CYBER BAT’S MESSAGE
This story was typed by ME and is copied word by word from issue #16 BETTER THAN LIFE MAGAZINE <..>
Lister congratulated himself on yet another brutal plan. He plastered a goofy grin on his face and advised a rather bewildered feline to, “say cheese!” The cat flinched at the flash, and Lister rassured her with a rough pat. “Now, now, Franki. Don’t worry about when I’m gone. I think I’ll sneak you into the cargo hold. Plenty of Krispies for you to nibble your way into.”
Lister gave the black cat, for him she was a good luck talisman, a bowl of what remained of his milk ration. When she was contentedly slurping in the corner, he started using up the rest of the roll of film. He snapped pictures of the bunks, the table, Rimmer’s pink light bulb, Lennon and McCarthy, and his locker, both inside and out. Then he did the touch up shuffle over to the mirror and took a picture of himself taking a picture.
He checked the count on the camera and he still had two shots left. He opted for a back-of-the- head shot and one of the poster of Jim Bexley Speed.
The camera made an odd clicking noise to indicate that it would take no more photos, and Lister popped out the roll of film. He slid it into his pocket, ushered Frankie back into the ventilation duct, and released the lock on the door. He made his way to the ship’s lab.
Rimmer marched smartly down the corridor, sticking his nose up at everyone he passed. His clipboard rested comfortably in the crook of his left arm and his right hand eagerly awaited the signal to snatch up a pen and jot down a complaint. He could smell Lister before he could see him.
Lister rounded the corner humming a catchy tune. Rimmer snapped to a halt and grabbed his pen. He pointed it at Lister.
“Just where do you think you’re going, m’laddo?”
Rimmer’s nostrils flared. Lister didn’t break his stride. In fact, he burst into song.
“From Ganymede to Titan, yes sir I’ve been around!”
Rimmer sneered. “Right, you’re on report, squire. Failing to answer a direct question posed by a superior and refusing to obey orders to not sing in said superior’s presence.
Lister reverted to his humming and slid by his superior, flashing him a leisurely tow fingered salute. Before Rimmer could react, his nemesis had caught up with Petersen and forgotten about him.
Furious, Rimmer began scribbling the encounter onto his clipboard. His pen snapped in two due to the force with which he wrote and the ink sprayed everywhere. It permanently stained Rimmer’s uniform and destroyed the rest of his complaints, which had been neatly attached to the clipboard.
Lister and Petersen laughed their way into the ship’s lab ten minutes later. Chen looked up from a hulking machine and grinned.
“Cheers!” He nodded towards a door with a red light bulb glowing over the frame. “Selby’s through there developing the slides from Kochanki’s birthday party.” Lister rolled his eyes.
“C’mon, what’s he really got?”
Chen shrugged. “Just the pics from the Captain’s dinner last week. Whatcha doin’ here? Shouldn’t you be on shift?”
Lister flashed a lopsided grin. “Nah, I just checked in with Rimmer. I’m sure he’d rather not see me for quite some time.”
Petersen wandered over to the door behind which Selby was supposedly working. “Alright if I go in?”
“No, actually,” Chen replied.
Petersen smiled, gave a thumbs up sign, and opened the door. Somewhere from within, Selby screamed. “No, you bastard!!” Petersen walked in and shut the door. A few seconds later the sound of riotous laugher and beer cans popping open could be heard. Soon, the faint sounds of clapping and snapping filtered through as the tow started playing their favourite drinking game.
Lister turned his attention back to Chen. “Here, I’ve got this roll of film I need you to process.” He dug into his pocket and produced the lint-covered topic of conversation.
Chen scooped it up. “Sure, mate, no charge. I’ll have one of the skutters bring it round to your quarters sometime next week.”
Lister frowned. “Could it be sooner do ya think? There’s a free round in it for ya…..”
“Well, in that case, it’ll be there before Rimmer writes you up again!”
Lister winked at Chen. “Cheers, then. See you later, smeghead.”
Chen gave Lister a full Rimmer salute, complete with a powerful blow to his own forehead. He staggered a bit as Lister turned and left, then he slinked over to the darkroom door and slipped inside to join the drinking game.
Two hours later, Lister reclined on the top bunk in the quarters he shared with Rimmer and flipped through a Zero-gee magazine. A tapping at the door caught his attention, and he tossed the magazine aside. Before opening the door, he checked to make sure Frankenstein was secured in the air duct.
Satisfied, he pressed the panel next to the door and waited for it to whoosh open. “Brutal!” he claimed as he saw the scutter holding a package in its claws. He snatched it up and allowed the door to whoosh closed again.
Quickly, he tore open the envelope and flipped through the pictures. The Jupiter Rise? When had he taken that? How old was that role of film? Then he reached the more recent pictures. One of them was missing. He grinned his lopsided grin and retrieved Frankenstein.
“Time to move on,” he whispered as he tucked her discreetly into his uniform.
When Lister ducked back into his quarters forty-five minutes later, Rimmer was sitting at the desk, cramming for his exam the next day. “Yo, Rimmer, I’ve been thinking…”
Rimmer clamped his hands over his ears and began to read out loud.
Lister continued, oblivious to the fact that he’d lost his audience. “I’ve been thinking about my job in Z shift, and it’s just not for me. I hope you’ll understand that as much as it could be, this decision wasn’t personal.” He glanced at Rimmer.
Rimmer’s eyes were glued to the page before him as he forcefully declared the secrets behind the workings of Red Dwarf’s engines. Lister sighed and shimmied up to the top bunk. He retrieved his Zero-Gee magazine from under his pillow and opened it to an article on the London Jets.
Just then Holly’s digitised face appeared on the monitor. Rimmer looked up and smiled as Holly informed Lister that the Captain wanted to see him. Holly’s face vanished and Lister clambered back down from the bunk.
Rimmer’s smile grew and soon he was smiling just as broadly as a Cheshire cat. He thoughtfully inquired, “Everything tickety boo?”
Lister nodded towards Rimmer. “Be seein’ ya, smeghead.”
Lister entered the Drive Room and spotted Kochanski. His heart stopped for a moment, and then began beating quite rapidly. He forced his nervousness to give way to his natural charm and wit. He bravely walked across the room and leaned over her station. Before he could get much of a conversation going and before he’d been blessed with a full and dazzling pinball smile, Hollister bellowed his name. Lister said his farewell to the woman he loved, and allowed the Captain to usher him into the office.
As Hollister began asking questions about Frankenstein, Lister’s mind began to wander. He’d be in stasis for a few months and by the time he came out he’d be home. He could retrieve his cat and her kittens from the cargo hold and renew his courting of Kochanski. His plan was working out better than he could have expected and instead of five years, he could see himself in Fiji with Kris, the cat, the cows, sheep and horses, in less than two.
As Captain Hollister leaned towards Lister and bellowed the word, “Choose,” Lister felt slightly smug in the knowledge that everything was going his way.
Not even Rimmer could mar his happiness now.