This is my first attempt at writing fan fiction. After enjoying Seaview Stories for a year and a half, I decided to contribute, when I saw the challenge that had been made. I drew on stories I had read, other television shows, plus an idea that I had come up with previously that would have the Seaview crew meet the characters from the British hit comedy, Red Dwarf. I even inserted myself into the story. And nowÖ.
It was a Dark and Smegging Night
It was a dark and stormy night, which in itself wouldnít be a problem. But when that dark and stormy night was aboard a spacecraft, it was more than a slight inconvenience.
"Rimmer, you smeghead! This is your worst screw-up yet!" swore David Lister as he staggered across Starbugís cavernous hold. The raging thunderstorm was blowing rain almost horizontally, and Lister cursed as his knee struck a storage bin.
After ducking several lightning bolts and waltzing with a miniature funnel cloud, Lister finally made it to Starbugís control room. As the hatch closed, blocking out the storm, Lister pressed the comm button that summoned Rimmer to the control room. "Let that smegginí hologram have a taste of his own medicine," Lister thought.
"This had better be a bloody big emergency!" snapped Rimmer as he staggered into the room. "I almost lost the remote to my light bee!"
"Just what do you call the maelstrom you started in the hold? At least you could have given us Jamaica when you smegged up the environmental computer!" sneered Lister as he struggled with the manual controls. The electrical discharges from the storm in the hold were playing havoc with Starbugís systems. Lister needed help, and he didnít have time to cuss out Rimmer the way he wanted to, so he summoned Kryten and Cat to the control room. They soon arrived; both soaked to the skin, or in Krytenís case, his artificial epidermal coating.
"I may be three million years evolved, but I still hate to get wet!" sneered Cat as he dropped into his seat. Plopped with a splat was more like it.
"Oh dear. Iím afraid Iíve gotten water into my aural attitude gyros," worried Kryten. With that, he suddenly pitched sideways and began the dry heaves that accompanied the nausea spells he suffered whenever his "inner ears" got wet.
The storm was becoming increasingly violent, expanding beyond the hold to the corridors. The lightning was getting stronger, and the internal hurricane-force winds were stressing the hull. Much more of this, and Starbug would be history-along with its crew.
Lister was getting tired. "I canít hold on to it by myself! I need help!" he gasped as he struggled with the wheel. If Kryten hadnít been rendered senseless by the storm, he would have applied his android strength to the other wheel. Rimmer, his normal craven cowardice overcome by a vestige of Ace Rimmer that was hidden deep inside, stumbled up to the other pilotís seat and released Krytenís belt. Kryten flopped to the deck and Rimmer buckled himself in. Lister was shocked by the transition. Especially the transition from a weak-jawed, brown-haired hologram in a blue Red Dwarf uniform to a hunky blonde in a gold leather jacket, with gold-rimmed aviator style sunglasses. Even the capital "H" on his forehead was gold.
"Ace! Is that you?" asked Lister incredulously.
"Itís me, Dave. Letís get this ship back on course!" Lister and Ace fought the controls, but the storm was too much to handle from the control room. Even Aceís strength, which was equal to Krytenís, wasnít enough.
"Dave, Iím going to have to go back to the environmental computer and shut it down until we can fix it. You can use the emergency oxygen supply up here!" Ace unbuckled himself and stepped gingerly over Krytenís body. Lister gripped his arm.
"Be careful, Ace. We donít want to lose you again," he cautioned.
"Smoke me a kipper, Iíll be back for breakfast," Ace replied with his trademark line. He swaggered as confidently as he could against Starbugís pitching and entered the airlock at the aft end of the control room. It took him several minutes to negotiate the hold and corridors leading to the environmental control room. In a few minutes, he had reset the shipís climate and stabilized the pitching deck. He strode back to the control room to the cheers of Lister, Cat, and a revived Kryten. They traveled along serenely, Ace telling how the danger of the storm in the hold had tripped a synapse in Arnold Rimmerís mind and released him, when Cat started sniffing the air.
"Uh, oh, I smell a wormhole." Everyone new that Catís sense of smell was never wrong, even through airless space.
"Look! There it is!" shouted Lister as he spotted the approaching time-space rift through the viewport. He and Ace shoved the controls in an attempt to pull away from the wormhole. Unfortunately, as a review of the black box would later reveal, Lister pulled his wheel, and Ace pushed his. Their actions cancelled each other out, and Starbug plowed headlong into the phenomenon.
Reality became meaningless. Perceptions were distorted beyond control. Listerís mind drifted off to a shore, where he was sipping fresh mango juice, goldfish shoals nibbling at his toes. Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun. Cat began to purr and lick his hand. Krytenís weakened aural gyroscopes were overloaded again, and he returned to the dry heaves. The one to be hit the worst was the hologram. Ace was again banished to a corner of Arnold Rimmerís mind, and Arnie screamed in pure terror. He flailed wildly, clutching at switches and buttons. His hand struck a red button that was labeled EJECT, and fired the explosive bolts holding the control module to Starbugís main body. The control room had become a lifeboat.
"You smeghead," growled Lister as he was shaken from his reverie. Blackness enveloped everyone.
Seaview had been lazily cruising the surface for the last twenty-four hours. The mission they had completed had been especially dangerous, and the crew was unwinding during the trip back to Santa Barbara. Captain Lee Crane had even permitted sunning on the deck for those so inclined. Several men had set their lawn chairs out, but as the sun neared the western horizon, they had stowed them for the next daysí rays. Lee and his XO, Chip Morton, were on the bridge, watching the first stars appears.
"Chip, do you know of any satellites that are supposed to reenter the atmosphere near our coordinates?" Crane asked. Concern could be heard in his voice, along with curiosity. Morton turned from his spot against the opposite sill of the bridge to see what would prompt Lee to ask such a question. Together, they watched a large fireball slowly descend toward the horizon. Morton now shared his friendís concern. What if a rogue nation had launched a nuclear warhead, or a Space Shuttle was in trouble? Just then Kowalskiís voice came through the speaker.
"Mr. Morton, long range radar shows something entering the atmosphere at about 85 degrees relative, range three hundred miles. It looks pretty big. Morton picked up the mike.
"We see it, Ski. Is it heading toward a populated area?"
"Negative, Sir," Kowalski answered, "itís going to splash down in the ocean."
"What does it look like, Ski?" Crane was still thinking about the rogue warhead or crippled Space shuttle.
"Like nothing Iíve ever seen, sir. Itís spherical, about thirty feet in diameter. If it wasnít staying together Iíd say it was something like the old Echo balloons."
"How massive does it appear to be?" inquired Crane.
"From the size and the trajectory, Iíd guess about thirty or forty tons," Kowalski replied. Crane was relieved because that ruled out a warhead. The shape ruled out the Space Shuttle. So what was it, then? Another extraterrestrial alien attack? Craneís musings were interrupted by a new voice coming from the speaker.
"Lee, this is Nelson." The Admiral had overheard the conversations and had gone forward from his cabin to the Control Room. "Whatever it is, were the only vessel within two thousand miles with a chance to get to it in less than a week. If you take FS1 and fly at max performance, you could get to it in an hour from departure." This excited Crane. He seldom got the chance to "push the envelope" with the Flying Sub, and here was Nelson practically ordering him to do it! He snatched the mike from its clip with a flourish.
"Understood, Admiral. Iíll be ready to leave in ten minutes." He put the mike back into its holder. "Chip, have Sharkey prepare the Flying Sub for immediate launch!"
Fifteen minutes later, Crane and Kowalski were pulling away from Seaview at flank speed. Crane hauled back on the joysticks and put the FS1 into a near-vertical ascent to the surface.
"Skipper, sheís never climbed like this underwater," Kowalski said through gritted teeth. The Flying Sub was ascending like a cork. Even he had never taken it to the surface this quickly.
"You remember what the Admiral said: max performance profile. Weíre gonna find out just what max performance is!" grinned Crane. At that moment they broke the surface and the Flying Sub continued on until its tail actually cleared the waves! They dropped back to the water and Crane stood the vessel on its tail until the engines spooled up to liftoff thrust. They entered a real vertical climb as the nuclear jets reached full power. Mach 1 was quickly exceeded, and the yellow craft streaked across the sky to the accompaniment of a sonic boom.
"Skipper, weíve just passed Mach 2 and weíre still accelerating," noted Kowalski as he glanced at the instruments that gave the craftís status.
"Well, well, the next time Hawke challenges us to race, weíll have to take him on," laughed Crane, "Weíve just passed Airwolfís top speed."
"And we can submerge. Letís see him do that!" added the rating. The friendly rivalry had gone on since they had met on a mission. The "which craft is better" challenge was part of that rivalry.
"I donít know, Ski. Iíve heard that underwater capabilityís on Santiniís list of upgrades," cautioned the captain jokingly. Kowalski snorted. An underwater helicopter! How bizarre! Soon, it was time to begin the descent to the location of the unknown object. Crane backed off on the power levers and pushed the nose down. Since this was a max performance dive, the new speed brakes were deployed to keep the Flying Sub from hitting the oceanís surface at supersonic speed. Kowalski pulled the scanner control down from its nest in the ceiling and peered into the eyepieces. The combination visual/infrared/radar imaging allowed him to view all three spectra simultaneously. It was another of Nelsonís innovations. If he needed it, the same eyepieces aimed and fired the dual lasers.
"Skipper, Iíll be glad when the Admiral replaces this thing with the new goggles heís been working on," commented Kowalski.
"Never mind that, Ski, do you see it?" asked Crane. Kowalski made and adjustment to the handgrip.
"Got it!" he cried. "Itís spherical, with what looks to be a viewport on one side. Itís scorched, but there donít seem to be any burn-throughs. Wait! I see a hatch on the side opposite the viewport. It appears to be roughly human-sized. Skipper! Itís opening!"
Crane immediately nosed the FS1 down and submerged it. If this was an alien invader, he didnít want to be shot out of the sky. Seaview was still several hours away. He adjusted his throat mike and called Nelson.
"Admiral. Iíve put us down about a mile from the object. Ski said he saw what might have been a hatch opening."
"I heard, Lee," Nelson replied. Heíd been monitoring the entire conversation between Crane and Kowaslki. "I want you to stay submerged and approach to within 500 yards. Observe it with the periscope and have Kowaslki lock the mini-torpedoes on it. If it attacks you, blow it out of the water," Nelson ordered, "We will reach your coordinates in approximatelyÖChip?"
"Eight hours and present speed," Morton answered immediately. Seaview was really humping along!
"Just sit tight, Lee. Nelson out."
It was a calm and sunny day when Lister began to regain consciousness. His head felt like it had been detached from his body, run through a clothes dryer, and reattached to his body at an unnatural angle. His mouth tasted like month-old socks, which were normally kept on his feet. He cautiously extended a foot and was greeted by the sound of Rimmer screaming.
"Aarrgh! Get your smegging foot out of my eye!" Rimmer swore.
"Well, itís not like youíll go blind or anything!" Lister retorted. He withdrew his foot, but not until giving it a final shove, with a twist thrown in for good measure. Rimmerís cry of pain was satisfying. It also woke the others up.
"Will my aural gyroscopes ever be normal again?" lamented Kryten. He shook his head experimentally, then smiled when all he heard was a dry rattle, and he didnít start heaving again. Cat sniffed at the air, and spat.
"What?! More water! My wardrobe will never dry out!" he said. He was very worried about his clothes. One thing that had carried on over the three million years of feline evolution was vanity. Instead of constantly licking his fur, Cat was constantly trying more and more outlandish outfits.
"Perhaps those godawful colors will fade out a bit," offered Rimmer. He had recovered his composure, after Listerís boot had so rudely awakened him.
"Thatís easy for you to say, Mr. Lite-Brite! Holograms have no sense of the sartorial, whatsoever," Cat retorted.
"At least I never look like I aÖ."
"Shut up, both of you!" snapped Lister. "Here we are, trapped God knows where, and all you can do is fight like cats and dogs."
"Are you calling me a dog?" Challenged Rimmer hotly. Lister reached over and pressed a button on the small remote control box that Rimmer kept attached to his belt. The hologram disappeared, and a small object fell into his seat. Lister picked up the light bee, spat on it, and tossed it into a corner. Rimmer appeared, his hard light head soundly striking the bulkhead. He slid to the deck, saliva and phlegm running down his face.
"Excuse me, sir," offered Kryten, "Since you have possibly eliminated our chances of ever seeing being rescued by Ace again, donít you think we should investigate our current status, and perhaps do something to save ourselves?"
"Weíre lost, God knows when or where, weíve lost Starbug, and weíre stuck here with nothing but the clothes on our backs," sneered Lister bitterly.
"Just the clothes on our backs?" Cat cried. "Whatíll we do for underwear changes?"
"Well, since neither Rimmer nor Kryten wear underwear, weíll just have to change with each other," replied Lister sarcastically. Cat let out a small sound, like a hiss, and proceeded to lament the loss of his extensive though hideous wardrobe.
Kryten spoke up. "Pardon me sir, if I may remind you, I have worn undergarments on numerous occasions."
"Yeah, on the outside of your body," commented Cat.
"And womenís undergarments, at that," added Lister.
Lister proceeded to deploy the external viewing scope. Since Starbugís collision screens had closed, the viewports were blocked. The periscope-like tube extended from Starbug, which was floating with the waterline about halfway up the side of the spherical hull. He turned in a slow circle, peering at the horizon.
"Where are we?" demanded Cat, "what do you see?"
"We are surrounded by an endless expanse of water," Lister stated.
"Water? Weíve had enough water for nine lifetimes!" Cat sputtered.
"I donít know where we are. We appear to be in the middle of an ocean. The waterís probably not drinkable, and our supplies are pretty limited." Lister continued to scan the surface. "Wait! I see something protruding from the water!" He zoomed on the object that seemed to be peering at them. "It looks like a-a periscope! Somebodyís watching us!" Lister continued to increase the magnification as he focused on the glass plate that was pointing directly at him.
"Skipper! Somethingís extended from the sphere!" Kowaslki shouted as he stepped aside to allow Crane to look for himself. Lee put his eye to the scope and zeroed the crosshairs on the tube that had sprouted from the object.
"Ski! Call the Admiral! It looks like a periscope!" Crane continued to watch the tube slowly rotate as Kowaslki radioed Seaview. Nelson was noticibly excited when he spoke.
"Lee, be careful! It may be some type of laser. You could be blinded," cautioned Nelson.
"Admiral, I donít think so," replied Crane. "It looks a lot like a conventional periscope. Sir-it looks like itís seen us. Itís stopped rotating." Unknown to each other, Crane and Lister locked in a stare. The played dueling periscopes until Crane ordered the flying sub taken down to fifty feet.
"Admiral, it looked like a periscope, and it stopped when it saw our scope. Iím sure they know weíre intelligent," Crane stated.
"How do you know, Lee?" asked Nelson.
"I began moving our periscope, and their scope matched our movements," explained Crane. "First, I raised our scope, and their scope rose, too. Then, I lowered ours till I could barely see above the surface. Theirs went, too. Then I went back to the original height, and so did they. Next, I leaned our scope to the right. Their scope leaned to the right - their left - by the same amount. I was at forty-five degrees, and so were they." Nelson was watching the video footage taken that had been transmitted to Seaview from the Flying Subís camera. He saw Starbugís periscope extend, watched the horizon shift as the picture moved in time to Craneís narration. Anyone observing Nelson would have seen the slight glazing of his eyes and the faint greenish pallor that his face took on. A green color that could have been compared to Mr. Spockís, although it wasnít caused by copper hemoglobin. Crane droned on in his narration of the dance of the periscopes.
"I proceeded to lean our periscope back in the opposite direction, until I had gone about ninety degrees. They followed me as if we were a couple of mimes doing a routine. It reminded me of the ONI mission where I was dressed as a mime in San Francisco. Nelson was beginning to weave gently, and his cheeks puffed a couple of times.
"But I digress," apologized Crane. "The last thing I did was set the periscope in the rapid scan mode, and do a quick three-sixty."
"Excuse me," said Nelson to no one in particular. He slapped a hand over his mouth, hiding cheeks that puffed out like a squirrelís, or the stereotype of a Mafioso, and rushed toward the spiral staircase. He took two steps at a time. A door was heard to slam, followed by a muffled "Hoooooghhhhhhhhh," which was followed by a flush. Nelson slowly and unsteadily descended the spiral staircase, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief. After a couple shots of breath spray, he picked up the microphone just as Crane finished his monologue.
"I think youíre right, Lee," agreed Nelson weekly, "and whoever was turning it definitely saw us. Since our secrecy is gone, weíd might as well try to contact them. Lee, I want you to try to raise the sphere. Use radio, underwater sonic phone, even semaphore."
"Aye, sir," replied Crane. Kowalski took the FS-1 back to its previous depth, and Crane activated the same periscope that he had been using when Lister saw him. He found the sphere and waited until its scope extended again, and rotated until it stopped. He had been sighted again.
"Ski, start broadcasting on all hailing and sideband frequencies. And also start the semaphore," Crane ordered. Kowalski acknowledged the order and turned on the appropriate devices. The radio would broadcast in several frequencies, the sonophone in both ultra and subsonics, and the semaphore would translate Craneís work into flashes of Morse code.
"Attention, sphere. This is Captain Lee Crane of the submarine Seaview. We mean you no harm. Please reply."
"Aaargh! Iím blind!" screamed Lister as he dove from the telescope and slapped his hands over his eyes. The semaphoreís blinking had stabbed his retina with a thousand needles. As he rolled on the floor and moaned, Rimmer, who had revived and promptly attempted to assume command, stepped over Listerís writhing form. He would have spat, had he been capable of spitting, but had to content himself with a sneer and a look of total disgust. He took over the periscope and adjusted the brightness to a comfortable level. Even to his holographic "eyes", the light was bright.
"It appears to be a code of some kind," commented Rimer as he tried to decipher the flashes. "We Ė mean Ė harm. WE MEAN HARM!! W have to get out of here!" Everyone aboard, including the still-writhing Lister, was immediately glad that Rimmer was a hologram. Had he still been human, he would have certainly ruined his pants in the cramped confines of Starbugís control room. The smell would have been deadly!
"Pardon me, sir. Allow me to confirm that," asked Kryten, "after all, I am programmed with three-thousand, seven-hundred and fourteen visual languages, including light, flags, sign language, nasal flutteringÖ"
"Shut up, already!" snapped Rimmer. "Iíll have you know that that I am highly skilled in visual communicationÖ"
"You are? Then translate this!" muttered Lister, gesturing from the floor. What he asked Rimmer to translate is, unfortunately, impossible to mention in a PG-rated story. However, Rimmer was not amused.
Kryten had meanwhile taken a look at the flashing signal from FS-1ís periscope.
"I believe," announced Kryten, "that they are telling us that they mean us no harm.
"I was about to say that," huffed Rimmer.
"Iíll mean you harmÖ." muttered Lister, still on the floor.
"They are also saying that they welcome us to the planetÖ" Kryten paused.
"Go on, what planet?" demanded Rimmer.
"Still no response from them," sighed Crane. Kowalski, who had been monitoring the radio, spoke up excitedly.
"Sir! Iím getting a high-frequency signal from them! Human speech!"
"Is it understandable?" Crane asked.
"Sir, itís in English," Kowaslki replied, looking up from the control panel. Crane snatched the mike from its cradle and keyed it.
"Attention, unidentified vessel. This is Captain Lee Crane of the submarine Seaview. Please identify yourselves." The speaker crackled.
"Attention, Captain Crane. This is Arnold Rimmer, commanding the spaceship Red Dwarf," came the nasal voice from the speaker. There sounded something like a scuffle. A slap, followed by a girlish "ouch" was heard, followed by a second voice muttering a work that sounded like "smeghead." The second voice spoke up.
"Is this really Earth?" the voice asked.
"It is. To whom am I speaking?" replied Crane.
"David Lister. Donít pay attention to Rimmer. Heís been dead for three million years, and besides, heís a smeghead." Crane and Kowalski looked at each other. Kowalski pointed his index finger at his ear, and began to move it in a circle while rolling his eyes, Marty Feldman-style. Crane keyed the mike again.
"I think weíd better get together and discuss this," he told Lister, "Weíll be right over."
Crane strapped himself back into the pilotís seat, and started the Flying Subís engines. The manta-shaped craft rose to the surface and pointed toward the floating globe.
"Ski, break out the lasers. We donít know what weíre facing, and we donít want them to get the jump on us."
The Starbug crew watched the Flying Sub approach on the one remaining video monitor.
"What is that thing?" asked Rimmer? He was universally ignored, as a result of his previous outburst. Had they been on the intact Starbug, the other three would have moved to another part of the ship. But since that wasnít an option now, they shut the hologram out of their collective mind.
"It has to be a submarine, since it came out of the water," commented Lister to nobody in particular, "but it looks like it could fly."
"A flying submarine? That beacon must have fried your brain!" replied Rimmer.
"At least Iíd have a brain to fry," retorted Lister.
"Mr. Lister has a point," countered Kryten, "hydrodynamics and aerodynamics are closely related, and that craft is very hydrodynamic. Given enough thrust, it is quite possible that flight could be achieved."
"Youíre only saying that because youíre all against me!" huffed Rimmer.
"Did you hear that, everyone?" Lister sounded amazed. "Rimmer finally got something right!" The derogatory laughter was interrupted by a soft clang. A look at the monitor showed that the yellow craft had opened a door in its upper skin, and had attached a magnetic plate of some sort to Starbugís hull. Admiral Nelsonís latest invention, the magnetic station keeper, was being employed. A magnetic generator on board the FS1 was emitting a beam at the plate attached to Starbug. The polarity was reversed as necessary to maintain a set distance. As they watched, a hatch in the top of the craft opened. A minute later, a figure emerged. He had dark hair, and was dressed in khaki uniform similar to those Lister had seen in programs from Red Dwarfís library. The figure appeared to be unarmed. He waved at the camera, and appeared to say something. Kryten, who had plugged himself in to Starbugís data bus, gave a command for the external microphone to be activated.
"Ahoy there! Please open the hatch!" Lister began to open the small escape hatch located in the ceiling.
"You canít just open the door to any stranger!" protested Cat.
"Well, we could just sit here until we either die of starvation, or our batteries run out, or weíre poisoned by each otherís underwear," replied Lister sarcastically. He opened the hatch, and stuck his head out. For several moments, he and Crane stared, sizing each other up. Lister ducked back into Starbug, and reappeared with a rope ladder, which he threw to Crane. In a few minutes, Crane was aboard. Introductions commenced.
"Iím Captain Lee Crane, commander of the research submarine Seaview," Crane said, as he extended his hand.
"Iím Dave Lister. Is that Seaview out there?"
"Heavens, no! Thatís just an auxiliary craft. Itís normally berthed aboard Seaview, which is a much larger vessel."
"Welcome aboard Starbug, Captain Crane-or whatís left of it." Lister cast a contemptuous glance at Rimmer. "This is Arnold Rimmer, the smeghead who spoke first, and the person who got us here. Rimmer offered his hand, and Crane noticed that it had an unusual feel to it, with an indeterminate texture.
"What does the H on your forehead stand for?" asked Crane.
"It stands for "hologram", Captain," replied Rimmer.
"Oh. I see. I was thinking that it might have meant Honda," Crane replied.
"And what, may I ask, is a "Honda"," asked Rimmer. He was sure that it was a term Crane used for "hero."
"Itís a Japanese automobile," replied Crane. This brought sniggers from the other occupants of the craft. Crane dismissed this.
"Youíre." he said, turning to Kryten.
"Kryten, Captain Crane," replied Kryten, taking Leeís hand. He noticed Craneís curious look, and decided to explain himself. "Iím and android, sir. I assume that youíve never seen one?"
"Oh, Iíve seen some things in my time," answered Crane. He turned to the Cat last.
"Iím Cat," said Cat.
"Pleased to meet you, Cat." Crane noticed the sharp canine teeth, and felt the clawlike fingernails. He would have to speak to Jameison about this one. The last thing Seaview needed was another Braddock incident.
Having completed the introductions, Crane pulled a tiny communicator from his belt and contacted Kowalski. He was told that Seaview was in the area, and should be surfacing next to them in just a few minutes. And just to impress the visitors, Morton was going to have Seaview perform a maximum rate ascent.
"GentlemÖerr, if you would watch the screen," Crane said, barely keeping a smile in check. He watched the others as they watched the monitor.
The calm surface of the ocean exploded as a gray-and-white form erupted from the depths. The pointed Observation Nose climbed almost a hundred feet in the air, before gently settling to the surface. The roiling waves subsided as the mighty submarine Seaview glided to a stop, revealed in all her glory. Crane enjoyed the shocked, incredulous looks from the Dwarfers. Even the android Kryten had an open-mouthed gape. He excused himself to the tiny head, apologizing for the sudden purging of his onboard waste fluid receptacles. Crane scratched his head at that, one, but the others laughed and pointed at the android. Obviously, they knew what he meant.
On board Seaview, all hands were quiet as they watched the Flying Sub and Starbug. They knew that Captain Crane was in there with the occupants, and were concerned, even though he had a laser pistol in the garter holding up his right sock. Crane had been concealing lasers in his garter ever since Mardi Gras. While on a mission for ONI, he had to enter the celebration in drag, and had stuck a laser in the garter belt that had held up his black fishnet stockings. His ankle still twinged occasionally from the time his high heel got caught in a pavement crack.
"Holy Ship!" exclaimed Lister; "sheís incredible."
"Well, Iíve never called her "holy," but she is pretty good," replied Crane. "Címon, the Admiralís waiting. Letís board the Flying Sub and go over."
"But whatíll we do about our capsule? Are you just going to let it sink, and strand us here?" demanded Rimmer.
"Rimmer, shut your smegging mouth and let Lee handle it. Weíre his guests. I donít think youíd find it possible to express a bit of gratitude for having been rescued?" challenged Lister. Crane cocked his eyebrow at having been called by his first name, but he let it go. TheseÖguysÖ had been through a harrowing experience.
"Actually, weíll be able to store it in the missile room," Crane replied. In the past, an object this large would have had to be lashed to the hull, but the new clamshell doors that Nelson had designed allow a much larger opening without sacrificing hull integrity. "It should be secure in about an hour." The Dwarfers followed Crane down the rope ladder and into FS1. There were only five seats for the six occupants. Lister produced a handful of straws, which he and his crewmates selected from.
"Why do I always get the short straw?" complained Rimmer.
"Because you are a smeghead," answered Lister as he fumbled with the straps to his chair. When everyone was secure, Kowalski took the Flying Sub down. Further introductions came on the short trip to Seaview, and Ski found himself taking a liking to Lister. He didnít know why. Lister had been overly familiar with the captain, calling him "Lee." His clothes were stained with food, and he reeked of spice. But Ski got the impression that he was a nice guy nonetheless. Rimmer was another matter. He was stuffy, self-important, and was a whiner. Kowalski didnít like him, so, occasionally, he would flick the control grip ever so slightly. The Flying Sub would rock, and Rimmer, being unsecured, would bounce off of a bulkhead with a satisfying thud. Cat, now, was a contradiction, his apparent fastidiousness at odds with his ungodly fuschia suit with gold lame trim and black velvet stovepipe slacks, with pointed black boots. Kryten was hard to figure. His appearance was non-human, and he was very deferential to his crewmates, like a butler. Rimmer treated him worse than Lister treated Rimmer. But, if Rimmer was actually dead, as Lister had said, what did it matter? Let the brass deal with these loonies. He concentrated on piloting the Flying Sub. Suddenly, Cat began sniffing the air in the same manner as he did when he discovered the wormhole.
"I smell something fishy," he warned, "but itís not any fish Iíd want on my plate. Itís big!"
"I only smell a sub full of wet misfits," thought Kowalski to himself. What he said was, "How can you smell something outside the hull?"
"Iím a cat thatís evolved three million years, thatís how!" answered Cat proudly. "And I smell trouble! BIG trouble!"
"Kryten. Can you see anything?" asked Lister. Krytenís eyes had telescoped about six inches out from his head, and were scanning the view outside the FS1ís windows. They moved independently of each other, and were currently about ninety degrees apart in both the horizontal and vertical planes.
Kowalski, meanwhile, had broken out the mini-binoculars that Admiral Nelson had designed. At four inches long, the optical instrument as effective as a pair twice their length.
"See anything, Ski?" Crane asked, having taken control of FS1.
"Thereís a large shape about seventy-five yards dead ahead," Ski answered. Kryten could not see what Ski was seeing. That was not an acceptable situation, so the mechanoid took steps to correct it. Ski looked at Krytenís instrument, then at his own, and thought, enviously, "Boy, I wish I had his equipment."
"I see something approaching the Seaview, sir," stated Kryten. He had swung his left eye around to be parallel with the right. Both were now about forty-five degrees off-center, and had telescoped further, to about ten inches in length. "It looks like what I think you would call a "giant squad.í
Crane squeezed his throat mike frantically.
"Admiral! You have a giant squid heading right toward you!" Crane called. The Flying Sub had gotten close enough to see the immense invertebrate. It was perhaps a fourth of Seaviewís length. It was moving on the sub, itís tentacles opening to embrace the boat.
"Close collision doors!" ordered Morton. The opaque herculite panels slid into place over the transparent windows of the Observation Nose. Just before they covered the windows, Morton got a glimpse of the parrot-like beak that looked like it could penetrate Seaviewís hull. Nelson came down the spiral staircase.
"Chip!" he snapped. "Can we put a charge through the hull?"
"Not yet, sir," replied Morton, "the reactorís only charged the capacitors to sixty percent. Itíll be ten more minutes."
"I donít think we have a ten more minutes," said Patterson. He was watching the hull pressure gauge, and saw the pressure increasing as the squid began to grasp Seaview. "The way the pressureís rising, weíll reach the equivalent of crush depth in five minutes." Nelson heard this and headed aft at a full run. Several crewmen were knocked aside like tenpins, and crashed into various panels. Fortunately, the main monitor screen wasnít hit. That would have sent them to the bottom. Nelson continued his rush to the reactor room, bouncing off of walls, frames, and rails like a pinball. He was going to be covered in bruises after this. Oh, well, no worse that a typical household argument!
Nelson arrived at the Reactor Room three minutes later. Ripping a radiation suit from its hanger, he jumped into the garment and entered the reactor area itself. Wasting no time, Nelson began to pull the control rods from the reactor. The rods glowed a fluorescent pink as he extracted them from the reactor block. The steady hum of the reactor became an urgent throb. The temperature gauges climbed rapidly to the red zone, and the amperage produced by the turbines rose in proportion as they were hit by more superheated steam. Nelson clumsily reached for the microphone on the wall.
"Chip! Do it now!" he ordered.
"You heard the Admiral! Engage!" ordered Morton. Bob OíBrien, the Second Officer, clutched the handle of the great three-pole switch labeled "Hull Charge Switch". He threw the switch home, and the boatís lights dimmed. Morton was glad that the collision doors were closed. The flash of the hull charge would have blinded the Control Room staff. In fact, thatís the primary reason that Nelson had designed the collision doors. Seaview lurched back and forth, sending the crew from one wall to another. Two crewmen were knocked unconscious when they collided, having come from opposite directions. Morton made a mental note to discipline them for failing to observe the Violent Roll Procedure. After a few seconds, the rolling and the electrocution sounds ceased, and Seaview returned to an even keel. OíBrien opened the collision doors in time to afford a view of several burnt tentacles sliding down.
Collision screens did not hinder the view from the Flying Sub. The entire incident was witnessed by all. Only the automatic darkening of the windows saved everyoneís eyesight-everyoneís except Rimmerís, that is. When the squid was first sighted, he had climbed into the bunk and curled into a ball, whining that he was too young to meet his end on an unknown Earth. Lister replied sarcastically that heíd met his end three million years earlier. He was no great loss then, and heíd be even less of one now.
"Wow, look at all that calimari," said Cat wistfully. He licked his lips noisily. "Canít we go after some of that?" he asked.
"I donít think so," replied Crane. "Weíve seen too many of those things in our time. Ski, take us home." Kowalski acknowledged the order and turned the Flying Sub toward its berth in the nose of Seaview. The Dwarfers watched in awe as the white belly of the great submarine glided by overhead. A sliver of darkness appeared as the sliding door to the Flying Sub berth
began to open. When the docking bay was fully open, Kowalski expertly guided the FS1 to a gentle hookup with its mother ship.
"Let me be the first to welcome you aboard the SSRN Seaview," Crane announced. Overhead, the hatch in the ceiling opened. Kowalski was the first to exit the craft, followed by Lister, the barely mobile Rimmer, Cat, Kryten, and Crane. Nelson had ordered several crewmen from the Master-At-Arms to form a small honor guard around the hatch to the Flying Sub. Their lasers were worn prominently in holsters. The real reason that he had summoned them was to keep the visitors under control. The "honor guard" was a convenient excuse to have them. The Control Room staff had seen the Dwarfers on the TV monitor. They didnít look dangerous, but, with all the aliens that had tried to capture of sink Seaview, they would take no chances. Nelson, Morton, OíBrien, and Sharkey were in the Observation Nose, surrounding the hatch that led to the Flying Sub.
The hatch opened, and Crane was the first to climb out. The Starbug crew would disembark one at a time, with Crane announcing them to the Seaview.
"Welcome home, Lee," greeted Nelson, "did our "guests" make it OK?"
"Aye, sir," replied Crane, "and here they are, now. David Lister, meet Admiral Harriman Nelson, designer, builder, and owner of Seaview." Nelson extended his hand.
"Pleased to meet you, Admiral," Lister said. "Please pardon the fact that things aboard Starbug are a bit less formal than on Seaview." Lister was referring to his patched and stained tatters of a uniform. Discipline was the last thing on Listerís mind, and his dress showed it. His jacket was torn and threadbare. His T-shirt was spotted with curry stains that he would not allow Kryten to wash out. Jump pants that did not match the jacket and filthy sneakers completed his "uniform."
The next to board Seaview was Rimmer. Nelson was impressed at his crisp, clean uniform. The Red Dwarf shoulder patch was at least readable. His hair was neatly trimmed, as opposed to Listerís ponytail, and his clean-shaven face was much more acceptable than Listerís three-day-old stubble. Rimmer noticed Nelsonís look of approval.
"Mr. Rimmer," Nelson inquired, "are you in fact the commander of Red Dwarf, or Starbug, or whatever your vessel is called?"
"Why, Admiral, in fact IÖ" Rimmer started.
"Heís a Technician Fourth Class," interjected Lister, "whoís job aboard Red Dwarf was to service the vending machines. That is, until he caused a radiation leak that killed himself and everybody else, but me."
"And thatís only because you had been sentenced to stasis for smuggling contraband," Rimmer countered.
"And if it wasnít for that "contraband," I wouldnít be here," stated the Cat.
"Which is enough reason for him to go back into stasis," smirked Rimmer.
"QUIET!" barked Nelson. "There will be no bickering allowed on my ship! Is that CLEAR?" A muttered chorus of "Yes, Sirs," came from Lister, Rimmer, and Cat. But Nelson hadnít forbidden icy stares, and the three exchanged them.
"And this, sir, is Kryten," said Crane. Nelson looked him over carefully, taking in the angular, block-shaped head and kinky black vinyl suit. Crane went on. "Mr. Kryten is a service mechanoid."
"And what is that?" asked Nelson.
"A butler, sir," Lee answered.
"What were your duties, Mr. Kryten?" Nelson asked the mechanoid.
"Provide care and assistance to the Messrs. Lister, Rimmer, and Cat, sir," explained Kryten, "performing such tasks as cooking, cleaning, washing clothes-except for Mr. Lister, who did not like me to wash his undershirts."
"So I see," said Nelson dryly. He introduced Francis Sharkey, the Chief of the Boat, and, and ordered him to assign the guests to quarters. Since he saw how Lister and Rimmer despised each other, he didnít know whether to have Sharkey put them together, which would serve them right for their outburst, of separate them, to keep a semblance of peace aboard Seaview. In the end, he let Sharkey decide. Thatís what Nelson paid him for.
Meanwhile, the Command Module of Starbug had been maneuvered to a point beneath Seaviewís Missile Room. At Mortonís order, the large doors opened. At a point where the upper surface of the hull strake joined the skin of the submarine, the underbelly of the boat opened. The gaping opening was nearly as wide as the hull. Starbug was then winched up into the hyperbarically pressurized hold, and the doors closed. When the pressure returned to normal, Nelson, Crane, and Morton inspected the blackened object.
"My God, they crossed space in that?" Nelson gaped as he inspected the blackened and dented hull of Starbugís Control Sphere. The green paint was scorched by the entry into Earthís atmosphere. Where the explosive bolts had detonated, black smudges circled the rear hatch. A plate similar to Seaviewís collision doors covered the long viewport. The logo "STARBUG 1" was barely visible.
"Are there more than one of these things?" Nelson mused as he read the vesselís name.
"Lister told me that there are several of them normally carried aboard Red Dwarfí" answered Crane as he entered the hold.
"Just what is Red Dwarf?" asked Nelson.
"Lister told me that itís a mining ship, owned by a Jupiter Mining Company," replied Crane, "thatís built from a hollowed-out asteroid. It was equipped with a stardrive and sent to find exploitable planets for their Earth and Solar System."
"And theyíre the crew?"
"And theyíve been in space three million years?" Nelson was skeptical.
"From their twenty-third century, yes," explained Crane. "Lister has a normal life span, but he was placed in cryogenic suspended animation for smuggling aboard contraband."
"Was that the cat I heard mentioned?" asked Nelson. This story was getting unreal, and he wanted to confirm every part of it.
"Yes, Sir. In fact the person they call "Cat" is actually evolved from that original, smuggled cat, which was pregnant. They developed a civilization that worshipped Lister as God." Crane could tell when Nelson ran his hand along the side of his head, that he was having difficulty with this. Even with all the things that he had seen in his years aboard Seaview, some things were just too fantastic to accept face on.
"And where does Rimmer fit in?" demanded Nelson.
"Rimmer was a vending machine technician who created a massive radiation leak. It killed everybody but Lister, and caused a mutation in the cat and its kittens, which started their evolution to the present form. Rimmer was killed by the radiation, too."
"Then how is he here?"
"Heís a hologram, originally created by the Red Dwarfís computer when Lister was revived. Thatís why he has a large "H" in the middle of his forehead."
"Why Rimmer, though? He and Lister hate each otherís guts," commented Nelson sourly.
"They were roommates," answered Crane, "and hated each other then. The computer didnít take this into account when it recreated Rimmer. Rimmer has physical substance because a creature with and advanced technology created a "hard light" generator."
"And Kryten?" Nelsonís temples were throbbing visibly.
"He was picked up on a planet. They found him acting as butler for two women who had been dead for centuries. They took him in, and heís been like a butler to them."
"And howíd they get here?" hazarded Nelson. The pain behind his eyes was agony. Never in his career had he heard such an outrageous story.
"Wormhole," replied Crane. "That, and Lister and Ace struggled over the controls."
"Ace! Whoís Ace?" Nelsonís vision was getting red at the edges. His blood pressure must be skyrocketing. "My God, donít tell me thereís another one!" his thoughts echoed. In face, the last word went, "one-one-one-oneÖ.."
"Ace is and alter ego of Arnold Rimmer," Crane patiently explained. He could see that Nelson was stressed to the limit. "He was originally from another space-time continuum, and he met the Dwarfers. He later died and told Arnold that he would have to carry on the tradition of being Ace. See, there is one Ace Rimmer in one universe at a time, and itís this Rimmerís turn to be Ace." Crane wanted to go on and explain that Ace is everything that Arnold isnít, but he could see that his friend was about to blow. "Sir, I think Iíd better return to the Control Room. I hope you sleep well, Admiral."
"Thanks, Lee. Good Night," said Nelson tiredly. The migraine was overwhelming. He needed a drink, a smoke, and a good nightís sleep. He waved to Crane and headed toward his quarters.
Nelson woke up refreshed, with no sign of last eveningís tension headache. He felt ready to deal with the misfits from space, and headed to the wardroom for some coffee and breakfast. He passed the crewís mess, where Stu Riley was already picking his guitar and singing beach songs. That man could play his guitar and sing at any hour of the night! This time, Dave Lister was singing along. His off-key crooning reminded Nelson of Kruegerís moaning that he wanted the body of some woman for his dead sweetheart, Lani. They had just finished a medley, when Lister noticed the buttons on Rileyís guitar.
"Hey, Stu, what are those buttons," asked Lister.
"Those were installed by Admiral Nelson," replied Riley proudly, "and they let me choose any of a number of instruments. Listen!" Riley pressed a button, and played the intro to Rod Stewartís "Maggie Mae" on the mandolin. He pressed a button, and played the intro to Ted Nugentís "Cat Scratch Fever."
"Hey! Thatís neat! Can I try?" pleaded Lister. Riley gave him the guitar
"Whatcha gonna play?" asked Riley.
"How bout "Stairway to Heaven", Stu?" asked Lister. The applause of the men was answer enough. He fingered the neck of the guitar, and set the pick to the strings. The sound that came forth made Nelson think of a tomcat being neutered, without the aid of an anesthetic. It was the most horrible noise he had ever heard. Never again would he be critical of Rileyís playing. Covering his ears, he staggered toward the Observation Nose, his appetite suddenly gone.
"Good Morning, Admiral," said Chip Morton. He had poured a cup of coffee for himself, and proceeded to get a cup for Nelson.
"Morniní, Chip," muttered Nelson. He took the coffee and plopped down into one of the overstuffed chairs that were in the Nose.
"Didnít sleep well?" Asked Morton. Nelson replied that had had nightmares about the Starbug crew. In one, Lister was singing and playing his guitar over the P.A. system. He kept singing, "Iíll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," over and over again. In another, he was at home with Karen and Sean. Somehow, the Cat had shown up at the Nelsonís house, and Karen had adopted him as a pet. The worst part of it was that Sean had started dressing in a miniature version of Catís fuschia jacket and black velvet stovepipe slacks. The least frightening, but most embarrassing, dream was one of Kryten becoming his personal valet. It was actually a good dream until the part where Nelson was in Jiggs Starkeís office. Kryten had stormed into the meeting accusing Nelson of not noticing what Kryten was doing because Nelson had not worn the pair of underwear that Kryten had pressed especially for the meeting. Nelson could barely recount to Morton the most horrible dream, the one that cast Rimmer as the Seaviewís Captain! Rimmer was a swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood. Why, his ego was even bigger than James T. Kirkís! Morton winced at that one, remembering the time warp that had flung them together with the senior officers of the starship Enterprise, and the Pem-like beings, Mr. Allen and Mr. Roddenberry.
"Sorry to hear that, Admiral," consoled Morton. Before he gave Nelson his coffee, he unlocked a cabinet door under the coffeemaker, and extracted a small bottle of Irish whiskey. He poured what must have been a double-shot into Nelsonís coffee, and the Admiral downed it in a few swallows.
"Thanks, Chip. I needed that," smiled Nelson as the warmth of the alcohol coursed through him. He ate the breakfast that a crewman had brought him, the Irish coffee having restored his appetite.
"Lee is taking our guests on a tour of Seaview today," offered Morton, "would you care to join them?"
"No-no, thank you, Chip, but I have a lot of work in the lab to do. Iíll be replaying the radar tapes of Starbugís entry into the atmosphere, and maybe I can find the missing part of the ship." With that, Nelson took his leave of his XO and went to work.
Nelson was so busy with his researches, that he had missed lunch. He had left orders not to be disturbed, so his usual plate of sandwiches had not been served. He left the lab with a good idea of where the rest of Starbug was, and a growling in the pit of his stomach. He headed to the wardroom, where he was nearly knocked off his feet by what he saw. Someone had turned the wardroom into something like a fine restaurant. White linen cloths covered the tables. Candles were on the tables; having been set in ashtrays that had been polished until the aluminum looked like silver. Anemones, corals, and other assorted sea plants had been assembled into floral arrangements, two to a table. The tableware had been polished to the same level as had the ashtray/candleholders, and was wrapped in linen napkins. Most of the Command staff was there, and a place at the head of the table was left open for Nelson. And around the room, Kryten was hustling with a speed few human waiters could match. His wore a tuxedo that he had made that very day from material scraps donated by the crew. He was seating the staff, pouring water, and getting coffee and other drinks. The Dwarfers were seated at a table with OíBrien and Sparks. When Kryten saw Nelson, he quickly finished his tasks, and rushed to the doorway.
"Good Evening, Admiral Nelson," said Kryten as he bowed deeply. He consulted what appeared to be one of Seaviewís logbooks, which was resting on the small podium that was used for guest speakers. It was being used as a guestbook.
"Ahh, here you are, sir," crowed the mechanoid, when he saw Nelsonís name on the hastily-but-professionally-written
"guest register." He led Nelson to the head of the table and seated him.
"Whatís going on here?" demanded Nelson. Crane, who was seated to his left, spoke up.
"Well, sir, the crew of Red Dwarf want to show their appreciation for having been rescued. Kryten appears to have extensive culinary programming, and he wanted to cook dinner for the Command Staff."
"How did he convince Cookie to let him use the galley?" Nelson asked as he sipped his water. It had a trace of lemon, and lacked the distilled tastelessness of the Seaviewís desalinated water supply.
"He made a Caesar salad out of seaweed for lunch," explained Crane, "and didnít tell anybody. When the crew started asking Cookie where he got the fresh leaf lettuce, he was convinced of Krytenís skill, and gave him permission to cook dinner. Sharkey "volunteered" several of the crew to come up with the stuff to decorate with. Kryten did the actual decoration."
At that moment Kryten brought the salad. It was more of the seaweed Caesar salad, and Nelson couldnít tell that it wasnít leaf lettuce, either. While the salad was being enjoyed, the mechanoid bent over and whispered something in Craneís ear. The Seaviewís Captain, rose, took his table knife and rapped the side of his water goblet. It rang like fine crystal. While Crane waited for everyone to give him their attention, Nelson leaned forward and asked Morton where the crystal goblets came from.
"Kryten made them, Sir," Morton answered. Nelsonís raised eyebrows brought an explanation from Morton. "He made them in the blast furnace thatís kept in Lab 2. He blew them himself, adding lead from bullets the Master-at-Arms donated for the purpose." Nelson silently complimented the androidís skill and resourcefulness. Crane was ready to speak.
"Gentlemen, the crew of Red Dwarf has prepared this banquet for us to show their appreciation for having been rescued from the surface of the ocean. I believe that Mr. Lister has a few words to say. Dave?"
"Thank you, Lee. Admiral Nelson, Cat, Kryten, Rimmer, and I are profoundly grateful to you and the crew of the Seaview for saving our lives out there," Lister began. He had cleaned up as well as he could. He was clean-shaven, his ponytail was combed and his uniform had been cleaned and repaired, probably by Kryten. He was actually wearing a white dress shirt in place of the food-stained undershirt that he favored! "We would like to show you our appreciation by putting on this dinner for you." With that, he sat back down and devoured the rest of his salad. Nelson too returned to savoring his salad.
Kryten next brought the soup, which was made of kelp, but was delicately flavored. It, too, did not have the seaweed taste of aroma so normally prevalent in kelp. Everyone voiced their praises of the cooking ability of the mechanoid. Nelson glanced over at the table where Rimmer, Lister, and the Cat were dining with Sparks and OíBrien. Rimmer didnít need food, but he was able to enjoy it, thanks to his "hard-light" form. He was actually having a good time. Cat, though, wasnít.
"When are going to get to the meat?" complained the feline. "Cats are not herbivorous."
"You donít want your soup and salad?" Lister asked hopefully. When Cat turned his nose up at the courses, he said, "Can I have them, then?" Cat waved dismissively at his soup and salad, which Lister took as a yes. He began to consume the food.
Nelson sat watching Cat and thought, "Iím glad Lucius Emory isnít here. He hates cats, and would be bugging me to let him feed Cat to his sharks." Nelson could just imagine Emory bothering him at all hours, knock, knock, knocking at his cabin door, pleading, "Harry, can I feed the cat to my sharks? Huh? Can I? Can I?" Lord knows he did it often enough back at NIMR. Every stray tom of tabby was potential shark food. If Nelson were to consent, God, what a scandal! What a lawsuit from the animal-rights people, not to mention fines from the state of California for animal cruelty! His train of thought was abruptly derailed by Arnold Rimmerís loud criticism of Dave Listerís eating habits.
"Good Lord, you act as if youíve never seen food!" snorted Rimmer in disgust.
"Look, I have three million years of going hungry to make up for," Lister said in his own defense. He reached into his jacket and pulled out the ever-present bottle of curry sauce. He didnít eat anything without first seasoning it with the spice. He now sprinkled it over the salad, and into the soup. Sparks and OíBrien eyed the seasoned food.
"Hey, let me try that," said Sparks. Lister handed him the bottle. He tried it tentatively in his soup, and took a sip.
"This is great, Dave!" he proclaimed. OíBrien took the sauce and dashed it on his salad. Very heavily.
"Yee-haa!" he screamed as the curry burned his tongue, mouth, and lips. Lister, Sparks, and the rest of the wardroom laughed as he gulped first his glass of water, then Sparksí, then Listerís.
Kryten approached Nelsonís table with a covered tray, and set it in front of Nelson. He removed the lid. Nelson took a bite of the white, flaky meat. It was definitely lobster, but it was the best lobster that he had ever tasted in his life! It was delicately spiced with curry. It melted in his mouth, and left him wanting more. Everyone in the wardroom watched him sample the first serving of the seafood. Cat was positively drooling, his tongue licking over his pointed canine teeth. Nelson raised his glass to propose a toast. The others raised theirs in reply.
"My compliments to the chef! Kryten, this is superb!" praised Nelson. The mechanoid bowed deeply, embarrassed by the accolades.
"Why-why, thank you, Admiral Nelson." Stuttered Kryten. "I am honored by your appreciation of my humble efforts."
"Humble, indeed! Never has such cuisine graced this boat," continued Nelson. He returned to savoring the meat. Everyone who tasted it agreed wholeheartedly. It was the best lobster to have ever crossed their lips.
Crane was enjoying his dinner immensely. Never had he seen such huge lobster tails! Why, they were so big, they didnít look like tails at all. They were more like large servings of an immense lobster tail. Crane became curious, and excusing himself, questioned Kryten about the source of the lobster meat.
"Where did you find this lobster, Kryten?" asked Crane.
"Why, in the freezer, Captain," answered Kryten.
"The gold one, in the walk-in."
"Howíd you open it?" Crane was very curious. That "freezer" had been electronically sealed, and even the Admiral couldnít figure it out. He was also getting a slightly queasy feeling in his stomach, knowing what the content of the "freezer" was.
"I had to use a subspace code to unlock it," answered Kryten innocently. "I was unaware of the development of subspace radio technology in your time period."
By now Crane was rapidly losing his appetite. The "freezer" that Kryten had unsuspectingly opened was the space capsule of the Lobster Man, the humanoid crustacean that had held the Admiral prisoner, and nearly sank the Seaview when he struck the viewscreen in the Control Room. And now the alien was the main course! It was a sick sort of poetic justice, one that Crane could barely keep down. He chose to withhold the truth from the Admiral and the others: no reason to spoil their dinners. Besides, Kryten had gone to such lengths to put on this meal, that he didnít have the heart to risk crushing the mechanoidís spirit. He excused himself, giving the reason that there were no senior staff on duty in the Control Room, and he had to see how his boat was doing. Nelson dismissed him, and he left to a chorus of "good nights." He made his appearance in the Control Room, then headed for Sickbay, where Will Jameison was. The shipís doctor had also left the dinner early. Crane told Jamie about the Lobster Manís being the main course.
"Ha ha! Serves him right!" laughed Jameison. "Harryís gonna bust a gut when he hears this. Donít worry about eating the Lobster Manís tail, Lee. My checks when he came on board showed his muscular and DNA structure to be identical to a healthy Maine lobster. Other than the ethical questions, thereís no harm. And Kryten couldnít have cooked the entire tail, so thereís enough left for the Admiral to study. Besides, if it hadnít been for Kryten, the capsule would still be locked up."
Crane left the Sickbay at ease, and returned to the festivities. He was just in time for the entertainment.
The main course had been cleared away, and dessert was in progress. A delicate cheesecake, made from whaleís milk, was being served, along with some of the contents of Nelsonís "secret" liquor cabinet. Everyone had a snifter of Romulan ale, from the gift supply that Jim Kirk had bestowed upon Nelson after the Allen/Roddenberry affair. Everyone except Lister, who had commandeered an entire bottle of the blue beverage. He was becoming inebriated, and, suitably fortified, was the first to tackle Seaviewís karaoke machine. He picked up the microphone, while Riley took the KJ (karaoke jockey) spot. Fortunately, Lister didnít have to play the guitar to provide background music. Doubly fortunate was the presence of alcohol, which dulled the hearing of the listeners. He stumbled and staggered through several Jimmy Buffet songs, before he finally fell into a drunken stupor, and had to be carried from the stage.
Several Seaview officers took their turns. Morton received rave reviews for his rendition of Jim Croce. Nobody knew that Chip had singing talent. Nelson was loudly applauded for his job on "My Way", largely because he did everything his way, and, any man that didnít render dual applause was likely to end up on latrine duty for the next cruise. In fact, he was even persuaded to sing a second song. He chose another of his favorites, "New York, New York". Sharkey "volunteered" several ratings to be the kick line. Sparks and OíBrien did "To All the Girls Iíve Loved Before." Afterward, Sparks was universally known as "Julio," and OíBrien was called "Willie." Crane was a treat with his interpretation of "Do Ya Think Iím Sexy?" During the musical break, he put his hands behind his head, and began to swivel his hips in a circular motion. He then proceeded to bend at the knees, and lower his backside, until it was brushing the deck. This elicited cheers and hoots from the officers. Several dollars were stuck in his belt, and he pocketed every one.
"Last song," said Riley, "letís make it a group number." The suggestions came.
"Thatís What Friends are For."
"Naah, too wimpy. Remember, this is Seaview. Weíre macho, he-man STUDS!"
"How Ďbout "Gilliganís Island"?"
"And jinx us? Do you want to send us to the bottom for keeps?"
"Letís do "The Lumberjack Song." Thatís a good one." This idea brought several disapproving looks, especially from Crane. The line in the song about putting on womenís clothing brought back unpleasant memories of the Mardi Gras ONI mission, as well as a sniggers and lewd glances from several men in the room.
After a couple more ideas, a song was agreed upon, and the night was finished by the entire groupís joining in on "Friends in Low Places." Lieutenant Brooks, who was on temporary duty, smiled approvingly.
"Wow," he thought, "Iíve been a country music star, Iíve fulfilled by dreams of being a rock singer and a Major League Baseball player, but nothing compares to Seaview. When my hitch is up, Iím gonna put out a CD about these guys. I think Iíll call it "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," of something like that."
The singing and drinking continued until well into the night. Nelson finally staggered into his quarters about 0300. He took a couple of 800-milligram ibuprofens, smoked a cigarette, undressed, and slid into his bunk.
Nelson slipped down the spiral staircase, to join Crane, Morton, and Sharkey in the Observation Nose. His headache threatened to split his skull apart. He looked, and thought he saw two Sharkeyís preparing a cup of what smelled like triple-strength coffee for him. He extended a shaky hand, into which the chief placed the java. He took a long sniff, trying to inhale some of the caffeine. When he took a sip, he felt the stimulant clearing his muddied brain. He took out his pack of kelp cigarettes; another of the Nelson inventions to make a bit hit on the market, stuck one in his mouth, and lit it. The mini-laser lighter never failed to set the end of his cigarette glowing. He took one long, luxurious drag. The nicotineís calming effect was immediate. Kelp didnít naturally contain nicotine, so Nelson had to add it. This was not a new practice, so it wasnít something that he could patent. He really added a lot to his personal smokes. They could put the typical smoker to sleep, but Nelson had developed a tolerance to regular tobacco. They didnít stain his teeth, either!
"Chip, remind me to never serve Romulan ale again at a dinner of the officers," muttered Nelson to Morton, between the smoke rings he was blowing.
"You wonít have to, Sir," replied the Exec, "unless you can get ahold of more from Kirk. You drank every bit of it last night."
Nelson unlocked and opened the liquor cabinet, and pulled out a small black device with a perforated gold cover. He opened it, and it emitted an electronic chirp. He pressed a red button beneath the swirling interference pattern on the display of the instrument. Several seconds later, a hum filled the air, and a case of Romulan ale twinkled into existence on the deck. Nelson asked Sharkey to have a crewman stow the booze, and he returned to his cup of joe. He had had enough of the blue beverage for months. Crane looked at Nelson inquisitively.
"Kirk gave me this before he beamed up to the Enterprise," Nelson explained. "Whenever I run out of Romulan ale or Saurian brandy, I just open a hailing frequency to him through the miniature wormhole that Mr. Spock built into this communicator, and Scotty beams me a case back, using the communicator as a beacon, and the wormhole as a channel."
"Couldnít we use that wormhole to get the Dwarfers back?" asked Morton.
"Use that little thing to warp space?" scoffed Sharkey. "Admiral, itís too small. You canna change the laws oí physics!"
"Huh?" asked Morton, totally perplexed. Sharkey just shrugged and smiled. It was something he had heard Scotty say, and he was dying to use it himself.
"Good idea, Ship," acknowledged the admiral with a slight slur, "once we find and repair Shtarbug." He gulped down the coffee, and extended his cup for a refill. He didnít trust himself to try pouring it. Kryten had offered to prepare breakfast for the officers, but nobodyís stomach was prepared even for the excellent meal that the mechanoid would have made.
An argument came down the spiral staircase, followed by the booted feet of Rimmer and the blocky ones of Kryten.
"I donít see why you donít fix those kind of meals for us!" complained Rimmer.
"These people deserve a little something for their efforts," defended Kryten, "and I just thought that we could show our appreciation to them."
"I think you want to see how much you can grovel," sneered Rimmer. "I think that the crash has kicked your suck-up circuit into overdrive."
This last phrase pushed Kryten too far. Itís true that he goes too far out of his way to please others, but that was the result of his servant programming. However, Rimmerís self-centeredness and his superior attitude were too much to tolerate any longer. Kryten told Rimmer exactly what he thought of the hologram.
"Smeeeeeeee-Heeeeeeeee!!!" Kryten said in a strangled, high-pitched voice.
"What in Neptuneís name was that?" snapped Nelson, glaring at Kryten. The mechanoid, seeing that he had displeased one of the people that he so desperately wanted to do something for, was so hurt, that he curled up in a corner, and whimpered.
"There, there, Kryten," comforted Lister, who had joined the others in the Nose, "the Admiralís never heard you tell Rimmer off before." Kryten calmed down, and Lister turned to Nelson to explain the androidís actions.
"Yísee, Harry, Krytenís been programmed never to call a living being an obscenity," Lister told Nelson. "Lord knows, Iíve tried, but itís been like pulling teeth."
"But just what is a "Smeeeeeeee-Heeeeeee?" asked the admiral.
"He was trying to call Rimmer what everyone else calls him, a smeghead."
"What is a "smeghead"?" Nelson inquired. He was a sailor, and had heard every curse word in the nautical lexicon, but this was a new one. To answer his question, Lister bent over and whispered in Nelsonís ear. The admiral promptly turned red and looked at Rimmer. After a moment, he made a comment.
"You couldnít have said it better, Dave," he said.
The Control room was abuzz with activity. Crane and Morton were hard at work over the chart table, furiously scribbling on a chart. Kowalski was reciting sonar information, which they were using to make notes on the chart. The rest of Starbug had been found! Orbital records had been scrutinized, and the rough area determined. Once Seaview reached the area, it was childís play to locate the wreck by sonar, and just as easy to visually confirm it.
The space vesselís two main spheres and four spindly legs were clearly visible, as were the engine nozzles on the aft end of the largest sphere. The hatch that had opened to the Control Sphere was closed, fortunately. Perhaps the craft was watertight. That would make repairs a lot easier.
"Wow," muttered Lister as he gawked at the image of the downed spaceship. "Rimmer, when you smeg something up, you do it royally!"
"If I remember correctly, you were the one who was pulling in the opposite direction on the yoke!" huffed the hologram.
"And if you had been pulling in the right direction, we wouldnít be here!" answered Lister.
"Alright, you two, pipe down, or youíll be cleaning the bilges until youíre ready to ship out!" barked Sharkey. Both piped down immediately. If Seaviewís bilges were anything like the lower decks of Red Dwarf, they didnít want to experience them. They just sat and shot daggers from their eyes at each other.
"Admiral, Captain Vires reports that Nautilus is in position below Seaview, and heís got the rescue pod, Sir," Morton announced.
"Good, Chip, put him on," ordered Nelson. The viewscreen lit up with the image of Nautilusí nose. Nelson had named her after the first Nautilus, the worldís first nuclear submarine, and a boat that he had served aboard. Although Nautilus was considered a sister ship to Seaview, she was actually more like the lost Neptune and Angler: the nose lacked the transparent Herculite panes that produced the Observation Nose of Seaview. The walls of the nose were bare, and painted the color of the entire room. In that room, sat the Captain of Nautilus, Clayton Vires. A young man (Nelson had a habit of catching men in their prime), he had been released from the Navy to reserve status, just as Crane had.
"Clayton, how is your end of the operation proceeding?" inquired Nelson.
"Like clockwork, Admiral," Vires responded. "The boys at NIMR built the rescue module for Starbug in record time, and the cruise from Santa Barbara has been flawless. Shall we take a look at the operation, Sir?" When Nelson nodded his assent, Vires pressed a few buttons on the terminal at his side. His image shrank to become a picture-in-a-picture. The rest of the screen showed an outside image of the two submarines, taken from Nautilusí Flying Sub 4. It showed Nautilus carrying a large, streamlined pod on its back, over the missile tubes. The pod had a huge clamshell front with a small control room above it, sort of like the C5-A Galaxy. The clamshell was the diameter of the pod, which was big enough to hold all of Starbug, as well as the repair equipment.
"Did you have any problems?" inquired Nelson, watching the unfolding rescue on the monitor.
"We did get a visit from a couple of government agents, who seemed to be interested in the pod," answered Vires. Nelson sat up in his chair.
"Government! Was it Briggs?" Nelson said with alarm. It would be just like Michael Coldsmith Briggs of the FIRM to come nosing around. Briggs was aware of Seaviewís relationship with Stringfellow Hawke and Dominic Santini, and wouldnít hesitate to interfere if he thought Airwolf was involved. He probably thought that Nelson was going to move the helicopter in the pod on Nautilusí back.
"No, Sir," replied Vires. "It was a man and a woman. The man fairly accused NIMR of harboring aliens,"
"We are," chided Nelson laughingly.
"I know that, Sir, but I couldnít let him know that!"
Chuckling, Nelson asked Vires how he finally got rid of the government people.
"Well, Sir," explained Vires, "I told them that Nautilus was on a private mission for NIMR, and that she was a privately owned vessel, and that they couldnít board without either an invitation from you, or a court order."
"Good job, Clayton!" praised Nelson. "Was there anything else?"
"The man did try to warn me about some kind of oil."
"Oil? What did you tell him?" asked Nelson.
"I told him that, for cryiní out loud, this was a nuclear submarine!" said Vires. Everybody in Seaviewís nose got a good laugh at that last remark. They went back to watching the recovery of Starbug.
"Bye the way, Lee, I heard that you stole my song," commented Vires. Crane looked sheepish, then shrugged and smiled just like Sharkey did after the "canna change the laws oí physics" remark. Crane and Vires were like rival brothers, continually trying to upstage each other. Whether it was commanding a submarine, conducting a dangerous ONI mission, romance (in spite of the fact that, or perhaps because, both were married with children), or even karaoke, each did his best to outdo the other.
"Well, excuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeee," offered Crane, in his best Steve Martin impression. His voice took on a mocking tone. "Iím soooooo sorry. I for got that youíre "Gyratiní Clayton from Dayton." Vires could be seen to turn almost as red as Admiral Nelson did at times. He did not mind that nickname being brought up, unless it was in a less-than-complimentary way. The way Lee Crane said it.
"Boys! Boys! Please!" pleaded Nelson to his captains. They ceased their verbal sparring. Crane, standing behind Nelson, stuck his tongue out at Vires, who could see everything on his monitor, then placed the palm of his hand atop his head, and flapped it in the manner of Curly, of Three Stooges fame. You could almost hear him thinking "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk." When Nelson turned away from the camera for a moment, Vires made the same hand gesture to Crane that Lister was fond of making to Rimmer. Commonly known for the part of the anatomy used to make the gesture, offering it became known as "giving Lister" aboard Seaview. Of course, Nelson never saw a bit of the exchange. He never did, even through the hundreds of times the Crane and Vires had repeated it. One day, the sub captains would meet to settle the quarrel once and for all. Would Harriman Nelson need to hire another captain for one of his boats, then?
Nautilus had positioned herself directly above the wreck of the downed spacecraft, and the clamshell at the front of the pod opened. A beam carrying an overhead crane extended from the ceiling of the pod, until it was directly over Starbug. Divers aboard pressurized mini-subs from both submarines, as well a Kowalski in Seaviewís own flying sub, were maneuvering the harness around Starbugís girth. It was an undersea ballet, and Kryten was mesmerized.
"My word, it reminds me of the birth dance of the water world Aqua Humerus IV, which orbits the star Sirius," he said in awe.
"Aqua Humorous?" sniped Rimmer, "I donít see anything funny."
"Thatís Humerus, Smeghead, not humorous!" replied Lister. "The humanoid life forms there have long upper legs, for swimming."
"And the humanoid life forms assist in the births of the cetacean life forms, which are the most highly evolved creatures on the planet," described Kryten. "Nautilus resembles the female, the rescue pod is roughly the shape and location of her abdomen when she is pregnant, and Seaview hovers over them both, like the male. Starbug is the offspring." That last remark brought a sour look from Nelson. He would never have one of his boats produce something like Red Dwarfís auxiliary ship.
"But, weíre taking Starbug aboard, not releasing it," observed Vires, noting the flaw in the reasoning.
"I never said that the analogy was perfect, Captain Vires," said Kryten dryly.
"Everything looks great, Clayton," complimented Nelson to change the subject. "Keep up the good work, and thereís some rare booze in it for you and your ship." There was more than enough of Kirkís hooch to go around.
"Why, thank you, Sir!" exclaimed Vires happily, then he paused before his next remark. "But there is one thing that the crew and I would like, Admiral."
"Which is," said Nelson dangerously.
"A window, Sir," replied Vires, not noticing the tone in Nelsonís voice
"A window?" asked Nelson. "Where, in heavenís name, would you want a window?" He had gone over this with Vires before, and he was getting tired of it. The rising tone and volume of his voice made that crystal clear.
"Why, in the Nautilus, Sir," answered Vires innocently.
"You donít need a window!" snapped Nelson.
"The government lady did say that Nautilus looked tacky without windows like Seaview," Vires offered.
"How many times have I told you that Seaview is the first and only submarine in the world that has windows, and I intend to keep it that way! If you want a glass-nosed submarine, build it yourself!" Nelson bellowed at the top of his voice. Vires stood helplessly, looking like he was going to have an accident.
"Pardon me, Admiral Nelson," interrupted Kryten in a conciliatory tone, "but I think that a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached."
"And why should the Admiral care about "mutually satisfactory agreements"?" interjected Sharkey, just as dangerously as his employer.
"Why, to maintain harmony and keep Captain Vires from possibly resigning his commission to seek employment elsewhere," explained the mechanoid.
"Yíknow, Harry," said Lister, "we could use another hand aboard Red Dwarf, to make up for a certain useless hologram." He winked at Kryten, who tried to wink back. Instead, he looked as if he were about to have a seizure of some sort.
"I am not useless!" protested Rimmer. "At least I look like a proper officer, unlike a certain curry-stained and curry-brained slob I knowÖ"
"Alright!" barked Nelson to stop the umpteenth spat between the Dwarfers. "Now, Kryten, what about your idea?"
"Well, Sir," began Kryten, "why not install just one set of windows in Nautilus? That way, Captain Vires will get his window, and Seaview will still be in the lead with two."
"Excellent idea, Kryten!" congratulated Nelson. "Nautilus may look like a Cyclops, but sheíll have a view of the ocean! What do you think, Clayton?"
"Wonderful, Sir! Weíll take it!" proclaimed Nautilusí skipper, who went back to his work.
"Excuse me, Admiral," interrupted Kryten again, "but you seemed to have had that discussion with Captain Vires before. How long has this been going on?"
"Since Vires got the boat, about two years," commented Nelson, " and I was about to fire him and turn Nautilus into an undersea restaurant."
"What were you going to call it?" asked Lister. His ears perked up whenever food was mentioned.
"Waffle Sub," replied Nelson.
"Those places are all over," explained Lister. "Waffle Planet, Waffle Asteroid Belt, Waffle Nebula, even Waffle Galaxy."
"And Listerís been kicked out of every one of them," laughed Cat.
Now that the long-standing dispute had been decided, the crews of the two submarines concentrated on the task of salvaging the remains of Starbug. The crane had lifted the derelict spaceship from its watery grave, and the arm was retracting to take Starbug aboard. The forward portion of the vessel was already in the pod, encased in plastic wrap to keep it dry. Within minutes, the clamshell end of the pod had closed, and the seawater began to vent from the pod in a cloud of bubbles.
When the workshop had been drained, Nelson, Crane, Morton, Lister, Kryten, Cat, and Rimmer, entered it through the airlock. Vires had transferred the pod from the back of Nautilus to the underside of Seaview. It was now connected to Seaviewís belly, directly beneath the minisub doors. The airlock tube was faired into the open hatch, and rendered watertight.
"Look at what youíve done, Lister," criticized Rimmer as the group stood gazing at the burnt and twisted form of Starbug. The legs were splayed out, the engines pointed in different directions, and the globular hulls were even blacker than the Command Sphere.
"What Iíve done?" gasped Lister. "You were the one fighting me on the controls!"
"It wasnít me. It was your precious Ace," scoffed Rimmer. Arnie envied, despised, and secretly worshipped his alter ego.
"Iíll kick your Ace," threatened Lister.
"Shaddup!" ordered Nelson. "I have heard you go round and round like an old married couple, and if I hear another argument over whose fault it was, Iím gonna blow both of you out of the airlock in your underwear!" Crane leaned over to whisper to the admiral.
"Admiral, Iíve never heard you use that threat before!"
"It was something I heard James Kirk use aboard the Enterprise," replied Nelson smugly, "and I think we could do it, even at this depth." He glared at the quarrelers when he made that last remark. They swallowed audibly, but were otherwise silent.
The survey of the damage continued without another disagreement. Nelson asked several technical questions about Starbug. Kryten, who was the most knowledgeable, supplied most of the answers. After several hours of this, the group returned to Seaview to break for dinner.
"What do you think, Harry?" asked Lister through a mouthful of food. He slurped noisily from his glass of seaweed soda (another invention on Nelsonís, one that was bringing in significant dollars on the market). He wiped his lips on his sleeve, ignoring the cloth napkin. This resulted in a hurt look from Kryten, and a caustic remark from Rimmer.
"Havenít you ever heard of a napkin, you Neanderthal?" asked Rimmer disgustedly. He eyed Lister with clearly visible contempt, and proceeded to try cutting his spaghetti. The knife slipped, and Rimmerís spotless white U.S. Naval-style uniform was heavily spotted with the red marinara sauce. Lister couldnít resist.
"Havenít you ever heard of twirling your spaghetti in your fork, you barbarian smeghead?" he scoffed.
"Iíll have you know that twirling spaghetti is unmannered, and is only employed by the lower social orders," Rimmer stated superiorly. The wardroom was filled with a sound similar to fingernails on chalkboard, as every Seaview officer began to twirl spaghetti around his fork. Rimmer saw the display, and the looks of animosity, and thought it best to excuse himself.
"What is wrong with him?" asked OíBrien after the hologram had left.
"Well, Bob, Arnie was abandoned by his father as a young boy, and was continually put down by his mother," Lister explained sympathetically. "Yísee, his mother blamed him for his fatherís abandonment. She sent him to a harsh English boysí school, where every other student bullied him. When he was old enough, he left Earth and joined the Jupiter Mining Company."
"I would have expected him to try for the Space Service," commented Morton.
"He tried that, Chip, but was washed out during the interview with the recruiter," explained Lister. "The Jupiter Mining Company was the only spacefaring organization that would accept him. Even then, they made him a Technician Fourth Class, the lowest rank."
"And you said that he was a servicing vending machines aboard Red Dwarf when he caused the lethal radiation leak?" asked Crane.
"Thatís right, Lee. If I were you, Iíd post a guard at your reactor room, just so he doesnít repeat his performance with Seaview," responded Lister. Crane left the table to order such a guard posted.
"Whatís on the agenda tomorrow, Harry?" Lister asked over the fresh-ground coral coffee that Kryten had begun to serve.
"We have to assess the systems damage to Starbug and determine if our materials are compatible," said Nelson.
Just then Seaview rolled violently to port, then to starboard. Everyoneís dinners were flung about the compartment, as well as those who didnít grab ahold of something. Nelson staggered to his feet, and lurched to the bulkhead where the microphone was.
"Control Room! Whatís happening?" he demanded.
"The giant coelenterate just tried to grab us," answered Kowalski breathlessly. He had been thrown from his seat at Sonar, right after he identified the giant seafloor denizen.
"Where is it now?" asked Nelson.
"Itís about a hundred yards astern, but itís closing, Sir," replied Kowalski, "we canít make too much speed with Starbug attached to our belly."
"Can we come around and get in a laser shot?" asked Nelson. "Thatís worked the past dozen or so times that itís gotten ahold of us."
"Crane here, Sir. Thatís exactly what we're doing. I think we have enough room to Ė what!? Reverse the launch! Donít let him get away!"
"Lee! Whatís happening?" asked Nelson.
"Sir! Somebodyís launched the Flying Sub! We werenít able to stop him. Sorry, Sir,"
"Itís not your fault, Lee," Mortonís voice came over the open circuit. "Whoever it was, they were able to override the override circuit."
Lister and Kryten looked at each other.
"Rimmer," they said in unison.
The group burst into the Control room from the aft hatch, and continued on to the Observation Nose. Since Seaview had come around one hundred eighty degrees, they could see the sea coelenterate, as well as the Flying Sub. The yellow craft was turning slow circles and descending right into the arms of the monster!
"Heís trying to fly it like an airplane!" exclaimed Morton.
"Why is it that everybody who steals the FS1 does that?" Crane asked with great exasperation
"You mean this has been done before?" asked Cat unbelievingly.
"It happens on the average of once a month," answered Nelson dryly. "Terrorists, mad scientists, aliens, you name it, and now, holograms, theyíve all stolen the Flying Sub."
"Why donít you post a guard around the hatch?" inquired Lister.
"It would detract from the ambience of the Observation Nose," replied Crane. Lister let it go at that.
Meanwhile, the Flying Sub continued its downward spiral to the sea floor monster. Rimmer had managed to attach the throat mike, and called Seaview.
"What do I do now?" he pleaded.
"You die, smeghead," answered Lister.
"No, weíll fire the FS1ís lasers by remote control," explained Crane, "and the creature will release it. Then we can get in a shot with Seaviewís lasers, and knock it out."
"Sounds like youíve done this before," Lister said admiringly.
"About every two months," said Morton.
"Sir!" interrupted Patterson. "The Flying Subís lasers arenít responding!"
"He must have overridden the remote command circuit when he originally overrode the override," stated Morton.
"Blast it!" swore Nelson. "That means weíll have to approach close enough to put a charge through the hull. That usually kills everybody aboard the Flying Sub, like it did, six weeks ago." Rimmer heard this, and panicked.
"You canít kill me!" he pleaded.
"Sorry, mate," said Lister gleefully, "you got yourself into this. The "needs of the many," and all that."
Sparks had managed to activate the remote cam aboard the FS1, and the main monitor came to life with the picture of the interior of the tiny craft. Rimmer was the picture of fear, with wild eyes, badly mussed hair, and frothy lips.
"You must rescue me! Iím too important to be sacrificed!" he cried. Spittle flew everywhere.
"Well, youíll just have to rescue yourself," announced Lister.
Listerís words sank into Rimmerís mind, and a change was seen. The hologram reached down and adjusted a knob on his remote control. Suddenly, a gold leather flight jacket replaced his stained white outfit. His disheveled brown hair became long, straight blonde, and a pair of aviatorís sunglasses appeared on his face.
"Ace! Youíre back!" shouted Lister.
"Again," muttered Cat.
"Yes, Dave, Iím back, and Iím going to take care of this big shaggy hand puppet once and for all," Ace Rimmer said confidently. "Smoke me a kipper, Iíll be back for breakfast!" With that, he gripped the control handles of the Flying Sub and shoved them forward. The yellow craft nosed over into a sharp dive, slipping through the handless arms of the creature. No one aboard Seaview had ever seen the FS1 perform the way Ace Rimmer was making it perform. It circled the creature in tight loops, then rose into a vertical climb. At the top of the climb, it did a perfect hammerhead, and plummeted at the creature with both of its lasers spitting white fire. The creature reeled from the onslaught, but Ace showed it no mercy. He made a knife-edged pass beneath the creatures raised arm, then spun on its Z-axis with lasers firing. The lasers swept through the massive arm, cutting it cleanly at the shoulder. The beast waved violently with its good arm, as its life juices bled out into the ocean. Ace brought the FS1 back to and even keel, fired the lasers while kicking the rudder pedals, and blinded both eyes. After passing over the crippled monster, Ace brought the FS1 around in an Immelmann and began a series of snap rolls, the lasers drilling a neat hole through the midsection of the creature. He flew right through the hole he had just made, executing a victory roll, and then putting the Flying Sub through the maneuver known as a lumchovik, which is Czechoslovakian for "headache."
When Ace had berthed the Flying Sub, he was greeted by a roomful of men who cheered his flying prowess. The grapevine had already spread the story about how the monster had "had a can of Whoop-Ace opened on it." Everyone was jubilant. Except for Nelson. He was not in the least way impressed by the hologramís metamorphosis. For all he knew, it could have been a parlor trick, or the manifestation of a serious personality disorder.
"Red Dwarf, front and center!" he bellowed. Nelson had chosen to have and almighty snit. Lister, Ace, Kryten, and Cat lined up approximately abreast, in front of the Herculite windows. "I have tried to be patient with you misfits because youíre stranded on my Earth, but Iíve had just about all that I can take of this! Iím and old man, and I wonít put up with the same stuff I would when I was young."
"Huh?" asked Lister. "Harry, youíve lost me."
"Pardon us, Admiral, but weíre all a bit confused," added Crane. Nelson had begun rambling again. He was getting worse than Ronald Reagan was accused of being, when Reagan was President.
"There you go again," Nelson replied to Crane. The bewildered expressions he received forced Nelson to take a few deep breaths, belch loudly, rub his hand through his red-and-silver hair, and start all over.
"What Iím trying to say," Nelson began as he began to strut back and forth, "is that weíre getting nowhere by arguing amongst ourselves, or running off and pulling some cockamamie stunt while trying to play hero. We need to focus on the task at hand, which is to rebuild Starbug and get our guests back to Red Dwarf. And I swear, by all that I hold dear, that, Gentlemen, we will do just that!" Chest forward, rear back, index finger raised, Nelson cut an impressive figure.
"My God, he looks just like Kirk when he does that," whispered Morton to Crane.
When the standing ovation for Nelsonís speech subsided, Ace Rimmer stepped forward and extended a hand to Seaviewís owner.
"Harry, Iíd like to apologize for Arnieís behavior, and as long as weíre aboard your fine vessel, Iíll keep him in check. Youíll have no more problems from him.
"Thank you, Ace. Apology accepted," replied Nelson graciously. "By the way, why did you cut up the seafloor monster like that?"
"No permanent harm done, old boy. Everything I zapped will grow back. Itís related to the jellyfish, you know." Ace replied.
Nelson liked this Rimmer. He was the man that Arnold wasnít. His anger soon abated, and he gave Ace one of the smoked kippers that he kept in the flask in his back pocket.
"To be honest, this is the first time that anyoneís ever actually given me a smoked kipper," admitted Ace as he licked his fingers.
"Actually, theyíre better with curry sauce on them," said Lister. His fish was dripping with sauce from the bottle that he kept in his jacket pocket. They were the only three that partook of the kippers, the others having excused themselves to perform seemingly useless tasks, as well as some that were plainly unnatural.
"Now what, Harry?" asked Lister.
"Well, Dave, since Starbug is basically finished except for starting up the fusion core, we have to figure out a way to generate the wormhole effect.
"I remember Chip suggesting that we try something with the Enterprise communicator that Jim Kirk left you," remembered Ace. "Could we try it?"
"I think that itís the only way weíll be able to do it," replied Nelson. "The downside is that Seaview will lose its source of Romulan ale and Saurian brandy.
"Pardon me, Admiral Nelson," interrupted Kryten, who had just reentered the Nose," but I believe that we can modify Starbug to generate the wormhole by repeating Arnold Rimmerís adjustment to the environmental computer. When it created the thunderstorm in the cargo hold, it also created a cosmic storm. That is what we flew through."
"You mean itís Rimmerís fault that weíre here?" gasped Cat.
"Watch which Rimmer youíre accusing," warned Ace dangerously.
"If the storm really was a subspace disturbance, we can tune the communicator to its frequency, and use it to direct the
wormhole to the approximate moment of Starbugís appearance in your universe.
"Weíll wind up where we started!" exclaimed Lister, wiping fish oil and curry sauce from his mouth with his T-shirt. Nelson didnít care if they wound up in the middle of the sun, as long as they were out of his hair. That and he could still get his booze from Kirk.
The modifications to Starbug took only two days, with Nelson and Kryten working side-by-side. Starbugís communication computer was calibrated to the Starfleet device, and the computer commands that generated the dark and stormy hold were programmed into the environmental computer. The spacecraft was restocked from Seaviewís stores, and the crew was strapped in. The fusion reactor was charged by a fuel rod that had been donated from Seaviewís reactor. Lister, Ace, Kryten, and Cat occupied the same seating positions that they had used on the ill-fated mission that got them here. Starbug was afloat, having left the repair pod. Since it was a spacecraft, it was watertight enough to be a submarine. In fact, the vessel had been on a water planet.
Ace had maneuvered Starbug until its clear viewport was nose to nose with Seaview. He looked across the distance at Nelson, Crane, and Morton. Nelson picked up the mike and keyed it.
"Are you ready to reproduce the storm in the hold?" he asked.
"We are, Harry, but tell me again why weíre doing it here," replied Ace. Nelson opened his mouth to speak, but Kryten interrupted him.
"It is necessary to initialize the space warp while in proximity to Seaview, so that Sparks can calibrate the radios. That way, we should be able to remain in communication even when we return to our own continuum."
"If this Starfleet technology is so grand, why havenít you incorporated it into Seaviewís systems, or even developed consumer products from it?" asked Lister. "You could get filthy rich!"
"Itís something that James Kirk called the Prime Directive," explained Nelson. "It prohibits interference in less-developed cultures. I had to promise Kirk that I would never apply the technology of the communicator to this century, and only use it for the purpose of making contacts with Kirkís time."
"Whenever we run low on Romulan ale or Saurian brandy," muttered Crane in Listerís earphone. Lister, a hard-drinking man himself, understood the value of the agreement between Nelson and Kirk. He would do the same thing in the same circumstances. In fact, he was trying to figure out how he could get his hands on Nelsonís communicator, so he could have a pipeline to the beverages that Nelson had exclusive rights to.
"Counting down to storm generation." Informed Kryten. He had synchronized both Starbugís and Seaviewís internal atomic clocks to his own. The three of them varied by no more than five nanoseconds of each other. This was crucial; if contact was to be maintained after Starbug returned to its space and time. "Sixty seconds."
"Environmental adjustments entered and ready to initialize," said Ace. He and Kryten were handling Starbugís end of the operation. Ace insisted that he have a part in this, since it was hie alter ego that had gotten them there. It was the least he could do to atone for Arnold Rimmerís sins.
"Beginning primary ignition," stated Morton. Kowalski and Patterson began to throw switches and pull on old-fashioned levers, which Nelson had developed for Seaviewís part of the attempt. The Enterprise communicator had been connected to a buffer that allowed it to interface with Seaviewís technology, yet keep the latter from downloading some of its twenty-third century programming. Kowalski threw a final lever, which looked remarkably like the one formerly used to activate the state of Floridaís electric chair, when capital punishment was still practiced in that state (In fact it was, but it had been given to Nelson when he donated the formula to his psycho-rehabilitation drug the world. He didnít know what he would do with it, until now.). A hum filled the air, deepening into the subsonic range. It couldnít be heard, but the officers of Seaview could feel it vibrate in the bio-ceramic tooth caps that Nelson had invented to allow passive tracking of their locations when they were away from Seaview. At least it wasnít as unpleasant as biting into an ice cube, Crane mused.
"On your signal, Admiral," Crane said. It had been decided to forego a fully automatic sequence, so as to allow an abort if something went wrong. Nelson was given the authority, by unanimous assent, to give the final command. He lifted his right hand and dropped it in a sharp chopping motion.
"Engage," he ordered. Crane pressed the large red button that sent the same command to both ships, as well as the Enterprise communicator. All hell broke loose!
Seaview began, yet again, to roll violently from side to side, flinging the occupants, and everything that wasnít secured, back and forth. The main viewscreen exploded in a cloud of sparks, which sent a chill through each and every man in the Control Room. It meant only one thing when that happened: Seaview was going to the bottom. The main lighting went out, and the only illumination was from the remaining instrument and control lights. The red emergency lights came on, then the dive claxon sounded. The crash dive had begun. At least everybody had flailed about in sync, this time. Crane fell heavily on the railing that lined the Periscope Island, his side making a sound reminiscent of a snapping chicken bone.
"Doh!" Crane exploded. He snatched the handkerchief out of his hip pocket and quickly wiped away the traces of bloody spittle that he had coughed up on impact. No need for the Admiral to see it, and get worried about possible internal injuries!
"Admiral!" announced Kowalski, the panic in his voice barely contained, "Missile launch sequence has started! Tube Number One is preparing its missile to launch!"
"Target!" shouted Nelson. Kowalskiís reply wasnít immediate, because he was nearly choked with fear.
"Washington, D.C," he said.
"Weíve got to deactivate that missile!" shouted Morton. "If it hits Washington, our government funding will dry up."
"Then weíll have to set up cans in convenience stores, and gas stations, and restaurants to collect the change of customers," said Sharkey sickly. He couldnít stand the thought of competing for money with Jerryís Kids, or the Childrenís Miracle Network, or even Ronald!
"We canít deactivate it from here, due to the new, experimental failsafe," informed Morton. "It was designed for irreversible launches if the missile was activated while the space-time continuum was being tampered with."
"Why would anybody want to set it up that way?" asked Sharkey. His tone of voice, though, expressed the thoughts that he did not put into word, namely, "Who would be so stupid as to design such a lunatic contraption?"
"Because, Seaman Sharkey," replied Nelson dangerously, "if such an occurrence took place, it would likely mean alien invasion."
"But why Washington?" asked Kowalski.
"Think, Ski," chided Crane, "about what aliens want to do whenever they try to commandeer Seaview." Kowalski pondered for a moment, and then his face lit up.
"They want to take over Washington!" he crowed.
"Therefore, Chief Kowalski, if we destroy Washington, we remove the goal of the alien invaders."
"But why Washington, and not New York, where the United Nations headquarters is?" inquired OíBrien.
"The aliens typically consider the United States to be the leader of the world, based on appearances. They donít believe the U.N to be a real power," lectured Nelson.
Now, while this entire conversation was going on, and Nelson was taking yet another tangent, Seaview was plunging toward the ocean floor. Fortunately, the seafloor was still thousand feet above Seaviewís five-thousand-foot crush depth. The planesmen did a brilliant job of keeping the sub in a straight direction, despite the rolling that had continued through the verbal exchange, and the nose wasnít pointed down too severely. In fact, the Seaview was heading for a flat spot atop a seamount, just large enough for the boat. If they could just avoid the stalagmite that was right in their pathÖ
Seaview clipped the seamount with the leading edge of her manta-like nose (which she always did when she was going to the bottom), and continued on down to the floor. Her nose hit the silt and skidded forward, to be followed down by her tail.
The great submarine finally came to rest.
Meanwhile, in the Control Room, a water pipe had burst open. Crane cursed as he turned the all-too-familiar valve that shut off the water supply to the leak. How many times had he told the engineers to reinforce that particular pipe? How many times had they gone to the bottom? When the valve was fully closed, he picked up the mike and shouted into it.
"Damage Control, report!" he barked.
"Sir, the main viewer is down until it can be rewired. The reactor immediately went critical, which it always does when we go to the bottom, but the new automatic system closed the control rods. The reactor is now normal. Weíre ready to surface."
"Before we do, weíd better figure out what went on," ordered Nelson. "Contact Starbug."
The rapid descent of the submarine Seaview took the Dwarfers completely by surprise. One moment, they were looking at her nose through their window, and the next, she was gone. The only clue they had that anything was happening was the gentle rocking that occurred when she disappeared from sight.
"Whereís Seaview?" gawked Lister. "They havenít skipped out on us, have they?"
"Dave, Dave, why would you think such a thing?" chided Ace. "Just because everybody else in your life-except me-has let you down, it doesnít mean that youíve been screwed again!" Ace Rimmer pointed the nose of Starbug down, until they were hanging in the straps of their seatbelts. The twin tails of Seaview were glimpsed briefly, slipping down and away. Ace rolled Starbug one hundred-eighty degrees, then pulled the nose up by ninety. They got a good view of Seaviewís stern rapidly descending.
"We have to go after them, or we may be stuck here forever!" Cat cried. Ace pushed the throttles forward, and headed after the great submarine. They watched her rolling back and forth, even as she descended to the seafloor.
"Kryten," said Lister, never taking his eyes off of Seaview, "how fast are they going?" The mechanoid checked the sonar.
"Fifty knots and increasing," he said. "They will be doing seventy-five knots when they hit bottom."
"Theyíll make it," Ace said confidently. He said it more for his benefit, than that of his shipmates. He could feel his hold on reality weakening due to the fear that he was experiencing, and he could sense Arnold Rimmer just below the surface of consciousness, ready to spring back into dominance. He couldnít let the others down, which is just what his alter ego would do.
Seeing a nearby electrical outlet, he extended his thumbs and jammed them into the socket. The jolt of AC cleared his head and calmed his nerves, bringing Ace firmly back into control.
"Wow!" Ace said. "You should try that, Dave."
"What do you think happens every time I try the holofantasy?" snapped Lister sarcastically. Ace saw that it was a delicate and apparently unpleasant subject, so he let it go. Besides, any further mention of this would undoubtedly exceed the PG rating, whatever that meant.
"Seaview has hit bottom," announced Kryten in the same tone of voice used by and elevator operator announcing the floor. One could imagine him droning, "Going Down. Crush Depth, Undersea Spire, Ocean Floor." Lister thumbed his throat mike, which had been adopted from the Flying Sub. Stolen would have been a better word.
"Starbug to Seaview! Harry, Lee, you guys all right?" Lister called out.
"Weíre fine, Dave, thanks," replied Nelson. "Weíve done this more times than Iíd like to remember. Leeís got a couple of bruised ribs, but as usual, heís refused Jamieís wishes that he spend a few days in Sickbay. Heíll get attention after this is over, which will probably be when he slips into another delirious fever. The only other problem is with the missile that is counting down to launch. We have about an hour until it the missile launches, and wipes out our nationís capitol."
"Cleveland is going to be destroyed?" gasped Lister.
"Cleveland? Our nationís capitol is Washington!" scoffed Crane. "Where did you get the idea that itís Cleveland?"
"On my Earth, the United States moved its capital to Cleveland, Ohio," explained Lister.
"What would possess the United States to move its capitol to Cleveland?" asked Morton incredulously.
"When Washington was flooded by rising waters from global warming, President Carey convinced that the country that the capitol had to be moved inland, and Cleveland was the closest port to the ocean, down the St. Lawrence Seaway. It was best choice because it had air, water, and land access."
"Pardon me, Sirs," interrupted Kryten, "but while you have all been talking, the countdown to launch had shrunk to thirty minutes."
"What do we do?" asked Lister.
"Whenever something happens to a missile, Lee swims out and attaches a remote device to the nose cone. But itís usually a missile that doesnít fire when we want it to, not the other way around." Said Nelson.
"Sir, I can swim out and deactivate it with a remote control," volunteered Crane.
"Oh, no you canít!" announced Dr. Jameison as he stormed into the Control Room, waving an x-ray. "Youíve got broken ribs, not bruised ones! Theyíll puncture your lung if you try to swim."
"How did you get an x-ray?" demanded Crane. "I havenít been to Sickbay yet."
"Your undershirts are made of a special fluoroscopic material that will record x-ray images," explained the doctor. "When your chest hit the periscope island rail, motion sensors in your belt buckle activated a remote x-ray machine. I just got the results on my monitor, and printed them off."
"Lee, you heard what Jamie said," admonished Nelson, "so, get to Sickbay and get those ribs taped."
"Then whoís going to deactivate the missile?" protested Crane.
"I will, Lee!" volunteered Ace Rimmer. "Harry can brief me on the particulars. This isnít the most dangerous mission Iíve been on."
Crane went grudgingly to Sickbay, to have his broken ribs taped. Ace and Nelson huddled over the chart table in the Control Room. Jamieson could be heard to warn Crane about injuring his hips, because his briefs were made of the same material, and if he had an x-ray there, he may end up needing Viagra for the rest of his life. The men in the Control Room chuckled.
"What you have to do, Ace," Nelson explained over a schematic of Seaview, "is to swim out of the diving hatch, over to the open missile tube, and attach the remote control to the tip of its nosecone."
"Is that all?" scoffed Ace. "Even Arnie Rimmer could do that!"
"Itís been done before, and it usually isnít that easy," cautioned Nelson.
"What could be difficult about it?" asked Ace.
"Several things," answered Nelson. "First: youíll have to wear Leeís diving suit because itís the only one serviceable at this time."
"Whatís wrong with that?" smirked Ace.
"Itís bright yellow," responded Nelson. This brought a very macho grimace from Ace, and a very different reaction from Cat. He would have loved it, and, in fact, nearly volunteered to go out into the water just to get to wear the yellow suit!
"Alright! Somebody else has good taste in attire!" he cheered.
"It may look good to you," said Nelson, "but it also looks good to man-eating squid. Or in this case, hologram-eating."
Ace had an idea of his own.
"Iíll just create a suit of my own!" he said triumphantly. A few adjustments to his light bee control, and Ace was decked out in a perfectly form-fitting diving suit. It fit his magnificent physique as if it were painted on.
"Wow," whispered OíBrien admiringly, "Heís even better built than Captain Crane."
Nelson was glad that Crane was in Sickbay. Had he heard OíBrienís remark, he would have been twice as determined to stop the missile, broken ribs or no. His ego, in its own way, was the equal of James T. Kirkís. He had had a small gym installed aboard Seaview, and used it twice as mush as any other crewmember. He had chiseled and honed his form until he was known as the "Armenian Adonis" of NIMR. He would have felt threatened by the sight of Aceís diving suit, and would have killed himself trying to re-establish hi alpha-maleness. Nelson took another look at the diving suit that Ace had created on himself. That suit. The only problem was its color. It was a brilliant gold, as was everything that Ace wore. Nelson had something to say about that.
"Goldís even tastier looking than yellow to the squid," he deadpanned. Ace, crestfallen, agreed to wear Craneís diving suit.
"Hurry up, willya, Jamie?" Crane asked the shipís doctor.
"Dammit, Lee, Iím a doctor, not a miracle worker!" shot Jameison back.
"Where did you pick that one up?" Crane asked bewilderedly.
"From Leonard McCoy," Jameison replied. "I heard him say it God knows how many times to Captain Kirk. Now I know how Bones felt."
"You mustíve picked up a lot from him," Crane commented.
"You should try my mint juleps," answered Jameison proudly.
"What did he learn from you?" inquired Crane.
"If you can snatch the pebble from my hand," began Jameison.
"PebbleÖoh, yeah, the Shaolin Priest," remembered Crane. The Chinaman was impossible to forget. He had wandered up to NIMR one day, telling the guard that he was retracing the steps of his great-grandfather, who had walked through California in the late 1800"s. His quiet manor and peaceful philosophy were strange, but he had befriended everyone from Nelson on down. He spent three months at NIMR, which, he said, is how long his ancestor stayed in old Santa Barbara. He was a musician of sorts, playing a hand-made recorder. Riley had found a kindred soul in the enigmatic Chinaman. He taught the stranger how to play the guitar, and was in turn taught how to play the recorder. Crane knew that Nelson occasionally played a CD he had made of the strange duets that had been performed. The visitor had freely shared his Shaolin faith with all who were interested, and those who listened were also instructed in his peculiar form of kung fu. Jameison had become a disciple of sorts. He had even earned a nickname: "Seaweedhopper."
"That is correct," replied Jameison, bowing deeply. At times, the Seaviewís doctor would speak in the tones of the priest.
"Well, Iíd better get down to the Missile Room. I may be needed if Ace canít complete the mission," announced Crane. Jameison placed himself in front of Crane, and grasped the Captainís shoulders.
"In all of the universes, in all of the galaxies, of all the billions of people, there is only one of each of us," Jameison said gravely, "Donít destroy the one named Crane."
"I thought it appropriate."
"Spock would have called it logical. Thanks, Jamie, Iíll take care," reassured Crane as he buttoned his shirt.
"Does Lee really like this yellow diving suit?" Ace asked Sharkey, who had chosen to personally help him with the dive.
"Yessir. He knows the value of visibility and identification," replied Sharkey. "He wears this color so that anyone will know that the Captainís out there."
"What about Admiral Nelson?" Ace asked.
"Silver suit," Sharkey replied, "Mr. Morton gets sky blue, and everybody else gets basic black."
"Does Lee have anything else bright yellow?" Ace wondered.
"Oh, yeah, he just bought a yellow NSX sports car," said Sharkey, "and itís a honey, if I say so."
"In my travels, red seems to be the most macho color," wondered Ace.
"He did have a red Ferrari, but his wife made him sell it. She said that it was his "bachelor wheels" and he had to show the girls that he was no longer available. So he traded it in on the NSX. Trouble is, that yellow Acura draws more dames than the red car did. I could sure use one of those," added Sharkey wistfully.
"Couldnít we all, Francis? Couldnít we all?" said Ace philosophically.
Sharkey completed the preparations, helped Ace enter the airlock, and proceeded to shut the hatch. Ace removed the regulator from his mouth to make one final comment before going out.
"Smoke me a kipper," he began.
"Youíll be back for breakfast," Sharkey completed the phrase with a big smile and a hearty "thumbs up" to Ace. The hatch was closed, the valve opened, and the floating ball quickly went up the transparent tube that indicated the water level in the airlock.
Ten minutes later, Ace was making his way hand-over-hand along the rungs that dotted the outer deck. He had the discus-shaped control device attached to his weight belt. When he reached the open missile tube, he peered at the weapon of mass destruction. Itís long, cylindrical shape would have elicited some exceedingly vulgar comments from Dave Lister. But Lister was safe and dry, and Ace was out here risking his existence for millions of people he had never heard of before today. But that was what Ace was all about. He, and every other Ace Rimmer that has lived in the millions of universes, was a hero in every sense of the word. A scourge to all that is evil. A manís man. Every womanís desire. Even if this Ace was a hologram. He was bound and determined to be all that an Ace Rimmer could be, because he was the last of the breed. Every other universe had had its Ace Rimmer, and he was the Omega Ace. The name of Ace Rimmer was spoken alongside that to John Robinson, Don West, and James T. Kirk (despite Kirkís ego, he was still a space hero). He would pull off Nelsonís assignment.
He had successfully deactivated the missile, and was on his way back to the diving hatch, when he felt something tug at his leg. He was certain that a squid had snagged him. He looked back, and to his surprise, he saw a GELF instead! It must have been following them, and came through the wormhole with Starbug. The GELF, which was an acronym for Genetically Engineered Life Form, was an enemy to be reckoned with. They were telepathic, having the power to influence male minds into thinking that they were extremely beautiful females of the maleís species, and convincing the unfortunate male that their sole desire was to mate with him. They often used females out their intended victimís memories. When he was totally in its power, the GELF would feed! It would suck the poor devilís brain out through a straw!
However, this poor devil didnít know whom it was dealing with. First of all, it was dealing with a hologram. Holograms didnít have brains of flesh to suck out. Second, it was dealing with Ace Rimmer, not Arnold Rimmer. He would not succumb to its GELF mind-tricks.
Ace slowly reached for the slim laser pistol that Nelson had equipped him with. It was far smaller than the bulky blaster that he normally carried. The vile creature didnít know what happened as its brain was skewered and boiled away by the beam of coherent light.
Ace holstered the laser, and continued to make his way to the airlock.
Nelson was waiting at the hatch, and he was angry! He saw the entire incident, and to his eyes, Ace Rimmer had just blown the brains out of Angie, NIMRís Executive Secretary!
"Mission Accomplished, Harry! But I had to dispatch aÖhey!" Ace shouted as a laser identical to the one he had just used was thrust forcibly into his side. Had he been human, he would have needed to have a broken rib taped, just as Lee had.
"Rimmer! How dare you kill my secretary in cold blood!" bellowed Harriman Nelson as he clutched the laser in his sweaty palm. His knuckles were white. His trigger finger was mighty itchy!
"Harry, Harry, slow down, itís not what you think," Ace tried to reason with Nelson, who had been affected by the telepathic power of the GELF. Ace tried to speak again, when a fist crashed into his jaw. The fist belonged to a slavering, wild-eyed Lee Crane.
"Murderer!" shouted Crane. "You mermaid-killing son of aÖ"
"Lee! Calm down, son! Heíll pay for this," said Nelson as he pried Craneís hands from Aceís throat. As the fingers were pulled away, Ace was glad that he was hard light. Otherwise, he would be in dire need of a tracheotomy! Seaviewís Captain released the hologram, and collapsed into Nelsonís arms, sobbing. The other Dwarfers entered the room. Lister addressed Ace.
"I thought you were my friend," sneered Lister, before he backhanded Ace across the jaw that Crane had just uppercut. Ace was again glad that he was a hologram. Had he been human, his jaw would have been broken twice in as many minutes. Put simply, he would be dead.
"Dave! Who did I kill?" demanded Ace as he shook Listerís shoulders.
"Who did you kill?" swore Lister. "Damn you, Rimmer, I just saw you gun down Kate Kochanski in cold blood!"
"Dave, Dave, where did Kate come from?" asked Ace. He knew that if Lister would think, he would remember that Kate Kochanski had been dead for three million years. He would remember that Kate had snubbed him aboard Red Dwarf, and had died along with the rest of the crew in Arnold Rimmerís radiation leak. But Lister was not about to think.
"I donít know, and I donít care!" sobbed Lister as he collapsed into Nelsonís arms. The Admiral had to maneuver the bawling Crane to his right arm, so that he could comfort the squalling Lister in his left. He gave Ace a withering look. His shirt was ruined! Kryten spoke his piece.
"I am appalled!" Kryten stammered. "How could you do such a thing to dear Camilla! She was a good GELF. You never met her, but Arnold Rimmer did, and at least you could have accessed his memories before pulling the trigger! You, you, Smeeeeeeee-heeeeeeee!"
"Hold it! Hold it!" said Ace, holding up both hands in a "stop" gesture.
"The only thing youíll be holding is your light bee, when I rip it out of you!" swore Lister, lifting his head from Nelsonís armpit.
"Hear me out!" pleaded Ace. "Dave, who did you say I killed?"
"My beloved Kate!" choked Lister, before he broke out into another violent crying jag.
"Lee! Who did you say that I killed?" Ace asked Crane.
"The mermaid that I fell in love with!" coughed Crane. He then joined Lister in crying twice as hard into Nelsonís shoulder. Nelsonís shirt was by this time completely soaked, and a puddle was forming on the floor. Ace continued.
"Harry. Who did you see me kill?"
"Angie, my secretary at NIMR," Nelson said. He, too, was sobbing, which only added to Crane and Listerís river of tears.
"Secretary? Whatís your secretary doing on board?" Ace asked.
"She isnít!" Nelson said indignantly.
"Then why did you see her?" asked Ace.
"I didnítÖ" Nelson trailed off.
"See what I mean?" said Ace, sounding as authoritative as he could. "Each one of you saw a different female, exactly as the GELF intended! You were all under its spell!"
This revelation brought everyone to full understanding. Lister and Crane sniffled one final time, and disengaged themselves from a grateful Nelson. He looked as if he had been doused in seawater. With a muttered "thanks", he hurried to his quarters to change into dry clothes. Crane ordered Sharkey to have the puddle mopped up before somebody slipped in it.
"Oh, Admiral, Captain," interrupted Sharkey in a lilting voice.
"Yes?" they asked in unison.
"Youíre both happily married to beautiful ladies," Sharkey continued, "so why did you imagine other women?"
"Weíll discuss this later," shushed Nelson, "Chief." Nelson had restored Sharkeyís rank in a futile effort to placate him.
"Perhaps weíll discuss that month-long trip to Vegas Iíve requested," Sharkey suggested, "all expenses paid."
"If the wives get wind of this, weíre toast!" moaned Crane.
When everybody had gotten themselves collected and cleaned up, they reconvened in the Observation Nose to determine their next course of action. The missile had been secured, Washington was safe, Seaview and Starbug were synchronized and ready for the jump. Nelson had changed into a fresh uniform, and was reclining in his favorite seat in the Nose. His coffee had a shot of Irish whiskey in it to help prepare him for what was to transpire next.
"Ace, if it wasnít for you, we would be running for our lives from the U.S. Navy right now," commented Crane.
"Donít mention it," dismissed Ace.
"And weíd never get home," added Lister, his coffee spiced up with some of the same whiskey as Nelsonís, and with a dash of curry sauce, as well.
"When do we do the real thing?" Lister asked Nelson.
"Tomorrow at 1200 hours," answered Nelson.
"Why not earlier? Everythingís ready," protested Cat.
"Weíre detecting some aberrations in the Earthís magnetic field, but theyíre subsiding, and we calculate that the field will be normal by 1200 hours tomorrow. Then, weíll be able to send you home," answered Morton.
"The aberrations mean that our warm-up this morning disturbed the space-time equilibrium, and it needs to be as stable as possible," added Nelson. "We also want to wait to see if any anomalies appear."
"What kind of anomalies?" inquired Kryten. As if on cue, a new voice was heard.
"Do not move, und you vill not be harmed."
"Krueger!" spat Nelson. He could not reach his laser because of the 9mm Luger that was pointing at the spot between his eyes.
"We thought you were at peace," Morton said dumbfoundedly.
"I vass, und zhen zhese misfits appeared," Krueger sneered, waving the muzzle of his Luger at the Dwarfers. "Zhey opened a portal to zis vorld, und sent me back here to zhis ball of mud."
"I resent that!" Lister protested. Without even looking away from Nelson, Krueger pivoted the Luger and squeezed off a shot.
Where Lister had been holding a cup of Irish/curry coffee, he was now left clutching the lone ear of a china cup. The cup had been cleanly shot away, and the coffee that had spilled in his lap looked like he had already drunk it before having it spill. He gawked at the fragment in his hand, then at his lap, then at Nelson.
"Harry, who is this guy?" he asked Nelson through gritted teeth. That coffee was scalding hot!
"Kapitan Gearhardt Krueger is a ghost from a World War One U-boat," began Nelson, "who didnít pass on when he died. Heís tormented us, especially Lee, several times while looking for a body to allow him to reunite with his lover, Lani. By the way, how is Lani?"
"Sheís fine," Krueger replied, "a few kilos heavier since she kids, undÖnein!" Krueger fired two shots into the deck. The bullets could be heard to ricochet off of the Flying Sub bay.
"You vill not attempt to distract me again!" he shouted.
"What are you going to do to get back to Lani?" asked Nelson.
"I neet a boty to allow me to make zhe passage back to zhe oter side," announced Krueger. This solicited a long moan from Crane. His body had actually been possessed by the German before, and he had nearly strangled an island girl.
"Do not vorry, Crane," reassured Krueger," I do not vant your boty zhis time."
"Whoís boty, er, body, do you want?" asked Crane, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"His!" Krueger pointed at Ace Rimmer.
The silence was deafening. All eyes were riveted to Ace.
"Why me?" he asked.
"You ver zhe von who yanked be back from mein Laniís side," said Krueger, "und your body ist zhe only vay zhat I can return to her vaiting arms, her eager lips, her heaving.." Steam began to roll from the undead Germanís ears.
"Excuse me," interrupted Kryten, "but, if Ace is not aboard Starbug when the wormhole is generated, the mass imbalance will render it impossible to return to Red Dwarf. We will be forever lost."
"Velcome to zhe club blockhead," chuckled Krueger.
Never get home! The prospect was unthinkable. Lister had to think fast.
"You donít want Ace," Lister began, "heís unstable."
"He is?" asked Krueger.
"I am?" asked Ace.
"Yes, donít you remember-when you were Arnie? The holovirus?" Lister was winking at Ace furoiusly.
"Vhy are you vinking?" demanded Krueger.
"Something in my eye," answered Lister lamely.
"Vhat is zhis "holovirus"?" demanded Krueger. Boy, was he demanding.
"Itís like a human virus, only it affects a hologramís programming," Ace tried his best to wing it while he was trying to figure out what Lister was referring to.
"Und vhat does zhat do?" demanded Krueger. The hammer of the Luger clicked back.
"It affects the personality in highly abnormal ways," Lister said. "Ace, do you remember what happened to Arnie when he was infected? Do you remember - Mr.Fribble?"
"Oh, Mr.Fribble," nodded Ace, finally catching on to what Lister was talking about. He quietly reached for his light bee control, which was out of Kruegerís sight. He made and adjustment, and Kruegerís jaw dropped.
The blond, gold-clad Ace was replaced by Arnold Rimmer in a red gingham dress with a red gingham bonnet. On his right hand was a sock puppet that was also wearing a gingham bonnet! Rimmer addressed the puppet.
"Well, Mr. Fribble, it appears that Kapitan Krueger had been a very bad boy. And what happens to bad boys?" Rimmer moved the mouth of the puppet, and supplied its words in an otherworldly voice.
"They die!" Mr. Fribble/Rimmer pronounced. And before the shocked Krueger could act, twin red beams burst from the eyes of the puppet and struck the Germanís heart.
With a scream that was heard from stem to stern, Krueger slowly vanished. The scream faded out just as he did. When the last vestiges of Gearhardt Krueger were gone, Ace Rimmer reappeared.
"Whew!" sighed Lister, wiping his brow. "I thought weíd lost you again."
"Not this time, Dave! Like I said, Iím back to stay!" cheered Ace.
"Iím not even going to ask the story behind this!" said Nelson tiredly. He got up, and ascended the spiral stairs to Officerís Country, and his warm bed. But before he could sleep, Nelson had to do something to relieve some stress. He turned on his personal computer. This wasnít an ordinary PC, however. Nelsonís own design, it was light gray and white, instead of the usual beige. The monitor and tower of the traditional PC were replaced by a single unit, which didnít have any of the square angles of the regular computer, either. The rounded shape was vaguely reminiscent of the nose of the Seaview, with manta-ray appendages in front and downward-angled fins in the rear. It wasnít like an ordinary PC inside, either. The NP-1 processor was the first non-classified processor to be rated at one gigahertz, roughly twice the speed of the fastest competitor. The operation system was of Nelsonís design as well. Based loosely on the top-secret operation system of Seaviewís own supercomputers, it was even called "Seaview." This revolutionary new combination of hardware and software was quickly growing in market share, and some were even suggesting that Harriman Nelson would one day replace Bill Gates as the worldís richest man. The Justice Department was already muttering the words "abuse of monopoly power."
Nelson quickly opened the program that Morton had emailed him for Christmas. After a few frames of elf bowling, he was ready to hit the sheets.
D-Day dawned bright and clear. Both vessels were on the surface. Starbug was resting on the platform that had been mounted behind Seaviewís sail. A last-minute modification to her communication system would allow the Dwarfers to contact Enterprise, in order to get the Romulan ale and Saurian brandy that Lister coveted so un-Biblically. Kirk was becoming the biggest bootlegger in the galaxy! The spacecraft was also fully provisioned from Seaviewís stores, including, for Ace, a case of smoked kippers that Nelson had donated from his private stock (for which he had gotten a case of vindaloo from Lister. Sparks had better have a gallon of water when he takes a bite of that stuff!).
Nelson, Crane, and Morton were standing before the main viewscreen. They saw Ace, Lister, Kryten, and Cat strapped into their seats aboard Starbug. All systems were go.
"I guess this is goodbye," Nelson stated.
"I guess so, Harry." Replied Lister.
"Itís been real," added Crane.
"Itís been fun, too, at times," said Ace.
"Weíll be able to stay in communication for about five minutes after you return to your spacetime," said Nelson.
"You will be able to know whether we are successful of not," stated Kryten matter-of-factly.
"Five minutes to departure time," announced Morton.
"Thanks for everything, Harry," said Lister.
"Just donít drink all of the Romulan ale or Saurian brandy at once," laughed Nelson.
The five minutes passed quickly, and the image from the sail camera showed the repaired and repainted Starbug lifting slowly and majestically from the deck of Seaview. The spacecraft lifted until it was clear of the sail, rotated a half turn, and ignited the main engines. The camera hastily filtered itself, to compensate for the actinic light of the four engines. Starbug surged forward and began a rapid, graceful climb into the western sky.
"There they go," said Nelson. He addressed Sparks through the ceiling mike.
"Subspace communications check, Sparks," Nelson ordered.
"Subspace communications are green go," replied Sparks.
"Iíll miss those guys," Crane said, holding back a tear.
"I will too, even if they cooked the Lobster Man," sighed Nelson.
"Whoís gonna iron our skivvies the way Kryten did?" mused Morton.
"Wasnít Sparks being redundant when he said, green go?" speculated OíBrien from the Control Room.
Nelson, Crane, and Morton watched the diminishing light of Starbugís engines until they disappeared below the horizon. Nelson opened the liquor cabinet and extracted a bottle of hundred-year-old Scotch. They drank every last drop.
Starbug climbed rapidly out or Earthís atmosphere, and proceeded to the L5 point in lunar orbit, where they would engage the stardrive, safely out of Earthís gravity well. The deflectors effectively blocked the spacecraft from Earthís tracking systems, including those on Moonbase Alpha. The last thing that Starbug needed was John Koenig of Alan Carter to come flying around, and interfere with the departure. Starbug probably wasnít maneuverable enough at sublight to evade the lasers of an Eagle transporter.
"Three, two, one, engage!" said Ace. Kryten threw the stardrive lever, and Starbug disappeared from the universe of the atomic submarine Seaview.
The stars were elongated streaks during the hyperspace transition. When they resumed a more normal shape, the window of Starbug was filled by the sight that her crew had thought they would never see again. Red Dwarf floated majestically in front of them. They were home!
"Dave! Get ahold of Harry and tell him he put us smack dab on top of Red Dwarf!" shouted Ace joyously. Lister did just that, and he could hear the chorus of cheers that rose from the men of Seaview.
"Glad to hear it, Dave!" laughed Nelson. Crane bent forward and whispered something in Nelsonís ear. He thought for a moment, then spoke.
"Ace, the crew of Seaview has a favor to ask of you," he said, grinning.
"Anything, Harry! Name it," replied Ace.
"Could you let us speak to Arnold Rimmer for a moment, please?" Nelson asked on behalf of Crane and his crew.
"Arnie? Why, of course," Ace responded. He adjusted the light bee control, and Arnold Rimmer appeared in his place.
"Admiral Nelson, you wish to speak to me," said Rimmer somewhat imperiously.
"Yes, Rimmer. The crew has something they would like to say," Nelson said.
"Obviously to thank me for my heroic leadership in the recent crisis," Rimmer said smugly.
Nelson gave an order to Sparks, and every microphone aboard Seaview was live. Crewmen gathered around the handhelds and the open-airs alike, until all one hundred twenty-five of the crew was within range of a microphone.
"Three, two, one, zero!" Nelson said. The crew shouted one word in unison:
Itís wet outside. Thereís all kind of ocean here.
Iím undersea, more of less.
Let me sail far away from here.
Me and you, Submarine Seaview
Letís voyage to the bottom of the sea,
Sitting on Nelsonís Porch.
Chip and Lee, Harry makes it three.
Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun.
Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun.
The term "smeghead" is an obscenity created for the series Red Dwarf that would pass the censors of the BBC. Its meaning is more or less up to the listener or reader.
The following characters and series are copyrighted by the sources listed. No infringement is intended:
Red Dwarf, Starbug, Dave Lister, Arnold Rimmer, Ace Rimmer, Kryten, Cat, Kate Kochanski, GELF, and the Red Dwarf theme are copyrights of Grant Naylor Productions;
Star Trek, Starship Enterprise, James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott are copyrights of Paramount Pictures;
Stringfellow Hawke, Dominic Santini, Michael Coldsmith Briggs, the FIRM, and Airwolf are copyrights of Belisarius Productions;
John Robinson and Don West are copyrights of Irwin Allen Productions;
John Koenig, Alan Carter, and Alpha Moonbase are copyrights of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson Productions;
The meeting of the Voyage and Star Trek characters referred to can be found in the story, "Submarine on the Edge of Forever" by Rachel Howe and Allison Passarelli, which is located in the webfanzine NIMR Reports.