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written by ROB BURRISS

Alter Egos is a story set during the latter part of series five, and involves a character not unlike the Inquisitor. It also incorporates the 'poker scene' form the Smeg Ups video.

The Summoner looked down at the infinitely long list he held in his hands, in his cold home of oblivion, and smiled as he read the last name from its final page. The self repairing simulant flexed his gauntletted left hand and summoned the electronic glove to display for the trillionth time the hologrammatic recording of his doppelganger's death. He watched as his other self was absorbed into limbo in a swirl of scarlet light and energy and screamed out in ecstasy as he realised that he could revenge that injustice at last.

The Summoner keyed the last name on the list into his time gauntlet and pushed the 'enter' button. Time began to swirl around him like a cloying black fog and he thought of the pain he was going to inflict upon the owner of that name.

He would make him pay.

Meanwhile, because everything is meanwhile compared to the non-time of oblivion, the owner of the name sat in his sleeping quarters playing strip poker with three of his best mates, who he didn't really want to spend any time with, but didn't really have any choice.

"O.K." Said the Cat, after closely examining his cards for a good eight minutes and finally realising that he couldn't understand what any of the symbols they bore meant. "One silk handkerchief, hand stitched." He threw a square of fabric into centre of the felt covered table. "Your bet." Lister acknowledged the Cat with a nod of his naked head, perched atop a likewise body. He was losing, big time.

"I'll raise you one gold cap." he pulled a loose crown from the back of his mouth and scudded it onto the table where it came to rest upon the Cat's handkerchief.

"Hey, watch it, Buddy!" The Cat yelped in disgust. "I'm not having anything with your diseased phlegm gracing my semi-divine nostril-cleaner, even if it is gold!

Move it, Buddy!" Lister reached over the table with his right hand while concealing his naked groin with a fanned out collection of ten cards in his left hand, six of which happened to be aces.

"Okey, Dokey. I do believe the bet doth turneth in my direction." Rimmer smiled from under the twin black holes of his nostrils. "Holly, another item of clothing please!" After a pause, a pair of olive green corduroy slacks materialised on the table, amongst a pile of various other hologrammatic garments such as turd coloured duffel-coats, luminous yellow kilts and sky blue tank-tops. The Cat was violently sick.

"You can't play without cheating, can you Rimmer?" Said Lister, carefully hiding his excess cards.

"No, Listy, I can't, but is that really so bad? The Chinese Olympic swimming teams of the late twentieth century certainly benefited from a likewise approach!

Holly appeared on the quarter's main monitor in place of the usual fish, looking hot and bothered. She promptly fainted but soon regained consciousness.

"Cripes!! I've run all the way up from the Drive-Room!" She gasped, her digital head bobbing drunkenly around the screen. "There's something outside the ship!"

"What is it?"

"The ship!"

"How can the ship be outside the ship?"

"No!" Continued Holly, as if she was being plainly obvious. "THE ship!"

"What ship?!"

"THE ship - the one on the scanner scope!!!"

"What's that then?"

"Just a ship, I don't know. There seems to be an energy emission coming from it!"

"May I have a look at those emissions, Holly?" Asked Kryten, moving towards the monitor.

The computer displayed the figures the scanner scope had reported in the corner of the monitor. "These look very similar to the metaphorical aftertaste left behind by an enigma teleportation device, not unlike ones used by various simulants we have encountered."

"'Ang about, lads. There's something on the security cameras. Look! Someone's in the cargo bay!"

Kryten, Cat, Lister and Rimmer stared intently at the still shot taken by the security camera of the uninvited guest. The mechanoid gulped.

"Who's that?" Asked Rimmer, squinting, and the Cat made the same inquiry with an expression, his vocabulary being about as impressive as the social skills of a Star Trek fan.

"Begging my pardon, Sirs. I believe that that man is the simulant Mr. Lister and myself encountered a short while ago; the one who attempted to erase us all from history and in fact succeeded for a time. He's the Inquisitor.

When Lister had erased the Inquisitor from history and deleted his electronic birth from time, a group of scientists who worked in the robotics department at the Dodecahedron were affected quite seriously. For one, they didn't end up making exactly the type of mechanoid they had intended when they began working on a project to create a self-repairing stimulant for use in the gelf-wars. There were only slight differences between the intended outcome and the actual outcome of the project due to Lister's intervention, but enough for the President to warrant discarding the entire venture.

The main difference was that the result of the experiment was insane. Loco. The madcap mechanoid was tossed onto the scrapheap and its codename was changed on all official files from 'Inquisitor' to 'Summoner'.

The simulant lay on the heap of junk until the end of time when it arose and found itself in oblivion, where it began to plot its revenge on mankind.

The Summoner materialised on the steely deck of cargo warehouse No. 6 towards the stern of Red Dwarf after teleporting there from his own, smaller craft. He stood solemnly in a network of corridors created by the towering stacks of wooden crates which were piled five, six or seven high in hundreds of uniform rows. The Summoner's other self - the Inquisitor - had taught himself to provide his idea of justice for the human race by making sure that each person made use of their life. The Summoner, however, in his dimension, had very different ideas. By the end of time, the Summoner didn't feel himself wanting to judge human-kind; he wanted to punish it.

The Inquisitor had become the judge and jury, the Summoner had become the executioner. Living up to his name, the Summoner has constructed a similar gauntlet to that of his alternate self, and had begun to summon humans to him to be executed. He soon discovered that he was getting great enjoyment from his work, and started to summon many versions of each person from many realities and times to be executed. Sometimes he could summon up to one hundred versions of the same person.

It was during his perfection of the inter-dimensional summoning gauntlet that he had discovered several other versions of himself in other dimensions and realities. One stuck out from the rest, though. One had been killed by a mortal human. The last human.

And so the Summoner had waited until the time when he could destroy the human and revenge his other self's death. He had executed every member of the human race in order, from the first person right through to the penultimate, and now the time had come. Now he had reached the end of his list and was ready to begin the execution of the last human.

He reached to his gauntlet and keyed in the name on the bottom of his list. The last human emerged out of nothing and stood facing the Summoner, next to people he instantly recognised yet had never seen before.

"He's gone!" Yelled Kryten. "Engage panic circuits! -BEEP- Mr. Lister's gone!!!"

And he was. The Cat and Rimmer stared helplessly at the floor where Lister had been standing only seven seconds previously. What were they going to do?

As far as Lister could see, he was standing opposite a reincarnation of the Inquisitor, and next to himself, himself and quite a few more 'himselfs'. In fact, a total of forty David Listers stood in a surprised crowd in the cargo bay corridor.

"I have summoned you here," began the Summoner, "to kill you. There are no two ways about it. I don't like you very much because you killed me -sort of - and that is very hard to forgive and forget, especially for a simulant who likes to spend his spare time causing extreme pain and suffering to any organisms who happen to offend said simulant by respiring in the same universe as him. Therefore, as each of you have committed an offence slightly more severe than breathing on this side of the omni-zone, I have resolved to tear of each of your feet, force them up your nostrils and simultaneously force you to consume other peoples' excrement."

"Oh, smeg." Said all forty Listers in unison.

"That speech went pretty well, didn't it?" Continued the Summoner. "It did take me forever to write it - Literally! Anyway, I've assembled this little group from various Listers who I have summoned here from various moments in your lives, and even from alternate realities, because, basically, it's more fun executing 40 people than just one!"

The Summoner turned on his heels, surveying the circle of people, and chose his first victim.

His eyes settled on Lister.

"Oh, Double Smeg." Said Lister.

Kryten was frantically attempting to redress himself with his panic circuits at 96.8% of full power, which was just about as difficult as trying to pick you nose while wearing thick woollen gloves with a large dose of local anaesthetic injected into your forefinger.

"Hey, Bud," objected the Cat, "now that Doody Breath's quit, I win the hand! Those clothes belong to me!"

"What do you want with Diva-Droid standard issue series 4000 mechanoid over-clothing?" yelled Rimmer incredulously. "We haven't got time for this!"

"Are you serious?" Frowned the Cat, talking in one of his more patronising voices (for what could the Cat talk down to people about if it wasn't about clothes?) "Plastic elbow pads and tops with little lights on the shoulders are all the rage this morning!"

48 minutes later, Kryten fastened the Cat's belt around his own, angular waist, and slipped a heart shaped medallion around his neck, while the Cat slipped into the newly tailored mechanoid PVC trousers. The trio had only just left the sleeping quarters when the Cat proclaimed that the styles had just changed as it was, by then, at least two minutes past twelve in the afternoon, and he would have to get out of these hideously outmoded, obsolete and unfashionable items of clothing, that represented, in his eyes, "puke in solid form".

By half past one the Cat had finally donned an outfit which he deemed "reasonably cool", and he had swaggered off in the direction of the cargo bays, with Rimmer and Kryten not far behind.

Lister felt about as helpless as Peterson after his usual Monday morning's seven pints of scotch. The Summoner had apparently 'glued' him, by some means, to the floor. It was obvious now; the Summoner had chosen him of the forty present to be his first victim, but the time it was taking for him to pace inevitably to Lister's position seemed to be taking an eternity. The Summoner was in no hurry, though. He'd waited one eternity - he could wait another.

The simulant was just yards from the human.

Lister closed his eyes.

"Prepare yourself for death, Human!"Lister clenched his teeth and dug his fingernails into his palms. He felt the playing cards in his hand scrunch up. He waited.

There was the shimmering sound of an enigma beam in the air next to him, and Lister's vision momentarily flashed from black to red as the beam lit up the air. He revealed the world to his eyes.

He watched in slow motion as the Summoner strode purposefully away. To his right was a small mound of grey, skeletal ash, semi-covered by the charred robe which Lister recognised had belonged to the 'High' Lister that he had met on board the perfect duplication of Red Dwarf. Lister exhaled.

The lift door CHICHINKED open and Kryten stepped out followed by the Cat, and Rimmer (as usual) brought up the rear.

They were on the deck of cargo bay 6A, which was the lowest of a series of four decks which were suspended above the floor of the No. 6 cargo warehouse by huge titanium chains, in a giant step formation, each step being slightly larger than the one above so, when on one deck, a person could partially view the next deck down. Kryten and the Cat reached the far edge of the deck, and ducked their heads under the safety fence to observe the action on the bay below. It appeared that the simulant who they had presumed was the Inquisitor had cleared a large section of the deck, and had arranged a number of men in a circle.

"Look," Rimmer whispered from a full ten metres behind the other two, so quietly that the Cat couldn't hear, "just find Lister so we can evacuate the smegging ship!" Kryten ignored Rimmer, and used his optical zoom function to get a closer look at the circle of men. He reeled back and cracked his plastic crown on the fence post.

"They're all Lister!" Kryten whispered back's mutely, but his musings were cut short by the sound of a fierce enigma beam cutting through the air. The Cat jabbed his head over the edge again, and eyed the crowd below.

"He's just killed one of them!"

"Just the one?" Followed Rimmer.

"But that shouldn't be happening!" Interjected Kryten. "He should be judging them or something...unless, he's not who we thought he was..." The mechanoid once again zoomed in on the lower deck, but this time he concentrated on the simulant. There was something different. He called up a mental picture of the Inquisitor from when they had first encountered him, and superimposed it upon his current image. They were different. This one appeared to have a certain bluish tinge to his chest-plate, and was a good three-sevenths of a centimetre taller. The differences were slight, but there was no denying that they were there. Strange. He reached for his psi-scan and discreetly pointed it at the impostor Inquisitor. There was evidence of recent dimensional-displacement according to the machine. It couldn't be the Inquisitor. Definitely. A plan began to formulate in Kryten's mind.

"Would you be so kind as to hand me my bazooket, Sir?"

The Cat reached down and picked up Kryten's mini-bazookoid and then handed it to him, all without taking his eyes off the action below.

"What the hell are you playing at Kryten?" Yelled Rimmer completely under his breath. "You told us that a simulant can resist minimal bazookoid fire!"

"I'm not going to shoot at the simulant." A tongue of smoke began to lick out of Kryten's left ear, but neither of his crew-mates noticed. Kryten levelled his bazooket and fired a bolt towards the deck below. With a roar and a bang he had killed one human, one mechanoid and one simulant.

The bazooket fire had screeched down towards the arc of Listers and struck one who happened to be about twenty years of age. Immediately the time lines readjusted causing all the Listers above that age to simply disappear, and causing all deeds that he had committed after his twentieth year to be erased from time. Lister had erased the Inquisitor during his twenty-seventh year.

The Inquisitor materialised on the cargo bay floor opposite the Summoner. A wisp of smoke curled up from the grate of Kryten's ear.

"He's dead." Whispered the Cat.

"He killed a human - it's shorted his CPU."

"Come on," the Cat stood up, "I've got another one of my 'once-in-a-life-time' ideas." And they made their way back to the turbo-lift.

"I find you unworthy of having existed." The Inquisitor had finished the inquisition of the Summoner - the only intelligent being present in the universe that he had yet to judge - and had found him unworthy of having lived. The Inquisitor reached down to his gauntlet and fired an erasure beam at the Summoner.

The Summoner cried out in anguish as his entire life was erased. He disappeared. So did the Inquisitor. So did all the remaining Listers. Our Lister was restored to his own time with a whoosh of wind. He collapsed down onto his bare bum and rested his back onto a cargo box. He let his hand of ten cards fall onto the floor. "Smeg, that was a close one." He sighed. Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat stepped out of the turbo-lift and crossed over to where Lister was sprawled. Rimmer tossed him his long-johns in disgust.

"So, Kryten killed one of the alternate Listers?" asked the exhausted Lister, pulling on his dirty clothes.

"Yup!" Grinned the Cat.

"So, how did his CPU cope with killing a human?"

"It didn't!" The Cat grinned even wider.

"Then why is he standing right over there?"

There was a pause, and then; "D'you want a bloody clip round the ear'ole, you great southern nancy!?" Sparehead 3 yelled from his pride of place on Kryten's shoulders.

"C'mon," said Lister, rising to his feet, "let's go the pub."

As they walked off, Rimmer turned his head and looked towards the floor.

"Hey, Lister!" Rimmer cocked his head. "Why the smeg did you have six aces in your hand??!!"

Lister, Kryten and the Cat just kept on walking. "Come back here now, and that's an order!!!" I'm talking to you, Lister, you fat, cheating GOIT!!! Come back here NOW!!!

Go and visit the Author’s web site – THE PICKLED JAR.