Categories > TV > Red Dwarf > Appliance

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by Roadstergal 0 reviews

The dwarfers stop for a breath of arid planet air.

Category: Red Dwarf - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Humor - Warnings: [!!!] [V] - Published: 2006-09-06 - Updated: 2006-09-07 - 3438 words

"Turn." The nasal voice echoed in the empty quarters as Rimmer started a new page of Hammond Organs And You. The electronic book was a lovely invention, and definitely a find in the Locker Room Game that made up for the tampons, boots, and pornographic gay videos he had 'won' previously. A pity he rarely got to read it; Lister amused himself by dropping bits and bobs on it that obscured just half the screen, or turning it upside-down, and then apologizing profusely later when Rimmer ranted at him. The skutters would giggle just as often as they'd actually move it so as to be readable again, so half a book a month was a decent going.


A familiar set of footsteps came barging up the corridor. Rimmer cringed. Even before the crew died, he always knew when Lister was coming. Nobody else whacked the floor like a pregnant mammoth with every step. Sure enough, he caught Lister's entrance out of the corner of his eye a moment later. He was grinning like a tub of naked women doused in curry had just docked. Rimmer tried to ignore him.

"Oi! Smeghead! We've found a planet."

Rimmer tried to make a noise that sounded like "Emrph," convey disgust, preoccupation, and utter disinterest.

Lister plopped down in a chair next to Rimmer. "We're going exploring! It has an S3 atmosphere, so Cat and I can breathe."

"Pity," Rimmer muttered.

Lister pulled off his hat and waved it towards the door. "Come on, man, you're coming with us."

"No, I'm not."

Lister frowned. He picked up the book and tossed it on his bed, face down. Rimmer leapt to his feet, noted that the book was now completely unreadable, and turned to Lister with a glare.

"Move yer cowardly transparent bum, Rimmeh," Lister said, waving his hat behind him as he walked out of the door.

"It's incorporeal, not transparent, you stupid goit!" Rimmer yelled, hurrying after him. "And you have no respect for the dead!"

Rimmer was still in a highly upset and put-upon mood half an hour later as he sat in the back of Starbug. Cat and Lister were terribly excited about the prospect of breathing non-ship air for the first time in over a year; they were elbowing each other and giggling as they punched up the few visuals Starbug allowed. Rimmer sighed. Quite frankly, he would be happier with a bit of vacuum.

The few visuals did make one thing very clear - this was a hot, arid planet. Brown, cracked dirt fused into rocky solidity stared up at them, and restless movement under the planet's crust had thrust spires of rock into the air; they dotted the landscape, sprinkled among twining chasms. Kryten set them down on what looked to be a fairly dull plate of that hard, packed earth.

Lister stepped outside, blinking at the harsh sunlight. In deference to the heat, he had shed his jacket and T-shirt, stripping down to a grease-stained undershirt. He slung his bazookoid across his back and climbed down the gangway. Cat slipped on a pair of shades and followed. "Hoo, boy! This planet is as hot as... well, me!" Kryten followed. Rimmer contemplated staying in the Bug, but the irony of it getting attacked or blowing up while everyone else was off of it would be one he would never live... er... die down. He climbed the gangway with bad grace and joined the rest at the bottom. His light bee tickled the back of his mind with the knowledge that it was exactly 38.4 degrees Centigrade. It was one of the many, many annoying things about being a hologram; he no longer experienced states like 'hot' and 'cold.'

"Wheeeeew!" Lister wiped sweat off of his forehead with the back of his forearm. "Quite a holiday destination!" The tone was sarcastic, but Rimmer would wager his monogrammed handkerchiefs that Lister was having a ball (they were monogrammed with the wrong initials, but they were a gift from his mum, after all). Cat pulled a silk scarf out of his pocket and dabbed gently at a single bead of perspiration on his forehead. Even his sweat was handsome. "Warm is good, but I see nothin' to eat and nowhere comfy to sleep, bud."

"Yeh never know! Let's take a look around." Lister patted Cat on the shoulder and pointed to a ridge of low-lying outcroppings to the right. "We'll go that way. Rimmer, Krytes - you two check out what's over there." He pointed to the scattered spires to their left.

"You first, Fullerene head," Rimmer said.

Kryten was looking around at the packed-dirt planet with a very pleased expression on his face, imagining what he could do with a Hoover and a feather duster. "Certainly, sir."

Lister paused, yet again, to wait for Cat to catch up. He was starting to wish he had gone with Kryten, instead - even considering the daunting task of convincing Rimmer to do anything cooperative with Cat. The feline in question finished brushing the dust off of his cream pant legs and matching spats, tapped the dirt off of the brush, placed it back in his pocket, dabbed his face gently with his silk scarf, and sauntered up to where Lister waited impatiently. "Why I ever agreed to go out on a brown planet, I will never know. Brown is not my color. Next planet had better be mauve, bud."

"You look lovely, Cat," Lister said, with zero enthusiasm. He entered the shade of the rockpiles they had seen from Starbug with relief. His undershirt was soaked under the arms and down the back, and sweat trickled uncomfortably down his buttock crevice. The rocks were fascinating, however; they were piled at fantastic angles and were banded in pretty shades of brown, some bands glimmering like glass. Faces, spaceships, and strange animals jumped out at him as he squinted and tilted his head this way or that. They made their way along the pile, Cat pawing with interest at the sparkling glassy bands.

"Hey!" Lister heard Cat exclaim behind him. "Pretty!"

Lister backtracked. He had missed a spot where the rocks doubled back on themselves, forming a crude entrance. Lister walked through to what looked almost like an inset, roofless antechamber. Cat danced around inside, touching what had attracted his attention - thousands, hundreds of thousands of fragments of plastic and metal, varying in size from fingernail to larger than Lister. They glittered in the sun, hues of iridescent purple and red and green and blue. Some were just plain silver, some transparent, but they all looked to have been collected for their visual appeal. Lister looked closer at the markings on one.

"Erm - Cat?" he asked. Cat was spraying some of the larger and shinier fragments. "This is mine, this is mine - what is it, monkey boy?"

"These are spaceships, Cat. Spaceships and landers, all of them."

"Yeah, so?"

"So - they're all in pieces."

"Yeah, so?"

"So something tore a lot of spaceships into pieces."

Cat mulled this for a moment. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, bud?"

"I'm thinking we should leg it."

A noise came drifting over the rocks. It was somewhere between the growl of a diesel engine and the whine of tearing metal, and a slobber slurped its way into the middle. Cat and Lister stared at each other for a moment.

"I hope you're right behind me, dormouse cheeks," Cat said, and then tore away with the legendary speed of his kind. Lister followed as quickly as his short legs would take him. Behind them, the ground shook, and the strange sound was repeated - but with a questioning hitch in it, one that turned quickly into an angry roar. It's just our luck, Lister thought; we meet a strange alien creature, and it knows enough Cat to know that someone had stopped by to take its stuff. Lister risked a glance behind him, and immediately regretted it. The creature had clambered over the rock face, and was chasing the intruders who had claimed its shiny things. It had a flattened triangular face and slitted eyes, indeed cat-ish. Lister doubted that they had ever made cats quite that big, though. It pounded along ponderously on legs that would have fit an elephant better, and a very scorpion-like tail waved behind it. It was a cat-GELF, and their only saving grace was that the huge, thick legs did not move very quickly.

By the time it occurred to Lister to think about their destination, it had been decided for them. They had passed Starbug, and were heading towards the spires where they had sent Kryten and Rimmer. He groaned internally. Half of their backup would want to clean the GELF, and half would want to turn tail and run from it. Well, thought Lister, maybe it would get knackered chasing Rimmer, allowing them to reach Starbug and escape.

Rimmer was having, as nearly as he could determine, the exact opposite of a wonderful time. The planet was mind-numbingly dull. The spires were exactly the same as they had looked from Starbug, only bigger; featureless, dark, rocky spikes that would not be out of place on a punk rocker's wristband, thrusting up from equally featureless, equally dark, equally rocky ground. Some of the spikes had deep, narrow caves in their bases, which Kryten exclaimed with excitement did not look like natural formations. So fucking what, Rimmer thought. He sighed and did his best to communicate his boredom with every bit of body language at his disposal.

He craned his head. He could swear he had heard something. He strained, and heard it again, louder.

"Guuuuuuuuys!!!" Lister's voice drifted towards them. "Leeeggg ittt!!!"

Rimmer's jaw dropped at the sight of the... thing that was slowly plodding towards them from across the plain, Cat and Lister sprinting before. He started to poke uselessly at Kryten's arm. "K... K... K..."

"What is it, sir?" Kryten asked placidly. He was absorbed in analyzing a rather large lake of something caustic they had come across, something highly alkaline that was the same brown color as the rest of the dull planet.

"K... K... K..." Rimmer poked his incorporeal finger even farther into Kryten's arm. "Kryten!"

The mechanoid looked up, slightly irritated at being pulled from his task. His eyes widened. Cat and Lister pounded towards and past them, not slowing a lick. Rimmer and Kryten turned and followed.

"Sirs!" Kryten yelled at the top of his artificial lungs. "There are caves in the spires!" Cat's sharp eyes saw them first, and he dove into one, followed by Kryten. Lister veered to follow, but the narrow cleft did not leave him much room. "Go into one of the other ones!" Kryten suggested, and Lister tore across to the next spire over, Rimmer on his heels, almost overlapping with the living man, the lumbering GELF so close that its spittle flew through Rimmer's incorporeal body and spattered Lister's back. They dove into the tight cave at the base of the closest adjacent spire. The GELF put out its huge feet and plowed to a halt, its head smacking the spire with a nasty wet thump. It pulled back and shook its head, then put one yellow slit of an eye to the slit of the cave, glaring balefully at where Rimmer and Lister huddled in the rear. It pawed uselessly at the gash in the rock with its thick leg, then settled back to glare at each spire.

Lister's radio crackled to life. "Sir? Are you all right?"

Lister unhooked his radio with shaking fingers. "Yeah, I think so, Krytes. It can't get into these little cavey-things." Rimmer rolled his eyes.

"Yes, it seems that we have unintentionally made use of a defense system used by the former inhabitants of this planet."

"Well, it can't get us - but how do we get out?"

"I believe we have unintentionally discovered why the inhabitants are former, sir."

Lister sighed and looked at the GELF. The single eye it had trained on their spire had not so much blinked as it stared at him. "What do we do now? We need to get back to Starbug!"

"We could wait for it to get bored and leave us, sir," Kryten's voice crackled.

"If it gets bored, it'll rip Starbug to shreds, like it did the other ships!"

"Wait," Rimmer asked, eyes narrowing, "What other ships?"

Lister sighed. "We found that thing's collection. It likes to take pretty bits of ships and landers it's found and collect them."

Rimmer took a deep breath, prepared to let loose with a volley of invective on the subject of Lister's thoughtful choices of tourist destination, his proper respect for Space Corps guidelines to exploring new planets, and his general prudence in strange scenarios, which might very well have morphed into a general rant on Lister's general intelligence and pedigree, had it not been cut off before it began by a blast of bazookoid fire from the other spire. Both Rimmer and Lister jumped involuntarily at the screech the creature spat out. It leapt, as well as it could, for the other spire, and clawed at it with ferocity, chewing on the top with its catlike teeth. Eventually, its fit of temper ran its course, and it settled back onto its elephantine haunches, waving its stinger of a tail in the air.

"Krytes! Cat! Are you OK?" Lister said into the radio, his voice cracking.

"These spires are very well-designed, Mister Lister," Kryten's voice came back. "Unfortunately, so is the GELF. The bazookoid seemed to only irritate it."

"What now?" Lister asked. Cat's voice came over the radio. "Keep it entertained and wait for it to go to sleep waitin' for us. Sneak out when it does."

"Brilliant plan, pussy," Rimmer grated. "Everyone knows that cats can't hear or smell, after all, and it therefore won't wake up as soon as we set foot out of the cave and have us for hors d'oeuvres."

"Got a better plan, goalpost head?" Cat snapped back.

"In the absence of anything vaguely resembling a good idea, I suggest we try this one," Kryten concurred.

"Right," Lister agreed. "Keep your eyes out, mates." He turned off the radio. Rimmer sat and traded glares with the GELF. It had some impressive ones, which Rimmer filed for future reference.

"Why do yeh always have to be so smegging negative, man?" Lister asked.

"Negative!" Rimmer asked, irate. "We're stuck on Listy's ideal desert vacation spot, trying to escape a cat-monster that plays with spaceships instead of mice with a strategy that wouldn't fool the donor in a brain-swap operation, and you're upset with me not being upbeat about it all!"

"I dunno why you're so upset," Lister groused. "It can't hurt you. I never understand that. You're dead, you're invulnerable, and you're still the biggest bloody coward I've ever met."

"Invulnerable?" Rimmer asked, astonished. "You have an entire body, Lister! You could lose a limb or two and keep going!" He looked at Lister critically. "It might even improve your looks a bit," he observed. Lister sighed. "Me? I have a light bee. One little chunk of metal. Nothing between it and," he waved his hand to indicate 'everything,' "but a little light play. I'm more vulnerable than you are!"

"And you're a smegging coward."

"Just self-preservation, Listy."

Lister got to his feet with a growl. "And just what is there to preserve? Such an honorable, charismatic, kind, worthwhile man, yeah?" He dropped his bazookoid and advanced on Rimmer. Rimmer started to back up, then realized he was moving towards the cave entrance and stopped. "Explain this to me, man. Tell me how you're not a waste of battery power that migh' be better used for a sex toy or a waffle iron." Rimmer did not dare back up anymore, but the anger in Lister's eyes was like nothing he had seen before. Lister reached, slowly and deliberately, into Rimmer's chest, fumbling blindly until his hand closed on Rimmer's light bee. Rimmer had thought that it was impossible for his bee to communicate any data that was not purely factual, but some note, some electronic simulation of pain and terror, was sounding in the back of his mind that his light bee was in danger, and that it was bad, bad, /bad/!

Lister pulled on the bee, drawing Rimmer closer. Rimmer flailed, trying to push at the sweaty, angry man, but his hands went right through. Lister pulled on Rimmer's bee, leaning forward, until Rimmer was half-overlapped from the chest down, his legs in the earth past his ankles to bring him to Lister's height, and Lister was staring him straight in the eyes. "Tell me, man."

Rimmer had nothing to say. He stared into Lister's brown eyes, where an intensity that Rimmer could not place sparkled. His light bee still pulsed Under attack! Bad! into his consciousness as Lister held the bee in his gauntleted fist. Lister's demand admitted no evasions, no changes of subject, no distracting snark. Rimmer had no answer, because Lister was absolutely right. He was a useless, snarky, cowardly, small-minded pile of smeg. So cowardly that he could not admit it, even to himself, most times. So cowardly that he could not even do what he had been so often asked to do, in the beginning - trade, give his form to Kochanski or Petersen or... someone, anyone that the last man alive actually /liked/. So petty that he could not give up this mockery of an existence he had, with this sniping, spiteful friendship he had developed, that was nevertheless closer than any he had formed while alive.

Something broke in Lister, and he sighed and let go of the bee. As Rimmer staggered out of the ground, Lister sat down and pulled the bazookoid into his lap. "Never mind," he mumbled. "We'll wait. We'll follow Cat's plan. Do something useful or shut it."

Rimmer took a deep, airless breath. In the future, when he was asked about his next action, he would snarkily reply that he would rather die than spend a night in quarters that close with Lister. But no such thoughts were going through his head. None were going through his head at all. He merely walked outside.

The half-dozing cat-GELF snapped fully awake, its slitted yellow eyes fixed on the irresistible lure of the hologram's iridescent red uniform. Rimmer did not look at it. He rather placidly walked right past it. It snorted and leapt.

If you had stopped Rimmer at that moment and asked him if he was grateful about his malfunctioning thought processes, he is not sure what he would have said. If you asked any time afterwards, he would have said yes, smeg yes, would-I-like-Napoleon's-autograph yes. Because he completely forgot about the alkaline lake, and his light bee hovered over the brown liquid as if it were brown dirt. The cat-GELF's pounce buried it to its massive toes in caustically basic fluid, splashing rather a lot of it on bazookoid-proof legs and chest - and getting quite a bit in its eyes as it lowered its face to bite. Its attack growl turned into a shriek of pain, and it lumbered across the arid plain as fast as its stocky legs would take it, yowling its displeasure to whoever cared to listen.

Whoever cared to listen did not include Cat, Kryten, and Lister; they bolted from the cave and hightailed it towards Starbug. Lister turned and hollered at Rimmer, "Rimmer! Get movin'!"

Rimmer seemed to snap out of a reverie. He noted where he stood, yelped, and sprinted for the shore, before his subconscious took over and dropped him ankle-deep into the lake. They pelted their way across the dusty plain to Starbug, almost pushed each other off of the gangway getting aboard, and took off with barely time to strap in first.

Cat, naturally, was aghast at the dirt and sweat on his best cream-colored silk outfit, and headed for the showers in Starbug's meager sleeping cabins to freshen up for an hour or two. Kryten and Lister sat in the two front seats of Starbug, speaking animatedly about the planet, the past inhabitants thereof, and the possible original purpose for the GELF.

This suited Rimmer. It fit him to a smegging tee. He did not want to look at Lister, and Lister was pointedly avoiding looking at him. He sat in the midsection, listening to the rise and fall of their conversation, feeling very much like someone had left the waffle iron on, and would shortly notice the error and switch it off.
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