Author's Notes: Okay, this will be my big fic. And I really mean my BIG fic. I've had this niggling around in my head since Back to Earth aired, and while odds of Doug Naylor getting the chance to wrap up the Kochanski storyline himself are high (and I couldn't be happier with that), I wanted to tell my own version of this story.
So, this would be a sequel to Back to Earth. Thanks for reading and leave a review if you so wish.
NINE MONTHS LATER…
Lister was walking up the corridor towards his and Rimmer's sleeping quarters to meet with the others.
The encounter with the Elation Squid had really invigorated them all. After being put through the false reality where they were led to believe they were characters from a Sci-Fi Comedy television series, they'd found themselves being admired by throngs of fans, people who loved and admired them, made toys out of them, released those DVD things of them… Some freak had redesigned his car to look like Starbug for smeg's sake (unwisely painting over the rear window in the process).
All that adoration from the fans had really inspired them. They felt rejuvenated, as if it hadn't been so long since something interesting happened. Kryten had summed it as a mechanoid would: they'd been freshly laundered.
And following the revelation that Kochanski wasn't dead after all, Lister felt so motivated that he just had to act.
Trouble was they weren't able to really do anything without Holly.
Holly had been off-lined due to water damage when Lister left a bath running on the officer's deck for nine years. The resulting flood had not only swept the crew along the Red Dwarf corridors at eighty knots per hour, but it also managed to completely drench Holly's massive CPU, and the giant computer had sputtered out.
The skutters could've finished drying him out a lot sooner, but Lister and Rimmer always seemed to find jobs they deemed more important to do. Rimmer needed pictures of him to be straightened. Lister needed someone to fetch him a new tomato so he could sneeze. It was a long and grueling process all around.
Of course, again, the encounter with the Elation Squid had helped them realize how ridiculous that was. Rimmer knew that if Holly had been online, he'd have been present in the hallucination, and he could've maybe stopped the whole ugly Katerina business.
And so, Rimmer had straightened his own damn pictures and Lister had gotten his own damn tomatoes for the rest of the past nine months, allowing the skutters to work for all that time uninterrupted.
Around the end of the eighth month, Holly's CPU had finally been sufficiently dried. Now all that remained was to power him up. For the past month, they had been forced to manually restart him. It was quite the backbreaking task. It was so bad and tiring that the Cat had had to be put on a leash to keep him from slinking off from his own fair share of the work.
Four cubic miles of computer banks and networking took up at least five hundred of Red Dwarf's corridors. Hundreds of gigantic pistons had to be pumped to power the massive amount of power needed to get Holly going again. That, coupled with whatever backup power they could find residing in the cables, was being used to jumpstart his CPU.
An entire month had been spent with the four of them and all the skutters working round the clock, stopping only for meals and restroom breaks, they finally had gotten all the pistons pumped with enough energy to reboot Holly.
The only thing they had to do now was locate all the main screens and make sure that a little green light was blinking. They'd divided Red Dwarf into quarters, each of them checking underneath the screens in the Drive Room, the sleeping quarters, the kitchens and various other places.
Lister had just completed his part of the assignment and was waltzing merrily back to his quarters. He kicked the vending machine (the power was still down) to get a lager. He took it and carried on.
"To Ganymede and Titan,
Yes, sir, I've been around,
But there ain't no place
In the whole of Space,
Like that good ol' toddlin' town…"
The song made him grin as he walked towards the double doors of their sleeping quarters. He took a long swig from his lager and activated the doors which hissed as they separated, revealing his quarters inside.
Rimmer, the Cat and Kryten were present in the room, and all looked up at him as he entered.
"Sir?" Kryten asked hopefully.
"Boys, we are good to go!" Lister said, bobbing his head triumphantly on the word 'go'.
"Excellent," Rimmer said with a pleased grin.
"Alright, so now what happens?" the Cat asked eagerly.
"Now we just have to press the buttons, activate the remote link with Holly's CPU, and we will have Holly back," Kryten explained.
"Brutal," Lister said, sitting at the table. "Let's get on with it."
Lister, Rimmer and Kryten started to press the buttons on the table. Careful not to get their fingers sticky with spilt coffee, they entered all the necessary commands, and to Lister's credit, he only needed help once in awhile.
A few minutes later, the Cat noticed that the screen next to the bunks was blinking with a white dot.
For several months now, that screen had evilly been sending the same message:
UNABLE TO REBOOT
The Cat felt a grin spread-eagle across his face as he watched the cruel words vanish and begin to be replaced with the sight of a slightly-off vertical hold.
"Buds, we have transmission!" he crowed happily.
"Yeee-esss!" Lister exulted.
After taking a moment to double-check they'd done it right, they all got up and looked at the screen eagerly, waiting.
"Come on, Hol, you can do it, baby!" Lister encouraged.
The screen continued to crackle with white interference like a rabbit-eared TV until finally a pair of eyes began to look anxiously across the screen. Then a face began to take form.
"Here he comes!" the Cat cheered.
"Nearly there, Holly!" Rimmer added.
Finally, the face finished forming.
But it was not the face they were expecting.
They had to remember that Holly, for reasons unknown to all, had aged along with the rest of them. His face had began to sag a bit, his brow furrowed a bit more, and whatever hair he had had gone white.
Now he had a great deal more hair.
And it was blonde.
Holly's face was female again.
Blonde hair draped around his face, ruby-red lipstick and long eyelashes.
Everyone blinked, dumbfounded.
"Alright, groovers? What's shaking?" Holly asked, oblivious.
"Holly?" Lister asked, squinting his eyes at the screen.
But Holly stopped, as if hearing her voice for the first time. She seemed to roll it around in her mouth, looking confused.
"Hang about, that's not right, is it?" she asked.
The Cat, his expression remaining a caricature of surprise and confusion, fished around in his coat pocket and pulled out his mirror. He held it up in front of Holly's screen for her to see her reflection.
"Oh blimey!" Holly exclaimed, staring at her face.
"Kryten, what's happened?" Rimmer asked, his brow furrowing.
Kryten seemed to falter for an answer before Holly spoke up.
"Oi, why do you always go to him for the answers? It's my face! Ask me, why don't you?"
Rimmer rolled his eyes before complying. "Alright, Holly, explain to us how you've just given a new definition to the phrase 'to lose face'?"
Holly stared for a second before she finally seemed to register the question.
"Right. When the water from Lister's bath flooded my CPU, it must've accidentally lost my original display image. Now that I'm rebooted, it must've automatically reselected my old discarded face as a default."
Lister was stunned. "Hol, I am so sorry," he gasped. "I didn't mean to do it! We had to go take care of a problem with GELFs and we just… I had to… It just slipped my… I got thirsty, so I went for a… There was a Whose Line marathon, so I just… Colin and Ryan were in rare form, so I couldn't…," he struggled to finish his apology, "…sorry?"
"Sa'right, Dave," Holly said with a reassuring nod. "The old face just wasn't doing it for me anymore anyway. Besides, the nose was a bit off."
"Oh, it's good to have you back online again, Holly," Kryten beamed.
"Sorry, mate, haven't had the pleasure. You are…?"
"It's good to see you again!"
Holly just looked confused before Lister took over the conversation.
"So you're back online again. You feeling one hundred percent, Hol?"
"Never better. I'm ready to assist you in anyway I can with my IQ of 6000."
"Good," Rimmer said. "Holly, we need you to help us track a ship."
"No science questions, Arn. Don't need the pressure. However, if you'd like me to perform simpler tasks, like telling the time, then I think I can just about manage." Clearing her throat, Holly looked ahead determinedly. "Five past one." She looked pleased. "Yeah, right on. Feeling good. Yeah."
"Well, face aside, she's the same as she ever was," the Cat commented.
"Holly, we need to track down Kochanski," Lister said insistently.
"Kochanski?" Holly asked, squinting her eyes. "But she's dead. Sucked out of an airlock. Kryten said so himself."
"Oh don't bother anymore, Holly, I told him everything," Kryten said with a sigh.
Lister, Rimmer and the Cat looked indignant.
"What, you told Holly too?!" Lister cried.
"And you didn't tell us?" Rimmer added, indicating himself and Cat.
"What the hell, man?" the Cat agreed.
Kryten's guilt chip whirred a bit in his head. "Sirs, I had to let Holly in on it. She runs the ship! All she had to do was check the security cameras."
Holly seemed to realize something. "Oh, you're Kryten," she said, finally understanding.
Rimmer stared at her for a disbelieving moment before readdressing Kryten. "You told Holly and not us?!"
In recent years, Starbug had been used less and less. With less reason to leave the ship, or simply because they "hadn't been in the mood" for the past five years, they'd left the single solitary Starbug left behind by the resurrected crew when they abandoned ship nearly ten years previously. It had been old and beaten up and unable to do much of anything and, as such, was of little use to the crew.
It had been repaired by the Dwarfers shortly afterwards, and they'd had a few adventures in the early years, but they soon grew weary of their adventures and began to settle into what Lister aptly termed as a "hiatus".
But that was over.
It was time to pull Starbug out of the metaphysical mothballs.
Kryten had taken a feather duster to the green craft and began to dust it.
No, that sounds like he's just adding dust to it, when in actuality he was removing the dust from it by taking the duster and making nice gentle sweeping motions across the surface.
Well, whatever he was doing, the others thought he was being ridiculous, but they allowed him to go about his business anyway. If it made him happy, so be it.
Lister left him to it as he went back to the Sleeping Quarters to speak with Holly, who had been given a day to get herself backing in action. He entered through the doors, crushing and tossing aside his latest can of lager.
"Hol?" he asked, looking over at the screen.
Holly's head was rebounding about the screen, bouncing off the sides.
"Dave, lookit! I'm a screensaver!" she cheered.
Lister watched, bemused, before he grinned wryly. "Yeah, Hol, impressive. About as good as the time you simulated two moving sticks on either side of the screen and pretended to be Pong."
"Whaddya want, Dave?"
"We need to discuss the plan."
"Right. I'll tell you my ideas."
Lister stared. "Wait, you… You? You've got a plan?"
"What's so off about that?"
"Hol, you mistook five specks of grit on the scanner scope for five black holes."
"So? Could've happened to anyone!"
"Could not! Who else could that happen to?"
"Well, while you blokes were trapped on Starbug, Kryten told me about your sneeze!"
"The sneeze that congealed on the radar screen."
Lister suddenly looked rather embarrassed and looked away. "Okay, enough about that, Hol."
"What did you lot mistake that for, Dave?"
"I don't want to hear this."
"Was it an alien invasion fleet, Dave?"
"Stop it, Holly. We were out of Kleenex©!"
"I'm sure you were, Dave. You want to listen to my plans now?"
"Yeah, sure…," Lister said wearily.
"Right, Kochanski took a Blue Midget, right?"
"Blue Midget is a JMC ship, right?"
"JMC ships have special black boxes, right?"
"And all black boxes have to stay with the ship, right?"
Lister sighed, exasperated. "Holly, you are about as comprehensible as Google's logo when they celebrate special events. What's your plan?!"
"The black box gives off a traceable signal. We can follow Kochanski's signal."
Lister's eyes lit up. "Brilliant, Holly!"
"Right! I'll just get Red Dwarf turned around and we'll be off."
Lister's face sagged slightly. "Turned around…?" he repeated.
"Yeah, I'll just find a planet, go into orbit and get a nice 180 degree slingshot in the right direction. We should be ready by tomorrow."
Lister faltered slightly. "Erm, Hol, that's great and everything, but we…"
Suddenly, the doors slid open again and Rimmer strode purposely in.
"Right, Kryten's nearly done with Starbug's accommodations. Ready to go yet?" he asked.
Lister cringed and covered his face.
"What's wrong?" Rimmer asked.
Holly was looking very put-out when Lister found the courage to look up.
"You're going in Starbug?!" she squeaked indignantly.
"We'd cover more ground that way," Lister said insistently.
"Aaaaannd I think I'll go now," Rimmer said quickly, realizing he'd made a mistake and headed for the hatchway.
The doors slid shut, keeping him from leaving.
"You mean I can't come?" Holly complained.
"It's not that, Hol," Lister exclaimed. "It's just Red Dwarf's about as quick-paced as a snail taking sleeping pills! We can cover more ground with Starbug."
"But that's not fair!"
"It's not like we're abandoning you," Rimmer protested. "We'd come straight back when we were finished."
"Who knows how long that could take? It took you lot well over two hundred years to come back the last time!"
"Oh not this again," Lister sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Holly, you can't blame what happened at the ocean world on us. Kryten's nanobots rebelled. How were we supposed to know they had turned Red Dwarf into a planet and dropped you there on it?"
"What, it didn't strike you as odd that a gigantic planet had just appeared in the sky out of nowhere?"
"Moving on a step, Holly, it only makes sense to take Starbug. It'll take too long go into orbit around a planet and start heading back the way we came."
"Aw, but I want to come," Holly complained, pouting.
"Hol, we'll come back, don't worry," Lister said soothingly.
"Pwease?" she asked, batting her eyelashes and sticking out her lower lip.
Lister and Rimmer stared at her, bewildered.
"Hol…? Are you…pouting?" Lister asked slowly, almost amused.
"Maybe. Is it working?"
Holly tilted her head, batter her eyelashes, put out her lower lip and sniffled slightly.
"Pwetty pweeeeeease?" she cooed.
Lister felt as though his eyes were trying to escape, so he squinted them back in. He felt his mouth tighten in disgust as he found himself unable to look away.
"Lister, think dirt," Rimmer warned. "Think about death. Think about the cancellation of My Name is Earl."
Lister struggled. He really did. He fought tooth and nail. He thought about how cruel it was to end a funny and innovative show on a cliffhanger so unfairly when it clearly could've gone for at least one more year. And even that didn't help him.
"I can't help it, man, I'm wimping out. Look at that face!"
"Oh no! I refuse!" Rimmer said, turning away from Holly's screen.
Suddenly, Holly vanished from the screen and seemed to appear out of thin air, her disembodied head hung in the air like a piñata in front of Rimmer's face.
"ACK!" Rimmer squawked, jumping back in terror.
"Hol, how long have you been able to do that?" Lister asked.
"For always. Pwease, Arnie?"
"Oh, so it's 'Arnie' now, is it? No, Holly!"
Rimmer tried to get away from Holly by walking around the room, but Holly simply floated around, following after him like a Jetsons hovercraft.
"Holly, stop it!"
"But I wanna come!"
"I've made up my mind. I will not be moved!"
"Pwetty pwease with sugar on top?"
"STOP IT, HOLLY!!" And Rimmer plomped himself down in his chair, folded his arms and squeezed his eyes shut tight, hoping his own defenses would hold.
Unfortunately, his internal walls came a-tumblin' down when he felt Holly's cheek nuzzling with his own like an affectionate / hungry cat.
"…pwease, Arnie?" she cooed in a quiet voice.
Rimmer, feeling his stomach churning and his heart quickening its pace, finally felt himself crumpling and dying inside.
"…fine," he hissed.
He could've sworn he felt a slight brushing of lips on his cheek before he opened his eyes again, but he told himself he'd imagined it. He was relieved to see Holly back on her screen.
"Right, there's a small moon just ahead with a strong enough gravitational pull. I'll get us all set, alright?"
"Yes, yes, get on with it," Rimmer grumbled.
Holly grinned, satisfied, and vanished.
Rimmer sat in his chair like a child for a moment before he realized Lister was still in the room. The smug git was seated on his bunk with the most amused grin in the entire known and unknown universe. You could've reclined on that grin and taken a nap, it was that big.
"Say one word, Lister, and you're dead," Rimmer said through his tightened lips, watching through narrow eyes.
"I don't know what you're talking about, man," Lister said, bringing a lager to his lips to hide his grin, doing so but doing it rather poorly.
"You'd better not."
Still flustered, Rimmer got up and straightened his uniform. "Right, I suppose we'd better let Cat and Kryten know of the change in plans."
"Right. 'Course. You bet," Lister said, clambering to his feet.
The doors unlocked and opened automatically. Rimmer passed through the hatchway first, followed by Lister.
"Loooooove… Exciting and neeeeeewwww…"
"Smeg off, Lister!"
"Come aboooaaaaaard… We're expecting yoooouuuuuu…"
"You've just butchered a classic! I hope you're happy!"
Yup. Holly's female again. I have a feeling that if Holly is ever brought back, it shall be in this form. Norman Lovett is kind of being a prick right now, and I like Hattie Hayridge more as a person.
So, okay, review and ad nauseum.