We Don't Need Another Hero
A Red Dwarf fan fiction
Written (off and on) July 6th through August 27th, 1997. A friend of mine has been bugging me to put this up on this site for ages now--so quit bugging me El, here it is!
Disclaimer:All of the main characters in this story are from the program Red Dwarf and are owned by Grant/Naylor and/or the BBC. They are used here without their permission or consent. Other characters such as any Timlars, Navetians, A.J., or Jason Vogel, are my own characters and aren't nearly as incredible or believable as the ones invented by GN. I've also taken some liberty with events that we couldn't possibly know about, but I've tried to remain true to the characters and the show. Also also, the lyrics quoted below are owned by The Wallflowers and I obviously don't own them either!
I'm so alone,
Feel just like somebody else
Man I ain't changed,
But I know I ain't the same
-The Wallflowers, _One Headlight_
George Harper ran back to town as fast as his stubby legs would carry him, which wasn't much faster than the cruising speed of a crippled llama, but it was the best he could do. His heart pounded in his chest and begged for him to stop and rest for awhile, but he ignored it. He had to tell everyone the amazing news as soon as possible and if that meant going through pain and exhaustion for a few miles, so be it.
Puffing up the final hill, he caught sight of the town. Now his lungs started in, trying to convince him to take in the beautiful sight so they could have a break. They had a point; it *was* a lovely view from where he was standing, dawn breaking over the hills and wrapping the town and the countryside in a warm glow, while rose and canary yellow streaks danced across the sky.
No, he told himself, you CAN'T stop. Some things are more important than your own measly life. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and continued to plod along.
Harper wasn't used to all this exercise. Being administrator for the Navetian Records and Score-Keeping Department meant that the biggest strain on his muscles came from rising off his chair and getting more coffee. Why he had been picked to play Pheidippides was a mystery to him, but he didn't have time to wonder about such things. Searching within his tired frame, he found an extra burst of speed that was able to carry him into town and up to the front steps of the ministry hall.
A crowd of people had gathered there, waiting for news of the rescue mission. Harper skidded to a stop and pinched himself to keep from passing out. If he had made it this far, he could certainly hold out for a few minutes to tell the crowd what they were hoping to hear. His body, however, had other plans, and Harper soon found himself doubled over and gasping for air.
He leaned on the man next to him for support as he tried desperately to catch his breath. Everyone waited patiently, although Harper could see in their eyes that they wanted an answer. He could hardly blame them. His wheezing started to subside, and he looked at the man who was holding him up.
"...water," he gasped at last. A woman offered him her canteen, and he downed its contents in three monstrous gulps. It wasn't enough to completely quench the fire in his throat, but at least it offered a little relief.
"Well?" asked the woman with the canteen. "Was the mission a success? Did the stranger's plan work?"
The crowd leaned in closer, waiting for him to speak. Harper looked up at their anxious faces and smiled. "My dear friends," he replied in a hoarse, dry voice, "Peter Rowtan is finally coming home." Tears began to well in his eyes as he uttered the three most wonderful words in existence: "We are free."
The crowd was stunned. Their faces beamed with relief and joy--was it truly possible? Were they actually free after all this time? Harper could tell what they were thinking and smiled again.
"Yes my friends, it's true. I was there myself when it happened. For the first time in 600 years, the colony of Navus 7 is free of Timlar rule. Our terrible ordeal is over."
Unable to hold back anymore, the crowd roared with excitement. Happy tears flowed freely as everyone's heart swelled with pride. They looked around the familiar setting as if they were seeing it for the first time. Suddenly the grass seemed greener, the air fresher, and for the first time in ages, the people of Navus 7 experienced an emotion thought long forgotten: hope. Tomorrow was no longer a dreary and depressing idea. Now it shone like the brightest star in the night sky.
Harper happened to look towards the entrance of the town, and saw two figures approaching. He didn't need to guess who they were. A broad grin swept across his face as he tore away to meet them. The crowd followed suit and soon everyone was at the edge of town, ready to welcome their long-lost leader home.
Peter Rowtan, head of the colony on Navus 7, saw the excited crowd ahead of him and couldn't help but shed a tear. He had pictured this day for so long, and nothing would have made him happier than to have run back to town himself and tell everyone the news. He was far too weak for that, however, as the incredible pain in his back and head reminded him every time he tried to walk on his own. Instead, he leaned on his liberator for support. A humble way to enter a new era, no doubt, but after all the complicated mistakes of the past, perhaps a simple beginning was the most fitting.
"Almost there, Peter," said his 'human crutch.' "Just a bit further."
Peter nodded. He wanted so much to find a way of saying thank you to the stranger, but he decided to save the speeches for when they got to town. Instead he looked at the crowd again, now just a short distance away. He raised his fist and, using what he was sure was the very last bit of energy he had left, triumphantly performed the victory salute. The ecstatic crowd surged forward, unable to wait any longer, and raised their leader up onto their shoulders, parading him into town on a wave of grateful joy.
Ace Rimmer watched the crowd as it went away from him, ignoring the dull pain that seemed to pound from every corner of his body. Only his shoulder was spared, and that was only because it had gone numb from supporting that injured man he had rescued. It didn't matter. If he had to go through a little discomfort in order to overthrow an evil regime and bring peace to this place once more, so be it. He could take it.
Harper ran up to him, still sporting the same broad grin on his face as when Ace had last seen him. "What are you standing out here for?" he cried as he grabbed Ace's arm. "Come and join us!" He led him into the crowd and back to the side of Peter, who beamed as he approached.
"My friend, every person in this colony owes you a great debt of gratitude," he began. "Thanks to your efforts, I am a free from the prison I have known for fourteen years, and for that I owe you my life." Ace was about to protest, but Peter put his hand up. "No, let me continue. My life is but one small part of the bigger picture, for not only did you bring about my freedom, but you also brought freedom to every member of this colony. How can we possibly repay you?"
Ace tossed his hair and smiled. "No thanks are needed, old fruitbasket. Your fellow colonists were the ones to first rise up against the Timlars. I only helped wrap things up."
"Please, at least let us build a monument to your great deeds," said Harper as he pushed his way to the front. "Your work here today should not go unrecognized." He turned around to face the crowd. "You should have seen him. First he dug a tunnel underneath the Timlar compound--"
"I wasn't alone, Harper," Ace said from behind him. "I had a team of your best diggers helping me, remember? They're the ones that did all the work."
"Then he fought his way past hoards of guards and into the dungeons, freeing the prisoners--"
"There were only twenty or thirty guards on each floor. Not exactly 'hoards', as you say."
"Only to break into the main hall and challenge Lord Gambran to combat." He leaned in closer to the amazed crowd. "He defeated him by using Gambran's signature move!"
"It was only a variation on the half-wingnut! Anyone could have figured that out."
"Then he battled up to the Timlar energy grid and disabled the entire array--"
"Using a computer virus that your experts had developed. I know next to nothing about programming a virus!"
"And finally, he encoded the auto-destruct as we raced against time to get out before it was too late. He refused to leave until he knew for certain that every single one of us was out of harm's way. With just seven seconds left, he ran down the tunnel and reached our safeway point just in time to watch the entire compound blow up in a brilliant explosion." Harper shook his head in amazement as he remembered the sight, and turned back to Ace again. "The return of Peter Rowtan, the end of the Timlar regime--we owe it all to you. You HAVE to let us honor you with a memorial."
Ace stood up and clamped his hand on Harper's shoulder. "Nonsense, man. If any monument is to be raised on this day, it should be dedicated to the Navetians, not me." He looked out at the crowd and was met in every direction by pairs of thankful eyes. He smiled with sincerity. "You're the ones that have suffered through generations of torment. It's your victory, not mine."
Harper was stunned. Was such modesty possible? It was amazing. All he could think to say was what he and everyone else was probably thinking at the moment: "I've never met anyone like you before." He noticed the hero's smile fade for a moment, a dreamy look coming across his face as if he were reliving some fond memory. Suddenly he snapped out of it and revealed the same charming smile he had been wearing since he got there.
"Harper, don't waste time fussing over me. You should be celebrating!" The crowd began to protest but Ace waved them down. "No, I won't hear it. Now if you'll excuse me, chums, I'm needed elsewhere."
Harper stood speechless as he watched Ace make his way through the cheering crowds and back to his ship. Woman ran up and kissed him, men shook his hand, and children stood in awe as he went by. Yet he wouldn't accept any sort of gift or recognition for all that he had accomplished, not even from their leader. At last he reached his ship and climbed into the cockpit. Harper thought he heard him say something about kippers, and then the thrusters fired up, raising the ship into the sky in a swift and graceful arc. With a flash of light, the ship bolted into space.
Harper followed the streak as far as he could. "Good luck Ace," he said quietly. "And thank you."
Ace leaned back in his seat and uttered a long, weary sigh. He'd done it. Once again he had looked danger in the face and managed to succeed brilliantly. He ought to be celebrating. Yet no matter how many times it happened, Arnold Rimmer was finding that he still wasn't used to it.
He couldn't help but admire the irony. From the start, he was deemed a failure, a fact pounded into his head by his parents and brothers. They had shunned him, cutting him down instead of building him up. He'd had to live with their disappointment all his life, an overwhelming burden to carry that was diminished only by the disdain he felt for himself. He'd gotten used to running away and making excuses to try and cover up the hatred and loneliness that ate away inside him. Now after all this time he finally got a chance to start over and become the man he always wanted to be--brave, honorable, confident, successful--and what happens? He can't accept that it's happening. There was no way in hell that he could actually be succeeding. It was almost inconceivable to think that something was actually going his way for once. It must be some twisted dream.
He shook his head. At least his self-loathing was still yelling loud and clear.
Yet as he looked back at all the victories and all the good he had done since he had 'become' Ace, a different voice spoke up in the back of his mind. A voice that he didn't hear very often. In fact, for a long time he thought it had abandoned him completely. This voice told him to be proud of what he had accomplished and to realize that yes, it was highly possible for things to go right in his life. It was happening right now, if only he'd admit it.
But what if I mess up? he asked this voice. How am I supposed to be this perfect person when I'm really not perfect at all? And is this all there is? Am I missing something? Is this truly my destiny, or is it just a part of it? Will I ever find peace of mind?
Don't ask me, the voice replied, I only work here.
"You're listening to the voices again, aren't you?"
Rimmer jolted out of his 'conversation,' hitting his head on the roof of the cockpit.
The computer laughed. "I thought so. You get this really sweet look on your face when you're deep in thought. I stopped staring long enough to bring you out of it." She paused, watching his cheeks fill with a slight blush. It was too cute.
"Why don't you try listening to the voice of reason now, ok? You were brilliant on Navus 7. Don't let them tell you any differently." He didn't say anything. Perhaps he was finally listening for once?
She checked the records to see if hell had frozen over yet. It hadn't.
"Hmm? Yes, sorry, computer. I've got a lot on my mind, I guess." He had slipped into his normal voice, like he usually did when it was just him and the computer. He didn't have to pretend with her.
"It's Diane, remember?" The lovely face and auburn tresses appeared on the monitor. Rimmer had to admit: even the little perks of this job were nice.
"Why can't any of you call me by my name? It's always 'computer'. I don't always call you commander, do I?"
Rimmer smiled. "Again, I apologize, `Diane.'"
"That's better." She noticed he was looking out the window. She knew what that meant. After looking at the same gorgeous face all her life, she knew all the mannerisms. Be it a twitch, a gesture, even a wan smile--she could read him like a book. In this particular case, his behavior meant he was lonely. He'd never admit it willingly, of course, and she knew that. Still, since she knew it wasn't good to keep things inside...
"So is anything the matter?"
"Nope, nothing. Everything's tickety-boo." He tried to sound convincing, hoping to avoid the inevitable inquisition. He really wasn't in the mood for another chapter from Diane's book of advice, but knew it was coming anyway. Sure enough, there was the shadow of doubt crossing her face. He prepared himself for the coming bombardment--
"All right, what's wrong?"
"Nothing!" he answered with what he hoped was a persuading smile. "Why would anything be wrong? You said it yourself, I've had a brilliant day."
"I know. I'm just trying to understand why you're not enjoying it."
"But I did--I am! I was thrilled to be a part of the Navetian liberation. Who wouldn't be?"
"Someone who's been having second thoughts about whether or not he should be here."
"Oh yes, questioning my destiny when I'm such a success. Really Diane, that's a bit ridiculous, isn't it?"
"Not when it's true."
"Look, if anything, I'm really beginning to tire of talking in that deep, macho voice." He cleared his throat. "It's really doing a number on my vocal chords. I don't know how much longer they can stand it."
"Ace, I don't think--"
"And all those cutesy little metaphors I have to mimic. It's sickening! I lose a little bit of my dignity each time I use one."
"No wonder why we have to wear the codpiece so tight! It's the only way to force those sugary-sweet remarks out of us."
"Ace, you know you have to play the part exactly. It's your job, remember? Besides, we went over this already--using the familiar monikers makes people relax. It makes them feel like they're important."
Rimmer raised a sarcastic eyebrow. "It makes someone feel important when they're referred to as 'my old waffle iron'?"
She frowned. "You KNOW what I mean. Look, we both know that this isn't the real problem. There's something bothering you that goes far beyond such trivial matters."
He looked down. Diane felt guilty for pulling teeth like this, but it was for his own good. "Ace, you don't have to act like nothing's wrong. Just because you're seemingly perfect on the outside doesn't mean that everything on the inside is on the up and up. No one is completely flawless, right?"
No response. She could tell she was getting through.
"So come on then. What's wrong?"
Rimmer looked out the window again. "I don't know," he said at last. "I really don't."
"You know what I think?" she began. "I think you're lonely." He blinked. She wondered, was that an acknowledging blink or just an ordinary blink? Her intuition said it was the former, and she continued.
"I think you're beginning to wonder if this is really where you belong." Now he shifted in his chair. Yes! She was on the right track.
"In fact--dare I say it?" Another blink. It was now or never. "I think you miss your old life."
Rimmer's head shot towards her. "Oh come on! To think that I might actually miss that so-called existence. Forced to spend the best years of my death roving deep space with a spacebum, a walking fashion statement, and a glorified vacuum cleaner. Surely not."
Diane gave herself a pat on the back--or at least she would have if she had a hand or a back. She loved it when she was right. Now she just had to sit back and wait for him to realize it too.
"Honestly, the very idea," he scoffed. "I was lucky to get out of there when I did. Finally getting the chance to get away from that bunch of moronic, incompetent, weak-minded, unnatural, half-witted--" he struggled for the right word to fully evoke the weight of their stupidity; "--goits! Really, I couldn't have welcomed the opportunity enough."
She answered with a wry smile. "Mm-hmm."
He found himself thinking back to how things used to be. "God it was pathetic. Being chased by GELFs of every shape and size one week and getting terrorized by simulants the next. Running into anomalies without any sense of what was going on, what we were doing, or what to do next. And every day being forced to live the same, boring life with the same mind-numbing people. I'm amazed I didn't go completely mad." He paused.
Diane decided that it was safe to talk. " I think it's clear that-"
"And that was just the beginning!" he continued. "Having to live with their put-downs, their annoying habits, their general gimboidyness, day after day! Never getting even an iota of respect from them. Then having to look in the mirror and see that 'H' branded on my forehead, reminding me of the fact that I was nothing more than a mere projection of my former self. There's a moral booster if I've ever seen one!" He looked at Diane. "To actually think that I'm having even the slightest hint of longing to return to a life I hated!"
He waited for her to say something, but she remained silent. She wasn't about to interrupt this therapy session again. He sighed.
"Still, I guess I had gotten used to it all--Kryten and his long-winded explanations and endless nit-picking, Cat's insatiable vanity and complete lack of comprehension, Holly's gormless face and increasingly low I.Q..." He stopped as he realized what he was about to say. "I guess I even got used to Lister at last. Lister and all his annoying habits and lack of discipline, his slobbiness and cockiness, his plans, his opinions, his beliefs, his optimism--his guitar playing...." He winced. "Well, maybe NOT the guitar playing. I've never known any other person that could make his guitar's strings scream in horrific pain with each pluck. That's why we made him play in the airlock. Our ears could only take so much abuse."
He chuckled as he thought of the first time that they forced Lister and his guitar into the cold space. "No, I certainly don't miss the guitar."
Diane urged him on, "But...?"
He caught her eyes and shook his head. "But I suppose in some sort of small, odd, Look-at-that-dismembered-head -hanging-out-of-the-crashed-car kind of way, I do...sort of wonder... what...they're up to." He paused. "Funny, isn't it? As much as I wanted to drive hot nails through their skulls every time they corrected me or made me feel guilty or just plain annoyed me, I guess we sort of gelled after a while. We relied on each other more and more, even though we continued to drive each other crazy. We were a team. Not a very good one, I'll admit it, but still, we were, to a point.
"All the time I was with them, I just wanted to get away. They didn't enjoy the same things I did, so I usually spent a lot of time alone. Now that I'm completely alone though--"
Diane threw him a look.
"--except for you, of course--"
She relaxed and gave him a 'that's better' smile.
"I don't know. I guess I am a bit lonely. I never got to tell them how I really felt. Just a quick hug, some handshakes, and I was gone. Of course I don't know if I ever would have been able to admit it at all."
"Sounds like you just did." He answered with a shy smile.
"Well I suppose it doesn't matter any more. I'm dead to them and I'm sure that's just as well."
"But Lister knows, you told me so!"
"Yes, big smegging deal. After all the grief we caused each other over the years, I'm sure he's enjoying being rid of me. Probably hasn't thought about me once."
"Just like you never thought of him, right?" He looked down again. He *hated* when she was right.
"So you want to check up on them?"
"Well I have to admit, I am a bit curious. Did they ever find Red Dwarf, for instance? Who stole it in the first place? Have they made any progress whatsoever?" He sighed. "It doesn't matter, I guess. I can't go back anyway. I'm not there anymore, which means I can't jump there anymore, right?"
"Oh I don't know about that. 1534 figured out a way to return home."
"Why did he want to go back?"
"He missed his wife terribly. When he took over as Ace, he had to tell her -- dressed as Ace, of course--that her husband was lost and presumed dead."
Rimmer's eyes became sad. "That's terrible. Was he at least a success as Ace?"
"He was fantastic! But no matter how much he tried to tell me differently, his eyes revealed his misery. Each day there was a little less warmth in those deep hazel pools. Poor guy."
"So then what happened?"
"Well, he figured out some sort of way to lock onto specific dimensions, allowing him to jump to a particular dimension instead of one at random. That way he didn't have to be there in order to jump to it. That's how he became the first Ace to retire. Only three others have done the same since then."
"He retired? I didn't know retirement was an option."
"It wasn't, or at least it wasn't until 1534 came along. He reunited with his wife after training his successor, and probably lived a happy and healthy life after that." She smiled. "He decided that love was more important than his own success. What a guy."
She looked up after he didn't answer right away. He was staring into space with dreamy eyes. So there's more, she thought, and decided to begin again.
"Ace, there's a lot more going on in that head of yours than just missing your friends and questioning your destiny, isn't there?"
Rimmer barely heard her. He was back on that fantastic ship, staring true love right in the face, even though every bit of his being screamed for him to run away and never look back. She had believed in him, even sacrificed herself for him. "She was incredible," he mumbled, still in a trance. "The only person in my entire life that actually liked me--loved me--for who I was." His eyes became sad again as he came out of the memory that he had entered into. "I never got to say goodbye to her, either."
His face twisted into a grimace. "God, listen to me. Stop me before I begin writing greeting cards."
"It's ok, I won't tell anyone," she laughed. "Let's get going, shall we?"
"Right." He tossed his hair and slipped into his confidence again. "So what's next on the agenda? A galaxy to save? Maybe a ship to rescue?"
"Actually, there isn't too much going on at the moment." She hoped he couldn't tell she was lying.
"What? Are you sure? Check your scanners again."
She shook her head. "No, still nothing. That's odd."
"So what do we do now?"
"Well actually, I've got an idea--if you're willing to give it a go," she said slyly.
"And what's that?"
"To try and get back to your dimension."
"Well what else are we going to do? Just sit here and wait for something to happen? At least if we try we'll know if it can be done or not."
He sat with his arms folded. "And I suppose you remember the calculations and everything."
"Vaguely, yes." Her eyes became slits as she tried to remember. "That was quite a while ago. 1534 did most of the work on his own. I do have to admit I was too busy watching him work to pay attention to exactly what he was doing. Still, it's worth a shot, right?"
He gave her a stubborn look. She tried her best to look innocent. "Just think how it would benefit the future Aces!" He was trying not to listen, she could tell. It didn't matter; she knew she'd get through to him.
"Come on. What could it hurt?"
Yeah, what could it hurt? asked the supportive voice in his head.
Rimmer felt like a hundred pleading eyes were staring at him. With a long sigh, he finally relented. "Oh all right. But I'm only doing this for the sake of those that will follow me."
"And if it doesn't work, well, that's the end of it, ok? No more fruity ideas like this. Let's just try this once, and then go conquer some evil regime or something."
Diane felt like giving herself another pat on the back. Darling, you are good, she said to herself, and began to work on the calculations.