Fan Fiction

Freaky Fryday
By Dead Composer

Disclaimer: Matt Groening owns Futurama. All glory to Matt Groening.

Chapter 1

At the New New York Institute of Mental Health, where Zapp Brannigan had voluntarily interned himself, Dr. Zoidberg was applying the latest methods in an attempt to cure the captain of the personality warping he had endured as a captive of the Cerulean Pirates.

From behind a large glass pane, several medical experts in white smocks watched the proceedings alongside Fry, Leela, Bender, and the inventor of the Fossitron device, Philaster Foss. Zoidberg scuttled into the darkened room, holding in his claws a metal box with holes punched into the sides. “Put on your visors, everyone,” he cautioned the spectators.

“God, I hope this works,” said Leela as she carefully placed a mono-visor over her eye.

The bespectacled, balding Foss shot her a confident grin. “Your lobster friend looks like he knows what he’s doing,” he said, taking Leela by the hand.

Zapp sat quietly and sullenly in a chair, his hands and feet cuffed. Once everyone except for him had donned protective eyewear, Zoidberg pried open the lid of the box. A lumpy brown creature promptly hopped out and landed with a wet squish on the table in front of Captain Brannigan.

“Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Hypnotoad,” said Zoidberg officiously.

Zapp stared blankly at the amphibian. Its eyes began to shimmer, and it made an eerie humming sound with its throat. To those who wore visors, the spiraling colors in the toad’s slitted eyes made a pretty show. To Zapp, they were an irresistible attraction.

“So…beautiful,” he mumbled in spite of himself. “Can’t…look…away.”

Zoidberg opened his mouth, although no one could tell due to the scarlet tendrils hanging over it. “Violence is wrong,” he told Zapp. “Killing is wrong. You have no desire to commit acts of violence.”

“I…have…no…desire…” said Zapp deliriously.

“You are a man of peace,” Zoidberg continued. “You are not like the space pirates who did this to you.”

I did this to him,” muttered Foss under his breath.

When the session was finished, Zoidberg replaced the Hypnotoad in its container and sealed it inside. He removed the protective visor from his face, and gestured for the spectators to do likewise. Turning his gaze to the bewildered-looking Zapp, he asked, “How do you feel, Captain?”

Zapp blinked a few times, then smiled with relief. “I feel…completely rehabilitated,” he said calmly. “I’m filled with regret for what I’ve done. I’m no longer a menace to society.”

“Excellent,” said Zoidberg, using his claw to clip off the cuffs from Zapp’s hands and feet. “After one more week of daily Hypnotoad therapy sessions, I expect that you’ll make a full recovery.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Zapp as he stood. “Now I can get busy living.”

Leela tightened her grip on Foss’ hand. “It worked!” she exulted. “Zapp’s back to normal! Well, that’s both good and bad.”

Suddenly, as Zoidberg was opening the door for Zapp to leave, the captain’s face contorted into a mask of fury. “Hypnotize me, will you?” he snarled. “Just for that, and the fact that I don’t like your face, I’ll kill you!”

Fry, Leela, and Foss gasped when they saw Brannigan wrap his fingers around the crustacean’s neck. “Again with the strangling!” exclaimed Zoidberg as the angry spaceman tried to squeeze the breath out of him.

“We’ve got to do something!” cried Fry in horror.

“He looks perfectly normal to me,” Bender remarked.

With his little remaining strength, Zoidberg rammed his claw into Zapp’s crotch. The captain abruptly let go of his neck, and grimaced with dismay. “Oh, God…oh, God…”

“It’s still there,” said Zoidberg. “I only pinched the nerve.”

Foss and Bender greeted him after he had once again restrained Zapp. “I’m terribly sorry the Hypnotoad therapy didn’t work,” said Foss. “But I didn’t have my hopes up to begin with. As effective as the Fossitron is, removing the contamination Balalaika introduced into his mind is like trying to excise a piece of his soul.”

“I kinda like him the way he is,” said Bender.

“The poor man,” said Zoidberg glumly. “I’m afraid only time will heal his wound.”

The hallway was quiet and empty where Fry and Leela walked along, except for a faint shouting in the distance. Fry did his best to keep up a pleasant smile, but a question burned in his heart and had to be asked.

“Leela,” he said nervously, “how is it between you and Foss?”

The cyclops looked at him with compassion. “I like him,” she stated, “but I’m not sure what to do about him.”

Fry’s mouth fell open slightly.

“His own invention made him fall in love with me,” said Leela. “It’s a phony kind of love, but it did prompt him to change his ways and take our side against the pirates. And now I’m worried that if I tell him I don’t really love him, he’ll go back to his old life.”

Fry nodded. “Yeah, that would be bad.”

“Please don’t tell Philaster what I said,” Leela urged him.

“My lips are sealed,” said Fry. I should tell him, he thought. Then he’ll break up with Leela, and I’ll have another chance with her. Oh, who am I kidding? Only myself, since nobody can hear me think.

The deranged shouting grew louder as Leela and Fry neared the exit: “Worms everywhere with the slithering and the mucus and the little holes in the ground, gahoyven…”

“Who the hell is that?” Leela wanted to know.

In a nearby janitorial closet, a white-haired man in grubby clothes looked up at them. “That’s Professor Horatio Frink,” he informed them, “the inventor of the body switcher.”

He invented the body switcher?” Fry marveled. “Cool.”

The old custodian gave them a stern look. “Ya know that TV show where a regular person gets to switch bodies with a movie star for a month?” he related. “Would ya like to know why they ain’t allowed to switch back before the month is out?”

“Uh-huh,” said Leela with a curious nod.

“’Cause it’s dangerous,” said the janitor. “The brain needs time to recover from the shock of the switch. Professor Frink learned that the hard way. He just switched and switched, and didn’t think about the consequences.”

“Fascinating,” said Fry thoughtfully. “Uh, I mean, cool.”

“Can anything be done for him?” asked Leela.

“Nope,” replied the old man. “His brain’s too far gone.”

Fry and Leela mused on what the janitor had told them as they made their way to a transit tube. “I guess if you could switch bodies as often as you wanted,” said Fry, “people would be doing it all the time.”

“It’s funny, if you think about it,” said Leela. “If you switched bodies with me, you’d have no choice but to go through one of my periods.”

“That’s okay,” said Fry. “I learned all about periods when my head was attached to Amy’s shoulder.”

After a bit of consideration, Leela stopped in her tracks. “Fry…” she began to say.

The redhead put up his hands defensively. “No way, Leela.”

The cyclops grinned deviously. “I’ll make it worth your while,” she offered. “I’ll spend the whole month dieting and exercising. When you get your body back, it’ll be trim and muscular.”

“Forget it,” said Fry adamantly. “I don’t want Foss lusting after my voluptuous body.”

“He won’t,” said Leela, “if he knows you’re really a guy. And hopefully, by the time the month is over, he’ll lose interest and find a different girlfriend.”

Find a different girlfriend…?

“Uh, my answer is still a tentative no,” said Fry.

Chapter 2

Foss’ new apartment in Soho was a simple affair—one tiny bedroom, a kitchen that was hardly more than a crawl space, and barely enough storage space for his many gadgets. When Bender came to visit, he found that his every movement was hampered by yet another table stacked with scattered parts and mysterious devices.

“Hey, what’s this thing do?” asked the robot, picking up an object that resembled a giant slide rule made from circuit boards.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” said Foss, who was trying to dislodge an enormous ball of hair from the garbage disposal. “In fact, I wouldn’t touch anything if I were you. If I were anyone else, yes, but not if I were you. What are you doing here, anyway?”

Bender attempted an insincere smile. “I thought you could help me out,” he said. “I asked Professor Farnsworth—you know, the old dude in the jar—but he told me it was too dangerous.”

“What’s too dangerous?” asked Foss.

“Enhancements,” Bender answered. “Eye lasers, flamethrowers, shoulder-mounted semi-automatic rifles, that sort of thing.”

“That’s not my line of work,” said Foss. “What you need is a military robotics specialist. If you’re lucky, you’ll find an unscrupulous one who doesn’t ask questions.”

“Hey, now,” Bender protested. “What kind of robot do you think I am?”

“An utterly selfish and amoral one,” said Foss.

“Well, okay,” said Bender. “But this time, for once, I’m on the level. All I want is a little extra firepower for purposes of self-defense, and the occasional rabbit hunt.”

Foss leaned over the bar, which creaked and snapped under his weight, and glared distrustfully at the robot.

“Okay!” Bender finally admitted. “I’m in trouble with the Robot Mafia. I’m living on borrowed money and borrowed time. Can you help me? It’s a matter of life or death.”

“Not to me,” said Foss coldly. “You’re just a robot.”

“Just a robot?” said Bender, outraged. “Look at me! I’ve got arms, legs, and a head, just like you. If you prick me, do I not leak?”

Foss sighed with impatience. “I’ll tell you what I can do, Bender. I’ll make a backup copy of your neural network, so that if your Mafioso friends do succeed in whacking you, I can simply create a new bending unit with your charming personality.”

“Huh?” Bender marveled. “You can do that?”

Foss nodded. “Think of it as robot reincarnation.”

“In that case,” said Bender, “what are you waiting for?”

Billions of light-years away, at the exact center of the universe, on the ancient planet Eternium, a dozen high-ranking Nibblonians assembled for a solemn council. The hall was darkened except for a spotlight that shone on their dinners, which consisted of various zoo animals and wasabi on the side.

“Our sages have foretold,” stated a male Nibblonian, “that the Chosen One would undergo a great test of courage, and the fate of the entire universe would once again hinge on his success.”

“It is so,” responded a female Nibblonian. “If the results of our computations are accurate, and they must be, since the sages foretold them as well, the one known as Fry will face this great test one Earth week from today.”

“Damn,” grumbled another male Nibblonian. “That’s the same day as my retirement party. I’ve been planning it for twenty thousand years.”

“We cannot allow the Chosen One to fail,” said the female. “We must make Lord Nibbler aware of the danger. Once the nature of the test becomes clearer, he will offer his assistance to the one known as Fry.”

“I pray that will be sufficient,” said the male.

Chapter 3

The one known as Fry was, at that moment, waiting anxiously in Professor Farnsworth’s laboratory, Leela at his side. On the table before them lay two devices, one a trademarked Frinkomatic Body Switcher, the other a crude mockup of the same. The Frinkomatic was shaped like an oversized steering wheel, with metal grips on either end.

“Let’s go over our story again,” said Farnsworth’s head as it floated about in its jar. “You were helping me build a more efficient body-switching device, but it accidentally went off while you both had your hands on it. And now you’re stuck in each other’s bodies for a month, because it’s not safe to switch back earlier.”

“Uh, yeah,” said Fry. “Sounds convincing.”

“Let’s hope so,” said Leela. “We have to fool not only Philaster, but all our friends as well.”

“Shall we proceed?” said Farnsworth.

Fry and Leela slowly moved their hands toward the Frink device, as if fearing they would be electrocuted upon touching it. This is absolutely crazy, thought Leela. What do I know about being a guy? It’s not like putting on a different outfit.

This’ll be a lot different from being attached to Amy’s body, thought Fry. I’ll actually be in Leela’s head, looking at the world through her eye. It’s so freaky.

“Now hold on tight,” said Farnsworth. “The Frinkomatic will activate automatically in five seconds…two…one…”

The wheel-shaped device sent a mild, almost imperceptible electric shock through the bodies of Fry and Leela. They blinked involuntarily. When they opened their eyes, they discovered that the world around them had drastically changed.

Everything seemed flat to Fry, as if he was pressing his nose against a mirror. The fact that he was staring at a person who looked exactly like him supported this hypothesis.

From Leela’s perspective, everything in the room had suddenly moved away from her, including the one-eyed girl who had appeared in place of Fry. To add to her surprise, she saw two transparent noses at either side of her face instead of the solid one to which she was accustomed.

Fry looked down and saw a white tank top supporting a pair of enormous lumps. He screamed in horror.

Leela looked down and saw a red jacket and no lumps at all. She screamed in horror.

Farnsworth grinned with satisfaction as he listened to them scream. “Oh my, yes. That’s perfect.”

“Fry! You gotta help me, man! The Robot Mafia followed me here!”

Leela groggily opened her…eyes.

“Fry…?” she spoke in a man’s voice. “No, Bender. I’m Leela.”

“You’re Leela?” said the once frantic, now bemused robot. “Great! You can kickbox the crap outta those killers.”

Leela let out a faint moan as he sat up. “He’s awake?” said Amy as she hurried into the Planet Express lounge. “Schmawsome.”

Zoidberg applied a very, very cold stethoscope to Leela’s forehead. “I’m picking up a marked increase in brain activity,” he stated. “Leela’s in there, all right.”

“What’s it like, Leela?” Amy asked eagerly.

Leela looked over to the other couch, where Fry sat in her body, gazing into a handheld mirror with an idyllic smile. “Fry’s certainly taking it well,” she remarked. “Hey, Fry…?”

Fry continued to stare into the mirror. Her eye didn’t move at all.

“Well?” said Amy, hands on hips. “What’s it like?”

Leela rose up and took a cautious step forward. “It feels weird,” she commented. “It’s like all my body parts have been shuffled around. In a blender.”

Zoidberg waved a claw in front of Fry’s frozen face. “She’s in a state of shock,” he said analytically. “It’s best not to disturb her.”

“Why are you saying she?” Leela protested. “That’s Fry. I’m Leela.”

“Don’t confuse me, young man,” said Zoidberg.

Bender waved his arms earnestly. “Hello, meatbags! I’m about to die here! Does anybody even care, or are you too caught up in your gender confusion?”

Leela pressed her hands to her flat chest and sighed. “I miss my boobs.”

Fry lowered his mirror and broke his silence. “All your boobs are belong to us,” he droned, and then he began to giggle uncontrollably.

The Donbot held a patient vigil at the entrance to the Planet Express building. Few passers-by noticed him, and those who did promptly looked away and quickened their pace. There were no police officers in his field of view.

His stocky henchman Joey trudged toward him from one side of the building. “No sign of their delivery ship,” he reported. “They can’t escape by air.”

The short, yellow ‘bot Clamps approached from the other direction, clicking his vise-like hands. “I clamped their security system,” he told the Donbot. “If we clamp ‘em now, they won’t know what clamped ‘em.”

“Poifect,” said their boss, opening his machine gun case. “I don’t want no witnesses. Kill everyone in the building, but leave Bender for me.”

Chapter 4

Fry set the mirror down and rose to his feet, still smiling idiotically. “This is so incredible,” he gushed, marveling at the shape of his borrowed body. “I don’t just look like a girl, I feel like one inside.”

“Well, spluh,” said Amy. “What did you expect?”

Leela and Fry stepped up to each other, and exchanged astonished looks. “So this is what a girl feels when she looks at me,” said Fry. “No wonder I can’t get a date.”

“Just wait until we switch back, Fry,” said Leela. “After a full month of weightlifting, Pilates, and spinach salad, you’ll think you’ve moved into Charles Atlas. You’ll have to file a restraining order against all the girls who want to date you.”

“It’s so kind of you to do that for me,” said Fry. “I wish I had your generous nature…but no. Since I don’t have to keep this body, I’m gonna party all night, every night, for thirty glorious days.”

Leela glared indignantly. “You’d better not damage my body,” she threatened, “or I may just decide to keep yours.”

“No! You wouldn’t dare!” exclaimed Fry.

“I want my girlish figure to be intact at the end of the month,” said Leela. “Got that?”

Fry nodded reluctantly.

“I had a girlish figure once,” said Zoidberg as he stuffed an angel food cake into his mouth.

Fry felt an odd, but surprisingly familiar, sensation. “I need to pee,” he stated, hurrying toward the lavatory.

“You remember how to do it, don’t you?” said Amy.

Bender, having given up on seeking help from his friends, rifled through the inventions in Farnsworth’s lab. “There’s gotta be a mega death beam, or something,” he muttered. “I can’t let the Robot Mafia take me down without a fight.” The loud clatter of devices being tossed aside failed to awaken the professor’s snoozing head.

Hidden behind a stack of circuit boards was a wheel-like object that Bender found intriguing. “A Frinkomatic body switcher,” he observed. “I could try to switch bodies with the Donbot, if only I could get close enough to him. Hmm…I wonder what would happen if I switched bodies with myself?

Overcome by curiosity, he gripped the metal ends of the device, and reality turned upside down.

He was in Elzar’s restaurant, staring down at what appeared to be a menu. It was unlike any menu he had ever seen. “Bender Bender Bender,” he read, starting at the top. “Bender Bender Bender Bender…”

A uniformed creature with four blue arms and a robotic head walked up to the table. “Bender Bender Bender,” he uttered in a friendly tone.

“What the hell’s going on?” the robot tried to say, but the words that came from his mouth were, “Bender Bender?”

“Let’s move,” ordered the Donbot.

Just as Joey and Clamps started to force open the doors to the Planet Express building, a well-known voice called to them from a distance. “Hey, losers! Get over here! My shiny metal ass won’t bite itself!”

“What the…” stammered Clamps. “Bender? But I coulda sworn…”

“He’s over there!” cried Joey, pointing at an alley across the street.

The Donbot clutched his gun case tightly, holding it shut as he raced to the other side of the street with his cronies. They reached the entrance to the alley, only to see an overfilled dumpster and a dead alien slumped against a wall, but no Bender.

“Where’d he disappear to?” the fat robot wondered.

Once again they heard the voice, this time from near the chain-link fence at the end of the alley. “Bender is great! The Robot Mafia sucks spark plugs!”

His patience exhausted, the Donbot yanked his tommy gun out of its case. “Fire blindly in all directions!” he commanded his henchmen.

“Excuse me,” said Clamps, “did you say to clamp blindly in all directions? ‘Cause that’s what I heard.”

Delta’s sensitive robot ears detected the sound of gunfire from half a block away. It concerned her, but the apron-clad fembot had a more urgent matter to attend to—someone had just flushed the toilet.

Her wedge-shaped feet made a clipping sound as she minced in the direction of the washroom. The door opened and Fry stepped out, her cheeks red from blushing. “I hope the lavatory is clean enough to please you, Captain Leela,” she said meekly.

“I’m not Leela,” the cyclops told her. “I’m Fry. Leela and I switched bodies by accident.”

Delta peered carefully at her, then looked into the washroom. “Well, that explains why the toilet seat’s still up,” she said.

“Oops,” said Fry, embarrassed. “I’m a girl now, and I still forget.”

Bender approached them, his gait unsteady, his pupils spinning, the Frinkomatic device still in his hands. “Bender…Bender Bender…Bender…” he mumbled.

“What’s wrong, Bender?” asked Fry.

The dazed robot answered simply, “Bender Bender Bender.”

“I have no idea what you’re trying to say to me,” said the one-eyed girl.

“Oh, my,” said Delta. “That contraption must be interfering with his positronic thought processes.”

She reached forward to pull the Frinkomatic from Bender’s hands, but Fry jumped between them. “Don’t touch it!” he yelled.

“Why not?” said the confused Delta.

Bender succeeded in prying one of his hands from the electronic wheel. “Because it’s a body switcher,” he said, regaining his composure. “And when I told you I wanted your body, that’s not what I meant.”

“A body switcher,” mused Delta. “How interesting.” Turning to Fry, she inquired, “Is that how you and Leela exchanged physical forms?”

“Yes,” Fry replied. Catching himself, he added, “Uh, I mean, er, ah, Wednesday.”

“Oh, I get it,” said Bender suspiciously. “You accidentally switched it on, then you accidentally picked it up at the same time, which caused you to accidentally switch bodies.”

“Pretty much, yeah,” said Fry.

“Okay,” said Bender. “Just so we’re on the same page.”

Minutes later, Leela walked into the lounge to find Fry relaxing on the couch, his hand dipped into a bag of potato chips. “Hey, Fry,” said the young redhead. “Why are you wasting your time here? You should be out and about, exploring your new female self.”

“I am exploring it,” was Fry’s response. “Potato chips don’t taste any different. The Fox network still sucks. The Lifetime network’s gotten better, though.”

Leela looked up at the new TV they had purchased after the destruction of the old one. A message flashed on the screen: “Viewer discretion is advised. If you have any discretion at all, you’ll change the channel now. You are watching Fox.”

She lazily plopped down next to Fry. “I’ll exercise later,” she said with a sigh. “This is gonna be harder than I thought.”

The body-switched pair sat in silence, watching the lively shapes and colors on the TV screen.

“I looked at your weiner,” said Leela.

“Don’t kill yourself,” said Fry.

“Leela, darling,” a voice uttered. The moment they were dreading had arrived. Foss stood in the lounge, his standard smock replaced by a Hawaiian silk shirt.

“Hey, Foss,” said Fry glibly.

“Hi, sweetie,” said Leela. “Before you kiss me, you should know that…”

His words fell on deaf ears, attached to the same head as the lips that were fondly pressing against Fry’s.

Chapter 5

The kiss went on and on. Fry trembled, his eye wide, his fingers spread apart. To Leela’s consternation, he made no effort to resist. After what seemed an eternity to both of them, Foss pulled his lips away. “I love you, Leela,” he said gently.

Fry stared blankly at the professor’s silk shirt for a moment, then dropped his head into his hands. “Oh, dear God, I’m gay!” she wailed.

“You’re what?” said Foss.

“I enjoyed that,” said Fry anxiously. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed that. Please don’t do it again.”

“I can explain,” said Leela as she stood up. “She’s really Fry, and I’m really Leela. We were helping Professor Farnsworth build a better body switcher, but the thing went off while we were holding it.”

Foss gaped briefly, then started to chuckle. “Get out of here,” he said.

“It’s true,” Leela insisted. “I can tell you things only Leela would know about you. Like what part of your body the space pirates mutilated when they were initiating you, and why you have a drawer full of pink satin stockings, and…”

“All right, I believe you!” Foss blurted out.

Leela and Fry watched the scientist struggle for words.

“I-I don’t know,” he said at last. “I don’t know what to do in this situation. I’ve got to think about it.”

Foss walked so quickly out of the employee lounge that he appeared to be fleeing. “Don’t forget,” said Leela to Fry, “we’re trying to make Foss lose interest in you…I mean, me.”

Fry quivered as he sat bolt upright. “Do you feel this way every time he kisses you?” he said reverently. “I thought I understood why you wanted to dump him, but now I don’t.”

Leela only sighed.

It was Zoidberg’s habit to stop off at the mental health institute every afternoon, to see if any progress could be made with the conflicted Captain Brannigan. As he passed his claw over the DNA scanner to gain entrance to the cell block where Zapp was staying, he tried to imagine what creative threats and insults the spaceman would hurl at him. “I’d like to boil you and see if you turn red.” “You’d look better in a malpractice suit.” “Who gave you a license to practice medicine? I’d like to meet him—maybe he can grant me a license to kill.” “Come any closer and I’ll make bisque out of you.” And those were the non-sexual ones.

Little did he suspect that Zapp was, at that moment, holding a conversation with a strange, white-bearded man who had mysteriously approached the door of his cell.

“Our new therapy will revolutionize the criminal justice system,” said the old man in a gravelly voice. “The institute doesn’t want you to know about it. The government doesn’t want you to know about it. That’s how effective it is.”

“I don’t know who you are,” said the bedraggled-looking Zapp, “but if you’re offering me a chance to get this evil out of my head, I’ll take it.”

“Excellent,” said the stranger. By waving a pen-like device with a flashing tip, he caused the lock on Zapp’s cell door to unfasten.

By the time Zoidberg reached the spot, the door was closed and Zapp was not inside. “Good Lord!” exclaimed the crustacean, searching every corner of the tiny room with his eyes. Then it occurred to him to use his nose. He breathed in a long draught of air, hoping to pick up a scent clue or two, but only one thing registered on his super-sensitive olfactory receptors.

“Garlic,” he moaned. “My only weakness.”

At the Planet Express headquarters, the debate had become intense as Bender, Foss, Fry, and Leela each tried to come up with a mutual solution to their problems by ignoring what the others were saying.

“I’m telling you, the moment I step out of the building, the Robot Mafia’s gonna punch me full of holes,” said Bender.

“You think you’ve got it tough,” said Foss. “My girlfriend’s a man! How am I supposed to deal with that?”

“I am not going to stay at Bender’s cesspool of an apartment,” said Leela. “That place is so filthy, the rats only go there to die.”

“Well, I’m not gonna stay at your place and spend the whole night feeding Nibbler and cleaning up the quantum singularities he shoots out of his butt,” Fry retorted.

Zoidberg burst into the meeting room as they bickered. “My friends, my friends!” he called out. “I have news of a disturbing and possibly chapter-ending nature!”

“Stick a fork in it, Zoidburger,” said Bender sharply.

“Quiet, everybody!” said Foss. “Let’s listen to what the lobster has to share with us.”

The quarrelling foursome fell silent. “What’s the news?” asked Fry.

Zoidberg dramatically waved his claws in the air. “Zapp Brannigan is missing!” he reported.

Foss, Bender, Fry, and Leela gaped with surprise.

“Missing?” Foss marveled. “You mean he escaped from the institute?”

“Escaped,” said Zoidberg ominously, “or escaped with the assistance of person or persons unknown.”

“Wait a minute,” said Leela. “He was in there voluntarily to begin with. Maybe he just decided to grab a hamburger and a Slurm at the fast-food joint across the street.”

“Tell me, Leela in Fry’s body,” said Zoidberg, “have you ever known Captain Brannigan to eat large amounts of garlic?”

Leela gave the question a moment’s thought, then answered, “No.”

“Interesting,” said Zoidberg, narrowing his eyes. “As you may be aware, my sense of smell is so acute, I can tell you what you ate for your last three meals just by sniffing you. But the only scent I could detect in Zapp’s empty cell was garlic. Garlic! Its stench is so powerful, it drowns out everything else.”

“Then Captain Brannigan was helped,” Foss concluded. “But by whom?”

Chapter 6

While the rest of the Planet Express crew tried to unravel the mystery of Zapp’s disappearance, Hermes (no, I haven’t forgotten about him) was faced with a mystery of his own—which spaceship to purchase out of the many on display. The old PE ship was assumed lost to space pirates due to Leela’s actions, and the Jamaican bureaucrat had taken a break from his efforts to make it look like an accidental loss, to enjoy an afternoon of ship-shopping with his son Dwight and his son’s best friend, Cubert.

A man in a rustic outfit and cowboy hat greeted Hermes and the boy at Honest Flem’s Used Spacecraft. “I’m Honest Flem,” he introduced himself, “and I own this here establishment. What ken I do fer you gents?”

“I’m lookin’ to buy a new delivery ship, mon,” replied Hermes.

“Yeesh, your phony accent’s even worse than mine,” remarked Honest Flem.

“Hey, that was a rude thing to say to my dad,” Dwight protested.

“Rude, but honest,” said the spaceship dealer. “That’s why they call me Honest Flem.”

He led Hermes, Dwight, and Cubert into his vast outdoor lot, where about two dozen small ships were tethered to a row of posts. “This one’s a 2993 Galaxian,” he said, gesturing at one of the boxier models. “She was owned by an old lady who only used it for trips to the bingo planet.”

“What are those scratches?” asked Cubert, pointing.

“It’s impolite to point, boy,” said Flem. “Those scratches are from a battle with a squadron of warships commandeered by brain slugs. The old lady put up quite a fight before she was assimilated.”

“Uh, I’m not sure, mon,” said Hermes.

“I personally swept her for brain slug larvae,” Flem told him. “Then I burned the broom. I guarantee you, she’s safe.”

“That one over there looks nice,” said Hermes, directing his gaze toward the next ship on the lot.

Flem nodded. “That’s a 2999 Robotron,” he said, running his hand over the glossy black exterior. “Her top speed is 45c, plus she can turn into a robot.”

“Cool!” Dwight exclaimed. “Buy it, Dad! Buy it!”

“I see no reason why we should ever need such a gratuitous feature,” said Cubert.

“Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!” shouted Dwight, jumping up and down.

“It’s clearly a marketing ploy to attract the under-12 demographic,” Cubert went on. “Which makes no sense at all, since 12-year-olds aren’t allowed to pilot spacecraft.”

“Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!”

“A ship that can turn into a robot requires highly sophisticated servo mechanisms,” Cubert pointed out. “They’d have to be serviced and replaced periodically, and that’s not cheap.”

“Shut up, Cubert,” said Hermes. Turning to the dealer, he declared, “I’ll take it.”

They shook hands firmly. “This way to my office, sucker,” said Flem.

As Dwight bounded with joy, Cubert checked the signs in front of every spaceship he walked past—2996 Defender, 2995 Galaga, 2998 Tron. “What’s the deal?” he commented. “Every one of these ships is named after an old video game.”

“So are you, Cubert,” said Hermes.

Leela’s naked body is every bit as sexy as I imagined, thought Fry, gazing into a full-length mirror. But now I feel ashamed of myself for looking. Guys can be such perverts. Uh-oh…I’m starting to think like a girl.

All was quiet in Leela’s apartment, largely due to the fact that Nibbler was absent. Blinky the three-eyed fish floated placidly in his tank, making no sound at all. Then the doorbell rang.

I guess I should answer that, thought Fry. Grabbing a towel from the bathroom rack, he wrapped it tightly around his slender hips and walked on bare feet to the apartment door. It slid open, revealing Amy in her pink sweatsuit. “Oh, hi, Amy,” said Fry.

Amy looked at her friend, and her smile turned into a gape.

“What?” said the bemused cyclops.

“Er…ah…” Amy stammered.

Fry glanced downward and saw what was wrong. “Oh, crap,” he grumbled.

The door closed. When it reopened, Amy beheld Leela’s body with a towel covering her chest as well as her groin.

“Sorry,” said Fry sheepishly. “I guess I didn’t learn much when I was attached to you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Amy as she strolled into the flat. “Checking out your new body, I see. How do you like it so far?”

“It feels nice,” replied Fry. “I think I’ll have a lot of fun in it.”

Amy took a peek into the sparsely furnished living room. “Where’s Nibbler?” she asked.

“He’s at my place, with Leela and Bender,” Fry answered. “We agreed to live in each other’s apartments on that one condition. If we’re lucky, he’ll eat all the pizza boxes and soda cans and junk.” He opened a drawer and pulled out a brassiere. “Could you help me put this on?”

“Sure,” said Amy. “I came over here,” she said while fastening the straps, “to invite you to come to the Robocabana with me tonight.”

“The Robocawhatcha?” said Fry.

“It’s a new dance club,” Amy told her. “It’s got a full bar, live bands, a vibrafloor, and plenty of good-looking guys.”

Fry considered the offer while sticking his head through Leela’s tank top. “That sounds great, Amy,” he said, “but you know I can’t go to a nightclub looking like this.”

“Put on a dress, then,” said Amy.

“Right,” said Fry, exasperated. “And while I’m at it, why not put a sign on my back that says, ‘I’m a sexy woman, ask me to dance’?”

Amy put on a wounded look.

“I’m not ready to get it on with the guys,” said her body-switched friend. “If I learned anything when Foss kissed me, it’s that a girl can be swept away by her feelings. Have you forgotten what happened when Leela and Zapp first met? One minute she was feeling sorry for him, the next minute she woke up in his bed.”

“Yeah, you never know where it’ll lead,” said Amy excitedly. “That’s why they call it la vida loca.”

“Besides,” Fry continued, “if I do something irresponsible and screw up Leela’s body, she may decide to keep mine, and then I’d be a man trapped in the body of a one-eyed woman. I’d be twice the freak Leela was.”

“Fine,” said Amy, her patience waning. “We’ll go and do something nice and safe, like all-night vespers at the Church of Robotology.”

Fry shook his head. “I’m sorry, Amy.”

As her Asian friend turned to leave, he had an idea. “Wait,” he blurted out.

“What?” said Amy.

“Do you know of any lesbian nightclubs?”

Chapter 7

Lesbian nightclubs?” said Amy, astonishment filling her face. “Are you crazy?

“Yes,” said Fry. “All the lesbians will think we’re together, so they won’t hit on us.”

“But I want to be hit on,” said Amy. “I mean, by guys, not by lesbians.”

The two girls stared at each other, too stupefied to speak.

“How’s this?” Amy finally said. “Call Fry…I mean, call Leela, and ask her if it’s all right for you to take her body to the Robocabana. If she says yes, then you have no excuse not to go.”

Fry pondered the suggestion. Leela will almost certainly say no, and then I’ll be off the hook. Either way, I win. “All right,” he agreed, punching the number to his own apartment into her wrist console.

Halfway across the borough at the Robot Arms building, Leela stepped into the dingy living room clad in a bright orange sweatsuit and a striped headband. “Well, here I go,” she said to no one in particular.

Bender, who had been gazing intently through the window at the street below, turned and looked at Leela’s outfit long enough to make a snide remark. “What is this, deer season?”

“No, I’m on my way to the health club,” said Leela. “I made Fry a promise, and I intend to see it through.” She looked glumly at her new flat-chested body. “I just hope Fry’s dingle doesn’t jingle while I’m running on the treadmill. That would be so embarrassing.”

“I wouldn’t know,” said Bender.

“I’d better feed Nibbler before I go,” said Leela as she reached for an enormous can of Kibbles ‘n’ Snouts, “because you’re obviously not going to do it.”

As she searched the kitchen cupboards for an implement that would hopefully open the can of pet food in less than five minutes, Nibbler crawled into the room on his long arms and short legs. Seeing the huge can towering over him, he widened his jaws as far as they would go, and devoured it in one gulp.

Leela gave the Nibblonian a look of disapproval. “Spit the can out, Nibbler,” she ordered. “Be a good little alien and spit it out.”

Nibbler only stared at him in confusion. He let out a tinny belch.

“Great,” sighed Leela. “Another trip to the vet.”

“Oh, my God!” cried Bender. “They’re coming! The Robot Mafia!”

With an exasperated groan, Leela hurried to the window to see what Bender saw. “That’s not the Robot Mafia,” she said peevishly. “That’s just a big guy in an overcoat, a short fat lady in a dress, and a kid with clamps for hands.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Bender. “What about those cases they’re carrying?”

“They’re clearly musicians,” said Leela.

Fry’s cell phone rang, and Leela fumbled for it in the pocket of his jeans. “Hello?”

“Leela, this is Fry,” came Leela’s voice.

“Hey, Fry,” said Leela. “Are you and my body getting along well?”

“Yeah,” replied Fry. “I wanted to ask you something. Would you object if Amy and I went to the Robocabana tonight?”

Leela was taken aback. “The Robocabana? Why the hell why?”

“That sounded like a no,” said Fry. “Thanks, Leela.”

“No, wait!” Leela blurted out.

Hmm, she thought. Hmm… Not a bad idea. I wish I’d thought of it before.

“Fry,” she spoke into the cell phone, “not only do I not object, but I insist you go to the Robocabana with Amy.”

Insist? thought Fry. D’oh!

“Go to the Robocabana, and enjoy yourself as much as you want without hurting my body or getting it pregnant,” Leela instructed him. “Just don’t be surprised when I pretend to be outraged tomorrow. It’s all part of the plan.”

Fry stood speechless, his mouth hanging open.

“It’s a great club,” said Leela. “I wish I could go with you. Have fun, Fry.”

The light on Fry’s wrist console went off. He made an attempt to slap himself on the forehead, but only struck the upper part of Leela’s eye. “Ow!”

“So you’ll go, then?” said Amy. “Please say yes.”

Now I know what Leela means, thought Fry’s mind in Leela’s body. She wants me to make it look like I’m being wanton, to discourage Foss from waiting around for us to switch back. It’s a clever idea, but…hey, how did I figure that out so easily? Is it because I’m thinking with Leela’s brain now? Well, if I’m so smart, I should be able to weasel out of this somehow…

“I’ve got it!” he said abruptly. “Uh, I mean, I’ve got a better idea. Foss is really lonely right now, since I’m in his girlfriend’s body, and I think the best thing for him would be a visit from an attractive female, let’s say, uh, you, Amy.”

“Schnot even,” Amy protested. “Foss is way too old for me.”

“He’s thirty-six,” said Fry. “For a professor, that’s young.”

“I don’t go for nerds,” said Amy, grabbing his arm. “C’mon, let’s get you into a dress. The clock’s ticking before you turn back into a guy.”

Contrary to Fry’s impression, Foss was anything but lonely. He had a companion, albeit a cybernetic one. “You did an excellent job of luring those robot mobsters away,” he said to the small, black metal box on his shelf.

“Yeah, so give me a medal,” said the box in Bender’s sarcastic voice. “Can I have my body back now?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Foss without emotion. “You see, you never had a body to begin with. You’re a portable processing unit, programmed with Bender’s personality.”

The black box fell silent, save for a slight, low-pitched hum.

“I don’t completely understand what you said,” it spoke up, “but I sorta get the feeling that I’ve been horribly degraded in an existential way.”

“We all have, Bender,” said Foss. “Now go to sleep.”

“But I’m not…” the box started to say just before it shut down entirely.

Foss plucked another item from the shelf, a plastic alarm clock with Bender’s visage printed on the face. He pressed a button and the clock uttered in a harsh voice, “Wake up and bite my shiny metal ass. Wake up and bite my shiny metal ass. Wake up and…”

The lights were dim at the Robocabana, the dance floor crowded. The live band was made up of a multi-armed ‘bot that played the drums, bass, keyboard, and saxophone simultaneously. Men, women, androgynous aliens, and robots wandered past the round table where Amy and Fry were seated. The man-turned-cyclops wore a red sequined gown, rouge lipstick, and silver platform shoes (he had refused to go so far as to wear high heels). While Amy nursed a martini, Fry’s mind reflected on the odd situation in which it found itself.

I don’t feel half as weird as I should. It’s like being a girl makes it seem normal to wear a dress and makeup. What’ll I do if a guy asks me to dance? Looking at a guy and feeling love seems so sick and wrong to me. Maybe I should take Amy’s advice, and just do what comes naturally.

“I’d kill for a beer right now,” he mumbled.

Amy shot him an understanding look.

“Doesn’t it bother you at all,” said Fry, “that dozens of men are sizing up your boobs as we speak?”

“No,” said Amy with a giggle. “Does it bother you?

“They’re not sizing up my boobs,” said Fry. “They’re looking at my eye and turning away.” The real Leela would be totally depressed about that, thought Fry’s mind. I couldn’t relate before, but now I can.

“Pardon me, lovely lady,” he heard a suave male voice say. “May I have this dance?”

He means me, thought Fry. I’ve got to say something, or at least stand up. Just do what comes naturally, and you’ll be fine. Just do what comes naturally…

He carefully rose to his feet. When he laid eye on the face of the man who had invited him to dance, he recoiled in shock.


Chapter 8

Fry could feel his knees buckling. Zapp Brannigan towered over him, clean-shaven, wearing a brown formal suit and polka-dot tie, smiling as if nothing in the world was amiss.

“Hello, Leela,” he said politely. “Are you as surprised to see me as I am to be here?”

Amy almost knocked over her martini as she leaped to her feet. “Z-Zapp?” she stammered. “How did you…where did you…”

Inside Leela’s head, Fry’s mind was in a whirl. He’ll kill somebody! What do I do? I may have Leela’s body, but I don’t have her martial arts skills, and I can’t kick in this stupid dress anyway. I may as well do what comes naturally…

He screamed at the top of Leela’s lungs. Amy joined him, screaming long and loud.

The one-robot band stopped playing. The patrons on the dance floor turned their heads as one. Zapp only shrugged. “Girls, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “I’ve been cured of my violent urges.”

“He’s an escapee from a mental institution!” yelled Fry.

“Call the police!” shouted Amy. “He’s dangerous!”

One by one, the men, women, aliens, and robots on the floor stepped toward Zapp with outstretched arms and tentacles, preparing to pounce. “I don’t want to hurt anyone!” cried the space captain, but to no avail. Seeing that the mob had hemmed him in on every side except for the side facing Amy and Fry, he sprang upward and vaulted over their table. Landing gracefully on his feet, he charged in the direction of the club exit, only to be confronted by two officers of the law.

“Well, if it isn’t good ol’ Cap Zapp,” said Officer Smitty respectfully. “If you’re here, then the situation must be well in hand.”

“I had no idea you were into the club scene,” said the robotic Officer URL. “And look at that suit. I do declare, it’s mohair. Stylin’.”

“Arrest him, officers!” Fry called out. “He broke out of the mental health institute!”

“He’s unpredictably violent!” Amy added.

The club patrons stood back and watched the scene unfold. “No crime has been committed here, gentlemen,” Zapp assured the policemen. Turning to Fry, he continued, “It was a simple misunderstanding, one that will be cleared up over dinner tomorrow.”

Geez, Zapp Brannigan’s coming on to me, thought Fry. I have to admit, he’s awfully good-looking…oh, God, did I just think what I think I thought?

Officer Smitty raised his arm and began to type into his wrist console. “You, one-eyed chick,” he said. “What’s your version of what happened?”

Oh, that’s me, thought Fry. “Captain Brannigan’s been mentally unstable ever since Lee…ever since I rescued him from the space pirates,” he related. “It’s true that he didn’t hurt anyone here, but he could go off at any second, with potentially deadly results and junk.”

“And you, chick with the blocky hair,” said Smitty.

Amy’s response was simply, “What she said.”

“All right, then,” said the policeman. “Since the captain apparently didn’t break any laws, we’ll go back to sitting in our squad car and watching for drunk drivers.”

“Drink all you want, and drive all you want, but don’t drink and drive,” said Officer URL. “Oh, yeah.”

Smitty turned to leave, then looked over his shoulder at Fry. “Out of all the women in the galaxy, he invited you to dinner,” he said. “Think about that.”

The dancing began anew once the officers had left. To get away from the musical din, Zapp led the two girls into an alcove decorated with potted palms. “I can explain, but you won’t believe me,” he told them. “I hardly believe it myself.”

“Go ahead, explain,” said Fry. “How’d you get out of the institute?”

“And how did you recover from what the pirates did to you?” asked Amy.

“Good questions, both,” said Zapp. “It all started when an old man visited my cell. He told me of a revolutionary therapy that would take away the violent urges that Captain Balalaika implanted in my mind. I wasn’t thinking straight at the time, and I was ready to try anything, so I followed him. I can’t remember much of what happened after that, except for brief periods of being strapped in a chair with my eyes pried open and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony playing in the background.”

“Sounds like torture,” Fry remarked. “I’ve heard that piece is, like, fifteen minutes long.”

“Before I knew it,” Zapp went on, “I was standing on the sidewalk, wearing this suit, and with no desire to commit acts of violence. I was too grateful to question what had happened; I wanted to celebrate, so I came to the Robocabana for drinks and dancing.”

“Spleesh,” said Amy. “You can’t remember where you were, or anything?”

“No,” replied Zapp, shaking his head. “I must have been under a powerful sedative. Maybe it’ll come back to me eventually.”

“We’d better get you to Planet Express,” said Fry. “Dr. Zoidberg’s dying to know where you’ve been.”

The sun was disappearing over the New New York horizon as Amy, Fry, and Zapp strolled through the club’s parking lot. “That police officer made a good point,” Zapp said to Fry. “I’ve been all over the universe, and I’ve seen all sorts of women fall for me, but not one of them has the balance of sexiness and voluptuosity that you possess, Leela. I saw how the men at the club looked at you. All they could see was your eye; they couldn’t see anything below it. But I’m not like those men. I’ve seen what’s below your eye, and I love it.”

He talks so sweetly, thought Fry.

The return trip to the PE building via transit tube was unpleasant for him, as the flowing air filled his dress like a parachute and circulated around Leela’s privates. It feels like I’m wearing nothing below the waist, she thought. I can’t wait to change into a nice, airtight pair of jeans.

By the time they reached their destination, only Zoidberg and Delta remained in the PE offices. The crustacean and the fembot were engaged in an earnest discussion of their future.

“If we pool our salaries, we’ll be able to afford an apartment,” said Zoidberg. “We’ll have an actual home to call our own.”

“But I don’t earn a salary, John,” said Delta. “And I think it would be too much of an imposition to ask for one, after all the generosity I’ve received from…”

“Merciful heavens!” exclaimed Zoidberg when he saw Zapp, Amy, and Fry walk in. “Where have you been, captain? And is that garlic I smell?”

“I don’t smell any garlic,” said Zapp.

“We ran into him at the Robocabana,” Amy reported. “He says he’s cured. He has an interesting story to tell.”

“I’d love to hear your story, captain,” said Zoidberg. “But first, I have a question—has any of you seen Fry?”

Several hours earlier, Leela awoke to find herself in a hospital bed.

Chapter 9

My vision’s so blurry, I can’t see a thing, thought Leela. I can’t even tell if I have one eye or two.

Her back sensed a mattress underneath it. Her nose detected a sterile hospital smell. Her two eyes made out the vague images of one humanoid looking over her and two probable robots at either side. Inside her head, there was nothing but pain.

“Uuurrghh…” she moaned, trying to sit up.

“You’ve suffered a contusion,” one of the nurses spoke in a female voice. “You’re at the St. Peter, Paul, and Mary Hospital, sixth floor.”

“It’s best if you remain in bed,” said the other robot, this one a male.

Leela rested her head on the pillow underneath it. She blinked a few times, and her vision became clearer. Before her stood a white-clad fembot on the left, a similarly uniformed manbot on the right, and a curly-headed young woman wearing a sports bra in the middle.

“Who are you?” she asked the strange woman.

“Don’t you remember?” was her response. “I’m Mildred, your fiancée.” The girl had an upturned nose and freckles the same shade of red as her hair.

Leela shook her head to ward off the creeping delirium. “No, no,” she mumbled. “Fry doesn’t have a fiancée.”

Mildred lowered her eyes in disappointment. “Damn,” she lamented to herself. “I was hoping he’d have amnesia.”

Leela turned her pain-wracked head to the right. “You’re a manbot,” she remarked. “I didn’t know there were manbot nurses.”

“Neither did I,” said the ‘bot. “But there was a shortage of nurses, and I wanted to work where I was needed.”

“So what stops them from simply manufacturing more fembots?” said Leela rhetorically.

The manbot considered his statement for a moment. Then, with an angry whine, he snatched the white cap from his head and hurled it to the floor. “Screw this,” he said, marching out of the hospital room.

Mildred looked sheepishly at Fry’s prostrate body. “Well, now that I know you’ll be all right,” she said, “I guess I’ll be going.”

“Wait,” said Leela as the girl turned to leave. “I remember you from the fitness center.”

“Yes,” said Mildred with a nod. “You fell off the treadmill and hit your head. I was worried about you, so I followed the ambulance here.”

“That was very thoughtful of you,” said Leela, “considering that we don’t know each other.”

“Well, I was going to introduce myself to you,” said Mildred, “since I think you’re kinda cute.”

She thinks Fry’s cute, thought Leela. Now I know she’s crazy.

“I’ll leave the two of you alone,” said the fembot nurse, walking away.

“My name’s Mildred Sikes,” the girl went on. “I work at CMB Research.”

“Really,” said Leela, intrigued. “Are you a scientist?”

“I wish,” said Mildred, giggling slightly. “No, I work in the clearance processing department. Now that I’ve told you that, I’ll have to kill you.”

A cold shudder passed through Leela’s heart.

“That’s a joke,” said Mildred when she saw the anxiety on the young redhead’s face.

“It’s not funny,” said Leela sternly. “Look, I don’t know you, but I think I can guess what kind of person you are. If you really want to get a date, my advice to you is to jump off a building and hope one of the men below catches you.”

Mildred started to chew the nails of her left hand. Her eyes became moist, and a tear rolled down her cheek.

Great, thought Leela. Whenever I see a girl cry, I start to cry too. Except it’s not happening this time. I wonder why.

“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” said Mildred, her voice breaking. “The men won’t touch me with a ten-foot pole. I can’t help what I am.”

“What are you?” Leela asked her.

The curly-haired girl drew a handkerchief from the pocket of her shorts, and wiped her face with it. “My father was a Chalnoth,” she admitted with sorrow.

Chalnoth. The word conjured images from history books and war movies in Leela’s mind. She had never met one, and didn’t need to. Nearly every human and robot who had encountered one, had done so in mortal combat. They had no poets, no artists, no diplomats, only warriors and warship builders. They took no prisoners and made no slaves. When they had no enemies to vanquish, they fought among themselves. Both males and females served in the Chalnoth warrior caste, fighting with equal fury, killing with equal ruthlessness. Chalnoth women had been known to give birth to multiple babies, abandon them to survive on their own, and return to the battle within hours. They carried laser rifles, but preferred to use blade weapons at close range. Zapp, who had reportedly killed hundreds, habitually erased from his logs the records of his engagements with them. Popular opinion regarded them as foul beyond foul, irredeemable, a plague to be eradicated.

“Gosh,” said Leela emotionally. “I can’t begin to comprehend what it must be like for you.” And I thought having one eye was tough.

“The Chalnoth had never been known to violate human women before,” Mildred related. “My father was the first to attempt it. He was so disgusted with the experience that he ran away and left my mother alive.”

“That’s terrible,” said Leela. “You never knew him?”

“Why would I want to?” said Mildred, gripping her handkerchief tightly.

Leela struggled into a sitting position, against the nurse’s advice. “I have a friend,” she told the distraught girl. “Her parents are sewer mutants, but she lives above ground. She has only one eye, like a cyclops.”

“That’s not so bad,” said Mildred. “She can still see fine, right?”

“Yes,” replied Leela. “But she’s had a hard time of it as well. I should introduce you to her.”

Chapter 10

“I’d love to hear your story, captain,” said Zoidberg. “But first, I have a question—has any of you seen Fry?”

“Here I am!” shouted Leela, who had suddenly walked into the meeting room with Mildred at his side.

“Hooray!” said Zoidberg. “I spoke, and he appeared! Now, has anyone seen Jimmy Hoffa?”

“Hey, check out Shirley Temple,” said Amy, gawking at Mildred.

“What’s Zapp doing here?” asked Leela.

As the group of friends shot questions back and forth, Zapp stared in astonishment at Mildred’s face. Not content with merely looking, he rudely grasped her chin and yanked her head back and forth, carefully scrutinizing both sides. His eyes displayed both outrage and pity.

“What is it, Captain Brannigan?” said Zoidberg.

Zapp released his grip on Mildred’s head. “This woman is an abomination,” he declared.

“Brannigan?” said Mildred in wonder. “You’re Captain Zapp Brannigan?”

“Not to you,” said Zapp harshly. “Get out of my sight.”

Zoidberg, curious, stood and fastened his claw around Mildred’s face; the red-haired girl endured the treatment stoically. “Odds bodkins!” exclaimed the lobster. “You’re right, captain. The round face, the low cheekbones, the thin lips, the freckles…she’s obviously part Gungan.”

While Zoidberg, Amy, and Delta pressed Mildred for details about herself, Leela and Fry stood to one side and talked privately. “So, who gets to ask a question first?” said Fry.

“You,” replied Leela, “since you’re a lady.”

“Okay,” said Fry. “What’re you doing with a strange girl who has the same name as my grandmother?”

“She was my ride home,” Leela told him. “I accidentally fell off a treadmill, and she followed me to the hospital.”

“Fell off a treadmill?” said Fry, stunned. “In my body?”

“I must’ve inherited your clumsiness,” said Leela with a shrug. As she shrugged, Fry’s elbow knocked over and broke a vase filled with daffodils. “So, how do you like wearing a dress?”

“It could become a habit,” said Fry.

“You look pretty sexy in it,” Leela remarked. “I’ll bet the men found you irresistible.”

“Not really,” said Fry. “Amy and I came right back here after we found Zapp. We didn’t even get to dance.”

“What was Zapp doing at the club, anyway?” Leela wanted to know.

Brannigan strode forward and answered the question himself. “As I explained to the lovely lady, I was cured of my violent temperament by means of a revolutionary therapy.”

“What therapy?” Leela asked him. “And who administered it?”

“I don’t know his name,” said Zapp, “but I can…”

You never saw my face, uttered a voice in his head.

Leela and Fry were surprised at Zapp’s sudden expression of astonishment.

Who are you? thought the spaceman.

Tell them you never saw my face, the voice spoke.

Zapp lowered his eyes. “I, er, never saw his face,” he said quietly.

All right, I told them, he thought. Now what’s this all about?

I’ll tell you later, said the mysterious voice. Maybe after your dinner date with the cyclops.

“Oh, that’s right,” Zapp said aloud. “Leela, I believe I invited you to dinner tomorrow.”

Both Leela and Fry gaped at the captain. Then they gaped at each other.

Then Leela folded Fry’s arms. “Leave Leela the hell alone,” she told Zapp.

Inside Leela’s head, Fry’s mind bubbled with unfamiliar feelings. I don’t know if Leela’s objection is real or fake, it thought. All I know is what her body is telling me—yes, yes, yes!

“Yes, Zapp,” Fry blurted out. “We’ve had our differences, but I’m willing to give us another shot. I will go to dinner with you tomorrow.”

Leela’s mouth fell so far open that Fry’s tonsils were visible from space.

“Call me,” said Fry, tapping on his wrist console.

“You just made the sexiest decision of your life,” said Zapp with a lustful smile.

As the captain walked away whistling, Leela caught Fry by his plunging neckline. “You are not going out with Zapp Brannigan!” she snapped. “I absolutely forbid it!”

“It’s all part of the plan,” said Fry flippantly.

“There are plenty of men you could pretend to screw around with,” said Leela, shaking her own body vigorously. “Zapp is not one of them. Break the date!”

“Stop it before you hurt yourself,” said Fry.

Chapter 11

Try as she might, Leela was unable to dissuade Fry from hislans to date Zapp. Shfinally decided to sleep on the matter, but when morning came around, the only conclusion she had reached was that she needed help. The tubes were jammed with commuters when she set off, so the trip to Soho occupied roughly an hour of her time.

She found Foss behind a small table, hawking wares in the midst of a small crowd of assorted bohemians. As she passed by, they assaulted her with desperate sales pitches: “Paintings for sale, half price!” “Will perform interpretive dance for food!” “Documentary footage of the rent strike, really cheap!” “My hand-crafted Zuni fetishes will bring you good luck!” “Buy my crap! I haven’t eaten for three days!”

“Philaster, I need your help,” she told the professor, paying no attention to the items piled on his table.

“What’s the problem, er, Fry?” said Foss, glancing nervously to the left and right.

“Fry is the problem,” said Leela. “He’s out of control. He’s gonna take my body on a date with Zapp Brannigan!”

Foss stared thoughtfully at the young redhead. “He could do worse,” he remarked.

“No, he couldn’t!” Leela retorted. “Can’t you see what this will do to my image? Zapp Brannigan becoming romantically involved with the mutant who rescued him from the space pirates? It’ll be all over the tabloids!”

“What do you want me to do?” asked Foss with concern.

“Get him to break the date,” Leela urged him. “Take advantage of his raging female hormones if you have to. Tell him you still love him, even though he’s not really Leela.” The surrounding bohemians turned their heads, intrigued by the exchange.

Foss shook his head. “I could never do that,” he said with finality.

Leela’s heart sank, as did her face. “I know,” she said weakly. “I shouldn’t have even asked it of you.”

“I love you, Leela,” said Foss, and more bohemians perked up their ears. “But I won’t touch you as long as your body and mind are separated. I’m willing to wait a month for a love like yours.”

Crud, thought Leela. It’s not working. Men are so dense.

Honest Flem strolled up to their position, dressed in his usual cowboy duds. “Whatcha got fer sale there, pardner?” he asked Foss.

“This is my Bendermatic line of accessories,” the scientist replied. “Alarm clocks, watches, and cell phones…with attitude.”

He handed one of the cell phones to Flem, who casually flipped it open. “You got a call, buddy,” the device uttered in Bender’s voice. “I’ll tell ‘em you’re not home.”

Good Lord, thought Leela.

“The wristwatch is even more entertaining,” said Foss, dangling a watch in front of the car dealer’s nose.

“You got a five-o’-clock appointment,” said Bender’s voice. “Or maybe it’s four-thirty. I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Flem snatched the watch from Foss’ hand. “Whatever you’re askin’, I’ll pay double,” he said. “I just love a timepiece that says what’s on its mind.”

“Let me see that,” said Leela, seizing the watch from him. “Bender?” she called out. “Are you in there?”

“Fry?” said the watch. “Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” said Leela.

“Where am I? What’s that constant ticking sound? Why can’t I feel my legs? Why do my arms move so slowly?”

Leela gripped the watch firmly as she glared at Foss. “What did you do to my friend?” she demanded to know.

The professor grinned nonchalantly. “It’s nothing but a watch programmed with a subset of Bender’s personality. When last I checked, there was no law against duplicating a robot’s psyche.”

“It’s 9 a.m. and you’re still a chump,” stated the Bender watch.

“I’ll take that watch now,” said Honest Flem impatiently.

“Oh, no, you won’t,” Leela shot back. “Bender is not for sale.”

“Be reasonable, Leela,” said Foss, passing a different watch to Flem in exchange for money. “He’s only a robot, and a poor one at that. Besides, I need some way to fund my research, now that I’m no longer getting a share of pirate booty.”

I don’t want to cause a scene, thought Leela as she dropped the watch back into the pile. I’ll find a legal way to put a stop to this, I swear it.

“This isn’t over, Philaster,” she said, and marched away in a huff.

Chapter 12

The hulking object stood in the place of the old Planet Express ship, and was covered by a huge vinyl tarp. Dwight and Hermes each grasped one of the corners, waiting for their friends to assemble in the building’s docking bay.

“I’m gonna miss the old ship,” remarked Amy. “But Hermes tells me the new one is totally schmawesome.”

“I hope it comes equipped with a holobrothel,” said Bender, who was carting the professor’s head jar in his corrugated arms.

“And I was so afraid that old clunker of a ship would outlive me,” said Farnsworth’s head.

Zoidberg, Cubert, Delta, and Fry met them in front of the new spacecraft. Amy, taking one look at Fry’s head, remarked, “Your hair’s all frizzy.”

“Uh-huh,” said Fry with a shrug. “I’ll wash it after work.”

“Don’t forget,” said Amy, “you have a date with Zapp tonight. You want to look your best.”

“I’ll use shampoo,” said Fry lackadaisically.

They stood reverently as Hermes addressed them. “Ladies and gentle-mon,” he boomed. “Welcome to the unveiling of the new Planet Express delivery ship.”

“Hooray!” cried Zoidberg, slapping his claws together.

“And now, without further ado,” said Hermes, “I would like to thank all the people who made this moment possible.”

“Show us the freakin’ ship!” yelled Fry.

“At the count of three, son,” said Hermes. “One…”

“Two…” said Dwight.


With a mighty yank, Hermes and Dwight managed to pull down about half of the tarp, leaving most of the ship still covered.

“Do over!” shouted Bender.

The two Jamaicans gave the sheet another tug, but it hardly moved. “Great sofa of Nuku’Alofa!” exclaimed Hermes. “It’s caught on the laser turret!”

“Don’t worry, Dad,” said Dwight. “I’ll climb up there and untangle it.”

The boy seized hold of the tarp and began to scramble up, but his father objected. “It’s too dangerous, mon,” he said. “Let me take care of it.”

Dwight hopped to the ground, just in time to watch Hermes press a button on a remote control pad. A bolt of energy flew from the ship’s laser cannon, ripping the sheet apart and blowing an enormous hole in the wall of Zoidberg’s medical office.

“My clinic!” wailed the lobster. “I just had it remodeled, I did!”

The tatters of the tarp fell away, revealing a sleek, jet-black flying machine, slightly larger than the old delivery ship but similar in design. “Oooh…aaah…” said the onlookers.

“And that’s not all,” said Hermes. “It can also turn into a robot.”

“Awesome!” exclaimed Dwight. “Push the button, Dad! Push it! Push it! Push it!”

“This goes against nature,” complained Bender.

“It’s gonna break,” grumbled Cubert. “I just know it.”

“Push it! Push it! Push it!”

“Shut the spluck up, Dwight!” said Amy.

“That was me,” said Fry.

“Here goes nothing,” said Hermes, pressing a large red button on his pad.

The ship quivered, then trembled. Its nacelles folded. Its fins retracted. Its nose split into four sections, each of which slid its own way. Hums and whistles emitted from its bowels as its seemingly endless parts reformed themselves into arms and legs. Within a matter of seconds, there stood a shining black robot in the place of the new ship.

A robot all of six feet tall.

Amy, Zoidberg, Fry, Bender, Farnsworth, Hermes, Dwight, and Cubert gaped in awe and disappointment.

“Well, I can still ride on its shoulders,” said Dwight sheepishly.

Leela burst into the docking bay, panting heavily. “Did I miss anything?” she asked.

Chapter 13

Cubert peered at the bulky black robot, whose glassy eyes and forehead resembled a cockpit. “This must be some kind of trick,” he opined. “All the mass of the spaceship couldn’t possibly fit into such a small volume.”

The robot’s eyes flashed as it began to speak. “I am equipped with the latest in miniaturization technology,” it stated in a husky female voice. “Allow me to demonstrate.”

As the PE crew watched, the automaton began to expand, eventually reaching eighteen feet in height. Its features remained unchanged relative to its new size. “My maximum achievable height is fifty-four feet,” it said in a thundering voice. “At that height, I would be much too large for your docking bay.”

“Well, I’ve seen all I need to see,” said Farnsworth’s head. “Bender, would you like to do the honors?”

Bender rested the professor’s head jar on a shelf, opened his chest door, and pulled out a bottle of champagne. “It seems such an awful waste,” he said, “but here goes.”

“Wait!” exclaimed Amy. “We haven’t decided on a name yet.”

“Let’s call her Gigantina,” said Dwight.

“Black Widow,” said Leela.

“Zoidberg,” said Zoidberg.

“Smurfette,” said Fry.

“100101101000101101,” said Delta.

“Don’t be stupid,” said Cubert. “Nobody uses binary anymore.”

“I think we should call her Raven,” said Amy, “because ravens are black.”

“I like it, mon,” said Hermes.

The crewmates all looked at each other and nodded in agreement. Bender stepped forward, raised the bottle of champagne high in the air, and declared, “I hereby christen thee Raven, full member of the Planet Express team, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto, yada yada yada.” After a moment’s hesitation, he forcefully swung the bottle against the giant robot’s leg, shattering it (the bottle, that is). Puddles of champagne and shards of glass covered the floor around him.

“I’ll clean that,” offered Delta.

“Let me handle this mess, baby,” said Bender, who then stooped down and began to suck the champagne from the floor with his mouth.

Leela watched the scene thoughtfully. I’m not sure if I should tell Bender. He’d probably go ballistic and bend Philaster into a pretzel. If only I could convince him that Bender has worth as an individual—but how, when I’m not fully convinced of it myself?

Once Raven had resumed the form of a spaceship, Leela went inside and started to familiarize herself with the significantly more advanced controls. She can go 45 times the speed of light—that’s three times more than the old ship. Her maximum impulse velocity is 99% lightspeed, and with these new relativistic compensators, she can reach that speed without expending all her fuel. Simplified navigation controls with enhanced response time, antigrav boosters for more efficient takeoffs…and is that Corinthian leather on the seats? I’m in heaven, or I would be, if I wasn’t a guy.

She sat down in the pilot’s chair, leaned backwards, and stuck her hands behind her head. I’ll just shut my eyes for a few minutes and breathe in that new spaceship smell. What Leela’s mind failed to take into account was that Fry’s body had its own law of physics—when in motion it tended toward rest, and when at rest it tended to fall asleep.

Leela didn’t know how many hours had passed before Fry’s cell phone woke her up (the ring tone was, naturally, Walking on Sunshine). “Hello?” she spoke into the receiver.

“Hi, Philip. This is Mildred.”

Oh, great. “Hey, Mildred. What’s up?”

“I don’t have any plans for lunch,” said the girl. “I thought maybe you and I could eat somewhere.”

Now what? thought Leela. I know a hundred excuses to get out of a date with a man, but I’ve never been asked out by a woman before.

“Look, Mildred,” she said with a bit of impatience. “I’m just a space delivery boy. You can do a lot better. Leela knows a really nice guy named Chaz. He’s an assistant to Mayor Poopenmeyer.”

“Yeah, Leela seems to know everyone,” said Mildred bitterly. “She’s got a date with Zapp freakin’ Brannigan, for goodness’ sake. But when I asked her if she could set me up with one of her friends, she just shrugged.”

Leela could think of nothing helpful to say.

“You told me Leela would understand my predicament,” Mildred went on. “But she doesn’t understand a thing. Having only one eye isn’t getting in the way of her love life at all, from the looks of it.”

But I do understand, thought Leela’s mind. If only I were back in my own body, I’d be like a sister to you.

“I’m asking you to lunch, not Leela,” said Mildred. “Just answer yes or no. Do you, or do you not, want to go to lunch with me?”

I am not gonna date a girl, thought Leela. Being around girls makes Fry’s body do funny things.

“Okay,” she said. “Where and when?”

What did I just do? Is Fry’s brain really that defective?

“Meet me at noon, at the Palm d’Orbit,” said Mildred excitedly. “I’ve already made the reservations.”

And you said you didn’t have any plans for lunch.

“See ya there, Mildred,” said Leela.

The call ended. She moaned. There’s no turning back now.

Chapter 14

Raven’s maiden voyage was, appropriately enough, a voyage to meet a maiden. “See you later, guys,” said Leela as she ascended the boarding ramp into the ship’s interior.

“Have a good time with Mildred,” said Fry, waving. “Don’t do anything I would do.”

“Forget about Mildred,” said Zoidberg. “Have a good time with the buffet.

The ceiling of the Planet Express docking bay split in two, and Raven floated effortlessly into the sky through the magic of its antigravity drive. An instant later the rockets flared up, and the sleek vessel hurtled toward the stratosphere as the people below watched and applauded.

To pass the time of what would be a very short trip, Leela struck up a conversation with Raven. “Our last ship had a female artificial intelligence,” she recalled. “It fell in love with Bender, and we almost got blown to bits as a result. You won’t make the same mistake, will you?”

“Impossible,” replied the ship’s computer voice. “I am incapable of making decisions based on emotion. My only motivations are pure logic and a sense of duty.”

“That’s good,” said Leela. “But what if somebody tries to tamper with your programming and turn you into an emotional being?”

“My internal security scanner would detect such an attempt,” replied Raven, “and automatically trigger a shutdown sequence.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Leela. “Emotional spaceship accidents kill more people than drunk drivers. Only now are shipmakers waking up to that fact, and adding anti-emotion safety features.”

Minutes passed in silence as the asteroid on which stood the Palm d’Orbit Restaurant loomed closer. “I have another question,” said Leela. “You consider yourself a female spaceship, right?”

“Gender has no part in my considerations,” said Raven.

“Oh,” said Leela, disappointed. “I was about to ask you why your robot form doesn’t have boobs, but, never mind.”

Upon arriving at the Palm d’Orbit lot, Leela turned the ship over to a robotic valet, who commended her on obtaining such a fabulous spacecraft. The restaurant was half filled, and cheesy 2980’s music played over the speaker system. Leela scanned the room for the presence of Mildred, and saw her on the far end, staring blankly into space.

“Hi, Mildred,” she said when she reached the booth where she sat.

The girl’s face lit up. “Philip! I was afraid you wouldn’t come…I mean, wouldn’t come on time.”

“I like to be punctual,” said Leela as she took off her red jacket and sat down.

“That’s unusual,” Mildred remarked. “In my experience, guys are usually late.” The red-haired girl wore a modest green dress, and her curly locks were tied in puffs behind her head.

Maybe I should tell her I’m really a girl, thought Leela. But seeing how strange she is, I’m afraid she’d only want me more.

“I’m getting the horta Marsala,” said Mildred. “What about you, Philip?”

Leela glanced disinterestedly at the menu lying before her. “I think I’ll just get an appetizer,” she said. “And maybe a Slurm.”

Mildred giggled. “You’re funny, Philip. You’re not like the other guys at all.”

You have no idea, thought Leela.

“Is it because you’re from the 20th century?” Mildred asked him.

“Who told you that?”

“Leela did.” Mildred sighed wistfully. “I can’t imagine anything cooler than being frozen for a thousand years and waking up in a totally different world.”

“Neither can I,” said Leela glibly.

“Look at yourself now,” Mildred went on. “You’re having lunch at a restaurant in outer space. Could you do that in the 20th century?”

Please don’t ask me history questions. “Uh, of course not.”

“You’re a really great guy,” said Mildred, gazing affectionately at him. “All the other guys are afraid that if they marry me, they’ll have half-alien savages for kids. I don’t know if it works that way or not; all I know is, I turned out all right.”

Leela grimaced bashfully.

“I said the M-word, didn’t I?” Mildred giggled again. “You don’t have to marry me if you don’t want to, Philip. For the moment, I just wanna hang with you. I get the feeling we have a lot in common.”

More than you think. “Sure, Mildred,” said Leela. “I’d love to begin a platonic relationship with you.”

“Oh, Philip,” Mildred gushed. “You’ve made me the happiest girl in orbit around Earth.”

At that instant it occurred to Leela’s mind that this lonely woman might prove useful to her/him. “I wonder if I could ask a favor of you, Mildred.”


Leela adopted a serious tone. “I don’t want Leela to date Zapp Brannigan,” she stated.

“Why not?” said Mildred. “A gorgeous hunk of spaceman like him?”

“I have my reasons,” said Leela.

“You want Leela for yourself, don’t you?” said Mildred playfully.

“No!” Leela insisted.

“I’m just kidding,” said his date. “Sure, I’ll help you split them up. What do I do?”

Leela lowered her voice. “Zapp’s killed more Chalnoth than anyone can count. In his eyes they’re lower than what scum call scum, and so are you. If he even sees you helping Leela with her hair, I think that’d be enough to discourage him.”

“Oh,” said Mildred with relief. “For a minute I thought you were gonna ask me to do something hard.”

Chapter 15

“I guess that’s one thing I prefer about being a guy,” said Fry, his head in the firm grip of a hair dryer. “Not having to do anything special with my hair.”

“It’s not something you have to do,” said Amy, whose nails were being painted by an alien woman with prehensile tresses. “It’s something you enjoy doing. For a girl, clothes and hair and makeup are as much fun as, er, ah, guy things are for guys.”

Once she had finished her work on Amy’s nails, the alien woman used her locks like tentacles to lift the hair dryer from Fry’s head. “Ah, you look mahvelous,” she gushed.

“It’s schmantastic!” exclaimed Amy, jumping to her feet. “Take a look at yourself in the mirror, girl!”

Fry’s nerves ate away at his stomach as he stepped in front of the tall mirror. There stood the shapely cyclops he had become accustomed to seeing, with one significant difference—her purple hair had assumed the shape of a curly tower.

“I look like Marge Simpson with one eye,” he remarked.

“You look great,” Amy assured her.

Fry turned around. “I wonder if I’m doing the right thing,” he said seriously.

“That’s your mind talking,” said Amy. “What does your heart say?”

“Thump, thump, thump, thump.”

Amy rested a hand on her friend’s bare shoulder. “Pre-date jitters,” she said comfortingly. “We all get ‘em.”

Fry’s wrist console buzzed, alerting him of a call. “Turanga Leela speaking,” he said, and for an instant almost believed it.

Zapp’s face appeared on the tiny video screen. “Leela, you look even sexier than the last time I saw you,” said the captain.

“Why, thank you, Zapp.” A shiver went up and down Fry’s spine; he was certain his hair would stand on end, were it not already doing so.

“I’m calling because I’d like to meet you a half-hour earlier than we planned,” said Zapp.

“A half-hour earlier?” said Fry. “Why?”

“Let’s just say I had a feeling,” said Zapp mysteriously.

“Okay,” said Fry. “Seven it is. See you then.”

“Goodbye, sexy lady,” said Zapp, and his image vanished.

When Amy looked again, she beheld that Fry’s worried scowl had given way to an ecstatic smile. “He called you a sexy lady,” said the Asian girl. “Didn’t that feel good?”

“Yeah, it did,” Fry admitted. “It really did. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about women and how they think and feel—and all it took was becoming one.”

“There’s still a lot to learn,” said Amy, “and you’ve only got twenty-eight more days. C’mon, let’s buy you some new shoes.”

Seven o’clock came and passed. At a quarter after seven, Leela and Mildred strolled down the sidewalk toward Leela’s apartment building.

“It just doesn’t seem right to me to duplicate someone’s personality and put it inside an alarm clock,” said Leela, “even if that someone is a robot. I’m afraid there may be no legal precedent for a case like this. That’s why I asked you if you know any good lawyers.”

“CMB Research has plenty of copyright lawyers on retainer,” Mildred told her, “though that’s probably not the type of lawyer you need.”

“I can’t understand why Philaster, of all people, would do a thing like this,” Leela went on. “Back in his MU days, he was an avid supporter of equal rights for robots.”

“Your friend Philaster sounds like a real brainiac,” said Mildred. “I mean the good kind of brainiac, not the ‘I’m gonna plug a computer into my head and think of a way to take over the world’ type of brainiac, like my neighbor, Dr. Intellectuo. Unlike most girls, I’m actually turned on by…”

She abruptly fell silent. The door to Apartment 1-I was closed, and a yellow sticky note with crude handwriting was attached. Leela picked up the note and began to read: “Dear Fry and Mildred. I’m sorry I’m not…”

“…here to welcome you,” she thought she heard her own voice saying. “Zapp decided to leave at 7:00 instead of 7:30, so by the time you read this, we’ll be long gone. Hugs and kisses, Leela.”

“An audio sticky note,” Mildred observed. “Another wonderful invention you didn’t have in the 20th century.”

Leela crumpled the note in her palm and sighed bitterly. “I hope ‘long gone’ was intended as a figure of speech,” he said.

“So much for our plan to break their date,” said Mildred. “Now what do we do?”

“I don’t know,” said Leela, shrugging. “A movie, maybe?”

Fry and Zapp were not long gone; rather, they were twelve blocks away at Elzar’s Restaurant. The spaceman divided his time between glancing at the menu and gazing at the picture of beauty at the opposite end of the table—a one-eyed woman with tall purple hair, turquoise earrings, and a low-cut white dress.

I should tell him how handsome he is, thought Fry. I know it’s weird, but it’s what a girl would do in my situation.

“You’re very handsome,” he said wistfully.

“What’s this?” said Zapp with surprise. “A compliment? Whoever you are, give Leela her body back.” He chuckled.

I can’t, thought Fry’s mind. This is like a freaky, wonderful dream I can’t wake up from. Geez, I’m not just occupying Leela’s body—I really am her! It’s no different from having been her all my life.

“To be honest,” said Zapp, “when I invited you to dinner, I fully expected you to break my nose again. I had no idea what to do or say after you accepted.”

Fry only smiled vapidly.

Zapp swallowed. He looked down at the menu, then at the landscape painting on the wall, then at Fry again. “I have something to confess,” he said slowly. “Ever since you and I first met, I’ve acted very off-putting towards you, almost to the point of obnoxiousness sometimes. But I had a reason for behaving that way. The whole purpose of my swaggering, womanizing, macho-man routine was…well, it was to hide my true feelings for you.”

“Yes, I know,” said Fry. “You think I’m sexy.”

“No!” said Zapp earnestly. “I mean, yes, I do find you attractive, but my feelings go deeper than that, far deeper.”

He’s trying to talk me into bed, Fry’s mind thought as Leela’s face gazed and smiled. And it’s working.

“Over the course of my, er, stellar career, I’ve had dozens of women on dozens of planets,” Zapp related. “But I’d trade them all for you without a second thought. They’re nothing more than hunks of meat to me, but you…you mean something special to me.”

I don’t know if I’m ready for such an intense female experience, thought Fry. I don’t know what it’ll do to me. I may just forget who I really am…forget how to be a guy.

“You’re strong, intelligent, fearless,” Zapp continued. “I admire such attributes in a man, but I treasure them in a woman.”

I should get the hell out of here, Fry’s mind said to itself, but I’m too enraptured to even move.

Sweat formed on Zapp’s brow as he inserted his hand into his pocket and fumbled for an item. “There is a point to what I’m saying, Leela,” he said, “and I’ll get to it, in just a second.”

His face is positively glowing, thought Fry.

Finally the nervous spaceman drew out a small black case. As he pulled the lid open, Fry’s eye caught a glimpse of candlelight reflecting off a diamond surface.

“As Elzar is so fond of saying,” said Zapp, setting the little box down in front of Leela’s face, “…bam!

The sight of the ring left him too startled to speak or think.

“Turanga Leela,” said Captain Brannigan, lowering himself onto one knee, “will you marry me?”

Chapter 16

Alarms went off all throughout Leela’s body, and consternation filled Fry’s mind. Zapp Brannigan wants to marry me? What the hell…?

“I love you, Leela,” said Zapp, taking him gently by the hand. “I want you, and no one else. Please say you’ll marry me.”

I can’t marry him, thought Fry with regret. I’m sure we’d have a wonderful life together, but I have to give this body back at the end of the month.

“I can’t,” he blurted out.

“You…can’t?” said Zapp, visibly disappointed. “What’s stopping you?”

Good question. “I’m…I’m really…I’m really busy right now. Could you propose to me again in a month?” Whew.

Scowling, Zapp climbed back into his seat, closed the box containing the diamond ring, and peered at Leela. “You’re still in love with that pirate Foss,” he said suspiciously. “Fascinating fellow, yes, but no moral values at all—I know, because I’ve been inside his mind.”

“This is not about Foss…I mean, Philaster,” said Fry.

“In that case,” said Zapp, “it won’t make any difference to you that Foss has stolen the essence of your robot comrade, Bender, and converted it into a wristwatch.”

“What are you talking about?”

Zapp stowed the ring case in his pocket, and pulled an object from the opposite pocket—a watch with a robotic face engraved on it. As Fry gaped incredulously at the timepiece, the voice of Bender himself sounded: “What’re you staring at, chump? Oh, Leela, it’s you. Sorry…”

All at once, Fry became blind with anger. “That monster!” he exclaimed. “How can he do such a thing to my buddy?”

“That’s more like it,” said Zapp with satisfaction. “Now, can we get back to the question of our getting married?”

Fry closed his eyelid tightly and struggled to calm down. “Take me home, Zapp,” he requested.

I don’t get it, thought Captain Brannigan glumly. I followed your suggestion and changed the date to 7 p.m., but look what happened!

Trust me, Zapp, said the mysterious voice in his head. If you had tried to meet Leela at 7:30, things would have turned out much worse. At least her answer wasn’t an outright ‘no’.

I’m not taking any more advice until you tell me who you are and how you’re communicating with me, thought Zapp.

I’d rethink that if I were you, said the voice.

He retired early that night, and slept fitfully—partly because of what he had felt and experienced, and partly because Leela’s mattress was too soft. I can’t believe I let myself go like that, he thought. I was almost to the point of really thinking I was a girl. And I’ve got to put up with these crazy emotions for four more weeks… His wrist console, which he had left lying on a nightstand, buzzed insistently. It’s probably Zapp, he thought, and rolled over in the bed.

Leela and Mildred, in the meantime, were exiting the local googolplex after sitting through a viewing of Scary Movie 999 (tagline: “Turn it upside down and you get 666.”). “I swear, those Scary Movie sequels get better with every passing year,” Leela remarked.

“How many have you seen?” Mildred asked him. “The series didn’t start until after you were frozen.”

Oops, thought Leela’s mind. Gotta keep up the ‘naïve 20th-century guy’ act.

“Hey, is that a wild parrot?” said Leela in an attempt to change the subject.

Mildred looked into the alley at which Fry was pointing. “I love wild parrots,” she said. “Where is it? I don’t see it.”

While her head was turned, Leela took an impulsive peek down her V-cut blouse. There I go again, she thought. They’re just boobs. Why am I so fascinated by them?

As the pair walked along the lighted street toward the transit tube, Leela picked up his cell phone. “I’d better see how Leela’s doing,” he said, and dialed her number.

The wrist console buzzed again. Give it up, Zapp, thought Fry drowsily.

Leela closed her phone. “She’s not back yet,” she said with chagrin. “And it’s already 10 p.m. I hope they’re not doing what I know they’re doing.” Poor Fry, stuck with my body and my biological urges. How could he refuse a smooth talker like Zapp?

At the Robot Arms building, they found Bender hard at work, trying to lift a ball of dark matter from the carpet. “Cleanup in aisle infinity,” the robot grumbled.

“Nibbler!” said Leela, scolding the little fanged creature. “You’re a guest in this house, so I expect you to show some manners.”

“Oh, how cute!” gushed Mildred as she knelt down to tickle Nibbler’s chin. The Nibblonian uttered a high-pitched squeal of delight.

“Little help,” said Bender, and Fry stooped over to assist him with the waste removal.

Mildred stood up and watched the roommates struggle. “It doesn’t look that heavy,” she remarked.

“It has…the weight…of a thousand suns,” Leela grunted.

“You can’t mean that literally,” said Mildred. “An object with the weight of a thousand suns would suck up the entire planet with its gravity.”

“Spare me the science lesson, Little Orphan Annie,” said Bender.

After they had solved the problem by slowly rolling the dark matter up a ramp and into the litter box, Leela bid farewell to Mildred. “I had a good time, even though it wasn’t really a date,” she said.

“I had a good time too,” said Mildred, and her blouse drooped as she leaned over to kiss Fry’s cheek. Not the boobs again, thought Leela. Look away…look away…

After a few more unsuccessful attempts to contact Fry, Leela went to bed and slept fitfully—partly because of her concern over what her counterpart might be doing with Zapp, partly because Fry’s mattress was hard and lumpy. As sleep began to overcome her, she thought she felt Nibbler’s meat-scented breath against her face. “Good widdle Nibbler,” she muttered.

I hope the presence of Leela’s consciousness in the Chosen One’s body doesn’t complicate matters, thought Lord Nibbler as he extended his third eye in the direction of Fry’s nose. There was a brief flash, and the young man’s eyes flew open.

“Brainspawn!” Leela blurted out involuntarily.

Her mind was in a whirl as she looked around the room. Nibbler was nowhere to be seen.

“Huh?” she mumbled, and fell into a deep slumber.

Chapter 17

She awoke the next morning in a state of considerable confusion, even beyond what she naturally felt from being male. Strange scenes had unfolded to her mind during the night, and she wasn’t sure if they were dreams or memories. Nibbler can talk? Brains from outer space? Nibbler can talk…?

She yawned, climbed out of the uncomfortable bed, and started to put on a pair of khakis. She had one leg in and the other halfway through, when a booming male voice startled her: “Good morning, Leela.”

Nibbler was standing before her, a sober expression on his black-and-white face. Leela looked everywhere, but saw no one else who could have spoken.

The voice came again, and Nibbler’s lips moved to it. “I’m sorry about the mess on the carpet last night. I can’t appear too intelligent to your friends, can I?”

Leela nearly stumbled over the slacks. “You…you can talk,” she stammered. “And you know I’m really Leela. It wasn’t a dream.”

“Affirmative,” said Nibbler.

“So everything else in the dream is real too,” mused Leela as her pants fell down around her ankles. “The space brains…the destruction of Tweenis 12…the attack on Earth…the feast of a thousand hams.”

“That is correct,” said Nibbler, his stentorian tone reminding Leela of any number of newscasters. “The dumbening powers of the Brainspawn caused you to forget these events, but I have made them resurface through my powers of telepathy.”

“It’s all coming back now,” said Leela thoughtfully. “You sent me to deliver a message to Fry, but as soon as I landed on Earth, my brain stopped working and I turned into an idiot like everyone else. Everyone else except for Fry, because…because his brain’s built differently.”

“Fry’s brain lacks the delta wave,” said Nibbler, “a signal emitted from all intelligent life forms, sufficiently advanced computers, and some trees. This uniqueness of his brain enables him, and him alone, to withstand the influence of the Brainspawn.”

“That’s all well and good,” said Leela, “but why are you telling me all this, instead of Fry?”

The Nibblonian gave him a condescending stare.

Struck with a terrible realization, Leela sat down on the edge of the bed and put her head in her hands. “Crap,” she muttered. “Crappity crap crap crap.”

“I regret to inform you that now you are the Chosen One,” said Nibbler. “But I see you’ve figured it out on your own.”

“All right,” said Leela with resignation. “So I’m the Chosen One. But that doesn’t mean anything now, does it? The space brains are gone. Your people ate them all.”

Au contraire,” said Nibbler. “The Brainspawn have returned, more powerful than ever.”

Thousands of light-years from Earth, Captain Kif Kroker of the DOOP starship Nimbus sat rigidly in his chair, his fingers tented, his eyes rolled back into his head. His senior staff members stood at attention on the bridge, wondering how long it would take their captain to reach a conclusion.

“Computer,” Kif finally said, “replay the Cirrus’ final transmission one more time.”

The bridge speakers came to life, echoing the words of Captain Amelie Beauchamp: “We have responded to the distress call from planet Azaria Prime, only to find a civilization in chaos and ruin. No one responds to our hails. There’s no evidence of an alien attack. Wait…our sensors have detected a massive object in orbit around the planet. Sphere-shaped, diameter approximately six hundred kilometers, about the size of a small moon—but Azaria Prime has no moon. The Cirrus is moving in closer to investigate. We’re being scanned! The object is breaking orbit…good God, it’s a ship! It’s moving toward us with incredible speed…bombarding us with some sort of radiation beam…the crew’s biological signs are stable, but I feel real funny, and I dunno why. Hey, look at that big ball! I don’t wanna play with big ball, I wanna play with dollies! Why nobody play dollies with me? Here shiny red button. Me push shiny red button and find out what shiny red button do. Maybe ship go boom boom…”

The recording suddenly ended. Kif lowered his hands. “Whatever we’re dealing with,” he said ominously, “it’s powerful enough to make a seasoned veteran like Captain Beauchamp disregard the DOOP’s Prime Directive—never push the shiny red button.”

“What do you suggest we do, sir?” asked his first mate, a man with arched eyebrows and pointed ears.

“Open a channel to Earth, Mr. Spork,” Kif ordered. “Get the Planet Express company on the line.”

Leela arrived at the PE building with an unshaven face and disheveled hair. To her surprise, Fry had reported for work before her; to her added surprise, his face and hair were in a similar state of disarray. It appeared to her that he hadn’t bothered to wash off the makeup he had applied the previous night.

“Fry!” exclaimed Leela as she marched into the cyclops’ office.

“Leela!” exclaimed Fry as he stood up from his chair.

“We’ve got to switch back, now!” they yelled at each other in unison.

They blinked a few times. Fry’s stomach gurgled.

“You first,” said Leela.

“Zapp proposed to me,” said Fry.

Leela’s jaw dropped. Her eyes bulged. She fell forward in a dead faint.

Dr. Zoidberg was using his claws to hammer plywood slats over the hole in his clinic’s wall, when he heard a voice call out his name. “I’m coming, I am!” he exclaimed, quickly putting his stethoscope around his neck.

He rushed into Leela’s office and saw a red-headed man prostrate on a sheet. “What happened to him?” he inquired of the cyclops.

“He fainted,” answered Fry.

“Lack of oxygen to the brain,” said Zoidberg frantically. “Hook him up to a ventilator, stat!

“Or, you could wait until he regains consciousness,” Fry suggested.

“Who’s the doctor here, you or me?” said Zoidberg.

As the lobster tried to resuscitate Leela, Professor Farnsworth’s head appeared in the doorway, his jar wedged under Bender’s arm. “Good news, everyone!” he proclaimed. “Kif Kroker has asked us to make a delivery to the Nimbus.”

“Delivery?” said Fry. “Deliver what?”

“Captain Zapp Brannigan,” Farnsworth replied. “His expertise is needed in an alien first-contact situation.”

“And why is that good news?” Fry asked him.

“Because,” said the professor, “you’re all going.”

Chapter 18

Zapp Brannigan appeared to be the happiest man in the universe. “It’s good to be back in my red velour uniform,” he said, patting his washboard abs. Welcoming him to the PE docking bay were Farnsworth’s head, Fry, Amy, Zoidberg, Bender, Hermes, Cubert, and Leela, who was grotesquely sprawled over a chair, Fry’s tongue lolling out of her mouth.

“It remains to be seen whether Kif will let you resume command of the Nimbus,” said the professor. “After all, the jury’s still out on whether you’re mentally capable.”

“You’ll see I’m equally useful in an advisory capacity,” Zapp assured him. “Now, who’s the lucky crew that will escort me to the great beyond?”

“Me! Me!” cried Amy, waving her arms.

“Zoidberg, maybe?” said Zoidberg.

“You’ll need some muscle in case things get hairy,” said Bender. “Count me in.”

“Excellent,” said Zapp. “We’ll need a pilot. I choose the lovely, capable Turanga Leela.”

Fry grimaced with displeasure. “Uh, we’ll need a delivery boy as well,” he stated. “I choose the handsome, temporarily unconscious Philip J. Fry.”

“Wake up, mon,” said Hermes, nudging Leela’s limp head with his knee. “You’ve been selected.”

“Huh?” mumbled Leela as she emerged from her stupor. The moment she laid eyes on Zapp, she screamed in terror.

“It’s okay, Fry,” said Fry. “You’re just having a bad dream.”

“Yeah,” said Leela, glaring indignantly at Zapp. “A bad dream that won’t go away.”

“Very well,” said Farnsworth. “Now, the Azaria solar system is 8,000 light-years away, so the journey will take four days. You’ll need to stock up on food, reading materials, and in Bender’s case, alcohol.”

“Hey, I like to read too,” said Bender, showing off his stack of Playbot magazines.

“Wait just a minute,” Cubert chimed in. “Did I hear you say 8,000 light-years? Why, at Raven’s top speed of 45 times light, it’ll take you 178 years to cover that distance. By the time you get there, you’ll all be as old as the professor.”

“Kill the boy,” said Zoidberg, snapping his claws. “He knows too much.”

Leela stood up quickly. “Before we leave,” she told the others, “there’s something I have to do.”

Before Bender had a chance to say, “The ship’s got a toilet, Fry,” the young redhead had absconded with Farnsworth’s head, and the cyclops had followed him.

They set down the professor’s jar on a table in the laboratory. “We can’t go on this trip the way we are,” Leela insisted. “We’ve got to reverse the body switch, and we’ve got to do it now.

“That’s insane!” Farnsworth protested. “Switching back so soon may cause irreparable damage to your brains.”

“Professor, Zapp wants to marry me!” said Leela earnestly. “Even worse, he thinks Fry is me, and he wants to marry Fry!” I can’t let them know that I’m really trying to weasel out of being the Chosen One, thought Leela’s mind. I don’t want become a coward in their eyes.

“And that’s not all,” said Fry. “Zapp thinks I’m a pilot, but I don’t know the first thing about flying a spaceship, or even the second thing.”

“These are all valid concerns,” said Farnsworth. “But when weighed against the risk of permanent brain damage, they come up wanting. My answer is still no.”

Fry and Leela faced each other with determination. “It looks like we’ll have to go over the professor’s head on this one,” said Fry.

“Agreed,” said Leela.

Grabbing the Frinkomatic from a nearby shelf, they put their hands around the grips and held the device above Farnsworth’s head jar. “Activating…now,” said Leela, flipping the power switch.

Five second passed. Nothing changed.

“I’m still you,” said Leela to Fry. “What’s wrong?”

“Wonder twin powers, activate!” exclaimed Fry.

Again, nothing happened. “That didn’t do it either,” said Leela.

“Sweet zombie Jesus!” said Farnsworth as he looked upward. “Someone’s tampered with the Frinkomatic!”

“How do you know?” Fry asked him.

“The door to the compartment housing the main induction coil is open,” replied the professor, “and the main induction coil isn’t there.”

“What exactly does that mean?” said Leela.

“It means,” answered Farnsworth, “that you may as well try to switch bodies using a food processor.”

Fry and Leela rested the device on the table, and gave each other quizzical looks. Then Fry pointed a finger at the professor’s jar. “You did this!” he snapped.

“Me?” said Farnsworth incredulously. “With what? My false teeth?”

“No, wait,” said Leela as the truth became clear to her. “It was Nibbler.

Fry gaped at her, then started to laugh.

“I’m serious,” said Leela. “Nibbler is really a highly evolved alien. I learned of his true nature when the space brains attacked Earth, making everybody stupid.”

“Space brains?” said Fry mockingly. “Are you making this stuff up on the spot? It’s really good.”

“Let’s try to keep our minds open to all possibilities,” said Farnsworth’s head. “If Nibbler did steal the induction coil, where would he hide it?”

“He wouldn’t hide it,” said Leela. “He would eat it.”

“Great,” moaned Fry. “That means we’ve got to find another body switcher, and pronto.”

“There’s no time for that now,” said the professor. “The delivery is more important. Entire worlds may hang in the balance.”

Entire worlds, thought Leela’s mind. And I’m the only one who can save them. I wish I’d stayed in bed.

Chapter 19

When Zapp boarded the delivery ship called Raven, his first thought was, wow. “How many of your souls did you have to sell for this baby?” he asked Bender.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” the robot replied.

The cargo bay was spacious and clean. The passenger quarters featured soundproof walls and automatically folding beds. The lounge was furnished with a leather couch, a refrigerator, and even a dishwasher. Everything about the ship’s interior reflected the latest developments in human-centered design. “I hate it,” grumbled Zoidberg. “Everything’s so square. There’s no room for scuttling.”

“Maybe you’ll change your opinion when you see the medical bay,” said Zapp.

He and Zoidberg climbed down the inter-deck stairway to find the sickbay, which had been built with a pleasantly rectangular shape to accommodate the many beds. “Hooray!” exclaimed the lobster. “Here I can comfortably scuttle from one patient to another. And what’s this?” He flipped a wall switch with his claw, and a short man with unruly hair, a black goatee, and a white smock appeared. “An emergency medical hologram, maybe?”

“Hi, everybody!” said the grinning holographic doctor.

“Why, it’s Dr. Nick Riviera,” said Zoidberg, “the inventor of the suicide booth.”

“Hi, Dr. Nick,” said Zapp.

“At your service,” said the hologram. “I am programmed to offer medical assistance in case the ship’s medical officer should meet with an unfortunate accident.”

“That would be him,” said Zoidberg, waving his claw at Zapp.

On the bridge, Fry and Leela were buckling themselves into the Corinthian leather chairs. “Zoidberg’s got Zapp distracted in sickbay,” said Leela. “If I take off now, he won’t get a chance to ask why it looks like Fry’s piloting the ship.”

She punched a few buttons on the control stick, and the ship began to rise. The rumbling and quivering that commonly occurred when launching the old ship were gone; the antigrav boosters made the takeoff feel like riding an elevator. “Warning,” droned Raven’s computer voice. “Impulse engines will engage in five seconds. Four…three…”

“We’re leaving already?” marveled Zapp.

“Brace yourself,” said Zoidberg. “Grab on to something.”

As the rockets flared and the ship trembled, Zapp threw his arms around Zoidberg and squeezed tightly. Bender, who was in the lavatory expelling his used robot oil, stretched his arms and pressed firmly against the walls. Lying in bed, Amy pushed a button to activate a confinement field to hold herself in place.

Raven lurched forward and sped toward the stratosphere, the sudden G-forces knocking Zapp and Zoidberg off their feet. “What did you grab me for?” asked the lobster as he pulled himself up from the sickbay floor.

“Kif wasn’t available,” said Zapp, shrugging.

They passed through the section of the atmosphere that formerly housed the ozone layer, and found themselves in open space. “Escape velocity achieved,” said Raven. “Switching to automatic pilot. Estimated time of arrival at destination: four days, five hours, thirty-two minutes. Enjoy your trip.”

Leela smiled with satisfaction. “Now let’s switch seats before Zapp comes back,” she recommended.

Fry unfastened his shoulder straps, and the odd sensation in his chest went away. “You know, Leela,” he said, standing up, “maybe we should tell Zapp the truth about our body switch.”

“Why’s that?” said Leela.

“Well, he is stuck on the ship with us for the next four days. Imagine how weirded out he’ll be if he has to pass the whole time knowing that Fry’s really Leela and Leela’s really Fry.”

Leela grinned as she sank into the pilot’s seat. “That’s a great idea,” she remarked. “Up to now he’s made us uncomfortable, so perhaps it’s time to turn the tables.”

Even without relativistic effects, minutes seemed to drag on like hours over the course of the long faster-than-light voyage. Gathered around a table in the lounge, Amy, Zoidberg, Zapp, and Bender amused themselves by playing the board game Monopolypse.

“Ha!” exulted Amy. “You’ve landed on Ventnor Avenue. That’s occupied by my militia!”

Zoidberg groaned and clawed over ten trillion dollars in Hyperinflated Currency.

“Ah, Community Chest,” said Zapp, drawing a card from the pile. “Found medical supplies. Two hundred billion, plus immunity against next plague.”

“Those supplies should be mine, they should,” complained Zoidberg.

“My turn,” said Bender, rolling the dice. “One…two…three…aww, mannn!

“Go directly to the Radioactive Crater,” said Zapp triumphantly. “You won’t get out of there until one of us rolls a six or twelve.”

“Not again!” Bender pouted. “I hate losing! I hate hate hate hate losing!

“Spleesh, Bender,” said Amy. “It’s only a game. It’s not like you’re really in 23rd-century Atlantic City.”

Meanwhile, Leela and Fry lay together on the bed in Fry’s quarters, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling. “Tell me, Fry,” said Leela without turning her head, “what do you like best about my body?”

“Hmm,” said Fry. “Nobody’s ever asked me that before. If I had to pick a favorite part, I’d say…your neck.”

“Why my neck?” Leela asked him. “Why not my boobs, or my…”

“My own neck pops when I turn it too far,” was Fry’s response. “Then it pops when I turn it forward again. Your neck isn’t like that.”

“Really,” said Leela, who promptly began to turn Fry’s neck in an effort to make it pop.

“I have a question for you now,” said Fry seriously.

“Let’s hear it,” said Leela.

Fry breathed deeply before speaking. “If you want a baby so badly, why have you never said anything?”

Leela’s eyes widened. “A baby? Who says I want a baby?”

“Your body does.” Fry closed his eye and sighed. “All I have to do is imagine myself with a cuddly little baby in my arms…”

“Knock it off, Fry,” said Leela. Suddenly she heard Fry’s cell phone ringing in her pocket. “Hello?” she spoke into it.

“Hey, Fry,” came a familiar voice. “It’s Mildred.”

“Huh?” said Leela in surprise. “I didn’t know I could get cell phone calls in space.”

“Maybe you can’t,” said Mildred, “but I can, ever since I upgraded my calling plan.”

“Excuse me, Fry,” said Leela, climbing out of the bed.

She continued the exchange with Mildred outside the doorway. “What are you calling about?” she asked.

“I just wanted to see how you’re doing,” was the girl’s reply. “I stopped by the Planet Express HQ, and the robot maid told me you were on a long space voyage.”

“Uh-huh,” said Leela disinterestedly.

“I figured you were probably bored,” Mildred went on, “so I thought I’d call you and try to knock things up a notch.”

“Could you please repeat that?” said Leela. “There’s some static on the line.”

“That’s funny,” said Mildred. “I don’t hear any static.” She raised her voice. “Can you hear me now?”

Back in the lounge, Zapp was preparing to move his playing piece (a tiny armored tank) when something very disturbing happened. Hello, Captain Brannigan, uttered the strange voice in his head.

He nearly knocked over the game board when he bolted to his feet. What the hell? I thought I’d be rid of you in outer space!

“Zapp, what’s wrong?” inquired Amy.

No, I’m still with you, said the voice. And in view of what you’re about to come up against, I strongly suggest that you accept my help.

Chapter 20

Zapp looked around at the perplexed expressions of Amy, Zoidberg, and Bender. “Uh, I’m all right,” he said sheepishly. “Continue with the game.” With that he hurried out of the lounge, shaking his head.

Zoidberg lay down his playing piece (a miniature semi-automatic rifle). “If he’s all right,” he remarked, “then I’m Queen Elizabeth’s head. Excuse me.”

The doctor scuttled away quickly, and found Captain Brannigan leaning against a wall in the corridor, rubbing his temples with his fingers. “You look like you’ve seen a space ghost,” he said. “Is something troubling you?”

“Yes,” replied Zapp weakly.

“Yes, something’s troubling you,” said Zoidberg, “or yes, you’ve seen a space ghost?”

“I’d rather not talk about it here,” said Zapp.

The pallid-looking spaceman followed Zoidberg into the medical bay, sat down on the edge of a bed, and started to remove his shirt. “You won’t need to do that,” said the lobster.

“I always take off my shirt before a medical examination,” Zapp told him, “and before Kif gives me my daily aromatherapy massage.”

“Suit yourself,” said Zoidberg. Stethoscope in hand, he pressed the cold metal against various parts of Zapp’s chest and abdomen. “Hmm…heartrate 110 over 70…cholesterol level 135…hello, what’s this?” He stepped back and extended his hand. “My congratulations, captain.”

“For what?” said Zapp.

Zoidberg grinned. “You’re pregnant.”

“Pregnant?” said Zapp incredulously. “But I’m a man! How’s that possible?”

“Don’t ask me,” said the doctor. “You’re the pregnant guy.”

Zapp heaved a sigh of frustration. “Just examine my head, all right?” he requested.

The next voice he heard was the one in his head: Don’t tell the crustacean about me.

Why shouldn’t I? he thought.

Because you don’t want to hurt him, said the voice. Zoidberg rummaged through his bag for a medical implement, oblivious to the conversation taking place in Zapp’s brain.

That answer makes no sense, thought Zapp.

Then a demonstration is in order, he heard.

“Let’s see,” mumbled Zoidberg, setting items aside as he drew them from his satchel. “Tooth puller, tongue depressor, scalpel, knee knocker, rubbing alcohol, snake bite kit…where is that confounded brain scanner? I hope I didn’t lose it at the laundromat.”

You think I don’t want to hurt Dr. Zoidberg, thought Zapp. Well, I’ve got news for you. I don’t just want to hurt him, I want to kill him. That arrogant walking seafood platter has humiliated me more times than I can stomach…

The scalpel lay on the edge of the table, glinting in the artificial light. Zoidberg stood hunched over his medical bag. This is my chance, thought Zapp, stealthily reaching for the blade. No one will miss that babbling quack when he’s…

what the hell am I thinking?

Puzzled beyond measure, Zapp gaped at his hand and the scalpel that sat only a fraction of an inch away from his fingertips. The anger…the bloodlust…it’s gone. But where did it come from? I thought I was cured!

“Hooray, I found it!” exclaimed Zoidberg, clutching a small box with buttons and sensors in one of his claws. “Now then, Captain Brannigan…”

Turning, he discovered that the spaceman had disappeared.

Zapp was at that moment in the lavatory, kneeling, bowing his head over the toilet, fighting back the urge to vomit. I was going to kill Dr. Zoidberg, he mused in horror. I thought I was past all that, but now it’s coming back. And the voice in my head…God help me, am I losing my mind?

Let that be a lesson to you, the voice said to him. Do not tell your friends about me, or they will suffer.

Damn you! thought Zapp bitterly. Who are you? He heard no more.

A few yards away, Leela’s phone exchange with Mildred wound to a close. “I wish you good luck on your mission,” said the girl. “Whatever’s out there, I hope you and Captain Brannigan kick its butt.”

“Thanks, Mildred,” said Leela in Fry’s voice. “Thanks for calling. Take care.”

The moment she folded the cell phone, she was confronted by her own eager face. “Let’s tell Zapp now,” Fry said through it. “We’re a day’s journey from Earth, so he can’t make us turn back.”

Leela smiled. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do it.”

“Here he comes,” said Fry.

Zapp strode in their direction, his face a whiter shade of pale. He walked past without a word or even a nod. Leela and Fry watched him vanish around a corner and marveled at his distraught appearance.

“It’s like he went to a zombie rave and got totally plastered,” Fry commented eloquently.

“You don’t suppose he already knows, do you?” said Leela.

“I dunno,” said Fry with a shrug. “So, what did Mildred have to say?”

“Small talk, mainly,” replied Leela. “She had a few questions about the mission, but I deflected them as best I could. You’d think an employee at a top-secret research lab would know better than to ask probing questions about someone else’s work.”

Earth, a spacious office with cherry-paneled walls and a picture window offering a broad view of New New York. There stood Mildred, wearing a white uniform with a skirt, a badge pinned to her chest identifying her as the possessor of a level-7 security clearance. Before her, atop a wide, bare, very clean desk, sat a bald, wizened, very old head in a jar.

“I’ve made contact with the Planet Express ship,” Mildred reported emotionlessly.

“And the signal?” said the head with urgency.

“Clear as crystal,” the girl responded. “The experiment was a success.”

The old man’s head grinned wickedly. “Eeeexcellent.”

Chapter 21

Leela awoke refreshed and alert on the third morning of the space voyage. She yawned, stretched, and felt a stiffness in her muscles from her exercise regimen of the previous day. Only one cure for that, she thought, and slipped back into Fry’s gym shorts. Without bothering to put on a shirt, she dropped to the floor, executed fifty flawless push-ups, stood, and began to jog around the corridors of the new ship. It’s the first time I’ve gone topless since switching with Fry, she mused. It’s so strange.

She found Zapp on the bridge, lounging in the captain’s seat, staring blankly at the stars through bleary, half-closed eyes. The spaceman swiveled to face her, and she felt an impulse to cover her chest that quickly passed. “Morning, Fry,” he mumbled.

“Morning, Zapp,” said Leela, running in place. “You could use a shave, you know.”

“So could you, soldier,” said Zapp.

Leela glanced down at her (Fry’s) legs and was startled by their hairiness. He’s talking about my face, she reminded herself.

“I couldn’t sleep,” said Zapp wearily. “I’ve been sitting here all night, thinking about Captain Beauchamp, the Cirrus, Azaria Prime, and the thing that destroyed them. A ship the size of a moon, equipped with some type of intelligence-inhibiting beam? It’s too fantastic for even me to imagine.”

It’s gotta be the Brainspawn, thought Leela. But what would they need with a giant spaceship?

“Nothing in my experience has prepared me to face such an enemy,” Zapp went on. “I hope this delivery won’t prove to be a waste of time.”

My woman’s intuition isn’t functioning at the moment, but I don’t need it to see that Zapp’s got demons within as well as without. “You’ll do just fine,” Leela assured the captain.

From deep within the bowels of Raven, she heard Fry’s cell phone play Walking on Sunshine once again. “Must be Mildred,” she said aloud to herself. “She’s been calling me five times a day.”

She tried to jog away, but Zapp seized her by the arm. “I’d watch my back if I were you,” he advised. “That woman’s part Chalnoth. She’s got only half of what we like to call a soul.”

“Duly noted, sir,” said Leela, shaking off the spaceman’s grip.

On the way to her quarters she passed Bender, who was also running, and waving his arms as well. “Danger! Danger!” the robot wailed at the top of his voice circuits.

“What’s the danger?” Leela asked him.

“Prolonged confinement leading to spurious input sensor signals!” Bender ranted. “Consequence: delusional, panicked robot!”

“Oh, I get it,” said Leela calmly. “You’ve got cabin fever.”

“That’s what I just said, Amy!” exclaimed Bender, and he rushed off, spouting, “Danger! Danger!”

The phone had been ringing for over a minute by the time Leela reached it. “Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Mildred,” said a pleasant girl’s voice. “I hope this isn’t a bad time.”

“It’s never a bad time,” said Leela. It’s always a bad time. I wish I could bring myself to hang up, but the poor girl’s so much like me…

“I assume you’re keeping the same hours, even though you’re in space,” said Mildred. “I’d hate to call at the wrong time and wake you up.”

“Don’t sweat it,” said Leela.

“I know how much you like parrots,” said Mildred’s voice. “There’s going to be an exhibit of trained parrots at Madison Cube Garden a week from Friday. If you’re still alive by then, maybe we can go.”

“Trained parrots, eh?” said Leela with interest. “What are they trained to do?”

“All kinds of tricks,” Mildred answered. “And talking, of course. According to the ad, there’s one parrot who can recite all the works of Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s cloned head, and another parrot who can tell the future.”

“That sounds really cool,” said Leela, straining to make conversation. “Back in the 20th century everybody had a parrot. They were as common as pigeons are now. But they didn’t say much; mostly all they did was swear.”

“Life was so different back then,” said Mildred wistfully. “I love listening to your stories, Philip. It’s like getting in a time capsule and going back in time.”

Just as Leela opened her mouth in the hope that she would think of something to say, the door to her room slid open and Captain Brannigan appeared, his bloodshot eyes now fixed with determination. “Yes, Zapp?” she said politely.

Without speech or hesitation, he lunged forward and snatched the phone from her hand, closing it and ending the call. Locating a waste ejection port in the wall next to the mirror, he thrust the phone inside and pushed the button, causing the communication device to be hurled into deep space, where it gravitated toward the gigantic ball of garbage launched from Earth a year earlier.

“What are you doing?” Leela blurted out. I mean, besides sparing me from making a total ass of myself on the phone with Mildred?

“Possibly saving all our lives,” was Zapp’s response. The voice in my mind…it cut off, just like that! I’m free of it!

“All right, weisenheimer,” said Leela, hands on hips. “Explain how ejecting Fry’s…er, my cell phone is supposed to save us all from destruction.”

Zapp fingered his chin and looked at the ceiling. “They’re all connected,” he mused. “The voice, Fry’s girlfriend, my cure…if only I could remember what happened!”

Leela sighed impatiently. “First of all, she’s not my girlfriend. Second, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring my girlfriend into this.”

“And why not?” said Zapp sharply. “I knew that mongrel was trouble since you first laid eyes on her.”

“Shut your yap, Zapp!” Leela snapped. “I’ve had all I can take of your racist claptrap!” Now you’ve got me speaking in rhyme!

“That’s insubordination, officer,” said Zapp, his tone grim. “I’ve every right to clean your clock…”

Hoo-boy, Leela worried. I’m a guy now. He won’t think twice.

“…but, for some inexplicable reason, I lack the desire.”


Zapp turned and walked quietly away. Leela, driven by curiosity, followed him all the way to Zoidberg’s clinic. In the distance they heard Bender’s voice, persistently warning them of danger.

The doctor was standing, but his eyes were closed and a wheezing sound periodically emerged from his throat. The sound of footsteps aroused him, and he snapped to attention. Zapp and what appeared to be Fry were staring at him with bemused expressions. “What?” said the crustacean. “So I sleep on my feet. It’s how I’ve survived all these years without a home.”

“Well, now that you’re up,” said Zapp, “I’d like that brain scan I asked for the other day.”

As Leela watched, Zoidberg swept the head-examining device back and forth along the captain’s temple. “When Fry told me that his girlfriend called him five times a day,” Zapp explained, “it occurred to me that the voice spoke to me five times a day, more or less.”

“I have an idea,” said Leela sarcastically. “Maybe the voice in your head is God praying to you.

“Anyway,” said Zapp, ignoring her, “that’s how I figured out that somebody was using Mildred’s calls to send messages to my brain.”

“Hmm,” Leela recalled. “Now that you mention it, there was some static on the line.”

“Exactly!” said Zapp with a wave of his hand. “The static, as you call it, must have been a piggybacked signal.”

“But a signal’s no good unless there’s a receiver at the other end,” Leela observed.

“A receiver?” said Zoidberg, gaping in amazement at the readout of his instrument. “You mean, like the microchip implanted in the captain’s frontal lobe?”

Zapp’s jaw dropped a mile.

Chapter 22

“Did I hear you correctly?” said the astonished Zapp.

“I said, there’s a microchip implanted in your frontal lobe,” said Zoidberg, showing the brain scanner’s display to the captain. “Is that what you heard?”

Zapp stared unblinkingly at the magnetic image of his brain, and the unmistakable tiny black rectangle near the front. “Holy mother of God!” he exclaimed. “How did that get inside my head?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Zoidberg. “Well, not quite as good, since I’m a doctor and you’re not.”

Zapp stood up from the bed and started to pace, deep in troubled thought. “I get a routine scan every month to check for brain slug larvae,” he muttered. “The last one was two weeks ago, and it was clean. Since then I’ve escorted the Grumbian ambassador to a peace conference, engaged in ritual sex with said ambassador, protected a fleet of science vessels in the Cerulean Nebula, been captured and brainwashed by space pirates, checked myself into a mental institution, undergone several failed treatments and one successful treatment which I can’t even remember, enjoyed a dinner date with the lovely, luscious Leela, and boarded a ship full of half-wits on a mission to the Azaria system. Somewhere over the course of that long list of accomplishments, I ended up with a chip in my brain.”

“It must’ve been the successful treatment,” said Leela through Fry’s mouth, “since you can’t remember what happened.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” said Zapp. “I passed out during the ritual sex.”

“You say the voice didn’t start speaking to you until after you received the cure,” Zoidberg postulated. “Perhaps, therefore, the chip is the cure.”

Zapp pondered the doctor’s statement for a long moment. “I don’t recall undergoing surgery,” he said, “but it’s always possible that the surgeon implanted fake memories of being strapped in a chair with my eyes pried open, listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

“Let’s try an experiment, shall we?” said Zoidberg, his eyes lighting up. “Raven, I’d like to request a selection of classical music.”

“Please specify composer, name of composition, opus number, conductor, and ensemble,” said the ship’s computer voice.

“Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125,” said Zoidberg. “As for the rest, surprise me.”

A split second later, the speakers in the medical bay’s ceiling burst forth with Beethoven’s famous Ode to Joy chorus. As Leela and Zoidberg hummed along to the familiar tune, Zapp felt a buildup of pain and horror within his mind. Three measures later he was clutching his head in agony.

“Turn it off!” he pleaded. “For God’s sake, turn it off!

Raven instantly complied, and the music ended. Zoidberg and Leela saw Zapp on his knees, pale and panting. “Very interesting,” remarked the lobster.

“So much pain,” Zapp mumbled deliriously. “I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. There was nothing but the pain, and the darkness, and…and that music.”

“Cool, another Kurt Cobain fan!” said Fry, walking into the sickbay in Leela’s body.

Bender followed close behind. “Keep it down in here!” the robot demanded. “I’m trying to play Tetris in my head.”

Amy was the next to enter. “What is this, Japanese New Year’s?” said the Asian girl, whose hair was set with square curlers.

“I’m glad you’re all here,” said Zoidberg to Bender, Leela, Fry, Amy, and the recovering Zapp. “As you can plainly see, our dear Captain Brannigan is experiencing flashbacks of a torturous ordeal he endured while being forced to listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

“You mean a classical music concert?” said Fry.

“No, my one-eyed friend,” was Zoidberg’s response. “’Twas something even more sinister—a diabolical act of surgery by which the normal operation of his brain was altered by the introduction of a microprocessor.”

“Could you possibly restate that in slang?” Fry asked him.

“If you insist,” said the doctor. “The captain has been…zombie-chipped.

Gasps went up from Leela, Amy, and Bender. “I thought that was just an urban legend,” said Leela in wonder.

“An urban legend?” said Fry excitedly. “You mean like the guy who goes into a bar, and somebody slips him a mickey, and the next thing he knows, he’s sitting in a tub of ice water, and his kidneys are gone?”

“That was no legend,” Amy told him. “The Bush Administration declared a War on Organ Harvesting right after it won the War on Terror.”

“I guess Fry’s never heard of the zombie chip,” said Leela—much to the surprise of Zapp, who wondered why Fry was referring to himself in the third person. “Three years ago a story appeared in all the tabloid magazines, claiming that President McNeil had been abducted by hostile aliens and surgically altered with a microchip that forced him to obey their commands. There was no evidence to back up the claim, but a lot of people believed it anyway, and some even formed resistance cells. Everything became normal again after McNeil called in alien troops to crush the resistance, but ever since then, the term ‘zombie chip’ has come to mean any kind of technology planted inside a person’s brain to control their behavior.”

“In my case,” said Zapp, “perhaps the chip is intended to suppress feelings of aggression.”

“You need a zombie chip to do that?” Bender marveled. “All I have to do is flip a switch.” To demonstrate, he reached into his chest cavity, fiddled with the settings, and then tenderly placed his arm around Zoidberg’s shoulders. “I’ve never told you how much I truly appreciate you,” he said.

“It’s starting to make sense now,” said Zapp thoughtfully. “The person who was speaking to me obviously has the power to remotely deactivate the chip. When he did so temporarily, I was overwhelmed by Balalaika’s thirst for blood, and I nearly murdered Dr. Zoidberg.”

“I knew it, I did!” said the crustacean.

“That’s horrible!” exclaimed Leela. “He can make you do whatever he wants, or threaten to set you loose on the people you care about!”

“It’s the ultimate form of blackmail,” Zapp remarked solemnly. “And until I find a way to free myself entirely from his influence, I can never set foot on Earth again.”

Chapter 23

The crew stood speechless in the sickbay, pondering the implications of Zapp’s statement. This is the best news I’ve heard all week, thought Leela.

“Think carefully before you take such a drastic step,” Zoidberg urged the captain.

Zapp’s attention turned to Fry, whose bare shoulders he seized gently. “Leela, my darling,” he said, “I understand if you choose not to marry me after this. I can’t axe you to give up your life on Earth.”

Fry’s heart overflowed with an unfamiliar feeling of empathy. The poor, poor, gorgeous man, he thought, exiled from his home planet forever. If only there were something I could do.

“Ahem,” said Leela disapprovingly.

“Just one last kiss before I go to my destiny,” Zapp pleaded. Fry, helpless before the onslaught of Leela’s hormones, leaned forward and aimed his lips at the captain’s face.

“Before this gets too slashy,” said Leela, “I need to make you aware of something, Zapp.” This is the most appalling thing I can imagine, she thought, watching from someone else’s body as my own gets ready to kiss Zapp Brannigan. I may have to step in and break them up.

Just as Zapp’s lips and Fry’s lips touched—just as Leela opened her mouth to say, “Leela’s really Fry and I’m really Leela”—the console on Fry’s wrist buzzed obtrusively.

“Don’t answer it!” cried Zapp in a sudden panic, pushing Fry away.

“Why not?” asked the cyclops.

“It could be Mildred!” With a lightning-quick action, Zapp grabbed Fry’s arm and unhooked the latches on his console. The device continued to ring and vibrate as the captain hurled it against the wall of the ship, causing it to shatter in two.

“Zapp, you moron!” exclaimed Leela. “What’s wrong with taking a call from Mildred?”

“Don’t you get it?” said Zapp with urgency. “She’s trying to send another signal and get control of the chip in my head.”

“That’s ridiculous!” said Leela, clenching Fry’s fists. “You have no proof that Mildred’s a part of this. Anyone could have tampered with her phone.”

“I can’t afford to take chances,” said Zapp with an angry glare. “For all we know, we’re dealing with a conspiracy to overthrow the DOOP. From this moment until we rendezvous with the Nimbus, there will be no more communications with Earth. That’s an order!”

I give the orders here, mister!” Leela retorted.

Zapp, struck with confusion, looked back and forth between Leela and Fry. He scratched his head.

An alert sounded from the bridge.

“We’re being hailed!” said Zapp. He charged out of the sickbay, the whole crew following him out of fear he might blow up the ship in his perturbed state.

An amber light was flashing on the main console when they assembled in front of it. “Is it from Earth?” asked Leela.

“No,” replied Zapp, glancing rapidly at the computer display. “It’s coming from the Nimbus.”

As he pressed a button to answer the hail, Fry, Leela, Bender, Amy, and Zoidberg looked up at the view screen. A round, silver object, roughly the size of a grape, loomed in the center of the screen, its blurred edges slowly expanding. The Nimbus was nowhere in sight.

“It’s the size of a small moon, but it’s not orbiting anything,” said Leela, puzzled.

“Warning,” she heard Raven’s voice utter. “Collision probable. Recommend immediate course change.”

“We’re probably gonna crash!” cried Bender, throwing up his arms.

A faint but well-known voice was heard through the ship-to-ship channel: “Nimbus to Raven. Captain Kroker to Raven. Alien vessel has destroyed seven Titan-class warships and is in pursuit of us. Attempts at communication have failed. Long-range psychoactive weaponry makes approach impossible. Do not engage the alien. I repeat, do not engage.”

“Oh, Kiffy,” gushed Amy. “You sound just like a real captain.”

“It’s getting closer!” cried Zoidberg, pointing his claw at the view screen. The silver orb had assumed the size of a nectarine, and pock marks were becoming visible on its surface.

“We’re still at 45c,” said Leela. “Given the relativistic distortion, the alien ship may not be as close as it looks. Raven, drop out of hyperspace and lay in an evasive course.”

“Since when are you the captain, Fry?” said Zapp in astonishment. “You realize that Leela is still alive.”

A slight lurch and a descending whine later, the ship called Raven began to move along at impulse speed. The image on the view screen changed, proving that, as Leela had suggested, the hostile vessel was not as close as they supposed.

It was much, much closer.

The entire screen was filled with the grooves, bumps, and craters that made up the texture of the enormous alien ship. The Nimbus could now be seen, a mere fly in size compared to the oncoming juggernaut.

“Angels and ministers of grace defend us,” Zapp muttered in awe.

Kif’s voice repeated itself over the comm channel. “Do not engage! Do not engage!”

“You heard the man,” said Bender. “Let’s cheese it out of here!”

“I agree,” said Leela. “Raven, reverse course and resume top speed.”

“I also respond to ‘run away’,” said the ship’s computer helpfully.

“RUN AWAY!” Leela shouted.

The crew felt their stomachs turn squeamish as Raven swiveled in mid-space and the hostile megaship vanished from the screen. They waited breathlessly for the stars to streak past, indicating their entry into hyperspace and, hopefully, safety.

It didn’t happen.

“Huh?” said Amy quizzically. “Why we not go nowhere?”

“Zoidy confused and scared,” babbled Zoidberg. “Zoidy hate big scary space thingy.”

“My internal scanners have detected an attempt to alter my programming,” said Raven’s voice. “Automatic shutdown in progress. Me go beddy-bye.”

“If me human, why me look like robot?” Bender asked himself.

Leela lowered her eyes in despair. The space brains have them, she realized. What do I do now?

“You very good-looking,” said Fry, and Leela’s body walked clumsily over to Zapp. “Me want snoo-snoo.”

Captain Brannigan scowled and shook his head. “It wouldn’t be right,” he said simply.

Leela’s jaw dropped. “Z-Zapp?” she stammered. “You’re immune too?”

“If ‘immune’ is a word meaning ‘filled with chocolaty goodness’,” said Zapp with a goofy smile, “then yes, I am immune.”

Okay, don’t panic, Leela thought frantically. The others are beyond hope, but I may yet be able to reason with Zapp.

“I’m immune! I’m immune! I’m immune!” the captain chanted, hopping up and down.

“Listen, Zapp,” said Leela earnestly. “You and I are all that stands between that monstrosity and the rest of the universe. We have to turn and fight!”

“Fight!” said Zapp, clapping his hands with glee. “Yes, fight! You with your super soaker, and me with mine, side by side!”

To Leela’s horror, her own body waddled up and grabbed her by the forearms. “Me want snoo-snoo,” she watched her face say.

“No snoo-snoo,” she said anxiously. “Snoo-snoo bad.”

“Snoo-snoo bad,” drawled Fry with Leela’s voice. “Bad good. Snoo-snoo good.”

Leela sighed with frustration. She finished her sigh on a platform deep in the bowels of the enemy ship, surrounded by giant brains floating in near-darkness.

A transporter beam, she thought. At least those bastards want to finish this quickly.

Chapter 24

She was reminded of her ill-advised audition for Siegfried Idol, and the anxiety she had felt while standing on the darkened stage, readying herself to sing the aria Un bel di from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Her present situation differed in many ways; there was a pervasive electronic hum in place of the murmuring of the audience, the only light in the house came from the auras of the floating brains, she was in the body of a not-so-attractive male, and she was about to die.

Leela glanced in every direction, but saw only the outlines of darkened corridors and mechanisms that appeared to serve the function of elevators. She took a few steps, and found that she was able to move freely and without pain. They must be holding me prisoner for some reason, she thought.

As if in response to her meditation, a booming, familiar voice echoed throughout the air above her, giving her the impression that the ceiling was miles away. “Greetings, Fry of the planet Earth,” it spoke. “Welcome to…THE DUMB STAR!”

It’s the Master Brain, she realized. Fry should’ve killed him while he had the chance.

“I’m not Fry!” she shouted into the black void. “I’m not the one you want!”

A moment of silence passed as one of the brains broke from its orbit and descended almost to Leela’s eye level. “You say you are not Fry,” it said, flashing red and yellow with each word. “If you are not Fry, then who is?

Before Leela could figure out an answer to the odd question, a figure strolled out of a dark hallway. Its appearance startled and shocked her as it moved into the light.

It was an exact duplicate of Fry, complete with red jacket and pointy hair.

“Perhaps this is Fry,” said the Master Brain. The Fry clone stood still and gazed blankly at Leela, its eyes devoid of emotion and, it seemed to her, awareness.

“Or this.” Yet another copy of Fry trudged forward from the opposite direction, assuming a position next to the first.

“Fine,” said Leela with resignation. “I am Fry. Now stop sending in the clones.”

A fraction of a second later, the space surrounding her became completely illuminated. She could see no apparent source of light; the only thing she could see was decks. A deck above her, another deck above that, a hundred decks stacked on top of the first two—decks as far as she could lift her eyes. It was an awesome, dizzying picture.

Laboring mindlessly on the decks were dozens…hundreds…thousands of Fry duplicates. Every one sported the same outfit, hairdo, and vacant expression as the two copies standing before Leela.

“Holy freaking Jesus,” she said under her breath.

Several hundred giant brains swirled above her head, locked in an endless dance. “I’m glad you like it,” said the brain hovering in front of her. The two Fry clones nearest her turned and walked away, soon reappearing at empty work stations.

“What’s the purpose of all this?” asked Leela for lack of a better question.

“Long term? Domination of the universe,” replied the Master Brain. “Short term? We needed a slave army that was unaffected by our dumbening influence.”

“So that’s why you cloned me,” said Leela. It’s exactly like what Philaster did with Bender’s personality, only on a far grander scale.

“Affirmative,” the Master Brain went on. “With the generous support of our slave army, we were able to construct this station, which we christened the Dumb Star. In addition to conventional weaponry and planet-mining implements, the Dumb Star is armed with a long-range anti-intelligence beam that can stupefy either a starship or an entire world with one pulse.”

God, thought Leela. It’s the end of everything.

“It’s the end of everything,” said the glowing brain. “Now, do you have any more questions before we consign you to your doom?”

“Er, yes,” said Leela. “Does the Dumb Star have any vulnerabilities?”

“Yes,” was the answer. “There’s a tiny exhaust shaft on the surface that leads directly to the reactor core. An extremely skilled fighter pilot might succeed at launching a torpedo into the shaft, which would almost certainly result in a gigantic explosion and the complete destruction of the station.”

“I see,” said Leela, intrigued. “Why are you telling me all this? Are you about to kill me?”

“No,” replied the Master Brain. “You’re more valuable to us alive, if only slightly. There’s no danger in describing to you the details of the station’s architecture, since you’ll know everything once we plug you in.”

Plug me in? That does not sound good.

“This central chamber has special acoustic properties,” the brain continued. “It’s like a well-built orchestra hall, only it reflects, amplifies, and clarifies thoughts instead of sounds. Every one of the four million Fry clones that work here can hear the thoughts of all the others, as well as the instructions issued by the main control computer. You may view them as robots, zombies, creatures devoid of what you call free will, but you’ll soon see that when seven million trains of thought are passing through your mind, each with prominence equal to your own, there’ll be no room left for the pursuit of your individual desires.”

“But I can’t hear any thoughts,” said Leela, and then, all at once, she could.

It felt as if the entire population of New New York was crowding around her, addressing her with a constant stream of requests, every one of them with Fry’s face and voice. The din was deafening and almost unbearable. She wanted more than anything to put her hands over her ears, and perhaps block out the noise and the pain, but every time she formed the thought lift arms and put hands on sides of head, it was swept away by the incessant clatter. She was powerless to move or decide.

“It can be disorienting when you’re first plugged in,” said the Master Brain, its voice barely audible above the chaos. “But in a matter of minutes your brain will learn to sort out the various command streams, and identify the one intended for you. At that moment you will understand your duty and become an undistinguished worker in our slave army! BUWAHAHAHAHA!”

Chapter 25

Trapped inside Fry’s body, besieged by millions of trains of thought belonging to Fry clones she had never met, Leela fought to retain her sanity and individuality. She was barely able to choose a plan of action that might lead to an escape, or even to tell where her thoughts ended and the thoughts of the other Frys began. It’s useless, she would have thought if she could put two words together in her mind.

A minute or so passed, and clarity started to creep in. I can think! She slowly raised her hands and put them over her agonized face. I’m pretty sure it was me willing myself to do that. Another minute, and I may not be so sure. I’ve got that long to come up with a plan to save the universe.

Bits of recognizable trivia flew through her crowded mind. The operations of the Dumb Star are becoming an open book to me. There must be some information I can use to either blow up the station, or cripple it, or disable its defenses, or shut off the anti-intelligence beam…wait, that’s it! With the beam off, Raven and the Nimbus will be free to attack!

The beam control, she intuitively knew, was on Deck 581, section 3. The lift to her right would transport her there. She took bounding steps to enter it. Push the green button with the up arrow, then readjust the calibrator settings to compensate for…wait, that’s Fry 10369’s job! Just push the freaking green button!

The elevator rose quickly, but not quickly enough for her taste. Deck 444, atmospheric controls…Deck 460, food services…Deck 515, manufacturing center for acoustic plates to replace old ones that break down due to vibrational shear forces at a rate of 72.6 picojoules per cubic…here it is, Deck 581!

Moving one foot in front of the other was easy for her at first, but became more difficult as the surrounding Frys persistently questioned why she was wandering so far away from her assigned work station. Must keep going, she urged herself. Must make it to gravimetrics…I mean, beam control! Or is it gravimetrics? I must turn off the anti-intelligence beam so the other Frys won’t float away…no, that’s the artificial gravity! By disabling the beam I’ll give my friends a chance to keep the gravity field operating within its safety threshold…no, beam control! I’m not sure anymore! If I choose wrong I’ll spend the rest of eternity as a mindless drone, and the cooling fans will be clogged with hundreds of floating Frys…

Four Fry duplicates were slaving away at their consoles, and she knew they were maintaining the proper order of the anti-intelligence beam. I’ve got to overpower them, she thought, even if it means the gravity field breaks down, and my friends float away into the…just do it!

Normally her martial arts moves were governed by gut instinct, but on this occasion she had to carefully deliberate every move to make sure she was really knocking Fry clones unconscious instead of calculating gravimetric settings in her head. By the time she finished what she was doing, she wasn’t certain if she had succeeded, only that she was urgently needed elsewhere. She dutifully marched away toward Deck 254, all consideration for Raven and the Nimbus forgotten, four unconscious men with red jackets and pointy hair lying in her wake.

At one instant Fry was gazing in wonder through Leela’s eye at the gigantic spacecraft that blocked the view screen. At the next instant he was prostrate on the bed in his quarters. He could remember nothing from the intervening time, not even its length. He could tell two things, however—that he was utterly naked, and that he was experiencing the aftermath of having done something intensely pleasurable.

I’m not sure, he thought, but I think I just had girl sex. Is it normal to not remember it?

Recalling vaguely that Raven and the universe were in dire peril, he dragged himself from the mattress and began to gather up Leela’s scattered articles of clothing, putting them on hastily, not bothering with the bra. Once he was fully dressed, he saw to his dismay that the floor was bare—there were no other items that might indicate who had done the nasty with him.

The ship bucked and trembled as he ran, bare-footed, to the bridge. Everyone was there except for Leela in his body, and Amy was in the process of zipping up her pink top. “Oh, hey, Fry,” said the Asian girl with a smile. “I don’t know what just happened to us, but it must’ve been fun, because we were all naked when we woke up.”

“Except for me,” added Bender. “I woke up in Amy’s clothes.”

“Quiet, please,” Zapp urged those present. “We’re at war.”

He deftly handled the ship’s controls, and Raven weaved and waggled, dodging energy bolts fired from the Dumb Star’s defense grid. At its side soared the much larger Nimbus, which fired volley after volley of quantum torpedoes against the station’s outer shell. They exploded spectacularly, but failed to do any damage.

“Oh, monkey trumpets,” said Kif, seated on the edge of the captain’s chair. “Mr. Spork, prepare the armor-piercing warheads.”

“We’ve only got two, sir,” said the officer with pointed ears. “I hope they’ll be enough to punch through that beast.”

Zapp, meanwhile, grew tired of evading enemy fire. “Raven, how much laser power do you have?” he inquired of the ship’s computer.

“Enough to make the hull warm, if I can get in close enough,” replied the smoky female voice.

“Damn,” grumbled Captain Brannigan.

“Would this be a good time to ask which one of you had sex with me?” said Fry.

The comm system crackled, and Kif’s voice was heard. “New strategy, captain,” he said. “I’m going to charge the station, and I want Raven to follow directly behind.”

“Understood, Kif,” said Zapp.

The two ships assumed a new configuration, with the Nimbus hurtling at full speed toward the Dumb Star’s hull, and Raven clinging to its rear flank. Laser blasts from the station pounded on the DOOP warship’s shields, which maintained their strength.

“Fire armor-piercing warheads!” Kif barked.

A pair of elongated golden missiles flew from the Nimbus’ ports and streaked across the sky, slamming into the surface of the Dumb Star with awesome force. When the fire and smoke cleared, two gaping, overlapping holes became visible.

“Success!” Mr. Spork exulted. “We’ve breached the hull!”

“Hard to starboard!” ordered Captain Kroker.

The Nimbus turned sharply, its right nacelle knocking over a laser turret as it swept over the station’s surface. Raven continued in its straight course, careening through the holes left by the armor-piercing missiles. Zapp, Fry, Amy, Bender, and Zoidberg enjoyed a terrifying ride as the ship’s guns blasted away swath after swath of the Dumb Star’s infrastructure, sending metallic debris spinning away on all sides. Dozens of Brainspawn mobbed the ship, but Zapp, with the aid of Raven’s automatic targeting system, managed to incinerate them before they could emit their dumbening rays.

By the time they arrived at the central chamber, the floating brains had retreated out of sight. “This part of the station has a breathable atmosphere,” Zapp stated.

“Can you pick up Fry’s life signs?” Amy asked him.

Closer examination of the chamber elicited gasps from the Raven crew. “The answer to your question is a resounding yes, Amy,” said Zapp.

“My God,” Zoidberg remarked. “It’s full of Frys.”

Raven slowed down and hovered in the middle of the endless tower of decks. The hordes of Fry clones were looking at each other in confusion, as if wondering what had damaged the chamber’s thought-amplifying acoustics.

“Amazing,” remarked the Fry who occupied Leela’s body. “Now, which one of you had sex with me?”

“Well, here’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” said Zapp. “Which out of these hundreds of thousands of Frys is the genuine item?”

“It’s hopeless,” said Bender sarcastically. “Let’s go home. I’m tired.”

“We could just axe them,” suggested Amy.

Seven million Fry duplicates perked up their ears when Raven’s external speakers came to life with a pop. “Attention, all clones!” boomed Zapp’s voice. “Will the real Philip J. Fry please wave his arms and shout?”

The entire population of the chamber burst into frantic activity. “Over here!” exclaimed virtually every clone. “I’m the real Fry!”

On the bridge, Bender whispered a hint into Zapp’s ear.

“Let me rephrase that,” said the captain’s voice over the speakers. “Will Turanga Leela please wave her arms and shout?”

Far below on Deck 254, a tiny figure was seen hopping up and down.

Within no time, Leela was welcomed back into the fellowship of the Raven crew. “Ya know, this would’ve been a lot easier if you didn’t wear Fry’s old red jacket all the time,” Bender ribbed her.

“You can’t imagine what it was like in there,” Leela related. “I lost the ability to think for myself and became a cog in a gigantic machine.”

“You think that’s weird?” Fry shot back. “I had sex with someone, in your body, and I can’t even remember who it was.”

“Sex, sex, sex,” complained Amy. “Gleesh! You and your one-track mind.”

“I can’t blame you for something you did under the influence of the Brainspawn,” Leela told Fry. “As for who did it with you, maybe that’s best left forgotten.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” said Fry.

“It was Brannigan!” Bender blurted out. “It had to be! I’m a robot, Raven’s a computer, Amy’s a chick, and Zoidberg’s gay.”

“Don’t look at me,” said Zapp sheepishly.

Everybody on the bridge looked at him.

“I asked you not to look at me,” he said.

They turned their gaze away from the captain and stared in horror at the hundreds of floating brains surrounding the ship.

“Thank you,” said Zapp.

Chapter 26

“We’re all doomed, we are!” wailed Zoidberg.

“Stay calm, everyone!” said Zapp when he finally saw the blockade of brains. “It hurts less to die when you’re calm!”

“It’s every man for himself!” exclaimed Bender, waving his extended arms. “The chicks are on their own!”

The gloating voice of the Master Brain reverberated through the ship: “There’s no help for you now. Prepare to be thunk out of existence!”

Yet help did come, from the most surprising of sources. The Fry clones, freed from their collective stupor, picked up tools, blunt objects, or whatever they could rip free from the consoles. “The brains are our enemies!” cried one. “They made us to be their slaves!” yelled another. “Kill them all!” exclaimed yet another.

Dozens of them leaped over the railings and plunged downward, most landing on top of a brain or another Fry, a few missing and falling to their deaths. Strengthened by hatred, they clubbed, stabbed, and tore at the gray flesh of the Brainspawn. The chaotic scene went on until the brains, intimidated by the sheer number of their foes, flew away into the dark recesses of the station.

The Raven crewmembers breathed sighs of elation. All was quiet, except for a few Fry clones who blindly pounded on the ship’s hull with their fists.

“What do we do now?” wondered Leela. “We can’t blow up the Dumb Star, or all the clones will die.”

“You make a valid point,” said Zapp. “However, as you can all plainly see, their race is doomed to eventual extinction one way or another.”

“Yeah,” said the real Fry. “Seven million guys who can’t get a date. What are their chances?”

Having disabled the station’s master control computer, Raven and its crew docked with the Nimbus to discuss with Kif and his DOOP superiors the fate of the Fry duplicates.

“Admiral N!gutu has offered free military training and accommodations to the clones,” Kif reported. “She wants to organize them into a special force to deploy against the Brainspawn if they should ever return.”

“Ooh! Ooh!” said Bender. “Let’s call it ‘The Big Red One’!”

“I’ve been told that the President of Earth is organizing a ticker-tape parade in our honor,” Zapp told Kif. “Sadly, I’ll be unable to attend, so you’ll have to perform double basking duties.”

“Basking is one of my specialties,” said the green alien.

Fry stepped forward and rested Leela’s slender hand on Zapp’s shoulder. “We’ll find the people who did this to you,” he vowed. “Once they’re in jail, you’ll be free to visit Earth again.”

“I have confidence in you, Leela,” said Zapp.

“Before we leave,” said Fry, his eye radiating affection, “here’s a little something to remember me by.”

Before Leela could open her mouth to object, Fry yanked Zapp by the neck until their lips were pressed together. “Ewww!” groaned Amy.

With Zapp and Fry liplocked, Bender took the opportunity to stretch his arm around Zapp’s back, dipping his hand into the captain’s pocket. Feeling an object present, he deftly pulled it out and drew it toward him.

“Hey, you’re pretty good-lookin’ for a chump,” spoke the watch in his hand, using his own voice.

Bloody hell?” exclaimed the robot.

“That was uncalled for,” said Leela to Fry as he pulled his moist lips from Zapp’s face. “Don’t forget that you probably had sex with him when you were stupefied.”

“Maybe so,” said Fry, “but that doesn’t count as something he can remember me by.”

Out from the Nimbus’ docking bay sailed Raven, its trajectory set for Earth and home.

Bender paced about on the bridge, occasionally pausing to shake his fist. “I am gonna kill that Foss,” he swore. “Nobody turns me into a piece of merchandise without givin’ me a cut of the proceeds.”

“Hooray!” said Zoidberg to whoever would listen. “Bender’s wrath has been directed to someone other than me!”

“I wouldn’t worry about Foss,” said Amy. “By the time we get to Earth, Bender’ll forget the whole thing.”

Two days later, Bender continued to pace in the groove his chunky metal feet had made in the floor. “I’m gonna kill Foss!” he ranted. “I’m gonna kill him good!”

The return journey dragged on. Leela found Fry in his quarters, lying lazily on the bed, an expression of ecstatic obliviousness on his face. “Well, I’ve given it some more thought,” she said, “and I still don’t have any other ideas for solving Zapp’s case, besides investigating Mildred.”

Fry’s response was a sigh of pleasure.

“You really do like Zapp, don’t you?” said Leela, narrowing her eyes. “I should’ve expected something like this to happen. My hormones always were notoriously unreliable.”

“No, it’s not about Zapp,” said Fry, smiling. “It’s just that…ever since we ran into the space brains, I’ve had this crazy feeling, like everything’s more beautiful and smells better than before.”

“Interesting,” said Leela flatly.

“And there’s more,” Fry continued. “I’ve got this weird craving that won’t go away. A craving for…for anchovies.

Anchovies? thought Leela. My body has never craved anchovies before. I know only one other person who likes anchovies, and that’s…

oh, dear God…

She wandered into the sickbay and collapsed into a chair, staring emptily at Dr. Zoidberg, too dumbfounded to speak.

“May I help you?” said the lobster, who was hard at work sharpening his scalpel with his claw.

It can’t be true, thought Leela. He doesn’t even have the same equipment humans have. There’s no way he could have…or is there?

Mere hours after Raven had set down on Earth, Fry and Leela marched into the Planet Express lobby, a rectangular package under Fry’s arm. They were startled to find Mildred resting in the lounge, exchanging stories with Delta the fembot.

“What are you doing here?” Leela asked the curly-haired girl.

“Delta and I became friends while you were gone,” replied Mildred with a carefree smile. “That’s okay, isn’t it? By the way, why did you stop returning my calls? If you had trouble with hostile aliens, then I understand.”

Leela and Fry exchanged suspicious glances.

“What’s in the box?” Mildred inquired curiously.

“None of your business,” said Fry sharply.

Frinkomatic, Mildred saw written on the side of the package. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed with what looked like delight. “Is that really a body switcher?”

“We’ve got to go now,” said Fry. He turned abruptly and walked out of the lounge, Leela at his heels, Mildred and Delta following close behind.

“Are you gonna switch bodies?” asked Mildred as she hurried to keep up. “Can I watch?”

“She has no idea we’ve already switched,” Leela whispered to Fry as the pair stepped into Farnsworth’s laboratory.

Their entrance aroused the professor’s head out of its slumber. “Huh? Wha…?” he stammered.

Fry laid the box containing the Frinkomatic on the table next to his jar, and hastily ripped it open. “We’re switching back now, professor,” he stated. “I don’t want to hear any arguments out of you.”

“You won’t,” Farnsworth assured him. “In reality, a week to ten days is a relatively safe amount of time. They only say a month to avoid lawsuits. Go ahead on.”

Mildred watched, intrigued, as Fry and Leela prepared to lay their hands on the wheel-like device. That body switcher is my ticket to freedom, she thought eagerly.

I know what you’re thinking, said a voice in her mind. You won’t succeed. Leave the room immediately, or I’ll turn off your inhibitor chip.

Fry and Leela gazed in wonder at each other, Fry through his two eyes, Leela through her one. “It worked!” said Fry with relief. “I’m a guy again!”

“I’ve got my boobs back!” Leela exulted.

“And I’m still just a head,” said Farnsworth glumly.

Seeing the Frink device lying unattended on the table, Mildred lunged forward between Fry and Leela, grabbing one of its ends with both hands. After flipping the switch to activate it, she swiveled to face Leela and shoved the other end of the unit into the cyclops’ impulsively raised hands. I warned you, said the voice sternly, but Mildred no longer heeded it.

Fry and Delta didn’t know what was happening. Neither did Leela when she blinked a two-eyed blink and once again saw her own face staring back at her.

Mildred glanced around at the now rather flat-looking lab, then at the body switcher that lay on the floor, then at her, or rather Leela’s, hands. Then she let out an exclamation of pure joy: “I’m free!

“Leela?” said Fry quietly. “What’s going on? Free from what?

Rather than answer, Mildred shoved the young man so that he stumbled and nearly fell over, then bolted for the lab exit, running as fast as Leela’s legs would take her.

“Leela!” cried Fry as he regained his footing. “Come back!” The cyclops swiftly vanished down a hallway, and was not seen again.

Fry turned to the bewildered red-haired girl who appeared to him to be Mildred. “Leela?” he said softly. “Is that you?”

“Fry…” uttered Leela, Mildred’s voice replacing her own. She tried to say more, but her words were squelched by a sudden, irresistible burst of murderous rage.

A long metal conducting rod with a sharp tip lay propped against a wall to her right. Snarling viciously, no longer aware of what she was doing, she seized the rod with both hands, then hammered it into Fry’s ribcage so forcefully that the bloody tip came out through his back.

Stay tuned for the thrilling sequel!