Categories > TV > Red Dwarf > Forwards1 Reviews
A followup to Rob Grant's book Backwards. Slash.
Lister jerked awake at the shout. He looked about him, disoriented. Not Red Dwarf. Not Starbug. No, it was... memories flooded back all too quickly. Yes. The winter planet with the Yeti - one of whom was whacking the bars of their cell with a paw-like hand. Lister fell to the floor from his half-reclined position as Rimmer leapt to his feet. Cat tumbled from his niche between Rimmer's former position and the rock wall, falling on top of Lister. The two of them struggled to sort themselves out as Rimmer proceeded to walk over and try to ingratiate himself with the guard.
The guard opened the door and picked Rimmer up by the collar in one hand, stifling his speech before he had gotten one nasal "Mister Yeti, sir," out of his mouth. With his other paw, he grabbed Lister's jacket and Cat's scarf, hauling them all out of the cave.
"Ouch! Dude! Mind the scarf - that's silk!" Cat yowled.
"Cat," Lister groaned, stumbling along with the insistent tug, feeling the guard's sharp, talon-like nail prod at his throat, "shut up about your smegging scarf, wouldja?" He struggled, but the point prodded more insistently the harder he struggled. Lister let himself be dragged, fuming.
The guard dropped them on the snow in front of the Esteemed Leader's throne. Lister noted that the Esteemed Leader looked a little more rested and coherent than he had the last time they had been brought before him (or was it her? it? Lister hated to presume). A second guard stood there; Lister guessed that it must be the other one, the one with the excessively precise punctuation. That guard watched with distaste as the first guard stepped back, rubbing his nose with his paw, and yelled, "'Ere yeh go!"
"Oh, Exalted Leader," the second guard intoned, turning towards the old Yeti and spreading his hands in a reverent gesture, "now that you have had your Royal Nap, we bring you these tasty morsels of humanity. It is your right, Your Eminence, as our most respected and honored leader, to take the first mouthful of their juicy flesh..."
"Yes, yes, I know," the Exalted Leader yipped in a weak, quavering voice (although it settled the Exalted Leader as a 'he' in Lister's mind). "Bring me..." he paused, looking at the trio, then pointed one quavering paw at Rimmer. "That one."
The second guard grabbed Rimmer by his bright red tunic. Rimmer immediately began to babble. "Oh, er, wait! You're a lovely slavering monster, I'm sure, but no doing on the whole eating thing... nobody samples my juicy flesh on the first night out..."
"Oi!" Lister yelled, jumping to his feet. He was not sure exactly what he was going to do, but one thing was sure - he was not about to let some Yeti-GELF eat Rimmer alive! He sprang forward - and suddenly found himself lying on his back and staring up at the grey sky, his shoulder aching. He realized that the first guard must have knocked him down - and done it with a speed and agility that Lister would have found impressive in a London Jet, but found highly worrisome in a beast holding them captive. He sat up, slowly, with a moan.
Rimmer, his babbling almost completely incoherent as his terror increased, was being sniffed by the Exalted Leader. The Leader, apparently satisfied with Rimmer's scent, took a large bite out of Rimmer's arm. Rimmer shrieked, and Lister had to shiver at the sight of a scalloped hole, complete with jagged tooth-marks, in Rimmer's arm. Blood flowed from it, but disappeared in a red glow as it dripped off of his arm.
The Exalted Leader chewed contemplatively. He paused, and an expression of absolute disgust crossed his face. He spat out half-chewed arm with noisy pa-tooie sounds; the bloody chunks, like Rimmer's blood, fizzled out with a red glow. At least, Lister presumed they did. They were fairly red to start with. Lister's stomach did flip-flops.
The leader tossed Rimmer back onto the snow, where the hologram proceeded to fold up around his arm, whimpering. Cat backed away. "Don't get any bloodstains on my suit, stencil-head," he hissed.
Lister scrabbled over to Rimmer, worry tugging at him. "Yeh OK?" he asked, touching the hologram's back. Once again, he realized, he had forgotten to be annoyed at Rimmer. It was hard to keep annoyed at someone who had just been rather messily bitten, however, Apparently, Lister considered, hard-light could be damaged - and a mental image flashed back to him, of glass shards embedded in a hard-light palm, of hard-light blood on his cheek, and then on his... he shivered.
"Yes, I got my smegging arm bitten off! I'm just smegging lovely!" Rimmer replied, still contorted, in a voice about a half-octave higher than normal.
Lister snapped his head back to face the Exalted Leader as said leader spoke in his high, reedy voice. "They do not have the luscious taste of humans! They are unworthy of consumption!"
The first guard took Lister and Cat by the collars, hauling them to their feet. The second took Rimmer by one red boot. Rimmer yelped as he was yanked into the air upside-down. "They are unclean, Your Utterly Impressive Greatness!" the second guard agreed, shaking Rimmer for emphasis.
"Eh!" Lister yelled. "Who're ya callin'..." He stopped talking as the guard let go for a moment to cuff him firmly, then took hold of his collar again.
His Really Impressive Greatness leaned forward. "They are worthy only of exile." He leaned back, sighing, and rested his head on the back of his chair. "I never get anything good to eat anymore," he sighed, querulously. He scratched his rear with one paw, then settled back again, closing his eyes and beginning a wheezy snore.
The second guard turned to Lister and Cat, pulling Rimmer up to put him at the same level as the other two. "Hear your sentence!" the guard intoned. "You will be exiled! You will be sent to the Hell Planet, where only the vilest criminals of our race have been sent before. A place of searing heat. A hellhole with a violent, flaming sun. A place of boiling lakes that sear the skin from the bones, leaving the bones to die in writhing agony. A place..."
"Eh, mate," the first guard sighed, "I think they got the idea, whot? Let's toss 'em in the shu'le and get 'em the 'ell out, yeah?"
The first guard flashed his beady black eyes up at the grey sky. "Uneducated peasant," he snarled, turning on his heel and walking, carrying a still-whimpering Rimmer by one boot.
"Yesh, we're all really impressed with yer high-class bastard goddam talkin'," the first guard snarled, falling in behind the second one. Lister jerked and tried to slip out of his jacket, but the guard merely changed his grip to around Lister's neck. Lister had been caught in metal fences with less give, and he struggled uselessly, swearing and kicking, as the guard dragged him and Cat across the snow.
They eventually came to a brownish-grey lander, an angular, featureless number that looked like a space shuttle Lister had once made out of Legos. Unlike that shuttle, however, the one the Yeti guards dragged them to had scorch marks from re-entry all over the flattened nose. It was also large enough to let them in via a sliding door in the side. The interior looked a bit small for more than one of the Yeti-like guards, and the one holding Rimmer went in first. The one holding Lister and Cat watched placidly as Lister kicked at him and Cat scratched at him. "Yer a funny bunch," he said, his slit of a mouth turning up into a disturbing grin. "Too bad yeh taste so bad. I like to play with me food."
The other guard stomped out of the lander, and Lister found himself dragged inside. It was dim after the glaring brightness of sun on snow, and he blinked as his eyes adjusted. Rimmer was strapped to a chair, sucking at his arm and glaring at Lister, the guard, Cat, the lander, and pretty much everything else in his field of vision. Cat was rapidly and efficiently strapped into another chair, and Lister was strapped in between them. The Yeti checked the straps, then turned and left, the door sliding closed behind him. Lister started to tear and tug at the straps, but the mechanism holding them in place was smooth, offering no means he could discover to release them. The straps themselves were tough, and he tore at them with no effect beyond cutting his fingers on the edges.
"Would you stop that?" Rimmer moaned, still sucking at his arm as the door of the lander slid shut.
"I'm just tryin' to get us outta here!" Lister said, frustrated. Rimmer's voice, however, brought the hologram's injury to the front of Lister's mind. Rimmer was still conscious? Lister turned his head and snaked his arm over to take Rimmer's arm by the wrist. "Oh eh, how's that doin'?"
Rimmer shivered as Lister took his arm. "It hurts like a smegger!" Rimmer moaned. But as Lister looked at it, it seemed like the chunk bitten out was smaller than it had been initially, and the edges smoother. He raised his eyes at Rimmer. "It does seem to be healing," Rimmer muttered, recoiling as Lister prodded the wound.
The lander shuddered as its engines started, then jerked as it took off. Lister grabbed Rimmer's hand and squeezed it, feeling oddly protective. That evoked a yelp from Rimmer. Lister sighed. Kind gestures were wasted on Rimmer. He turned to Cat. "Hey, Cat, can you chew your way through these?"
Cat looked down at the straps with disgust. "Buddy, I can barely cope with the idea of these things being on me! And you want me to /put them in my mouth/?"
"Look," Lister barked, "do yeh want to have yer skin seared off by boilin' lakes? Chew the buggers off!"
Cat groaned. "Aw, man, I can not believe I'm..." He trailed off and bent down to take a strap in his mouth, heaving a weighty sigh. He bit at the strap, gingerly, then frowned. He bit it firmly. He pulled back, hissed, and started to chew and rip at it. He stopped after a minute of struggling with it, spitting and looking utterly disgusted. "It's too tough to chew through. And it tastes like those twits smell!"
"We're doomed," Rimmer moaned.
"No, we're not!" Lister struggled, trying to slip out of the straps. They were fastened very tightly. A thought struck him. "Oi, they hadn't found Kryten. He must still be on the 'Bug. Maybe he knows where we are! Maybe he's trackin' us in Starbug right now!"
Cat perked up. "Hey, yeah, geodesic-head!"
"Oh, fantastic thought, Listy," Rimmer muttered. "Kryten will find us. And then he'll what? Snag us with the tractor beams Starbug doesn't have? Grab the lander with the grapple Starbug doesn't have? Disable the lander with the laser cannons Starbug doesn't have?"
"He could contact Holly..." Lister said, weakly.
"Red Dwarf would never get here in time."
Damned pessimistic smegger. Unfortunately, damned correct smegger. Lister thought furiously, but no grand plans came to mind. He struggled against his straps with a sudden burst of maniacal strength, but the straps doggedly stayed in place. "Smeg!" he barked, frustrated.
Rimmer sighed, leaning against the straps. Lister noted that his arm was almost fully healed, clean pale flesh showing through ripped iridescent red uniform. Not that it would matter soon, he thought darkly. "For whatever it's worth," Rimmer muttered, "I'm sorry. It wasn't you. It was me."
Was this some kind of apology for the way Rimmer had kicked him out of bed? A fine smegging time to bring it up! "Yeh couldn't've brought that up at a more convenient time, couldja? Like when we're not about to be dropped on a killer hellhole planet?"
"I said I'm sorry," Rimmer muttered. Lister turned his head, then sucked in a startled breath. Rimmer did not look sarcastic or mean. He looked - smeg, he looked so sad and /needing/, the way he had looked when Lister had put his... Lister swallowed.
"I'm sorry, too, man," he muttered. "Wish we could hash this out in better circumstances. Be nice, tha'."
Rimmer closed his eyes. "I... care about you, you know."
Cat sighed noisily. Lister looked over to that side; Cat was watching him with a disgusted expression on his face. "Could you two knock it off? I don't want to die nauseated."
The lander started to jerk back and forth as it hit atmosphere. Lister took a deep breath. Part of him fumed that he was too young to die. Another part sniggered that he was well over a hundred years old, while the first part insisted that he was nonetheless too young to die. Quite a lot of himself, he realized, wanted to slap Rimmer, make the hologram explain himself, and then have a great deal of sex; enough to make up for the months they hadn't touched. However, he thought with resignation, it was a little late for /that/. He prepared himself mentally to be boiled alive.