Disclaimer: I don't own Red Dwarf!
"For smegs sake, Lister, if I don't get out of here soon I'm going to go bananas," Rimmer groaned from his bunk in Red Dwarf's penal deck.
"Really?" Lister asked surprised. "I thought this was the kind of thing you lived for."
"How do you mean?" Rimmer asked, offended.
"Well you're always going on about keeping things orderly and having strict routines in everything."
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Well that's exactly what we got now, solid daily routines timed down to the second and enforced order, as much as you like."
"You're perverse," Rimmer accused him. "And I'm surprised you're taking this all so calmly."
"Me?" Lister asked, surprised.
"Yes you, you goit. Mr. Sloberino the Twelth,who likes complete chaos and doing whatever he feels. How the hell is it you're so relaxed and comfortable with 'The Man' breathing down your neck?"
"Oh that's easy," Lister replied brightly. "How much did I weigh when they first sentenced us?"
Rimmer wrinkled his brow in thought. "I don't know, I mean you were a fat bastard of course, but actual weight? Is there a scale you can even use on board; like the one used for weighing cattle maybe?"
"Funny," Lister said rolling his eyes. "And how about now?"
"You have dropped a bit," Rimmer conceded. "And you no longer snore as much come to think of it. You snored like a chimney, were in danger of needing a bra, and the medical officer may have mentioned something about your liver being in perfect condition because you've drank enough alcohol to pickle it."
"So in other words the last six months in this place have done more for me than a year in club med with a personal trainer."
"Well, yeah," Rimmer admitted. "But it's not all good. What about all the missions with the Canaries? We've come damn close to snuffing it dozens of times!"
"Yeah and we survived because we had plenty of other people around to stumble into whatever dangers were about before we did."
"Sometimes, but a lot of the time you, Kochanski, Kryten, and even the Cat, have demonstrated something like a sixth sense for danger," Rimmer said suspiciously.
Lister grinned. "Wade hip deep in the smeg long enough and you either develop a sense for the currents or it drags you under."
"Did my other self ever develop one?" Rimmer asked against his will. He hated the way Lister talked about his other self. It was bad enough he had older brothers who'd gone off and done things he couldn't match without finding out that He had gone off and done things he couldn't match himself, the bastard.
"If there was danger anywhere within a parsec you could count on Rimmer to go in the opposite direction."
"Anyway, what's all this got to do with anything?" Rimmer asked.
"I'm just saying that time in here has been good for me and probably for you as well."
"Fine, a couple of months a decade is probably a great health plan, but we're sentenced to five years!"
"Yeah it is about time to get out of here," Lister said thoughtfully. "I mean we lost a lot of time trying to find the Red Dwarf when the nanites made it into that moon, but the upgraded engines should more than make up for lost time getting back to earth."
"What are you going to do, wave your hand and magic the cell open?" Rimmer snorted.
"Something like that, yeah." Lister smirked climbing off the top bunk and waving his hand. "Open."
Rimmer's eyes widened and his jaw dropped in shock.
"You coming?" Lister asked smugly, standing in the open doorway.
The door to the bridge opened and the Red Dwarfs five most interesting passen… crew men… peop… convicts stepped inside.
"What did you do now, Dave, and where's your escort?" the ship's first mate, Todd Hunter asked.
"If there's anyone who knows their way to the captain's office, it's me," Lister said with a chuckle.
"You've upset him enough that the guards decided not to escort you," Todd said with a wince. "Ouch."
"Well, what I'm about to tell him is probably going to upset him that much," Lister admitted, while the four other Dwarfers just looked confused. "But it's all just about legal mumbo jumbo."
"Found a loophole?" Todd asked curiously, a slight grin on his face, as he'd always found Lister's antics amusing.
"A huge one," Lister said.
"I'd love to be there to hear it, but I hate to get on the captain's bad side," Todd said thoughtfully. "How mad is this going to make him?"
"You know CPR, right?"
"Please tell me you're joking."
"Not even a little," Lister said. "Seriously, I'd call medical right now, just in case."
Todd had a word with one of the communications officers before turning back to Lister. "I better come with you guys if it's that big."
"OK, now even I'm getting nervous," Kryten admitted. "Mr. Lister, sir, are you sure you can't tell us in advance what the loophole is?"
"Well I'm not one hundred percent certain about the particulars, but I got the broad strokes right or we wouldn't be here. The new Holly can explain the niggling little details to everyone once I tell Hollister."
"Who here has the urge to take cover and assume crash positions?" Rimmer asked curiously and was unsurprised that everyone but Lister raised their hand.
"Relax guys, it's not that big a deal, well it is, but it's not, see?"
"Clear as mud, Mr. Lister, sir. Are you sure we can't get a hint?" Kryten asked anxiously.
"Fine, I'll give a single hint and I want you guys to think about it, alright?"
There was a chorus of confused agreements from the group as they paused at the captain's door.
Lister turned to the group and said, "inheritance laws."
"Come in," Captain Hollister called out and looked unsurprised by Lister's appearance. "What is it this time? Did you play marbles with the warden's glass eye? No, I know. You managed to get ahold of another time wand and turned all the chicken nuggets in the mess hall into velociraptors."
"No, just figured I had enough of the cell blocks and decided to clear things up and move back into my old bunkroom."
"Lister, you still have over four years left on your sentence," the captain said, shaking his head.
"Actually I don't. It took me a bit to figure it out, but it all boils down to this," Lister turned to the wall screen, "Holl, who owns the Red Dwarf?"
"You do, Dave," came the AI's reply.
"What?" came the cry from half a dozen voices.
"The Red Dwarf is owned by the Jupiter mining corporation in perpetuity," Hollister said firmly.
"The company disincorporated millions of years ago," Dave said. "There is no more Jupiter mining corp."
"Then as captain and crew under space corps directive 396.5c," Hollister began.
"Dutch wives are unable to inherit property, even if equipped with a fully autonomous AI," Kryten said. "Sorry sir, but I don't see how that applies."
"396.5b," Hollister corrected himself. "In the event of a company dissolution, unclaimed ships may be claimed under salvage laws by the highest ranking officer onboard."
"Doesn't apply," Dave said with a sad little shake of his head.
"And why is that?" Hollister asked tensely.
"Holl, please explain the details," Lister said with a sigh.
The ship's AI started speaking while running clips of events as they'd been recorded.
"Arnold Rimmer improperly seals the drive plates leading to the death of almost the entire crew of the Red Dwarf. David Lister becomes the highest ranked member of the crew and remains so for three million years. Nanites steal and destroy the Red Dwarf, later using the remains of the original Red Dwarf they build a new one with significant upgrades as a gift for David Lister."
"I outrank Dave and I never died," Kochanski pointed out.
"You are not the native Christine Kochanski," Holl pointed out. "You are technically an illegal immigrant."
"I wonder why the nanites didn't rebuild the native one," Cat said.
"Because she wasn't onboard when everyone died," Holly said from Dave's watch.
"What?!" came the confused chorus.
Holly, the original and senile ship's AI for the Red Dwarf explained, "Kochanski never came back from Titan where she married Dave. Instead we got a mechanoid replacement. I kept quiet to avoid paradox."
"Then why are you telling us now?" Hollister asked.
"Cause I forgot about that part," Holly admitted.
Dave shook his head. "Anyway the ship is mine along with everything onboard."
"Even Mr. Foggy?!" the captain exclaimed wide eyed.
"His stuffed bear," Holl explained.
"Yes, because you're not you," Lister explained. "You are a clone of the original Hollister and were given his memories from the ship's holo-suite but you're not him."
Rimmer began to smile. "I'm not Rimmer?"
Dave nodded. "Yeah. Now I don't have a problem giving everyone the personal property of the originals, but the ship is mine and I'm planning on taking her back to earth with me."
"Not to mention we've still got a half dozen things to do involving the ship to prevent a paradox from destroying the universe," Holl said cheerfully.
"Like what?" Todd asked curiously.
"Like Dave's son Bexley dying in an explosion when the navicomp bites it," Holl said.
"We have children?" Kochanski blurted out.
"No it's my son from me and… well me," Dave admitted embarrassed.
"He had twins with himself," Holly explained. "See I invented the Holly Hop drive, but it turned out to be more a dimensional hopper and everyone was the opposite sex…"
"He got drunk and knocked himself up," Cat broke in.
Everyone just stared at Dave.
"Yeah I know, she didn't even bother with protection," Dave said shaking his head. "Irresponsible."
"And you left that poor girl pregnant and alone?!" Kochanski demanded.
"Actually since the physical rules of the universe were different there, Dave is the one who got pregnant," Holly explained.
"Where are they now?" Kochanski asked.
"With their Mum," Dave said.
"Well… good thing we didn't have kids then," she said, trying to figure out something to say.
"Just the one," Holly pointed out.
"Remember the tube you tossed me with the egg in it? Fertilized in a lab and the baby sent back in time…" Dave trailed off. "Any of this sounding familiar?"
"Um, forgot about that," she blushed and looked embarrassed.
"What happened to that child?" Todd asked.
Dave waved at him.
"Let me get this straight, you have knocked yourself up, are trying to date your own Mum, and are in fact your own father?" Todd asked.
"It sounds weird when you put it like that," Lister said.
"They're all off-loaded, it's just us again," Lister said from the bridge as they watched the last shuttle depart for the planet.
"Where's smeghead?" Cat said looking around.
"He decided to go with them. Something about changing his name and getting a new start," Kochanski replied.
"Won't be the same without him," Lister said.
"Yeah," Cat said cheerfully.
"That reminds me," Holly said from the main screen, David having uploaded him back into the ship's system.
There was a flicker of light and suddenly Rimmer was standing there in all his holographic glory.
"What happened?" Rimmer asked, looking around.
"I found his backup disk on the blue midget," Holly explained.
"Joy," Cat said his good humor evaporating.
Todd turned to the captain as they watched the Red Dwarf blast out of the system. "Think they'll be OK?"
"I doubt they can get any worse," Hollister said shaking his head.
"I'm surprised this all went off without a hitch. I know you've been planning on us starting a colony but were worried that we'd lose half the people as they'd elect to go back to earth."
"I had Holl play a vid for the crew where Lister talked about his family tree and then I gave a speech about the dangers of long term exposure and deep space travel," Hollister said smugly.
"Yeah, that would do it," Todd said thoughtfully. "Well, I've had Holl run a check and everyone is present and accounted for except for the residents of the penal deck. I assume they are on a separate transport and just haven't logged their manifest yet."
"Tragically I seem to have completely forgotten about them," Captain Hollister said cheerfully.
"Sir," Todd admonished him.
"Look, thanks to the fact that we got almost the entire crew we have a decent size gene-pool," he explained. "Do you really want to pollute that with violent maniacs and alcoholics?"
"What about the warden and the guards?"
"Who do you think I was talking about?" Hollister asked.
"Nice to have everything back to normal," Lister said leaning back in the captain's chair and popping open a lager.
"I hate to admit it, but I agree with you. It'll be nice to relax and doze about for a change," Kochanski said.
"Yeah," Cat agreed from the pilot's seat.
The warden looked at his roll call sheet. "We have five missing prisoners," he announced to the guards.
"I don't care how they got out, I want them captured and brought to me… dead or alive!"
Typing by: Bankrupt Samurai