Categories > TV > Red Dwarf > Cleanup

Default Chapter

by Roadstergal 0 reviews

Set between Rimmerworld and Out Of Time. An adversary who never, ever fights dirty.

Category: Red Dwarf - Rating: PG - Genres: Action/Adventure, Humor - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2006-09-06 - Updated: 2006-09-07 - 2089 words

Quiet. Such a rare thing, since they had become stuck on Starbug, and Lister relished it. It wasn't an absolute quiet - the engines hummed, sending vibrations through the rickety lander, which creaked and moaned in response. But those were bearable noises, gentle noises. They weren't explosions or crashes, screaming fights, or Rimmer's nasal voice sending breathtakingly offensive words floating in his direction.

"Changeover, Listy!"

All too short a bit of silence it had been, too. Lister nodded, but felt a reluctance to move from his comfortable spot, leaning back slightly in the pilot's chair, his boots resting on unimportant areas of console. He took a sip of tea, and as he heard Rimmer settle into the chair behind him, felt like just staying there for a while. Peaceful starlight ahead, tea and comics, Rimmer in the same room - but without sniping, just quietly sharing space.

"Perhaps you didn't hear me, miladdio. Does doing that too often take away hearing as well as eyesight?"

"Ask Rachel," Lister snapped back, then winced. Damn it. They couldn't share a room for ten seconds anymore without bickering. Testy smeghead.

Lister heard the chair behind him creak as Rimmer leaned back. He knew, even before he turned, that Rimmer would have his hands laced over his stomach and would be staring airily at Lister, one eyebrow quirked. "Now, now, Listy, no need to get snippy. Just because she has more taste and class than any of your girlfriends..."

Lister interrupted him by noisily rising from the pilot's seat. "We're out of caramel sauce, so she'll just taste like polyethylene from now on." His placid mood was shot to hell. Rimmer had a way of doing that. The hologram turned to his console as Lister headed to the doorway. Lister turned his head as he was walking though the hatch, and saw the fringe where Rimmer's hair was cropped at his neck; since Rimmer was hard-light now, Lister could annoy him in turn. He flicked that patch of bare neck sharply with his forefinger before entering the midsection.

Rimmer leapt to his feet with an irate yelp, and leaned into the midsection, his mouth opening to spit something back. Lister turned, speaking before Rimmer could. "Oi, you leavin' the cockpit unmanned? That's pretty irresponsible, innit?"

Rimmer twisted his mouth, then pulled back into the cockpit, his voice the only part of him that did not say, "Smegging bastard."

Lister picked his new-to-him guitar up. Thank the stars he had found it on a derelict; it was just about all he had that was truly good, these days. It had been so hard, the two months he had not been able to hear the sweet strains of his songs! When he had found this one, he had run straight back to his room with it, shedding his space-suit to lie on the floor, and written a love ballad right then and there. The others had been moved, when he performed it in the midsection; Rimmer had joyfully proclaimed, "Oh, shit, he found another one."

Kryten waddled in with a tray of food - some indefinable, pale-yellow mush - as Lister gently tuned the guitar. "Lister, don't make me come out and smash that one, too!" Rimmer bellowed from the cockpit. Lister sighed and strummed out one melodic A chord. Kryten suddenly stopped in his tracks.

"Krytes?" Lister asked. He frowned; Kryten stood there, motionless. Lister stood, put the guitar back in the corner, and snapped his fingers in front of Kryten's face. "Kryten!"

The mechanoid seemed to come back to himself with a jerk. He bobbled the tray, managing to finally catch it. "Oh, my apologies, Mister Lister! I think your chord started a bit of resonance that shorted out my cognitive functions." Kryten shook himself, then put the tray down on the table. "Supper, sir; curried Jovian tunabeest with extra turmeric."

Lister grinned and sat down at the table. Their most recent raid had not yielded much, aside from that oh-so-needed guitar, but it had gotten them some halfway decent food, enough for Kryten to space out the nettle casseroles with something a little more edible. He grabbed a forkful and chewed; nicely fiery. "Great food, Kryten!" he said with a grin. Then he frowned. Kryten was shifting uneasily from foot to foot. "What's up?"

"Oh, nothing at all!" Kryten said, far too heartily, with an unnaturally broad smile. "Just..."

"What?" Lister asked, as Kryten trailed off and started to shift again, working his square fingers against each other.

"Well... we can't find Red Dwarf's vapor trail." Kryten whipped out a cloth and started to polish the table, giving the matter far more attention than it deserved.

Lister sighed and pushed his tray away. Damn Rimmer and his cowardice. Damn him, too, for running after the smeghead and rescuing him. Kryten and Cat hadn't been in favor of it. Couldn't he once, just once, leave the smegger to his richly deserved fate? "It got the jump on us while we were picking up Rimmer?"

Kryten hissed out an odd mechano-sigh. "Not /exactly/."

Lister stood, annoyance scraping sharp nails down his spine. "What exactly, Kryten? Spit it out!"

"Well, we can't say for sure what effect passing through the time-hole twice might have had. We might have equalized out the time distortions, and Red Dwarf is just barely out of range. Or one might have dominated, and we're now 600 years early or late."

Lister shook his head. "It's as bad as waiting for a London bus on Saturday night. So we have no idea where and when Red Dwarf is?"

Kryten nodded, his face looking like a set of Legos was about to cry. "Yes, Mister Lister!" he squeaked.

Lister sighed and sat down. He pulled the tray back towards himself. Well, it was done. No sense in letting it ruin his supper.

The meeting in the midsection after he had finished eating was every bit as tense and unpleasant as he predicted. Cat seethed at the loss of his suits, and made references to Rimmer's dubious parentage for his role in depriving Cat of them. He tossed a few shots at Lister, too, for losing the Dwarf in the first place, before stalking out of the midsection with a yowl. Rimmer sneered at his departing back, and said something about the necessity of a strong rearguard defense plan that Lister did not let him finish before telling him to shut his overly large mouth or he'd rip the H off and stick it down Rimmer's throat sideways.

A moment of silence followed that exchange. Lister took a few deep breaths and got his temper reined back in - slightly. Rimmer glared at everything in the midsection, his arms crossed. Kryten fiddled pointlessly with the psi-scan.

"Ah, sirs," Kryten said, finally. "We have been passing by a number of planets without scanning them thoroughly. One of them may now be a more reasonable destination for us, however. We're coming up on a solar system with what looks like an S3 planet - the third one out."

"Ah," Rimmer snapped, "is this like the S3 planet the scanners picked up that turned out to be that lager can Lister had started orbiting the lander after last week's binge?"

"Kryten said he fixed that scanner. It's at least worth a look. If we can find a halfway decent planet to settle on - well, we might just have to call it good. We don't know where or when Red Dwarf is." Lister thought of Holly, alone - or a prisoner, or shut down - and felt like a steaming pile of utter shit. But any direction they went might very well be utterly the wrong one. What good, he wondered for the umpteenth time, would a three-million-years-out-of-date lander that was stuck together with chewing gum be against whatever had hijacked Red Dwarf? Well, he would have given it a shot - but they couldn't find the damn thing.

"Suppose it's swarming with Psirens?" Rimmer groused.

"Suppose it's swarming with six-breasted green alien women? Look on the bright side, Rimmer!"

"At this point, Psirens would be a bright side." Rimmer stood. "/Fine/. Let's take a look."

"Rimmer... the scanners said there were only small fish and algae here." Lister did not like the way Rimmer was waving that bazookoid around, especially considering how closely he was hovering at Lister's back.

"I trust the 'Bug's scanners as much as a plumbing estimate," Rimmer muttered, trying to glance in all directions at once.

Lister sighed, and walked the rest of the way down the gangplank. The ground was soft and squishy, and his footprints filled with water behind him. The planet had showed as a waterworld from above, and it was one, indeed. The island they had landed on was barely large enough to hold the 'Bug. Water stretched out to the horizon in every direction, broken by small hillocks like the one they were on, and a few smaller islands that shot up from the water like lead pencils, the eraser-tip a collection of dripping orange algae. Wet sun filtered through a thick cloud cover.

"This is depressin'," Cat snorted. "This pussy don't like water, and it sure don't like the grey and orange color scheme, either."

Lister nodded. "This is freakin' depressing." He squished his way around the island. It did not take long. "I'd go spare. Let's give it a pass."

"Now, wait just a minute, miladdio!" Rimmer interjected. "Habitable and safe. Do you really think you'll do better?"

Lister spread his arms. "Habitable? Are you smeggin' kiddin' me? What, live in mud huts that sink an inch every day and eat orange algae for the rest of me life? No way, Rimmer. We're movin' on."

Rimmer stood at the base of the gangplank and did not move. "Do you know how rare S3 planets are? Rare as redheaded Chinese men named Edward. It takes a certain distance from the sun and a really big satellite to siphon off the atmosphere. We might never find one again."

"We'll certainly never find another one as depressin' as this. At least, I hope not. I'd rather live on the 'Bug. We're goin'."

He and Cat practically bodily moved Rimmer a few steps up the gangplank before the hologram gave up, with bad grace, and stalked back into the lander. He tossed the bazookoid aside with unnecessary noise. The three of them joined Kryten in the cockpit.

"No go, Krytes!" Lister announced. "Too dismal."

"It was perfectly good," Rimmer muttered. "Too smegging stupid."

Kryten spoke over the tail end of that sentence more loudly. "Please strap in, gentlemen. I have identified another craft approaching this planet, and it might be a good idea to be aloft and ready when we encounter them."

"Another ship?" Lister asked as Cat started to pull them out of the planet's atmosphere. "What kind?"

Rimmer was busy at his station. "It looks like us!"

"Not quite," Kryten replied, tapping at his own console. "It is a Starbug Mark IV; they made a number of improvements to the landers after Red Dwarf left the solar system. What Craft called the Mark IV "The first truly reliable and, dare I say it, useful ship in the Starbug lineup."

"So they can outrun us and outgun us," Lister said, shifting uncomfortably.

"In all likelihood, yes. However, there is no reason to believe their intentions are unfriendly. Ah, they are attempting to communicate." Kryten punched a few buttons, and the screen above his head flickered to life.

All crew members shifted in their seats to catch a view of whoever was on the other ship. Lister hoped they were all as startled as he was to see Kryten's head appear on the screen.

"Greetings, Simulants and hologram!" it said, in a voice with a smooth, precise accent. Ah, not exactly Kryten; this mechanoid sounded like Kryten had before Lister had rebuilt the damaged mechanoid. He had worried about that strange mishmash accent that Kryten had ended up with, but as he had still appeared to function correctly... Lister pushed the thought to the back of his mind as this not-Kryten continued. "It is most delightful to contact you! However, I must apologize for our forthcoming impoliteness. We are the feared Mop Pirates of Baxarquon Six. We will board you and appropriate any useful belongings you have on hand, as well as your fuel. You are quite outclassed, so please do not force us to cause harm to your vessel. It would take ever so long to clean up."
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