Futurama

Fan Fiction

Parallel Lives - A Road Not Taken, part 6
By Graham Dawson

It was raining again. It wasn’t particularly hard rain, or even particularly cold, but it was persistent, the fine sort of drizzle that would seep in between the fibres of your clothing without you noticing until you realised you were soaking wet. It was depressing rain, little more than a fast-moving mist that drifted on the wind so that no shelter could protect you from it.

Not that this stopped Fry and Leela from trying to shelter. They stood and shivered under the minimal protection offered by a few trees near the Planet Express building. Blue was stood a little distance ahead of them, hands bunched into fists as she stared up at the domed roof of the building’s main tower.

“Where’s he got to,” Leela muttered to herself. She glanced over at her own Fry. “He’d better get here soon or she might do something I’ll regret...”

“Maybe he’s...” Fry never got to finish his speculation. A large, blue-grey car drew to a halt a short distance away and lowered itself gently to the ground. Phil stepped out, clad in a smart suit – complete with shined shoes, Leela noticed – and a long trenchcoat. He turned to the car and pulled a travel-bag from it, which he slung over his shoulder as he set off toward the building.

Leela tugged at her own coat and grabbed Fry. “Come on.”

They caught up with Phil just short of the main entrance. He had stopped, and was staring up at the building with a curious expression when they approached. “I haven’t been here for years,” he said quietly. Phil looked at Leela and smiled. “Funny how things work out isn’t it? I wonder if the Professor is still-”

“He’s as good as dead right now.” Blue unfolded her papers and marched up to the main entrance. She paused on the step and turned to look at Phil. “You gonna help me or not?”

“What do you mean good as dead?” Phil tumbled up the steps and stood in the lee of the door, trying to shelter from the rain that was starting to grow a little heavier now. “He might have been a bit old, but-”

“Doesn’t matter what he was. Your ‘Miss Proctor’ had him shipped off to the death satellite the minute she found out he was due to retire.”

“Well... it is the law,” Phil said with little conviction. He looked up at the building again and sighed at the rain falling on his upturned face, then set his jaw and stepped toward the door. “Better get this over with.”

“We’d better hide,” Leela said. She dragged Fry up to the wall, out of direct sight. The door opened almost as soon as Phil pressed the bell and Morgan Proctor herself stepped out, flanked by a pair of guards.

“Hi Morgan.”

“Philip.” Proctor inclined her head toward him. “I can see you are determined to go through this this charade. I had hoped our conversation this morning would dissuade you.”

Phil shrugged and looked at the guards with a thoughtful expression. “I figure she needed a break.”

“She needs to be sectioned,” Proctor said. She looked Philip in the eyes and raised her eyebrow. “You realise that when I took over the management of this office I had to deal with the sort of gross inefficiencies that you used to suffer from, Philip. They were incompetents, lead by an incompetent, and transported by an incompetent. Repair bills for the ship alone were higher than your entire departmental budget. The company had to be remade without their influence.”

“Maybe I liked my inefficiencies,” Phil replied, his voice strangely quiet. He looked into Morgan’s eyes and smiled. “I love you, Morgan, but this is wrong and you know it.”

“I did what needed to be done.”

“You lied, Morgan. On paper. They can demote you for that.”

“You have no proof of that,” Proctor replied, eyebrow arched and hands on hips. She looked to the guards on either side of her. “She may have her license but she is not setting foot inside this building. Good day to you, Mr Fry.”

Morgan turned away and walked back through the door, leaving the two guards outside. Phil stepped forward. One of the guards put his hand on his pistol whilst the other put his hand on Phil’s chest.

“Morgan?” Phil’s voice echoed through the Planet Express lobby and, for a moment, Proctor’s walk stuttered. She paused and turned, almost looking over her shoulder at him, but then she straightened her back and continued walking. The door slid shut a moment later.

“I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to leave,” the guard said, putting a moment of pressure on Phil’s chest. He bowed his head and backed away down the steps until Blue grabbed his arm and pulled him to one side.

“What-”

“You’re giving up!”

Phil shrugged. He looked up at the building again. The guards, satisfied their job was complete, retreated into the shelter of the lobby, closing the door behind them.

“We aren’t going to be able to get in there,” he replied, his expression grim. Blue’s eye widened as her face flushed with anger. “But I can still assess you,” Phil quickly added.

“How can we do that without my ship?”

Phil smiled and put his hand over Blue’s even as she kept it wrapped around his arm. “We can use one of the training ships. It won’t be quite what you’re used to but it’s close enough. Now, would you mind letting go? My hand's going numb.”

Blue narrowed her eye at him, then looked down at her hand, still gripping Phil’s arm tightly. She snapped her fingers apart. “Sorry...”

“No problem,” Phil said, who rubbed his arm to try and get the circulation going again, then looked around until he spotted Fry and Leela. He waved them over. “What about you two?”

“We need to get into the building,” Leela said. Phil glanced past her toward Planet Express. “Our way home is in there.”

“Not much chance of that now.”

“Then we’ll follow you if it’s all the same,” Leela replied. She looked over at Phil’s car, resting near the trees they’d sheltered under and then glanced back at Phil and Fry. “If she can go somewhere, I can go there too and that means that we need to be around when you get her license back.”

“After you then,” he said with a gesture toward his car. Leela took the lead, walking toward the car with a purpose she didn’t actually feel, Fry slumping along behind her like some sort of dejected blobthing. Truth be told this world was starting to get on her nerves. They’d been here a day and a half already, if they didn’t get home soon Hermes might actually fire her, which wasn’t a particularly entertaining prospect.

She paused by the car and waited for Blue and Phil to climb inside, then turned to Fry.

“We’ll be home soon,” she said, putting on a cheery expression.

“Good. This place is starting to give me the creeps. It feels like there’s someone watching me all the time.”

“That’s just your imagination, Fry. Get in the car.”

“Sure...”

Leela slipped into the back seat of the car and shuffled along behind her alter-self, strapped into the front passenger seat alongside Phil. It felt strange to see her relationship with Fry from the outside, no matter how attenuated and fresh it might be in this world. There were little things they did, little ways of looking and talking that seemed very familiar, and she recognised Blue’s insecurities as more visible examples of her own. Phil’s mere presence seemed to be calming them.

She glanced out at Fry who had, for reasons of his own, decided to remain stood in the spitting rain. “Come on Fry!”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” Fry said as he clambered in beside Leela. He pulled the door closed and stared out of the slightly misted window at the damp plaza in front of the PE Building. “This place...” his eyes narrowed and he leaned forward, pressing both hands up against the glass. His voice was barely a whisper when he spoke. “Oh no, she’s there! Do you see her?”

“Who? Where?”

“Right there,” Fry hissed as he stabbed at the glass with his finger. Leela leaned forward to peer at the spot he indicated, a blind doorway across the street from the PE building, but there was nothing in it. Just a black hole. “At least, she was a moment ago...”

“Fry, we’ve been over this.” Leela put her hand on Fry’s shoulder and pulled him back to his seat. “It’s just your imagination.”

Fry stared at her for a moment that was just a little too long to be comfortable, then looked away again with a loud sigh. The hurt in his eyes had been obvious which meant he believed it. Leela was about to say something more when Phil, up front, cleared his throat.

“Ready to leave yet?”

“You’re the one driving,” Leela shot back, too harsh and bitter, but she didn’t care. She just wanted to go home, and Fry’s constant warbling about that insane version of herself wasn’t helping matters. The mere knowledge of her madness had rattled Leela more than she cared to admit; worse, she’d seen a hint of it in the eye of this universe’s Leela, which made her wonder just how close she was riding to the edge of that pit herself.

Phil shrugged and looked at Blue; he smiled briefly at her, then turned to start the car.

“This never gets old,” he said as the car lifted into the air, and then they were away. Phil let out a loud, exuberant ‘whoop’ as the car rocketed skyward. The sudden acceleration pressed Leela back into her seat. She grabbed her seatbelt and buckled up as tight as she could manage. Just in case.






So. They were all together. Leela pushed a raven strand of hair from her eye and continued to watch the car as it pulled out of sight. She stepped back out of the shadows at the last moment and waved at the car’s rear with an almost child-like ferocity, then abruptly turned away from it to examine the Planet Express building. It always came back to the building, the place that had driven her mad. Well no, that wasn’t strictly true. The place it sat on top of had driven her mad, and he...

She killed that train of thought before it went any further and stepped out in the rain to give the building a closer look. The stark grey edifice stood silhouetted against the afternoon sky, still dim and wan, as if the atmosphere were thinner somehow. Even the clouds looked anaemic.

They had been talking to... Proctor, wasn’t it? Morgan Proctor, the one Philip had been infatuated with for a while and who had been so very easy to dispatch the first time. But not this time. Not on this world. Leela needed her alive, at least until she had a chance to get to this world’s Philip Fry. Her eye narrowed even as she smiled at the thought, and so Leela sauntered over to the building with a casual air, ignoring the rain that slithered down her back and matted her hair to her scalp.

The door was unguarded. Memory told her a single kick there, just an inch below the lock and three to the left, would be all it took to break it down but, again, that would be unnecessary. Leela stood in front of the door and just stared at it for a moment. Then she examined her pistol to make sure it was still in working order – as if it ever wouldn’t be – and rang the bell.

“Planet Express,” a voice said. Her voice. So familiar after all these years that Leela almost giggled at it. She cleared her throat and leaned toward the pick-up.

“Hi, I’m-”

“Miss Turanga, you have already been informed of your status regarding employment at this facility.” Proctor spoke in the officious tone Leela had always hated in the brief time she'd known the woman. She smiled at the thought of having another crack at her, but later. Business first.

“I’d like to talk to you about something.”

“There is nothing for us to discuss, Miss-”

“Morgan, Morgan, always so official...” Leela leaned back to peer up at the building. She was almost certain she knew which office Proctor worked in, the one the fat idiot used to use. “Morgan, do you still wear that bun in your hair?”

“You may refer to me as Ms Proctor. Now-” Leela interrupted Proctor’s hectoring voice a second time by banging loudly on the pick-up with the butt of her pistol. “Miss Turanga this is hardly-”

“Can it, Proctor. I know you want rid of me, well there’s things I want too.” She waited, and for a moment wondered if she’d been too harsh. Not that it mattered, there were other ways to sort out this particular problem, although this one would be more fun. “Remember those boxes in your store-room by the hangar?”

“The Paraboxes,” Proctor replied, her voice carefully neutral. Leela nodded, and then grunted an affirmative when she remembered Proctor couldn’t see her. “They allow travel to parallel universes. I am... uncomfortable with this concept.”

“Well get comfortable with it because I came out of one of them. I can offer you a way to deal with your Leela, but I want something in return.”

“What are you proposing?”

Gotcha. Leela smiled. People were so easy to manipulate.

“On my world I know you hated me for having Fry. Every world I've been on has been the same deal in some way. I get Fry, you get shafted.” She paused for a moment, wondering if Morgan was still listening. Of course she was; she could already imagine the wild and terrifying ideas bubbling around in Proctor's robotic little mind.

“He's with her right now, you know. Working her charms. I'm a very charming lady when I want to be.”

“I don't see the relevance of this discussion, Miss Turanga. My grievances with... ‘you’... are of a purely professional nature.”

“Sure, you think she's nuts. You're the one that had me committed back home, though that was more revenge for the fact that Fry dumped you over me.”

“She... was a danger to the safe operation of this company,” Morgan replied, just a hint of anger colouring her voice. “They all were.”

“Yes, though it seems that your boy is helping her get her job back, but I can fix that. She has a secret, a big one, something that'll let you put her away from you and Fry for the rest of your natural lives. I can tell you what it is, but you have to promise you'll let me go home.”

She waited again. A gust of wind flew up from the river and caught at her jacket, momentarily piercing even her tolerance for the cold, but she didn’t shiver. She never let on. Ever. Leela was just about to give up when the door emitted a loud buzz and slid open.

“Meet me in the conference room.” Proctor’s voice echoed from the intercom behind Leela, already deep inside the lobby. “I assume you know where it is.”

“Oh yes, I sure do,” Leela muttered to herself. She was in. All she needed now was time, and then they’d all be dealt with. She began to laugh as she made her way through the unfamiliar familiarity of the Planet Express building.






Dulles Interstellar space-port was far larger than most passengers, who spent most of their time in the passenger terminals, realised. It was vast, covering approximately fifty square miles with most of that space taken up by private carrier pads, cargo terminals and hangars, blast shields, waste-water run-off and simple empty space. Very little was actually devoted to passenger transport.

It was to one of the smaller non-commercial pads that Phil drove them, a slab of cracked and stained concrete and paving next to a pair of hangars apparently in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by ill-looking grass and weeds and thick, shallow-sloped concrete walls. A small building between the hangars served as an office, and there were several courier-type ships of various designs sat about the pad, or peeping from beneath the hangars. In the distance the needle-thin passenger terminal towers thread long, delicate silhouettes across the sky and punctured the thin gauze of cloud that presaged another bout of rain.

Leela could hear the distant roar of a ship lifting off as she exited the car but it was almost too far away to actually see anything more than a slender column of steamy smoke near the horizon. She watched it for a second, a vague curiosity about its destination flitting through her mind, and then turned her back on it.

“You two will have to wait around here,” Phil said, before he helped Blue from the car. He turned to look at Leela and Fry and gave them a cheery smile. “We’ll just be running through the minimum necessary to get her licensed again so we’ll only be gone a couple of hours at the very most. Then it’ll be back to Planet Express to see about her job.”

“We all appreciate it,” Leela said. Blue nodded, and then even smiled a little. She seemed to be enjoying the fresh air and the distant tang of ozone and rocket fuel. Perhaps it was making her feel more at home again. She turned to Fry and gave him a quick shove toward the office. “Come on, let’s see if they’ve got a TV around here.”

“TV would be good. I hope it’s the same here as it is at home, I’m missing All My Circuits.”

“I’m sure...” Leela paused and looked back at their alter-selves as they wandered over to a squat and rather ugly looking training ship. “That thing looks like it’ll barely rate point eight past old light-speed, what use is that?”

“Who cares,” Fry muttered as he kicked at a loose spray of gravel on the tarmac. They continued toward the office in silence.

Leela knew something was wrong the moment they entered the building. A harried clerk looked up at them, eyes wild as his computer flickered a multitude of warnings at him.

“Are you them? Did you-”

His voice was cut off by the sound of the courier ship's engine winding up. The clerk yelled something incoherent and vaulted over his desk, pushing past Leela and Fry in his desperation to get out of the building.

“No! Stop!”

The clerk flew across the pad toward the ship. Leela grunted and ran after him, managing to catch the man just shy of the ship’s backwash. She tackled him to the floor.

“Get off me you-”

“Shut up!” Leela pressed the man down and dropped to the floor as a wave of heat blasted over them from the ship’s engine. When she looked up again the ship was already retreating rapidly toward the distant sky. The clerk screamed, venting his frustration and anger as he pounded the ground with both his fists.

“You stupid, stupid woman! You just landed us all in a whole heap of trouble!”

“Yeah, well I just saved your life!” Leela sat up and let the man crawled to his knees. He continued muttering under his breath in a foreign language and gesticulating at the sky. “What are you talking about?"

The clerk looked at her as if he only just noticed Leela’s existence. He frowned. “They’re flying without a license!”

“Oh, I know that. She’s up there to get assessed.”

“No, you moronic-” was all the clerk managed to say before Fry clobbered him over the back of the head with a folded chair. The clerk crumpled to the floor with a sigh.

“That was easier than I thought it’d be,” Fry muttered as he dropped the chair and leaned over Leela. He held out his hand. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Fry, but couldn’t you have waited until he’d explained what was going on before you hit him?” She looked down at the clerk and then up at Fry’s face. She put out her hand. Fry shrugged as he pulled her upright, strangely blasé about the whole thing.

“I didn’t like the way he was talking to you.”

“That’s... sweet, Fry. Real sweet...” Leela leaned over the clerk to check his pulse and tried not to think about Fry’s sudden transformation into Angry Man. If this was going to be a regular thing he’d need watching very closely. The clerk’s pulse was there, strong and regular, and he didn’t seem to be bleeding which was probably a good sign. “Well, fortunately you didn’t kill him. We’d better get him back inside and wake him up.”

“Why?”

“For one thing, we can’t leave him out here,” Leela said. She hooked her hands under the clerk’s armpits and heaved him up and then over her shoulder. The clerk groaned and mumbled something that Leela instinctively knew was a swear-word, which meant he was probably going to be all right.

“And on top of that I think he was about to tell me something important.”

“Oh. Right.” Fry picked up the fallen chair and followed Leela back to the office again. Another ship was taking off in the near-distance, a heavy freighter of some description climbing skyward atop a column of flame and bright-white smoke. Fry paused to watch the ship until it was almost out of sight and, for a moment, felt a stab of jealousy at the life his counterpart must have here. Then again, he did play flight-sims. Sometimes the price of happiness could be too high, Fry thought, shaking his head as he he entered the office and shut the door, blocking out the faded roar of the freighter.

“What did he want?”

“I’m not sure,” Leela replied. She had the man propped up on a chair and was gently slapping his face, but he seemed completely unresponsive. Leela sighed and gave up, she looked around the office for a moment or two. “There has to be some sort of medical kit around here somewhere, go make yourself useful and find it. I’ll take a look on his computer to see what the problem was.”

Fry grunted and started to look around the office. It was minimally furnished and a rather nasty shade of yellow, the walls lined with shelves of books and computerised clipboards. There weren’t any obvious cupboards or storage cases, a fact he mentioned to Leela. She looked up from the screen and shrugged at him.

“Try that door,” she said, pointing at the portal behind her. Fry wandered toward it but slowed at the last moment and turned to look at the screen Leela was reading. A bright red box caught his eye.

“Hey, isn’t that a Section Fifteen?”

“A what?”

“Section... uh, Hermes had to remove one from my file after I got a little tiny bit drunk with Bender one time,” Fry said. He leaned over the screen and peered at the notice. “Yeah.”

“What the heck is a section fifteen?”

“Sanity clause,” Fry replied. He tapped the screen on the red box. The picture expanded up to show a long, densely typed description that Leela quickly scanned through, not caring to ask Fry for more information.

“There ain’t no sanity clause here,” she said after a moment as scrolled the document down a few pages and then stopped. “Oh wait, here it is. Oh.”

“What?”

“They’ve cancelled her license again. There’s no way around it this time.”

Fry looked around the office, eyes wide with fear, as if he was worried someone was watching. “Morgan?”

“Yes.” Leela brought up a new set of dialogues and read through them as fast as she could manage. Sometimes she wondered if reading would be faster with two eyes. “This isn’t good. I’d better call them.”

Buddies