Epilogue: All Quiet on the Future Front
The people of New New York emerged gradually from the sewer vents amid rubble and deitrus as dust settled on their city; a sense of numb disbelief tempered by gratitude at their survival. None could fully comprehend the forces that had been at play, but there was an awareness that an event of monumental significance had transpired and their lives were owed to parties unknown.
Although some were known.
The sewer mutants, hesitant in the face of so much unaccustomed exposure, were ushered, blinking in the light, out of the underground by a tide of grateful citizens singing their praises. The bemused sewer-dwellers had no choice but to be drawn along into the impromptu heroes' parade under the brilliant blue sky and blazing sun that most had only glimpsed through the grilles of stormwater drains. In the midst of terror, when darkness threatens, it is often the case that all the lesser fears and flimsy prejudices are shattered and human beings come to realize the only thing of any worth that they have is each other.
Morris and Munda reflected on that as they were hugged and cheered by strangers grateful for the subterranean sanctuary that had been given – staying on the surface would surely have been lethal if the mounds of shattered glass and collapsed facades were anything to go by.
"I guess Leela was right," Morris said as his hand was shaken enthusiastically by a Cygnoid. "Maybe things will be different now."
"A simple act of human decency, that's all it took," Munda said. "Oh Leela… she's so smart… I hope she's okay."
"She's okay," Morris said. "She's a tough one, our girl. Besides, she had Philip with her."
As the mutants were welcomed into the upper world, Dwayne muttered in Vyolet's scaled ear:
"Great, they finally let us into their shining metropolis minutes after it's reduced to a smoking ruin. Big-hearted of them." Despite himself though, a grin had found its way onto the mutant's face and he couldn't get rid of it.
The Planet Express crew, minus Fry and Leela, looked up at the empty sky, and then by unspoken agreement they began pushing through the milling crowds toward Momcorp tower.
"They're probably fine, right?" Bender said with a small edge of panic in his voice. "I mean, not that I care either way, of course, but…" He wrung his hands nervously.
"Of course, Bender," Farnsworth said placatingly. "People caught at the centre of quantum singularities never suffer any ill-effects." He pulled a face at Hermes when the robot looked away, shaking his head and pantomiming a finger across his throat.
Leela sat alone at the top of the half-demolished tower with the wind gently tugging at her hair. Her emotional bank account was overdrawn and confusion reigned. Although her body had been returned feeling totally rejuvenated, all of her injuries and aches miraculously healed, there was still a deeper exhaustion that left her staring blankly into space and trembling slightly.
The others found her like that, and she was only distantly aware of Scruffy putting his jacket around her shoulders and Amy helping her to her feet. Questions were being asked, but Leela tuned them out, trying to think back to the now-hazy details of the bubble universe that Fry had created… What was it that he'd told her?
"What?" she murmured.
"I said – where is Fry?" Zoidberg repeated.
"Fry…" Leela frowned, trying to recall.
"You know," Hermes said. "Spiky carrot-top, grooming habits of a Baboon. Always lustin' after you like a drunken green snake after a garden hose…"
"I know who he is, jackass," she muttered.
"Well, what happened, confound it woman!?" Farnsworth snapped.
"I don't… remember…" Leela said. "There was a motorbike, and Bender was there… and we had a little one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn in the 20th century… but none of it was real, not exactly…"
The others cast meaningful glances at each other.
"I think we should take Leela somewhere where she can lay down," Amy said softly, taking the cyclops woman by the hand and gently leading her away.
The day wore on.
As the city struggled to pick up the pieces, aid was offered by the Omicronians, whose fleet had appeared ominously above. New New Yorkers found themselves working side-by-side with looming green Omicron soldier caste in clearing debris and putting together makeshift shelters for those left homeless by Onespawn's attack.
As the sun sank toward the horizon, Mayor Poopenmeyer called a conference on the steps of city hall, and he spoke applauding the virtues of strength and determination in the face of adversity. He then extended a hand of friendship to Lrrr (who fidgeted in discomfort beneath the unfamiliar exaltation) and to Dwayne, who stood as representative of the mutant population - now welcomed as full citizens with all the dubious rights and questionable privileges enjoyed by everyone else. They would not be returning to the sewers.
The Planet Express building had fared reasonably well, designed as it was to withstand doomsday weapons. Most of the team went across the street to help the lesbian coven rebuild their front wall, leaving Leela in a light slumber on the couch, watched over by her parents.
Memory flitted through her mind, faulty and uncertain. Fry was gone – but where? Leela whimpered a little in her sleep and turned over. What was it he'd said?
Suddenly the words returned to her from out of the mists of unreality, and her eye snapped open.
"The place where we first met!" she said, sitting bolt upright.
"Leela? Are you alright?" Munda said, looking concerned.
"That's where he said he'd be!" Leela got to her feet and started toward the door.
"Who?" Morris called out.
"Fry! I'm going to find Fry!" She raced out, leaving her parents looking at each other in surprise.
Leela raced through the busy, rubble-strewn streets as fast as she could, vaulting over fallen masonry and dodging hoverdollies laden with mortar. Her boots pounded the pavement. She rounded a corner, skidded to a stop, and kicked open the door to Applied Cryogenics.
The building was dim and quiet, with the rows of stasis pods humming away on their centuries-long tasks. Leela walked through her old workplace, looking around.
"Fry?" she called. "Are you here?"
There was no response, and Leela hung her head dejectedly, feeling loneliness creep over her. "Where are you?" she whispered.
Deciding to wait, because it was all she could do, Leela pulled out a folding chair and sat down in the empty room amid the cryogenic tubes, drumming her fingers on her kneecaps.
"He'll come back," she told herself. "He said he would."
Time passed, and Leela's anxiety built. Treacherously, her thoughts began prodding at the possibility that Fry might never return, and though she tried to quell them, they remained stubbornly. After all, hadn't he said that as a temporal paradox he had no place in time?
Time… that's right… Leela stood up suddenly, remembering what he'd told her: "The present is a point too small to hit, so I'll aim for the past."
"The past," she said, with realization erupting like a starburst. She raced over to the cryogenic tubes and began checking the frosted glass panels one by one; dismissing each frozen face that didn't belong to the man she sought.
"Come on, Fry," she muttered under her breath, moving along the line of tubes. At length she'd checked them all, and none of them contained Fry. The last in the line held a frozen figure she remembered from her time working at Applied Cryogenics – it was a John Doe, like Fry had been, but with a pair of coveralls on and a baseball cap pulled low over the face so that features couldn't be seen. Years ago there had been idle office chatter about the identity of the man in the last cryo-tube, and now Leela knew who it was… or hoped she did. He had to conceal his face, obviously, as he'd been laying dormant a few spaces up from where an earlier version of himself had also slumbered, and because he and Leela had been to Applied Cryogenics together… recognition could have been disastrous.
Leela checked the timer on the tube. It still had more than five hundred years left, but knowing Fry's grasp of mathematics she ignored that and turned it all the way to zero. The mechanism chimed and a pulse of microwave energy illuminated the cryogenic pod briefly as it defrosted, and its door swung open with a hiss and a cloud of vapour.
"Ugh… just another couple of centuries," a drowsy voice muttered from within the misty tube. The figure inside tried to roll over and go back to cryo-sleep.
"Fry?" Leela said.
"Huh? Leela?" The man looked up, and beneath the hat it was indeed…
"Fry!" Leela pulled him bodily out of the tube and embraced him, squeezing him so tightly it hurt.
"Oh snap! It worked!" Fry said.
"Yeah, it worked," Leela replied breathlessly. "How long were you…?"
"Well, I turned up in about 2500," he said. "Which means… Five thousand years. But the dial only went up to one thousand…"
Leela smiled. "I was afraid for a little while there," she confessed, leaning her forehead against his.
"Sorry about that," Fry said.
"So all this time, ever since we first met, there's actually been another one of you right here…?"
"Yeah. Kinda trippy, huh?"
"Hmm." She stared into his eyes. "Do you still… I mean… are you…?"
"Nope," Fry said. "No more funky powers. It's just me now. Stupid as a box full of stupid. Nothing special at all."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Leela said, pressing her lips against his. They stood that way for a long time, before finally Fry shrugged out of the coveralls, exposing his red and blue outfit, and discarded the baseball cap. He and Leela left the building and walked hand-in-hand into the dusk. Fry looked around at the half-destroyed city and chuckled to himself.
"I see it all turned out okay," he remarked.
"Sure," Leela replied uncertainly. "Although maybe while you had those powers you could have tried to repair some of the damage."
"I dunno," Fry said, gesturing across the street to where a human, a mutant, and an Omicronian worked together to shore up some support struts that held a damaged wall. "I think I like it better like this," he said. "Grime and toil, just like you told me."
Leela looked at the three mortal enemies working side-by-side, and realized he was right. Sometimes the smallest changes required the biggest catalysts.
They wandered through the streets and eventually Bender caught sight of them as they approached Planet Express. He raced over enthusiastically.
"Fry! You're alright!" he said.
"Yeah, it's all over," Fry told him. "Getting about time for the credits to roll, I think."
"What?" Leela looked at him. "Credits? Do you mean as in…?"
Fry smirked at her.
"Ha," she said, smiling at her own gullibility. "You almost had me."