The pen was out again, poking at things as the professor muttered to himself and wandered around the lab. He looked up as Fry and Amy entered, stared at them blank faced for a moment and then resumed wandering.
The machine with the weird wheel seemed to be turned off now, or at least it wasn’t spinning any more, and the cradle behind it seemed to be full of the strange rods it had been ejecting earlier. He felt an odd temptation to pick up one of the rods and play with it. They looked like they’d make good swords but, ultimately, Fry’s experience of the lab stayed his hand. He turned away from the machine and sat down at one of the workbenches beside Amy.
“I’m here, Professor. What did you want?”
“What? Who are you? Ohh...” Farnsworth peered at Fry again as he shuffled over to them, pen at the ready. “Oh yes. The idiot.”
“Hey, quit it!”
“Oh, if you insist.” Farnsworth sighed tossed the pen over his shoulder. “Such a shame, I was quite looking forward to that. As to why you are here...”
The professor motioned them away from the workbench before producing a small remote control, which he aimed at the floor. There was just a long enough pause for Fry to start asking what was meant to happen when the floor seemed to drop away from under their feet. Fry screamed and grabbed hold of Amy for support; the floor had transformed into an elevator, rapidly descending down a narrow concrete shaft. There was barely any sound, aside from the regular swish of passing structural beams.
He let go of Amy right about the time the elevator began to slow its descent. Fry wasn’t good at judging how far or fast elevators moved but even he could figure out that the were a long, long way below the lava pit the Professor had back home. He looked up the shaft sunk deep into the ground, its open end a tiny white disk bare visible between the strip-lights tapering up the shaft walls. Fry let out a low whistle at the sight.
There was more to come. The elevator platform shivered to a halt in a wide, dimly lit concrete room, leaving them stood in a narrow column of light beneath the elevator shaft. Farnsworth stepped out of the light, motioning for Fry and Amy to follow as he made his way across to a stout metal door set into the facing wall.
Fry felt a chill in the air as he followed the professor. He stopped a short distance from the light and turned to look at it. “What is this place?”
“Surely if you’ve worked at Planet Express as long as you claim in your universe, you’ve visited my underground laboratory?” Farnsworth swiped his fingers over a pad at the side of the door. Somewhere in the distance they heard a buzzer, followed a moment later by metallic clunking noises as machinery slid into place and activated itself. The door began to slide open with a squeal of badly maintained runners.
“Yeah, but that was just a few computers and a lava pit in a... cave...” Fry’s voice trailed off as the door passed before him. “Wow.”
“That’s what I said first time I was down here.” Amy smiled at Fry and took his hand. He almost didn’t notice the gesture, but then some latent sense of guilt stole through him and he quickly pulled his hand away.
“It’s okay, I just like holding hands,” Amy replied, rallying another smile. Fry felt another pang of guilt, though now he wasn’t sure for what or whom it was felt. He gave Amy a weak smile in return.
The door halted in its recess with a loud clunk and Farnsworth urged them forward onto another elevator platform surrounded by a tall railing. As the moved past the confines of the elevator lobby the lab revealed its full magnitude, a massive underground space carved out of the living rock, so large that its farthest wall was nearly lost in a haze. Fry almost fell over backwards looking up at the distant roof, supported by gigantic, elegantly curved trusses and criss-crossed by piping and gantries. The space was filled with gigantic generators and machines, entire buildings built across the floor and up the walls, surrounded by more walkways, pipes and even a travel tube or two.
“It’s an entire city,” Fry exclaimed as he looked around himself until his eyes came to rest on a enormous, faded mural on the far wall, identical to the symbol on the back of the conference room chairs.
“Oh my, yes... completely deserted, of course.” Farnsworth waited until the elevator had reached the ground before speaking again. “You’re looking at your own legacy here. Seymour and Butes funded the creation of this entire underground research complex in the late twenty-one thirties. At its height there were nearly half a million people living and working here, churning out some of the world’s most precious inventions. All gone now, of course, to Montana or Mars, or somewhere beginning with ‘M’, but I still find it useful for some of my more hideously explosive experiments or anything I can’t fit upstairs...”
Farnsworth idly waved his hand toward a distant object hanging from the ceiling gantries. It looked like a near-perfect miniature replica of the earth with a huge crater blown in it’s surface.
“Oh one day I’ll perfect my miniature doomsday devices... one day. I’m bringing the paraboxes down into the underground store for scanning,” he added, pointing at a distant team of hoverdollies sliding down a ramp toward a warehouse-style building. “Frankly I can’t think why I kept them in the upstairs store-room when I had this. I expect I simply forgot.”
Farnsworth lead them into a smaller building attached to the warehouse that contained a large and complicated laboratory with more equipment in it than Fry had ever seen. Entire banks of computers hummed away along one wall with a coruscating pattern of lights flickering across their surface. One of the computers was outputting a long stream of ticker-tape into an overflowing bin.
Toward one side of the lab there was an area that looked like a cheap hospital ward, curtained off and surrounded by scanning equipment, to which Farnsworth was already heading. He sat down in front of a binocular scope to adjust the scanners, then slipped behind the curtained area, leaving Amy and Fry alone for a moment. They looked at each other awkwardly until Amy finally spoke.
“I’m sorry for shouting at you before.”
“Eh, it’s okay.” Fry shrugged and wandered up to the curtains. “I mean I figured you meant a bar, or... y’know, something like that but, just getting outside for a couple of hours was okay too. I needed it.”
“Yeah, I could tell.”
“I like bars.”
Amy raised an eyebrow at him. “We could go to one now...”
Farnsworth poked his head around the curtain and glared at them. “Not until I’ve done what I brought you here to do!” He slid the curtain back, revealing Leela and her counterpart asleep in two hospital-style beds, festooned in wires and cabling. Fry felt his fists clench before he could consciously react.
“What have you done to her?”
“Oh spare me your stupid-ages morality.” The Professor turned to examine a machine sat between the two beds. “They are asleep, nothing more. The detailed scans are easier to perform when the subjects aren’t moving.”
“Oh. Right...” Fry leaned over Leela’s bed to look at her face. It seemed so peaceful. Even the crease in her brown was gone, a sight he’d only seen perhaps half a dozen times in the entire time he’d known her. At least two of those occasions had been- but that was past, she’d made that very clear afterwards.
He straightened up again. “This was voluntary, right?”
“Well uh... Leela did volunteer to be scanned, yes, absolutely. Speaking of scans,” Farnsworth continued, taking Fry’s arm as he manoeuvred him toward a small round platform. “I don’t need to perform anything so detailed on you as on these two, but I would like to have some basic scans of your quantum resonance signature as a reference.”
“My what? Do I have to get naked?”
“Oh my no... the machine can see right through your clothing if it needs to. Quite handy too,” he said, glancing at Amy. She blushed and then frowned, and then blushed again in quick succession. Pervert, Fry thought, nodding as the Professor continued to explain what the machine would do. He couldn’t understand most of it apart from that he had to stand on the platform and keep his hands out of his pockets. After a few minutes, in which the Professor finally decided to give up his explanation, Fry was ushered from the pad and went to stand with Amy again whilst Farnsworth pottered around the machine.
“Ahh, very useful,” he said eventually. “Very useful. The variant resonance signature from your ‘danish’ is already being incorporated into your physical structure. Fascinating...”
“I really needed to know that.” Fry poked his belly a few times, vaguely worried about his molecules. Resonance meant vibration, right? That meant bits of him might be wobbling. He poked his belly again. Well, wobbling more than usual. “Great, now I’m hungry.”
Amy giggled and grabbed Fry’s hand. “Come on, I know a great place.”
“Yeah. Hang on a second.”
Fry glanced back at the peacefully sleeping Leela. She’d looked the same when she’d been in her coma that time. Peaceful. He wondered what was going through her mind this time, whether she was even dreaming at all.
Farnsworth suddenly turned from his machine and glared at Fry. “You can leave if you like. I don’t need you here.”
“What about her?”
“Oh she doesn’t need you here either,” Farnsworth replied with a dismissive wave. For a moment Fry wondered if he’d been listening to their argument earlier, but... nah, he probably wouldn’t have been able to remember it anyway.
He was torn, though. Leela would want him around when she woke up wouldn’t she. Or he’d want to be around her... would she need him, though? Fry was pretty sure of the answer to that question, not that it was particularly easy to think about when he had Amy tugging at his coat like a demented teenager.
Farnsworth seemed to read what was going through Fry’s mind. He smiled, not a particularly pleasant sight at the best of times, and patted Leela’s wrist. “Don’t you worry about her, I’ll see they both get home safely. Uh, eventually!”
“Right. Sure.” No reasons left. He figured he could trust Farnsworth, in some odd way, to stick to that promise. He’d never jeopardise a potential organ source. “Home here, or our home?”
“Oh... whichever is closest I suppose,” Farnsworth replied.
“Gleesh! Can we go now?”
Fry turned to Amy, saw her smiling and found he was smiling along with her. “Yeah, sure.”
“All right! We’ll start at O’Grady’s-”
“O’Zorgnax’s,” Fry corrected as she dragged him toward the exit. Amy sniggered. “What?”
O’Grady’s it was, it seemed. Fry stared up at the faded sign with an odd, detached sense of confusion. O’Grady’s, here, in the future. The bar he’d ridden past any number of times delivering pizzas, the bar he’d even been in a few times, once even with a girl. It might be a historical curio for Amy but for him it was almost like being back home. At least until the Neptunian hooker walked past.
“Don’t just stand there,” Amy grizzled, pushing him toward the door. Fry wasn’t really in any condition to resist and let himself stumble into the building. One thing caught his eye, though, before the sign swung out of view; a tiny crest printed in the centre of the ‘O’. A dog’s head with a crown around its neck. Apparently he’d been busy in this universe or, at least, his ‘legacy’ had. The cold chill that briefly engulfed his body as he stared at the sign made Fry shiver.
Not much had changed inside, though it seemed a little cleaner – the sort of glittering, worn-in cleanliness that comes from something being scrubbed every day for a thousand years, perhaps. iZac, the robot tender from the ill-fated Titanic, was crooning to himself behind the bar when Fry sidled up and sat down.
“Hey iZac, how’s it hangin?”
The robot bartender spun his head around to face Fry with the robotic equivalent of a frown. “Do I know you, bro?”
“I guess not... uh... I’m Fry.”
“Familiarity is a three drink minimum,” iZac said, returning his attention to the glass he held in his hand. “You wanna lay down some lean green or shuffle your pack out back, jack?”
Fry glanced at Amy, with a nervous smile, dropped a twenty on the bar top and ordered two Kleinekens. iZac snatched up the money and scooted away down the bar to serve another patron. A hovertray brought their beers a moment later.
“I’ve never had one of these before,” Amy said, staring at the bottle with a dubious expression. The beer inside sloshed about unnaturally as she picked it up. She covered one eye and tried to focus on the outside of the glass. “How...”
“I find it easier to just close my eyes,” Fry replied, raising the bottle to his lips.
His first beer for three days. Fry smacked his lips and set the bottle down to look around the bar, noticing how unchanged it was, yet how everything seemed to exude age, like his socks. Only better smelling. No, more like the Head Museum. The point was, it was familiar, which was enough for Fry right now. He finished his drink and waved for two more.
“So, parallel universes.” Amy set her empty bottle down – Fry half-smiled as he remembered how much drink she could squeeze into her slender body when she wanted to. She looked at him with an intensely curious expression that belied her ditzy exterior. God, don’t let her ask how they work...
“What about them?”
“I dunno... what am I like, back in yours?”
Fry looked her up and down, smiling at the memories. And then remembering how he’d dumped her. Probably wouldn’t be a good idea to mention that, or the bit where he’d been on her shoulder. “The same I guess. Oh yeah, back there you wear pink.”
“Flech! Pink? Don’t I have, like, any taste?”
“Oh, I dunno, I always thought it was cute.” Oh why did you say that, Fry? He looked down at his beer, only to realise his mistake when he went cross-eyed trying to trace the bottle’s shape. Fry squeezed his eyes shut until he stopped feeling like his eyeballs were turning inside out and carefully turned away from the bar.
“You’re not much like your brother,” she said a moment later. Fry shrugged. “I meant it as a complement.”
“Oh. Right! Yeah he can be a bit... stiff.”
“I found that much out,” Amy replied. Fry nearly swallowed his bottle, which wouldn’t have done his intestines much good in any case, and ended up choking on his beer until Amy slapped him on the back. “You all right?”
“I didn’t really need to know that...”
“Oh. Oh yeah, sorry,” Amy said, downcast. She toyed with her empty bottle for a moment. “It didn’t really work out anyway, more like a one night thing.”
“Barkeep, something a little stronger please?”
iZac dropped a fresh pair of bottles on the bar-top with a flourish before departing to harangue a member of staff. Fry stared at the bottle, glanced at Amy and began to drink. He didn’t stop until he was near the bottom.
Amy didn’t say anything, which seemed odd, since she normally would have found someone to flirt with by now. She was still there when he looked again, but she seemed to be lost in thought, which suited Fry for now since it meant she wouldn’t be asking any more awkward questions. Fry took another swig of his beer – it was quite a bit stronger than the Kleineken – while he absorbed the babbling chatter of the bar and the time-worn look of its fixtures. Here and there were other obvious cryogenic travellers, all of whom had apparently gravitated toward this same bar. An old man in a jaunty cap flirting with one of the Neptunian staff; a younger couple, probably seeking out a new life away from their past; Yancy... Fry’s eyes rested for a moment on a young, athletic Asian woman before the previous thought turned back and tapped him on the metaphorical shoulder.
His brother, in common with most of the bar’s patrons, looked around in surprise until his gaze came to rest on Fry. Yancy’s jaw dropped, then he seemed to wilt in resignation, closing his eyes and slumping back in his seat. A moment later he put his head in his hands.
“I need to-”
“Family,” Amy said with a light shrug. She followed him over, though, taking a seat next to Fry as he sat opposite Yancy. Probably out of morbid curiosity.
For a moment Yancy refused to look at Fry, preferring to concentrate on his beer – some light brand Fry had tried once and dismissed as, well, light. They sat like that for a while, Yancy watching the bubbles in his drink, Fry watching Yancy, and Amy watching them both like a curious cat.
“You all right, bro?”
Yancy gave Fry a defeated look. With a loud sigh he leaned back against the wall. “How do you do it, Phil?”
“Live. Here,” he said, waving the bottle at the bar. His eyes came to rest on an Amphibiosan leaning against the bar, chatting to two human women. He turned to look at Fry again. “I’m going nuts. How do you cope?”
“I just accepted it.” Fry glanced at Amy. “I found friends here. Leela, Bender...”
“Yeah, but how do you live? How can... it feels like something insane happens nearly every week around here! Aliens invading, giant space wasps, killer gas clouds... hell that giant floating brain thing?”
“The planetary biogenic shield took care of that,” Amy put in. “There was never anything to worry about.”
“Oh yes... a Seymour and Butes project rides to the rescue again.” He downed the last of his beer with a bitter grimace. “Rub it in some more why don’t you?”
“I don’t get it, what’s this Seymour Butts thing anyway? Hey wait... that was practically my dog’s name!”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Yancy muttered. He started picking at the label on his beer bottle. “As far as I’ve been able to find out, about two years after you got me turned into a popsicle you started some sort of investment company, made a fortune on the stock market and pretty much took over the entire US economy.”
“Oh. Wow, so I was running the world?” Fry put his hands behind his head and grinned. “Not bad for a ‘loser’. Sounds like a nice life.”
Yancy glared at Fry, not bothering to hide is contempt. “That was going to be my life until you stole it from me. God dammit, Phil, you even married my girlfriend!”
“But... but that wasn’t me, that was some other me! Yancy-”
“Are you saying you wouldn’t do the same thing given the chance?”
“Well... all right, yeah, I mean Laura, she was hot, y’know?”
Yancy nodded as he finished off his beer. Then he did something Fry never thought he’d see. He smiled. “She was. I can’t blame you for that, Phil, not really. I just miss her so much. I miss all of them.”
Fry nodded. “Me too.”
“I just, I don’t think I can live like this much longer. I mean if it wasn’t for...” He stared at the ceiling for a moment, fingers twirling around the empty beer bottle. “I’m going nuts. You still offering that drink?”
Fry nodded. He waved to a passing waitress to order another round. “Amy?”
“I was gonna head over to the Hip Joint, but... sure, why not? I’ll have a Hadron Colada.”
Fry winced and tried not to think about the damage to his wallet. He held up his empty bottle. “Same again and another-”
“I’ll have what he’s having,” Yancy said. He gave Fry a tight, sour smile. “May as well do this properly.”
“Her thing and two of these things.”
The waitress smiled as she made a note of the order. “Three things coming right up.”