"I'm detecting what appears to be a shielded radiation source on the approaching shuttle," Holly announced.
"Any idea what it is?" Harmony asked.
"A small nuclear device," Holly replied, brow furrowed in concentration. "Well, that or a microwave cooking a hot pocket. I'm still calibrating the new sensors."
"I'm guessing nuke," Willow said.
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "Holly, ready Holly-Hop drive."
"Incoming message," Sam announced.
Xander's face appeared on screen with Harmony looking over his shoulder. "We detected the nuke, so we're going to fuck off now. Later."
The screen went blank and a moment later the massive spaceship vanished without a trace.
Maybourne sighed. "We knew there was a risk they were advanced enough to see through our shielding. Not all gambles pan out. At least they left peacefully, which was our main goal."
SG1 and the NID members all nodded solemnly, as protecting the Earth was their main goal.
"Someone pass me my hot pocket, please," Maybourne said, completely breaking the solemnity of the moment.
"I can't believe you got us hired on as diplomatic couriers," Xander said.
"Easiest way to get us through customs," Willow explained. "Plus we get paid for delivering a handful of papers to the British Embassy."
"I'm surprised they gave us the job," Harmony said.
"It helps that everything was done online," Willow admitted. "Made it easy to put the fix in."
"Hit the British Embassy and then straight to the train station," Xander suggested as the plane touched down.
"We can visit Washington another time," Willow agreed.
"I wanted to see the Mall of America," Harmony pouted.
"Or we could do that," Xander allowed, "but I'm only going if I get to buy a golf cart."
"Golf cart?" the girls chorused.
"Yes, golf cart," he agreed. "We have diplomatic immunity, right?"
"Until the papers are delivered," Willow admitted.
"And they sell golf carts there, right?"
"I haven't checked, but the Mall of America is the largest mall in the world," Willow replied.
"If I can buy a golf cart, I will waive the four hour special event shopping limit," Xander offered.
"Deal!" Harmony agreed.
"Willow?" Xander asked, when she didn't speak up.
"I'm kinda worried about what you'll do with a golf cart that requires diplomatic immunity," Willow admitted.
"They have a plethora of computer and book stores," Harmony pointed out.
"Really?" Willow asked curiously.
"They have everything!" Harmony enthused.
"OK, fine," Willow caved. "Mall first, then embassy, then home."
Red Light - Green Light
"Holly Hop drive disengaged," Holly announced.
"OK, Holl, where are we?" Xander asked, as he stared out at unfamiliar stars.
"Dunno," Holly replied and would have shrugged if he had shoulders. "Doesn't look familiar."
"I thought the drive was only supposed to hop universes," Xander said.
"Yeah, but the thing about universes is… they drift. Normally, we'd be drifting with them, so you wouldn't notice, but they aren't really nailed in place," Holly explained.
"In the show, the place they ended up was almost exactly like where they came from," Harmony said, recalling that episode.
"I decided on a rather large hop to start," Holly said. "Otherwise, it'd probably end up exactly like what happened the first time."
"I wouldn't mind meeting a reverse gender version of us," Xander said. "Could be fun!"
"Didn't Dave get knocked up?" Willow pointed out.
"Yeah," Xander agreed, "but we already know to avoid that situation."
Willow chuckled. "It would be pretty irresponsible."
"Yeah, we got birth control shots yesterday," Harmony agreed.
"I may knock up myself, but it won't be me getting pregnant," Xander said smugly. "Best defense-" Xander said leadingly, bumping fists with Harmony.
"-is a good offense," she completed with a grin.
"Right," Willow said slowly, deciding to drop the subject.
"Long range scanner is picking up a fleet of ships," Holly announced.
"Let's check it out," Willow suggested. "We can hop out if they're hostile, right?"
"The Holly Hop drive has to recharge, but it'll take a couple of days to reach them and match velocities, so that's not a problem," Holly said.
"Days?" Harmony asked, surprised as that didn't quite match up with her memories of the Dwarf.
"While the nanites have improved the engines, they improved the scanners even more," Holly explained. "Plus the fleet is moving away from us, though pretty slowly."
"Anything important we need to know or do?" Xander asked.
"The scutters are doing a bang up job," Holly replied, "but half the decks still need to be pressurized and the nanites need more raw material to finish their work."
"Keep a scanner peopled for any bits and bobs along the way," Xander said. "A little detour is fine. We aren't in that big a rush, not as long as we can bug out with a push of the button."
Kryten entered the bridge pushing a trolley. "Lunch time! I know Mr. Lister was not fond of 'rabbit food' but, in the hopes that you have better dietary habits, I've included both lettuce and tomato for your burger."
"As long as we have ketchup and mustard to go with, I'm fine with it," Xander assured him.
"Excellent!" Kryten said happily. "And for you, Mum, fish and chicken along with a tape of the sound of lions devouring a hippo."
The pair tore into their food with gusto, while Willow watched enviously. Xander noticed and shook his head. "Holly can create a holographic meal and use sense memories from past meals to make it seem real, or you can use the VR simulation with its pre-programmed sense feeds."
"I... didn't think of that," Willow admitted.
"I'm surprised they didn't use it more in the show," Xander said. "It just seems so obvious."
"Lister and Rimmer played a lot of pranks on one another," Holly said. "A few times, Lister scrambled the taste selection and Rimmer liked to play the poor-me-I'm-dead card a lot. It also helped with his self pity."
"Yeah, that sounds like Rimmer," Willow said. "Fortunately, I have a completely different set of mental problems," she said proudly and then frowned.
"We get what you mean," Harmony assured her. "Now go, have some ice cream to help adjust to eating again."
"Oh, good idea!" Willow said before vanishing.
"Get used to eating again?" Xander asked.
"Any excuse for ice cream," Harmony replied.
"Suits," Xander agreed.
18 hours later - Captain's Cabin
"AWOOGA! AWOOGA!" Holly announced loudly, waking them from their sound sleep.
"What is it, Hol?" Xander asked, climbing out of bed while Harmony retreated back into sleep.
"We're approaching the scene of a battle," Holly replied. "There are dozens of destroyed craft and three fading life signs."
"I'll prep the StarBug," Willow said, her hologram switching from bed clothes to uniform and vanishing.
"I'll wake Harmony and get dressed. Have Kryten meet us there with medical supplies," Xander snapped out.
"StarBug has a fully stocked emergency medical bay," Holly told him.
"Nanite upgrade," Holly reminded him. "It was planned, but never installed."
"Good, see you on the 'Bug in ten!"
Thirty minutes later...
"Magnetic grappler locked," Holly announced.
"Reel her in slow, and let's see what we have," Willow said, eyes glued to her monitors.
"Looks a lot like an X-Wing," Xander said, trying not to get his hopes up.
"And just like an X-Wing, it appears the cockpit is only supposed to open in atmosphere," Willow said. "We'll have to take it in the hanger bay to get the pilot out."
"Are the other two the same?" Xander asked.
"I've got what appears to be an escape pod, with a damaged transmitter and another ship that looks like a cross between a manta ray and an oreo cookie."
"How far is the life pod and the other ship?"
"Couple of hours out," Holly replied.
There was a soft thump as a magnetic grappler fired off and Xander glanced down to make sure he hadn't touched anything. "What was that?"
"Snagging nearby wrecks for spare parts," Holly explained.
"They probably don't use the same tech we do," Xander said. "Though we could fix up some of these fighters, they do look fun to fly."
"Erm, I was thinking more of organs," Holly admitted. "Just in case we needed something to fix the survivors up or for a rainy day. I know I kept an eye out for a spare liver or two when Dave was aboard."
"I - I guess that makes sense," Xander said. "A bit ghoulish, but if it helps save lives then I'm for it."
"I'll let the nanites know to repair a couple of fighters rather than breaking them all down for raw materials," Holly promised, changing the subject.
"I thought they were programmed to just recreate the Dwarf according to the new specs, and then self-destruct," Willow offered.
"Yeah, but they're looking for some official side jobs to slow down completion of their main one. They don't seem too enthused with the whole self-destruct idea," Holly explained.
"Can you make changes to the blueprint they're using to recreate the Dwarf?" Willow asked.
"I was given authorization in case there was an error in the prints. They have to be actual improvements, however," Holly allowed. "That's as far as I can stretch it."
"Why didn't we do that for the LEDs?" Harmony asked.
"Didn't think of it," Holly admitted. "Intuitive leaps and re-interpreting orders is something humans are far superior at."
"Also remind them to re-check their work after we stress test it to ensure it was done properly," Xander added.
"Stress test?" Harmony asked.
"You know, life, accidents, and alien attacks," Xander explained. "If we include checking atomic decay, it'll take centuries."
"Transmitting new orders now," Holly said. "You can't hear it, but the nanites are cheering quite loudly."
"After we get back and get this guy in medical, we'll split up. Harmony, you can grab the Blue Midget and get the capsule while I get the other pilot," Xander said. "Holly, you can be in both ships at once, right?"
"Yeah, it's just a bit distracting," Holly admitted.
"Distracting?" Harmony asked.
"I'm always wondering if the other me is having more fun," he replied.
Typing by: Ordieth and Drifting Thoughts.