When the Cat swam back to the land of the wakeful, he was still lying on the floor of the hologram simulation suite. A clicker was standing over him, administering a shot to him. He grabbed his arm where the needle had been and scrambled backwards. A hand descended on his shoulder. "Hey, relax, everything's fine now. It was just tryin' to wake you up." It was Lister.
The clicker wheeled backwards to give him some space to get up. Cat kept his distance from the bot as he looked around. Lister, Kryten and Rimmer were in the room with him. A group of several more service bots were there, all gathered at attention and receiving orders from a woman with an 'H' on her forehead. She was middle-aged, blonde, and dressed in smart business attire. After dispatching the last of the clickers, she turned to him.
"Glad we got you back on your feet, Cat."
"You're Leopard?" he said. "You look pretty good for a dead person."
Grace swept a hand down her outfit in appreciation of the complement. "I was a lot older than this when I died. You accidently loaded me into an earlier body- a mistake I certainly don't mind being made."
"What can I say? I am a whiz when it comes to this technolilogical stuff."
"Only just," the zoo director replied.
"Yeah, she called off the crazy robots as soon as she was loaded," Lister explained, rubbing the back of his head. "What're you gonna do now? You want to join us up on Red Dwarf?" he asked Grace hopefully. Coming across somebody who didn't want to rip out your brain stem was a rare enough treat, and to a humanity-starved human, the chance of having fresh company on board was an even better one.
The woman let him down gently. "I'm sorry, but no. I've been with my zoo for millions of years. I can't abandon all my animals, especially not to the service bots. They need human guidance. These creatures might be the last of their kind in the universe."
"That doesn't mean y'have to leave, does it? You could just tag along..."
"I don't think floating aimlessly through space is the best thing for them. I am hoping to find an S-3 planet, somewhere I can release the animals and let nature run its course the way it should. Now, I've unlocked everything, so you're free to leave."
"Thank God!" Rimmer declared.
The Dwarfers took the lift back down to the parking bay. A clicker stood at the entrance to the hangar, handing out free buttons and chirping, "Thank you for visiting the Grace Longshore Memorial Zoo! We hope you enjoyed your stay. Please come again!"
"Fat chance," Lister told it, but took a button anyhow and pinned it to his jacket. He might not mind life-threatening adventures so much if he always got a souvenir from them at the end.
Everybody piled into Blue Midget for the ride home. Lister started her up whilst Cat complained. "I can't believe she's just leaving me like this, after all we've been through together."
"Sorry Cat," Lister offered as he guided the Midget out into space.
"What for? She's not even my type. Those heels clashed with her 'H', and she didn't even thank me for saving the day."
"You could do that much for us," Rimmer said. "We all risked our lives going in there to get you."
"Buddy, I'll thank you when I get my hands on a hot iron, a jar of honey, and some- hey, where's my jacket?"
Kryten reluctantly handed the jacket over to the Cat. It was rumpled and creased, with half the sequins fallen off. It also had tire marks stained across the front of it. "I'm terribly sorry, sir, I dropped it while I was fleeing, and a service bot must have run it over."
Cat slumped back in his seat, cradling the ruined garment in his arms. He was too exhausted to be very upset. "It was already done for, bud. I'll just give it a Viking funeral in the waste incinerator. What kind of things do you send with a suit into the afterlife? Maybe a pocket handkerchief, and some cans of tuna in case it gets hungry...And what should I wear?" The feline quickly forgot about his misfortune as he set about planning the details for the ceremony.
Lister smiled through the hives that were beginning to form on his face. "Good to have you back, Cat."
The Cat wandered into the science room that evening, looking for a place to take a long overdue nap. Everybody else had already turned in for the night. Rimmer, currently in bad standing with the crew, had slunk off to bed first thing. Kryten had taken Lister to the Medi-Bay to treat his reaction. The Ark, too, had made its departure, disengaging its orbit from Red Dwarf as soon as they'd arrived back home.
Cat found the perfect spot to sleep- a pile of junk that was accumulated on the floor. He started kicking things around to make it more comfortable. It seemed to consist of random paraphernalia - a magic eight ball, a notebook, a pair of pajamas, a set of boxing gloves, several technician's uniforms, and an airless Inflatable Ingrid doll... "Hey, this is alphabet head's stuff, isn't it?" He said, bending down to pick up an Io House school ring to add to his collection of shiny things. "What's it all doing in here?"
Holly appeared on the screen. "Arnold had the skutters bring it in. This is where the holoscanner is. It scans real physical objects, and converts them into digital form. That's it right over there."
Cat inspected the scanner. It was a heavy column of machinery, with a chamber built in the middle for inserting things into. The scanning piece hung down from the top of the chamber. "This thingy turns real things into 'H' things?"
He opened the holoscanner and untwisted the scanning eye from inside it. "Is this part important?"
"Yeah, without it, the whole thing's pretty much useless. Hey, where are you going with that?"
Cat stopped in the doorway and waggled the piece at Holly. "I just need to visit the little kitty's room." He headed for the nearest bathroom, dropped the eye down the toilet, and flushed.
Tada, I actually finished something. :) Thanks again to my reviewers for making my head big and keeping me going.