Pairings: Mystique/Destiny, Mystique/Leela.
Author’s Note: Takes place during S1 of Futurama, and in the far future of the X-Men Comicverse. Title from Elvis Costello, “Watching the Detectives.”
If you live long enough, sooner or later you see everything.
She walked into my office like she owned the place and was thinking of raising the rent. Everything about her was singular, from her well-muscled legs to the large eye in the middle of her face. She wore a purple ponytail like it was the latest fashion, not last century’s fashion. Glorious in a sleeveless shirt and what we called, when I was relatively young, shit-kicking boots.
Also, there was a boy. A red-headed kid wearing a painstaking reproduction of a 20th-centry jacket with no apparent irony, carrying a small package wrapped in brown paper. Her associate, most likely. Though I couldn’t rule out pet.
I watched through the glass wall as they argued with the receptionist. Or rather, she argued and he gawked. After a few moments I touched the intercom. “Is there a problem, Ammandra?”
Ammandra waved a frond in irritation. “They have a package. They insist they have to give it to you personally.”
“Send them in.”
The one-eyed woman watched the boy open the door with an expression that suggested he might screw it up. He made it in all right, but stopped there, staring at me—at the blue form that I wear most of the time because there’s no longer a reason not to. The best and the worst part of being immortal is that after a while, no one cares.
“Are you Raven Darkholme?” she asked, squeezing past him. “The private detective?”
“Yes. And you are ...?”
“Phillip J. Fry,” he announced. “And Captain Leela.”
I updated my assessment from associate to cabin boy.
“We’re from Planet Express. We have a package for you.” She gave the boy a significant look.
“What are you?” he blurted out. “Some kind of alien?”
“Fry, that’s rude.”
“It’s all right. No, I’m a mutant.”
“Well, you’ve come a long way from the sewers,” she said skeptically, casting her ... eye over the office furnishings. They are rather nice. I inherited them from the former tenant, a tour guide who was eaten by an ice worm. Since then, there hasn’t been much tourism, which suits me fine.
“Not a sewer mutant. That’s an urban legend. The superpowered kind.”
“Like in the twentieth century? They’re extinct.”
“I’m the last.”
“Oh,” she said sympathetically. “I know how that is.”
“Were you an X-Man?” Fry said, excited.
“Did you destroy New York?”
“Are you evil?”
“That depends on which historians you believe.”
“Fry, that’s enough.”
“What’s your mutant power?” he asked, ignoring her.
“This.” I shifted to mimic him, outlandish jacket and all.
He turned to Leela. “She looks just like me!”
“Yes, Fry. That’s the point.”
“But we just happened to meet! What are the chances?”
She didn’t sigh, for which she deserved a medal. “Just give her the package.”
I changed back to my own form to take it. “There’s no return address,” I said, setting it very carefully down on the desk. I can’t think of anyone still alive who’d want to kill me. All my wars were over a long time ago. But I didn’t live this long by taking unnecessary risks. Not after the first few hundred years, at least.
“A man who’d been frozen for over a thousand years woke up with it,” she said. “He claimed an old woman handed it to him right before he was frozen. It had your name and the words ‘via Planet Express.’”
The string wrapping the package was still supple. The cryogenic process, I suppose. The brown paper wasn’t even brittle, and I wanted to smell it, but not in front of them. I sharpened a fingernail to slit the tape.
“So what is it?”
“Fry! It’s none of our business.”
I smiled up at him. “It’s a love letter.”
“But it’s empty,” he said, leaning over my desk to peer into the box.
“Look, it’s obviously just my old co-workers playing a joke on me,” Leela said. “You can throw it away. I’m sorry we wasted your time.”
“You wonder how a package from a thousand years ago could have my address on Triton and the name of a third-rate intergalactic delivery service. No offense.”
“No, that’s fair.”
“I’m afraid I can’t explain. But I’m very glad to have this.”
“That’s good,” Fry said. “Because it’s postage due.”
“Of course.” I didn’t know yet what this intervention from the past was for, but there was no doubt in my mind which of these two Irene had sent to me. “Would you mind asking the receptionist to pay you out of petty cash, Mr. Fry?”
I turned my gaze to Leela. She took the hint.
“Then you can go on to the ship. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Okay,” he said, puzzled but not hurt at being ditched. We watched through the glass as he handed the bill to Ammandra, who gave him the money along with a disdainful puff of pollen.
“I’m sorry about Fry,” she said when he was out of earshot. “It’s just that he’s been frozen since the twentieth century—”
“Where his tact and social grace were legendary?”
“All right. He’s an idiot.”
I nodded. “We made a lot of those. Not many for export, luckily.”
“He does grow on you after a while.”
She examined me curiously. “You are from the twentieth century. You said ‘ask’ instead of ‘axe’ before.”
“Did I?” I could only hope that was some lingering trace of Fry. At my age, I have to watch out for a tendency to ossify. Maybe, I thought, that’s what this is about.
“Captain Leela, I’ve been terribly dissatisfied with my delivery service. Perhaps I should consider transferring my business to Planet Express.”
“Great. I’ll have our bureaucrat send you a fee schedule.”
Apparently one of us didn’t know what a transparent pretext sounded like. It might have been me. Generations have lived and died since the last time I asked someone up to see my etchings.
“Or we could discuss it over lunch. This moon is almost uninhabited, but it does have a Howard Johnson’s. If you can tolerate fried clam strips...?”
“Any other day, I’d tolerate them.”
“Our robot crewmate’s making lunch for us. Howard Johnson’s sounds like heaven.”
“Well, then. Do you need to contact your associate?”
“Nah. I disconnected the ship’s controls. He’ll play starship captain for hours before he starts to wonder where I am.”
I followed her through the glass door. Triton has about one-twelfth Earth’s gravity, but from the spring in my step you would have thought it was a fourteenth.
“I’ll be across the street. Hold my calls.”
“Gladly!” Ammandra said, flower clusters trembling in astonishment. Really, as bad as that? Ammandra’s monoecious, and even he/she thought I needed to get out more.
“Why Triton?” Leela asked as she put on her spacesuit. “Wouldn’t you get more business on earth?”
“Not many people travel to the moons of Neptune for a private investigator,” I explained. “Those who do tend to have money and difficult cases.” True, as far as it goes. Also, office space is nearly free here, and my cartilage doesn’t like shapeshifting in 1g as much as it did when I was 200.
She finished suiting up. I thickened and sealed my skin, covered my eyes with glass, trebled my lung capacity and inhaled deeply before closing off my nostrils. We went out the airlock.
When we reached the sidewalk, she turned to look back. I don’t have radio of course, but I could read her lips through her helmet as she said “Adler Detective Agency? Is that a name?—Oh, sorry,” she added as she realized I was holding my breath.
The walk across the street gave me time to decide what to tell her. I don’t know why I never tell people about Irene. Pain doesn’t last a thousand years, though habit can. I have no secrets left that matter, and perhaps it’s just my way of staying in practice.
“It’s a Martian word,” I tell her when I’ve unsealed my mouth. “It means ‘everything old is new again.’”