The gentle clinking of the worry balls echoed off of the stone walls of the cell. As they had, uninterrupted, for the last twenty-five years. After so many years of constant meditation and abstinence from worldly pleasures, Rimmer thought, he should be in a state of absolute Nirvana. Instead, he is in a state of absolute irritation.
At first, he marked the days he had been in the cell with the edge of a hard-light fingernail on the stone blocks. This became very depressing very quickly, and he moved to marking the years on the stone, and lining up three hundred and sixty-five blades of straw in a clean corner. He moved them from one side of the corner to the other to mark the passage of days, tossing in a three hundred and sixty-sixth blade every four years. He had no idea what the rotation period of this planet about its sun might be, but it did not bloody well matter trapped in a sunless cell, did it? So he counted his imprisonment against the Earth standard. Which the Earth most likely was not even following at this point in time. It hardly bore thinking about.
He had company, on an infrequent basis. Clones of himself that did not live up to the Rimmer standard of cowardice, hypocrisy, snarkiness, and backstabbing were tossed into his cell from time to time, waiting out the time before they were put to death. They always wanted to know what crime he had done to deserve imprisonment, and why he bore the Royal Mark. Telling them generally ended the conversation; they never seemed terribly pleased with the answer. Especially the women.
Every twenty to thirty years, they tried to put Rimmer to the death along with the offending clone, but his resistance to decapitation and burning would always fluster them anew. He had seen himself put to death by himself often enough to be quite tired of the sight, and whenever he heard footfalls approach the cell, his teeth would start to move on edge in anticipation of the next go-round. The Rimmer-guards had stopped feeding him a hundred and seven years ago, and that had just put his peevishness over the scale.
He heard the dreaded footfalls coming down the infrequently used stairs, two versions of his own nasal voice drifting through the door. A key rattled in the lock, and the door began to squeak open. He cringed, waiting for the next startled carbon-copy of himself to stumble in and fall on the musty straw, prodded by the spears and taunts of the two guard carbon-copies of himself.
After one hundred and eighty years of imprisonment by his clones, he did not think that anything could surprise him anymore. He was proven wrong as a stunningly beautiful blond woman walked into the cell, glancing fearfully at the spears behind her. She was tall and elegant, slender-bodied and ample-bosomed, with a fine, straight nose, high cheekbones, and a cascade of golden hair flowing down her shoulders. She raised one slender-fingered hand to her full, red lips as the door clanged shut behind her. Rimmer's worry balls ground to a halt.
"Erm... hello!" His conversational skills were horribly rusty. He had gotten used to just saying what he felt to the clones that shared his cell, or to the walls, or to the scratchy cot blanket. He had forgotten how to be polite. His brain churned desperately, grappling for the proper polite address to use for a beautiful woman. All he could dig up was something to do with worms.
"Oh, sir!" she gasped, in a rich contralto. She rushed to the cot, fell on her knees, and took Rimmer's empty right hand in both of hers. "Help me, please! I have been kidnapped by these foul beasts. I have no doubt that they wish a large ransom from my father. As you can see, I am a hapless, beautiful, and virginal maiden in great distress. You must help me!"
Rimmer was trying to process this, and failing miserably. "Kidnapped? How on Io did you get here?" The idea that this creature could have evolved from his clones was tempting, but even for Rimmer, laughable. If he felt like laughing, which he hadn't for at least fifty years. "For that matter, who are you? Where are you from?"
"I am the Princess Bonjella, of War World. I can't imagine such a thing could have happened to me! It is such a peaceful place!"
"Well, no, it isn't, but I like to think I could make it peaceful. I try," her bosom heaved with a great sigh, and Rimmer's heart leapt into his esophagus and threatened to jump down her cleavage without him, "so hard to make peace... but I am always kidnapped by evil men!" She turned large, doe-like eyes up at Rimmer. He stuffed his heart back in its usual place and gave it a good talking-to.
"Well, I'd love to help you, miss... er... princess, but I'm not very good with the whole escape business. Not my specialty, you see."
The princess leapt to her feet. Even that small move exhibited a gazelle-like grace. This brought her cleavage above Rimmer's eye-height, but before he could complain, she threw herself onto his lap, her head flung back to look at him, giving him a front-seat view into mammarian utopia. His jaw fell open and refused to close. "But I cannot have sex with you unless you rescue me! Those are the rules! It always works that way."
Rimmer managed to drag his mouth closed with the help of his right hand. "Always? You said you were a virgin!"
She sat up. "At heart, I am a virgin."
"Admittedly, this area is not one I've studied much, but I don't think the heart is the part of the body that's involved."
She turned her head towards him, flinging her hair back over her shoulder. "If you will rescue me, brave hero, we can involve any parts you desire."
"Ah. I think you have me confused with someone else. I lack certain qualities of heroism..." Rimmer considered. "Pretty much all of them, actually."
Beryl's flawless brow furrowed. "This isn't the way this is supposed to go, you know. I'm a bit lost without a brave, stalwart hero."
"You might consider purchasing a map."
They both turned as the sounds of a commotion made themselves heard through the cell door. A great deal of yelling was audible, as well as the crashing sound of metal on metal. The noises quickly drew closer, and a red-booted foot kicked the cell door open. The booted foot was attached to a broad-shouldered man in a vermillion flight suit; he leapt into the cell as soon as the door swung in, flipped his flowing blond hair back from his eyes, and turned to deliver a fatal blow to a guard-clone with the impressively phallic two-handed sword he held. He turned to the other two occupants of the cell.
"Princess Bonjella? Derek Custer. No time to talk; I'm here to rescue you." His voice was deep and smooth.
"Oh, I am saved!" This was obviously what the princess had been waiting for. She threw one hand dramatically to her forehead, and fell into the arms of the muscular intruder. "Please... call me Beryl."
Derek picked her up in his arms and started to sweep out of the room. He paused and turned back to Rimmer.
"Sorry, my friend; I can only rescue you if we have sex later, along with the explanations."
"Quite all right."
He nodded at Rimmer's worry balls. "Toodle pipski, Iron Balls."
Rimmer raised his hand in a farewell that turned into a rude gesture as soon as Derek swept out of the room. Two guard-clones raced down the hall in pursuit, noticed the dead bodies, and decided to leave the pursuit to someone else. They closed and locked the cell door.
The gentle clinking of the worry balls echoed off of the stone walls of the cell.
Two hundred years later, he decided that if Derek showed up again, he'd negotiate.