Fry awoke to sparse light that fluttered on pale wings through skewed window shades, painting bleak shadows on the stained and worn wallpaper. The early January light created a gloomy atmosphere that traced the outline of the seedy furniture which huddled in the cramped bedroom. Nestled under semi-clean sheets the delivery boy grunted and furrowed his brow, still lingering on the border of sleep. He didn't want to leave the comfort of his bed.
Instead, he turned over and buried his face in the pillow, trying to escape the obtrusive daylight that had so violently invaded his bedroom. A part of his brain wondered what time it was, but such thoughts, welcome as the appearance of a door-to-door salesman, were quickly and mercilessly quashed.
He let out a yawn large enough to swallow a bus. Good thing I actually managed to get the day off. I can stay in bed all day. He lay still for a while, mind empty, while his right hand idly scratched his right butt cheek for almost ten solid minutes. Unfortunately, his desire to drift back to sleep was curtailed by his stomach, which had a totally different interpretation of the whole 'day off' concept.
What started as a slight gurgling grew over the next twenty minutes to a discontent deep growling, like there was a beast of yore hidden deep within his body, growling restlessly and ready to burst out at any moment. Just like in that sci-fi horror movie that Yancy had tricked him to watch when he was twelve. Fry had slept with the light on for a week.
“Stupid stomach...” Fry muttered into the pillow, shifting his body slightly while pounding his face in the pillow as a distraction. It didn't take long for him to realize that it was a futile endeavor.
With a tired sigh, Fry sat up and swung his naked legs over the side of the bed. His feet did a little dance as they came in contact with the cold floor. The young man rubbed his face and let out a yet another wide yawn and stretched his hands over his head. Tired... always tired. His bleary brain managed as a commentary to his situation.
The redhead took a moment while he idly scratched yet another part of his body, this time it was an armpit that had sought the affection his fingers while he pondered the curious events from the previous night. Dimmed by drowsiness, Fry's memory was not really up to par regarding the task of replaying the highlights of the past night. Despite that, Fry tried mentally retraced his steps prior ending up in his bed.
He‘d met a female alien, and a time-traveling one at that. Yet another yawn escaped Fry and he blinked a couple of times, trying to get his still-sleepy eyes to adjust to the intrusive daylight. He stared idly at the cracked ceiling for a moment. I met a time traveling alien.
His mind chewed on the thought that had just passed through it like a fleeting wisp of smoke. A fresh batch of neurons fired, sending currents of electricity flickering through his brain like a bunch of tourists lost in a territory unknown, milling around aimlessly, drawn to such attractions as sleep, food and entertainment, trying to grasp what they’d just discovered.
The springs in his mattress creaked in protest as he shifted his weight. Irritated, Fry scratched his messy hair. I. Met. An. Alien. His mind spelled out. The delivery boy froze and his eyes grew wide when the sleep-induced fog finally receded and revealed the most significant thing that had happened to him last night… or ever.
Suddenly excited and awake, Fry stood up- much to the delight of his bed, which let out a creaking sigh in apparent relief. He had met an alien and she had followed him home. The very idea that an alien- a female alien- was in his near proximity almost set the delivery boy ablaze. His cheeks were flush from the sudden exhilaration.
Fry spared no time dawdling over such petty details as getting dressed. Wearing nothing more than his usual night attire; a pair of reasonably white briefs, Fry poked his head out through his bedroom doorway and surveyed the outside room; no alien in sight. He felt a sting of disappointment, perhaps she had been nothing more than a figment of his vivid imagination after all.
Ever since young age, he had dreamed about space, aliens, and robots. The very idea of a time traveling alien practically landing in his lap was perhaps too much a fantasy to be true. Slightly nervous, he carefully snuck over to the other bedroom, gently knocked on the door and waited a full half a second before he peered inside.
The bedroom was a mirror of his own, a copy featuring the same bleak atmosphere, pale light and minute details. The bed bore the tell tale evidence that someone had been sleeping in it, and Fry was fairly certain that he hadn't been the one. Also, he was pretty sure that he wasn’t the owner of the black uniform consisting of a pair of pants and a matching jacket that was neatly hung over the sole chair in the room. Beside that chair stood a pair of grey colored boots on solitary guard. A faint whiff of sweat seemed to emanate from them.
Huh, so she wasn’t a dream after all? The delivery boy mused. Fry continued to survey the bleakly lit room. If she's not here and not in the living room, then where is she?
Fry's mind moved slowly as it digested the information he had of where the purple-haired cyclops wasn't. A faint but familiar sound reached his ears. It was a persistent and distracting sound which tugged, very much like a child would tug his parents’ sleeve, on his mind, demanding attention. Fry furrowed his brow and closed his eyes. Still the sound continued to disturb his attempts at figuring out just where the alien could have gone.
It's the shower you moron! Fry's mind shouted at him. The delivery boy was surprised over this sudden information, but as it turned out, certain parts of his mind had become fed up with his inability to understand just what was going on. A grimace came and went on his face. It was the sound from the running shower which was distracting him from figure out where the female alien's was. Ironically the only one who could be using the shower beside himself must be none other than the alien.
Feeling pretty good about himself that he had deduced the whereabouts of his time traveling visitor, the delivery boy made a quick and not-so-stealthy move to the bathroom door. Pressing the side of his head against the thin and rickety door Fry strained his left ear while holding his breath. His pulse was hammering away, setting the soundtrack for his nervous anticipation. The sound of splashing water confirmed Fry's suspicion.
Dancing spots started to emerge in front of his eyes; he exhaled violently and stood for a moment gasping for air. While his body tried to recover, he took the opportunity to consider what he should do next. A low rumble from his stomach answered that question. He realized that he still was in dire need of a breakfast and most likely so was the purple haired alien in his bathroom.
The delivery boy made a quick retreat back to his bedroom. Once secure in his bedroom he absently sprayed some air freshener in each armpit before he dug through a pile of assorted items of clothing, eventually coming across a reasonably clean t-shirt and a pair of jeans. When fully dressed, he considered his food options. He was painfully aware his fridge was conspicuously empty. If any breakfast was to be had, Fry saw no other option but go shopping for something to eat.
Leaving the apartment, Fry threw a green scarf around his neck to fend off the creeping cold. He ran down the broken stairs, and almost became a human cannon ball when he stumbled over the uneven steps. Despite his near fall, Fry reached the empty lobby in one piece and made his way to the street outside.
Walking at a brisk tempo to keep warm Fry worked his way down the street, his head jerking left and right as he read every sign that had anything remotely to do with food- which, since this was New York, was most of them. He had to get back to his apartment before his resident alien got out of the shower and realized she was alone. But what would people from the future eat? Something made of pills? Then again, she was not only from the future but she was an alien as well. Perhaps she eats some sort of exotic algae? The delivery boy pondered as he walked by a Japanese restaurant.
In the end, it was money that decided what Fry bought. After randomly wandering the streets trying to figure out what to get for breakfast he came to a stop outside a Starbucks. There Fry saw fit to take a survey of the inventory of his wallet. The number of green color paper bits present in his worn and tattered wallet was but few, and all of low denominations. Most of his money had gone to pay his rent.
With a sigh, the delivery boy made his way to a Big Apple Bank ATM machine- which was conveniently present just a few yards away- and inserted his card. When the screen asked for his pin, he paused, right hand hovering over the stained and marred metal keys. What was it again? Ah, right, one cheese pizza and a large soda. He tapped the price for those two products respectively. The next question prompted by the automatic teller machine was whether he wished to withdraw money from his account or if he wanted a statement.
The delivery boy paused yet again, took the time to warm his hands with his breath before he reached a decision and asked the machine for a statement. Electrons flowed inside the machinery and the screen went blank for a moment, as if the machine was considering Fry's request. Almost with contempt, the ATM spit his card back; the screen printed out the full amount of his balance: a measly ninety-three cents. Was all that resided in his bank account. Some mechanism deep in the teller machine clunked and whirred; it almost sounded to Fry like the thing was laughing at him.
With a grimace on his face he snatched his card from slot and pocketed it. Why was it that every time he ever had a chance with a girl he never had any money? Life is so unfair! He fumed. Considering how little he had in his wallet, there was no other solution than his mothers’ patented coffee and donuts breakfast. It was a breakfast he wasn't unfamiliar with, since his mother had always been much too preoccupied by more pressing concerns such as following sports to bother with trivial things such as cooking.
Not that it really mattered. Fry's mother was never very good at cooking to begin with. Even something as simple as her typical coffee and donuts breakfast was terrible. The coffee was usually nothing short of engine oil in consistency and taste. The donuts, even though they were store bought, were commonly stale and featured concrete-hard glazing.
Despite his misgivings over a coffee and donut breakfast, he was hungry, and so the delivery boy headed for a bakery to get some donuts. The few green notes that he had were traded for a brown paper bag with freshly baked chocolate glazed donuts. A cardboard tray with two styrofoam cups filled with steaming hot coffee was picked up at a local representative for a global chain of fast food restaurants.
With quick steps the delivery boy made his way back to his apartment through the chilly January air. Upon his return to the apartment complex he was greeted by Crazy Ivan in the seedy lobby. The Russian spotted Fry's brown paper bag and the two coffees, which featured the tell tale symbol of the fast food outlet.
Crazy Ivan smiled a yellow nicotine-stained smile. ”Ah! Breakfast for lady friend, no? You lucky man, but it should be lady friend to get breakfast for man.” He noted with a shaking finger, underscoring his slight disapproval that Fry was the one fetching breakfast.
For a moment Fry stared blankly back at Crazy Ivan. The cogs in his brain turned slowly as he tried to understand just how his landlord knew that he wasn't alone in his apartment. Fry had taken great pains the previous night to avoid the front desk and possible detection there. Instead, he’d managed to sneak his newfound alien friend through the fire escape.
“How did... I don't have... I mean...” Fry stuttered, trying desperately to come up with a way to convince the Russian that he was alone.
Crazy Ivan laughed deeply and slapped a large hand over his right knee. “Ah… Fry, so innocent. Like child, no? Yesterday you walk like beaten dog. Today you walk tall, proud. Like Russian. And what makes man happy? A warm woman! Also, no man buys two coffees for self. This is America, if you want more; you buy bigger! So, you got a woman, easy for anyone to see.” The last statement came with a broad sweeping arm gesture.
Fry laughed nervously and scratched his neck. He wasn't too interested in having a discussion about women with Crazy Ivan, and especially not about the alien his bathroom. Seeking an escape, he opted to take the opportunity to ask the Russian for something that he had considered on his way back.
“Do you, umm, have a camera?” Fry asked tentatively, ever since his brief re-visit to the Cryogenics Laboratory where Leela had expressed a desire to return home, he’d been worrying about her disappearing before he had the chance to show her off for his insufferable brother, Yancy. His older brother had always scorned Fry and his passion for space and the possibility of alien life. If he couldn't show Leela in real life, then photographic evidence would be the next best thing.
”A camera, eh? Want to take novelty pictures of your lady friend, no?” The Russian grinned even wider while nodding approvingly.
Fry turned tomato red as the implication of what the Russian had said hit home. The female alien in his apartment was good looking; there was no denying that. What had sent Fry's mind alight, overfed as had been with science fiction since early age, was the fact that Leela was an alien from the future. Her other exotic features- her voluptuous body and outrageously purple hair- hadn’t really had time to occur to him yet.
”Uhm… well… uhh.” Fry awkwardly stuttered for a second time, while trying to stop his ears from burning up. He was already regretting that he had let himself become engaged in conversation with the crude Russian. The mental image of Leela soaping herself up in his shower started to creep into his mind while he desperately tried to stay out of the gutter.
”Ah, but old Vasiliev have something better, VCR camera! Great invention to help you make your own American novelty movies!” Crazy Ivan continued enthusiastically and disappeared behind the counter. For a moment the embarrassed delivery boy pondered making his escape towards the stair well and forgetting about the camera. Before he could coerce his body into a running escape, which his body vehemently refused, Crazy Ivan reappeared with a triumphant yell, holding a rather old and beaten video camera in the air. With the pride and honor usually reserved for men and women of great importance Crazy Ivan held out the battered video camera, bestowing it to the red head as if he was heralding Fry with a priceless gift.
The delivery boy hesitantly looked first at the Russian, then at the camera, and then back at the Russian again. He made up his mind, mumbled a quick 'thanks' under his breath and grabbed the bulky camera, which he tucked under one arm before he fled to the stairwell. “Don't forget a copy for Vasiliev!” The last call from his clearly amused landlord rang in Fry's ears as he ascended the stairs.
Soon he found himself outside his apartment door, slightly out of breath, since climbing stairs was not something he was all that used to. Juggling the objects in his hands, it was with some difficulty that he managed to produce his apartment key and enter. Fry carefully put the coffee and donuts on the kitchenette table before he proceeded to fiddle with the camera. It was an old Japanese model, littered with buttons, dials and indicators which had obscure functions that were an absolute mystery to the delivery boy.
It took some random button mashing and some irritated grunts before Fry managed to get the bulky camera to start recording with a low grinding sound. Hefting the large camera on his right shoulder he started to scour the apartment for his resident alien.
Fry's brief search ended mere minutes later with no time traveling alien in sight and with the shower silent in the bathroom Fry assumed that she wasn’t there either Where is Leela? The redhead wondered as he settled down at the kitchenette table with the camera before him. His brow was wrinkled deep as he engaged into some, for him, rare thinking. Like a pair of nervous crabs, engaged in a mating ritual that neither really knew how to do, his fingers danced over the marred and scared wooden surface.
In the end it was his bladder that made the call. Fry bit his lower lip as he realized he really needed to use the bathroom. He left the still-running video camera and made a beeline to the bathroom door. Barely had Fry laid his right hand on the doorknob when the world exploded into a swarm of splintered wood. The sheer outward force was enough to send the delivery boy to the floor.
Standing in the midst of the tattered remains of the broken door was Leela. With clenched fists and a narrow eye she had finally decided to free herself from the prison that the bathroom had become. For a moment she stood in the doorway with a heaving chest, trying to compose herself as adrenaline still surged through her body. Operating doors by manually turning a knob was very much a novelty for the cyclops, used to automatic, voice-operated doors as she was.
She’d seen how Fry had opened the front door to his apartment the night before, and she had tried to mirror his actions, yet it felt odd somehow for her. Unfortunately for Leela, the locking mechanism for the bathroom door wasn’t the same as the one she had seen Fry use at the front door. She’d inadvertently locked the bathroom door on the way in, and she was unable, for the life of her, to figure out how to get the door unlocked again after her shower.
The cyclops had spent several minutes in vain trying to get Fry's attention to her plight by banging on the door and calling his name. Unfortunately for the cyclops, the delivery boy was, in her time of need, walking the streets of New York trying to find a suitable breakfast, and thus unable to help her.
Her decision to break down the door by force stemmed from several considerations. The first was that she had no intention on being locked inside a bathroom for the rest of her life. Second was that she felt a powerful need to find this Fry character and beat the snot out of him for not opening the door for her. The final consideration was that she had heard strange noises from outside the door. What sounded like heavy breathing, shuffling feet and a low growling sound. Fearing that it might be some sort of dangerous animal, and having no desire to die cornered in a bathroom, she had kicked down the door, ready to fight whatever monstrosity that lurked on the other side.
Her anger subsiding and the tunnel vision she usually got in these instances fading, two things came to her attention. The first thing Leela noticed was that Fry was lying at her feet in the splintered parts of the door with the door knob, now detached from the rest of the mangled door, resting in his right hand. The second thing was that her towel, the only clean one she had found, had escaped its wrapped-around position from her torso and had draped itself over Fry's face, his carrot red hair was the only thing visible.
Leela gave up an involuntary shriek, yanked the towel from Fry's face, and made a hasty retreat to her bedroom with the towel pressed against her naked body. Her long flowing hair waved goodbye to the delivery boy as he caught a glimpse of the semi naked fleeing cyclops.
Safe in the confines of her bedroom, Leela stared to dress herself with trembling hands. Her whole body was awash with emotion. She was angry, with herself and Fry. Stupid ancient doors! Stupid Stupid Ages! Stupid... Fry! Leela realized that the strange noises had been Fry trying to open the door just as she had broken it down. Yet again her anger and swift decision to use violence had landed her in an awkward situation.
While getting dressed and trying to calm herself down, the cyclops considered the situation she was in: stuck a thousand years in the past. The incident just prior had highlighted just how unfamiliar she was with this time. The night before Leela had tossed and turned in her unfamiliar bed, staring into the darkness while listening to the alien sounds of the cold night. From outside the window, sirens, shouts, laughter and other odd sounds of machinery which she couldn't identify, there were also strange gurgling noises from within the building.
The unpleasant feeling of fear had helped to keep her much-wanted sleep at bay. Fear of not being able to return to her time, fear of not being able to cope with being displaced a thousand years in the past. It was foremost those two items that kept floating around in her mind. Being forced to live out the rest of her life in a violent and primitive past, where she was very much in terra incognita... the prospect was terrifying. It had taken some time before she had finally fallen asleep, dreading what the next morning would herald.
Her sleep hadn’t given Leela the comfort she had sought. In the mists of her dreams the cyclops revisited her flight from the future to the past. After her brief visit in the room with the rows of cryogenic pods, Leela had joined her irritating boss on the sidewalk outside the building, where they had shared a hover cab. Their destination was, apparently, a business called Planet Express. It had seemed like a strange name for business that employed this supposedly-brilliant Professor Farnsworth that they were going to see, but Leela hadn't been interested enough in what was going on to care. Instead she had stared blankly out the window at the passing skyline that was rolling by.
The tall, sleek buildings were hidden in an early morning fog, setting a gloomy and eerie atmosphere. Leela could see other hover cars and starships zoom past them, appearing suddenly from the fog and disappearing again, the dull glow from antimatter engines fading in the silent white mist. Familiar landmarks peered through the shroud here and there, distorted by the blanket of whiteness that lay over the city. Streaks of water ran over the hover cab window, further twisting what little could be seen into an odd, ominous portrait of New New York.
Her face, with its huge eye, reflected back at her in the car door window. It was a sad, tired face. Leela had at the time wondered just what her place was in the grand scheme of things. It couldn’t be to spend the rest of her life numbly processing an endless queue of scared immigrants from the past while they stared in shock and revulsion at her eye. It couldn’t be. She hadn't had the time to dwell on such deep thoughts the day after some heavy drinking as they had reached a red tiled, bread shaped building with a large round tower.
Leela had been rather unimpressed by the decrepit building that turned out to be their destination, and the owl-infested interior had only served to reinforce her repulsion. Well inside, they had met this Professor Farnsworth, whose functional, but one-way, time gate Ipgee had been babbling about during the entire cab ride- not that Leela had been listening. While the Professor had built his time gate on a whim, the Cryogenics Laboratory- thanks to the constant vigil of the Central Bureaucracy- had gotten wind of the invention and had seen the potential use for it. Or, at least that was what her boss had told her.
Why she was needed on this inaugurational test, Leela had no idea. The premise was to send people who had frozen themselves back to the very time era they’d come from. The rationale for this was that the defrosted people that couldn't cope with the strange new world that the 30th century presented for them should be sent back to the precise moment just after they had frozen themselves. This should enable them to live out their life in their own time instead of being miserable in the future.
Just to be safe, they were given a shot of an amnesiac so that they would forget anything that had transpired during their time in the future. With all the explanations out of the way and the test person introduced- a nervous 21st century man who apparently wanted to go home- things had run as smoothly as you could expect from a senile, insane, Nobel Prize laureate inventor. But then the man to be sent back had a change of heart just as he was to enter the time gate. He had started to scream and kick, trying to get away, babbling about how he couldn't possibly face his wife again.
Leela had tried her best to calm him down; unfortunately she had caught his waving elbow in her cheek. It had caught her off guard, and her attempt at avoiding being hit had made her inadvertently take one step back: straight into the portal.
Leela had awoken with the same surge of panic and confusion that had gripped her as the shimmering portal had leapt up and swallowed her. Leela shook her head at the memory. She hadn’t been able to get to sleep again after that. Finalizing her outfit by putting on her boots, Leela stretched out her hand to put on her wrist computer. She took a moment and stared at the tubular electronic aid. It represented the peak of technology from the 31st century. She had no idea what would happen if she was to introduce advanced technology into the past. Realizing that she couldn't just walk around with it, Leela shoved it under her pillow. It was not a perfect hiding place, but it would have to do until she could figure out what to do with it.
While Leela was making herself busy getting dressed, Fry had slowly risen from the floor. Having brushed the debris from his body, he still remained in the same spot staring in the direction where the naked woman had disappeared. His mind was in turmoil over what he had seen, Crazy Ivan's words echoed in his mind. Suddenly Fry felt ashamed that he had seen her naked, regardless of the fact that it had been naught but a glimpse. The delivery boy stared idly at his feet and the remains of the bathroom door that cluttered around his worn shoes. Before he could further deliberate upon what had transpired. Leela emerged from her bedroom dressed in her black pants and white tank top. Fry realized he had no idea just for how long he had been standing in that same spot staring at Leela’s bedroom door.
”Oh... hey... um... Leela?” The still confused Fry offered as Leela approached him.
”What?!” The cyclops snapped back at Fry. Leela was still embarrassed and angry at herself over her brief nudity. Her naked, ugly alien body displayed for Fry. Not only had the delivery boy had to suffer her repulsive sole eye, but now having her alien nudity trust upon him... He must have been disgusted. She thought. Leela reacted to the awkward situation by hiding her shame behind a mask of anger. Her whole demeanor oozed of hostility.
For a moment, Fry didn't know what to do. Then he recalled why he had been outside the bathroom in the first place. “I gotta use the bathroom!” He blurted, running for the toilet as he felt as he was about to explode.
For a second Leela stared nonplussed at the vacant spot where Fry previously had stood. With a sigh, she sat down at the kitchenette table. Her attention was drawn to the two styrofoam containers and the single brown paper bag. She smelled coffee and something that vaguely reminded her of freshly baked donuts. The purple-haired woman's stomach started a low growling discussion with her. She was hungry- there was no denying that- but Leela was unsure if it was safe for her to eat the food.
The coffee and donuts did their best to seduce the cyclops, who fought valiantly to give herself a reason to brave the unknown that the food presented. Will it turn me into some sort of sugar-crazed zombie? It can’t give me some horrible Stupid Ages disease like cancer, or Bubonic Plague, or the Common Cold, can it? Leela had a vague recollection of reading an article in a magazine about how dangerous the foodstuff of the Stupid Ages had been. Her stomach didn't care for any rational thoughts about eating, it wanted to be fed, and yet again it pronounced its displeasure by giving up a deep growl.
“I got you breakfast.” A voice offered just behind her to the backdrop of a loudly flushing toilet. “It's coffee and donuts, I didn't know what you usually eat.” Fry continued with a somewhat apologetic smile as he occupied the second chair beside the small table. He wasn't entirely sure as to why the alien- Leela, he reminded himself to try and remember her name- was angry. A small voice in the back of his mind pointed out that it could be because of the brief nudity she had displayed just prior.
”Is 'ine. 'orry 'out che 'oor.” The cyclops responded, having lost her argument with her stomach. The fervor with which she was scarfing down a donut came as a bit of a surprise to Fry. The delivery boy fidgeted slightly and took a sip of his lukewarm coffee to mask his nervousness.
”Door? Oh... the door. Don't worry about it.” I wonder why she destroyed the door? Maybe she has some sort of super powers? ”I can warm the coffee for you if you want?” He pointed out, still feeling slightly uneasy at the cyclops sudden change in mood.
”Yes.” Was Leela's short reply before she let yet another chocolate glazed donut disappear into her mouth. They were so succulent and rich in taste, Leela didn't know if it was the donuts or her hunger talking, but she felt that these donuts were the best she'd ever had. The donuts she had been served a thousand years in the future paled in a flavor comparison; it was like comparing eating a piece of cardboard with a cake.
Fry quickly snatched a donut from the bag before he took Leela's cup and put it the nearby microwave. While working the controls of the microwave, the delivery boy stole a glance at the ravenous alien. Wow, she's really hungry. He thought with just a hint of unease. Twenty-five years of watching poorly-acted scifi horror movies had taught him to be wary of hungry aliens, no matter how hot they happened to be. Note to self. Don’t run out of donuts, just in case…
Still chewing down his first, Fry fetched himself yet another donut while he waited for Leela's coffee to finish its bath in microwaves.
Standing idly at the kitchenette counter, Fry suddenly realized that he had left the camera on the table, still running. He briefly contemplated picking it up to film Leela, but seeing just how angry she had been before, Fry decided not to press his luck. As nonchalantly as he possibly could be, he took the camera from the table, turned it off and put it away on the floor next to his chair. Leela didn't seem to notice; she was preoccupied with scarfing down donuts.
Fry seated himself once again and put Leela's warm coffee in front of her. The cyclops drank the coffee greedily despite the heat, and washed down the last of her donut. Having satisfied her hunger, Leela turned to the red head seated next to her.
”I could help pay for the door... if I had a job.” She offered, and then paused briefly while ransacking her brain for more info about the time period she was in. She hadn’t exactly paid much attention to her college History of the Stupid Ages class. And to think I laughed when Professor Wu said I might need to know that stuff one day. Besides her fairly simple and boring job as a cryogenics counselor, the only other thing she could do- beside Arcturan Kung Fu- was flying a space ship, something she had a county issued certification for. Leela suspected that her spaceship certification was pretty much useless in this time and age.
Her internal musings over how low her chances were in the job department was cut short. Fry had immediately latched on the idea of a job, seeing a possibility to have Leela around more.
”You could work where I work!” He said with considerable enthusiasm.
The purple-haired cyclops was, on the other hand, a bit less enthusiastic. ”And where would that be?” She asked with a cautious tone of voice, staring at Fry over the rim of her coffee cup, poised for yet another sip. She couldn't help but be a bit wary, seeing just how inane this Fry character was.
”I'll show you, come on!” The delivery boy was now firing on all cylinders, and, in his sudden ardor, he forgot about the camera that was next to his feet. The VCR camera got kicked on a short but violent trip over the floor when Fry pushed his seat back to stand up, a trip that ended with the old camera hitting a nearby wall and breaking into three pieces. Fry didn't still didn't notice, he was far to busy trying to drag Leela to the apartment door.
”Fry, wait!” Leela protested and pulled her right arm loose from Fry's grip. ”My eye, I need a disguise for it. And not a paper bag this time...” Her experience with the paper bag had been dismal, Leela had not been able to see much with it over her head.
”Oh.” The delivery boy said, followed by: ”Wait here!” Fry disappeared into his bedroom, where he emptied one of his boxes by turning it upside down and started to rummage through the assorted objects that fell out onto the dirty floor.
”Ha!” He grabbed two objects from the pile and rejoined Leela. ”Here, you can use these!”
Leela stared at the things that Fry presented her. One of the items was a bright red baseball cap emblazoned with the white text 'Coca Cola'. She took it and stared at it for a moment. The cyclops debated whether or not it went with her purple hair and black outfit. Remembering the trouble that she’d had finding a good outfit on New Years Eve and the heckling she’d received from that obnoxious Wong girl, Leela was hesitant. But, then again red did match purple, didn't it?
Seeing how Leela stared at his cap, Fry offered to help with suitable gestures. ”You wear it on your head, like this. I got it for buying a thousand cases of Coke, just before my second heart attack.”
Leela gave Fry a meaningful look. ”I know what a blernsball cap is, Fry.” She put it on her head and pulled it down so it would give some shelter from prying eyes. Leela took the other object from Fry, a pair of dark sunglasses and put those over her large eye.
“Blernsawhatnow?” But Leela was already walking away from him toward the front door.
Together they made their way to the lobby, where Fry took a moment to explain to Crazy Ivan that they needed the bathroom door fixed because of an accident. The Russian didn't seem too upset over this fact. He merely shrugged. “You break it, you pay it.” Crazy Ivan pointed out with an indifferent look on his face. Then a lewd expression swept away the mask of disinterest when the Russian took note of Leela, who stood a good distance behind Fry. The cyclops felt that the Russian looked and smelled like something that should live under a bridge.
A set of yellow teeth was visible through Crazy Ivan’s broad smile. "Ah, I see. It was an "accident"." He said suggestively, and leaned over the counter to give Fry an encouraging pat on his right cheek with a sweaty hand. "If you play too rough with lady friend you strike out and no third base for you. I fix door, no problem, I knock of price if novelty video is good."
Fry's face started to turn red again, and he cast a guilty look at Leela, who wasn't quite out of earshot. He didn't even consider what he had done with the video camera; all he wanted was to get out of there before Leela got the wrong idea about it all. "Yeah... uh... whatever." He blurted and made a short dash for Leela. He immediately started to drag her away from the front desk.
"What did he mean by "third base" and "novelty video"?" Leela asked while a feebly-smiling Fry tried to tow her past the now very-amused landlord. With a final tug from Fry, Leela found herself on the curb outside.
Just as the pair exited the building, an old Crown Victoria Ford chugged asthmatically by them. ”What was that?” Leela exclaimed with surprise and slight horror while staring at the strange apparatus that sniffed and coughed its way along the worn pavement. She found its manner of locomotion strange. Round black things connected the odd machinery to the ground, as if somehow moved without hovering. It looked and smelled almost like a garbage bot. Leela hadn't seen any cars during the previous night thanks to the paper bag she had worn which had severely restricted her vision.
”It was just a car. Don't you have cars in the future?” Fry was surprised at Leela's odd reaction, he was sure that there would be, albeit futuristic, cars in the future, possibly with laser guns on them.
”Of course we do, but they fly... not like... like those things!" Leela noted with a hand wave at the disappearing car in an irritated and slightly frightened voice. "And they don't smell like garbage!" the cyclops wouldn't readily admit it, but the primitive Stupid Ages vehicle had startled her. The thing was so… barbaric.
Fry had no immediate reply to Leela's opinion about the 21st century mode of transportation, instead he just gave the slightly irate Leela a shrug and lead the way down the street. The walk to Fry's workplace was for Leela a strange, almost surreal one. Seeing old New York in full daylight was both peculiar and unsettling. The odd, square shaped buildings together with the straight cut streets turned the city into a block-shaped maze that disorientated Leela.
The venue that the city presented for her was bewildering. There were things that superficially reminded the cyclops of home; fast food restaurants, boutiques, huge billboards, traffic, but everything was more cluttered. The material the buildings were made was coarse and bulky, not the smooth and clean surfaces she was used to. People crowded the streets, which in turn were littered with strange static signs which made no sense to her.
The smell and general feel of how everything looked struck Leela as well. She was convinced that the source of the rancid smells came from the fast moving ground vehicles, which came in many different shapes and sizes, and all seemed to somehow lack the ability to repel gravity or to use dark matter. What the contraptions used as fuel was a mystery, but Leela had heard stories about ghastly Stupid Age rituals in which animals were liquefied into a brownish ooze and then burned as a means of transportation. Whatever the case, they looked dangerously unsafe as they lurked around the pavement at high speeds with roaring noises.
Another thing that occurred to the cyclops was the people in the streets. At first Leela didn't think about it, but after awhile, she felt something was wrong. It took a while before the cyclops could put her finger on what was missing; there were no robots or any aliens anywhere. Just plain humans everywhere, filling the streets. It was deeply disturbing for Leela, not only did it serve as a reminder that this wasn’t her era, but it underscored that she was different. Very different.
She had no idea how she was to survive in these dangerous times where cowboys chased mammoths through the streets and stock brokers had to hurl themselves from windows when they lost money rather than using a suicide booth.
All that she actually knew about this time was that it was a primitive and mindless era, and she had met more than her fair share of people from the Stupid Ages, which had done nothing to change her perspective about the 21st century. But never in her wildest dreams had she expected one day to walk the streets of old New York herself.
Passing a low building housing a travel agency, Leela caught eye of large banner draped over the entrance. Depicted on the banner was a woman’s smiling face, next to an airplane taking to the skies. "Fly American" The text painted underneath said. The cyclops stopped and stared at the banner and specifically the airplane. American? Don’t they mean Earthican? The world wasn’t still tribal in the 21st century, was it?
She caught Fry's arm. "Is that a star ship?"
The delivery boy, consumed by his own thoughts, reacted somewhat absently. ”Hum? What is?”
"That!" Leela pointed at the banner, now squeezing Fry's arm harder.
"That’s just an airplane. Don't you have those in the future?" The delivery boy asked with surprise in his voice.
"An air what? I don't know what that is."
”Air plane” He said with emphasis on the last word. ”You fly with them... to places.”
”In space?” The cyclops was surprised, it looked awfully fragile and primitive to her, she’d had no idea that man had gone into space during the stupid ages.
”No, not with that. At least, I don't think we do.” Fry had a ponderous look on his face. Leela, not wanting to stand around all day waiting for Fry to ”think”, saw what could possibly be a distraction.
”Are those suicide booths?” She motioned towards a square box standing on a corner.
”That's a phone booth.” Fry had no idea what a suicide booth could be, though what the name implied sent a slight chill down his spine.
”What do you use it for?”
During the rest of the walk to Panucci's pizza, there was no further conversation. Leela was too busy brooding over the strange and confusing past.
”We're here!” Fry proudly proclaimed with a grand sweeping gesture towards the mustard yellow pizzeria with its characteristic red awning poised over the front.
Not waiting for a reply, Fry continued his leisurely stride towards the door, which he held open for her with an inviting gesture.
”This is where I work!” He said with pride in his voice. The purple haired woman looked dubiously first at Fry and then at the open door. Cautiously she passed him and entered the pizzeria. Standing in the middle of the floor, she wrapped her arms around herself, trying to keeping her distance from any of the uniformly grimy surfaces. There was by now no doubt at what the redhead’s vocation was. What a dump. Why couldn't he at least have worked somewhere nice?
”Hey, Mr. Panucci.” The delivery boy greeted his obese employer, who treated Fry and Leela with nothing but a cursory glance and a deep grunt before continuing to fold pizza cartons. His hands, almost as big as phone books, took each wafer thin carton and, with seasoned movements, turned them into flat containers with little effort.
A tad nervous, with that old feeling of butter fly wings in his stomach, Fry picked the collar of his jacket while trying to keep his hands steady. He cleared his throat. ”Say, remember the time you said that I was too slow and you figure that you needed more help?”
”What about it?” Came the deep, accented answer, while Mr. Panucci's hands continued their carton- folding ballet without pause.
”I was thinking... um, Leela here needs a job and... you know?” Fry made a somewhat unsure gesture towards the purple haired woman.
Mr. Panucci stopped folding pizza cartons and leaned on the counter, which was facing the small area designated for customers and lazy delivery boys alike. He stared at the young woman dressed in black trousers, black jacket and a stop sign-red baseball cap which clashed with her purple hair in a way that would send anyone with the slightest fashion sense scrambling for a fork to stab into their eyes.
Wearing a face of minimal interest, he extended his right index finger and used it to motion Leela to approach him. Realizing that she had to show her best side, Leela plastered her face with her best fake smile and put her hands on her back so she wouldn't happen to touch anything by accident; the place was anything but clean, and the cyclops didn't want to contract any of the horrible diseases that plagued this primitive past.
”Can you ride them's bikes and does you know how to knead dough?” Was the rather frank question aimed at the sunglass-adorned woman.
The cyclops opened her mouth to answer with the intent of giving a negative answer, but Fry was already ahead of her. Now both confident and relieved, the delivery boy knew his employer well enough to know that this was Panucci's standard question for any prospective employee. A question that was more of a formality designed to hide the fact that the receiver of the question was more or less already hired, provided the answer was positive. ”Sure she does!” Fry quipped from behind Leela.
Leela opened her mouth yet again to protest, but this time Panucci was the faster one. ”Fine, she's hired as long as you don't expect any tips, lose any bikes, mind working long hours, or expect to be well paid.” He pointed at Leela with an over sized thumb. ”Yous' hafta lose the cap and the sun glasses too, yous scare the customers.”
The purple haired woman froze. She could have accepted the rather unfavorable terms for work, since she figured that it was just a temporary thing. Leela was only going to be working until she managed to freeze herself and get home, or until one of the countless dangers that were everywhere in the Stupid Ages managed to kill her. But shedding her disguise was flatly not an option. Leela had no idea what reaction the presence of an alien would provoke in these people in the 20th century, nor had she any inkling what it would do to the future she came from. ”Well, I... um, need them for... I'm... ” Leela stuttered as she wracked her brain trying to come up with a plausible excuse for keeping her disguise.
”French! She's French!” Fry blurted in desperation, seeing how Leela was flustering. The cyclops cringed, of all the excuses she’d heard in her lifetime, this had to have been the most stupid. ”And because of that, she's sensitive to light.” The delivery boy embellished further. The one-eyed woman wanted to either sink through the floor or at least grab Fry by the collar, drag him out into the nearby ally, and then beat the living snot out of him for coming up with such a pathetic excuse that no sane person would believe.
”French, huh? My cousin went to France, say'd they were a weird bunch. I guess she can keep 'em.” The Fry's boss said with generous gesture of his right hand.
Fry let out a breath of air. He had been quite worried that Panucci was about to find Leela out or something. The bald man disappeared briefly behind the counter and showed up with something in his left hand which he tossed to Leela. ”You can use this when ya go on a delivery.” Leela looked at the object. It was a white base ball cap with the words Panucci's Pizza emblazoned in red on it.
”Thanks Mr. Panucci!” Fry yelled as he dragged Leela through the door before anything else could go awry.
”Why did you say I could do all those things? And why the heck did you tell him that I’m ‘French’?! That's the best thing you could come up with?” Leela asked Fry when they we're standing on the curb. Leela straightened her black jacket, which Fry had been pulling.
”Eh, he always asks if you can ride a bike and knead dough, I couldn't do either one, and I still work there, right?” He said with a dismissive wave of his hand before he continued to refute Leela's concerns. “And I got us out trouble, didn't I, Leela?” Fry pointed out with a confident smile on his face.
Fry's assured demeanor did not serve to appease Leela the slightest. ”It was the dumbest excuse I've ever heard.” Leela stood with folded arms and an unimpressed expression. “Besides, I don't know how to ride a 'bike', whatever that is.”
The delivery boy was undaunted by the cyclops criticism. ”That, I can help you with.”
One brisk walk through two city blocks later they were standing outside Brandishing Billy's Bike Emporium. ”Who's Billy and what is he Brandishing?” Asked Leela looking up at the black and white sign over the entrance to the bicycle store.
Fry pointed at large mascot standing on the building; it had the feature of an apple cheeked kid but with a rather menacing look on its face. The character was sporting a .45 caliber hand gun in one hand and a knife in the other. “The guy starting the place was from The Bronx, so you never really know.”
The purple haired woman paused briefly, while she stared at the sign and the mascot. She was digesting what Fry had just said. Not much information about the stupid ages had survived to the third millennium- successive alien invasions had just about wiped out all records from this time- but perhaps there was some truth about myths that claimed New Jersey as a birth place of the modern gangster. Back in the 31st century, Leela knew that they did celebrate Tony Columbus day each year in New Jersey. According to the legend, he had been an Italian mobster that had first colonized the banks of the Hudson, before becoming a celebrated TV personality.
Not interested in standing around outside in the creeping cold while pondering the difference between the past and the future, Leela followed the delivery boy inside the store. Her nose was instantly tickled by the raw smell of rubber and oil. There were bicycles everywhere, and, near the counter, there were shelves upon shelves of assorted bicycle accessories.
Fry was already engaged in talking with a thin, sleazy looking salesman. Leela moved slowly around the store, appraising what she was seeing. With their sleek frames, bulky wheels, broad chains and dubious safety measures, Leela found these bicycle things’ viability as a mode of transportation to be highly questionable. No airbags, shock controllers, speed regulators, or gravity pumps of any kind were visible. Just a metallic frame with two round things attached to each end that looked to be somehow related to what she had seen attached to the bottoms of 21st century cars. I still don’t get it. How can you ride on something like that?
Leela's internal musings were cut short when Fry called her over, he was standing near the exit with two used Schwinn bicycles. He had picked out a red for Leela and a black for himself. Leading his bicycle outside, Leela did her best to look like she knew what she was doing by mimicking Fry's way of handling his bike.
Later, standing in an ally not far from their apartment, Fry was lecturing Leela about the art of using a bicycle with wheels. After a long exposition, several demonstrations, and some how-to's, Leela was getting fed up.
”Look, Fry, It can’t be that hard. It’s just a hunk of metal with- uh- wheels. She still didn’t really understand what a ‘wheel’, as Fry called it, did exactly, and the word felt very strange in her mouth, but she wasn’t about to let the delivery boy know that. “I think I’m smart enough to figure out how to do this on my own, okay?”
Leela straddled her bicycle as she’d seen Fry do, and gripped the handlebars, she relaxed and tried to focus. After watching Fry, she had quickly come to the conclusion that it was just about balance, and that was something she was already good at.
The cyclops narrowed her eye and prepared to make the contraption go. “Take them off or I break them off.” She said in an ominous voice. The source of Leela's sudden anger was that she now had two hands on her hips; Fry had placed his hands on her waist to help her balance. Faced with an angry demeanor from Leela he withdrew them as if he had been holding a red hot stove.
Standing with his hands behind his back Fry looked on with unconcealed worry.
After having made sure that Fry was out of touching range, Leela kicked off, sending herself and the bike on a wobbly path in the forward direction. She placed both of her feet on the pedals and, assuming that the inertial dampeners that had to be hidden in the bicycle in order to keep it upright would automatically kick in, was just about to start to give herself more forward momentum when the whole world took a nose dive, and the unrelenting asphalt jumped towards her face at an alarming speed. It was only the grace of her martial arts training that saved Leela from planting her face squarely in the ground. Instead she managed to roll and land on her back.
Her bicycle landed unceremoniously behind her with a clanging noise. Hardly had Leela and her schwinn bicycle decided to embrace gravity before Fry had run to the point where Leela had come to rest.
“Leela! Are you okay?! Are you hurt?! How many fingers am I holding up?!” The delivery boy blurted with a worried tone of voice and a concerned look on his face.
The cyclops groaned. “You’re not holding up any fingers, and I’m fine.” She said dismissively while she stood up and rubbed her sore backside. Leela was all too aware that riding a bicycle was more difficult than she had imagined, yet she wasn’t ready to admit that just yet. If a primitive guy like Fry could do it, then so could she.
Having brushed Fry’s concerns about her wellbeing aside, Leela tried to ride her bike again, though this time she barely got on her bicycle before she crashed yet again. It took her three more failed attempts to realize that she needed help.
Yet again she found herself with Fry’s hands on her hips. This time, thanks to Fry’s hands-on aid, she managed to wobble forward on her bicycle without tipping over. At least, until she hit a fragment of broken concrete and started to fall over. The delivery boy tried to stop the inevitable, but the only result was that Leela fell on top of him.
”Ow! My spleen!” Fry cried.
New York, January 3rd, 2000
“Fry, we need to talk.” The purple haired cyclops addressed the delivery boy upon exiting the bathroom.
”Now? I'm in the middle of something here.” Came the bored reply from Fry, who was lying rather comfortable on the couch with a vapid expression, his eyes glued to the TV, where scantily-clad women were smashing cars with giant jackhammers. Leela cast one irritated look at the TV and placed herself strategically in front of the screen. “Fry! That thing will give you eye cancer!” The delivery boy wasn't listening. Instead, he tried to view around Leela while still lying on the couch. His owl-like head movements weren’t very successful.
”Leela! I can't see the TV!”
Leela turned around and turned off the television, ignoring the vocal protests from the delivery boy. She put her hands on her hips. “I need to do some shopping.”
Fry stared blankly at Leela. “Why?”
“There are some things that I need. All I’ve got to wear is this uniform, and nothing else. I don't even have a deplaquifyer!”
“A what?” Fry wondered with a blank stare.
Ugh, they don’t even have that? Leela lamented for herself. “Something that you use to clean your teeth with; don’t you have that in this time?”
“Oh, you mean a toothbrush. You can borrow mine.” Fry offered.
Eww. ”Uhh, thanks, but I’d rather have one of my own.” Toothbrush, it sounded really primitive and unhygienic. The mere suggestion that she should share such a device with Fry repulsed her. ”Can we please just go shopping?” Leela pleaded, as placidly as she could. The cyclops would have rather threatened Fry with violence, but she was afraid that he might run away from her, and, as terrifying as it was to admit, she was completely dependent on him. He was the only friend she had.
Fry took a brief moment and though about it. Shopping with girls was normally something to be avoided, like asking a policeman a question or going to the dentist. He would’ve much rather said no, but Fry had the nagging feeling that Purple Hair wouldn’t take no for an answer. Regardless of what he thought about the idea, there was another problem that curtailed a shopping spree in any event. He was desperately short on cash.
Suddenly, a though occurred to him. Michelle had dumped his mail, mostly junk, in one of the boxes where she had crammed his meager belongings. The delivery boy left Leela where she was standing and returned to his cluttered bedroom, where most of his belongings were.
Rooting through the pile where his mail was, a glossy envelop with a familiar logo caught his attention. With trembling hands, he tore it open. Inside, was a pre-approved credit card. With this coveted treasure in his hands, Fry rejoined Leela in the living room.
Together, they made their way to the nearest subway station. Leela was both intrigued and somewhat intimidated by the cramped metal boxes running on primitive steel tracks. There was a strange smell in the underground station, a mix between stale air, ozone and electricity. A train rumbled in to the station with a blast of air and stopped with screeching breaks.
She was herded onboard on one of the cars by Fry and a throng of other people. Leela had been worried that people would notice that her outfit was designed specifically to cloak her appearance. She was relieved, then, to discover that she was being ignored with just as much studied practice as the schizophrenic man who was arguing with himself in the corner. Unfortunately, being ignored gave her enough time to notice the dirt, grime, and odd smells that covered the seats and permeated the air.
Upon reaching their destination, Leela was relieved. She hadn't really fancied being shoved into a small space with complete strangers in a primitive means of transportation which had a smell that reminded her of the owl infested Orphanerium she had grown up in.
After a short walk in the chilly outdoors, Leela and Fry reached a large building which featured several stores, boutiques and fast food outlets. Navigating through the mass of people frequenting the open spaces, Leela soon found herself outside a store which, judging from the what she could glean from the outside, carried female clothing.
”You go inside and do your shopping. Take my credit card and we'll meet by the food court in an hour, okay?” Fry said, and handed Leela the credit card he had salvaged from his junk mail.
”But...” The cyclops started to protest; she wasn't comfortable roaming around in the past by herself just yet.
”Catch you later!” The delivery boy shouted and walked away, he was quickly devoured by the mass of people milling around, leaving the cyclops standing alone outside the store. Like many other guys, Fry didn't like shopping much with a woman and if his previous experiences with Michelle had been any guide, getting a root canal was to be preferred. The store to which he had lead Leela was a boutique that Michelle had used.
Tentatively the cyclops walked through the double glass front doors. To Leela's surprise, the boutique that her 20th century guide had led her to was strangely reminiscent of the posh, downtown stores she was vaguely familiar with from her own time. Normally she rarely set foot inside a brand store catering to the need of women, mostly because she was looked down on by the staff. Leela much preferred to do her shopping in simpler stores, and through mail order.
Leela had made a mental note of how females in this era generally dressed while on the subway. The cyclops had come to the conclusion that she’d better dress like the inhabitants of Old New York if she was to blend in. The problem was, not unlike in her time, people came in every shape and size, which meant that they dressed very differently from each other. Trying to approximate a typical outfit from what she had seen wasn't easy.
Another problem that she had feared was dealing with the store attendants. Leela had never had any good experience with store attendants back home, and she was not expecting things to go over any better in this time. In her own era, most store attendants treated her poorly due to her sole eye. The usual way of treating her was by suggesting horrible clothing that didn't fit her at all, while claiming that it would take the focus of her gigantic eye.
To Leela's dismay, a rather hefty woman with way too much perfume had started to follow her around in the store as soon as Leela entered it. The large woman, who went by the name Andrea if her name tag was to be believed, had given Leela a disapproving look by the time that the purple haired, black clad, sun glassed-adorn cyclops had passed the register.
After Leela had managed to scrounge up some items- mainly through guesswork- Andrea had stalked up to her and leaned over, trying to peer through the cyclops disguise, while addressing Leela though pursed lips. “May I help you?” The question was not as much an offer for help as a question of why Leela saw fit, dressed as she was, to rummage through what the store had to offer, and a warning that she could forget about trying to steal anything. The cyclops was amazed at how much subtext could be fit into one simple question.
”I'm good.” Leela offered to the imposing figure before her, who, in turn leaned even further down now, trying to face Leela, who tried to conceal her face from view by staring down at her stained boots.
”Can you pay?” Came the next inquisitorial question from the female behemoth that lingered over the cyclops. Leela almost gagged from the stench of cheap perfume that emanated from every pore of Andrea's body.
Seeing a potential risk that she might be exposed, Leela let her left hand disappear into her jacket pocket. Within moments, she produced Fry's credit card. The delivery boy hadn’t given any specific instructions as to what the plastic card did, other than when prompted for payment she was to say that she had a ‘credit’ and hand over the card.
Fry had been scant with details as to what exactly the card did but Leela suspected that perhaps it was just a part of a barter system. She was, after all, in a very primitive era.
”I have a...” She glanced down at the card. “Uh… credit card?”
Andrea shot a glance at the plastic card Leela held up and sneered in response. “The changing room is over there. Let me know if there is something else you need.”
Leela scampered off to the small booths that lined one of the walls in the boutique to which Andrea had pointed with an oversize finger.
The cyclops took her time trying out the different items, which also turned out to be more difficult than imagined. The pants, which looked very much like the ones that Fry was wearing, had a strange way of closing up with round protrusions fitting into small slits. Another problem was figuring out just how the changing room worked, or, rather, how it didn't. The mirror didn't do anything besides show her own reflection; the light was fixed, and didn't change no matter what she tried.
When her cloth testing session was done, Leela concluded that she also needed proper footwear as well as new underwear, one of those ‘toothbrush’ things that Fry had mentioned, and some makeup. Leela made her way to the register and the hefty woman how stood there, idly filing her nails with a nail that was dwarfed by the sizable hands of hers.
The store attendant, Andrea, took Leela's selections and with speed and skill, wrought from many hours of practice, she folded, removed tags, and ultimately put them all in a large, glossy, plastic bag. Fry's credit card was snatched from Leela's fingers and run through the narrow, hungry slit of the card reader. The card back in hand, the cyclops reached for her bounty, only to have the oversized store attendant firmly plant her meaty hand on the bags. Just as Leela was about to protest, the register made a satisfied electronic chirp, indicating that the card and the transaction had been found satisfactory.
Andrea's hold over the plastic bags was released upon hearing the chirp. With no more words, Leela was handed the receipt with a dismissive facial expression from Andrea. The cyclops had no idea how to read the frail paper receipt, but she vowed to herself to pay Fry back.
Leela suffered one last, disdainful look from Andrea and turned to go. Now, Leela was more than used to being treated this way by clerks in the past, which, technically, was really the future, so Leela just rolled her eye and headed for the door. Then, just as she was about to leave the store, she realized something. This time, she didn’t have to just put up with the treatment she’d gotten. This time, she had a secret weapon.
Smiling evilly, Leela turned to face the cash register. “Oh, hey Andrea. One last thing.”
“What?” The clerk replied with an overly-exaggerated tone of bored disinterest.
“Oh nothing.” Leela replied. “Just…this!” With one fluid movement, Leela removed her sunglasses exposing her giant eye in all its glory. Then she calmly turned and walked away, smiling to herself in petty victory as the clerk’s screams of terror died away in the background.
Leela spent additional time wandering through a host of other stores in search of new boots, and the other things that she sorely needed. The cyclops tried her best to make her continuing shopping spree as short and cheap as possible. Overloaded with a pastel of glossy plastic bags, Leela was ready to meet up with her red-headed guide. However, there was one thing that the cyclops felt she had to do before she ventured to the point where she was to meet Fry. She glanced up at the gigantic clock, satisfied that there was enough time left, and she went on her way.
While the cyclops had been busy gathering what she needed to survive on a day-by-day basis, Fry had perused the mall the same way he had done since his teens; he had wandered to the nearest electronics store and marveled at the gleaming knobs, buttons, displays, shiny, faux metal plastic casings of assorted stereos, TVs and computers that he'd never been able to afford.
As per usual, he could not keep his hands off the gleaming equipment. The delivery boy's endeavor in exploring the presented apparatus in a more hands on fashion ended as it always did. Loud noises, a woman screaming and electrical appliances on fire were soon part of the technological landscape that outlined the store. Like bow-waves in his wake, the pandemonium he had created served him the reward of being violently tossed from the store by two store clerks plus a manager.
Outside, Fry took a moment to compose himself, brushing the dust of his jacket and straightened himself. Next his expeditionary list was making his way to the other temple of technological highlights which he adored; the local arcade. Fashioned with an cup of soda, large enough to stave the thirst of an entire family, liberally filled with ice mixed with a faint level of cola, the delivery boy emerge himself into the dark, musky atmosphere of the arcade, filled with the harsh, unrelenting flicker of dozens of screens. A pulsating cacophony of electronic sounds, interspersed with the occasional curse and holler.
The smell of warm electronics and sweat permeated the air as he made his way down rows of arcade machines. Having found a game that he fancied, Fry spent a whole fifteen minutes where he did away with ten dollars in quarters. His coins were eagerly swallowed by the insatiable machine, which required a constant feed to let him continue. Fry eagerly fed the quarter slot with the fervor of a dying man, desperate to do just one more thing before passing away.
Money gone, his drink finished, and the words ‘Game Over’ blaring upon the obsidian screen, the red head saw fit to find greener pastures, in this case the food court, something that his stomach, judging from the low rumble insisted on.
Leaving the electronic dungeon, Fry set his course for a hot dog. A glance at the large mall clock revealed that he had plenty of time before Leela was to show up. Sitting at a table just outside a fast food vendor, idly chewing on a large hot dog featuring every topping known to man, the delivery boy was subjected to an impromptu meeting.
“Fry?” A female voice asked with surprise and a slight hint of disbelief, sprinkled with a tad of annoyance.
The delivery boy winced where he sat. Why her? I don't need this, not now. He swallowed a piece of sausage and gave the chestnut haired woman, who stood on the other side of the rickety table, his best attempt at a disapproving stare. “Hi Michelle.”
The woman before him wiped an errant strand of hair from her face and composed herself, gripping her purse slightly tighter. “Look, Fry, about New Year’s Eve...”.
"What about it?" Fry's answer was flat, and a bit cautious. He kept his eyes on Michelle's face while his hands guided the hot dog to his mouth for yet another bite.
The brunette had started a bit uneasy, somewhat unsure how to deal with her former boyfriend, but, seeing Fry in his usual, slobby and meek way, Michelle slid back into her old behavior
"I had to leave you, Fry. You’re never going to amount to anything!" She lashed out at him.
Fry stopped chewing and just stared at Michelle with a seemingly vapid expression. Things were gearing up for a very familiar conversation.
Having gained momentum, the brunette continued. "You never did anything I asked you...You’re a boring, unwilling slob!"
During Michelle's tirade Fry had been silent with a seemingly subdued demeanor. On the inside, however, he was steaming. So infatuated had he been with Michelle that he’d never realized just how mean she really was. Not until now. Michelle opened her mouth to continue, but, before she could start off again, Fry uncharacteristically cut her off.
”Save it, Michelle! You dumped me, like a... like a...” In a flurry of emotion, now fueled by anger, Fry struggled for words, trying to conjure up a proper analogy. “Dog!”
”A dog?” The brunette replied, staring back at Fry with a mix of surprise and disbelief.
”Like poor Seymour!”
”You mean that smelly, hairy thing you dragged home one day?” Michelle made a repulsed grimace.
“That's the one, except he wasn't smelly... or maybe he was... but that doesn't change that you forced me to get rid of him! Just like you did with me!” Fry was now firing on all his cylinders, all the wrongdoings came floating to the surface.
Michelle was caught off guard by her ranting former-boyfriend. This was a different side of Fry; one that she was not readily familiar with. Normally, the delivery boy had done just about anything for her, yet the very reason that she’d left him was that he had no ambition, and thusly failed in reaching the lofty goals she had set for him. Michelle wasn't sure what exactly he was trying to say. She recalled the dog Fry was referring to, a mangy thing that he had brought home one night. After an incident where Seymour had jumped into the scented bath that Michelle had been enjoying, she had made Fry take it to the animal shelter.
The brunette opened her mouth to give her riposte to the delivery boy's angry tirade, only to shut it again and stare over Fry's right shoulder. “Do you know that woman?” She asked Fry with a nod in the direction she was looking.
Fry's anger was reaching a steaming apex, thus it took a full second for him to parse what Michelle was hinting at. The redhead shifted in his seat and glanced over his shoulder in the direction which Michelle had nodded. Some thirty feet away stood Leela, trying to attract Fry's attention from the other side of the passing mass of people.
The glimpse of Leela through the throngs of people was not what made Fry pause. It was her look that completely derailed his anger as well as his train of thought, sending them both neatly over an imaginative precipice into a deep yawning chasm of distraction.
Leela had taken the spare time she’d had upon finishing her shopping to make use of a free changing room in a nearby store. There she had dressed up in what she hoped was a more discrete outfit than her standard Cryogenics Laboratory uniform.
The cyclops’s pants were a pair of pale blue, low cut, tight fitting jeans which ended in a pair of brown, thick-heeled boots. Her upper frame was hugged by a patterned, white colored jumper. Leela's choice for shelter against the harsh and cold winds had been an elegant, brown coat. To cover up her more prominent head and facial features, she had opted for a grey colored, tweed newspaper cap, in which she had tucked her purple hair. A pair of large sunglasses with thick frames hid most of her upper face. Fry gazed at her with an appraising stare, mouth agape, the grip of his hot dog growing more tenuous by the second.
The delivery boy's suddenly keen interest in Leela wasn't lost on Michelle. “Fry?!” She demanded with irritation.
He snapped out if his trance. “What?!”
”Who's she?” Was Michelle's acid question. The implication from his former girlfriend surprised Fry. He hadn’t realized just how obvious his unabashed staring had been. The delivery boy was momentarily distracted enough that his hot dog was about to escape to the dirty floor via a, for Fry, common escape route; his lap. The delivery boy saved his half finished meal and stood up.
A wry smile played over his face. Two could play this game. “My girlfriend, who else would it be?” He said with as much confidence as he could muster. Not waiting for Michelle to answer, he simply gave the stunned brunette a simple parting shot. “Bye!”
"Who was that?" Leela asked as a greeting when Fry reached her. The delivery boy glanced over his shoulder in the direction he’d just come from.
"Oh just someone I thought I knew." He tried to gloss over.
"She was yelling at you." Leela continued while she handed over Fry's credit card.
"Are you done shopping?" Fry tried to escape the unwanted questions about Michelle.
Leela shot a glance at the brunette that still stood where Fry had left her. The woman was staring directly at Leela with a poisonous stare. She had been accosting Fry, so it was obvious that, whoever she was, she knew him, and seeing how Fry had talked to her, he knew her as well.
"Yes, I'm done. Thanks for helping me." Leela thanked him with genuine gratitude.
"Hey, are you hungry?" Fry asked. Even though he had just eaten a hot dog, he was still hungry. He was always still hungry. Leela hadn’t thought about it until Fry had asked her, but, now that she thought about it, she realized that she was.
As Fry took the lead, Leela cast one last look towards Michelle. The cyclops gave the brunette a hostile look. Fry had been nothing but considerate to Leela, and the cyclops found herself feeling just a little protective of him. Leela was subconsciously jealous as well, though she wasn't really ready to admit that to herself.
Michelle stood alone- and slightly confused- where Fry had left her. From her vantage point, she saw how Fry addressed the well-dressed woman. Judging from the number of glossy bags the woman was holding, it was clear the she had been on a shopping spree, and seeing as how the woman had given Fry what looked like a credit card, it was obvious that he had been the one paying for it.
A surge of jealousy mixed with suspicion and paranoia reared its head in Michelle's mind. Knowing Fry, that girl couldn't possibly have become his girlfriend in just three days. Perhaps he had been seeing someone else when they still had been together? Maybe he’d even tricked her into breaking up with him to get away from her? And paying for shopping? Fry never had any money to spare. These questions gnawed on her mind and tore huge chunks out of her female self esteem. She needed some attesting as to just how much she was loved.
Wounded deep in her very soul, the brunette disregarded the fact that she was due at the bridal shop for trying out her wedding dress. Instead, she fled to the street where she hailed a cab. She just had to see Charles. Michelle gave the cabdriver the address of his workplace.
Soon she found herself on the curb, facing the small building where her fiancée and future husband worked. Michelle braved the imposing doors and entered the lobby, which was conspicuously empty. There was usually a receptionist at the front desk.
“Hello?” Michelle called out, peering over the counter, but there was nothing there. A few seconds wandered aimlessly by like a group of drunken tourists, yet there was no reply to her call.
A female giggle caught her attention. There was a slight rustle, followed by yet another female giggle from behind a door labeled ‘broom closet’. The door was slightly ajar. Michelle wandered over and peered through the crack. In the narrow closet, under the naked light from a bare light bulb, was her fiancé, Charles, and, nestled in his tight embrace, was the blond receptionist.
“Charles! You’re so manly.” The blond giggled vapidly.
“I know, baby, I know.” Michelle's future husband replied, kissing the blond receptionist. Michelle froze where she stood. Her mind reeled, and it felt like she had been hit in her stomach. Tears started to well up as she fled the scene.