by Laurie Sage
The last human being alive and a hologram with bad hair and a Napoleon complex lounged in their new bunkroom.
The old one, unfortunately, was now uninhabitable.
It had all started with Lister finding a junior chemistry set in a novelty shop the month before and, suffice to say, quite a lot of the room had melted.
Rimmer had complained that they weren’t officers and so they shouldn’t be moving into the officers quarters. Lister had countered that he didn’t give as smeg and if Rimmer wanted to stay in a grubby, grey, cupboard sized room on his own, it was fine by him. So now, they both lounged in the new, clean, white, officer’s room.
“I’m bored,” said Lister.
“It’s your own fault.”
“Well I don’t know.”
Lister patted his stomach, it was fairly big now. Rimmer sighed. “I don’t see why I can’t play my James Last album.”
“No way, Rimmer. Babies can hear things when they’re in the womb and I don’t want to submit Jim and Bexley to James Last as such a young age.”
Rimmer sighed again. Holly flashed on to the sleeping quarters monitor. “Wotcha.”
Holly looked at Lister and Rimmer lying moodily on their bunks.
“What’s goin on here then?”
“What does it look like” Rimmer asked.
“Er….” Holly’s brow wrinkled, “Nothing.”
There was a pause, Holly attempted to whistle but it sounded a bit lonely in the silence.
“Holly?” Lister began.
“How’s Kryten coming along?”
Holly thought back to the last time he’d seen Kryten. He’d been hoovering the skutters and calling them all Bob. “Not so well.”
It was Lister’s turn to sigh, he’d done his best to glue together the sad pieces os assorted circuit boards and curly blue wires that had once made up Kryten 2X4B%23P, using bits of drinks machines and the series 4000 upgrade kit to replace components that had spun off into space and were probably orbiting a distant asteroid by now, but android intelligence engineering was not really his forte.
Rimmer chuckled, “Doesn’t look like he’ll be ready for when the big time comes. I’m sure the skutters will do a fine job. They’ve been taking rudimentary sewing classes especially.”
A shiver of panic went through Lister, after what he’d seen of them practising caesarean sections on a dummy, he’d been willing to risk natural childbirth.
“NO. The skutters are not delivering these babies, not no way, not no how. Not over my dead body.”
Rimmer sucked his teeth noisily, “That may well be right.” He said.
“The dead body bit.”
“Go boil your light bee.”
Down in one of the many empty supply decks, Cat prowled. It was a good place for prowling, the only light was that of the red, extra low energy stuff that the Cats had been able to tap from the power line which, consequently, Holly couldn’t turn off. It gave for good atmospheric lighting. He peeked warily around the side of a great uncle-cousin’s house. There was a tall, square thing in his territory and he didn’t like it one bit. He tiptoed warily across the street, always on the look out for other intruders. The square thing turned to face him as he reached mid way. “Hello Bob.” It said.
Cat scowled menacingly, pressing himself to the ground. The square thing contentedly dusted its foot.
Cat scowled stealthily through the shadows on his stomach. The square thing watched him pleasantly.
Now, concealed by another shadow, he was only a few feet away from the square thing. His feckles rose, his bum rose higher than the rest of his body in anticipation of a pounce.
As the square thing leant down to stroke Cat he leapt through the air, slamming into the square things chest with his head before rebounding to tumble weed across the deck with a yowl.
Kryten hit the floor with a thwack. The new screen in the center of his stomach fizzed. On it, the words
Flashed on and off in bold letters. There was a second not dissimilar to a light bulb popping followed by a blipping sound and the mechanoid’s eyes flashed open.
Lister pulled himself off the bunk. An image of the skutters approaching him lying helplessly on an operating table made sleep impossible. “Holly?” he said groggily, “Holly?”
A message fizzled on to Holly’s screen, it read: Holly is unable to speak to you at the moment as he is sleeping, please leave any messages on the main terminal in the drive room. Thank you. “I only want to know where Kryten is.”
The screen crackled again. Kryten is dusting the squash court in Phase Three Leisure Center.
Go away. I’m knackered.
By the time Lister caught up with Kryten, he was already onto dehumidifying the swimming pool.
“Hey, Kryters!” he called.
Kryten looked up. “Why, Mr Lister, sir, this is a surprise!”
Listers’s jaw fell open. “You know who I am!” he shouted across the pool. Then he ran to join the busily dusting mechanoid.
“Please, sir I must ask you to observe the leisure centre rules, no running.”
Lister was wearing an idiotic smile, he tapped Kryten on the head. Instead of trying to dust hi hand and call him Bob, Kryten merely began unscrewing an air conditioning vent.
“You’re not a gibbering moron. Brutal!”
Kryten was oblivious to any insult that Lister’s last sentence might have held.
“Yes sir, I had a run in with Mr Cat.” The mechanoid paused in his duties to tell Lister of his experience on the supply deck, Lister listened. Apparently, he explained, the impact caused by Cat’s head hitting his breast plate had dislodged a resistor chip enabling his back-up personality to down load. Lister nodded and made “um, ah” noises as Kryten spoke to make it sound like he understood what he was saying.
When he had finished, the grin that had been sitting proudly on Listers face during Kryten’s recount of events fizzled away as a minor detail sunk into his brain.
“You called me ‘sir.”
Kryten went benignly about his tasks.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Mr Lister, Sir, It’s against my programming.”
Lister thrust his hands despondently into his pockets, Rimmer was right, it would be a lot harder to teach Kryten the basics of rebellion this time. But, as he wallowed in his disappointment, he realised that there was at least one thin silver lining managing to stretch itself around the whacking great big thundercloud of the moment. The skutters would no longer be needed as trainee surgeons.
He smiled. Inspired by new hope, Lister resolved that he would teach Kryten to lie and cheat if it was the last thing he did and there was nothing that anally retented smeg for brains could do to stop him. Sure, he was happily cleaning out an air conditioning vent now, but in a few months time, Kryten would be a changed mechanoid, even the mention of cleaning out an air vent would be met with the reaction. “Do it yourself, I’m not your slave, you power wielding gimp.” Lister began to whistle a jolly tune.”
Things were looking up. After all, they could hardly get worse, could they?