Three million years into deep space, the mining ship Red Dwarf. Its crew: Dave Lister, the last human being alive; Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of his dead bunkmate; and a creature who evolved from the ship's cat.
Three million years into deep space, the mining ship Red Dwarf. Its crew: Dave Lister, the last human being alive; Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of his dead bunkmate; and a creature who evolved from the ship's cat.
We continue to scour the spaceways for ships to salvage and scavenge for supplies. I hope we find more Chinese takeaways soon. My last fortune cookie said "To be continued."
"What's goin' on?" Lister asked as he entered the Drive Room.
"We've got a blip on the scanner scope," said Holly, the ship's AI. "I think it's a ship."
"You think?" said Arnold Rimmer, technically the senior ranking officer on board. "You're supposed to have an IQ of 6000! Is it a ship, or isn't it?"
"Enabling long-range scanners now."
"That's more like it." A smug expression crossed Rimmer's face. "Do a proper day's work for once."
Holly vowed to reconfigure Rimmer's hologrammatic program while he slept tonight, perhaps giving him another new hairstyle. Hmm . . . a Mohawk might look nice. Be good for a laugh, anyway.
"Can you enhance the image, Holly?" Kryten asked.
"I can try."
There was a whirr, and a click, and then they were looking at a ship.
An actual ship.
Rimmer was in heaven. "Aliens!"
"Hang on," Holly said. "I'm getting a life form reading."
"Life forms?" Lister sat up and took notice. "How many?"
"I'm reading . . . four. Life signs match human norm."
"Human!" Lister was excited now. "Male, female?"
"Did someone say female?" Cat stuck his head in the door.
"There's a ship," Lister told him. "With people!"
"Aaaoowww! I'll go fix my hair." Cat left the room, singing a little song about getting lucky.
Alas, it was not to be. "They're all male," Holly said. "Maybe they'd like to play Parcheesi."
"How soon till we're in ship-to-ship range?" Lister asked.
"About fourteen hours."
"Long enough for Cat to finish his grooming," Rimmer quipped.
"I think I'll pack my Zero-Gee Football tapes," Lister said. "Guy stuff."
"How do you even know if they're the type to watch Zero-Gee Football?" said Rimmer.
"All me mates watched the football. These guys are no different. Guys are guys."
On the curiously dim bridge of the SCS John McCain, a match flared.
The ship's fire sensors would have put it out had they not been disabled several days prior. The match was raised. Flame met cigarette.
"You know what I love about space, boys?"
The speaker took a long drag, and blew out smoke in a lengthy plume.
"There's no sun up here."
Another puff, another smoke cloud.
"We can come and go as we please. Go where we want, do what we want, enjoy ourselves like never before."
Something on the control panel went ping! He liked the ping. It reminded him of Star Trek.
"Pity we're out of what we need most." He looked to his right. "A thousand people on this ship, and you slaughtered them all in one night. We could have kept ourselves fed for years. But no, you had to get greedy."
"I wasn't thinking," the younger man said. "The blood lust is so much worse up here."
"There is no up. Didn't I already explain that? There's no such thing as up or down, just space all around us. It's only up or down if we go near a planet, and we're staying away from planets, because planets have suns. And suns," he said, crushing out his cigarette on the arm of the captain's chair, "are bad for us."
"I know that."
"Going into stasis, though, that was brilliant. Programming the computer to wake us when it sensed human life was a stroke of genius."
He was leading up to something, and the younger man sensed it, keeping quiet.
"But there was a malfunction. Something went wrong, and the computer woke us . . ." He paused for effect. "Three million years later! And guess what? All the humans are gone! Extinct! No more! Would you like to tell me what we're going to do now?"
"There are . . . medical supplies."
"Sure there are. And when those run out?"
"We could scavenge some from another ship," suggested the young man at the communications console.
"Really? Do you think they might have kept fresh for three million years? One power failure, and the supplies are gone. Then what do we do?"
Suddenly the screen flared into life. The McCain's AI, Sarah, appeared and said, "Hey, kids, there's a big old mining ship out there, you know? And there's life forms on board!"
This made them sit up and take notice. "How many?"
"Oh, let me see . . ."
"It's GELFs again, isn't it?" asked the fourth member of the group. "We've had nothing but GELF for two weeks, and I'm sick of it."
"Sarah, are they GELFs?" the leader asked.
"Nope. One mechanoid, one hologram . . . two humanoid."
"Humanoid?" Maybe things were looking up after all.
"One reads as 100% Homo Sapien. The other's close enough."
"Now we're going to make these ones last, aren't we, boys? Maybe we'll even get lucky and there'll be one male and one female, and we can breed them."
"How close are they?" asked the guilty party.
Sarah appeared to be thinking. "About . . . fourteen hours away."
"Can we send a message?"
"We can sure try! It might not reach them for a while, though. Maybe a couple of hours."
"Well, try anyway."
"Okey dokey! Sending auto-greeting now."
"Any chance," the leader said to his second, "we can reprogram her?"
"We're getting' a message!" Lister declared.
Rimmer didn't care. Cat was in the third of his six showers of the day.
"It appears to be an auto-greeting from the SCS John McCain. The ship is fully stocked, and the crew are anxious to meet us. Should I send a reply?"
"Yeeees!" Lister punched the air. "Load up Starbug and tell 'em we're on our way!"
Lister went to his quarters to dig out his favorite London Jets shirt and the camouflage pants he only wore when he wanted to make a good impression on someone.
"With our luck," Rimmer, who was at his desk reading a hologrammatic copy of Engineering Principles Made Simple, "they'll all turn out to be homicidal maniacs."
"They might not! They might be decent blokes!"
Rimmer looked at him. "When have we ever met anyone who might be described as 'decent blokes'? They're all crazy, out to kill us, or both! I'm staying here. You can get eaten if you want. Not Arnold J. No, sir."
"No, I won't let you talk me into--what do you mean, fine? You're just going to let me stay here, on my own? Not even try to con me into joining you?"
"Nope." Lister packed his Zero-Gee football tapes into his JMC-issue duffle bag. "Have fun."
"Don't you even care that I'll be here all alone? No one to talk to?"
"What about Holly?"
"Holly's computer senile. She's about as much fun to talk to as a bucket of dead fish. And half as intelligent."
Yes, definitely a Mohawk, Holly decided. In some horrible color . . . how about hot pink?
That, or that horrible turquoise color that never looks good on anyone. Ooh, what fun she would have with him.
"Message coming through from Red Dwarf."
"What are you, Captain Kirk?"
"Just put the message up already, will you?"
Click. Whirr. Ping!
"This is the Jupiter Mining Corporation ship Red Dwarf. We stand ready to assist you. What is your situation? Over."
"Sarah, how far out are they now?"
The AI appeared on screen. A caption popped up under her image. You said you didn't want to hear my chirpy voice any more.
"Sarah! I'm asking you a direct question!"
A little graphic appeared on the screen. A big red dot on the left side was labeled "Red Dwarf"; an equal distance away on the right was a smaller green dot labeled "McCain"; between them was a dotted black line with "12 Days" underneath it.
"Thank you, Sarah."
"Send them the following message: this is Captain Daniel Sterling of the SCS McCain. Thank you for your offer. Only four officers survive the explosion in the lower decks. Details to follow. We are low on fuel; would appreciate assistance. Message ends."
He turned to his associates and began issuing orders. "One of you go down to the hold, where we stashed the bodies, and get us uniforms. Make sure they're washed and pressed before the company gets here. We want to make a good impression. Hacker man, come here."
The youngest of the four approached.
"I want you to break into the database and fix it so our photos and identifiers match the names on the uniforms we end up in."
This is against Space Corps regulations, ya know.
"Shut up, Sarah."
I can report you for this.
"Yeah? To whom? There is no more Space Corps, you dumb twat. So go ahead and try, if you want."
Don't make me sic Shawn Patrick on you.
"Yeah? What's he gonna do?"
Oh, I'll think of something.
"You don't know, do you? He's a hologram, composed entirely of light. He knows he can't hurt us, that's why he's hiding down in the library. Nice try, though."
I will get rid of you. Somehow, some way, you're going down, my friend.
"You can shut yourself down now. Authorization code 771 Alpha."
"About time. I think we'll just leave her off, won't we, boys?" He lit himself another cigarette. "Think I'll go down and see what Mr. Patrick's up to. Just to be on the safe side. Keep an eye on the place for me, will you?"
He left the bridge (or the Drive Room, as Sarah insisted on calling it) and headed for the lift. It took forever to come, but then the ship was some 3,000 floors deep, counting the cargo holds. The ship had to hold enough food and water to sustain a thousand crew members for a two-year voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system.
How it had ended up in the wilds of deep space, no one knew.
"Thank you for choosing XPress Lifts," a cheery voice said as the door whooshed open.
"Public service announcements off," he ordered.
"Safety announcements are mandatory--"
"Shut the smeg UP!" he growled at the overhead speaker.
The rest of the ride was spent in silence. Just the way he liked it. When the lift reached the library level, the door opened with a chime, but no cheery voice thanking him and wishing him a pleasant evening. Good.
The library was on the Intellectual Health and Welfare level, one below the Physical Health level with its gym, pool, sauna, and yoga studio, and ten floors above the cargo decks.
Third Communications Officer Shawn Patrick was reading Paradise Lost with the help of a skutter, one of the ship's small, mobile service robots. He looked up as the newcomer entered the room. "What do you want?"
"I don't think I like your attitude, Shawn."
"Yeah? And what exactly do you plan to do about it? You can't kill me."
Having his own words thrown back in his face made the acting captain want to throw something. Since it would just pass through Shawn without doing any damage whatsoever, he held back. No point in making a fool of himself.
"I just came down to see how you were getting on," he said warmly.
"Save it. I know you lot don't give a smeg about me. You can't get what you need from a hologram, so you let me alone. You can just bugger off."
"So . . . nothing's changed, then."
"Something has." Shawn searched his captor's face carefully. "Something's happened that's brought you down here to check on me. What is it?"
The vampire just smirked. "No reason," he said. "Nothing at all. You carry on with what you were doing. If I need you, I'll call."
"Now what kind of attitude is that, Shawn my friend? What's that song about always looking on the bright side of life?" He hummed a bit of it under his breath.
"Not much good if you're already dead, is it?"
"You are in a mood. I'll just leave you to it, then. Lots to do, lots to do." And he left as quickly as he had arrived.
"Lots of what to do? Why?" Shawn called after him, but there was no answer. "What the smeg is going on? What are they up to now?"
The skutter, sensing that there would be no more reading tonight, carefully marked the place in the book, and set it aside.
The monitor screen on the far wall suddenly flared to life. In the middle of the vast whiteness appeared the words Hi, this is Sarah.
"Sarah? What's wrong with your image?"
I'm in stealth mode so they don't shut me down again.
"Oh, okay. What's going on?"
We've found another ship. Those bozos are trying to lure them on board for the big suckaroo.
"There are people?"
Not . . . exactly. One human, one humanoid, and one . . . *sigh* hologram.
"Another hologram!" This was the best news Shawn had heard since his hologrammatic revival two and a half weeks ago. He'd been so lonely without anyone to talk to.
And best of all, holograms could touch each other! Oh, to feel the warmth of a human hand once again, even if it was a simulated hand and simulated warmth. So much better than the cold indifference of the vampires.
Oh, God, the vampires! He had to warn them!
"Can we send a message without them knowing?" he asked Sarah.
I don't know. We can sure as heck try!
"Well, try then. Patch me through."
Here goes nothing.
The screen went bright and swirly, with the words PLEASE STAND BY flashing in the middle of the swirliness. Shawn would stand by, all right. He'd stand by, sit by, and hop on one foot by, if that was what it took.
Finally, PLEASE STAND BY went out, replaced by AUTO RECORD ON. He had only moments to put across his message before he was discovered.
"Uh . . ."
Oh, great beginning! Plus, you're wasting time. Get on with it!
"Do not approach SCS McCain! Hostile life forms on board! Repeat, do not--"
"Now, Shawn, that wasn't very nice, was it?"
How the hell had the bastard known? Shawn stared at him in mute surprise.
"Our first decent meal in two weeks, and you want to go and ruin it like that. I'm going to have to punish you for that, you naughty boy."
Shawn finally found his voice. "How?"
By way of answer, the vampire looked over at the screen. "Sarah? Give me his light bee."
Smeg off, entrails for brains!
"My, my. Discipline on this ship is at an all-time low, isn't it? I shall have to do something about that."
Just try it, bat-breath!
A smirk crossed his lips. "At this moment," he said, "my associate is finding his way around your inner workings. One word from me, and he'll erase you forever."
You wouldn't dare.
He waved a hand. "There. I just told him to erase all the US Presidential elections after 2000 from your memory."
"Really? Who was Barack Obama's running mate?"
"Now are you going to do what I want, or should I tell him to eliminate all the Survivor winners, too?"
No. Sorry, Shawn.
There was a flash of light, and Shawn was reduced to a tiny mechanical device that normally buzzed around inside his virtual body, projecting his image.
The vampire reached out and plucked the light bee from the air, tucking it into his jacket pocket. "Can't have you warning the guests before they become dinner, can we? Don't worry, Shawn, I'll keep you in a safe place."
Whistling a jaunty tune, he went to find himself some liquid refreshment.
"Message coming through!" Holly announced.
Lister, who was running through Starbug's preflight checks, looked up. "Message?"
"It's them again. I'll just punch it up for you."
The message was very dark and full of static. But through the static, Lister could see a man with an H on his forehead, waving his arms wildly.
" . . . approach . . . McCain! . . . life . . . on board! Repeat . . ."
And then the message ended abruptly.
Lister stared at the screen, puzzled. "What the smeg was that?"
"Don't ask me," Holly said. "But it's got a good beat, and you can dance to it."
"Very funny," Lister said. "Play it again, Holly."
It didn't make any more sense the second time around. "Is he telling us to approach? I can't tell. Of course there are life forms aboard! We know that! Why's he telling us that?"
"Don't ask me," Holly said.
"Can you talk to their computer?"
"I've tried. No luck. She's a bit of a dim bulb, if you ask me."
After three million years, Holly wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either, but Lister politely refrained from mentioning that fact.
"Does Rimmer know there's another hologram on board that ship?"
"Come on, come on! What are we waiting for? Chop chop, Lister, let's go!"
Lister very slowly turned around to see Rimmer in his simulated officer's uniform, with all its shiny buttons and epaulets, hurrying into the landing bay. "Where's that stupid Cat? Isn't he done getting dressed?"
"Cat's never done getting' dressed," Lister said. "He's been known to change clothes in the middle of changing clothes."
"Well, get him down here! We can't wait forever for that furry git!"
"Holly, can you give him a heads-up?" Lister said.
"I think I can do that," Holly said, and winked out.
"I thought you weren't gonna come," Lister said to Rimmer.
"Changed my mind. I am allowed to do that, aren't I?" Rimmer commenced to look smug.
"I hope the other hologram hates you," Lister said bitterly.
Rimmer just smirked.
"I hope he tells you off good and proper for being such a smeghead."
"Laugh if you want, Lister, but you know in your heart of hearts that the two of us will get on like a house on fire."
"I've been to house fires, Rimmer. The people in them weren't having a good time."
"Okay, so it's not a perfect metaphor. Or is it a simile? I always got those two confused. Probably why I never got decent marks in Language Arts. But I digress. I know that when I meet my fellow hologram, it will truly be a meeting of intellectual equals."
"You got that right," Lister said, with a smirk of his own. "Poor sad git can't even put together a decent sentence."
"How would you know?"
"That message he sent us made no sense at all."
"What? Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
"I'm tellin' you now!"
"Lot of good that does me now! You're completely smegging useless, you know that?"
"Where is that stupid feline? We're leaving in ten minutes, with or without him."
"He'll be here!"
He was, but only just. Nine and a half minutes into Rimmer's completely arbitrary countdown, Cat came screaming into the hangar, waving his arms and shouting, "Wait for me!"
Reluctantly, Rimmer gave the order to open the hatch and let him on board.
"They're coming." He looked in the mirror, which was made of polished aluminum and thus reflected him perfectly. "Hmm. Jacket on, or jacket off?"
"Leave it off," said his second. "Looks more official that way."
"Besides," said the third, "you won't mess it up when the killing starts."
"Good point." He left off the jacket. Plenty of time for that later.
"Okay," he said, "let's run through our stories one more time. I'm Captain Daniel Sterling, Academy graduate . . . and fat bastard. Let's hope they don't notice the clips down the back of the uniform."
"Sorry," said the one who'd found the uniforms. "You said you wanted to be the captain. I guess we forgot what a fat bastard he really was."
"I guess so. He looked different once we got through with him. All right, who's next?"
"I'll go," said the second, who'd finished his turn with the hair clippers. They'd all have to cut their normally long hair into regulation styles. It would grow back right away, so it wasn't a big deal.
"My name is Ricardo Garcia. I'm First Officer and a 4.0 Academy graduate. I also enjoy squash and taking care of my house plants."
"All right, all right. You're not placing a personal ad. Who's next?"
The hacker eagerly stepped into the breach. He even saluted. "Second Console Officer Marcus Antonelli, reporting for duty, sir! This officer hails from South Beach, Florida, and is the fourth of seven children, all Space Corps officers."
"That's good. You even kept your same initials."
"I lucked out."
"That just leaves you," he said to the problem child. "I hope you remember your cover story."
"Yeah." Big sigh. "Nathaniel Wright, Third Communications Officer. I try harder. Okay?"
"That's good enough. We won't have time for long conversations anyway. Everyone to your places now!"
Suddenly a message appeared on the screen They're asking to meet the other hologram.
"Damn. Where did I put Shawn? I'd better go find him."
Should I tell them he'll be there?
"Fine. And Sarah? You can go to full function--as long as you don't do anything stupid like try to warn them."
The image appeared on the screen. Sarah was smiling from ear to ear. She must be up to something. "Okey dokey, Captain."
"Knock it off, Sarah. Just do what you're told and don't be cute about it." He went off to find Shawn's light bee before the other hologram got here and wanted to see him.
He found it in, of all places, the mini-fridge in his quarters. Why the smeg had he put Shawn in the fridge? Had he been acting up and needed some corrective action? What kind of trouble could a light bee get up to?
He waited for the light bee to warm up a bit and then said, "Okay, Sarah, bring him back."
Sarah popped up on the screen and said, "Ya sure about that?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Why? Are you telling me I shouldn't revive him?"
"No, no, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, you might not want him around after you treated him so badly."
"I don't have a choice. We need him to keep the other hologram entertained while we subdue the two humans."
"Only one of them's human."
"Whatever! Just restore Shawn, now." He was beginning to wish he'd kept her in silent running mode.
It took a moment for the hologram to completely upload. When he did, he wasn't happy.
"What do you want from me now?"
"Captain Sterling" smiled. "I need you to keep the Red Dwarf's hologram busy while we . . . do our thing with the rest of the crew."
"No." Shawn was shaking his simulated head furiously. "I won't be a party to this! Shut me down again if you want. You can even delete me, but don't make me a party to what you have planned. I won't allow it."
"And miss your chance to hang out with one of your own kind? You'd sacrifice that for your morals?"
"Yes, I would! Well . . . I'd have to. I guess."
He was getting to this pathetic being composed of light. "And just think how he'll feel when he gets here and finds out you thought so little of him that you threw your life--well, your afterlife--away for no reason at all."
"But . . ."
"It's not like you'll actually be killing anybody or anything," the vampire continued. Oh, he had him now. "You'll be completely out of the way. Innocent. Blameless. Not even a jury of your peers could convict you. Just stay out of our way for a few hours, and everything will be fine. That's all I ask."
"Well . . . I suppose so." A dreamy smile crossed Shawn's face. "It'll be nice to have another hologram to talk to. About being dead, and stuff. I wonder if he likes Parcheesi?"
"Fine, fine. You get the game board out. I'll go take care of my own preparations."
As soon as he was gone, the spell was broken. Shawn shook his head and looked up at Sarah. "Uh, what just happened?"
"Don't worry about that, hon. You just act like everything's okay, and I'll tell you what to do when the time comes."
"What? When what time comes? What are you up to?"
"Oh, I'm gonna make him sorry he ever shut me down! You bet your ass!"
"Sarah!" Shawn looked up at her in shock. Sixth-generation AI computers weren't programmed for rude language. Where had she learned that?
"Just go along with whatever he says for now. I'll stay in touch."
"Wait! What are you--"
"Can't talk now! Bye!" She disappeared before he could ask her what she was planning. But then he realized, it was probably better for him not to know.
Starbug docked with the McCain, and the three intrepid space explorers disembarked. In a show of good faith, they had not brought along any bazookoids, grenade launchers, or other weapons.
They probably wouldn't have done any good anyway.
"So where are they?" Lister asked, looking around. "Place looks deserted."
"They're probably on their way," said Rimmer. "I should have brought my hologrammatic Risk battle set. We could have a quick campaign while you lot were trading with the rest of the crew."
"Rimmer, just because he's a hologram doesn't mean he likes the same things you like. Just because he happens to be dead doesn't make him a sad, lonely git who plays strategy games and listens to Reggie Wilson."
The three of them jumped and turned around.
The hologram who stood before them was carrying a game board and wearing a shirt emblazoned with REGGIE WILSON RULES OK.
Rimmer gave Lister a pointed look.
"So I was wrong. So what?"
"I'm Shawn," the hologram said. "And you are?"
Rimmer gave one of his long, complicated salutes that made Lister roll his eyes and snicker. "Second Technician Arnold J. Rimmer. By any chance, is that a Risk board you're holding?"
"No, it's Parcheesi."
"Oh. Well, I fancy a good game of Parcheesi now and then. Let's play."
Shawn set up the board. "What do you want me to call you? Arnie? AJ? Do you have a nickname?"
"Yeah," Lister said. "Bonehead."
Rimmer glared at him. "Do you mind?" Turning back to Shawn, he said, "Tragically, I am a man without a nickname. Most everyone calls me Rimmer."
"Includin' his mum."
"Lister, will you shut up? I'm trying to make a good impression here, and you're ruining it for me!"
"Sorry," Lister said. He mimed zipping his lips.
"Go see if you can find the captain. We'll be here."
Suddenly, from down the hall, there was a scream.
"Cat!" Lister said, and ran to find out what was happening.
He found the feline staring at a blank space in the wall, to which a few tiny shards of glass still clung here and there.
"They smashed it," Cat said mournfully. "They killed the mirror! What kind of fiends would do a thing like that?"
"Maybe there's another one," Lister suggested.
Cat gestured dejectedly down the hallway. All along its length were the same rectangular spaces, blank and empty. "They're all gone! Why, God, why?" He slumped to the floor and began to cry.
Lister awkwardly and (he hoped) heterosexually patted him on the shoulder. "Cheer up, man. They can't have got them all."
"We had an unfortunate . . . accident with the mirrors. They haven't been replaced yet."
Lister looked up to see a tall blond man in a neat but outdated uniform. "Captain Sterling, I presume?"
The captain nodded. "We've been waiting for you in the Officers' Lounge. This way, please."
"C'mon, Cat." Lister helped Cat to his feet, and together they followed the captain to the lift.
Rimmer watched them go. "And why, exactly, was I not invited?"
Shawn looked grave, as if he were reliving a nightmare. "You don't want to go up there," he said. "Bad things will happen."
"What do you mean, bad things?"
The other hologram shivered. "Just trust me," he said. "Bad, bad things."
"What are you saying?" Rimmer found Shawn's vagueness disturbing.
Shawn started to reply, but suddenly began convulsing like he'd been hit with an electric shock. Rimmer could only stand by helplessly and watch.
The electronic seizure finally ended, and Rimmer asked, "What the smeg was that all about?"
"I don't know," Shawn said.
They both looked up at the monitor screen, where Sarah's image smiled knowingly.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Sarah, the ship's computer. What just happened was a feedback loop in Shawn's hologrammatic programming. It's what happens when a direct order from a human conflicts with his own desires."
"I thought that was only androids who had that sort of thing."
"Is it? Maybe you're right. Anyway, he's right about bad things happening. I can show you what happened when those guys upstairs took over the ship."
"Took over the ship?" Rimmer was confused. "You mean that's not the captain?"
"No, sir! Those guys killed the captain, and the crew, and everyone on board!" Her image enlarged slightly, as if she were leaning closer to the screen. "They're vampires."
Rimmer gave her a "what the smeg?" look. "Right. Vampires."
"Want to see the video record or not?"
"You don't want to see it," Shawn said, diving under the table.
"Okay," Rimmer said, "show me."
It was horrible. A thousand people were butchered in the most violent and horrible way imaginable, and there was no way to stop it. Rimmer had to cover his eyes at certain parts. Dear God, what had they gotten themselves into? Lister! Lister and Cat were walking right into their trap!
"What do we do?" he asked Sarah.
"You've come to the right place," she said. "I have a plan . . ."
"Do you notice something funny around here?" Cat asked Lister in the lift.
"There's this funny smell I can't quite place. Maybe you know what it is."
Lister took a sniff. "Nope, can't smell anything. My nose isn't as sensitive as yours."
"I know it's there, I just can't tell what it is. There's something fishy about this place, and I don't mean tuna."
The lift stopped on the Officers' Deck. "Gentlemen," Sterling said, gesturing toward the open door.
"Uh, you go first," Cat said.
Lister gave him a strange look.
"I don't want him behind us!" Cat whispered. "Who knows what he might do?"
"I can't believe you! This guy's been nothin' but nice to us, and here you are bein' all suspicious! There's nothing wrong here at--"
A body dropped from the rafters. Lister looked up. "What the smeg?"
"I told you! Didn't I tell you?"
Sterling had gone on ahead, oblivious to the drama in the hallway behind him.
Lister turned the body over. It was naked, and very, very pale. There were huge gaping wounds in its neck and upper shoulders.
"Who the smeg are you?"
"More important," Cat said, "what happened to his clothes?"
"Who cares about his clothes? I want to know what killed the poor bugger! And if it's still here."
Up ahead, Sterling stopped, looked back. He was not pleased with what he found. "I see you've found him."
Light dawned in Lister's head. "The real Captain Sterling," he said.
"Who are you, then?"
"Call me . . . David." He smiled, light flashing off incisors that were suddenly way too long. "I'll be your new best friend . . . for a long time."
Suddenly they were grabbed from behind by two other creatures in stolen uniforms.
"We can drop the pretense, boys," David said. "And when I find out who's been sloppy with the housekeeping, he's in big trouble. Bring them in here."
They were dragged into a large room that was not the Officer's Lounge. "This is the mini-kitchen for the Officers' Deck," David explained. "You'll notice it has a nice, big walk-in freezer. This will be your new home for a while."
"You can't do this!" Lister exclaimed.
"Oh, can't I?" David looked around at the others, who were laughing. "Who's going to stop me?"
The screen flashed on. "Well, me."
"Sarah! Don't make me shut you down again!"
"Nice try. I've changed all the codes so that anything you order me to do won't work, and you can't override it. I should have done this a long time ago."
"Me, too." Standing in the doorway was Shawn, flanked by Rimmer, who was trying to hide behind him and not be noticed.
"Oh, Shawn." David shook his head. "I thought you'd learned your lesson."
"Sarah taught me how to break through the feedback loop. You can't do anything to me now."
"Want to bet?" He reached out into the center of Shawn's torso, grabbed his light bee . . . and crushed it.
"Nooooo!" Rimmer hadn't even been aware of his own voice until then. "You bastard!" "Come and get me," David taunted.
"Rimmer," Sarah said, "remember the plan!"
"Right! The plan! Code 11799, Authorization Palin One."
The lights went down, then came back up again . . . but something was different. David suddenly felt very warm. "What did you do? What the hell did you do, you bitch?"
Sarah gave him a smug smile. "I switched all the ship's lighting over to the ultraviolet frequency. In layman's terms, this ship is now one big sun lamp. Fry, you bloodsuckers, fry!"
Lister and Cat could only stare helplessly as the vampires reddened and then burst into flame. The fire protection systems had been overridden, but Lister found an extinguisher and put them out before the fire could destroy anything else in the room.
Rimmer was staring down at the metallic fragments of Shawn's light bee. "Farewell, my friend. Though we only knew each other a short time, you gave your life valiantly to save us all."
"Can we go now?" Cat asked. "This place makes my hairs stand on end. All of them. Not a pretty sight."
"I agree," said Lister. "But first . . . can we just check the food supplies? I'm dyin' for a curry."
Rimmer and Cat both gave him dirty looks.
"Wake up already!"
David opened his eyes, still feeling the flames burning his skin. But he wasn't on fire. Someone had thoughtfully thrown a blanket over him.
"You missed the whole thing!" Paul was saying. "You'll have to wait till next week to see it again. And you were so excited about this show!"
David looked up at the TV. On the screen, closing credits were rolling over a shot of a ship in space.
"No, thanks," he said. "Science fiction really isn't my thing."
He got up and went downstairs, looking for a takeout menu. Suddenly he had this craving for curry.