in New New York was bright and dark at the same time, or a darkness
enhanced by the studding of garish advertising and signage that
cluttered the streets at every level, enticing pedestrians with porn,
booze, book-reading festivals – oddly popular these days –
and religion of every stroke. Fry wandered past it all, trying to
make sense of her newly re-arranged priorities. The lustre everything
had held for the old Fry seemed to pale and wash away as she came
close to her old haunts. The bars she hung out in had a different
feel to them. Men, and a few women, looked at her in a different way
as she entered and left. Once or twice she tried wiggling her hips
our pouting a little to see what the reaction would be, but after the
first few jeers and cat-calls it became boring, and more than a
little disturbing in some cases. She didn’t bother advertising
herself after that.
everything about her had changed. Book-reading still didn’t
appeal, as much as she tried to force herself to consider it, and the
bars, despite all the new problems, were still a good place to hang
out and get drunk.
found she missed some of the other entertainment, but in an abstract
sort of way. A distant, nostalgic way, like you’d miss an old
book or an worn out pair of pants. They held almost no attraction at
wandered the streets of the city until the night was deep and the
crowds began to thin out. An address rested in her pocket, a large
warehouse near the docks. With a bravado she didn’t quite feel,
perhaps some sort of hormonal remnant filtering out of her body, Fry
stepped across the street to the warehouse entrance.
burly man in a rough coat leaned on the wall by the door, sharing a
cigarette with a low class hookerbot. They straightened up as Fry
approached. The man pulled at his coat and winked at her. “What
do yous want in this part of town lady,” he said with a cheeky,
and somewhat leery smile.
here for the bout,” Fry said, glancing at the hookerbot, who
seemed to be holding her arms in a peculiar fashion. She took out the
scrap of paper and held it up in front of the man’s nose.
“Bender Rodriguez’s party.”
you says? Good robot family, don’t knows whats they would be
doing in heres.” The man scratched his nose and looked
over the paper, pausing now and then to run his finger along the
bigger words. He nodded at the hookerbot and stepped aside, pulling
the warehouse door open a fraction. Darkness filled the void behind
the door. “Enjoys your visit miss,” he said, waving Fry
inside. The door closed, plunging Fry into a darkness so deep she
could almost believe she was back in her coma again. But then another
door cracked open, casting a bright yellow light in the gloom, and
accompanied by a loud, continuous roar and the sound of revving
edged toward the light and the door, which opened on to a huge arena
pit sunk into the floor of the warehouse. Tiers of seats lined the
pit and crawled up the walls of the arena thirty high or more, and
were filled to the top with people of all shapes and sizes, mostly
robots, with humans and then a few of the more exotic aliens in
amongst them. In the central pit a pair of battle-bots, modified to
have a superficial resemblance to the female form, scrambled across a
slick of oil almost three feet deep to grapple clumsily for the
spotted Bender almost instantly, standing up about half way up the
tiered seats, right on the centre-line of the pit itself, where
presumably he could get the best view. She briefly wondered how he’d
managed to score such good seats, then realised she probably didn’t
want to know.
pushed and jostled through the crowd, conscious of the body she was
still getting used to in some ways. She got close to Bender and saw
he was surrounded by hookerbots and hangers-on – somehow, he
was making it big tonight. She didn’t know how, or why, but he
was. This worried Fry for some reason. She always remembered him as
being a bit of an ambitious loser. Perhaps he was just having a run
of good luck.
Bender waved to her, gold rings glinting on his fingers. It was like
him to be so ostentatious whenever he got the chance. Fry pushed her
way past the last of the crowd and stumbled to a halt beside Bender.
“You made it then?”
you’re just imagining I’m here,” Fry said
sarcastically. She suddenly felt very tired. Bender motioned for her
to an upholstered seat to his right, before clunking down in his own
seat. He took out a cigar.
if I smoke?”
right ahead.” Fry frowned. “Wait, you’ve never
never been a woman before,” Bender replied. He leaned back and
blew a few smoke-rings. “So what do we call you now? Just out
of interest you understand, I mean, you’ll have to get new
birth certificates and everything so it all has to be in order...”
folded her arms and glared at him. “You are not going to get
anywhere near my papers, Bender, I have a credit rating to think
about. It was bad enough when you faked the Professor’s social
security details to get that car.”
you then proceeded to lose in the bay!”
but it was fun!”
Bender whined. He sagged, or did the best robot equivalent, and shook
his head. “Fry, you’ve changed. And not just in the
interesting physical way either. You’re... different.”
realised how tense she had become and tried to let herself relax.
Man. She was fast turning into a real bitch. “I’m sorry
Bender, it’s... hard, adjusting to all of this. You’re
right, it was fun.”
sat back and watched the muddy pit for a while. The battle-bots
clashed again, grunting with anachronistically feminine voices as
gouts of oily mud shot into the air. Somewhere under the stands,
outside the arena, Fry could hear powerful engines revving and robot
voices shouting to each other over the noise. The silence between
them lengthened as the battle was fought to something like a
she said eventually. Fry turned to look at Bender, who seemed to be
unusually interested in his cigar. “I mean, it’s
practically the same name anyway.”
enough to change I guess,” Bender said. He drew on the stub of
his cigar and then tossed it into the ring, before pulling a new one
from his chest compartment and lighting it in a single fluid motion.
“Philippa J Fry. Kinda neat.”
Fry smiled at the name. It felt adventurous, but safe at the same
just decided that now huh? I suppose Leela didn’t have anything
to do with it?”
Newly minted Philippa Fry shook her head and stared at the pit.
Leela. She was... “Bender-”
they’re starting the next round.” Bender sat back as the
two fembattlebots advanced on each other again, now holding large
overstuffed pillows. “Oh man this is the best bit. They hit
each other with those giant pillows, and the feathers go everywhere!”
on Fry, even humans enjoy this bit. You used to love it!”
peered at her feet and cast her mind back to him.
He had enjoyed it. Now, she found it amusing, but distantly so.
Weren’t women supposed to be the emotional ones? “I...
you have changed.”
Bender stubbed out his cigar and swallowed it. He gave Fry a worried
look. “You aren’t going to tell me it’s degrading
to watch this are you? I’d hate that.”
wasn’t,” Fry said. She put her hand on Bender’s
stumpy claw and smiled at him. “I just don’t know if I’ll
enjoy it as much as I used to.”
coughed up his cigar and lit up again with a loud sigh. “That’s
so sad. Go for it baby, hit her again!” The crowd roared their
approval as a torrent of feathers shot across the arena, burying one
of the combatants in an implausibly fluffy pile. The feathers stuck
fast to the slick coating of oil on both battlebots.
giggled to herself at the sight of the robots, which were now trying
to hold on to each other for support on the slippery ground. She
turned to Bender again. “Oh, it’s not so bad surely?
Having a female friend has to have some advantages?”
only advantages I can see would be if I could film you and Amy making
out.” Bender turned his head very slowly toward Fry. “People
pay a lot of money for that sort of thing.”
gaped at Bender. The old Fry would have jumped at the chance –
though Bender wouldn’t have wanted to film that. Now?
“Absolutely not!” The force of her own reply shocked her;
but it was nothing to what she said next. “I’m not a
eyes rattled in their sockets. “The Fry I know would never have
missed an opportunity to make out with a girl like Amy. You... you
are Fry, aren’t
nodded mutely. Even when she’d felt a momentary crush on the
doctor outside the hospital she’d figured it was just a thing –
she’d had similar feelings for almost an entire hour in
high-school once, thanks to raging hormones and the mistaken swapping
of a Dr Pepper for a Coke – but this was something completely
different. I’m not attracted to women at all!
The change was more profound than she’d thought. She was a
woman. Not a man in a
woman’s body. Not a freak. A woman,
and memories be damned.
watched her impassively, smoke trailing from the seam of his mouth as
he neglected to exhale. Fry couldn’t lock down her feelings
again. Something welled up inside her, a strange sort of fearful
dread of what she had become and what she had lost. “Oh god...
I think... I think I’m going to cry...”
stood up in a panic. He grabbed Fry by her collar and dragged her
from the stalls. “I’m not letting a woman-friend of mine
be seen crying in public. Think of the damage to my reputation!”
reputation?” Fry sniffed, rubbing her watery eyes as she almost
flew over the seats, trailing behind Bender like a cometary tail.
Bender turned and seemed to grimace at her.
remarks too. This is worse than I thought.”
sobbed without knowing why, though by the time they reached the arena
doors she felt a little better. Perhaps some fresh air would help.
Bender kicked the door aside and unceremoniously deposited Fry in the
twilight of the reception area. He turned back to the arena.
Bender.” Fry stood up and put a hand on Bender’s
shoulder. He turned his head to look at Fry, eyes just a little sad.
“Are you all right?”
fine... Fry. Fine.” Bender turned and sighed. He looked Fry in
the face. “But I think I’ve lost my best friend.”
shivered at the look on Bender’s face. What little there was of
it anyway. She screwed up her eyes. “You haven’t lost me
Bender, I’m just a little further away.”
me again in a few months.” Fry patted Bender’s shoulder.
Then, without thinking, she leapt forward and wrapped a quick hug
around Bender’s neck. The robot jerked back in surprise and
yelled something incoherent, but then seemed to relent. He hesitantly
patted Fry on the back a couple of times. Fry pushed back from the
hug and swallowed, trying not to let a tear out. “You’ll
bah.” Bender waved an arm and pulled away from Fry. He pushed
back through the door and paused on the threshold, where the light
gleamed off his polished skin, surrounding him in a vague golden
halo. Bender gave Fry one last look and then pulled the door behind
him, casting Fry back into the darkness.
could have gone better,” Fry muttered to the shadows. She
slouched from the room, gave the doorman and his hookerbot friend a
casual wave as she left the build and made her way out into the
heard the bell, but her bed was so warm and soft she didn’t
want to bother answering. Then the bell rang again, and finally
someone started pounding on the door, lurching her from a really nice
advertisement where she... huh. Gone.
a grimace Leela crawled across the bed and glared at the clock.
“Three in the morning? Who in hell...” She pulled on a
nightgown and stumbled through the half-lit apartment to the door,
which rattled under another pounding. “I’m coming, I’m
coming, hold your damn buggalo!”
peered through the peeper. A woman stood outside, red hair trailing
and wet from rain. “Fry?”
you have to let me in, I didn’t know where else to go!”
Fry wailed. She pressed her hands against the door and peering into
the peeper from the other side.
what...” Leela unlocked the door and yanked it open. She
ushered the distraught woman inside. “What happened to you.
know, it’s been raining since two,” Fry said. She
sniffled and sat down; Leela shuddered at the thought of what all
that water would do to her brand new couch. “I think I fell out
with Bender, and I’ve been wandering around the streets since
midnight because I don’t want to go home and find him mad at
honey...” Leela sat down next to Fry and pulled her into a hug.
Fry sniffled and nervously tugged at her hair. “You don’t
need to worry about Bender. He’s probably forgotten about it
learned that things we might take really seriously are like water off
a duck’s back for some men, especially a manbot like Bender.”
Leela said, stroking Fry’s head. Water puttered and dripped on
to the couch and her pants. Better get a towel...
“Most men are like that really, they don’t seem to care,
or their priorities are just different. Well you should know, you
used to be one.”
raised her eyebrows stared at Leela for a moment, then put her head
in her hands. Leela let out a sigh; it probably wasn’t the best
time to remind her about that, she realised, just a little too late.
“I’m sorry Fry-”
Fry looked up, and tears were in her eyes again. “I’m not
Fry, not the way I was. Bender said it tonight, I have
changed, and a lot more than I thought. Leela...”
didn’t break down in tears, which Leela would have only found
embarrassing, but the poor woman did curl up against Leela’s
shoulder, keening into her nightgown and wiping her eyes
occasionally. Leela patted Fry’s shoulder and rocked her back
and forth a few times, but eventually she had to do something; her
gown was getting soaked. “I’m sorry F... Philippa. I have
to get a towel. In fact you should probably get out of these wet
tensed up. “I can’t do that!”
because we’re gonna have sex!” she wailed. Fry threw
herself on to the couch and curled up into a tight ball, shivering,
whilst Leela stood by and stared at her friend. She reached out to
touch Fry’s shoulder but Fry shied away from the touch and
wailed loudly. Leela shrugged and wandered off to find a towel.
she returned Fry was still wrapped up in a sniffling huddle on the
couch, completely ruining the upholstry. Leela grimaced. “Come
on, you have to get dry or you’ll catch your death.”
Fry, stop that!” Leela threw the towel over the huddled woman
and sat down. “What on earth gave you the idea that I’d
even be interested in- oh no, no I didn’t mean it like that!”
She sat back as Fry started bawling. After a minute or two she pulled
a box of tissues out from behind the couch and started handing them
over. By the third she was resting her chin on one hand, staring at
the wall as she tried to blank out the wretched snivelling. She
wondered if this was how men... no. That wasn’t really fair.
Fry was not in the best frame of mind.
they were faced with a pile of tissues large enough to qualify for
their own height marker. Fry stared dejectedly at the pile, her eyes
puffy and red, sniffing occasionally. Leela rubbed her back a few
times and peered into the empty box. “This is what I get for
splashing out on triple quilt...” she dropped the empty box on
the floor and turned to Fry. “Now what’s this rubbish
about us having sex?”
blinked her eyes and looked at Leela as if she’d only just
noticed she were there. “Oh, that. Well... it’s kind of
embarrassing.” Fry pinched her finger and twisted at the end as
if it would open. “There’s a lot of films, uh, porn
films, where a girl goes to see her friend, and somehow she gets wet,
and then the friend gets her to change out of her clothes and then
they...” she glanced over her shoulder at the bedroom. “I
couldn’t do that. I’m not...”
it’s not likely even if you could and were. Fry, this is me
you’re talking about. If it was likely before, it...” she
paused, running the sentence through her head, but there was no way
to put it that wouldn’t result in using up another
box of triple quilt. She sighed. “Look, you need to get out of
those wet clothes and you probably need a shower to warm up. There’s
some clean robes in the bathroom.” Leela stood up, taking Fry’s
arm and guiding her up as well. She gently propelled her toward the
bathroom. “I’ll make us some coffee and then we can
what?” Fry paused in pulling off her coat and looked at Leela.
This is going to be a whole new experience for you.” Leela
smiled and would have winked but for her single eye. She rubbed her
chin and yawned. “I guess I won’t be getting any sleep
now anyway, so we might as well make use of the time.”
sort-of smiled and slipped into the bathroom. Leela waited until she
could hear the sound of running water before she moved again. She
yawned, stretched, and then glared at the water-stained couch for a
moment. “I sure hope that thing won’t show up when it’s
dry...” The towel she had brought in was a little damp but it
brought out the worst of the water, reducing the stain from
horrendous to merely intolerable. Leela grimaced.
– Philippa – seemed to be a walking sack of neuroses and
emotional baggage, and just a step away from a nervous breakdown
which, given the circumstances, probably wasn’t too surprising.
Leela threw the towel into the laundry basket and meandered toward
the kitchen, trying not to let sleep trip her up.
What a stupid thing to think about. Maybe if “she” had
been a “he”, but then she still was he, at least in
memory... Leela frowned. She didn’t like the implications of
that particular thought, so put it out of her mind as she began
making the coffee. Still, it might be prudent to see if there was a
way to turn Fry back.
spent a long time in the shower, even singing at one point in a
wobbly mezzo-soprano that never quite managed to be pitch-perfect.
She eventually emerged looking much calmer – and warmer –
wearing an old blue robe that was far too big for her. Leela felt a
pang of jealousy as she realised that Fry had a slightly better
figure than her, or at least a slimmer one. She dropped an extra lump
of sugar into Fry’s coffee before placing it on the coffee
slumped down on the now-dry couch and groaned in relief. “That
is so much better,” she said, eyes closed and a big smile on
her face. She pulled the robe a little tighter before grabbing the
coffee Leela had left for her. “I’m sorry about what I
said before, Leela. It was stupid.”
was fear talking. I know I’ve said it before but you’re
still getting used to yourself. I can’t imagine what it would
be like to have a bunch of male memories in my
head, but I bet it wouldn’t be pretty.”
It isn’t.” Fry took a sip of her coffee and grimaced.
“Did you put extra sugar in this?”
not,” Leela said, looking away for a moment. She managed to
keep her blush hidden, but it was probably a good idea to change the
subject. “So what happened with Bender? You said you’d
sat back, wrapping her hands around the coffee. Slender hands, Leela
noticed, with long fingers that she could only dream of having. She
forced herself to look at Fry’s face.
He said he’d lost his best friend. Do you think he meant me?”
could have meant his last bottle of booze for all you know,
Philippa.” Leela paused to see Fry’s reaction. She smiled
at hearing the name. Leela smiled too before going on. “He’s
worried about losing a friend but you can prove he doesn’t have
to worry about it. And he wouldn’t be that
worried anyway. He’s a
man. No, he’s a manbot.
He’s also Bender.”
he seemed so vulnerable.”
Philippa.” Leela shook her head and stared at her coffee while
she ordered her thoughts. “One thing you’ll have to learn
now is that a lot of men will seem vulnerable when they’re
actually hiding emotions they don’t want to acknowledge.
Bender... Bender is trying to come to terms with this as much as you
are, and he’s doing it the only way he knows, by putting it out
of his mind. If that means pretending he’s lost his friend for
a bit then that’s how he’ll do it.
just have to let him work through it for a bit. Don’t
try and hurry it up either. I made that mistake so many times with
men and look where it got me.”
I don’t know, you seem to be doing all right,” Fry said,
looking around the apartment, which had been spruced up quite a bit
since the last time she’d been there. She fingered the robe.
“You have a lot of clothes. All I have is a few shirts and a
pair of pants that barely fit any more. You’ve got a reasonably
nice home, friends, a good job...” she shrugged and drank more
coffee. “And you have parents who are actually around to talk
to. What do I have?”
swallowed and looked into Fry’s eyes. She touched her hand.
“You have me.”
smiled, though it was a little sad. She put the coffee down and took
Leela’s hand. “A few weeks ago I would have done anything
to hear you say that.”
know. For what it’s worth, and for all it’s different,
I’m saying it now.”
Leela. That means a lot.” Fry retrieved her coffee and sat back
in the couch with a contented smile. “I never imagined it could
be like this. Talking, I mean, without having to try and convince you
I was worth talking to.”
raised her eyebrow. “Fry, you were always worth... well okay
sometimes I had a little trouble relating to you, but you never hid
your emotions from me. I appreciated that more than I let on. Not
even Sean wore his heart on his sleeve like you do. Did. Um...”
now you know how I feel all the time these days. It’s so
confusing.” Fry glanced into her cup and put it down empty. She
wrapped her arms around herself as if she was cold. “There are
times when I almost feel like I’m in a dream and about to wake
up, and everything will be back to normal, and there are times when I
think that all the old
me was just a dream, and that this
is normal. Leela...” she closed her eyes and swallowed a few
times. “I... I don’t know what to do.”
here,” Leela said, shifting over to sit next to Fry. She put
her arms around Fry’s shoulder and squeezed a little. “You
shouldn’t think about things like that. Right now you just need
to get some rest. Tomorrow we’ll go and talk to the Professor
already tried that, he said it would take years to work it out.”
Fry sighed sadly. “Years? The way he talked about it, I’ll
never be able to go back.”
might not be such a bad thing.
Leela banished the traitorous thought from her mind. “There’s
always a way, Fry. You just need to use a woman’s touch.”
not, there’s no way I can do that. None!”
balled her hands on the conference table and leaned toward Farnsworth
with an ugly glare. “You have a responsibility to do the right
thing, Professor. If you can’t do it then-”
telling you it’s impossible.” Farnsworth swatted at the
box in front of him, knocking it over. Pills flew everywhere. “I
don’t care what that quack says, I’m not putting those
things up there! I refuse!”
funeral,” Leela said, rolling her eye. She glanced to her side,
where Doctor Zoidberg was clicking his claws together and quietly
crooning in his native language. Her gaze returned to Farnsworth.
“The alternative is having Zoidberg here give them to you
gulped hard. He began gathering up the pills, his hand firmly gripped
around the box. “All right, but I warn you the results won’t
be pretty.” He started pushing pills up his nose. Leela
grimaced. It was only fortunate they weren’t suppositories; The
Professor would probably have started with them there and then.
now that’s out of the way, we can talk about Fry’s
yes, the poor dear...” Farnsworth smiled over at Fry, then
sneezed. A pill ricocheted off the table and bounced off Zoidberg’s
shell. He looked up and made a questioning noise but Leela quieted
him with a raised hand.
Fry says you told him it would take years to figure out what
yes. Centuries! I’d probably be dead long before I even worked
out the basic theory. There’s no point in even starting now.”
if you don’t need to work out the details though?” Leela
paused to watch Farnsworth’s reaction; nothing. His face was
blank though, frankly, that wasn’t unusual. “Why not just
work out enough to re-create the conditions of the accident.”
That would be preposterous! It would mean adjusting the inverter
coils on the matter transporter, re-aligning the grid matrix, not to
mention cleaning the cheese off the planck delimiter arm...”
Farnsworth seemed to go blank again, which was often the look he took
on when he was thinking hard. “The possibility of intersecting
the same universe is fairly small but that can be increased by
allowing for our relative motion through the universe and adjusting
the targeting bus... Leela!” Farnsworth stood up and gasped.
More pills rattled from his nose. “You might actually have
figured it out!”
it’s just a matter of getting the same situation and then
letting it reverse itself. It’s so simple only a dunderhead
would think of it!”
frowned. “Gee, thanks.”
you’re welcome,” Farnsworth said with an idiot smile. He
resumed pushing pills up his nose.
slowly sat up, her face a mixture of hope and fear. “How long
will it take?”
several months, possibly even a year, there’s so much to do.
But it can be done! I shall begin at once!”
and Leela high-fived and then hugged until Fry pulled back. “This
means I have to spend the next year as a woman.”
survive. Just stick with me,” Leela said, stroking her elbow.
“And don’t get any silly ideas again.”
my honour as a woman,” Fry said, and then burst out laughing.
She turned to the Professor with a wide grin. “So when are you
right now,” Farnsworth said. He grunted, and sweat beaded his
brow. “Or I would if I could move my legs. I told you those
pills would be trouble.”
stood up and put a claw to his chest. “Don’t worry, I
have what we doctors call a contingency for this.” He walked
across the room and grabbed an upright trolley from the wall, which
he then slid across to Farnsworth. The professor grumbled as Zoidberg
shoved the trolley under his feet.
Watch it you imbecilic homaridae!”
tell me which way is the lab and I should have you there in six to
eight weeks,” Zoidberg said, wheeling the Professor from the
room. Fry watched them leave, then turned back to Leela with a smile.
Leela, I owe you one.”
nothing, Fry.” Leela paused and smiled. “Philippa.”
smile faltered for a second. “I chose that name when I was sure
I would be this way forever.”
want to stop using it?” Leela tugged at her own elbow
nervously. “If I offended you I’m-”
no, it’s okay. It’s fine, I like it. I am
a woman right now, I might as well be myself.” Fry took Leela’s
hands in her own and smiled again. “Perhaps we should give
everyone the news.”
travels in this place faster than we could spread it,” Leela
replied, glancing over her shoulder. Almost on cue the door opened
and Hermes emerged, carrying his customary briefcase, a grim
expression on his face.
hanging Hermes,” Fry said with a smile. Hermes drew up short
and stared at Fry in surprise.
mother of all that’s green and snaky, you are
a woman! I thought that cracked lobster creature was just rambling
insane... This is wonderful news!”
it is?” Fry asked, taken aback. She put her hands on her hips.
“What’s going on?”
nothing, just the possibility of a huge tax relief for hiring a new
female employee. They have a quota now you know.”
gaped. “What, that’s ridiculous!” She and Fry
stared at each other.
at all. By the way, Fry, you’re fired. Also, you’re hired
again. Welcome to the team!” Hermes flipped open his briefcase
and held several pieces of paper. “Sign this please, and this
resignation letter, and finally this waiver for benefit to you from
any potential tax breaks related to your employment that Planet
Express might gain.”
examined the letter first, taking her time to read it carefully.
“This thing says I’m leaving the company because of
Irre...con...sile... that thing, differences. What differences?”
employed as a man but you don’t have man tings in your pants!
That different enough?”
it count if I’m still wearing boxer shorts?”
Leela took Fry’s arm and moved her aside a little, ignoring
Hermes’ protest. “Are those really as comfortable as
everyone says they are?”
when you’re a guy they tend to ride up a bit and strangle-”
please!” Hermes rattled his fingers on the briefcase
impatiently. Fry and Leela simultaneously let out a plaintive groan
and then giggled at the coincidence. They turned to face Hermes; Fry
sat down and looked over the papers again. “Everyting in order
I suppose it is. What the hell, I think I might even get paid a bit
more.” She signed the contract and the letter, ignoring the
waiver much to Hermes’ chagrin. He gave them both a pained
smile as he neatly folded the waiver and slipped it into his pocket,
then returned the other papers to the briefcase.
He closed the briefcase and carried on his way back to his office.
Leela stifled a laugh and sat down with Fry.
glanced at the door as it closed behind Hermes. “That was-”
coincidence,” Leela finished. She screwed up her face for a
moment as she thought, then: “I always had you down as more of
a briefs guy.”
Fry looked around the room just in case someone was listening. “I
was, mostly, but sometimes you just have to hang a little loose
y’know? But then they crawl up and get all twisted at the back,
and you just have to start adjusting them and then everyone’s
looking at you... they don’t seem to be doing that now,
though,” she added thoughtfully, and stood up. Fry tapped a
finger against her mouth as they made their way to the lounge.
“Crawling up I mean. Not that I think people are looking at me
or anything,” she added quickly. “Still, I think I’m
going to need some new clothes. These pants are far too long and
until this morning I’d been wearing the same bra for nearly
Oh no, that’s definitely not my job. I’m moral support,
emotional support, mental support... if it has support in it, that’s
my job. But not clothes.”
come to you if I need a girdle then,” Fry said.
Fry ran ahead of Leela’s swipe and stuck out her tongue. Leela
glared. “I’ll have you know I... oh what’s the use.
Lets go see Amy before we kill each other.”
she and Leela passed through the door, Fry and Bender saw each other
at almost the same moment. The robot turned, seemed to do a double
take and leaped from his place on the couch. “Fry, you’re
ran forward and grabbed Fry by the shoulders, rocking her back and
forth. “You’re here, I’m so glad! I thought I’d
glad to see-”
mind that, I have a guy I’m talking to who wants to buy
ovaries. You have ovaries, right? Being a woman and all?” Fry’s
jaw dropped; she tried to reply but only managed to gurgle. Bender
seemed to notice something was wrong. “If it’s a problem
for you, they’re offering thirty grand a pop.”
interjected her arm between them. “No Bender.”
Bender sagged again. He gave Fry a pleading look, and for a moment
Fry felt herself wondering...
Bender turned and slumped back toward the couch, muttering just loud
enough to be heard. “It’s not like you’re going to
be using them any time soon anyway. Stupid female solidarity...”
took Fry’s arm again and lead her toward the back of the room.
“I hope you weren’t thinking about actually doing that,”
she said quietly. Fry shook her head.
Well. Thirty thousand dollars wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
It’s only one ovary.”
you have sold your testicles when you were a man?” Leela pouted
and thought about the question for a second. “Actually don’t
answer, I’m not sure I could take it. Come on, Amy must be
around here somewhere.”
left Bender mumbling on the couch. He turned to watch them leave, a
frown crushing his eyes in darkness.
remembered Amy’s shopping sprees from when they were dating,
and the almost casual way she would throw money at clothes and shoes
and accoutrements that she almost never wore. It was a shame that the
two of them weren’t the same size or the whole trip wouldn’t
have been needed. They weren’t,
though; she’d checked her measurements against what she
remembered of Amy’s and, incidentally, wasn’t so jealous
of her any more.
was tagging along, of course. Moral support
seemed to be a full-time job. Amy had seemed a little cold when they
arrived, declaring rather haughtily that Fry looked scruffy and poor,
which was technically true – she’d never said it before
though, or, if she had, Fry had never noticed. She tried to put it
out of her mind. Fortunately Amy was too shallow to hold any real
malice toward people and by the time they reached fifth avenue the
three of them were happily chatting away. She almost felt normal.
Almost. The feeling might have been easier to maintain if her pants
weren’t wide enough to fall down at the slightest provocation.
The belt she had borrowed from Leela was only doing so much.
avenue. She remembered the street from old New York; it as very
different. Wider, taller, like so much in this city, and cleaner. A
lot cleaner. But, apart from that and the row of trees down the
centre of the road that made it resemble a Parisian boulevard, it
felt similar enough. Shops were the thing. Saks still had a huge
department store there, though now it fought for dominance against
Virgin/Ia Fashion and Food, Uptown Slob and the ‘Momcorp
General Apparel and Home Boutique’. For some reason it made Fry
feel a little proud to see Saks still standing after so long, even
though she’d never once been in the place.
stopped in the shade of a tree and looked up at the glowing signs.
Amy said after a moment. “Where do you want to go first?”
wherever you want, Amy. I’m kinda new at this.” Fry
looked up and down the avenue. The retail behemoths stood astride
rows of smaller shops that jostled for position along the avenue
frontage, selling everything from cheap clothes to electronics to
games. Fry felt a distant longing.
is out,” Amy said, dragging Fry back to earth. She reflexively
looked up at the big Mom logo hovering before a grand gothic-iron
tower. Didn’t seem very inviting anyway. “And Saks is
where I go when I want to really splurge, so that’s out right
now too... so that only really leaves Virgin Aya.”
thought it was ‘Ear’,” Leela said, staring at the
sign. “Can’t they just pick a name you can pronounce?”
That’s why I don’t come shopping with you any more,
Leela. You’re always so farbeld picky about things!” Amy
popped on a pair of shades and stalked toward Virgin/Ia in a huff.
She grabbed Fry’s arm, dragging her along in her wake. “Keep
up with me if you want, Leela, but don’t expect me to talk for
at least five minutes!”
shrugged at Leela as best she could and stumbled to keep up with Amy.
She looked over her shoulder; Leela was following, but a little
distance behind. Perhaps she knew something Fry didn’t. “What
are we getting first?”
Amy stated, maybe a little harshly. She paused at the doors and
started counting off on her fingers. “Then we’ll get you
some pants, a few blouses, maybe a nice coat, some hats, a few pairs
of shoes, some dresses, you need dresses if you’re going out in
dancing shoes, ball shoes, boots, riding trousers.”
I really appr-”
shifts, pyjamas, you’ll need slippers too, and some swimwear-”
it, no way, I’m not spending all my money on clothes. I’m
only going to be like this for a year at most and you’re
talking about enough clothes to last me a lifetime! I’ll get
some underwear and some pants that actually fit me... ok and maybe
some shoes. And pyjamas.” Fry paused and shook her head. “But
that’s it, nothing else.”
you’re as bad as Leela. Why can’t I have someone who’ll
just go shopping with me?” She glared at Fry, then at Leela as
she in turn arrived at the doors. “You people and your credit
stormed through the door, grumbling in chinese as she disappeared
into the depths of the store.
Leela said after a moment. “Now you know.”
leaned on the door. “Don’t worry about it, five minutes
in there and she’ll be right as rain again. We can catch her up
once she’s hit the beachwear department.”
nodded slowly. She’d never understood it before and it seemed
that she didn’t quite understand it now. “So... you
aren’t going to spend a fortune on clothes too, are you?”
just laughed and opened the door. “Come on, Philippa, time to
learn what a woman does in here.”
turned out that mostly they argued, or at least Amy and Leela did.
They were arguing by the time they reached the underwear and hosiery
department, where Fry reckoned there were enough different species of
women’s underthings to keep a taxonomist busy for years. Or she
would if she’d known what taxonomist meant; instead she just
stared at the rows of flimsy garments in near-terror at the extreme
volume of choice, and then turned to Leela and Amy for help. After
another long argument the two managed to settle on fitting her with
some fairly run-of-the-mill garments that were actually quite
comfortable – though, Fry reasoned, that was probably because
they were designed for her body now. She didn’t tell her
companions about the time she’d tried on her girlfriend’s
bra in college, not least because the thought made her brain hurt
that sorted they made their way to the clothes that didn’t
embarrass her, though she did notice Leela make a quick detour into
the menswear department. Leela returned looking faintly embarrassed
herself, clutching a tightly wrapped packet. Fry could guess what was
in it. Amy just looked mystified. Leela laughed nervously when she
asked but didn’t tell.
shorts, shoes, a few accessories – she gave in and bought a
plain looking swimsuit, reasoning she’d have to swim at some
point – and then Fry was
suddenly incredibly bored with it all, especially the constant
shouting over which exact style they had to pick, what colour matched
her skin and how skanky something made her look. She
had what she wanted, but Amy seemed to want to keep going, moving
from rack to rack like some sort of predator, while Leela seemed
content to follow on behind offering sage criticism
and derision. After a while Fry decided she’d had enough; she
paused at the end of a row of leatherette dresses that probably had
enough material between them to cover a single small woman and waited
for Amy and Leela to move out of sight.
quickly bolted for the elevators. Fortunately she had managed to keep
all her purchases separate from the others and had them bagged up and
paid for in no time, after which Fry skipped into a booth to change
into some of it and was soon back out on the street, roaming up and
down the boutiques and shops that seemed to go on without end.
came to a stop outside a gaming store. Every kind of electronic
entertainment was arrayed behind the great glass window. She pressed
her face up to the glass and peered into the slightly dim interior,
where shelf after shelf was filled with games of all sorts, and comic
books, and just about everything else she’d ever dreamed about
owning when she was a kid. Only better.
trailed her hand along the window as she entered the shop and paused
just beyond the threshold, adjusting to the atmosphere. Certain kinds
of shop have certain kinds of smell and this one smelled right. She
wandered down an aisle of shelved holding what looked like every
comic book ever printed. A few of them seemed to be reprints of
titles from the twentieth century; they held up well next to the more
contemporary books. Fry fingered one of them for a moment and let
memories slide around her mind...
loud, nasal and somewhat arrogant voice broke her reverie. “Hey,
can’t you read the sign?”
turned to the counter near the back of the shop. A fat, balding
Neptunian in a faded blue shirt stood behind the counter, staring at
Fry with barely concealed contempt. He pointed at a prominent sign on
the back wall.
flashbacks in the store,” Fry read slowly. “Oh. I’m
sorry, it’s just been so long since I saw some of these
really.” The proprietor folded two of his arms and leaned
forward to examine. “And if I were to ask how long, I expect
you would tell me a hundred years! I cannot believe such lies would
be promulgated within hearing-range of my perfectly preserved
wandered over to the counter, trailing her bags just off the floor.
They were getting heavy. “Actually it’s just over a
thousand,” she said, not quite leaning on the counter. The
Neptunian seemed nonplussed but at the same time apparently pleased
that she wasn’t grubbying up his glass. Even if it was
incorruptiglass. “I was frozen in the twentieth century.”
that’s what they’re calling it now, I guess so.”
is... oh my, I hear about them, but I’ve never had one in my
shop before. I cannot imagine... you were alive during the first
golden age! Can I ask, did you ever meet Mr Stanley Comic?”
frowned, trying to place the name. She looked down at the books
again, spotting a copy of the single edition New Justice
Team. She giggled at the way
they’d drawn Leela and the muscle-bound idiot that was meant to
be her. Or him. She couldn’t quite make the connection with
that parody of male virtue. It was actually relieving... oh yes! “You
mean Stan Lee? Guy who invented Spider Man?”
Stanley Co... wait, are you saying that we have his name wrong? This
sweat it, I get names wrong all the time. Even my own.” Which
was true, she did now. Philip or Philippa? Perhaps she should have
picked something else. “No I didn’t meet him, but I would
have loved to if I’d had the chance. Probably. Comic-books were
more of a hobby than an obsession. I was more into games.”
Neptunian looked her up and down. “Such a shame, you seemed for
a moment as if you had potential. Still, you may be able to help me
with something. I have a few editions in my vault that need to be
identified, but I cannot for the life of me place their provenance.”
smiled at the Neptunian, who gestured toward the back of the store
with one arm.
shivered in the vault. “Right. I understand why you keep it
cool in here, but do we have to be in our underwear?”
is necessary to prevent a static fire,” the Neptunian said
matter-of-factly. He ran his fingers along shelved of neatly packed
first editions and rare books. Fry watched him, hands wrapped around
her shoulders against the chill air. “Also, I find it
refreshing compared to that overheated steambath you call an
don’t get any ideas,” she said. The Neptunian turned to
her with a haughty stare.
Fry, to have any ideas regarding you I would need to see at least an
extra pair of arms. Though, I have to admit, your skin is turning a
rather charming shade. Now...” He held up a pair of books in
slim plastic envelopes. “What can you tell me about these? I do
not recognise the style and the plotting seems incredibly overblown
and illogical. For the record, they turned up in a dig in Alabama.”
looked at the books. They were ancient, crudely printed on crinkled
cheap pulp that was almost black at the edges, badly drawn,
consisting of a dozen or so tiny strips originally printed for the
palm-sized books that Fry remembered being shoved into her face more
times than she could count. “Oh lord, will that man never leave
me in peace?”
yeah, I guess they made a compilation of the damn things after I
left. My advice? Shoot them into the sun.”
and Amy eventually found Fry slumped in a bench outside a
grubby-looking comic-book store, sucking on an ice-cream and watching
life pass by along Fifth avenue. She had several bags on top of the
Virgin/Ia-branded carry-bags, and a couple of plain cardboard boxes.
Fry waved to them as they approached and then returned to her
ice-cream with relish. Amy gawped at the extra purchases.
what’s this? You bought things without me?”
shrugged and continued licking her ice-cream. “I saw a few
things I wanted,” she said and turned to look at the shop. The
Neptunian owner waved at her from the window; Fry waved back and
winked. “Nice man.”
please tell me you didn’t do anything stupid.” Leela sat
down next to her friend and pulled the ice-cream away for a moment.
“You were just shopping right?”
I did help him sort a few of his comic-books.” She glanced at
the pile of goods next to her, which Amy had started to finger
through. “Apart from that all I did was buy a lot of stuff from
him. It’s weird, normally when I go out I’ll buy one or
two things and then go home again. Now, I got a new games console,
you see, so I had to have a few games to go with it. Then I figured
I’d better get an extra set of game-pads and a wheel, because
there’s a racing game in there, and then I thought I should get
the little three-dee goggle attachment that went with it, and after
that I sort of got a bit carried away. I hope Bender doesn’t
mind getting a new home theatre system tomorrow...”
stared at him. Leela rubbed her face and blinked. “My god,”
she said eventually, staring at the pile of tat. “I hate to say
it, Fry, Philippa even, but you’re more like Amy than you
hope that was a compliment,” Amy said. She pulled a box from
one bag and peered at it. “Is this the new eOdel player? They
aren’t out for another month! How did you get it?”
there,” Fry said, pointing over her shoulder with her thumb.
“You go to all these designer places that don’t buy in
new gadgets until they’re actually released, so they can hike
up the prices for brainless, uh...” Fry’s voice trailed
off as Amy stared at him. Fortunately she seemed more interested in
getting her hands on the eOdel than being insulted. “Places
like...” she looked over her shoulder at the sign above the
shop. “Places like Mandroid’s Cellar here tend to have
pre-release stock for real nerds to drool over. All I had to do was
prance around in my underwear for half an hour.”
Leela and Amy both cried in unison together.
you no shame?” Leela added.
he’s, like, forty or something,” Amy said a moment later,
peering at the window. “Though his nose is kinda cute...”
looked genuinely hurt. She blinked a few times, looking between Amy
and Leela as if she didn’t know what to say. “It’s
not like you think. He was in his underwear as well-”
Fry.” Leela folded her arms. “I can’t believe you.
You said you were different, but you’re just like Bender was.
I... Fry, how could
this.... ugh!” Leela stood up and would have walked away if Amy
hadn’t caught her arm. “What?”
both turned to look back at Fry. Her lower lip was quivering. She
sniffed. Leela closed her eye and sighed loudly. “I can act too
all he wanted was help with his comic-book collection,” Fry
wailed. She put her head in her hands and sobbed. “All I wanted
to do was help, I didn’t think you’d be mad at me for
that! I’m not like Bender. I’m not- going- to- auugh-”
and Leela looked at each other again, eyebrows raised. They turned
away from Fry and Amy grimaces. “Quite a bawler isn’t
right, I can’t act that well,” Leela muttered, casting an
embarrassed glance over her shoulder. People were staring. It seemed
there were still a few things this newly minted girl needed to know
about how to behave. “Perhaps it really was innocent.”
all make mistakes Leela,” Amy said, giving her friend a pointed
look. Leela sighed again and turned around.
The name seemed to shock Fry out of her mope. She looked up at Leela,
eyes red but not too watery, and swallowed. “I’m sorry
for shouting at you.”
managed a wan smile. She rubbed her eyes and sat a little more
upright. “It’s-” she choked, swallowed. “It’s
okay Leela, I guess I should have thought about it first.”
and Amy pushed the bags to one side and sat down on either side of
Fry. “I sometimes get that way too, you know,” Amy said.
She looked at Leela and winked. “It’s because you’re
so impulsive and carefree. Some people don’t quite understand
looked up at Amy. “I don’t know, I never bought
five-thousand dollars worth of stuff before. Is this how it is for
you all the time?”
nodded, but Leela shook her head. “Not everyone is a
stereotype, Philippa. Some people are-”
Amy leaped up from the bench cackling. Unfortunately, as she turned
her foot caught in one of Fry’s bags and she tripped, landing
on her butt. “Ai!”
you right for interrupting,” Leela said with a triumphant
smile. She turned back to Fry. “Now Philippa, about now is
where I suppose I should tell you to be more sensible and stop being
so impulsive, but I’m not going to.”
not?” Amy and Fry both asked in unison. Amy pulled herself up
off the floor.
not going to be your usual stuck-in-the-mud killjoy self?” Amy
looked around. “Fry, you stay here while I look for the real
made a show of looking behind the benches before stalking off toward
a tree, which she rounded several times before turning to look back
at Leela and Fry, hands on her hips.
don’t understand,” Fry said as Amy returned. “Am I
doing it wrong or something?”
can’t tell you what to do, Philippa. Well I can, when we’re
at work or you’re doing something stupid or life-threatening,
but apart from that.” She squeezed Fry’s hand and then
patted it gently. “You’re your own woman. If you want to
get a discount by ‘prancing’ then, I suppose, it’s
up to you. Just don’t expect me to get involved.”
frowned. “If that’s what you think...” she made a
show of drying her eyes on her shirt. “Oh I’m such a
wreck, I’m no good at this. How will I survive a whole year?”
same way we all do,” Leela said. Amy perked up.
you mean she’ll get a trust-fund too?”
let her eye rest on Amy until the younger girl shied away. She leaned
across Fry and grabbed one of the bags. “Okay, we might as well
get you home. It’s getting late. Amy?”
Amy was standing a short distance away, looking up at the sky. She
suddenly pointed up. “Wuh de tyen ah!”
looked up. A gobbet of orange-pink light was moving across the sky at
an alarming speed. “Too bright to be a ship, too slow to be an
asteroid...” she glanced around the sky. “Look there’s
watched the strange objects hurtling across the sky until they faded
to nothing near the visible horizon. Fry clutched at her massed bags
with a strange feeling growing in her gut. Something about the light
better get back, this has to have made the news,” Leela said.
She grabbed a pile of bags. “Come on, we’ll call a cab.”