Futurama

Fan Fiction

Parallel Lives - A Road Not Taken, part 3
By Graham Dawson

It had begun to rain by the time they reached Leela’s apartment building, adding a dreary pall to the already dull and uninspiring daylight of this earth. Fry hunched his shoulders against the rain and shivered in the chill; it was supposed to be late spring, but it felt more like autumn. He stood under the shelter of the lobby entrance while Leela fought and argued with the locks.

“Why not just axe yourself to buzz us in?”

Leela stopped what she was doing for a moment to glare at Fry. She shook her head, then returned to poking at the control panel. “How would you react if someone claiming to be you turned up and axed to be let into your apartment?”

“I’unno,” Fry said with a narrow shrug. He shivered as a short gust of wind shot up the back of his jacket, carrying a sleet of cool rain with it. Leela looked up at him again with something that might have been pity clouding her perfect eye.

“Oh, she must have used a different combination. This is pointless,” she said as she straightened up. Leela backed away from the door, put her hands on her hips and peered at the lock. “Well, no point in waiting around.”

Leela backed up another step, steadied herself and then, with a short yell, ran forward and leapt into the air. The impact of her kick made the door shudder, and incidentally knocked Leela onto her back. She groaned and let her arms splay out, not caring about the rain that fell on her upturned face. Then, without a word, she pushed herself upright and slunk over to the buzzer.

Fry snickered for a second until Leela’s angry eye cut him off. He looked away down the street, peering into the thickening rain. Very little traffic seemed to be coming down the road, and all the pedestrians had been driven indoors by the weather, which only added to the gloomy nature the city seemed to have taken on this world.

Then Fry’s heart leapt. A tall and slender figure detached from the shadows of a nearby building and stopped just long enough for Fry to recognise Leela’s dark-haired counterpart. She held up a hand; for a moment Fry thought she was holding a gun, but with quick relief he realised it was empty. The dark version of Leela held up her thumb and forefinger and made a shooting motion at him, then made is if to blow smoke from the imaginary gun.

Leela tapped him on the shoulder and he looked, without realising, toward her face. When he glanced back the shadowy figure had gone. “What?”

“You should probably talk to her,” Leela said, her voice unusually quiet. She seemed distracted by something, although Fry couldn’t really fathom what. It made him nervous in sympathy, though. Leela was normally so sure of herself. She stood back a little and ushered Fry toward the buzzer. Then, before he could react, she’d pressed it and retreated out of sight.

A screen above the buzzer fizzed to life and a silhouette that looked a lot like Leela appeared on the screen, hidden behind static. Without thinking Fry glanced up at the floor Leela’s apartment was on, then remembered there weren’t any windows. And apparently no lights, either, he thought as he looked back at the screen. “Uh... hi.”

“Who is this?”

Fry paused. She didn’t know him? That wasn’t right... “It’s me. Fry.”

“Fry who?” The voice sounded uncertain, confused even. Fry briefly wondered if they’d got the wrong apartment, but a quick check told him otherwise. “Wait, aren’t you him? The guy I lost in the old city?”

Lost. Somehow, Fry realised, he’d escaped her on this world. Why did that fill him with so much worry? He leaned toward the screen and spoke as quietly as he dared. “Leela, this isn’t going to make much sense, but you’re kind of right. I’m him. But I’m not him, if you see what I mean. I’m a different version of him.”

“You’re right, it doesn’t make much sense.” The silhouette turned away; Fry glanced across at Leela, comparing the two for a moment, noticing some very profound differences even without a detailed view. “Are you playing some sort of trick?”

“Oh just you wait,” Fry said. He grabbed Leela and dragged her into view of the screen. Both Leela’s gasped at the same time, giving Fry a very odd stereo experience. He winced at the brain-hurting nature of it all and pressed forward. “Some trick huh? I can’t explain things now, or ever, really, since it’d sound crazy... what I mean is-”

“We need your help,” Leela said suddenly, pushing Fry aside. She leaned toward the screen, narrowing her eye at the other Leela. The other woman was silent just long enough for Fry to think they'd never get in until the door buzzed open. Leela pushed the door open a little further and grabbed Fry’s arm.

“Better hurry before she changes her mind,” she said. Fry nodded and glanced down the street one last time. It was deserted.






The door to apartment One I was open when they reached it, and dark within. Leela gingerly pushed the door a little way and peered into the gloom. “Hello?”

She pushed the door a little further and crept into the room, keeping as quiet as she could in the pervading darkness. Fry followed after, nervously peering into the darkness. He stopped just beyond the threshold and wrapped his arms around himself. “This isn’t right,” he said quietly, and then peered into the darkness. He lifted his arm to the wall and felt about for a light-switch.

“Why is it so dark in here?”

“I like it that way,” Leela said. And then: “That wasn’t me!”

There was a yell and a loud thump as someone fell to the floor. Fry finally found the light-switch and slapped it hard, casting the entire room in a bright, unnatural glare that revealed Leela leaning over the prone form of her alter-self. The apartment was as spartan and austere as Leela’s apartment back home but, in contrast to the rest of the world outside, somehow shabbier and less pristine. Piles of discarded food wrappers had gathered in the corners, and the carpet was bare and stiff with dust and the crusted remnants of spilled food and drinks. The ParaLeela herself lay in a heap on the floor, her skin pallid and grey, her muscle-tone almost non-existent, as if she never did anything more demanding than lifting her own weight. Her hair was an almost identical colour to Leela’s, though duller like everything else in the world, and maybe a little bluer.

She was weeping quietly. Leela knelt down next to her counterpart and lifted her up onto her knee.

“Are you all right?”

“Do I look all right?” Blue Leela shielded her eye against the brightness of the room and groaned. “Turn the damn light off. I don’t deserve to see it.”

“Now what’s that supposed to mean,” Leela said, propping the other woman upright. She waved Fry over; he knelt down beside them and tried to look supportive, but only managed a pained grimace. Fortunately neither woman noticed. Leela stroked back a strand of her counterpart's greasy hair and then discreetly wiped her fingers on her shirt.

The alternate Leela inched her eye open and stared at Leela, obviously confused. “You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

Leela and Fry both leaned forward, but not too close, and Fry had to resist the urge to cover up his nose as their proximity made it clear this alternate Leela probably hadn't changed her clothes in weeks. She looked away and let out a melancholy giggle.

“You’ve spent your whole life wondering where the rest of your species are, haven’t you?”

“Well, yes but-”

“I found out, you know,” she persisted, ignoring Leela’s attempt to speak. She levered herself from Leela’s arms and crawled away across the floor toward a discarded liquor bottle. “I found out where I came from.”

Leela gasped as her twin tore the cap from the bottle and took a deep swig of the liquor. She leaped to her feet and was at the other's side in three strides just as the other woman was settling herself into the corner of the room. Leela snatched the bottle from her counterpart, who looked up at her in confusion and then seemed to resign herself to the sudden lack of alcohol.

“You’re just my imagination anyway,” she said, and let her arms flop to the floor. Leela tossed the bottle away and knelt down by her counterpart.

“I know where I came from too,” she said quietly, taking her alternate's hand. She patted it a couple of times. “It’s not so bad once you get used to the idea.”

“How the hell could you get used to being a... a...”

“Mutant,” Leela finished. She wiped a tear from the other's face and smiled at her.

“I’m a mutant...”

Leela smiled and nodded. “See? It’s not so hard. Besides, if you’ve found that out then you’ve met our parents as well. That has to make up for something, right?”

“I never met my parents,” the other said, her face downcast. She tried to push Leela away but failed, a combination of lack of exercise and alcohol robbing her of all her strength. Leela smiled slightly.

“Well in that case we could go and-”

“I killed them,” she said quietly. Leela let the twin’s hand drop to the floor, and then her own hands to her sides. She stared at her doppelgänger’s face for a moment, then turned to look at Fry, her brow wrinkling as she thought back to her first encounter with her parents.

“Didn’t Fry stop...” her voice trailed off. Leela slowly stood up and backed away from her counterpart, then edged toward Fry. She took his arm and pulled him to the far side of the room. “This is bad.”

“Why?”

Leela looked over her shoulder. She leaned a little closer to Fry so that she could whisper without being overheard.

“You remember how I found my parents?”

“Yeah, you nearly shot them. Good job I was there to save the day...” Fry’s voice trailed off and his eyes widened as he looked over at the alternate Leela. “Didn’t she say she lost me underground somewhere?”

“That’s right. You weren’t there to stop her killing her parents,” Leela said in an urgent whisper. She glanced over at the other Leela, who was now sliding herself across the floor toward the discarded liquor bottle. “I thought they’d killed my parents and taken their stuff, I was pretty screwed up in the head by then. If I’d shot them and then found out who they were afterwards... I can’t imagine how I would have ended up.”

Fry looked around the apartment, noted the unkempt piles of garbage in the corners, and shrugged again. “Like this?”

“I guess...” Leela turned back to look at her counterpart, uncertainty curling her lips down ever so slightly. She flexed her fingers, balling and un-balling fists as she tried to workout what to do. “I’d hoped she could get us back into Planet Express, but I don’t think she even works there. I should have realised when that guard didn’t recognise me.”

“Maybe he did and just didn’t want to say anything,” he said after a moment of thought. Leela looked over her shoulder at him, frowned, and seemed ready to say something, only to relent a moment later. She looked back at herself, slumped in the grim emptiness of her apartment, completely alone.

Fry took a deep breath and shoved his hands in his pockets. “If she doesn’t work there then maybe we should just go,” he said quietly. Leela shook her head.

“No. We’ve got to do something about this.” Her voice was just as quiet, but determined. Leela took a step toward herself only to be jerked back by Fry's sudden, insistent hand on her arm.

“Leela, she killed your parents! Her, your, I mean...” Fry’s voice trailed off as he tried to figure out what he meant. His arm dropped to his side again. “What if she does it again?”

“She wasn’t sane,” Leela retorted. Blue – if she had to pick a name it seemed appropriate to go with her hair colour – had finally reached the bottle and sprawled pathetically across the floor, trying to push its neck into her mouth to suck at the remnants of the liquor inside. Leela strode over to her and kicked the bottle away. It clattered into the corner of the room, bounced once off the drab wall before it came to rest on the floor.

“Whazza... go away, stupid dream version of me...”

“Not until you sober up,” Leela said, reaching down to pull her other self upright. She dragged the other Leela over to her chair and sat her down, taking care to clean the junk-food wrappers and scraps of stale food away before she lowered her counterpart into the seat, then stood back. Blue slumped sideways in the chair, arms limp, glaring at Leela with impotent fury.

Leela put her hands on her hips and stared back at herself. She took in the pale skin and dark bag under her mirror’s eye, and her unkempt hair. “You’re a real wreck, aren’t you?”

“I’m a stinky mutant, why should I care how I look?”

“Fry, go make some coffee,” she said, not taking her eye off Blue. Fry nodded and shuffled from the room, and Leela found herself hoping this parallel universe version of herself hadn’t completely emptied her kitchen yet. She leaned against the wall and watched her companion for a while, curious about her lack of self respect. “So, while we’re waiting, why don’t you tell me how you found all this out?”

Her twin glared at Leela and her mouth curled down in anger. “What do you care,” she spat, lifting an accusing finger to Leela. “Maybe in your imaginary dream-world it’s okay to be a mutant. Maybe you can still fly your ship and keep your job-”

“Ship? You still work for Planet Express?” Leela pushed away from the wall and took a step toward her other self. The other Leela frowned at her, uncertain in the face of so many questions. “You still fly?”

“You know I did, until six months ago when that uptight bureaucrat fired me for incompetence. Hah.” She reached under the chair and retrieved a fresh bottle of liquor. Leela snatched the bottle from her meta-sister’s hand before she could even break the seal and held it up in the air, where her twin waved at it a few times before giving up the fight. She slumped back into the seat with her eye squeezed shut. “That one wouldn’t know incompetent if it came and bit em on the ass...”

With the bottle cradled in her arms Leela backed away until she was out of Blue's reach. “So, after you got intimate with our friend here, Hermes fired you?”

“Hermes? He disappeared years ago.” The Blue Leela opened her eye and glared at the bottle in Leela’s arms. Then she looked away, stared at the blank wall and sighed. “That bitch-woman, Morgan Proctor, she put me on ‘administrative leave’ after she took over the company. Not like I cared though. By then we weren’t even doing deliveries any more.” She held up her hands and wiggled her fingers sarcastically. “It wasn’t an 'efficient use of resources'. I don’t think I’ve been outside more than a dozen times since I came home that day.”

Leela turned away with a sudden wish for a window to look out of. Standing in this strange, but familiar version of her apartment she suddenly realised how well it kept the outside world at bay, kept her safe from contact with people, and how easily it could turn into a prison.

“You can’t just hide away from these things,” she said quietly as she turned to look at her counterpart. The other Leela continued staring at the wall, and seemed unwilling to even acknowledge her presence. Leela pressed on regardless. “Some day you’ll have to come to terms with what happened.”

Her double turned a rheumy eye toward Leela, revealing a hint of how much drinking she’d done recently. Leela felt a strange, terrible feeling in her gut; to even consider the possibility that she could sink this low made her stomach churn.

“Coffee’s ready,” Fry said as he slipped back into the room bearing a huge, steaming pot of coffee on a tray. He looked around, trying to find somewhere to set the tray down. Finding no table he set it on the floor next to Leela’s chair. “I couldn’t find any milk, but you do have a lot of very tasty cheese cartons.”

“Fry, that was the milk,” Leela said. She regarded her friend for a moment as he knelt and poured a cup of coffee, and scratched his rear-end at the same time. Somehow having him around was a reminder that life wasn’t really so bad. Perhaps, without him, she might have... Leela quickly pushed the thought away and returned to her counterpart.

“We need to get back into Planet Express,” she said quickly. Her alternate folded her arms and glared at the bottle in Leela’s hands. Leela sighed as she handed the bottle over. “Like I said, we need your help.”

“Easy, just walk in,” Blue said, uncapping the bottle. She held it up to the light as if trying to appreciate the colour, then lifted the bottle to her lips and took a deep swallow. “Just walk right on into the place, s’not like anyone cares any more,” she added, waving the bottle about for effect. “Not since Proctor locked the Professor into that death satellite and had the rest of the staff re-assigned.”

“But the guard...?”

“Feh, guards come and guards go. Shoot him or something, I don’t give a rats.” The double took another draught from the bottle. She looked up at Leela again. “What were they like?”

“I’m sorry?”

“My parents...” she let out a sigh and carefully placed the bottle on the floor, where it was immediately knocked over by Fry. He muttered an apology as he shovelled something that probably wasn’t sugar into one of the cups but Blue just closed her eye and shivered.

“When I pulled back the first hood and saw her face, I... she was still... still alive then. She said she loved me, and then...”

She didn’t start crying, just seemed to sink into her chair, as if her body had suddenly lost its internal support. An unseeing eye turned toward Leela and stared right through her. “I never even knew their names.”

Leela knelt down next to her counterpart and held her hand, then gently touched Blue’s shoulder. “She was called Munda,” she said quietly. “And Morris.”

“Munda...” Blue rolled the word around her mouth with a sad, distant smile. Her eye slowly rolled toward the floor, where she spotted Fry holding up a cup of coffee. He held out the cup and gave her an encouraging smile, but she didn’t take it.

“Fry, this might be a good time for you to leave me alone for a few minutes.”

Fry’s face fell. He frowned at his coffee. “I was only trying to help.”

“I know, and I appreciate it. We both do,” Leela said as Fry stood up. She took his arm and guided him toward the apartment door, where she paused for a moment with her eye fixed on some slight stain that marred the otherwise clean wall by the door-frame. “Look, I need to say a few things to her, and having you around... well it’s woman stuff. You understand? We'll just be a few minutes.”

“Oh, sure, woman stuff.” Fry pushed his hands into his pockets and slouched toward the door. “Amy tried to teach me about all that once but I could never understand the off-side rule. No, wait, that was Hermes and soccer.”

“Out, Fry...” Leela opened the door and shoved Fry out into the brightly-lit, deserted hallway. The door clicked shut, leaving Fry alone. He looked about the hallway for something to do but quickly realised that there was nothing. It was a hall, at the end of the day. People walked through it. They didn’t usually do anything there except on rare occasions when the door was locked and they couldn’t wait, or at least that was Fry’s experience.

“Stupid feminine want and needs,” he grumbled under his breath.

After a few minutes leaning against the door he was bored of the silence and, with nothing to entertain him, it looked like he would be that way for a while. Fry stood up and wandered down the hall to an end window. It was round, like all the windows on the building, and it gave Fry a good view over the street below as he leaned on the sill and stared at the pavement for a while. The rain bounced and shimmered across the paving in short waves, pattering against the window now and then on stray gusts of ocean wind. Fry turned a little to peer up and down the strangely deserted road – he remembered there always being a huge queue of traffic around Leela’s place on the few times he’d been anywhere near it – but he couldn't see any sign of the scary Leela.

A movement in the corner of his eye caught Fry’s attention and his throat tightened with fear until he realised it was just a sign waving from a nearby lamppost. Fry probed around the window until he found a latch, then pushed it open. As he leaned out for a better look he heard a loud metallic click from below his window, accompanied by the sound of something creaking.

“Hello Fry.”

Her voice, that lovely, terrible voice, echoed up from below at about the same time the gun’s barrel poked into Fry’s left nostril. Fry whimpered and stumbled back until his fall was brought short by a hand grabbing his shirt. Leela’s face rose up to meet him as she hauled herself up against his weight, her eye filled with bitter hatred and yet strangely amused, as if the very sight of him was somehow incredibly funny. She pulled him close until their noses were touching and then shoved the gun into his mouth.

“Miss me?”

“Nmf?” Fry lifted back his head to get the gun from between his teeth. “Leela, why are you still doing this?”

“No time to explain,” Leela said, returning the gun to Fry’s mouth. Fry heart thumped hard when the ancient weapon’s ratchet clicked as she started to squeeze the trigger, and he saw her eye widen, pupil dilating, filling with an intensity and passion he’d rarely seen on Leela’s face. She was enjoying this?

“Fwaif!” Desperate, Fry kicked back against the wall. Leela lost her grip on his shirt and he felt a sudden pain as the gun’s sight tore against his lip and gum. The impulsive action finished Leela’s movement for her; the gun fired, surprisingly quiet in the narrow corridor. Fry could swear he saw the bullet streak in front of his face as he stumbled backwards down the hall.

A light-fitting exploded in a shower of sparks and plunged the middle of the hallway into darkness just as Fry slumped down beside an apartment door. He screamed – it was an annoyingly girly scream, some part of his mind grumbled – and rammed himself up against the wall. Realising this was no good he turned, meaning to push himself toward Leela’s apartment, then groaned as he saw the door swinging toward him in a peculiar slow motion. The thick composite cracked against his skull and, for just a moment, everything went black.

Buddies