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3 BIRTHS AND A FUNERAL

written by Rob Burriss

AUTHOR'S NOTE
This is the ultimate 'What Happened When The Cameras Were Turned' story! Find out what happened during series seven before Lister took himself back to the Aigburth Arms, what happened between series two and three when Jim and Bexley were born, and also how a funeral can also be a birth...(?)

"PING."

The Cat emitted a jubilant whoop; "The baked potatoes are done!"

Lister smirked and reached over for the timer perched on Starbug's pilot control panel. They'd found the Dwarf over seven months ago now. Eventually, after many attempts, Kryten's nanobots had reconstructed the ship to its proper size and now they scurried about making all the repairs the skutters seemed to forget about. Rimmer and Lister had gratefully moved back into their officers quarters, although Rimmer had begun to notice that some nights Lister didn't come back to sleep there at all. Needlesss to say, they had effortlessly succeeded in getting under one another's skin once again. However, Lister remained happy. He was home, after all.

"Wait," said Lister, looking at the baked potato timer in his hand, "it still reads five minutes."

"So what was it that 'pinged'?" Asked Rimmer from his seat beside Kochanski at the navigation console.

"I dunno." Lister conceded. He stood up and stooped over the panel and started to rummage amongst all the unnecessary gadgets and devices which littered its surface. He fished out from the pile one of his many timers, noticing that it had reached 'zero'. Unusually, this timer seemed to measure time in months, not minutes. 'Zero months' it read.

Above the clockface in pronounced black lettering read the phrase;

'UTERINE SIMULATOR REMOTE TIMING DEVICE.'

Lister turned and held the timer up for Kochanski to see.

"I'm born."

The crew stumbled into the medibay and fell over each other in their attempts to reach the uterine simulator. Kryten hoisted himself up first and scrambled to open a closet from which he pulled an impossibly clean and white midwife's apron and allowed Lister and Kochanski to approach the microwave-shaped device first. They peered through the wire-gauze reinforced glass. The small body of Dave Lister; the foetus, lay curled up on the rotating plate inside the simulator, his three, short rasta-plaits already visible at the base of his neck.

Kryten, now fully-aproned, approached the uterine simulator with an air of false authority, pulling on a pair of thin surgical gloves.

"Stand back please, Ma'am," Kryten 'advised', pushing Kochanski aside. He stopped directly in front of the device, paused, and then pushed his right index finger slowly into the door-release-button. The door came open, and Kryten breathed a sigh of relief as though he had successfully accomplished a difficult task. "Time of birth; eighteen 'o' seven hours," reported Kryten for the medicomputer.

He fished his hand into the uterine simulator and groped about blindly for the baby. He winced as his fingers touched something slimy and he picked up the new-born Lister by his gooey left leg, trailing his three short locks in the left-over glutinate swirling on the simulator's revolving plate.

"It's a boy!" Kryten cried jovially, removing the baby and holding it upside-down and Achilles-style by its ankle. "I really did hope it was going to be a boy!"

"You can't hold a baby like that!" Screeched Kochanski, diving to snatch her child from Kryten and as a result covering her front in its repugnant blue goo. "E'yew!"

She yelped, and Lister, detecting her discomfort and demonstrating his paranoid and irrational mistrust of fate, rushed to receive himself before Kochanski dropped him onto the deck. Of course, this was an impossible eventuality because as far as Lister knew, he had sustained no injuries as a small child, but human instinct told him that it was better to be safe than sorry, and he snatched the baby from Kochanski's faltering grip.

"What shall we call him?" Asked Kryten, rather excitedly and completely seriously.

"Kryten, it's me. We don't get to name me, because I've already got a name. Whatever we call this baby now, it'll end up being called Dave by my adoptive parents."

"I don't know why the uterine simulator can't wash the baby at the end of its cycle." Added Kochanski rather guiltily, obviously sorry that she had seemed repulsed by her own new-born child. She thought that she might have hurt Lister's feelings, after all, the baby was him, but she was unaware of his natural resilience and the fact that most of the things that other people said or did flew right over his head. Lister wasn't thinking about his present feelings, however. He was quietly reflecting upon some past ones. He was thinking about what it felt like to be a father again. The feelings were different this time compared to when he gave birth to Jim and Bexley. Admittedly, the absence of birthing stirrups might have been a reason for a difference in emotional reactions. Also, his hormones weren't constantly playing knock and run on his brain. What it was, though, he decided, was that this time he wasn't experiencing becoming a father again - he was becoming a father for the first time. Last time he had become a mother. There was quite a big difference.

"It's really weird being a parent again." He murmured absently.

"Pardon?" Shot Kochanski, instantly looking up from the baby which Lister was still cradling in his arms.

[Kryten felt a bit worried; he thought he'd detected a slightly possessive tone in Ms. Kochanski's voice, then. Was she jealous? Did she have any reason to be jealous? Were she and Mr. Lister seeing each other again? It was perfectly possible. He'd detected the both of them creeping about at night several times. Oh, he'd have to stamp out this little rebellion, quick smart; it could turn out to be very dangerous.]

"I had twins about 205 years ago. I thought you knew about this."

"No." Replied Kochanski flatly. [Oh, yes, there was definitely a suspicious, anxious, angry tone to her voice. This was NOT good.]

"Kryten, I thought I told you to tell her about it while I did that thing that I had to do, remember?" Lister stared accusatorially at Kryten.

"Yes, Sir, but I thought it would damage yours and Ms. Kochanski's friendship more if I left her to find out by accident. Lister waited for a moment, but nothing more came. Kryten was deadly serious.

"Oh, please. DO tell me all about it." Requested Kochanski with a voice spilling over with manufactured politeness. She folded her arms over her chest and waited for a suitable explanation.

"O.K." Said Lister simply. And he began to tell his story.

"I was fixing Kryten when it happened. Not that I gave birth straight away. No such luck. I had fixed Kryten's head and got his CPU in order, so he could speak, and this meant he'd been able to instruct me on how to reconstruct the rest of his body and that had speeded up the whole process immensely. That morning I was working on his limbs and I would have finished the whole task by teatime. I was working pretty fast because the twins were due in only four days, so in my haste I ended up severing the tendons in Kryten's legs when I was soldering up the attachment rods. That put me behind schedule. I needed Kryten to be fully operational so he could deliver the twins. Needless to say, I botched up the repair job on the tendons and my schedule was blown apart. I had no chance of restoring him to working order within a month.

"I was smegged. Like I say, I went into labour and Rimmer managed to convince the Cat to bundle me onto a hover stretcher and run me down to the main RD medibay. It wasn't far because I'd moved into the maternity quarters, but even so the journey seemed to take forever.

"So I'm lying there on the table in the medical bay, still convinced that Kryten's going to be able to do the delivery even though he's legless - literally - and Rimmer walks in, and behind him are two skutters. We've talked about this, back-up plan, in case Kryten can't do it.

"They've got something in their claws, but what they are I can't make out because I'm squinting so much. Then the light from the dentist chair lamp catches them and I see that they're scalpels.

"The skutters are carrying scalpels, but they're not scalpels, they're steak knives. I convince myself that that is what they are; steak knives. For cutting into meat. Rimmer is telling me that Kryten isn't going to come. He can't come because he can't even walk. The skutters are going to give me a caesarean.

"I recognise one of the skutters. It's Perky. The one who tried to put a thermometer in my mouth when I had pneumonia but nearly gauged out my eye. I feel like I'm going mad. Maybe he'll miss again and stab me in the eye with his steak knife. I look down at him. He's not carrying a steak knife anymore. He's carrying a dagger. I mean a real huge dagger, like a combat knife. Serrated edge, curved hilt, real killing implement. At this point I'm in real pain. I'm talking iffy-curry-ill pain. Perky and his fellow psychodroid are getting closer and I'd swear they're making little up-down stabbing motions with their machetes.

"Just then I must have blacked out because the next thing I knew Jim was slithering out of me onto the table and the skutters were dropping their scalpels. They dashed over to remove him and expertly moved away to wash him, weigh him, bag him and tag him.

"But I'm not done. I wriggle and twist like Houdini bound in chains. Holly manages to drag himself away from his head change and fixes me to the medi-table. The skutters dive on me and I see a flash of blue steel but I'm comatose now! I can't feel any pain. The droids pull the slippery form of Bexley from my middle and then I'm gone. Unconscious."

"Oh." Said Kochanski in response. Lister seemed very moved by the telling of his story, so she felt obliged to say something else. "Thank God for uterine simulators, then, ay?" Lister looked at her, eyes wide.

"Really Ma'am," began Kryten from the sink where he was presently scrubbing clean the baby Lister, "you certainly aren't the most sensitive of people, are you?"

"On the contrary," responded Kochanski on the defensive, which was just where Kryten liked to keep her. "I remember the other time Dave was born. I was very sensitive then."

"Pardon?" Lister echoed Kochanski's utterance of only a few minutes previous.

"And when was this?"

He continued to wipe the baby secretions into his long-johns with both hands.

"Backwards World." Kochanski sat down on one of the office chairs and Kryten dropped the baby Lister into her arms.

[Oh, God. I know there's something going on. Look at her eyes!]

"I suppose, technically speaking, you weren't born. You undied." She told the story.

"I held out my hand and a single yellow jasmine flower fluttered up from the coffin. I clutched it to my chest and backed away, two tears climbing up wet trails traced over my cheeks. The air was thick with the muggy smell of wet earth and a large jet aircraft droned overhead, echoing the priest's backwards monotone. I couldn't understand backtalk yet. The dew glistened on the spring grass as tiny droplets of rain pathetic fallacied up to the grey sky via large black umbrellas.

"Four men lifted the rain spotted casket from its open grave and hoisted it up onto their shoulders and marched heads down, backwards, towards the spired church. I breathed jasmine perfume onto the flower and basked in its familiar scent, and then followed the coffin back."

She paused.

"A single and solitary tear whipped up to my face. Dead.

"About eight doctors and nurses walked solemnly into the ward, pulling machinery in front of them. One doctor pulled the bedsheet back from over s'Evad; Dave's face. There was a moment when everyone was quiet and I could hear the wall-clock tocking loudly.

"The medical staff regarded their instruments and the dived on his body, working fast, and after two long minutes his body wrenched up and he was alive. Dave exhaled loudly and then rose into unconsciousness. I sat there for some time, and then gathered the yellow spray from the bedside vase and left the ward. That was the first time I ever saw Dave alive."

"How very heart-warming." Kryten smiled plastically. "I suppose you wore all that red PVC stuff to the funeral?" Kochanski fixed Kryten with a stern look, and Lister soon joined her.

[Dearie me. Kryten knew he wasn't making progress when Mr. Lister sided with Ms. Kochanski.] Kryten shut up and handed Lister the hand-held time-drive.

"I've already, uh, programmed the time and place, Sir."

"Here's the infamous cardboard box, Listy. Painted up with 'ouroboros' like you said."

"Ta, Rimmer, man." Lister took the box and placed himself inside, covering his small body with the white blanket Kryten had crocheted especially. He held the box tightly under his arm and lifted the time-drive to eye level to check the display. He pushed the button and was gone in a flash of blue lightening. The room fell silent for a couple of seconds. Kryten took off his apron sullenly and Rimmer pocketed the marker he had used to write upon the cardboard box. Everyone turned to leave and they were just passing out of the doorway when they heard Kochanski speak.

"While Dave's at the Aigburth Arms, I've got a little announcement to make." She began, sounding rather nervous and still seated awkwardly on the office chair. She shifted her weight. Kryten, Rimmer and the Cat turned and looked at her, waiting for her proclamation.

"I'm pregnant." She said.

[Oh, smeg, thought Kryten. I was right.]

But that's another story; after all, I only scheduled three births.

THE END


CYBER BATíS MESSAGE
Oh come on! You canít end a great story like that!!
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