Categories > TV > Red Dwarf > Forwards0 Reviews
A followup to Rob Grant's book Backwards. Slash.
"Loot the old Cat's clothes," Lister snapped. He fiddled with the controls near the hatch, and finally managed to open it, spilling Cat out into Red Dwarf's landing bay. The feline twisted, landing on his feet with agility. Lister stumbled out after him, falling on his hands and knees. A set of square syntho-skin fingers fastened around his arm and helped him to his feet. Kryten was beaming at him. "So good to have you back... er... I mean, good to have you here, Mister Lister!" Lister could not help but smile at Kryten's enthusiasm.
"Does JMC recruit at the fetal stage in your dimension?" an arrogant, nasal voice cut in. Lister turned to where Rimmer stood, arms crossed, frowning at him. Lister once again encountered the very significant problem with being fifteen, physically - moodiness. Rimmer evoked a very sour mood indeed. Lister's one-hundred-fifty-plus-year-old intellect frequently chafed at its control by his fifteen-year-old hormones, but that had the net effect of making him yet moodier.
"Look," he snapped, and was plunged into an even worse mood by the fact that his voice cracked when he started the last syllable. "I was abandoned by you for half a lifetime, died, was brought back in a backwards universe, and then, because you're such a farking smeghead, overshot the time I was supposed to spend in it, and ended up fifteen smegging years old, so just leave me the hell alone!" He didn't care that, even if you applied it to the old Rimmer, it wasn't exactly true. It sounded good; it sounded like a legitimate gripe that he had every right to be teed off over. He stalked out of the landing bay, heading for the officers' quarters. Rimmer sneered at him as he walked by, while Kryten looked on in confusion. Cat snickered. Yeah, Cat was his mate.
Two cabins down from the quarters that corresponded to the ones they had appropriated on the old Red Dwarf, Lister found evidence of habitation. Zero-gee football posters on the upper bunk. A large inflatable cucumber tucked in a corner. Marilyn Monroe smiling sensually at him from the back of the locker.
The clothes and music inside of that locker were much neater than he would ever keep them, but he assumed that Kryten had been keeping things since he... died. He did not recognize the clothes, but they were recognizable as his fashion sense. The music was definitely his; he pulled out a few discs, eager for a little 23rd century reggae. Listening to 20th century music played backwards for half a lifetime was not satisfying, not at all. He creased his forehead at the sight of some books stacked neatly in the bottom of his alternate's locker. /Books/? He pulled two paperbacks out and looked at them, curiously. Maybe he had used them as lager stands.
"Lister!" Rimmer bellowed, running into the room. "What the smeg are you doing?"
"Goin' through my things."
Rimmer's face was almost purple. "Those are not your things!"
Lister shrugged. "Close enough." He tossed the books carelessly over his shoulder, and hopped up on the upper bunk, stretching out luxuriously. He had not had a good rest in... ages. But what Rimmer had said before they landed nagged at him. "We picked a rare old time to show up, eh?"
"Yes," Rimmer snapped. "We found an S3 planet. We're going to head down to investigate. Might be a good place to live. Are you coming with, or do you have some zits to pop?"
Lister flopped over, looking at Rimmer, who stood with his arms folded, jiggling one leg in agitation. "After I take a nap."
"Now," Rimmer grated.
"What're you going to do, drag me out of bed?" Lister asked, and tossed onto the end, "Deadie?" He very pointedly slapped the light switch, and fell into a very satisfying and dreamless sleep.
"It's a perfectly good planet. With the exception of the orange flora, it's almost exactly like Earth."
Lister sighed, leaning back in the chair and propping his feet up on the console. Why was this so hard for Rimmer to understand? "I don't want to settle down on that smegging planet. It's not Earth. I want to keep traveling."
"What is this, some kind of adolescent joyride?"
"Sol's probably gone nova by now," Holly interjected. In this dimension, Holly was a female, but every bit as laconic and senile as the old Holly had been.
"We'll keep traveling," Lister said with finality. "I'd rather stay on this ship than settle for some smegging orange rock."
"Bad taste, bud," Cat agreed. "Red, black, even a nice mauve. Not orange. Ugh."
Rimmer spread his hands. "Fine. How is this going to be decided? By a democratic vote including a brainless feline and an adolescent bum, or by the well-reasoned opinion of the senior technician on this ship?"
"If you're going to pull rank, Rimmer," Lister said, dropping his feet back onto the floor, "dead crew don't rank. So I'm the senior technician on this ship, and I say keep going."
Rimmer turned to Holly, a stormcloud brewing on his face.
"Technically, he's right, Arn," Holly said.
Rimmer stomped out of the room, fuming. Lister and Cat high-fived.
The relationship between Lister and Rimmer had always been contentious, but this dimension, Lister thought, took it too far. They sniped nonstop. They each seethed when not sniping and very pointedly resented each others' presence, but Rimmer did not move to another set of quarters, perhaps out of resistance to the idea of being displaced, while Lister felt that the quarters had been bequeathed to him by his dead alternate, and also refused to give them up. And so they shared and seethed. Lister told himself it was because this dimension's Rimmer was worse than the old one - snarkier, more pompous, skinnier and more jittery, less capable and more bitter. But in those rare times when Lister calmed down, and his hundred-fifty-plus-year-old intellect took charge, he had to admit that the problem was that this Rimmer was too much like the old one.
Rimmer was not Ace. God, Ace had been wonderful; magnificent, charming, kind, capable. He had given up his laudable life for Lister. Rimmer paled in comparison, a pitiful maggot next to a brilliant butterfly. There lay another point of contention. Admittedly, Lister had understood little of what Ace told him of dimension jumping. But one thing had come back to Lister, just before he jumped out of their old universe. Dimensions had friction. You would be burnt to a crisp if you tried to jump into a dimension that was too close to your own. They had not burnt to a crisp, so this dimension must be significantly different from the one they had come from. Yet here it was - Red Dwarf, tidy Kryten, smeghead Rimmer. Was the death of him and the Cat really enough of a difference to make the trip so uneventful? It would have enough, Lister groused, for Rimmer to have been different. More like Ace. Why hadn't they jumped into a dimension like that? Lister was often tempted to hop right back on the Wildfire and hop around until he found a better dimension. One where the human race wasn't extinct, where Kochanski loved him, where he was rich and famous... or one where Rimmer was more like Ace. But Kryten, Holly, and Rimmer had all agreed that the Wildfire was not for teenagers, and had locked it securely away in one of the storage bays. Lister hadn't even been able to get to it with a plasma cutter. Bastards.
Lister was asleep, late one night, when the door to the quarters slid open. The light outside was dim, and inside was pitch-black, so Lister had only the vaguest sense of a tall figure in a silvery flightsuit. "Ace," he gasped, quietly. The man walked over, passing farther out of the dim hall lighting, so Lister had to reach out to feel exactly where he stood. The flightsuit was smooth and cool, and crinkled slightly under his hand. The figure leaned down, and somehow it seemed the most natural thing in the world for Lister to open his mouth and kiss the other man deeply, sliding his hands around the back of Ace's shoulders as the man stood beside Lister's bunk. Ace unbuttoned the crotch of Lister's long johns with one long-fingered, slender hand, slipping said hand inside to grasp the erection Lister had abruptly sprung, as per his fifteen-year-old libido. Ace stroked it firmly as he kissed Lister, and Lister bucked into his hand, reaching his own hand around the back of Ace's head - where it encountered tight curls, not soft waves. Lister frantically ran his hand over Ace's cheek and down his throat, feeling a face that was far too slender and a throat that sported far too prominent an Adam's apple. "Stroke me a kipper, Skipper," Ace said, in a voice that was too high-pitched, too nasal, but Lister was coming already, a magnificent orgasm clashing in his mind with the knowledge that /Rimmer/, not Ace, was stroking him...
He woke, tossing about in sticky sheets. He paused for a moment, taking deep breaths, then cautiously leaned over to look at the bunk below. The quiet whiffle of Rimmer's sleep-breath reassured him that he had not woken the hologram. But the bastard was now invading Lister's wet dreams, for smeg's sake. He could not fall back asleep.
There was no reason other than inertia and stubborn pride for him to still share this bloody room with Rimmer. It was bad enough that they sniped and insulted even more than Lister had with the alternate Rimmer in his own universe. This Rimmer was maddening, and very good at making Lister lose his temper and make an ass of himself, betrayed by his teenage hormones. But that was not the worst of it. The worst of it was when Lister looked up from what he was doing, or looked around abruptly, and caught a certain look on Rimmer's face. He wasn't sure what it was, but it was not the expressions he was used to seeing on Rimmer - smugness, anger, irritation, condescension, ingratiation. No, it was almost - a waiting, a searching. It creeped Lister the hell out, and he accused Rimmer of leering in the rare (but not rare enough) times he caught Rimmer at it. Rimmer would merely twist his lips and make some snarky comment as to what he could possibly find alluring about /Lister/?
They were on Starbug, returning from a rest break on a planet with amenable gravity and atmosphere, when Lister reached a breaking point. Lister did not want to settle on a planet, but he freely admitted that it was rather good to run around barefoot on grass or wheat or whatever the smeg the soft pale-yellow stuff on the planet was. Rimmer, of course, foretold dire outcomes from running around barefoot; Lister would get stung by some insect carrying a virulent disease that would turn his innards to liquid and make the last man alive just one more of the many not-alive at all, or he would step in a hole and break his leg, or...
"Stuff it, Rimmer," Lister said, and ran to play with the Cat for a few hours.
The three of them boarded Starbug several hours later - Kryten had remained on Red Dwarf to 'look after things' - and Lister and Cat took their accustomed positions at the front, while Rimmer sat behind Lister. Lister had little enough to do; Cat was a far better pilot, and needed no help to take Starbug back to the Dwarf. And so Lister spun around, annoyed at his uselessness, and he caught that look on Rimmer's face again.
"What the smeg do you want?" he yelled, leaping to his feet.
Rimmer had wiped the look off of his face the moment Lister had turned, and now bore an expression of patient condescension. "I want you to sit down and shut up so that our mangy pilot can pay all due attention to not smashing us into the side of Red Dwarf."
"You know what I mean!" Lister yelled. There was no point - he was close enough that Rimmer could have heard him if he had whispered - but he was immensely frustrated, and it felt good to yell. "Why do you look at me like that?" Cat whipped his head back and forth between the scene and their heading, trying to catch the good bits without crashing the lander. Lister pushed Cat to the back of his mind. He bent closer, wanting - so badly - to wipe that look off of Rimmer's face for good. That look of waiting for something. "If you're looking for me to turn into that other Lister, I'm not gonna," he hissed. "I don't smegging care about you, and I never will. You died in my dimension. AR got a virus, and you melted, like one of your smegging toy soldiers on a fire. I watched you die, and I didn't care. Not one bit. I didn't care about you, and I don't care about you. No matter how often you die and come back." He watched that face, seeing in it the features that had tried to scream as plumes of smoke blew out of its mouth. He tried not to bite his lip.
Rimmer stared back, calmly. But Lister saw his index fingers move; they were twitching slightly, and Rimmer could not stop them. "Glad yeh understand me," Lister said, and sat back in his chair with a plop. The rest of the journey was completed in silence, and Lister tore out of the 'Bug once it had settled. He ran to the room he shared with Rimmer, and looked around. So much like the quarters they used to share. Just smegging like them. He pulled open the locker and hauled out the small pile of books. Is this all? he wondered. All that was really different between the dimensions? Just that I voluntarily /read/? He irately threw the books against the wall, and a small sheaf of photographs fluttered out from behind the cover of one. Lister stooped and picked them up.
They were, again, too familiar. Gran, looking almost identical to his gran. The Jupiter-rise shot that everyone takes, including alternate-him. Various drunken hold-camera-at-arms'-length pictures with Petersen and Selby. Kochanski - wearing a deep blue dress that he had never seen his Kochanski wear, but still shooting that pinball smile that made his knees weak. A picture of him and Rimmer.
Lister sat on the bunk, looking them over again. Something made him look more closely at that last picture. In his dimension, he had a picture like that - he only kept it because Kochanski had taken it. She had walked in and snapped the picture as Rimmer and Lister both looked up at the open door. But in this picture, Lister had one hand on top of Rimmer's. Such a small thing - but Rimmer was not a touch-person, not someone to be grabbed with casual affection, the way Lister treated his mates.
Everything became horribly clear to Lister, at that point. What was so different about this dimension that made it safe to travel to from his own. Why this alternate Lister had actually started to read. Why Rimmer hadn't gone into the game to rescue his alternate.
He was afraid that his Lister had found something Better Than Life in there.
Lister pulled out his lighter, flicked it on, and touched the flame to the edge of the photograph. He held it until it was just a puff of carbon dust, and blew it out of his hand.