Wait, Leela." Tura interjected, holding up her hand. "I wasn't there for that talk. Why is that important, Professor?"

"It's important because there is supposed to only be one real timeline!" The Professor proclaimed, assuming that this statement alone would be enough to drive home whatever point he was making.

"And that means...?" Aimee prodded when the room didn't erupt into gasps as Farnsworth had expected.

Farnsworth made a disgusted noise. "Fine, I'll start from the beginning. Each time an event happens, there are multiple ways that it can play out. A coin can be heads or tails, a person might decide to walk to work one day, or he might chose to take a bus instead. Each and every possible option corresponds to a slightly different track that events can take- in other words, to a different timeline."

"So..." Phil squinted with the effort of wrapping his brain around the idea. "So what you're saying is that the difference between our timeline and the other one is one decision that some random guy made about taking the bus?"

"More likely a number of small decisions made by many people, but that is the general idea, yes." The scientist nodded. "In fact, if you could trace our reality backward in time, it would converge with other timelines until it finally merged with the alpha timeline at whatever decision was made that caused our reality to split away to begin with."

"Split away?" Hermes asked. "Are you saying that we were originally part of the other timeline, but then broke away somehow?"

"In a sense, yes." Farnsworth replied. "At some point in the past, something occurred that caused our timeline to split away from the alpha timeline."

Leela crossed her arms and forced her way into a break in the Professor's speech. "Look, this is very interesting and all, but I'm not seeing why any of this is a problem."

"It isn't, for you." The Professor, retorted. "But it's a major problem for anyone from this timeline."

"Why should it matter what timeline we're from?" Tura asked.

"Haven't you been listening?! Sometime in the past, a decision was made and the universe could chose to go down two paths, one that corresponded to the alpha timeline, and one that corresponded to ours."

Both Amys spoke at the once. "So?"

"So the universe chose the alpha timeline, not the beta timeline!" Farnsworth thundered. "There are an infinite number of possible histories, but the universe only chooses one of them. The others remain nothing more than ripples in the universe's quantum fabric, never becoming anything more than a mathematical abstraction."

"But that's crazy!" Aimee protested. "You just basically said that no one from this timeline really exists!"

Farnsworth nodded emphatically. "Precisely!" He jabbed an accusing finger at Leela, as if she were somehow personally responsible for whatever it was that he was carrying on about. Leela still hadn't a clue what that was, precisely.

"When the alpha crew came upon that derelict space station and accidentally activated the device that they found, they were sent into an alternate timeline- one that could have existed had events played out differently somewhere in the past, but had never gotten the chance to become real."

"Ours." Hermes guessed.

"Right. And one of the key predictions of quantum mechanics is that any quantum mechanical entity, when acted upon by an observer, must collapse and become real."

"What the hell does that mean?" Tura asked, her head spinning.

"It means," Aimee interjected grimly, "that we didn't exist until Leela and the others fell into our timeline."

"What?!" Tura didn't know whether to laugh or to hit something. "But that's crazy. Professor, tell Aimee she's crazy."

But Farnsworth shook his head. "I'm afraid she's not crazy." He said. "When Leela and the others fell into our timeline, the presence of observers from the timeline that was 'real' forced our whole reality to collapse out if its quantum limbo and coalesce into something that was itself real." The scientist paused for dramatic effect. "All of our history, everything that has ever happened to us and to every person that we have ever known only occurred because Bender pressed a button on a device in a damaged space station and launched himself, Leela, Fry, and Amy into our timeline."

Silence reigned. A cold feeling started to work its way into Leela's gut as her unconscious mind digested what Farnsworth had just revealed.

"If that's all true," Leela said hesitantly, "then what happens when the four of us from the other timeline leave?"

"That's why I can't allow any of you to go." The Professor replied. His grip tightened further on his weapon. "The moment the four of you are gone, there is a chance that not only will every single being in this reality cease to exist, they will have never existed."

"Sweet musk ox of paradox!" Hermes cried.

Leela's head spun like a washing machine on spin cycle. "None of that..." She shook her head to clear it, but only succeeded in making her temples throb even harder. "None of that can be true."

"But Leela, what if it is?!" Amy exclaimed. "What if the four of us going home destroys this entire timeline?!"

"Then I get to kill all humans." Bender rubbed his hands together eagerly.

"Yeah, and all robots too." The robot's double reminded him. It is hard for a robot to go pale, but somehow Bender managed it.

Abruptly, Fry stood. The motion was so unexpected that everyone stopped to stare at him.

"I'll stay," he blurted


Leela choked on her own tongue. She grabbed the sides of her Captain's chair just to keep from falling over. "What?!" She managed to croak.

"I said I'll stay." The delivery boy repeated. "All four of us don't need to be here, right Professor? Nothing bad will happen if only one of us stays?"

Farnsworth thought for a moment. "No, I suppose not." He said eventually. "As long as one observer from the 'real' timeline remains here, this reality's wave function should remain collapsed."

Fry hesitated. "Which is good, right? That's what we want?"


"Think about it, Leela." Fry turned back to his captain, who didn't have the strength to appreciate the irony in Fry asking her to think. "Only one of us needs to stay here. You shouldn't stay, because you and Tura will kill each other, Bender will refuse to do it-"

"Damn right." The robot interrupted.

"-and Amy really wants to go home. That only leaves me."

Leela looked morosely up at the delivery boy from her Captain's chair. "But what about you, Fry? Don't you want to go home?"

Since his conversation with Phil down in the bowels of old New York, Fry had known that a moment like this was coming. He had to decide, did he want to stay here with Tura, or did he belong back in his original timeline? He'd thought about it constantly, but each time his brain had started to hurt and he'd been left even more unsure of himself than he'd started out. Now, fate had seemingly made the choice for him. He was no longer choosing between his friendship with Leela and his relationship with Tura. If he left now, he'd be dooming an entire reality to nonexistence. That wasn't something he could comprehend, much less accept.

"Of course I want to go home!" The delivery boy assured his Captain. He gently took her hand and squeezed it. "But somebody has to stay, and that somebody has to be me."

"But... But..." Leela's mouth worked silently as she tried to find something to say. For a moment, her eye grew moist, but then she tore away from the delivery boy's grasp and, scowling, stormed to her feet. "This is your fault!" She snarled in Tura's direction.

Tura had been sitting quietly on the couch near the bow, her face carefully neutral, while she waited to see how things would play out. Now she rose to answer the accusation that had been thrown at her.

"I didn't do or say anything." Tura told Leela in a cool, and unmistakably threatening tone. "Fry made his choice all by himself."

"Owl crap." Leela spat, placing her face mere inches from Tura's. Only the couch stood between them as Leela balled her hands into fists. "I don't know how, but somehow you manipulated him into this. Just like you've been manipulating me!"

Tura's eye seemed to spark as she leaned in even closer, daring Leela to make a move. Fry stood in the background wringing his hands, horrified by what he'd caused, and having no idea what he should do.

"Don't blame me for something Fry thought up all by himself." Tura countered. "It's not the first time you've misunderestimated him."

Fry tried to protest. "But-"

"Shut up, Fry." Both Leelas snapped in unison, still glaring at each other.

Leela turned back to her double. "You don't have any room to talk." She growled at her. "This whole time you've just been using him as a way to feel like you're getting back at me."

"That's not true!" Tura shot back. "You're just so deep in denial that you're inventing conspiracies out of thin air!"

Leela raised a fist. She would have swung too, had Aimee not grabbed her by the wrist just in time. The cyclops tore herself away from the intern's grip and glared at her for her trouble, but then seemed to realize what she was doing and forcibly calmed herself. When she turned back to face her adversary, the venom was gone from her expression. When she spoke, it was completely without malice.

"Tell me something, Tura." Leela said in an almost casual manner.

Sensing a trap, Tura paused. Her eye danced back and forth across Leela's face, but even she wasn't able to read what Leela was thinking. Guardedly, she asked, "What?"

"How does Phil factor into all of this?" Leela smiled wickedly, but continued conversationally as though she were discussing something as mundane as what she would be eating for dinner that night. "I suppose he'll go home with Amy, Bender, and me. I mean, you've made it pretty clear how much you care about him by this point, don't you think?"

The barb crashed through Tura's shield of white-hot anger and exploded. Her composure crumbled like a mud hut in an earthquake. Tura remembered what Fry had said back on their date about how Phil would cope with the news that she and Fry were together. He won't hate you. Not even me. He'll just hate himself.

Tura turned to Phil, ready to explain how it wasn't like that, that she really did care about him. The only problem was that Phil wasn't where he'd been standing when the argument between Fry and Leela had broken out. In fact, he didn't appear to be on the bridge at all...

"Phil, what are you doing?" The voice crackled over Phil's suit radio.

The delivery boy sighed. Well, it looks like they've figured out that I left. He'd known that they'd realize he was gone sooner or later and start to search the ship for him. When he didn't turn up anywhere, someone would finally think to check the spacesuit locker by the port hatch and discover that one of the suits was missing.

Reluctantly, Phil pressed two gloved fingers together, activating the switch that controlled the speaker built into his helmet. "Is this Leela, or Tura?" He asked.

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the connection. "It's Tura."

Good. "I thought it would take longer for you to find me." The delivery boy said.

Another pause. "Phil, what are you doing out there?" Tura sounded worried, even over the tinny, static-choked suit radio.

"I haveta do something." Phil replied. He pushed some buttons on the panel at his chest and felt a firm kick in his back. The stars spun lazily as the thruster pack nudged him onto a new trajectory. Up ahead was a bright star, almost too painful to look at. As he watched, it grew just a little bit larger. Pretty soon, he judged, he'd be able to make out details.

"Listen to me." An air of urgency had crept into her voice. "You have to come back. The Nimbus's crew must have been patching that hole we blew in their hull while we were sitting here trying to figure out what to do, because they're coming this way."

"I know. I saw it on the radar when the Professor was talking."

For a few seconds, the only answer was static. Phil squinted at the star again. It was definitely bigger.

"Aimee says that your suit's locator isn't working. We don't know where you are."

"I know." The delivery boy said again. He looked at the little gouge in his suit's control panel where the locator beacon was supposed to be. There was no way to turn it off; he'd finally had to smash it with the head of a screwdriver. "It's okay."

The urgency was joined by a combination of confusion and fear.

"What do you mean, it's okay? Phil, you've got to come back, now!"

"I already said, I haveta do something."

"Okay. Well, why don't you come back to the ship first? We can talk about what you need to do here where it's safe."

Phil smiled. Even he wasn't that stupid, but he wasn't offended. He knew Tura was just trying to help. A glint of sunshine caught the delivery boy's eye, and he looked down at the weapon that he held in his right hand. Leela would probably be mad that he'd stolen her antimatter rifle, but that was okay too. He knew that he'd been sorta useless ever since this whole mess had started, but he'd make up for it. Finally, he'd figured out how to fix things. The others will be sad, he told himself, but I know this is the right thing to do. Up ahead, the brilliant white star blossomed into the enormous bulk of the Nimbus. Phil reactivated his thrusters, fine-tuning his position. Idly, he wondered if anyone on the Nimbus had caught sight of the faint blue glow that the thrusters made when they fired as he turned the knob on the rifle to maximum setting. For a moment, he regarded the sleek, metallic weapon. For the first twenty-five years of his life, he would never have dreamed that he would hold something like it one day. His spacesuit's clear dome helmet offered a breathtaking view of his surroundings. While the delivery boy patiently waited for Nimbus to approach, he gazed around himself, seeing it again as he had the first time, when space had been a magical wonder. Off to his right was the brilliant blue orb of the Earth. It was so far away that it looked like a little tiny marble that someone had taken a big bite out of. The moon was also visible, a tiny sliver of light hanging next to the Earth. The sun was above him and to the left. He knew he wasn't supposed to look at it. He tried anyway, but his helmet instantly went opaque, and everything vanished until he gave up and looked away. I wish I could see the stars. The delivery boy squinted, but it was no use. The stars' puny light was being drowned out the sun's glare reflecting off scratches and dings in his helmet.

"Phil! Phil, answer me, damn it!"

The delivery boy snapped back to the present. Tura had been yelling at him over the radio for some time, he now realized.

"I'm still here." He said.

"What are you doing out there?" Tura demanded.

His captain was clearly furious with him. Phil had expected that too. The Nimbus filled his vision. It was so close now that he could see people's faces on the bridge. The one standing in the middle must be Zapp. He thought.

"Why the hell won't you talk to me?!"

Phil felt a pang of guilt. Tura didn't sound angry anymore. Now she sounded hurt, and scared.

"I haven't stopped talking to you." He said gently. "I'm still here. I'm just- a little busy."

The suit radio crackled and hissed. "Busy with what? Phil, you're scaring me." He voice wavered. "Please- please just come back."

"I can't come back."

"What? Why not? Are you hurt? Just tell us where you are. The Nimbus doesn't know that you're out there. We can come get you before-"

"I'm not hurt." Phil assured his Captain. He felt like he was in a dream. Everything was happening in slow motion. "And I think you're wrong. The Nimbus guys can see me." The delivery boy grinned and waved at the bridge crew of the Nimbus, who were now just a few meters away. They had slowed the ship to a crawl to see what the small blip was that had appeared on their ultra-sensitive radar, and were now all staring at him in utter bewilderment.

"How do you know?"

"Because I can see Zapp pointing at me." He replied cheerfully. He waved again. "Hi Zapp!"

Tura went into a panic. "Phil, whatever you think you're doing, stop! Right now!" The PE Captain's voice cut out for a moment. Phil heard the distorted sound of two people conversing, but his suit mic wasn't good enough to pick out what they were saying. Suddenly, Tura was back. "Leela tells me that the antimatter rifle is missing." She said. Her voice was like ice.

"I know. Sorry. I had to borrow it. I figured out how to save the mutants."

"Good. Then tell us where you are and we'll come help you."

Over his shoulder, Phil saw the Planet Express Ship swing into a tight arc. I shouldn't of said that I could see Zapp. Tura must've guessed that I'm floating near the Nimbus's bridge.

"No, I need to do this by myself." How could he make her understand? "Zapp already told Nixon the fake story that you and Leela put together." He explained. "He probably hasn't had a chance to tell Nixon yet that you were lying to him."

"Okay, good. That's great Phil. Now just tell me where-"

Phil kept talking. He didn't like interrupting, but the Planet Express Ship was getting kinda close, and the Nimbus might decide to move if he waited too much longer. "If we get rid of Zapp, then everything will be okay again. Kif will be in charge of the Nimbus, and he's on our side. The mutants will be safe. Leela, Amy, and Bender can go home." It wasn't quite as easy to say the next part. "And Fry can stay here with you and our timeline will be okay."

"Phil, whatever you're planning to do-"

The delivery boy looked down at his weapon. He couldn't hear it chirping at him in vacuum, but it was blinking. That probably meant it was ready. "I know you'll be sad." He said to Tura. "But it'll be okay. Fry and I are the same, right? So I'll still be with you." He frowned, not sure whether it worked that way. The professor would know. "But there's two Fry's now, and that doesn't make sense."

The glow from the Planet Express Ship's engines blossomed into a painful blue lance.

"Phil, no!" Tura screamed at him. "Don't do it!"

The Planet Express Ship thundered in at him. Someone on board might even have seen him by now with all of the reflected sunlight that he was giving off. It didn't matter. He leveled his weapon at Zapp, who stood in the middle of his bridge and laughed at him. Phil smiled back. No doubt Zapp was thinking that no ordinary rifle could hope to puncture the thick hide of a DOOP warship. But, then again, the Professor didn't specialize in ordinary.

"I love you, Tura."

There was nothing left to say.

Phil pulled the trigger. The concussion swatted him backwards, away from the Nimbus's reinforced bridge viewport. A thick fog erupted out of the weapon and, forming into a ball, wafted lazily in the direction of the Nimbus. Brannigan pointed at the nonthreatening patch of mist and slapped his knee. He looked to be laughing so hard that he was having trouble breathing. Apparently, no one had explained antimatter to him.

The ball of antiprotons impacted the bridge's viewscreen. The grey mist erupted into a violet-blue thing of horror as its outer layers annihilated with the regular matter in the Nimbus's hull. Zapp never even had the opportunity to realize what was happening. The magnetic field that contained the ball ruptured, and the entire bridge of the Nimbus vanished in a flash of light.

The glare from the explosion was dazzling even through Phil's now-opaque helmet. The recoil from the weapon had been much stronger than he'd expected. He'd been thrown clear of most of the debris that had come spewing out of the gaping wound he'd carved in the Nimbus's bow. That was good, he supposed. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. He'd done what he needed to do. He debated calling Tura on the radio, but decided against it. There wasn't that much time left.

Phil looked around himself again. The Nimbus had come between himself and the brilliant white disc of the sun. The stars were out again! He looked at them, completely in awe of their ice-cold splendor. How many of them have I been to? He wondered. That didn't matter either. At that moment, just being able to hang up there in the dark with the Earth's distant, friendly blue glow to keep him company made everything else worthwhile. Philip J. Fry smiled.

He was still smiling when the yellow glow from the Nimbus's forward laser turret finally sought him out and the stars dimmed and finally went out.

Part VII: Decisions

It was time to get up again. Fry could see the warm ruddy glow of the morning sunlight through his closed eyelids. But I don't want to get up. Maybe if I pull the covers over my head, the morning will go away . The Professor had been blabbering at him for two weeks about how nothing was real unless it was observed. It sounded crazy to Fry, what with all of the talk of half-dead, half-alive zombie cats in boxes filled with poison gas. Still, that didn't mean he wasn't willing to give it a shot.

Squeezing his eyes closed as tightly as he could, Fry rolled himself up into a ball, creating a sort of cocoon out of his bed sheets. I'm not observing you. He told the universe. Go away.

Unfortunately, quantum mechanics does not work that way.

Fry's alarm went off. It was of the kind that beeps quietly at you at first, but like a toddler trying to get his parents to pay attention, slowly gets louder and more insistent until ignoring it becomes absolutely impossible.

An arm emerged from under Fry's sheets and swatted at the source of the racket. The alarm clock's primitive positronic brain had been anticipating the move, however, and it deftly scampered out of the way. When the noise didn't quit, but instead became even more loud and even more aggravating, Fry knew that he'd lost. The alarm clock had retreated to the opposite end of the room. If he wanted it to stop, he was going to have to walk over and turn it off.

"Ungh!" Bed sheets, blankets, and stained clothing flew this way and that as the delivery boy clawed his way free of the cozy pocket of warmth that he'd been hoarding. When he managed to drag himself to a sitting position, he squinted, scratched himself, and yawned. The clock continued to beep. Moaning one last time in protest, Fry forced himself to his feet and stumbled across the room. He eventually cornered his shrill, beeping adversary, and looming over it, prepared to kick it through a wall. Thankfully, the clock had been built with modest self-preservation circuitry. It went silent.

The room was plunged back into early morning tranquility. Fry entertained the notion of going back to bed, and to hell with work, but by this point he was already somewhat awake. With a sigh that terminated in another yawn, he slogged down the hall and into his shower.

The warm water felt great. All of the pain-in-the-ass scrubbing and lathering that he was technically supposed to do more than once a month couldn't even take away the simple pleasure of the heat on his skin. For the first time in weeks he even started to sing Walking on Sunshine, which was his favorite song. He only got through the first few lines before his brain had come far enough out of its fog that he remembered what had been going on in his life. He stopped singing.

Phil was dead. There had been plans for an elegant funeral at Orbiting Meadows, complete with a ceremonial launching of the casket into deep space. Fry had thought his double would have liked that, to be able to float through the stars forever. Tura wouldn't have it. She refused to explain why, but she was so adamant that it was finally decided that he would be cremated, and that his ashes would be fed into the Planet Express Ship's engines... whenever it was rebuilt, of course. For now, Phil sat in an urn on a shelf in the employee lounge at Planet Express. Fry didn't go into that room anymore.

The mutants were safe. With Zapp killed in action, Kif assumed command of the crippled Nimbus, which was currently parked a couple hundred miles over Fry's head while it underwent repairs. Kif claimed to have been taken hostage by the evil invaders from the alternate reality during their escape attempt. While the nefarious duplicate Planet Express crew set up their trap to take out the 'heroic' Zapp Brannigan, Kif claimed that he and the 'good' Planet Express Crew had managed to clamber into spacesuits and escape, moments before Brannigan's last stand- which somehow involved blowing up the invaders' ship in a hellish fireball. Others that had been aboard the Nimbus at the time offered slightly different accounts. A handful of soldiers claimed to have seen Kif and the 'good' crew working with their duplicates to escape, even going so far as to suggest that only a senior member of the crew, such as Kif, could have instructed the ship's computer to lower the atmospheric pressure on board the Nimbus. Holotapes taken from the ship's log showed that the Nimbus's front laser turret had been destroyed by an enemy torpedo long after the ship's bridge- and Captain Brannigan- were gone, making it unclear how Zapp had destroyed the enemy before his death. In the end, Kif's spotless record and the generally strong support from his crew were enough for the DOOP to close the matter. In a public address to the planet, president Nixon publicly pardoned the mutants as unwitting pawns in a scheme that, in his opinion, was as dastardly as it was admirable. Public suspicion of the denizens of the city's sewers remained high despite the speech.

Tura's attempts to gain equal access to the surface for the mutants had been stonewalled. In the end, Tura was the only mutant that was allowed to return to the surface, and only because Kif had insisted that she had played an integral role in his escape from his captors. Her friends had tried to tell her that it was still a victory- after all, everyone was still alive- but she wouldn't listen to a word of it.

As for what had actually happened to Leela, Amy, and Bender... Fry assumed that they were back home, picking up their lives right where they'd left them. Going home with them hadn't been an option. Farnsworth had his sciency reasons for why Fry had to stay, but, more than that, Fry couldn't make himself leave after Phil had just sacrificed himself so that he could stay. Leela hadn't quite seen things his way.

Tura had gone completely insane when Phil was shot. Before anyone was able to stop her, she'd activated a torpedo and blown the Nimbus's forward laser turret free of its hull. It had taken Hermes and both of the Benders to keep her from unloading every weapon that the Planet Express Ship carried, which, with Nimbus's shields down, would have reduced the DOOP flagship to a cloud of dust.

Once Tura had been restrained, she'd collapsed into a heap on the deck and started sobbing uncontrollably. It would have been a simple thing for Leela to overpower Farnsworth, shove everyone from the beta timeline into spacesuits and dump them overboard, and then drag Fry back with her to the alpha timeline. There had been a moment when it looked like she was even going to try. In the end though, Fry won out. He thought that she'd probably hate him for the rest of her life, but he knew what he had to do, and so he got into a spacesuit and walked out of the airlock before she decided to forcibly stop him. He didn't know the details of what happened onboard the Planet Express Ship after that, but he was eventually joined by Farnsworth, Hermes, Bender (presumably the one from the beta timeline), Aimee, and Tura. Tura was still completely out of it when she'd emerged from the airlock. Aimee had had to grab her by the nape of the neck as she floated past just to keep her from continuing off into interplanetary space. The Planet Express Ship's airlock had closed then, and the green and red vessel had moved off until it was just a dim speck in the distance. Someone activated the briefcase device, and the ship simply dissolved, only to be replaced moments later by its mass-equivalent in the form of a blinding burst of radiation.

A rescue ship sent to answer Nimbus's distress signal finally stumbled upon Fry and his companions after they'd been drifting helplessly for a couple of hours. Kif had had to do some Olympic-class convincing, but eventually they were all allowed to go home. All except for Fry, who now discovered that he no longer had a home. His apartment wasn't really his; that was doubly clear after Phil's death. He hadn't even gone back to it once since returning to New New York. His new place was tiny, but it did the trick. It wasn't like he had a ton of furniture to put in it now, anyway.

Things at work were... complicated. Tura- No, he reminded himself, that's not her name anymore now that my- the other Leela is gone. I have to start calling her Leela now like everyone else. Leela- the one from the beta timeline- was a mess. She didn't blame Fry for what had happened to Phil, but she was likely to go off on him- or anyone- for the slightest imagined screw up. Other times she would withdraw from everyone to the point that a whole day would go by where she didn't say a single word to anyone. On a delivery a few days earlier, she, Fry, Bender, and Amy had been on a delivery when she'd abruptly gotten up from her Captain's seat, excused herself from the bridge, and locked herself in her cabin for the remainder of the mission. It was a good thing that Aimee- no, it's just plain Amy now- knew how to fly the ship. Otherwise Fry didn't know how they would have gotten home.

The net result was that everyone at Planet Express was tense from two weeks of walking on egg shells. (Both metaphorically and physically, as it turned out. At some point Farnsworth had left the door open to the coop where he kept his experimental super-chickens, and Zoidberg had gotten in) Hermes had suggested that Leela take a leave of absence until she got her head together, but Tura had refused. Fry had begged Hermes not to force her. The delivery boy didn't like the idea of her having time to be alone with her thoughts right now.

Any thoughts of a romantic relationship between them had died with Phil. Fry knew that Phil had given his life partially so that Tura could be happy. He'd seen his Leela's relationship with Fry and judged that, if being with Fry was what she wanted, then he couldn't get in the way of that. Having nearly done the same thing with Lars a while ago, Fry could understand his thinking.

Fry had never had the chance to confide in his duplicate what then-Tura had told him the night that she'd shared a pizza with him in his old apartment. Poor Phil died without ever knowing how much she cared about him. Fry thought sadly. He knew that Phil's primary motivations for doing what he'd done had been to save the mutants by getting rid of Brannigan and to save his entire reality by making it easier for Fry to stay behind. If he'd known what his Leela's feelings had been, he'd probably have still gone through with it. Still, Fry couldn't quite shake the idea that he was at least partially responsible for his duplicate's death.

None of this was to say that Fry and this new Leela hadn't continued to be close. Rather, she clung to him as if he were a doughy, red-headed life raft. He let her, knowing that he owed it to Phil.

Still, I miss Leela, the delivery boy thought wistfully as he stepped out of the shower and toweled himself off. My Leela. It didn't matter how many times he ordered himself to think otherwise, in the end, Leela was the name of the woman that had vanished in a flash of light off of the Nimbus's bow two weeks ago. The Leela from this timeline always came with a qualifier when he thought of her. She was either Tura-Leela, or Phil's Leela. Never just plain 'Leela'.

He missed the others too. Amy, Bender, Hermes, the Professor... even Zoidberg. He kept telling himself that he saw them every day at work, but his brain kept insisting that it wasn't quite the same thing.

A noise brought the delivery boy back to the present. Dimly he realized that he'd been staring blankly into his bathroom mirror for some time. The sound came again. It was the rasping knock of someone's bare knuckles on his front door.

Fry blinked. "Now who could that be?" He wondered aloud. The only person that he could think of was Bender, but the robot was more apt to walk straight through the door than to waste time knocking.

Frantically, Fry searched through the piles of dirty clothes that lay scattered about his bedroom for a shirt, a pair of pants, and some underwear that was still clean enough that you could at least tell it had once been white.

"I'm coming!" He hollered when the knocking repeated a third time.

Somehow, Fry managed to muster enough coordination to get his clothes on- though not so much as to prevent himself from putting his shirt on backwards- and to make it to the door. He flung it open to find Tura- damn it, stop calling her that! he mentally chastised himself- standing on the threshold. Amy and Bender flanked her on either side.

"Leela?" He asked in surprise. At least I didn't use the wrong name in person.

The cyclops grinned at him. Startled, he took half a step backward. He hadn't seen her smile in weeks, definitely not since the accident. Fry looked from one face to the other. "What's going on? Why aren't you guys on your way to work?"

Rather than answering, the purple haired cyclops grabbed him. Fry went rigid, absolutely certain that he'd somehow inadvertently done something to earn himself the beating of his life. Instead, he found himself caught up in a tight embrace with a tendril of purple ponytail trying to work its way into his gaping mouth.

Wait a minute. Ponytail? But Tura had decided to keep her hair down! The delivery boy's eyes bulged, and not just because he was being suffocated. But that means...

"It's good to see you again." Leela- his Leela- whispered into his shoulder.

"What are you doing here?!" The question came out in gasps; Fry didn't quite have his breath back yet.

"The Professor made us a couple more of those briefcase things." Bender explained. The robot looked around. He didn't seem impressed by Fry's new apartment. "I liked your old place better. Your roommate was cool."

Amy shook her head at the robot and turned to Fry. "You didn't think we'd just leave you here and never come back, did you?" She asked.

In truth, he had thought just that. "To be honest, I thought you guys would be mad at me for not going back with you." He admitted. "I didn't think you'd want to see me again."

Leela's reply was firm. "That wasn't your fault."

Fry was just about to open his mouth to ask how she figured that, but a warning glance from Amy convinced him to think better of it. He switched gears. "So, how did you find me?"

"We went to Phil's apartment first." Leela admitted. "The other Bender answered the door and told us you weren't there. We convinced him to tell us where you went."

Which either means they bribed him, or threatened to hurt him. "Well, I'm glad you're here." Fry felt his face light up. "I really didn't think I was gonna see any of you ever again." Suddenly something occurred to him. "Hey, I'll bet you guys don't know what happened after you left!"

Leela shook her head. "We don't know the details, no. We listened to the news over the radio in Amy's Beta Romeo when we got here- we figured taking her car would make us a little less conspicuous then if we tried to land in New New York in the Planet Express Ship- and we heard something about the mutants being pardoned, but that it. That's how we knew it was even safe to come look for you."

It took a couple of minutes for Fry to fill them in.

"So everything is pretty much back to the way it was before?" Amy asked when the delivery boy was through.

"Basically, yeah." Fry nodded.

Leela shook her head. "And yet Phil is dead. Not to mention those people that were on the bridge of the Nimbus, and probably most of the mutants that stayed behind when we evacuated the sewer village." She grimaced. "What a waste. What a colossal, pointless waste."

"Oh, don't worry about the mutants that stayed behind." Fry reassured her. "I asked Kif about that. He said they got sent to some place called Gitmo; it's some fancy resort in Cuba, I think. It was in the news a few months back, remember? The news guy kept talking about some futuristic water sport called 'water boarding'. Anyway, Kif says they'll be there for a few weeks before he'll be able to convince the government to send them home."

Amy, Bender, and Leela exchanged looks but didn't say anything.

"Uh oh." Fry said, realizing what time it must be. "If I don't get moving, I'll be late for work. Tura will be worried." He failed to notice what name he'd just used for her. "Hey, why don't you come with me? Everyone will be thrilled that you're here to visit- well, except for Tura, but..."

The delivery boy's words petered out. Leela- who had been sitting on his kitchen counter (he hadn't had the time or the money to go buy much in the way of furnishings) had reached out and lightly put a hand on his shoulder. "Fry", she said gently, "we're not here to visit."

"What?" Fry blinked. “You’re going to move into this timeline?”

Amy moved from where she'd been leaning against a wall and stood next to Leela. "We're here to bring you home."

There was no chance for Fry to respond. At that moment, his front door opened, and a much angrier, much more heavily armed version of the Leela that was sitting in front of him came striding into the room.

"You know," Tura said with disgust, "if you were going to go through the trouble of bribing Bender into telling you where Fry had gone, you could have at least bribed him to not blab to me about it afterwards."

Tura pushed her way into the center of the room and planted herself in front of her double, who was still perched on top of the counter. She had the pistol with her that Leela had brought down into the sewers weeks earlier. The weapon's glossy white finish was still streaked with faint splotches of brown.

"Whoah there, sister, put that gun away." Leela stood, slowly spreading her arms to show that she was unarmed. "This isn't how it looks."

"We are not sisters." Tura snarled back. When she saw that Leela really wasn't a threat, however, she took a step back and lowered the pistol.

"Okay, fine. Poor choice of words." Leela admitted.

Fry placed himself in between the two cyclopses. "I didn't know they were coming, I swear." He whined at Tura. "They just showed up at my front door."

Tura nodded. "Yeah, I know." Tura assured him. "I've been expecting this."

"You have?" Amy asked. "How?"

"Oh come on. Like Leela was just going to let Fry stay here, give up, and go home." Tura laughed mirthlessly. "I knew she'd lead you all back here and then try and convince him to leave with you." She crossed her arms and turned back to Leela. "Let me guess. You asked your Farnsworth if what my Farnsworth said about this reality coming to an end was true, and he said 'probably'. Then you browbeat him into admitting that he didn't really have any way to prove his theory one way or the other, and then you used that to convince yourself that he didn't know what he was talking about, and that Fry could come home."

Leela looked uneasy for a moment. Things had gone pretty much as her duplicate had just described. "Well," she said at length, speaking slowly to make sure she chose exactly the right words. "there might be a little truth to what you just said, but-"

With an impatient gesture, Tura waved Leela silent. "Oh, save it." She said with a defeated sigh, dropping into the chair that Fry had vacated moments earlier. "You don't have to explain. I had the same conversation with my Farnsworth after you left."

"Wait, what? You did?" Leela looked at her double in surprise. "What did he say?"

"A lot that didn't make any sense." Tura admitted. "But I eventually got out of him that there's about a 50-50 chance that everything blows up and sinks into the Fermi Sea like Schrödinger's quantum oil rig if Fry goes home with you."

"Wait." Fry interjected. "I'm confused."

"We all are." Amy reassured him as she moved out of Bender's way. The robot was trying to make his way to the kitchen, but he was having a hard time getting from one side of the apartment's main room to the other. Fry's new home was so small that it could barely accommodate five people at the same time.

"Oh, ok." Fry cleared his throat. "But like, didn't we already know this? I'm keeping the universe from coming to an end right? That's the reason I can't go home."

A flicker of emotion raced across Tura's face as the delivery boy finished speaking and then was gone. "Yes." She said. Her voice was tight. "If it wasn't for that, then you could go back to your original timeline." Then, quieter, "if that's what you wanted."

"So, then we're on the same page?" Leela was hesitant. She still wasn't sure they were even reading the same novel. "The only thing forcibly keeping Fry here is that, if he leaves, there is a pretty good chance that your reality might come to an end."

"That's a pretty big only, Leela." Amy pointed out.

"Yeah, it is." Tura nodded at the intern in agreement. She turned back to face Leela. "And what I don't get is why you'd come here and try and trick Fry into going back with you if you knew all of this already.

Leela's eye narrowed. "I wasn't planning on tricking anybody." She growled. "But what if I could promise that Fry could go home, and your reality wouldn't come to an end?"

"Then I'd say you were full of it." Tura countered.

"But that's just it, Tura." Amy replied, grinning. "We found a loophole!" The intern turned to Fry and took him by the hands. Her next statement echoed like a laser blast throughout the small room. "You can go home!"

Dr. John Zoidberg awoke to find himself lying on his back in total darkness. Beneath him was a cold, hard surface that was covered with a thin layer of carpet. The air was close and stale, and it carried the smell of old machine lubricant. None of this fazed the good doctor much; he was used to waking up in all manner of dark, smelly, uncomfortable locations. Still, there was the small matter of not remembering exactly how he'd gotten here in the first place.

Maybe I was out late partying last night and passed out? He thought. But no. One had to have friends in order to party. Besides, that didn't explain why his claws had been rubber-banded and his ankles bound with some kind of cord.

Where am I, anyway? He wondered. It didn't smell like a dumpster, which is where he woke up on most days. Also, the surface under him was cold, whereas he had long ago learned how to pile up tasty things like diapers and rotten food into a comfy bed which would decompose and keep him warm through the night.

Experimentally, Zoidberg tried to lift his head. It instantly hit an unyielding slab of metal. Definitely not a dumpster. He banged on the invisible metal ceiling a couple of times, but it didn't even budge.

But wait! The knock on the head was slowly bringing back what had happened to him. It was the robut! He realized. The robut offered me some tasty candy capsules filled with delicious blue powder!

So Bender had betrayed him. Ah well. After long experience, Zoidberg had come to learn that betrayal and disgust were signs of great respect on Earth. I'll just pound on this metal thing until one of my beloved coworkers hears and comes to rescue me.

A couple of passersby heard the strange thumping noises coming from the sleek Beta Romeo parked outside of Fry's new apartment and turned to look, but, this being New New York, no one even considered stopping to help.

"... And so we drugged Zoidberg and tied him up, threw him in the trunk, and we were on our way." Amy concluded grandly.

Zoidberg. Tura mused. We always seem to forget about Zoidberg.

"All we have to do is set him loose." Leela added. "He'll never even know that he's in a new timeline, and he'll do just as good a job of keeping reality from imploding as Fry would." The PE Captain paused. "Plus, you'll never have to worry about us coming back to rescue him."

"So, this means I can really go home after all?" The delivery boy's face brightened as the idea sank in. "Alright!" He hollered in excitement as he pounded the air with his fists. "I'm going ho-". His enthusiasm died the instant he caught Tura's eye. "Wait, but that means..."

Tura wasn't looking at him. With a jolt to his gut, the reality of the situation fully kicked in. Oh no, I have to decide all over again! He realized. And this time the universe wasn't going to make the choice easy for him. What the hell was he going to do? He wanted to go home, sure. His original friends were from there, plus he wouldn't have to feel like he was somehow stealing something from Phil just by waking up here every morning. And, of course, there was Leela. But could he leave Tura, just like that? Phil had died to give them the chance to be together, and, even if that never happened, Fry still wasn't sure he could forgive himself for just abandoning her after she'd been so dependent upon him. And it's not like I don't have feelings for her. He frowned, and he knew that everyone in the room- minus Bender, who was too busy raiding Fry's paltry liquor cabinet to know what was going on- was acutely aware of exactly what he was thinking. But I have feelings for Leela too! How can I possibly choose one of them over the other? I love Leela. Both Leelas! His head spun.

Tura watched Fry struggle with himself and remembered the thousand times that she'd seen that same look of confusion and pain before. But that had been another Fry. Her Fry. If only it hadn't taken Phil's death for her to recognize the distinction. I'm going to hate myself for the rest of my life, for this. But that was okay. As of two weeks earlier, she already did.

When Fry's eyes refocused he was startled to find Tura standing right in front of him. As soon as she saw that he'd noticed her she reached out to him, letting one of her hands rest on his shoulder. Leela looked on from the background warily, not quite sure what was going on.

The delivery boy looked into Tura's eye for a moment as if an answer to his impasse might somehow be lurking there, but his gaze soon slid down to the threadbare carpet. "I dunno what to do." He said, knowing that he was defeated.

"Well, hurry up and figure it out." Bender called from the kitchen. "I'm almost done with the last of your booze, and I'm going to have to start killing humans if I have to listen to this sappy gunk sober."

Everyone ignored the robot. Tura squeezed the delivery boy's shoulder. "You know exactly what to do," she said, holding up her other hand to forestall Leela's protest.

Fry misinterpreted the statement, as Tura knew he would. "But, I mean, if I stay here then I have to leave all of my old friends forever!"

"Then don't." It was one of the hardest things Tura had ever had to say. "You can't stay here just for me. It wouldn't be right. It's time to go home, Fry."

Fry's mouth gaped. "H- wha?" That was all he could manage.

"I don't get it." Amy said. "Is this some sort of reverse psychology?"

"Yeah, what's the deal?" Bender demanded as he strode out of the kitchen with what remained of Fry's bottle of tequila. "You finally remember that you're fighting over Fry and come to your senses?"

"Oh, just shut up, Bender." Tura sighed. "Fry, do you really think you'll be happy spending the rest of your life here?"

"But we..." Fry protested. "But you..."

"Are not your Leela." Tura finished for him. She smiled at the delivery boy's look of shock. "Oh come on, don't look so surprised. It's written all over your face."

"It is?" Fry's right hand pressed against his cheek.

Tura laughed, and then was suddenly reflective. "It's funny to think that a couple of months ago I probably would have hit you for being that dense."

"I'll do it for you!" Bender volunteered cheerfully. Amy quickly jabbed him in the stomach with her elbow.

While everyone else waited to see what was coming next, Tura quietly studied the delivery boy. She didn't dare wait long. He might not have been the most collimated beam in the particle accelerator, but he'd somehow developed the ability over the years to sometimes figure out what she was thinking even before she did. It was one of the things that made him so dear to her. One of the things that had made Phil so dear to her. Finally she knew she had to act or risk not being able to force herself to do it at all. Mustering all of her strength, she leaned forward and kissed Fry quickly on the cheek.

"I love you, Philip Fry." She said. Then, breaking away, she turned and, whispering something under her breath that went unheard, walked hurriedly from the apartment. By the time Fry had recovered to the point that he could think to go after her, she was gone.


Amy, Bender, and Leela eventually managed to coax Fry from his apartment and out to Amy's Beta Romeo. Numbly, he'd allowed himself to be guided into the back seat and had just stared blankly at the back of the chair in front of him until the car took off and flew away into the crystal clear morning. Later, Leela would have to explain to him how Zoidberg had been released and his double from the beta timeline captured to take his place. The reason for bothering with taking a Zoidberg home with them at all was simple. No one thought it fair that any reality should have to be stuck with two of them. Fry hadn't even noticed the Decapodian being tossed into the trunk.

Leela had tried to find something comforting to say to kill the silence that filled the Beta Romeo while Amy took it out to a safe distance from Earth. Nothing she tried made any impact on Fry, who just continued to look off into space. Eventually she gave up and activated the Professor's last briefcase device. There was a surge of all-encompassing blue light.


They got back to Planet Express, and after a bit of an impromptu celebration to mark Fry's homecoming, everyone went their separate ways. Some of the life had started to seep back into the delivery boy. He and Leela were the last to leave. He waited for her to lock up the building and set the alarm, and the two of them set off southward along the street that paralleled the Hudson River.

As the two of them passed the vacant lot across from Planet Express they saw the rusty green hulk of the abandoned spaceship, which lay there rotting away much as it had done for the last several years. Fry stopped to stare at it, forcing Leela to backtrack a few steps.

"It's not blown up." The delivery boy shook his head. "I can't believe I'm really back."

Leela didn't answer. What was there to say? Instead, she waited silently for him to turn and start walking again. She kept pace with him.

"Do you think I'll ever see her again?" He asked at length. It was clear who he meant.

"I don't think so." She replied. "I'm sorry." It sounded a bit harsh when she said it, but she didn't want to lie to him. The Professor had run out of the briefcase devices and hadn't said anything about making more. We've mucked around in their timeline enough as it is. We don't have any business going back there again.

Fry nodded. He'd already known the answer. "Do you think they'll be okay? What if something happens to Zoidberg?"

That was a definite cause for concern. The Zoidberg that they'd left behind would probably think he'd died and gone to heaven with all of the care and attention he'd receive. Nobody in the other timeline would want to run the risk of him somehow getting killed and taking the whole of reality with him. Eventually the Farnsworth from the beta timeline would figure out a way to stabilize things so that everyone's survival didn't rely on the Decapodian's continued existence- a decidedly loathsome situation, really- and Zoidberg would cease to be important.

"I think they'll be okay." Leela assured the delivery boy. "The Professor from the other timeline will fix things." A moment later she added, "what about you? Are you going to be okay?"

Fry thought about that for a moment. "Yeah, I think so." He said as the two of them waited for a light to change so they could cross the street. "Tura was right."

"About what?"

The delivery boy looked at her in surprise, not having realized that he'd said the statement aloud. "What?" He turned away, trying to hide the color that had rushed to his face. "Nothing. It's nothing."

When the delivery boy said nothing further, Leela reached out and took hold of the hem of his jacket. He turned back to her, startled. "Look, Fry." Leela said gently. "Part of the reason things between you, me, Phil, and Tura got so screwed up is that we were all trying to hide things from each other. Phil got to pay for that with his life." She let go of him and crossed her arms. The light turned green, and the two of them made their way across the small intersection. "I'm not going to make you tell me what it was that she said, but don't hide it from me to spare my feelings."

Fry regarded her for a moment, thinking. Finally he looked down at the pavement, muttered something barely audible- something about it not being her feelings he was worried about- and then sighed in defeat. "Remember what Tura said about her not being my Leela?" His eyes were glued straight ahead.

"Yes." Leela had wondered what that was about, but things had been going unexpectedly her way at the time and she hadn't wanted to screw that up by opening her mouth to ask about it.

"Well, she wasn't." When Leela looked at him in surprise, the delivery boy added hastily: "I mean, I really cared about her. She was you, and you know how I feel about you."

Leela nodded, acutely aware that all her talk of openness had just backfired on her by opening a particularly smelly can of Venutian brain worms. Well, I guess I asked for it. She thought.

When Leela didn't change the subject as Fry had been expecting, the delivery boy decided to risk continuing. "Somehow though, even though she was you, she wasn't you at the same time. You know?"

"Not really." Actually, she did. It was the same reason that she'd never gotten close to Phil. She suspected it was also the same reason that Tura had let Fry go in the end. Pity Phil had to get himself killed in order for her to see that. As soon as she had the thought she knew it wasn't fair.

Tura had had the same feelings all along that Leela had had for Fry. No one that had been onboard the Planet Express Ship when Phil had gone missing could have failed to see that. Leela's double had been on the verge of hysteria once it had started to become clear what Phil was up to. Leela had tried the best she could to get to the delivery boy before he could go through with it, but she'd been too slow. Tura had been screaming at her to speed up, but she hadn't dared. With his suit transponder disabled, Leela only knew that he was near the Nimbus's bridge. Without knowing his exact location, she would have ended up sailing right by him before anyone saw him, or, worse, crashing right into him.

When the bridge of the Nimbus had exploded, they were still a couple of kilometers off. When the Nimbus's gun had found Phil a few seconds later, they were close enough to helplessly watch the result. I think Tura and I both snapped when we saw that. Leela remembered. If Tura hadn't fired off that torpedo and blown that bastard that killed Phil into a cloud of atoms, I think I'd have done it myself. She knew she would have it had been Fry instead of Phil. And I wouldn't have stopped with one measly torpedo. Her lip curled as she imagined it.

Standing there on the bridge of the Planet Express Ship with Phil's lifeless body floating by the viewport, Leela had wanted revenge. She'd been able to control herself, but it had been a close thing. She could only imagine what it had been like for Tura. She spent all of those years brushing him off and stomping on every one of his little advances. Just like me. Oh, there had been the excuses. At first she'd convinced herself that he wasn't really serious. Then when that wore thin she'd convinced herself that she didn't have any feelings for him, but that delusion couldn't survive forever either. Instead, there'd been the logic that now was a bad time. There was always later. Slowly, that had morphed into a realization that dating a crewmember might somehow put others at risk. Funny how that last bit of logic seemed now like nothing more than the same denial that she'd been hiding behind since the very beginning. With a jolt, Leela realized that, at some point, it had stopped being Tura that she was thinking about.

When Tura had left Fry's apartment earlier, she'd whispered something that was too low to hear. Normally lip-reading wasn't one of Leela's fortes, but it was somehow easier when the person you were reading was yourself. Tura's last words before she'd fled the room had been "I love you Philip Fry. Both of you."

Leela snuck a glance at Fry out of the corner of her eye. He was staring down at his shoes, walking on autopilot. And what about me? The PE captain asked herself. Am I going to wait for something awful to happen to Fry before I say anything?

Fry came to a stop again, and Leela realized that they'd come to the spot where they would have to part company. Fry's apartment lay down the street to the left; hers was directly ahead. Leela experienced a profound sense of déjà vu as she remembered the time, weeks earlier, that the two of them had been in this exact spot in the alternate timeline.

The same awkwardness that had gripped both of them the last time they had parted company in this manner settled in again. This time neither of them had any illusions as to its nature. Both of us have things that we want to say, and neither of us is brave enough to open our mouths. Leela thought. Of course, her earlier words about openness popped into her mind at that moment to chastise her.

"So, umm, I guess I'll see you tomorrow?" Fry said to fill the void.

Leela started to nod. "Wait!" She said, unreasonably glad to have found something to extend their time together. "No one remembered to tell you. There's no delivery tomorrow. Amy's parents invited us to go watch them demolish Mars Vegas."

That caught Fry's attention. Anything that promised to involve large explosions was liable to do that. "Cool!"

"Yeah..." The silence was back. Still neither of them made any attempt to turn and go. you're being stupid. Leela admonished herself. Didn't you learn anything at all from all of this? What are you afraid of, anyway?

"Anyway, I guess I'd better-"

"Didn't Bender say a long time ago that you got me a present?" Leela hadn't meant to cut Fry off, but she knew that she would despise herself for weeks if she didn't say something right then and there to stop him from walking away from her.

"-start heading- huh?" The little stripped gears in Fry's head worked away. "Oh hey, yeah! I guess I completely forgot about it. It's probably still buried under my bed somewhere, unless the owls ate it."

Having witnessed firsthand the ferocity of the rabid owls that called Fry's apartment home, Leela was unsure whether the delivery boy was referring to them eating the present... or the bed. "Oh, ok." There was a beat, then: "Why don't we go open it?"

"What? Now?"

Leela smiled at Fry's look of utter bewilderment. "What, do you have anything better to do?" She teased him.

"Huh?" His face went slack. Patiently, Leela waited for the delivery boy's neurons to fire. Well, smolder, at any rate. A sudden grin lit up the delivery boy's face as the statement finally sank in. "No! I mean sure!" The awkwardness that had been between them moments earlier was completely forgotten as Fry grasped Leela by the wrist. Before she knew it, the delivery boy was leading her at a half-trot down the sidewalk in the direction of Robot Arms Apartments.

Bender will be there. Leela realized. He'll see us together. The robot would never let her hear the end of it. Ah, to hell with it. Somehow she just couldn't bring herself to care.

Fry slowed, his enthusiasm curbed by his body's inability to breathe. "Hey, umm, Leela." Leela knew instantly what he was going to say next. "After we open your present, do you, I dunno- do you maybe want to go get some dinner somewhere?"

"I'd like that very much," she said.