Author's Note: Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Just read the damn thing...
Lani just laughed. "You really need to rephrase that if you want a chance in hell of getting through this with half a chance."
Lister smirked. "I wish you could see it, but I'm actually flexing my medulla right now," he replied, tilting his head forward.
"Well, there's a lovely visual. Shall we fight, curry breath?"
"To the death?"
And on that note, Lani fired a pure white energy beam out of her forehead, and it rocketed straight for Lister.
But Lister – the man with reflexes so poor that he was once almost listed as "technically handicapped" when he was fifteen – suddenly did a backflip in the air, allowing the beam to sail harmlessly underneath him.
"Whoo!" he whooped joyously. "I feel like I've got the moves of Jagger, a gymnast and Tinker Bell all rolled into one!"
And in that instant, he was struck by a sudden blast of green energy, which sent him tumbling backwards through the air.
Everyone stared at him.
For a start, he was uninjured.
Secondly, he was now wearing a skimpy green dress and had his dreadlocks wrapped up in a ponytail, and he was holding a magic wand in his hand.
He took a minute to collect his thoughts, and feeling rather put out he said simply, "Well, I'm only a beginner at this levitation lark. Give me a break!"
"Hey Bud!" Cat shouted from below. "You wanna aim yourself in a different direction? We're getting one hell of a bad view from down here!"
Grumbling to himself, Lister concentrated, and in an instant, the dress had transformed back into his signature leathers and the ponytail back into his dreads. He held the wand in his hand for a moment before grinning and waving it around a bit, kicking up bits of fairy dust, before he aimed it at the floating waitress and promptly fired his own little energy beam.
But Lani simply created a force field around herself and deflected the energy away. She smiled. "You think you can beat me, human? I am genetically programmed to attack any living mind. I am designed by top scientists to wriggle my way into a brain and turn it into my puppet. I am – "
And she was suddenly struck by another energy beam that sent her flying across the sky and into a warped brick building fifty feet away.
Lister blew the smoke off of the magic wand before tossing it aside. "You're also designed to gloat before you've won, apparently," he noted.
Lani crawled out of the newly-formed hole in the brick wall and floated dizzily for a few seconds. Once she'd gotten her bearings back, she angrily punched the air with her fist, and from her fist erupted another yellow energy beam.
But Lister used his own hands to fire back with a white energy beam instead.
Both beams met each other halfway and erupted in a huge light show that sent them both tumbling backwards.
Lister regained whatever balance he had and looked up. Lani was already gearing up for another throw.
Thinking quickly, he looked around. Maybe, if he couldn't defeat the virus head on, there was something around here that he could use.
Almost instantly, he saw some streetlamps that were lining the sidewalk. Curious, he aimed his thoughts at them. After a few seconds of pure unbridled thinking – which surprisingly caused him to work up a sweat – the lamps all ripped themselves from the ground and floated up around him.
Just as Lani was about to fire another shot at him, one of the streetlamps swung around and hit her, causing her to lose altitude for a moment. She managed to come back into the air, but the lamps were now all swinging madly at her like a bunch of electric flyswatters.
Lister watched with fascination at these proceedings, pleased with how simple it all was.
Then he gestured with two fingers at another one of the buildings. It rumbled and shook in its place as it suddenly uprooted itself from its address and hurled itself at Lani, who had just managed to dodge the latest streetlamp swinging at her. She was out of breath and hovering in one spot when she saw a shadow falling over her, and she dared to look to her immediate left. She let out an involuntary squeak as a huge brick building came down on her, and it crashed to the ground, crumbling in a mess of rubble.
Lister floated over towards the mess he'd made and looked it over curiously, allowing the various streetlamps to come to rest on the ground around him. He looked around for any sign of activity.
And then there was one of the biggest explosions he'd ever been caught up in. He was smacked in the face by dirt and mortar as he went back flipping in the shockwave. He yelled in surprise, covering his eyes against the glare of a furious yellow glow.
From within the crater she had just created in the fallen building, Lani struggled back to the surface and glared up at Lister, steam literally coming off of her. She cupped her hands and created a small ball of crackling yellow energy within them. With a primal growl, she pitched it like a cricket ball, and it went sailing right at Lister, who just barely got out of the way.
"So," she growled. "The pudgy little human wants to play rough, eh?"
"Oi!" Lister snapped defensively. "I'm pushing fifty! Give me a break!"
But then he saw her gesture wildly at him, and for a moment he didn't know what to think. He looked around, but he saw nothing changing at the moment. He glanced down at his crewmates, but they simply shrugged in response.
And then he heard it.
Off in the distance, there was an entire army coming towards him.
Not on the ground, mind you. They were in the air with him. They were stampeding straight at him with a vengeance on some sort of imaginary battleground.
And it was a quality army. They were all huge angry-looking people, dressed like Vikings, wielding heavy-looking weapons, all riding on demons that resembled everything from horses from hell to red-eyed iguanas.
And they were all heading straight for him.
"Oh, smeg…," Lister whispered.
"Come on, Dave!" Kochanski shouted. "Do something to fight back! Quickly!"
Everyone faltered. They all looked at each other in desperation.
And all the while, the huge army was coming closer and closer.
But then Rimmer snapped his fingers. "Listy?" he shouted.
"Can you read our thoughts, by any chance?"
Lister blinked. "I…don't know. Why?"
"Because I'm thinking of something right now! If you can read my mind, maybe I can tell it to you without the virus overhearing!"
Lister thought about that, and then he concentrated. He thought long and hard, and then, in a flash, he saw it – a very large zipper.
His first thought in response was – What the hell, Rimmer?
And then it twigged.
He turned around, and right there in the sky was a gigantic zipper. He quickly pulled it open, revealing a huge black void behind it.
Lani stared. "What the hell?!" she cried. "That's what he thought of?"
Rimmer just shrugged. "It made sense in my head…," he replied.
But the zipper served its purpose. The entire army went flooding inside, missing Lister entirely and vanishing into the huge black void, howling and screaming as they went.
And once they were all gone, Lister pulled the zipper back up again, and it vanished into thin air.
Lani stared at him, her mouth hanging open. "You've got to be kidding me with this…," she muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose in annoyance.
Lister just smiled. "Hey, whatever works is fine with me. Guys?" he called down to his friends. "You got anymore suggestions on how to deal with this bitch?"
Rimmer, Kochanski, Kryten and Cat all looked at each other quizzically before they all looked at Lani levitating before them with sadistic grins on their faces.
Lani growled at them, and then gathered another energy sphere in her hands and hurled it at them.
Lister simply quirked an eyebrow in their direction, and in an instant, a large translucent green dome appeared around his friends and the yellow sphere ricocheted off and away from them, nuking a mailbox instead.
"Nice one, Krytes," Lister remarked.
"Wait, you mean it didn't occur to you to protect us on your own?" Rimmer demanded.
Before anyone could answer, Lister saw some more energy beams racing towards him. Suddenly, a large blue vase appeared in his hands. He held the open end up to the beam, and it raced inside, bounced around a bit, and then raced back again as if being shot from a cannon and hurled itself at Lani, blasting into her midsection and sending her tumbling backwards.
Smiling at the person who'd thought of that, he quickly imagined a smaller vase with actual flowers in it into her hands. She blew him a kiss in response.
Lani snarled like a caged lion and summoned a sudden onslaught of spikey steel balls, wood choppers, pairs of scissors, nail clippers and fishing lures came racing at her target.
Lister blinked, and then he suddenly found that there was an umbrella in his hands. Instinctively, he opened it, and all the little metal torture devices started to rebound off of it and go shooting off into the sky.
"Nice one, Rimmer!" he commented, surprised at the tenacity of his new shield.
"You'd think titanium-lined brollies would've been invented by now," Rimmer replied, mostly to himself.
Finally, all the torture devices stopped coming.
Lister peeked over the edge and stole a glance at Lani, only to duck down again as one last chopper went sailing past him.
Then he got a sudden flash in his eyes, and he flung his hand out again, firing something at Lani, hitting her square in the chest. When the light died away, she was suddenly wearing sixteen different plaids with cleats and a hair bow.
Everyone stared at her, and then all eyes darted to the Cat. He simply shrugged. "It was the cruelest thing I could think of! Plaid – eugh!"
Lister rolled his eyes and proceeded to fire another energy beam at Lani, focusing his mind on one other mind in particular.
Krytes, you got any suggestions?
I'd recommend you get to work on curing yourself, sir. You're on the offensive now. It's weakening in strength. You need to administer a final blow.
How do I do that?
Try and think. You've been exposed to her more than we have. Were there any distinguishing characteristics that she exhibited that might be worth exploiting?
She delivered our meals on time.
Something else would be better, sir.
She needs to drop about two stone.
Anything else, sir?
She… She… Oh.
Sir? What is it?
She doesn't like psychiatrists.
Oh. How fortuitous.
Lister ducked out of the way of a flying bathroom sink and concentrated on his new defense.
It formed in a pure white light before him.
There, levitating right before him was Dr. Curo.
As if he had just woken up, Dr. Curo yawned and stretched, casually gesturing with his right hand to deflect a flying bookcase away from them. He looked around curiously and spotted Lister.
"Ah, Dave! Glad to see you up and about! Kicking arse, are you?"
"Yeah," Lister said, jumping backwards when he saw a washing machine hurtling towards them, but Curo simply gestured and it bounced off some invisible force field. "Any chance you can give me a hand?"
"Dave, for once, I would be happy to help you as directly as possible," he replied, deflecting a tumble dryer as well. "Let's do this." And he held out his hand.
Lister took it, and he immediately felt a tingling sensation rushing up his arm and into his head.
Dr. Curo vanished in another flash, but now he was somewhere else. He was merged with Lister's psyche.
Lister had the cure to the virus, and it was time to administer it.
Lani was just gearing up to throw an Oldsmobile at him when she felt a disturbance in her world.
Lister closed his eyes, raised his hands above his head, and he just floated there, concentrating.
Everyone watched him closely. And then they felt the atmosphere begin to change. It became cooler, and everyone shivered involuntarily.
But Lister just hung in the air, his dreadlocks floating gently around him.
And then the sky began to change color again. It was becoming a strange shade of pink that had a strange ball of white light in the middle of it that seemed to be growing in intensity.
Lani dropped her weapons and began to float lower and lower, growing uneasy. "What are you doing?" she demanded.
But when Lister opened his eyes, his brown eyes had been replaced by glowing white orbs. He smiled.
And then he gestured.
The ball of light in the sky crackled with electricity before it sent a bolt of lightning right at Lani, striking her and sending her tail spinning into the rubble below.
Everyone stared at the smoking crater as she emerged from it. They all stared at her as she drew to her full height.
Half of her face seemed to have been blown off, and underneath it were some very metallic features, complete with a certain glowing red eye.
Lister gestured again.
The ball of light zapped again, this time shooting another blast of lightning that knocked her back into the crater.
When she emerged again, most of her torso was missing, and it had been replaced by more metallic features that looked very familiar.
"Oh my god…," Kochanski murmured.
"Makes sense in retrospect," Cat said with a shrug.
Lani looked herself over. "What have you done?" she shouted. "What's happening to – OW!" She suddenly went flying back into the crater as another lightning bolt struck her, knocking more bits of her human avatar off.
Lister's Liverpuddlian tones reverberated across the town. "I've got you right where I want you," he replied calmly. "I've stripped away your layers. I've revealed your true self. Now I just need to destroy your core, and you'll be done, and we can get the smeg outta here."
Lani looked at what was left of her.
She found that Lani was gone.
She was a Simulant. The Simulant that had plagued Lister in his dreams.
And now it was his turn to shoot it in the head.
"No…," it wailed, its voice warbling with electronic feedback. "No! No! I must live! I must feed!"
"You must shut up!" Lister retorted, and he gestured with both hands this time.
The biggest lightning bolt of all erupted from the ball of light and struck the Simulant square in chest. It didn't fall down this time.
Instead it began to rise slowly into the air, a large electronic lightshow going on around it. It was screaming and howling in agony as it felt its very being getting ripped apart from the inside out. It let out a howl of pain as it felt its core being torn to shreds by pure mental energy.
Everyone watched in amazement as the light around her grew brighter and brighter until it finally just erupted in a powerful explosion that knocked everyone down.
Everyone but Lister, who was unmoved by the force this time – although his dreadlocks did flap in the breeze.
"Smeg…," he sighed unhappily.
And he began to lower to the ground.
Everyone watched the environment around them change. The buildings began to uncoil themselves and turned back into regular buildings. The sky turned bright blue again. The sun hung in the sky. All the rubble cleaned itself up and restructured itself.
The road repaired itself as well, allowing Kochanski, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten to walk away from each other.
"Finally!" Cat exclaimed, straightening his lapels. "I can get my personal space back!"
"You think you had it bad?" Rimmer snapped. "The man wearing tuna fish cologne?"
"Sirs, please!" Kryten interrupted. "What about Mr. Lister?"
Everyone turned to look.
Kochanski was already kneeling over an unconscious Lister, who was sprawled out over the newly-reformed pavement. Concern overwhelmed them as they came over to join them.
"Dave…?" she asked worriedly. "Dave, are you okay?"
The others simply stood over them, not sure what to do or say.
But then, Lister inhaled sharply, and then his mouth fell open, and a pure white light began to pour out of it. It turned into a mist that swirled around them for a moment before taking on a human form, also kneeling over Lister.
Dr. Curo was back. He patted Lister on the cheek. "Dave? Come on, Dave. Wakey-wakey."
Lister snorted, and then his eyes sprang open. He looked around the group surrounding him. "What the hell…?"
"Well done, Dave," Dr. Curo smiled. "Way to kick metaphysical backside."
Lister blinked heavily. "Wha…? Did it work? Am I cured?"
"It'll be awhile before you're one hundred per cent again, but I'd say you're officially out of the woods. Or in this case, the suburbs."
"Brutal… What now?"
"Now? Well, now you can go home! Back to Red Dwarf and being the last man alive! Isn't that wonderful?"
Lister stared at him for a long moment. And then he smiled tiredly. "Yeah… Brilliant…"
"That's good. Well, Dave, it seems our time here is up. Don't worry about the bill. It was my pleasure. Good-bye, everyone. Good-bye."
And with a final wave to the group, Dr. Curo got to his feet and slowly vanished out of existence.
Everyone stared at the spot.
"Well!" Rimmer said at last, rubbing his hands together. "Shall we vamoose to reality?"
"Yeah, let's get the hell outta here to a place that still doesn't make any sense, but hey, at least all my suits are there," Cat agreed.
Kryten nodded and tapped the side of his head. "Holly? We're ready to go. Prepare to disconnect."
"Right, mate," Holly's voice replied.
After a few brief moments, Kryten vanished from the street.
And then Rimmer faded away, followed by the Cat.
Kochanski helped Lister stand up again. "Come on," she said. "Get yourself ready. We'll bring you around."
Lister took a look around the empty street. "Take your time. I'm not going anywhere."
She smiled, pecked him on the lips, and then she faded away as well.
Lister stared at the spot for a moment before he looked around the empty street some more. He looked at all the storefronts, the trees, the sidewalk…
He looked up at the blue sky. He looked at the sun, and the clouds, and at the atmosphere in general.
"I'll see you again," he said to the sky. "I'll see you again, even if it kills me."
And with a fond smile, he closed his eyes.
In the Red Dwarf Medi-Lab, Kochanski yawned and stretched as she got up off the gurney. She reached up and gingerly pulled the electrodes out of her head and removed the helmet, placing it on the nearby table. She threw a glance at the bench next to her and watched as the Cat did the same with his own helmet.
She walked over to where Kryten was sitting. She pressed a couple of keys on the control panel, and then she pulled the long green wire out of his head and closed the lid, starting him back up again.
As the mechanoid got himself collected again, she walked over a bar stool that had a light bee sitting on it with a small metal flap opened up with another long green wire snaking into it. She pulled it out, snapped it shut, flipped a switch and tossed it into the air, and Rimmer burgeoned back into existence.
Kryten wandered over to a computer console and pressed a few commands into the buttons, and after a few moments, Holly's pretty face emerged on the screen, looking dazed, but otherwise no different than usual.
Finally, all eyes fell on the big medical bench in the middle of the room.
Lister was sound asleep, snoring softly. He had heavy bags under his eyes, his breathing was heavy and he was drenched with sweat. He was also wearing a helmet that was hooked up to the nearby AR Unit.
They all watched him closely.
"Okay, Hol," Kochanski said quietly. "Take him out."
Holly simply nodded and activated the Medical Unit's main computer. It whirred into life just as the lights on the AR Unit died down, and Kryten gingerly reached down and removed the AR helmet from Lister's head.
"Dave?" Kochanski asked quietly. "Dave, are you still in there?"
And then, after a few tense seconds, Lister suddenly coughed.
Cat scrunched up his face and waved a hand in front of his nose. "Goddamn!" he exclaimed. "Talk about morning breath!"
"Not brushing your teeth for three weeks will do that to you," Rimmer sighed.
Lister slowly opened his eyes, squinting against the harsh light of the medical unit "Ooooh… Smeg…," he hissed with displeasure. "Does reality have to be so bright?"
Kochanski laughed through her relief. She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.
Lister grinned wryly. "What was that for?"
"For not staying dead," she replied, flashing her famous pinball smile.
"Come on now, sir," Kryten said. "We'll run a full medical scan on you, and once you've recovered from your ideal, we'll undergo some physical therapy to get you back into shape."
"Or whatever shape you were in before, at any rate," Rimmer added.
Lister grimaced. "So this is reality?" he grumbled. "I'm stuck on a spaceship where I'm gonna have to make a long recovery from a life-threatening ordeal?"
"In a nutshell, yes," Kochanski said, raising an eyebrow at him.
Lister looked at her for a long time. "…Worth it," he said with another wry grin.
And he found that he really meant it.
He was the last man alive on a tramp steamer in space over three million years away from his home planet.
But it was real. And it was home.
And right now, that was more than enough for him.
'Cause I keep thinkin' backwards.
To a place I've never been.
To a home that never was.
It's like I'm losing it again...
- The Goo Goo Dolls; "Nothing is Real"
Author's Notes: Sorry for taking so long with this ending. I suddenly achieved a life recently. First I was filling out forms for college, then I was worrying about college, and then I was preparing for college, and then I was studying for college, and now I'm in college and working my tail off, and I finally managed to get this puppy done.
For those who read this thing in one whole day, I hope I sufficiently weirded you out with this story. That's the theme I was going for. One of those mind-screw stories that Steven Moffat does for Doctor Who. Damn it, he makes it look so easy!