Reentry made the shuttle shake and rattle like the bed in the motor lodge that Lister and his mate Denny once rented in order to get away from their guardians and smoke marijuana. Lister and Denny had scrounged up enough money to plop into the slot in the headboard that made the mattress bounce; they had horsed around on it pretending to be shuttle pilots until the bottom fell out of the bed. Lister closed his eyes and tried to remember that time, over a hundred years ago - well, in actuality, over three million years ago. Maybe he should have actually studied to be a shuttle pilot, instead of resolving to be a rock guitarist. If he had, he sure as smeg wouldn't have ended up in a rickety lander taking to him to his death in an inferno of a planet, trapped between a narcissistic feline and a neurotic hologram who was asking for his mother with a note of panic in his voice.
As if to complete the resemblance to that three-million-plus-years-gone bed, the bottom of the shuttle dropped out.
The chairs remained affixed to the bottom, which swung out on hinges, while the straps remained attached to the sides of the shuttle. As a result, the three less-than-intrepid adventurers dropped like three ungainly stones, flying to the ground.
Lister hit something abrasive with his forearm and went tumbling. He leaps to his feet, screeching, dancing to try to minimize the contact of his feet with the searing surface of the planet. He danced about loudly for a few minutes, then slowed as he realized that he was not actually being boiled alive.
Rimmer was staring at him; the hologram had his fingers in his ears, and his mouth was moving. Lister stopped yelling, and the mouth movements sync-ed up with the hologram's voice. "...shut the smeg up already!"
Lister looked around. He stood on an expanse of warm bronze sand that stretched to the horizon, where it met a dark blue sky that was streaked with cotton trails of pale clouds. Lister turned, and saw that behind him the sand fetched up against a cobalt lake just a few feet away. A huge orange sun dangled low over the lake, and gentle waves broke against the beach. The words 'beautiful' and 'serene' took a good look at the scene, and then ran off in search of a more adequate companion. Lister stared, openmouthed. Even Cat was speechless.
Rimmer finally cleared his throat. "I suppose that this is a winter-GELF's idea of a boiling hellhole..."
"Trust me," Cat interrupted, "if you're here, it's a hellhole. Besides, look at all of that water! Ugh." He wrinkled his nose, backing up slightly.
Lister took a deep breath. "So, I suppose we just wait here for Krytes..." A grin split his face, and he tore at his clothes, running down towards the water. He felt filthy, and the water looked far too inviting. He wanted out of his smeggy jumpsuit. "After a swim!"
Rimmer was not pleased.
It was a common state for him to be in. He could not remember the last time he had been truly pleased. That time that his mum had sent him those gold-filled cufflinks (before he found out that they had actually been for Howard and had been mis-posted) had been close, but he felt that he could say for certain that he had not been truly pleased since his death. His displeasure was particularly acute at this moment, however. He did not like lakes, and liked the sand that got into his boots and his briefs, itching severely, only in contrast to that substantial dislike of large deep bodies of water.
But he had to be there, he told himself. Lister was swimming - he had convinced Holly to stay near that planet for a bit before moving on, despite Rimmer's (very sensible, if he did say so himself) warnings about GELFs and Simulants and Aganoids and jellyfish and sunburn. The man was simply too immature to look after himself, Rimmer groused internally, and so the hologram was there to provide a responsible presence. Rimmer saw a small red crab scuttling towards him and jumped out of the way with a yelp, dancing away from the creature.
A loud splashing noise made Rimmer jerk his head back towards the lake. Lister was running out of the water, laughing and shaking himself. He trotted up to Rimmer, wringing streams of liquid out of his plaits. "Too bad yeh can't swim, man."
Rimmer wrinkled his nose. "I don't like water, and I don't see the point in splashing around in it like some ruddy goldfish." Lister even gaped like a goldfish, Rimmer noted.
Lister shrugged and stretched. "'Cause it's fun. Don't yeh do that? Fun, I mean?"
"All of the time. But unlike you, I take my fun from mature and responsible pursuits." Rimmer treated Lister to a grin that would not have looked out-of-place on a jackal.
"Mature and responsible, eh?" Lister asked, speaking slowly, as if he were tasting the words. "I dunno nothin' about that." He cocked his head, studying Rimmer, and suddenly grinned again. He reached out and unsnapped the fastenings on Rimmer's tunic. "Is this mature and responsible?"
Rimmer grabbed for his tunic, hurriedly snapping it back into place. "No, it is not! I..." He choked on the rest of the words as Lister grabbed him in a low tackle.
"Is this," Lister asked, through breathless laughter, "mature and responhicble?" He tore at Rimmer's tunic again as they rolled around in the sand, the hologram ineffectively trying to keep his clothes on.
"No!" Rimmer yelped, thinking regretfully about all of the other places that sand was likely to get in the name of what seemed to be on Lister's mind. He gave up with bad grace as he realized that the same activity, while perhaps not on his mind, certainly seemed to be on other parts of his anatomy.
'Beautiful' and 'serene' returned in the company of 'magnificent' and 'spectacular,' who they had just picked up at a bar and convinced to come to the scene. The four looked at the ruddy sun that sat half-set over the water, reflected in the shimmering surface along with rosy streaks of cloud. They ran off to find a bit more help.
Rimmer stared at the sunset, struggling with something strange inside of himself. He fiddled around with it, prodded it, held it up to the light, and finally realized what it was. It was that he felt, all in all, rather pleased. He shifted. Yes, despite the sand that was working its way into his slightly tender buttock crevice, he was pleased. It was a distinctly odd sensation. "Not bad," he said, wincing at how hideously inadequate that phrase was.
Lister's giggle was felt as much as heard, as his head sat atop Rimmer's chest. "Yeah, it's pretty. Holly said that the air has trace contaminants. They're fatal to people after a week or so of exposure, she said, but they sure make for a nice sunset, don' they?"
Rimmer looked at the sunset. "You're just going to keep trying to find a planet like Earth, aren't you?"
Lister nodded. "Yeah. I want to find a planet to settle down on, man. Even if there isn't Fiji anymore, there's still gotta be some pretty continent on some planet somewhere, what?"
Even Rimmer could spot the flaw. "And if you can't find such a planet, with a pretty little Fiji-like continent?"
Lister sounded unfazed. "I'll just keep lookin' and have as much fun as I can."
It was one of the most gerbily things Rimmer had ever heard Lister say, and he had heard a lot. "Is that all there is?"
"Well, what more do yeh want?" Lister twisted himself to look up at Rimmer. "Wanna be an officer? We can make you officer of summit onboard."
"Don't patronize me," Rimmer snapped.
"Why not? It's fun." Lister giggled again, then settled back against Rimmer's chest. He was a warm, soft weight, and felt, Rimmer had to admit, rather nice.
The hologram looked out at the stunning toxic sunset, and wondered if those trace contaminants were harmful to a light bee.