Author's Notes: I grew a wild hair (whatever that means) and came up for an idea for another epic fic. I've always wanted to put Lister and company in this situation, but I couldn't think of a way to do it until now. So stay with me for what I think is going to be the most bizarre thing I've ever written.
To be totally honest, Lister wasn't altogether certain what had drawn them to this derelict.
Supplies were plentiful at the moment. They were up-to-date on most twenty-fifth century technical advances. Just last week they'd updated the Hologram Simulation Suite with new software that uploaded hard-light holograms of famous celebrities and settings. They'd spent the past two days in a simulation of New York City with Neil Patrick Harris, David Tennant and Kermit the Frog.
Despite these interesting new developments, the group of misfit astros were becoming a bit bored, so a chance to get outside the ship was probably what inspired them to head down to the planetoid and inspect the derelict ship.
Starbug's navicomp had told them all they needed to know – the ship was named SS Child of the '50s. It was a supply ship with large quantities of food in the vacuum-sealed storage unit, so they knew it was still edible. No life signs were registering, so they brought bazookoids to be on the safe side.
After all, Starbug's computers were about as reliable as a train's timetable.
The hydraulics in the doors hissed and clanked, and the double doors leading into the ship hissed open.
Kryten stepped out first, wielding the Psi-Scan, flanked at both sides by two Skutters. "Seems safe so far, sirs," the mech whispered.
Rimmer raised a skeptical eyebrow. "If it's so safe, why are you whispering?"
"We have a track record with these things, sir. Just being careful."
Lister and Rimmer stepped through the doors next, both clutching bazookoids. Cat and Kochanski came through last, both carrying smaller guns.
"Okay, stick together," ordered Lister. "Keep 'em peeled."
Despite the ship looking harmless and inviting, the crew were stilling feeling on edge. Their footsteps reverberated teasingly down the corridor.
"What do you think happened here?" Kochanski wondered.
"Maybe some ugly mutant hell beast came aboard the ship swallowed each crewmember whole, one by one!" Cat suggested.
Rimmer gripped his bazookoid tightly. "Let's not jump to conclusions, Cat," he said tightly.
But Cat continued. "Or maybe some kind of shape-shifting whatsit snuck aboard, pretending to be one of their own, and then sucked all their brains out, and then it flushed the remains into space."
"Cat, that's enough," Lister said tensely.
"Or maybe the ship's computer went absolutely insane and shut off the oxygen! Then maybe, while the crew were gasping for air, it sliced them up into piles of dust with the ship's lasers, and over time, the piles of dust have settled into the ship's floor, and maybe we're breathing them right now…"
Kryten ignored his CPU's orders to start mopping the floors out of terror and said, "Sir, I honestly don't think – "
"Or maybe there was a – "
"SHUT UP!" everyone yelled suddenly.
Cat jumped back in surprise before reasserting his cool. "Buds, don't yell like at me like that! You're putting me on edge!"
Shaking their heads incredulously, the crew stalked off deeper and deeper into the ship.
An hour later, they'd located the vacuum storage, and they had found the food supplies.
"What's in there?" Lister asked, looking over Kryten's shoulder at the Psi-Scan.
"Just processing, sir," the mech replied. After a moment, there was a soft 'bleep' from the handheld device and his face twisted into a pleased plastic grin. "Ah, plenty of food to last us two months at least. All the basics are covered: meat, sprouts, pulses, dairy – "
"Anything I can eat?" Lister asked impatiently.
"Yes, because we know Listy," Rimmer said with a patronizing grin. "He can't sleep at night unless his tongue is giving off steam."
Lister ignored the cheap shot and looked expectantly at Kryten.
"Not to worry, sir – plenty of curry, vindaloo sauce, and a fresh supply of the often lethal Peruvian Death Pepper."
"Yeee-ess!" Lister exulted. "Let's load up and get out of here."
So that's how they spent the next few hours. With the help of the Skutters, the crew carried the large refrigerated crates of food up to Starbug. The operation was going well, and it looked like they would get back in time for another round of Durex Volleyball.
But then they noticed that the Psi-Scan that lay atop an old oil barrel was beeping softly.
Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at it.
Kryten set down his crate of Shake 'n' Vac to inspect it.
"Why's that thing going off?" Kochanski asked, struggling with her own crate.
Kryten picked up the Psi-Scan and inspected it carefully. "Curious," he said. "We're getting a life-reading."
Rimmer frowned. "Why didn't it register before?"
"Not sure, sir. It reads as mechanical, but further details are sketchy. Suggest I investigate? From one machine to another, I may be able to make contact with it."
"Not unarmed, you're not," Lister said, picking up one of the smaller guns.
Kryten caught it deftly, but he looked unsure. "Sir, I'm not sure I should greet this new lifeform with a gun in my hand. I may be the first sign of life he's seen in several thousand years, if not more. How's he going to feel waking up from the best sleep he's ever had and finding a pistol in his face?"
"Well at least he won't be so drowsy he can't kick your metal ass," Cat suggested.
"You don't have to point it at him, man," Lister sighed. "Just keep it on you to be safe, okay?"
Kryten nodded. "Very well, sir." He took the Psi-Scan and followed its signal down another corridor, leaving the others to continue their work.
It was about thirty minutes before they heard from him again. His psuedo-Canadian accent came through in a garbly sort of tone through Lister's hip communicator.
"Mr. Lister, sir? Are you there?"
Lister unclipped the communicator from his belt and pressed the 'transmit' button. "What's the SP, Krytes? Have you found what was making that life sign?"
"Yes, sir. I've found the source – it's a rogue simulant, sir."
Everyone in the room felt their blood go cold.
"What kind of rogue simulant?" Lister asked nervously.
"I'm guessing it's the bad kind, sir – the kind that would very much like to rip your head off and spit down your bleeding neck."
"I see… What's it doing now?"
"It was offline when we arrived, sir. It seems that our arrival has activated it. It is slowly coming online now, sir. It's nearly awake."
"What's one of these sim dudes like when they just wake up?" Cat asked into the communicator's grille.
"Well, sir, they tend to be a bit grumpy – but then they're grumpy all the time, so it's hard to distinguish one mood from the other."
"Let's hope it's a morning 'bot," Rimmer mumbled.
"What should we do?" Lister asked.
"Well, sir, given the circumstances, I would suggest we all engage our respective 'Leg it' modes and get the hell out of town, as you would put it, sir," came the crackly reply.
"You're reading my mind, guy. Hurry back." He clicked off the communicator and reclipped it to his belt.
Kochanski broke the silence. "So – we're running away?" she asked.
Lister nodded. "I think this'll count as my exercise for the year," he replied.
Picking up whatever they could carry, the Dwarfers struggled to run back to the airlock and carry their grub at the same time.
They found the Skutters waiting for them, chirping quizzically at them.
"Bob! Madge! Get back on board!" Lister ordered. "There's a crazed robotic killing machine about to make balloon animals out of our lower intestines!"
The Skutters just tilted their heads, confused.
"Lister, the simulant probably won't bother them – they're robots too," Kochanski reminded him.
"Oh, right," muttered Lister, reconsidering his argument. "Okay, they hate John Wayne with a fiery passion."
Bob and Madge both revved their engines angrily and ducked back into the airlock.
The group began to load the supplies into the airlock as well. They were just getting ready to go inside themselves when Lister's communicator beeped again. He brought it up to his mouth and pressed the button.
"What's up, Krytes?"
"Sir, he's fully awake now. He's started up the ship's computers and is searching for you now," Kryten's frantic voice said in a wobbly sort of way through the grille.
"Can't you stop him with that gun we gave you?" Rimmer demanded.
"Sir, this is a rad gun, and he's a simulant. It would be about as effective as a using a salt shaker to tend to a paper cut!"
"Then get the smeg out of there and try to get back here. We've got to make tracks, man."
"I'm on my way, sir. I just need to – uh-oh."
"'Uh-oh'?" Kochanski repeated. "What 'uh-oh'?"
"I think he's located you. He's about to – "
Whatever Kryten was about to say, a loud explosion that sounded like metal being ripped apart cut it off.
Lister gripped the communicator just a little bit tighter. "Kryten, what the hell is going on? Are you okay?"
"I fine, sir! I'm on my way back! I just pray to Silicon Heaven I reach you in time!"
"Why? What's the trouble?"
The sudden explosion knocked them all off-balance, and they were, needless to say, not happy with the shards of metal that were suddenly flying in their direction, along with the gratuitous showers of sparks from the loose power cables that were kicked into the air from the force.
The simulant had jumped up through the floor, and he was now pointing a large gun at them. He was wearing a torn uniform of some such design; probably to mark his rank in whatever simulant army there was in this godless universe. His flesh was mostly peeled back to reveal the robotic form beneath, and one of his eyes glowed an eerie green color that was made even eerier in the now-dimmed lights.
Needless to say, he looked a bit miffed.
The crew were stunned into silence. Lister dropped the communicator in shock.
The simulant gnashed his silver teeth as he observed his prey. "Well, well, well – what have we here?" he growled though electronic feedback. "Two humans, a humanoid and a hologrammatical human – pitiful creatures. For this, I was woken up?"
Lister found his voice. "Well, to be fair, we didn't mean to wake you up. We didn't even know this was your ship. We thought it was abandoned. We needed supplies. So if it's alright with you, we'll just take what we have, you can go back to sleep and we'll just forget this ever happened, 'kay?"
"I'll go with that, dude," Cat added.
"Gets my vote," Rimmer agreed, forcing a game show host smile.
"And me," Kochanski chimed in.
The simulant said nothing in means of reply, aside from pulling out a rather nasty-looking gun that was aimed right at them, cocking the loading mechanism with great satisfaction.
Lister looked down the long barrel that was probably about three feet away from his nose. "So much for democracy," he muttered.
The simulant grinned, his metallic teeth glistening in the faulty lighting. "Do you like my gun? It's my favorite one."
Rimmer grimaced. He'd never understood people who get off on guns.
"It's nice," Cat managed to say. "Very chic. It goes with your outfit perfectly!"
"All right, enough of this," Lister said, steering the conversation back on track. "There's no need for us to become violent. Let's just talk this out, nice and civilized, 'kay?"
"Very well then," the simulant replied. "I move that you walking cesspits of putrid waste die at my hand – any takers? I vote in favor. Motion carries."
Lister gulped when he saw the robot's finger twitch around the trigger. He closed his eyes and wished he were closer to Kochanski so he could hold her hand.
It came faster than he thought.
At first he thought the simulant had missed when he felt something zip past his left ear. Then he realized whatever it was had come from behind him, not in front. He opened his eyes.
The simulant was lying on the ground, twitching slightly, still holding the gun, but he had something stuck to his face now – a really heavy blow dart was sticking out of his head, and sparks were flying out of the wound as he sputtered gibberish.
Lister turned around and saw, to his surprise, Bob and Madge both holding up a long metal pole from which they had forced it out.
Rimmer was the first to find his voice. "I don't even want to know how they did that."
At that moment, they saw Kryten scurrying up the corridor towards them. "Oh, sirs! Ma'am! Is everything okay? What happened?"
"No time to ask, Kryts," Lister replied, reasserting control. "Let's just get the smeg out of here before he figures himself out."
So Kryten gingerly stepped over the fallen simulant and proceeded to hop into the airlock after the others.
Lister stayed behind to make sure everyone else was in first. It was probably his first mistake in retrospect.
Once Kryten was in, he made sure Kochanski was in.
Then Rimmer was in.
Then the Cat.
And just as he was getting ready to follow them, he saw Kochanski's eyes widen as she pointed behind him. "Dave, look out!"
And like the chump he tended to be, Lister turned to look down the barrel of the simulant's gun once again – the robotic killer had found enough common sense to try to get a parting shot.
And that parting shot got him square in the forehead.
And then he woke up in a cold sweat.
Lister looked around, panting heavily, trying to figure out where he was. He checked himself all over – everything still seemed to be present and accounted for on his body. He observed his surroundings – he was in his bed, tangled up in his bed sheets.
"Smeg…," he breathed, collapsing back into his pillow.
He heard a familiar voice from the bunk below him. "Another bad dream?"
"Yeah… Smeg, that's the fifth one this week."
Rimmer snorted. "I keep telling you – see a psychiatrist. They can help cure any mind, even one as mucky and thick as yours."
"I do not need to see a psychiatrist. It was probably just the chilies I had with dinner last night."
"You have chilies for breakfast, too."
"If chilies had anything to do with these bad dreams, surely they would've started a long time ago."
"Well, maybe I'm just working too hard."
Rimmer snorted again. "Yeah, sure, you're working too hard. If anything, you're working too hard at finding excuses to not be working too hard."
Lister rolled over in bed, deciding to ignore him and go back to sleep. His psyche may be riddled with nightmares now, but at least Rimmer wouldn't be bothering him in his subconscious.
"What time is it?" he mumbled.
"Mmm… What day is it?"
That seemed important to Lister in some way. He wasn't sure, but that timeframe seemed to mean something in the back of his mind. If he could just put his finger on it…
His eyes stretched wide open in shock as he rolled over in bed and looked down to the bunk below him, where Rimmer sat, fully dressed and reading a book.
"What?" he exclaimed. "It's almost noon?"
"Yep," Rimmer replied, grinning away.
"Smegging hell, man, why didn't you wake me? I'm gonna be late now!"
Rimmer shrugged as his bunkmate leapt from the top bunk and legged it for the bathroom. "You told me last night you could stay up till all hours of the night, and yet somehow you would always wake up at just the right time. I have to say, I'm impressed. You still have seven minutes before we're supposed to get going."
"Damn it, Rimmer! If I'm late, you're gonna be late too!"
"Says who? I'm the one with the license. I can drive without you, you know. You can always take the Tube."
"No way, man! I hate taking the Tube!" Lister shouted back at him, his mouth clearly full of toothpaste. "Too many people crammed into a sardine tin all trying to get to the same place at the same time! I hate that!"
"But Listy, I thought you were a people person," Rimmer replied mockingly.
He heard the sound of spitting in to the sink and water running. "I am, but I'm the kind of person who prefers other people to be at least two feet or more away from me!"
Rimmer chuckled and got up and walked around the room. It was moments like this he prided in being a 'together person'. He had it all together. He was always on time, he was always prepared, he always had a pen… Okay, so he didn't have many friends, but hey, at least his paycheck wouldn't be docked for being a few minutes late.
He heard Lister curse audibly from the bathroom as he cut himself from shaving too fast. He checked his watch and tapped it pointedly, knowing that Lister could see him in the mirror's reflection. "Tick, tick, tick…"
"Shut up! I'm hurrying!"
"You've got five minutes, and then I'm leaving without you." And with a contented smile, Rimmer turned and strode from the room.
Lister growled as he finished off the last of the stubble. "Can't believe I share a room with that git," he muttered. He wiped his face off with a wet rag – hopefully next time he'd have time to apply shaving cream.
He headed for the wardrobe and quickly ran through his clothes. He hadn't done laundry in a week, so he need to find something a bit more presentable for the day than what was on the floor. He pulled out a nice shirt and a clip-on tie to save time, and he had them on after two minutes of fumbling with the buttons. He clipped the tie on, just like he was supposed to, and once he was assured his trousers could be cleaned with a lint brush on the way there, he slipped on his leather jacket and shoes and fled out the door.
"Times like this I wish I really did live on a spaceship!" he grunted as he tried to tie one shoe while he hopped on the other. He stumbled down the corridor towards the kitchen of the flat he shared with Rimmer.
Author's Notes: So, did you spot the bizarre part? I've always wanted to do a fic where the Dwarfers are in a more "traditional" sitcom, and what could be more "traditional" than two guys living in a flat? After all, isn't Red Dwarf just an oversized flat with two incompatible flatmates with a cat for a wacky neighbor and a robot as the kooky cleaning guy?