By Karen S. Mauldin
Corrections by Kev Blake
The Heart of Gold had just left the barren planet of Magrathea and was heading for Milliways when Trillian jumped out of her seat.
"What is it?" asked Arthur.
"I dunno," shrugged Trillian. "We're in Infinite Improbability Drive, it could be anything."
"Let me see!" insisted Zaphod Beeblebrox's second head.
"There - what do you think it is?" Ford looked at the readout.
"It appears that we've taken aboard another ship. It's in the shuttle bay."
"But that's impossible!" cried Zaphod.
"No, just very, very improbable - I told you to expect things like this, Zaphod," lectured Trillian.
"Put it on visual," insisted Zaphod.
"Sure thing" chirped in Eddie the Computer. "I'd be very pleased to do that for you."
"Just do it!" yelled Ford Prefect. On the screen was a very ugly green ship, shaped like an insectoid life form.
"Do you read any life forms?" asked Arthur.
"I sure do. There are four beings of various life forms on that vessel."
"What life forms?"
"One is human, one is humanoid, species Felis Sapiens, one is hologrammatic, but solid - presumably some trick with force fields, and the fourth is an android."
"Can we speak with them? Their ship may go through some strange mutations - that bay isn't shielded, is it?" asked Ford.
"No, it isn't."
Meanwhile, the crew of the Starbug was going crazy.
"What happened, you deformed bog bot?!" screamed Rimmer to Kryten for the sixth time in the last ten minutes.
"I cannot tell. It appears as if we have been through a tractor beam and have landed in the shuttle bay of an unknown ship."
"Aliens!" yelled Rimmer.
"Yes, that is possible."
"What d'we do?" asked Lister.
"I suggest we try to contact whoever or whatever is running this ship."
"But how do you explain the ship turning into a forest on Earth, then nothing, then each of us transmogrifying?"
"I don't know," said Kryten, as he became a very large dog.
"Well, figure it out!" yelled Lister, becoming a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was knocking its head on the ceiling of the cockpit, before the cockpit turned into a Jurassic jungle.
Suddenly a figure appeared out of nowhere, it was a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed human woman. Three of the four people in the transformed Starbug had their eyes pop out at the sight, while their various sexual appendages did what male sexual appendages are supposed to do when a female of the species is present. Once their hormones maintained control, Trillian repeated her speech.
"You are in the shuttle bay of the ship Heart of Gold. Do not be alarmed by anything you see or hear around you. We are currently traveling at a probability factor of two to the power of 270,000 to one against and falling. We will be achieving normality as soon as possible. We will be in touch as soon as we reach normality."
"Sure, anything you say, chick," slobbered Cat as he simultaneously turned into a rather large lion.
A half-hour later, normality was reached and the Starbug and its crew were back to normal. They departed from the ship and looked around the shiny white, elongated shuttle bay of the Heart of Gold. They were met at the door to the rest of the ship by a very metallic robot.
"I am Marvin. They told me to escort you to the Bridge. Brain the size of a planet and they tell me to escort the visitors to the Bridge!"
"I know how you feel," said Kryten. "I'm an android also."
"Wonderful! If there's one thing I can't stand it's a stuck-up android. Follow me."
They followed him at a slow pace. Kryten tried on many occasions to get him cheered up, but even Kryten's Series 4000 brain could do little to help the Sirius Cybernetics' prototype. He complained about everything - the doors, the people, the planets he'd visited. He told them that the ship had been stolen by Zaphod Beeblebrox of Betelgeuse Five and proceeded to tell how depressed he was while Rimmer had a major fit, saying over and over again, "I told you so - I told you there were aliens!"
"Of course there are no aliens."
"Of course there are - you heard him!"
Finally, they arrived at the Bridge. Marvin escorted them in.
"Hi! I'm Arnold J. Rimmer, Second Technician from the Red Dwarf and Acting Senior Officer of the Starbug. This is Third Technician David Lister, Series 4000 Mechanoid Kryten and Cat."
"Hi! I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox from Betelgeuse Five, this is my semi-cousin Ford Prefect, also from Betelgeuse Five, Trillian from Earth, Arthur Dent from Earth, and Marvin the Paranoid Android."
"What did he say?" said Lister over a wrinkled-up nose.
"I don't know," answered Rimmer.
"I did," said Arthur who was listening to their exchange with growing interest.
"They must be from Earth. Here, get me four babelfish!"
"Sure, you semi-evolved simian."
Zaphod got the fish, handed them to Ford, who handed them to Arthur, who told the visitors to stick them in their ears.
"I beg your pardon, smeghead!" cried Rimmer.
"Stick them in your ear! It's how you can communicate with people who speak a different language - it translates for you!"
"I suggest you do what he says, Sirs," said Kryten, sticking one in his ear, thus increasing his translation power. The others shrugged and stuck one in their ears.
"Now say it again, Zaph old pal."
Zaphod did so, as Trillian brought them all drinks.
Once they were all introduced and had started drinking their watered-down Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, Arthur finally got to talk with the visitors.
"Did you say you were from Earth?" he asked Rimmer.
"Yes, we are," said Lister. "That is, Rimmer and I are human or former-human, Cat was born on the ship and Kryten was made somewhere in the solar system. Where are we?"
"Somewhere between Magrathea and Milliways - I have no idea! But when did you leave Earth?"
"It was sometime around, what, Rimmer?"
"Around the year 2280, that is to say 3,000,213 years ago."
"Whoa! Did you say over three million years ago?" put in Ford.
"Yes, I did."
"Then something's wrong. The Earth blew up only what, Arthur?"
"About a month ago. And that was the year 1981."
"No way, Jose!" yelled Lister. "I left that place in 2278 when I had my birthday party in London. See, Rimmer, I told you it was another universe. But what do you mean about the Earth blowing up?"
"Easy," said Ford. "It blew up. It was destroyed by the Vogon Constructor Fleet. Right, Arthur?"
"Yes, Ford. But the great part is that these people are from Earth! Maybe I can go to their universe with them and find the Earth again!"
"Sure, if you can wait 3,000,000 years."
"What do you mean, if I can wait 3,000,000 years?"
"I mean, that's how long it's going to take to get back, give or take a millennium."
"You mean to say you were out in Deep Space? How'd you get there?"
"Easy. We accelerated for 300,000 centuries."
"But how could you do that in that shuttle thing?"
"We didn't. We went up to and beyond the speed of light in a large mining ship called The Red Dwarf."
"How big of a ship?"
It had a crew of 11,169," said Rimmer.
“what do you mean 'had'?"
"I mean, before the Accident."
"The accident that killed the whole crew except for me, who was in stasis and Cat's ancestor, a pregnant cat who was kept in the cargo bays unharmed when the Drive Plate blew."
"So how did Rimmer, Kryten, and Cat come to be with you."
Rimmer took over the explanation. "I was revived as a hologram to keep Lister company, Kryten was rescued by the three of us, with Holly's help, and Cat was found as the last of his race on the ship."
Arthur was finally starting to get really interested. "What do you mean by 'revived as a hologram.' I mean, I can touch you and I can't see through you. Except for that 'H' on your forehead, anyone would think you were a normal human being."
"I'm not so sure of that," put in Lister.
"Shut up!" cried Rimmer. "You see, Arthur, dear man, I was one of the dead crew and when I was first revived, you couldn't see through me, but I couldn't touch anything. But in the last couple of years we have been exploring the local space stations and came across one which included a Gestalt Entity, a genius, called Legion. He gave me a hard-light body, so now I'm just like anyone else, except that I don't have to breath or eat and I'm virtually indestructible."
"Come here - look at this!" cried Trillian. Instantly, the whole of both crews were surrounding her.
"What is it, lovey?" asked Lister, dreamily.
"Dave, it appears to be Milliways, but the instruments say that we're exactly where we were when we left Magrathea."
"Two questions," said Rimmer. "What's Milliways and what's Magrathea?"
"Milliways is the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Magrathea is the planet where the makers of the Earth live."
"Could you run that by me again?" asked Cat.
"Come on, you'll see for yourself."
They disembarked and found their way to the table in the center of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Ford tried to explain the idea to the Starbug crew, but didn't get very far. They couldn't believe what they were hearing or seeing and Lister, who noticed how similar it looked, was quite sure that they had accidentally picked up an earlier form of Better Than Life and were merely in the BTL restaurant. Zaphod regularly abused the whole bunch, while Ford tried to explain where they were and where they had come from to the Starbug crew. Until the show started, after they had all (that is, all the Earthlings) gotten sick thinking about the nice creature they were eating, they didn't believe any of it. But the drinks loosened them up a little and they were soon trading stories of strange happenings in their various lives. Rimmer, among all these aliens, was having the time of his life. Cat was more than mesmerized by the amount of female flesh in the area and proceeded to seduce a number of creatures, including a whole table full of Cat-like women, none of which were Felis Sapien, but they were close enough for Cat, while the rest talked. Lister was just trying to think the whole thing through, while taking in the Evening Apocalypse, figuring out how this could get them the Red Dwarf back and also, maybe, get them Trillian as a companion - and maybe Arthur, too, if necessary. Arthur and Trillian were just happy to have some more Earthlings to talk to. Zaphod was glorying in abusing everyone. Marvin had turned himself off in the ship before they left it, and Ford was trying to explain everything to everybody and was having a very prosperous discussion with Lister.
"You say you have an idea of how to get Arthur back to Earth?"
"I wouldn't be too sure about Trillian."
"Why not?" asked Trillian, who had taken an inexplicable liking to both Lister and Rimmer, not to mention Kryten and Cat (she couldn't help thinking how much less wild Cat was then Zaphod and how much better company Kryten was then Marvin.)
"I thought you were Zaphod's girl."
"Then you'll come?"
"First we have to find your ship."
"Do you have any ideas?"
"Well, one. You see, we have the Infinite Improbability Drive."
"That's how we picked up your ship. It goes through every bit of the universe when in I.I. drive."
"That still doesn't explain how you picked us up. We were in a different universe - and, as far as we could tell, not near any black holes, white holes, or other anomalies."
"By the way, guys," put in Arthur, as it had just occurred to him. "Who is this Holly you were talking about? Isn't she looking for you?"
"She's a computer."
"You mean like Eddie."
"Somewhat. But he/she had an I.Q. of 6,000 and had a face on all her screens and a personality. She used to be a he."
"What was her name then?"
"I see," said Trillian, who looked at Arthur and rolled her eyes. "So is she or is she not looking for you?"
"We have no idea. We lost touch with her over 200 years ago."
"Anyway, what's your idea, Trillian?" asked Lister, sick of all these interruptions. "My idea is that when we're in I.I. Drive, not only do we pass through all points in our universe, but we pass through all points in all universes. So, to find your ship, theoretically, all we need to do is to scan whatever we're passing through during the I.I. Drive period, then go to those coordinates."
"That's ingenious! Of course, that's what we'll do!" whooped Lister.
"We'll do what, semi-semi-semi-evolved simian?" The Cat glared.
"We'll do as Trillian said."
"Finish our dinner and show, then get them back to their mother ship."
"You weren't listening?"
"Why should I listen to a bunch of monkeys? Ford and I were discussing our three mothers."
"Well, it doesn't matter," put in Ford. "We'll do as Trillian says. So, Arthur, would you like to join them?"
"Join them? Why?"
"Because our final destination is Earth, however many years in the future. Who knows, maybe we'll get another Star Drive and make it there much sooner?"
"You want me to come with you to get back to Earth."
"Yeah," said Lister. "What d'ya say?"
"Is Trillian coming?"
"That's her decision. But it may be a little cramped in the Starbug until we get the Dwarf."
"So, Trillian, are you coming?" asked Rimmer, hope in his eyes.
"I dunno. I think it's pretty cool here. You said in your universe there are no aliens?"
"Right. But there are innumerable Holograms, Simulants, GELFs, etc."
"How's a Hologram different from a Simulant? And what's a GELF?"
"A Simulant is a highly-evolved . . ."
"And highly dangerous," put in Kryten. Rimmer glared, then continued. " . . .
Android. A GELF is a Genetically Engineered Life Form. We also have a talking toaster."
"Anything like Marvin and the doors?"
"No, he's unbearably chirpy. We keep him turned off."
"Sounds ghastly," said Arthur.
"Then I take it these creatures, though not alien as such - I take it the GELF is an experimental life form."
"No longer experimental," said Kryten.
"And these simulants are dangerous?"
"Are the GELFs dangerous?"
"Some," said Rimmer. Lister gave him a look which was the equivalent of a crushed light-bee.
"I'm not so sure about this," mused Arthur.
"Neither am I."
"But you won't have to deal with them. Once we get the ship back, we won't have to go salvaging unless we want to - and even then you can stay on the ship."
"But what about the three million years?"
"It may or may not be that long. Besides, if you want to, we could put you both in stasis until we reached Earth."
"Great! But who'd let us out when we got there? And would you go with us?" "There are only two stasis booths. And if no one else was around, Holly would let you out."
"What if the Earth was blown up when we got there?"
"I don't know."
"We'll have to think about this."
"Let's get back to the ship," said Zaphod as the Prophet Zarquon came onstage and the universe ended.
Although the Dwarfers were still dazed by what they had seen (it's not every day a couple of Technicians get to see the End of the Universe), they followed the others to the Heart of Gold.
"How soon can we get into that Infinite Improbability Drive, do you think?" asked Rimmer.
"It'll take about an hour."
"Will you have to set up any special sensors?"
"You mean to account for your universe?"
"I don't think so, do you Zaph?"
"No, do you Ford?"
"It should have sensors to handle that, at least by the brochure."
"I think it may be a good idea to test that theory out first," suggested Arthur.
"Shut up, monkey!"
"Why don't you go bang your heads together, four eyes!"
"That's telling him, Al!" burst out Cat.
"You stay out of this, you overgrown pussy!"
At that Cat was starting to pounce on Zaphod, but Ford intervened and they all calmed down.
"I think we should talk civilly and concentrate on finding your ship." he said. "Very well," sniffed Cat.
They went into I.I. Drive a half-hour later, then spent two full hours searching the scanners and talking to Eddie the Computer.
"I'm very happy to do that for you," said Eddie for the fiftieth time.
"Just do it!"
"So I'm looking for a red space craft with a hydrogen scoop that is three miles wide, four miles deep and six miles long, and three million years in the future in another universe."
"That's it, more or less," admitted Lister.
"I have it!" said Eddie after another hour of searching.
"Where?" asked Rimmer.
"There!" cried Eddie, uselessly.
"Put it on the screen, stupid!" cried Ford.
There it was. A red blip on the screen.
"Magnify!" cried Rimmer. The ship became what was obviously the Red Dwarf. It even had the name painted on the side.
"Can you link up with Holly?" asked Rimmer.
"How could he do that? Holly's a much more sophisticated computer - and in another universe besides."
"I guess you're right."
"So how do we get there?"
"Well, it's at vector Alpha Alpha Six Plural Plural Zed Omicron."
"What does that mean?" asked Kryten.
"It means we can reach it. Or at least get in matter-transference range and beam you onto it."
"Let's do that!"
"Very well, returning to regular drive a hundred kilometers from said ship."
"Finally - we're back!"
"So, buds, are you going or not?" asked Cat to Arthur and Trillian.
"What do you think?" Arthur asked Trillian.
"I don't know," murmured Trillian.
Then an unexpected laser cannon started firing from the ship. "Are you sure that's our ship?" asked Rimmer. "We never had laser cannons?"
"I don't know. But I'm getting out of here!" cried Zaphod.
"All right. Dwarfers - to the Bug! Are you coming, Sir and Madam?" asked Kryten.
"I don't think so," said Trillian.
"I'm not either then," agreed Arthur, as the laser cannons proceeded to fire closer and closer.
"Well, see you around then," cried Lister, sadly, as he followed the rest to the shuttle bay and the Starbug.
The rest went into Infinite Improbability Drive as the Starbug, dodging laser cannon fire, made its way into Cargo Bay 24 of the Red Dwarf.
On the Heart of Gold, Zaphod was laughing his head off.
"Why are you laughing?" asked Ford, mystified.
"That was great holographics, wasn't it, Trillian?"
"Yeah. We got the program off that Rimmer guy. Fooled them, didn't we?"
"You mean you did that yourself?"
"Indeed I did, dudes and dudettes! I mean, I couldn't face leaving Trillian on a three-million year wild-goose chase could I?"
"I guess not."
On the Red Dwarf, after the explanation that the laser fire was a hologram and Holly had nothing to do with it and what the mining ship had been doing in the last 205 years (and finding out why Holly had changed back to his male form), Holly introduced the crew to their newest member. Cat fainted, Rimmer and Lister were extremely pleased, and even Kryten had nothing bad to say about her and how she came to be there even with Rimmer onboard, but the new crew member was less than happy with the old crew.