“Are you going to lay there like a lump all day?” Leela asked Fry.
“C’mon, Leels…I’m enjoying a break.”
“Why so bent out of shape, Leela?”
“Oh, hell…I was taking my starpilot’s rating test and I screwed up on an essay question about Omega Wave Xenostabilization. I messed up on that same subject back in high school. I never thought this stupid thing would come back to haunt me – I didn’t know what to do.”
“Good news, Fry!” The Professor caught up with Philip in the lounge.
“Oh, no,” Fry responded, “I always cringe when you tell me that. Oh well, what is it this time?”
“I’ve invented the time machine!”
“Wait a minute - you already did that…”
“No, no! Now I’ve perfected it…now it can travel backwards as well as forward in time. And what’s more, I can travel to different locations with it as well!” Professor Farnsworth hastily grabbed Fry’s shirt to show him his latest invention. It looked like his previous one, but was more compact…like a larger version of the phone booth, but fancier. “The secret was in the ion displacement cams the whole time - I’ve been such a nut! I always knew that I would stumble on this before Dr. Wernstrom. Who’s going to get the Nobel Prize for physics now, huh?”
Suddenly the Professor let out a high-pitched squeal like a frightened girl. A long shadow fell upon him from the doorway as bureaucrat Morgan Proctor stepped into the lab. She had that familiar serious look on her face, and she held the dreaded clipboard in her hand.
“Professor Hubert Farnsworth,” she said in that tone reminiscent of a schoolteacher. “what is that device that you are standing in front of?”
“This…this is a new portable toilet for our delivery ship.”
“Have you filed a 6130/8B form for an interstellar waste disposal device?”
“Uh, I was just about to get that done.”
“Don’t be a slacker, Farnsworth. No one respects a slacker.” Morgan turned to Fry. “Hello Philip…still looking good as ever. Make sure Mr. Deadbeat here gets his paperwork in order.” She looked at her wrist computer. “It’s already 4 o’clock…I’d better get this finished.”
As Morgan continued her snooping around, Fry decided to grab a slurm.
Farnsworth turned in surprise to see…himself. The two Professors looked at each other. The “visiting” Professor grabbed the other by the shoulders. “Get Fry and yourself to the panic room!”
“Why?” asked the original Professor.
“No time to explain, Hubert, no time!” With that, the visiting Farnsworth left the room.
The professor took Fry to a secret chamber in his lab. Once inside, he sealed the door. “What is this place, Professor?”
“Waaa? Oh…this is my time-proof panic room.”
“What’s it do?”
“It will protect us from any sudden changes in the timeline.”
Fry scratched his head. “Why do we need to be in here? Why do we need protection from changes in the timeline?”
“I don’t really know. I told myself to bring us here for some reason.”
“Uhh…okay. That’s a strange answer.”
Morgan cursed herself silently for having that extra glass of chardonnay for lunch…pretty irresponsible of her. Now she had to pee. She remembered the toilet Farnsworth showed her. It was a pretty thing…a bit ornate for a bathroom, but it would save her from heading back downstairs. It seemed to have a large amount of lights and dials on it. Morgan gasped with wonder as she opened the door…
“Fry, for the love of God, wake up!!”
Fry stirred on the couch that he’d fallen asleep on. “Wha…what happened?”
“Come with me, Fry…the time machine is gone! It‘s gone!!”
They went back into the lab area where the machine sat, and sure enough, it was missing. “Fry, do you know what this means? We have to keep a sharp eye out and look for any changes in the timeline!”
“Oh…that’s why we were in that chamber-thingee. What are we looking for again?”
“Anything out of the ordinary from our timeline.”
“You mean like that big plasma screen tv on the wall there?”
Fry and Farnsworth gazed at the screen with wonder; neither one of them ever remembered putting it up there. They gasped as it suddenly came to life. The large image of Morgan Proctor filled the screen. Her eyes drilled straight into the camera.
“This is a slacker alert in Sector 7,” Morgan said in a serious tone. Suddenly the image of three men being arrested and led off to a waiting police car filled the screen. What was more, Fry‘s old girlfriend Colleen O‘ Hallahan, dressed in a fancy grey uniform, gleefully hit one of the men with a stun stick. The voice of Morgan chimed back in. “These three lax idlers were caught in a secret room playing, of all things, cards. They had cleverly built the room so that they could loaf during work hours…not a very efficient use of time, if I might say so myself. If you need things to do, we will give you things to do. If you need more work, we will find more work for you to do.” Morgan’s frightening image filled the screen again. “If you are out there slacking off, my Morganettes will find you. Remember: efficiency is best…slackers need no rest. That is all.” The screen went to black again.
“Uh, Professor,” Fry asked in a confused tone, “does this count as a change in the timeline?” Farnsworth stared at him in amazement.
“Fry,” Farnsworth said, “we need to get out of here before…oh, too late!”
Amy and Leela walked in wearing those same dark grey uniforms that they had seen on Morgan. They were both in a cheery mood. “Hey, guys,” Leela said.
“Look what I just got, Fry…”
“What did you get, Leela?”
Leela proudly displayed a small medal on her uniform jacket. “I got another multi-tasking medal.”
Then Amy began showing off her newest medal. “I got a new one, too!”
“What’s that one for?” asked Fry cautiously.
“Five years without a vacation!”
“And that’s a good thing? Ouch!” Farnsworth kicked Fry’s knee.
“Of course it’s a good thing, Fry. We’d like to chat with you ladies all evening, but we’re off to buy more business books at Borders and Noble’s.”
“Well,” said Leela, “that’s a pretty good use of your time…have a good evening!”
“You do the same!” Farnsworth grabbed Fry’s arm and pulled him toward the door.
Fry and Farnsworth busily hustled out into the streets of New New York. Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary, except for the huge display screens up on the buildings. They soon found themselves standing in front of Borders and Noble Books…in the display windows was a book written by one of the founders of the Anti-Slacker League, Marge Simpson. “What are we doing here at the bookstore?”
“It’s not what’s here at the bookstore, but what’s in back of it that I’m here for.” He led Fry down the alley in back of the store to a brick wall. He tapped on a brick three times and part of the wall opened up to reveal another time machine.
“You’ve got another one…why did you do this, Professor?”
“Boy, I always have a back-up plan.”
Farnsworth opened the door and the two of them stepped in. He tapped a few buttons and the machine came to life.
“But how are we going to find your other machine?”
“Look at this screen over here, Fry. Every one of my time travel machines leaves behind a trail of dirty anti-protons when it travels, sort of like a trail of rabbit poop…radioactive rabbit poop at that.”
“That’s a nasty Polaroid, Professor,” Fry said as he gazed at the yellow dots on the screen.
“Look at the screen! She’s on the move!” With that, Farnsworth slammed the door, tapped on some more buttons, and pulled back a huge lever. Fry could feel the machine move as his stomach felt queezy. When the machine stopped moving, the Professor opened the door. There were no buildings. No cars. No streets. Just wilderness, trees and caves.
The two walked around, marveling at the ancient landscape. “Professor,” Fry asked, “do you have any idea of where we are? We’re lost…”
“Nonsense, boy.” Farnsworth began to point at the natural features. “That is the bookstore, that is Fishy Joe’s, and that is Starbugs Coffee. Or at least it will be in a million years.”
“That cave is Starbugs?”
“No…behind the cave…just on the other side of those rocks. Near that juniper tree.” Suddenly Farnsworth grabbed Fry by the arm. “Quick – someone’s coming! Hide over here!” The two darted behind a rock. What they saw amazed them. It was a group of cavemen armed with spears, led by none other than Morgan Proctor. Morgan had eighty-sixed her grey uniform for a bear skin and animal skin shoes. The lead caveman listened intently to the instructions given by Morgan.
“Now Thog,” she said in a business tone, “you being the de-facto supervisor of these men can organize them into shifts. The day shift can do the gathering while the evening shift can hunt for mammoth. You’ll find this to be a much more efficient operation. Now, all you’ll need are some middlemen -” Morgan suddenly spotted the two hiding behind the rock. “Thog! It’s the evil spirit people I told you about…get them!!”
“Wait,” the Professor yelled, “you can’t do this! It’s not right to change history!”
“What do you mean not right…I’ve got Thog and his men hunting and gathering 28% more effectively than before. All they really needed was a business model!”
“But you’ve already changed our timeline!”
“I have…and doesn’t it run better? I’ve put the power where it belongs – in the hands of the middle managers. The day of the slacker has come and gone! Slay them!!”
The two beat a hasty retreat back to their time machine, barely getting the door closed before the spears started hitting the outside hull. The machine started moving again, and the sound of the spears ceased.
Fry slumped against the wall of the time machine. “We’re doomed,” he moaned.
“Poppycock, boy…we’re just got to catch up with her and get the machine back.” He tapped some more buttons and looked at his screen. “Look – she’s on the move again; her location has changed. Europe. Mediterranean. Athens. 375 BC.” He pulled the lever back and the machine lurched to a stop.
The door opened to reveal the ancient city of Athens in all of its glory. Luckily, they had parked behind a temple, and hadn’t been noticed by the locals. Fry looked around in wonder. “This is really cool, Professor. Look at the writing on the buildings…hey, it’s all Greek to me! Get it? I always wanted to use that joke in ancient Greece. Professor?” Farnsworth was looking at the temple that they had just walked in front of…his jaw nearly dropped to the ground.
“Oh, for the love of all that’s decent…this is a really bad sign.”
The two gazed up at a gigantic statue towering nearly 30 feet into the air. It was Morgan. She was holding scrolls in her left hand, and a writing instrument in her right hand. At her sandaled feet was a sign with Greek writing on it.
“You read that language, don’t you?”
“A bit, boy, a bit.” Farnsworth adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. “Efficiency, Productivity, Practicality. These are the tools by which our society is guided. Slacking is the poison by which our society can succumb.”
“It does not say slacker…”
“Does too…there’s a sigma, and there’s a lambda. She must have taught them that word.” Farnsworth spun around to hear a familiar voice coming. “Quick, down here behind the statue!”
Morgan was wearing a local outfit and sandals, but still wore a wrist computer. Walking with her was an older man with a thick beard. “I read your ‘Republic’, but found it a bit wordy. It will need some revision.” After she spoke, the wrist computer translated what she said into Greek.
“I must say that I am honored to have a goddess from Olympus actually read my manuscript…I’m humbled.”
“Plato,” she said as she put her hand on his shoulder, “your reputation will go on through the centuries. I am going to need you to write up my business plan, though.”
“But Olympus…what’s it like?”
“Well, we like to call it the ‘home office’.” Again, Morgan noticed the shadow of the two from behind the statue. “We seem to have picked up some bad spirits…Plato, go get some of your armed men – I’ll put in a good word for you with Zeus if you do.”
Plato jogged off to do Morgan’s bidding. Morgan peeked around the statue to see her two intruders.
“You two seem to get around…why don’t you just join me – they can make some statues of you if you’d like.”
“Morgan,” Farnsworth blurted out, “this is wrong!”
“Why is it wrong? I just want to make a more efficient world. Fry! Talk some sense into the man…I used to care for you – the two of us can rule here together!”
Greek soldiers came running towards them – Farnsworth knew it was time to make a hasty exit back to the machine. Morgan mockingly called out to them. “Don’t be a stranger, guys…I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around sometime!”
Before the soldiers could reach the machine, it faded from view.
“Professor, what are we going to do? We can’t keep running like this.”
“Nonsense…look – she’s moving again. North America. United States. Washington DC. 1865.” Farnsworth hit a few more buttons and pulled the lever. “She’s going to dilly-dally with the Lincoln assassination – we’ve got to stop her!”
It was evening in DC when the door opened. The odor of horses and their leavings hit Fry as he left the machine. No cars. No burger or pizza joints. No slurm machines. “Professor,” Fry asked, “where are we going?”
“Fry, didn’t you barbarians study history in your day?” The two of them jogged across the street to the Ford’s Theater. They were able to get right in, and weren’t questioned by any security personnel; they were able to get up to the presidential booth without being stopped. The show was going on without interruption.
“Looking for someone?”
Fry and Farnsworth spun around to see Morgan standing in the doorway…she stood there dressed like Clara Barton, with a dark gown with buttons. “Where is he?” Farnsworth asked.
“Oh, Honest Abe? I convinced him that his time would be more effectively spent back at the White House doing paperwork. And John Wilkes Booth? He’s already sitting in a jail cell here in town.”
“You can’t do this…you keep changing the timeline!”
“I saved the president tonight…that’s not a bad thing? Join me…we can all rule a more productive world together.”
“Someone’s got to stop you – you can’t keep doing this!”
“Who, you?” Morgan was joined by a high-ranking police officer. “Chief Murphy, I caught these strangely dressed men in the president’s booth. They seem to know a great deal about the plot to assassinate the president…they might be foreign nationals.”
Before Murphy could grab them, Fry made an attempt to jump out the booth to the stage. “Don’t boy – he broke his ankle that way…remember?” The Professor pulled out a silver ball about the size of a marble and threw it to the floor…there was a loud bang and lots of purple smoke – Fry and Farnsworth had escaped the theater into the night.
Fry looked glum as he slumped against the side of the machine. “We’re boned…we’re totally boned! We’ll have to spend the rest of our lives in Morgan’s nightmare world of bureaucracy.”
Oh, nuts…I almost forgot!” Farnsworth began hitting more buttons and he yanked the lever again. “If I time this just right…”
The machine stopped. Farnsworth opened the door to reveal his lab. Fry watched in amazement as he went out to briefly talk with himself.
“Get Fry and yourself to the panic room!”
“Why?” asked the original Professor.
“No time to explain, Hubert, no time!” With that, he came back into the machine and shut the door.
“Question, Professor,” asked Fry, “why didn’t you just go back to before Morgan climbed into the machine and just stop her from doing it?”
“Well, these machines are miracles of technology, but it’s very hard to nail it to the exact minute. She went into my machine at 4:00, and I arrived 2 minutes later after she’d gone.”
Suddenly the two heard a beeping sound come from his panel. “Well, my boy…maybe we’re about to catch a break.” Farnsworth had his eyes glued to the screen. “See this blinking red dot? She’s stopped, and having some sort of difficulty with my machine. Let’s see…North America…New England…Massachusetts…1692.” The two looked at each other. “The Witch Trials?”
The door opened to reveal a large mob of people. Sure enough, as they had suspected, Morgan Proctor was tied to a post and surrounded by kindling. Professor Farnsworth pulled a gadget out the time machine to take with them. The two scrambled up to the crowd to hear the magistrate pronounce judgment.
“The evidence is undeniable…this woman here has been caught in the act of witchcraft. She was seen stepping out of this metal box after it suddenly appeared in the town square. We also have it on good authority that the cows have stopped giving milk since she’s been here. It is this court’s decision that she be put to death by fire.”
Morgan cried out in fear. “Fry, let’s go bail her ass out.” Fry cringed as the magistrate wasted no time in setting the wood ablaze with a torch. Farnsworth walked up to address the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, stand back!”
“Who might you be, old man?” the magistrate said angrily.
“You are getting ready to kill an innocent woman here. I, on the other hand, am a powerful warlock. Behold!” Farnsworth waved the device in front of him, and the flames seemed to move to either side of him. He was able to walk right up and untie Morgan from the wooden post that she was lashed to. She wasted no time in getting away from the flames. A mob of people cautiously moved in around the three. “You stand back, you bunch of hoodlums! I’ll use this magic box to fill your barns up with deadly snakes!”
“I’ve seen him do it,” chimed in Fry. The crowd started to disperse, thinking it safer to retreat back to their houses.
“Thank you, Professor Farnsworth! When the machine wouldn’t work, I didn’t know what to do!”
“It didn’t break down, you dolt…it just had the cheap atomic battery that they put in these kinds of things when they’re new. I was only going to test drive it when you stole it.”
“At any rate, I’m so glad the two of you came along. Let’s go home.”
“Home?” Hubert Farnsworth reached out and grabbed Morgan by the ear. He began dragging her back to the second time machine. “You are going to un-do everything that you did! No more Greek statues! No more cat-goddess paintings on pyramids! No more stained glass images of Saint Morgan on French cathedrals!”
Morgan winced in pain and tilted her head down as Farnsworth drug her by the ear. “Ow! Ow! Ow!” He shoved her into the machine, and grabbed a spare atomic battery out of a storage door. He handed the battery to Fry.
“Philip,” the Professor sternly instructed, “pop this in below the instrument panel. Take my craft straight home. Do you hear me? No shilly-shallying around.”
On a quiet dark street in New New York , a skinny teenage girl with braces and one cycloptic eye made her way home from the public library after an unsuccessful hunt for a book for her term paper. She had a sad, tired look on her face. As she got closer to home, she was startled by a stranger standing in the shadows. “Looking for something?”
The girl jumped. “Mister, you scared the bejeezuz out of me!”
“I’m sorry…I just wanted to get this to you – I think you dropped it.”
“I didn’t drop a book…” Leela looked down at the book in amazement in the dim lighting of the street lamps. It was “Applied Omega Wave Xenostabilization” by Dr. Sergei Barsukov. “My God…I just tore the library apart looking for this thing! I was sure they had it.” Leela looked up at the stranger in the shadows. “Mister, do I know you?”
“You might someday…”
“This is so great,” Leela said as she looked at the book…the price tag was still on it. “Hey, thanks…” She looked all around, but the mysterious stranger was already gone.
Morgan Proctor came out into the PE lounge with her clipboard. Farnsworth was standing with her. “I’m happy to announce that all of your paperwork is in order, and that you’ve passed your inspection with flying colors.”
“Hey Morgan,” Fry said sarcastically, “How’s the ear?” Morgan ignored the remark and quickly left. Leela passed her in the doorway. “Leela, how’d everything go?”
She got a smile on her face. “I passed it. They even threw a question on Omega Wave Xenostabilization at me. I’ve still got a book on that from high school.”
Professor Farnsworth joined Fry on the couch with a slurm in his hand. “Ah,” he said to Fry, “it seems like ages since I’ve been on this couch.”
Amy Wong then entered the room. “Shmeesh…are you two slackers still hanging around in here?”
Farnsworth got an annoyed look on his face as he shook his finger at Amy. “Don’t you start with me, young lady…don’t you start with me…”