Fan Fiction

The Leelazarus Effect, part 2
By SoylentOrange

The tube door swished open, allowing a fine mist to spill out onto the floor. Leela moaned and stretched. Propping one hand on the side of the chamber, she pulled herself to her feet and shuffled slowly out into the room. Her legs wobbled under her weight, and the world began to spin. Leaning against the tube to support herself, Leela waited groggily until her blood began to flow. Color gradually returned to her body, but her mind still slept.

“Wha… what happened?”, she murmered to herself. A voice in her head was trying to tell her something, but it was fuzzy and so far away… Why was there such a sense of urgency? Something bad had just happened, or was it just about to? “Why can’t I remember?” There was a memory of falling backward, and then a feeling of intense cold… The memory clicked into place.

“Oh no, I was frozen!” A wave of terror surged through the cyclops. How long had it been? Suddenly the thought of looking out the window filled Leela with an overwhelming sense of dread. The default setting on the freezer tubes was a millennium. “My god, a thousand years…” Her parents, her friends, everyone she knew would be long dead and forgotten. She would be utterly alone, a relic from the long past to be pitied and scorned by the denizens of the far future. She would be a 41st century Fry.

Leela shook her head to clear it. “No, it’s not possible.” The words came out hollow. Not even realizing that she was holding her breath, Leela forced herself to turn and walk the few steps to the window sill. Somehow her eye had managed to close of its own volition. Reluctantly, Leela pressed her face against the smooth surface and forced open her eye. What she saw made her gasp.

The city of New New York lay in ruins. The once proud skyscrapers lay shattered in the rubble clogged streets. Twisted plasteel skeletons jutted from the wreckage of the buildings that they had supported. Overhead, the sky was a dismal gray.

Leela worked her way through the shattered streets as the reality of her situation sank in. Somehow the whole city had been destroyed. Everywhere she went there was more destruction. Only a few of the smaller buildings remained standing, of which Applied Cryogenics was one. Somehow these structures had gone overlooked by whatever force had leveled the largest city on Earth. Leela’s tube, powered by the steady fire of a fusion reactor in the building’s basement, had carried her safely through Armageddon and into the distant future.

Nothing stirred anywhere. New New York was completely and utterly dead. “No, not just dead,” Leela realized, “empty.”

An icy shiver crawled up Leela’s spine. In the hours that she had been awake she had yet to see any sign that people had ever lived here. Tens of millions of people had called this city home. Even if they had all died a millennium in the past, there should still be something left, even if it was just bones and dust. What had happened to everyone? “Maybe they escaped”, she thought. Somehow she knew that wasn’t the case.

It was nearly sundown when Leela crested a pile of broken plascreet and stood looking down at the remains of Planet Express. She had known from the beginning what to expect, but even with the knowledge in her head, the reality of what lay before her was still too much to bear. Leela sank to her knees and let the tears come, no longer willing or able to keep them away.

Planet Express was a decomposing hulk. The top half of the tower was gone, leaving a fire-scorched hole in the building’s north side. Bits of metal, brick, and glass lay scattered about the base of the building. Leela knew without a doubt that she would find nothing living inside.

When the tears finally began to dry themselves up, Leela became aware of the darkness that had been deepening around her. The thought of being stuck out in the open in the darkness sent a shiver down her spine, and she forced herself to stand. She began walking toward what was left of the Planet Express building. A few moments later she broke into a jog, and then the jog became a run. As twilight faded, Leela’s fragile control over her emotions was overwhelmed and, chased by the imagined ghosts of tens of millions of New New Yorkers, Leela bolted through the gaping hole that had once been the Planet Express Building’s front door. Careening through the darkness at breakneck speed it was only a matter of seconds before Leela tripped and fell to the floor. Something hard and blunt hit her square in the forehead, sending her spiraling into unconsciousness, and then sleep.

It was early afternoon when the sense that she was being watched woke Leela from her fevered dreams. A few tense seconds passed in silence while Leela lay still, listening for any sign that she was not alone. There was nothing. Finally the ex PE captain forced herself to relax. There was no one there, and she could not afford to let her imagination run wild like it had the night before. That way led to paranoia and maybe even madness.

From her surroundings it appeared as though her terror-induced sprint through the building had landed her in Hermes’ office. The large bruise on her forehead was courteous of one of the bureaucrat’s industrial grade staplers, which now lay overturned against the wall.

Leela took a moment to compose herself and then began a tour of her surroundings, being careful to avoid the few places where the structure had become unsound. Other than the rooms adjacent to the mysteriously vanished tower, there were very few such places. All in all, the Planet Express building was a testament to the genius of its creator. Professor Farnsworth may have been a senile old crackpot, but he sure knew how to design something to last.

Everywhere she went she felt an unseen presence, but every time she stopped to listen the only sound was that of the blood coursing through her ears. Still, the feeling did not go away.

When her search finally took her to the hangar bay, Leela was greeted by a sight that she had not expected. Resting on its haunches like some beautiful slumbering bird of prey sat the Planet Express Ship, and it was intact.

Though everything else was ruined, the Planet Express ship looked as though it’s hull had been soldered together the day before. Along the entire surface of the ship there was no sign of damage or of rust. It was almost as though the ship had been freshly painted. The feeling that she was not alone once again ate at the back of Leela’s mind.

Armed with a makeshift metal club, Leela searched the vessel from stern to bow, but found no one aboard. Still, something was most definitely not right. There was no dust or sign of wear and tear inside the ship. The equipment was clean and well maintained. Tools and other objects were arrayed neatly about the cabin. In fact, the only thing that was missing was the supply of dark matter that was needed to make the ship fly.

When Leela realized that the ship was in working condition after one thousand years but couldn’t take her anywhere because someone had forgotten to fill the gas tank, she just about lost control of herself again. Fighting to keep herself out of the well of despair that had claimed her the night before, the distraught woman made her way to the bridge and collapsed into the captain’s chair. She sat there, fighting a silent battle with her emotions. She had just gotten herself back under control when some unnamed sense flashed her an urgent warning. There could no longer be any doubt. She was not alone.

Leela forced her body to stay perfectly still and listened for the presence that was creeping up behind her. There was a muffled rustle, so quiet that Leela would not have heard it if she had not been concentrating with every fiber of her being. The presence crept nearer. Leela tightened her grip on the crude metal weapon that lay in her lap, but still she did not turn around. The presence grew nearer. Leela waited. Fractions of a second seemed like hours, and Leela still waited. Something was right behind her. It took every ounce of self control to keep from turning around. There was the touch of breath on the back of Leela’s neck. The cyclops whirled around, bringing her club to bear. Her assailant’s three eyes bulged out in terror and pain as the club contacted with the side of his head. The blow’s momentum sent Nibbler flying across the room.

“Uunngh… Where am I? What happened?”

The fact that her pet, who by all rights should have been dead hundreds of years ago, was not only alive but currently in the process of speaking to her should perhaps have come as more of a shock, but after everything else that had happened in the last 24 hours (or 1000 years depending on your point of view) Leela found herself oddly able to take it all in stride.

“Shh, It’s ok Nibbler, you’re safe. No, don’t try and move. I walloped you pretty hard, try to stay still until we know how bad you’re hurt.”

The black and white Nibblonian’s body grew rigid at the sound of the voice. The sudden muscle exertion caused him to wince in pain, an odd gesture for a species with three eyes. Suddenly the creature remembered to whom he was speaking.

“By mighty Thor’s hammer! Leela, can it really be you after all these years?”

“Yes,” Leela assured him, “it’s really me after all these years. Oh yeah, umm, how many is that exactly?”

Nibbler thought for a moment. “Hmm, 49326 cuddle-its translates into… It would have been exactly 1000 of your Earth years ago as of yesterday afternoon.”

So it really had been a millennium. “Nibbler, what happened here?” Leela gestured out the cockpit window at the ruined Planet Express building. “Who did this?” After a moment’s pause she added: “Oh, and why can you talk?”

Nibbler’s face darkened as painful memories surfaced in his vastly superior mind. “Then you do not know. Very well, then I shall tell you all that I know.”

“One thousand years ago today, the brainspawn that survived the destruction of the infosphere staged a surprise attack on this planet. With The Mighty One off-planet and you suddenly missing, my only course of action was to reveal myself to the Earthican military. I was allowed conference with a captain Zapp Brannigan, commander of the defending forces. Unfortunately captain Brannigan was unwilling to listen to any advice that I had to give, and the defending forces were defeated before they could fire a shot.

Sensing that your planet’s only hope of survival lay in the hands of The Mighty One, I fought my way past the brainspawn blockade and went in search of Fry. By the time I found him and brought him back to Earth, the brains had already consolidated their position and it was too late. The Mighty One fell defending this very building. When it was over, there was nothing left. The brains removed every trace of biological matter from this planet in retribution for the destruction of the infosphere.”

“Wait… I’m sorry. Brainspawn? The Mighty one? This all sounds vaguely familiar but I can’t quite place it. Also, why can you talk?”

Nibbler nodded. “Of course, I apologize. This might be helpful to you.” Leela was blinded by a brilliant white flash from the Nibblonian’s third eye. “There, I’ve restored your memory.”

Leela blinked confusedly “Huh, did everything just taste purple for a moment?”

Nibbler gave her a dismissive wave of the hand. “Yes yes, that’s a common side effect. Do not worry about it.”

“Umm anyway, now that I suddenly remember that Fry is the sole hope of the universe…” Leela paused when she saw the expression on her pet’s face. “Err, I mean was the sole hope of the universe. Sorry.”

“It is unimportant.”

A silence descended between the two long-lost companions as each became momentarily lost in thought. Presently Leela asked: “Nibbler, if all life on Earth was destroyed a thousand years ago, then why are you still here?”

The Nibblonian sighed heavily. He did not answer for a long time. “It was my solemn duty to protect this world, and you and Fry in particular, from the brainspawn. I failed miserably. Once they had conquered Earth, the brains launched a campaign against the rest of the universe. I led the Nibblonian fleet against the onslaught, but our mighty huggyships we were no match for the brains without the special powers of the Mighty One. One by one the populated worlds fell to the brains until, eventually, only my home planet remained. I, along with half of the Nibblonian high council, managed to escape with my life before the brains broke through the last of our defenses. Each of us fled in a different direction in the hope that at least one of us might avoid detection. I chose to return to Earth. For the last 157 years I’ve lived in the ruins of this city, spending my time meditating and maintaining this ship so that I will always remember that it was my failure that doomed the universe. “

“Ohh, you are just sooo adorable, I can’t stand it.. I…”

Nibbler narrowed his eyes.

Leela’s cheeks flushed slightly in embarrassment. “Heh heh, sorry.”

“Ahem. As I was saying, I spent the last 157 years hiding out on this planet from the brainspawn. It never occurred to me that by doing so I might ever see you again. When I discovered you lying on the floor last night, I assumed it was some sort of sophisticated mental trap set by the brains. When you showed no signs of leaving and then boarded the ship, I decided that you must be destroyed. It did not occur to me that you were not an imposter until you beat me across the forehead with that primitive weapon. Only ‘The Other’ has the necessary skill to overcome my cunning in battle. Tell me, how is it that you managed to travel forward in time by 1000 of your years, for I assume that is what occurred?”

“No, I got myself frozen like Fry did. My chair fell backward and, next thing I know, I’m locked in a cryogenic tube until the next millennium. Hey wait a minute, come to think of it, how could you not know that’s what happened to me? I mean come on, I mysteriously vanished right after taking a job at a cryogenics company, what else could you think?”

The Nibblonian nodded sagely. “Ahh, so it was as I originally thought. It is strange then that you were not found, as a search party was sent to the cryogenics facility as soon as it became apparent that you were missing.”

“I wasn’t exactly in an out of the way part of the building. A person would have to have been a moron to miss me, but you said Fry was off planet. Who exactly did you send to look for me?”

“That robot friend of yours, I believe Bender was his name. He assured me that he would search the building from basement to rooftop, and let me know if he found even the tiniest clue as to your whereabouts.”

“Uh-huh, and how much did you bribe him with?”

Nibbler cocked his head sideways in puzzlement. “I do not understand. Why would I have paid him a bribe for the rescue of his own friend?”

“Obviously you didn’t know Bender very well. He probably didn’t even spend 5 minutes looking for me, the metal bastard.”

Leela and Nibbler stayed on the bridge of the ancient Planet Express Ship long into the evening while the Nibblonian sadly recounted the last millennium of history to her.

According to Nibbler, the brains had been detected completely by accident. A transport ship that happened to be in the right place at the right time radioed ahead to Earth that a fleet of giant brains was headed its way. Luckily, Nibbler had been monitoring the primitive human newscast when the sighting was announced. The Nibblonian immediately ran to Planet Express and revealed his true nature to Amy, Farnsworth, and Bender, who were the only people other than Leela that he knew well enough to even think about trusting. There had been quite a few looks of incredulity when the little furry creature walked in the front door and started proclaiming the end of the world. Apparently Nibbler’s cover as a stupid animal had been more masterful than even he had realized.

Nibbler explained the situation and the impending danger to the two Planet Express employees and their employer. While Bender (supposedly) went searching for the suddenly missing Leela, Amy called her boyfriend Kif. Conveniently enough, Kif was second in command of the DOOP flagship. Within minutes Nibbler was face to face with Captain Zapp Brannigan.

When the brains began their attack a few hours later they were swift and brutal, stupefying anyone that fled and vaporizing the few that were foolish enough to stand against them. The Nimbus and a few other military vessels which had not had the bad luck to be overtaken in the initial surprise attack were scrambled to fight the invaders, contrary to Nibbler’s advice that they withdraw and wait until the Mighty One could be found and the Nibblonian fleet could be summoned. The Earthican command decided not to take Nibbler’s advice. In the words of one Zapp Brannigan: “Sorry, but the DOOP Navy doesn’t need talking gerbils to reinforce it. What do you think we are, incompetent?” The last words broadcast by the DOOP flagship were Kif Kroker’s: “Sir, I don’t think you should touch that.” An instant later, and five minutes before it would have come into range of enemy fire, the DOOP flagship was destroyed. The rest of the DOOP actually managed to get into firing range, but the brains simply encased each ship in a psyonic field and ripped them apart one by one before they could get off a shot.

When it became clear that the battle was swiftly becoming a rout, Nibbler was left with only one option: he must find the Mighty One, and he must do it fast. Fighting literally tooth and nail through the streets of New New York, the Nibblonian commander made his way to his hidden spaceship and took off in search of Fry. Sadly, by the time Fry was located, convinced that the talking three-eyed gerbil standing in front of him was not a hallucination brought on by the 23 cans of Slurm he had just ingested, and subsequently brought back to Earth, the battle was all but over.

Fry landed the ship back at Planet Express in order to pick up the three members of Planet Express who, unlike Hermes and Zoidberg, had not already been aboard ship as part of the now-forgotten delivery. With The Mighty One at the helm, a thoroughly disgruntled Martian intern manning the laser battery, a thoroughly bored bending robot working the torpedoes, and the tactical brilliance of a Nibblonian commander, the Planet Express Ship was able to hold its own against the legions of brainspawn. Still, it was only a matter of time before the brains managed to lock onto the ship with their psyonic beams, and swat the pesty little gnat out of the sky.

If Leela had been piloting the Planet Express ship she might have been able to keep it airborne, but Fry was lucky just to get the ship back to the general vicinity of Planet Express before it plowed nose first into the dirt. With the brainspawn hot on their tails, Bender tucked the professor under one arm and the entire Planet Express crew ran frantically for the relative safety of the Planet Express building. Once there they held out as long as they could, which wasn’t long. When the brains’ final attack came, only Fry and Nibbler were able to withstand the stupefaction rays. Faced with overwhelming odds, the Nibblonian and the delivery boy were steadily pushed back into the interior of the building. Suddenly, a pack of brainspawn drove their way between the two fighters. Fry and Nibbler were forced in different direction, Fry toward the smelloscope room and Nibbler back toward the hangar. A few minutes later a jaw wrenching concussion tore its way through the building. The smelloscope room vanished in a brilliant fireball, taking Fry and the rest of the Planet Express crew with it.

Leela tried to listen to the rest of the Nibblonian’s story, but it was hard to pay attention over the images of her friends’ deaths that were coursing through her mind like a never ending slideshow. She had to do something, anything to get these increasingly gruesome pictures out of her head.

Nibbler’s words trailed off as he noticed his companion’s distress. He cocked his head and gave her a troubled look. “Leela, are you alright?”

“Yeah I… No not really.” She stood up. “I’m sorry Nibbler, I need some fresh air.” Without another word, Leela turned and fled from the room.

Later that night, when the waning crescent moon was just rising over the broken landscape, Leela sat with her back against what had once been a piece of the Planet Express building’s front wall. At her feet was a small smoky fire. Leela stared sadly into the hypnotic dance of the flames. It had been hard work finding material that would burn; firewood doesn’t usually last a millennium after all. Still, Leela hadn’t been able to bring herself to head back to the ship yet, and the search had burnt up some tension and kept her mind busy. Besides, the heat and the light were comforting amidst the dark and desolation of the city around her. If she stared into the flames long enough the outside world would seem to collapse until nothing existed but the crackle and hiss of the fire. Maybe if she stared long enough she could forget for a moment that her friends and family had been reduced to dust. She tried and tried, but it didn’t work.

A sudden gust of wind sent a shower of sparks soaring into the air.

“I cant believe I’ll never see them again”, she whispered to herself. Then silently: “My parents, Bender, my friends from Applied Cryogenics, Fry, they’re all gone.” She purposely put Fry’s name last in the list but she couldn’t quite hide from herself the fact that his name had popped into her mind first. She missed the others of course, but Fry’s face was the one that was stuck in her head.

A burning chunk of debris broke apart with a loud ‘pop’, releasing a pocket of superheated air. The fire collapsed in on itself. More sparks flew out into the night. There was something familiar here…. Something important, but just out of reach…

Presently Leela’s mind returned to Fry. “It just isn’t fair! After years of not knowing what to do I finally decide to let him know how I feel about him, and now I’ll never get the chance.” If only she hadn’t fallen into that damned freezer tube. “Of course,” she thought bitterly, “that wouldn’t have happened if Farnsworth hadn’t made me take that stupid driving exam to begin with.” But no that wasn’t fair. The professor wasn’t the one who was to blame, it was the brains that Nibbler had been talking about. If it hadn’t been for their senseless war, New New York wouldn’t be a silent wasteland, Fry, Leela’s parents, and the others would still be alive, and Leela wouldn’t have been left alone in stasis for a thousand years. Yes, they were the ones at fault here. If only Leela had known about them before, maybe she could have done something about them…

The fire continued its dance as the night grew chill. Leela prodded the blaze with a pole she had found lying nearby. The flames licked higher into the night. Something about the way the fire burned made her hesitate as she tried to get comfortable again. What was this sense of deja vous? Where had she seen this before, and why did she suddenly feel as though it was vital that she find out? Leela concentrated on the feeling, keenly aware that such intuitions had gotten her out of many of the tightest spots she had ever been in. “Alright”, she thought, “what’s giving me this feeling?” It wasn’t the fire itself that was familiar really, it was something else… The heat and the light maybe? Yes that was it. And something else, something that involved Fry…

The fire let out another loud ‘pop’.

That pop was important too. It sounded almost like, what? Fireworks? No, that wasn’t it. Gunshot? No, it wasn’t loud enough. Actually it was more like… “Popcorn!” The word echoed off a hundred broken walls, but Leela didn’t even notice she had said anything aloud. She was too busy laughing.

Nibbler was still on the bridge of the ship. He had fallen asleep on the observation sofa while waiting for Leela to return, and now the cyclops had to shake him to get him to wake up again. .The Nibblonian’s first impression was that something was wrong and he came to full alertness immediately, but when he realized that Leela was smiling he went from worried to confused.

“Leela, what is going on?”

“I can save them! The fire, the popping noises. It’s so obvious, why didn’t I think of it before?!”

“I do not understand. Please, slow down and tell me, what is it that you have discovered?”

Leela paused and took several deep breaths before continuing. “Sorry, I got a little carried away with excitement. I think I’ve come up with a way to help Fry and the others.”

Nibbler gazed at her intently. From anyone else such a statement would have been ridiculous, but this was The Other speaking, and when The Other spoke it was a good idea to listen. “How?” he asked.

“When it started to get dark I built myself a fire to keep warm and give myself something to do, and while I was staring at it I couldn’t help but think that it was somehow familiar. The heat, the light, the sounds. It was just like the time that the professor took us to see that supernova and Fry put metal in the microwave. Something in the supernova combined with the microwave and the metal and the whole ship got sucked back through time.”

“Yes, I remember that event well. It is what made it possible for Fry to resist the brainspawn, but I don’t see how that has any bearing on our present situation.”

“Don’t you get it? All we have to do is find a supernova and stick something metal in the microwave and we can go back in time and keep the brains from ever attacking in the first place!”

Nibbler thought for a moment. “I see. You intend to use the microwave to initiate a space-time transfer and travel through time as you did to the mid 20th century. Interesting…”

The Nibblonian thought for a minute. “No, that cannot work. Such a primitive means of time travel is inherently unpredictable. You could miss your target time by a day, a week, or five thousand years.”

“And there is no other way?”

Nibbler started to shake his head but stopped in mid motion. “Wait. Perhaps there is. Long ago it was rumored that the brains were developing a means to go back in time and destroy the origins of conscious thought. The brains supposedly managed to get the device to work, but realized that they could never use it. You see, if they were to go back in time and destroy all conscious thought, their past selves would have had no reason to develop a time machine in the first place. Such a conundrum could rip spacetime apart at the seams.”

“The grandfather paradox.” At Nibbler’s questioning look Leela added: “Hey, when you spend your life around a mad scientist you pick up on these things.”

“Ah, I see. Anyway, if we can find this fabled device we may be able to go back in time and stop the brains from invading Earth and taking over the universe.”

“Uhh Nibbler, maybe I’m just a member of a drastically inferior race, but wouldn’t going back in time and stopping the brains alter the past in such a way that we had no reason to go back in time? You just said that a situation like that would rip the universe apart, and I’m pretty much thinking that’s a bad thing.”

"Yes, that is correct."

"Uhh, that is correct as in going back in time would rip the universe apart, or that is correct as in I'm a member of a drastically infer..."

“Leela, the brains have turned the universe into a barren wasteland devoid of thought or purpose, much like an American public school of the early 21st century. Even if all we accomplish is to destroy this reality, there is nothing left that could be lost. Do you believe that preserving reality is worth the only chance you are likely to ever have at saving everyone you ever cared for?”

Leela grimaced. “Well when you put it that way… Ok, let’s do it, and to hell with the time-space continuum!”


“… and when you balance the equation using the theory of nonlinear quantum dynamics, the wave functions collapse to the nullspace of the echelon matrix so that only the real part of the transformation remains, and after some simple algebra you’re left with a solution of 14.”

“So when Fry told me that 14 was the answer to the ultimate question, he actually knew what he was talking about?”

“It would seem so.”

“Huh. Who woulda thought?”

Leela’s attention was drawn to a light that had started to flash on the console before her. The ship’s computer informed her that the Planet Express Ship was entering the Eta Orionis system. Leela pressed a few buttons and eased the ship to port. The background hum of the darkmatter engines dropped below the threshold of hearing as the PE captain eased back on the throttle. “We’re here,” she announced.

Outside the viewscreen were a couple of blue sparks, which quickly swelled into the disks of two young stars. A cloud of planets and asteroids were sprinkled throughout the system wherever they had managed to find a stable orbit. None of the worlds showed any signs of life. Most of the them were desolate balls of ice and liquid hydrocarbons orbiting at the very fringes of the star system. Of those that hadn’t been ejected into deep space, the remainder lay so close to their parent stars that they had become trapped; tidal forces dragging on one hemisphere more than the other until one side of the planet remained eternally aimed at its sun. Only one had been lucky enough to form in a place where the ever changing gravitational fields of the binary system did not pluck it from its orbit or leave tidally locked to it’s parent star. Sensors showed the remains of an intelligent civilization on this planet, but all life was gone now. The brains had been to this place.

“I’m guessing that’s where we’re going?” Leela gestured at the tiny grey marble on which her instruments promised she would find the ruins of an entire race.

“No. Once the brains have removed the life from a world they leave it. We will find nothing there but smashed concrete and scarred rock.” Nibbler brought up a map of the star system on the ship’s viewer. “The time travel device was said to be … here.” Nibbler pointed at one of the tidally bound planets orbiting the more distant star.

“The brains most likely placed it on the dayside, where they would have as much free solar energy as they could want. Once we discover the device’s precusel location with the ships sensors we will have to land on the planet’s surface to use it.”

“Alright, just let me change course and… Hey, wait a minute. Wouldn’t the extreme temperatures from a sun that never sets be enough to instantly fry us, not to mention the constant bombardment by deadly ultraviolet radiation?”

“Did you bring sunscreen?”

“Well yes, but…”

“You’ll be fine.”

Leela squinted against the brilliant glare of a sun which, at this particular longitude, happened to stay at just the right height and direction in the sky so as to make it impossible to avoid staring into it. Nibbler was somewhere up ahead beyond the next sand dune, and at the moment Leela was glad to have him out of sight. After all, if she could see him she might be tempted to wring his adorable little neck. A drop of sweat trickled down Leela’s forehead. The PE captain wiped at it distractedly with her left arm, but only managed to grind tiny bits of brownish sand into her sunburned face. “Stupid talking gerbil,” she grumbled under her breath. “I should never have let him talk me into this. Now I know why Fry keeps complaining that I never park close enough to where he has to deliver the packages.”

Nibbler scrambled over the top of the nearest dune and called down to his companion. “Leela, are you unharmed? It is imperative that we locate the device before the brains are alerted to our presence on this planet. We do not have time for standing around and enjoying the scenery.”

“Enjoying the scenery?! I’ll show you enjoying the scenery when I cram it down your cute little throat, you lousy excuse for a stuffed animal!” Murder shone in the depths of Leela’s eye. Nibbler squealed and took off the way he had come trailing a plume of fine sand. A now dangerously disgruntled cyclops followed him at a slow but steady pace, mulling over possible recipes for gerbil stew in her head.

Luckily for the sole remaining Nibblonian in existence, his race was not destined for extinction this day; for when Leela crested the rise and looked out onto the desert plain beyond, all thoughts of ass-kicking were forgotten. A boundless waste stretched to the curving horizon. It was truly a breathtaking sight, but Leela didn’t even notice it. Her attention was immediately drawn to the metal obelisk that stood a half mile away.

“Can you make it work?”

“I am uncertain. My race intentionally stayed away from matters of time travel, and so never developed the technologies that are required to accomplish it. I assume that there is an interface of some kind that will allow us to properly use the device, but we may have a problem if this is not the case. The inner workings of this device are as much a mystery to me as they are to you.”

“So then if this thing is broken…”

“I will be unable to fix it.”

“Hmm… Leela ran her hand along the sleek black form of the obelisk. It seemed to be made of solid crystal, definitely nothing like any technology she had come across before. It was a little frightening actually, facing something so incredibly alien. “Is this how Fry felt when he came to the future?”, Leela wondered. “Suddenly being faced with a world that was far beyond his understanding…” Thoughts of Fry sent a wave of dark emotions crashing against the cyclops’ mental defenses. Gritting her teeth, Leela forced herself to clear her mind. Later she just might have a chance to save her friends, if she could just keep herself together a little while longer.

Nibbler started to chatter unintelligibly from a few dozen feet away. Leela jogged over to her pet, who was digging emphatically into a low mound of sand. The PE captain bent down to help, and the sand was soon cleared away. The mound had been hiding a small stone pedestal. A small button was positioned in an indentation in the top of the pedestal. Leela pressed it cautiously. At first nothing happened, but just when Leela was beginning to walk away she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. A small panel detached itself from the nearby obelisk, revealing a microwave sized compartment and sending a light rain of desert sand drifting to the ground. In the compartment sat a small device, no larger than a standard laser pistol. It was cylindrical in shape with two prongs on one end and a pistol-like handle on the other. A green dial on the device’s side was the only clue that it wasn’t a weapon at all.

Leela reached out and gently lifted the time travel device out of the obelisk. It was a little heavier than she would have expected, but it showed no clear signs that it was capable of manipulating the very fabric of the universe.

“Huh, somehow I was expecting something… bigger.”

Nibbler did not respond, but gestured for Leela to hand him the device. The Nibblonian muttered gibberish to himself for a few moments before twisting the knob. A green shape flashed into existence above the time machine and began to congeal into a series of numeric symbols and Earthican letters. It was the current date. Nibbler handed the device back to his friend.

“This is indeed the time travel device that we were searching for. With it you will be able to go back to the 31st century and warn The Mighty One before the brains start their attack on Earth. Together, the two of you will be able to stop the brainspawn’s conquest of the universe.”

“Why ‘you’? Aren’t you coming too?”

“Leela, if it were possible for me to travel through time I would have done it long ago in the hopes of warning you before any of this could happen. You see, when two identical consciousnesses occupy the same time coordinate in spacetime, there is a kind of quantum interference. With a mind as small as yours the effect will result in nothing more serious than a few minor headaches, but for me it is a far more serious problem. If I were to go back to the 31st century, my brainwaves would interfere destructively with those of my past self. We would cancel each other out and cease to exist.”

Leela crossed her arms. “That is the biggest load of scientific mumbo-jumbo that I have ever heard, and I have no idea what it meant, but I’m guessing that the answer to my question is ‘no’, right?”

“That is correct.”

“Great. So not only do I have to back in time and change the past without creating a universe-shredding time paradox, but I get to do it alone. No pressure or anything right?” She sighed. “Oh well, it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been given some impossible task, and hopefully it won’t be the last. Now let’s head back to the ship before I’m cooked enough to serve on a plate.”

Nibbler looked at her quizzically. “For what purpose do we need to return to the ship? You don’t propose taking it with you do you?”

“Well you don’t expect me to flap my arms and fly back home to Earth do you?”

The Nibblonian considered this for a moment. “Oh, yes I see your point. But what of me? If you take the spaceship and fail your mission I will be stranded here in this scorching desert forever.”

Leela’s mouth twitched upward in the tiniest hint of a smile. “Did you bring sunscreen?” she asked.

“Yes, I suppose so but…”

“You’ll be fine.” With that she turned and strolled off toward the Planet Express ship. Nibbler scurried after her.

Leela boarded her ship. “Strange,” she thought, “I still think of this as my ship even after being fired and then frozen for all this time.” She paused for a moment to consider and then headed for the bridge. From the captain’s chair Nibbler was just barely visible through the front viewport. He lay half concealed by a dune a safe distance away. Noticing that she was looking at him, Nibbler gave the cyclops a nod. He was ready for her to proceed.

Calming herself with a deep breath, the captain of the Planet Express ship began to turn the time device’s dial. When the correct date was hovering in the air in front of her face, Leela pulled the trigger. The machine started to vibrate and glow softly. She noticed that Nibbler was speaking to her. Her ears couldn’t possibly hear him through the ship’s hull, but the words were in her head just the same:

“When you reach the past you will find that the time device will be without power, but do not worry. It will eventually recharge itself enough so that you can use it again if the need arises. Now I wish you good luck and a safe journey. Trust in yourself and in Fry, and you shall succeed where I failed.”

Leela pushed the button for the exterior speaker and started to respond, but found that she was unable to. She could mouth the words, but it was as though the sounds waves refused to travel. There was only a few moments to ponder this little bit of information before things started to happen at an alarming rate. The world outside the ship started to fade as though a dense fog was rolling in over the parched desert. Leela concentrated on Nibbler’s dim form. The Nibblonian receded farther and farther into the gloom that was descending from everywhere at once. Strange colors and patters began to swirl in the dim grey void that had swallowed the universe. Reality started to twist and peal away like so many scraps of burning paper. Layer upon layer lifted away until only Leela and the ship remained. The grey fog was replaced by utter blackness. Leela stared out her viewport at utter nothingness, the absence of space and time that exists between universes. All at once something opened up underneath the PE ship, though words like ‘under’ no longer had any real meaning. Even so, the ship tipped over on it’s ‘side’ and ‘rolled’ into this new abyss. There was the sensation of acceleration. Leela braced herself as she fell faster and faster through nothing. A light appeared somewhere up ahead. Something was approaching, and it was coming way too fast. “I’m coming Fry”, Leela whispered. She shut her eye and held on.