Pickled Lister is the first in a series of my stories which bears the prefix 'Pickled'. No, this story isn't about pickles! The Pickled series looks at the past experiences of each of the Red Dwarf posse and all are set prior ot the first series. This one details Lister's reasons for joining the Space Corps, why he hates sprouts, and how he is connected to the Ganymediam mafia...
Dave Lister was renting a place. It was his first proper flat after leaving home. However, Dave Lister was in a pickle; he was renting the flat off the Ganymedian Mafia.
Of course, he didn't know this. He just thought he was renting it off a guy called Bob, but he was wrong.
This flat was situated on the third floor of a house in a row of three floor houses, which were in turn situated opposite a large cigarette factory in which Dave Lister had conveniently acquired a job. Second to the job, Lister had also acquired a little sideline: every Friday, when he clocked off, he would stay behind in the supplies warehouse until after dark. Then, under cover of the darkness nourished by the broken streetlamps, he would smuggle a crate of cigarettes back to his flat and sell them at a knockdown price at his local over the weekend.
One fateful night in late October, one week before the company were due to install their new multi-million pound fire prevention system, Dave Lister decided to sample the stock. A stray spark from his zippo caught a crate and an entire row of boxes spontaneously combusted. Lister ran. He ran until his knackered little legs gave up and he found himself in a large construction yard just off the docks on the other side of Liverpool. He hauled himself up a huge yellow crane that jutted out from its position at the water's edge over the bank of the River Mersey, and looked in the direction of the factory. The orange flames and blue cloud of smoke loomed high on the horizon, and even people on the other side of the Mersey witnessed the results of Lister's bungle. Over the course of the next two days, that thick, blue cloud drifted six miles in either direction and eventually caused upwards of one million men, women and children in the Merseyside area to become severe nicotine addicts.
Lister was buggered. He could see from his position fifty metres off the ground that not only was the factory well on its way to becoming totally decimated, but so was his flat and the entire nearby residential area. Oh, dear. If he was caught the tobacco company would sue him for every penny to his name. Worse than that, though; Bob would have his balls.
A muffled scuffling below caught Lister's attention and he turned his head over his shoulder. On the dark gravel below, looking up with faces pale in the moonlight, were two men. Perhaps even four men who were dressed up as two men; they were huge! Black suits, dark glasses. Good God, thought Lister, Now I've got the Men in Black after me!
Lister responded with a barely noticeable nod. "We are representatives of the Ganymedian Mafia. You have, it seems, destroyed our top quality rented accommodation block, and so, I'm afraid, we're going to have to kill you. We are, of course, deeply sorry."
When the man took their guns out, Lister started to think that they might not be joking. He started climbing. He climbed some more. Sixty metres up already, but this was a behemoth crane and there was at least forty metres left above him. The top of a crane is hardly the best escape route imaginable, and one that Lister would not have chosen, if, in fact, he had been given a choice. However, he was all the less likely to climb to the bottom, so it was his only option.
These were the docks. The black treacle of the Mersey coursed slowly by like a wide torrent of oily magma, and, as Lister reached the top of the crane, he saw that he was now hanging over the dead river. He had reached the crane's curved summit, but he couldn't stop there. He had every confidence in the large mens' climbing abilities. He certainly wasn't going to wait there for them to get him, but he simply couldn't see another way out of the situation.
All of a sudden, Lister noticed something highly important. He looked about himself for something he could use and his eyes landed on the bottoms of his trouser legs. He reached for the frayed turn-ups of his oil-spattered jeans and tore them off. The men were approaching. Lister wrapped the ragged strands of denim around his palms. The men stopped climbing, barely twenty metres below Lister, and aimed their pistols.
And Lister hurled himself off the crane. The machine juddered like a giant yellow springboard and the Mafia men had to drop their guns and cling on to the structure for dear life, their legs flapping about in rhythm with the crane.
They opened their eyes and looked about for Lister, first on the crane and then in the river. He was nowhere to be seen. Lister was still falling, the crane structure obscuring him from the gangsters' view. He jerked out his right hand and grabbed hold of the crane cable in mid freefall. He slid down the steel vine, the two scraps of denim protecting his hands form the severe friction. A rivet in the material caught the cable and a stream of red sparks were sent up above Lister's head and glinted brightly in the darkness of the night like a soft shower of glow-worms, and just as the momentum of his jump had subsided and he was spinning only downwards and not left or right like some sort of human catherine wheel, the cloth was jerked out of his hands by the cast iron hook at the end of the cable. He span head over heels towards the acid cocktail of the river. Down and down he fell, the strip of denim flapping about like a length of ticker tape, the thick, shiny water coming closer and closer.
Then he landed in a pile of sprouts.
A tanker, not carrying oil or steel, but sprouts, had veered round beneath the crane and broken his fall. The greens were almost rotted into a thick lumpy soup and the filthy fog surrounding them was shrill and nauseating; but he was alive.
But for how long though? The tobacco company, the Ganymedian Mafia - maybe even Bob - were all after him. It was at that moment, with his senses clouded over by shock and the vile stench of festering sprouts, that Lister decided to join the space corps...