RED TO THE FUTURE By Richard Snashall

 
Starbug 1 touched down in an unknown location and made an uneasy contact with an unfamiliar patchwork planet.

“So where exactly are we Kryten?” exclaimed Lister.

Kryten tried to explain.

“Well sir, if I'm not very much mistaken and this is of course due to any further updates which I...”

Rimmer threw a look of contempt towards Kryten and interrupted.

“For heavens sake spit it out lunchbox head.”

Kryten paused slightly, “I think this could be Earth sirs.”

*

Slowly opening his eyes, inventor, scientist and eccentric Dr. Emmett Brown found himself surrounded by what he thought to be thousands upon thousands of plastic containers or what he might have described as 'self-contained drinking utilities'.

As usual, and despite the fact that he was probably suffering from a mild form of concussion, his observation skills had not eluded him.

He tried to remember the events that had led up to this current predicament, but failing that he concluded that for a brief period he had most probably just been out of it for some while.

He heard a faint whimper in the passenger seat next to him. Looking across he saw his ever-faithful companion, Einstein.

The creature wagged its tail to acknowledge its master.

It was then that he noticed the neon display panel in front of him reading ‘OCT 2435.’

He felt an acute shock sensation as the events of what seemed only a few moments ago suddenly began to bounce around in his over-sized brain.

He had just driven up to the pay counter of a fast-food drive through when he’d discovered that he didn't have any money to pay for his overpriced meal.

Well to be precise he had just come from a completely different time and assumed, probably wrongly, that the spotty adolescent behind the counter would not accept a currency consisting entirely of sixteenth century doubloons.

Then he decided to do what any other person might have done when faced with this anachronic situation and decided to grab the booty and make a run for it.

Unfortunately though, two ‘Legal-Awareness-Watcher’ patrol cars had witnessed the entire incident and immediately began to give chase.

Thinking he could easily outrun what he thought of at the time as ‘a couple of outmoded enforcement automobiles’, he winked at his dog Einstein who was whimpering pathetically in the passenger seat, slammed his customised Delorean into maximum gear and headed towards the main highway.

Unfortunately this was when his brilliantly orchestrated escape plan had come to a rather abrupt ending.

“So long suckers!” he shouted vehemently as he saw the officers vanish into the distance in his rear view mirror.

When he finally focused his eyes on the road ahead of him however, he noticed that he was heading straight for a rather sturdy looking twenty first century actual reality barrier, which both he; his ever-faithful companion Einstein; not to mention his vehicle, would collide within approximately three and two-thirds second’s time.
 
Realising there was insufficient time to stop, he decided the best action to take in this circumstance was to jab at the L.E.D control panel directly in front of him and just hope for the best.

And then...well that was all he could remember.

*

“So”, uttered Lister.  What happened after we attacked the gelf ship then?

“Arhh that’s right, now I remember!” said Rimmer who was smirking as a weasel might, failing to hide the wicked of wickedest grins.

“Sir?” Kryten questioned him.

“Well, mortal posse, there's no easy way to say this, but how can I put it tactfully. You were all blown from limb to limb and subsequently expired.”

“WHAT!” even the Cat joined in on the protest.

“But then 'Old Iron Balls' here saved you all.”

This was just about all Cat could stand.

“First of all, my feline senses are telling me that all of my nine lives are very much in tact.  Secondly, I could not allow myself to be rescued by someone with less dress sense than a dying porcupine.”

Rimmer winced, “Yes, Lucky for you chappies, ‘I’ll-join-in-on-any-barney-Arnie’ had the good sense, not to forget the tremendous courage and bravery of course...”

Lister was growing impatient, “Just tell us will ya Rimmer.”

“Well I sort of saved you all.”  For the second time may I add?

“Smeggin'el.” The Dwarfian survivors chorused in unison.

“But that new drive we found was only supposed to travel back and forth through time, so what are we doing here, on this alien planet?  It doesn’t make any sense.”  

Kryten looked; if it was possible for a mechanoid to look anything other than Max Headroom’s understudy; physically sick.

His circuit boards were just about to experience a partial meltdown overload.

Not only had he been party to events that had led up to everyone’s death, including his own, but even worse it had been that smeghead Rimmer who had been responsible for their continuing existence. Again!”

Lister tried to remain calm. “So you've got no clues whatsoever then Kryten?”

Kryten tried to put a brave head on it.  “Well paradoxically speaking sir, at the moment I've got as much idea as a member of the Natural Law Party running for a premiership.”

Cat was starting to get restless, “So what happens now then fellas?”

Lister decided that it was up to him to take charge and try to calm the other three down a tad.  “Well we're here now, so we may as well take a look around.”

They emerged from Starbug, with Rimmer as ever bringing up the rear.

Amongst the plastic-quilted landscape they could just make out something silver glimmering mysteriously above the horizon.

“Come on lets check it, oouARHH!”

Lister fell, stuntman style, from Starbug’s landing ramp and found himself over waist high deep in a huge sea of clear Tupperware® plastic lunch-boxes.

“As we have no idea as to what we could be facing out their sirs, may I suggest that from now on we proceed with extreme caution.”

Kryten tried not to look embarrassed.

Lister was looking more than a little disgruntled as he tried to ‘swim’ his way through the plastic and back to the ship.

“OK then Kryten, I'll try and keep that in mind shall I?”

The Cat was suddenly seized by a momentary spurt of inspiration.

“I know, why don't we grav-bike our way over?”

Kryten was more than prepared with a response to the Cat’s rather uncharacteristic flash of genius.

“A truly inspired suggestion sir with only two extremely, microscopically tiny, teeny, minor little drawbacks.”

“Let me guess, we don’t actually have any gravity-bikes right?” interrupted Rimmer rudely.

“Well sir, we did in fact have four fully functional gravity-bikes.”

Lister had just managed to pull himself up onto the Starbug’s gantry.

“So what's the prob’ then Kryten?”

“The problem is sir, that after finding out they had been supplied by Crapola Incorporated, patent applied for, you ordered that I dismantle them immediately. Remember?”

Lister had the feeling that this was going to be one of his ‘B-for-bad’ days.  He had been having quite a few of these of late.  Far too many to be taken for comfort in fact.

These ‘B-for-bad days’ would usually begin with the dispenser machines running out of beer milk shakes at about mid-day, followed by Rimmer ordering him down to supplies to fetch a replacement keg.

And because this particular soda contained real beer and Lister could not physically exist without this alcoholic beverage, he would have to obey.  This would subsequently leave Rimmer gloating at him for the remainder of the day.  

‘B-for-bad, bad, bad’, thought Lister.

“We'll just have to make a path through all this junk, come on guys.”

Back in his Delorean, Doc turned cautiously towards his furry companion.

‘What a mess to get oneself into’, he thought.

‘How the hell am I supposed to get up to a fast enough speed for temporal dispersal now that I’m stuck on this infernal place.  I bet this stuff isn't biodegradable either.’ He reasoned, correctly as it happened.

Einstein barked at him supportively.

With some difficulty Doc managed to open the door of his car and squinted as the sun came to meet his eyes.

Glancing over his right shoulder he noticed a small but substantial craft about four hundred yards away.  And coming from it was what looked to him like a giant snaky thing getting ever longer as it slowly slithered it’s way closer towards him.

“GREAT SCOTT!” he exclaimed out loud.

Here he was in an unknown time at an unknown place, and now he was about to be devoured by a giant mutant worm.

He turned back round towards the front of his vehicle.

“We've got to seriously think about getting out of here boy!”

Einstein woofed in agreement.

*

Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat tried to force their way through the piled high plastic landscape.

“How much further now?” exclaimed the Cat annoyingly.

“I think we're about two-thirds of the way there now man”, replied Lister.

“Anyway what's your beef? You haven't lifted a smeggin' finger to help us get through any of this crap!”

“Hey bud it's a hot day, and I think you're forgetting that one of my primal most instincts is the avoidance of anything unnecessarily physical.

You know what I’m saying buddy?”  The Cat sighed and pulled on an expensive looking pair of Cyber-Rayban® sunglasses.

*
Meanwhile, trying to forget a certain scene in a certain science-fiction film he had chanced to see many years previously, Doctor Emmett Brown searched around in his educated mind in the hope that he might find a solution to the problem that was now literally coming up upon him.

Then suddenly he remembered the Hoverboard® that his good friend and fellow time-traveller Marty McFly had brought back with them from the future year 2015.

He glanced over in the back of the Delorean praying it was still located there, and that he hadn’t used it to power his twenty-first century emergency time fuel converter-‘coz its your friend and mine!’-Mr Fusion®.

Thanking his lucky stars, he grabbed the floating device and after telling Einstein to stay put placed it securely onto his right foot and began to fly towards what he had now temporarily christened 'the bottle-worm.'

He figured that if he and his dog were about to be devoured on an unfamiliar world by a strange unfamiliar creature something, then he should at least take a good look at the bastard first.

*
Kryten stopped and began to scan the area,  “If you'll pardon my intrusion sirs; but it appears that a life-form has just entered into our immediate vicinity.”

If Lister was experiencing one of his ‘B-for-bad’ days then Rimmer was now experiencing one of his ‘B-for-brown-trousers’ days.

“Kryten, you square-faced chump!”  Rimmer paused.

“Of course should my life ever be so much as slightly threatened in any way, then I know that I can always depend on you, my main home-boy, for protection, and of course if necessary, you will use your own body as a human shield…

“Over there!” pointed the Cat excitedly.

Lister followed the Cat’s line of direction.

“I don't believe it.  It looks like a human.  It looks like a flying human. A flying human with an enormous curvy shaped right foot!”

“I believe the foot, as you put it so eloquently sir, is in fact a separate device which this person appears to be using successfully in order to achieve victory over gravity”, Kryten corrected him.

Rimmer prepared to dive for cover.

“It’s coming in to land!

Remember it could be anything! A gelf, or a homicidal creature that's been transmogrified!  Anything!”

*

Doc circled twice and landed awkwardly behind the path through which the crew had so laboriously
tunnelled through.

“Well, well my friends, it seems my observations that you were a giant worm creature of some kind are altogether unfounded.”

The Cat sighed for the second time that day.  “You haven't met water-chute nostrils yet buddy!”

“And what sort of creature might you be my friend?” Doc continued.

Lister butted in.

“This is Kryten, Rimmer he's, ya know, a hard-light hologram, I'm Lister, and..”

“I'm the Cat!”

The Cat was checking out this interloper and was totally unimpressed by the stranger’s wardrobe.  Gold coat with red tie!  Was this bloke seriously taking the piss or what?

The Doc, now completely overwhelmed, chose to reply with the only suitable word he could think of for this sort of occasion.

“Unbelievable!”, he said.

*

Several hours later five space-time-travelling misfits, all who now appeared to be stuck on a planet, that for all intents and purposes was itself the misfit of its own galaxy, were now sitting around a table back on the transport space vehicle Starbug 1.

“…and that's when we noticed your vehicle.”

Lister had just spent the last twenty-five minutes trying to explain to the Doc how they had come to be where they now were.

This had not been easy what with Rimmer making constant pedantic corrections and the Cat, as always, butting in with ever more useless information.

“Yeah I was about to claim it as my all time lucky find ever!”

The Cat had been genuinely disappointed when the Doc had refused to give him his silver automobile, even though he had been offered one of the best, coolest looking, leg-hair rollers in return.

Having had considerable time to get his breath back the Doc’s mind was now working overtime.

“This is truly remarkable.”

“Indeed just the fact that two separate entities, both with a time-travel capability both materialised at exactly the same time and place in one particular universe is simply well, mind-blowing.”

“It’s as if this particular point is a major point or represents a key in the overall running of the space-time continuum.”

He paused, “Or on the other hand it could just be an amazing coincidence.”

“Sorry to have to bring this up Doctor Brown”, offered Rimmer.

“But in accordance with Space Core directive 4728409/C12, I'm afraid I must confine you to quarters until all the necessary tests have been done.”

Doc gave an inquisitive chuckle, “And what tests might these be my hologramatic comrade?”

Lister was slowly loosing patience. “Actually we just prefer to call him Bonehead.”

Rimmer was unabated, “No problem really, just a few triple strength atomic injections and the odd anal reading should do.”

“Now if you'll just step this way while I assemble the syringe canon.”

Lister’s patience suddenly gave on him.  “For smeg’s sake Rimmer, Kryten's already given him a complete medical scan!”

“He's clean ok!”

“I knew you'd do that Lister.”

“Do what?”

“Siding with Bog-Bot from hell as usual.”

“Look, just drop it ok Rimmer?”

Lister was not in the mood for yet another slagging match with his contemptuous ex-bunkmate.

The Cat was performing a complete nasal scan of the area.

“My God, there's a weird smell around here.  Something’s making my nasal hairs shimmy and no mistake.”

“Right Kryten go to yellow alert immediately.” ordered Rimmer

“Sir, it's probably nothing.”

At that moment the Cat let out an almost ear drum shattering shriek and swiftly disappeared from sight as he was knocked to the ground by what seemed to be a somewhat considerable force.

“Help! I'm being eaten alive by a giant furry swirly thing!” he pleaded.

Lister, Kryten and Rimmer were now looking on in bewildered amazement.

The Doc patted his canine companion enthusiastically.

“Einstein you little devil, how did you get here?  I gave you strict instructions to stay put didn't I boy.”

Rimmer reached for his bazookoid.

“Everyone, I'd like you to meet my friend and the worlds only twenty-first century time travelling dog, ‘Einstein the excusable’.”

Einstein barked energetically.

“Hey bud just keep that thing away from me OK!” The Cat was hastily trying to regain his composure.

“Of course!  I'm forgetting your species’ origins’ Mr. Cat. It’s just so remarkable that your species has kept its predatory fears and instincts after over these three thousand or so centuries.”

“Enough of this tittle-tattle.” interrupted Rimmer.

“Doctor, you claim you were sent here through time in a discontinued twentieth Century automobile, of which you yourself had converted, using something called a Flux-Capacitor?”

“Yes indeed Mr. Rimmer, that is correct. But unfortunately, the problem I now face in returning is quite severe.

“Go on”, said Rimmer knowingly.

“Well”, continued the Doc, as I’m sure you’re aware, if the time configuration unit I possess is not set exactly according to the output capacity of the liquid plutonium combined with speed to wind output ratio, then it's more than likely that certain damage could occur on entry to the projected time line.”

“Come again?” he was doing this on purpose Rimmer reasoned incorrectly.

“In other words sir, if I may be so bold.” hesitated Kryten.

“What this means in fact is that if the vehicle in question is not operated in precisely the right way then anyone located within would find themselves flying endlessly up an amateur golfer's driving range without a caddy.”

“Well that's one way of looking at it,” continued the Doc.

“But it appears my friends, that you also find yourselves in a similar predicament.”

Lister was flicking various switches on the cockpit control panel.

“Yeah it looks like the drive is still operational, but the thruster systems we need to take off have packed up big time.”

“We were wondering Doctor Brown, if you might have any ideas?” Kryten ventured cautiously.

“Yeah, how about a miracle!” the Cat offered sarcastically.

At that moment he began to screech violently as Doctor Brown’s pet chose that moment to jump onto his lap, and proceed to lick his face in the expert manner that only a dog could.

Kryten, Rimmer, Lister and Doc all laughed profusely as Einstein continued to befriend a petrified Cat, whose once immaculately styled hair had grown a good four inches over his head.

*

Rimmer knew he must be onto a winner.  He stood stock-still beside one of the military grey stantions, not allowing himself even the faintest of hologramatic breaths.

He could hear the Doc approaching, his footsteps becoming louder with every step.  Rimmer raised his blade. “Now die horribly you measly git!”

Doc wailed as Rimmer span on his heals, levelled the dagger at his stomach and prepared to drive it home.

A blue beam of light suddenly shot across the room from the hallway.  It hit Rimmer in the stomach, passed straight through him, bounced off two walls then finally disintegrated.  A winded Rimmer managed to struggle precariously to his feet.

“Ha, got you that time smeg 'ed!” Lister stood in the corridor and lowered his bazookoid.  The hologramatic blood was now starting to ooze its way disgustingly out of Rimmer's body like water from a freshly squeezed bath sponge.

The blast from Lister’s gun had left a hole in Rimmer’s torso the size of a small watermelon.

There was a short silence when Kryten materialised suddenly in the left-hand corner of the room.

“Sorry to interrupt your game sirs, but there's something I think you should come and take a look at immediately.”

All four players clapped their hands and started to remove their virtual helmets, gloves and boots.

The advances in the video game technology in this reality had left the Doc somewhat staggered.

Kryten started to shepherd his crewmates out of the A.R. suite.

Rimmer turned angrily towards Lister,  “Next time El dirtball.”

Practice Rimmer, it makes perfect.” replied Lister gloating at him wildly.

The unlikely threesome followed Kryten as he led them into Starbug’s cockpit.

“So what's so important that you have to drag me away from my fourth most favourite thing?”

The Cat was lounging purposefully at his station.

His reaction had surprised Kryten.  After recent events he had almost begun to understand the human emotion that was despair.

They had been stranded on Starbug for three long weeks now. During this time, Kryten had been showing the Doc how to make analyses from the various gadgets that currently existed aboard the ship in the vague hope that together they could figure a way off of the planet, and to find a way back to the various different time-lines, universes and realities from which they had come.

Even this had been interrupted when Lister, in his wisdom, had been trying to teach the Doc his version of what passed for twenty-third century etiquette as well as the various other elements that made up his proud to be a part of his ‘space-bum’ culture, though with limited success.

This initiation had included Lister’s preparation of an atomic prawn vindaloo sandwich in Starbug’s microwave facility.  The Doc, after swallowing a mouthful, had to be immediately rushed through the medi-scan several times in order to make absolutely certain that the contents of the meal he had just consumed were not actually burning their way through his stomach from the inside.

Doc had had to remain in the medical bay for three days, giving instructions to his companions from his bedside.

For the most part, these had been carried out to the letter, except that was for one particular instance when the cat had been instructed to fetch a screwdriver and had failed to return.  An extensive search had been mounted.

They had eventually found him curled up asleep on top of one of the lockers with a sign dangling from his left earring with the words 'DO NOT DISTURB' emblazoned on it.

*

Kryten steadied himself, trying to focus his thoughts on the task immediately at hand.  He gestured to one of the consoles. “I think sirs, that she could be ready for a test run.”

 “So what will this thing actually do then Kryten?”  Lister was curious.

Kryten explained, “Well using the plutonium that we managed to retrieve from Dr. Brown’s car, we will attempt to initiate a nuclear reaction, while simultaneously forcing Starbug 1 up to it’s maximum speed on the plastic rollers that I’ve been working on.”  

“Hopefully sir, this should give us the momentum we need to transport us all back to where came from.”

“And if it doesn’t give us enough momentum?” quizzed Rimmer.

“Well there is that drawback yes.”

“Involving what exactly?”

Involving us all being instantly vaporised sir.”

“And I was expecting something far worse than that!” cheered the Cat.

“If only we had some sort of artificial intelligence thinking unit to aid our real time calculations, then at least we would have an above average chance or success”, Doc complained.

Rimmer placed a finger onto his upper lip.

“So let’s take a moment out here and walk down reality lane for a moment shall we?

We are in fact about to gamble our lives and attempt a sling-shot across time and space for a rendezvous with two entirely separate realities, using a contraption cobbled together by a white-haired senile incompetent and a droid whose only scientific qualification is a rather questionable certificate from Toilet University.”

Rimmer’s lecture did not amuse Lister,  “That’s about the size of it Rimmer, yeah!”

“Lister, why don’t we be more of realistic for once?”  Rimmer said, folding his arms authoritatively.

“Like me!”

“Man I wouldn't wish that on anybody.”  The Cat’s sarcasm was surprisingly sympathetic.

“People, if you’ll all excuse me for a second, I just need to visit your convenience units.”  

Emmett headed towards the cockpit exit, leaving Rimmer and Lister to quietly discuss their difference of opinion.

He began to make his way up the steps when he thought he could here what sounded to him like Rimmer’s hard-light head being rhythmically bounced against the cockpit wall.

He decided to ignore this and entered the urinals.

He looked up and noticed the large digital clock display on the wall.

The LED display was flashing away furiously, showing entirely the wrong time.

‘I don’t know, three weeks on this world and no-one has even bothered to reset the toilet clock in accordance to this planet’s alternative time periods’, he thought to himself.

He gripped the side of the latrine positioned directly below the device and tried to hoist himself upward towards the timepiece.

Then he slipped, banged his head, and was knocked unconscious.

*

“Hey guys, I think old snow-spray hair’s finally coming around.”

Doc thought he could make out the Cat’s distinctive tones.

“Kryten give him another shot.”

Doc slowly awoke to find himself in the medical bay. He remembered the incident with the clock.  He tried to talk.

“What is it sir?”  “Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”  

Kryten administered another injection.

At that moment Lister burst into the medical bay, completely out of breadth. He was carrying something small, disgustingly dirty, foul smelling and red.
 
“Phooey!” exclaimed the cat. “What is that thing?”

The Doc struggled slightly and with the help of the others, managed to sit up straight.  He looked towards Lister who was trying to get his breath back.

“I think that we may have finally found our smeggin’ ticket off of this shite planet.”

*

Talkie Toaster twice raised his grill and, using his hard-wired remote unit proceeded to twiddle the controls on Doctor Brown’s new improved ‘get-home’ contraption.

Lister had held out for as long as he could.  After hours of serious thought he had gone down to where Starbug’s waste capsules were stored, and entered his unique personal security code into the casing of one of the pods. A pod where he knew he would find the only gadget on board that possessed any kind of artificial intelligence.

When they had been on the Red Dwarf, Kryten had suggested that they place the ship’s maladjusted toaster into ‘storage’, somewhere only Lister and he would know.


This was primarily to prevent Lister and the Cat from using him in their imaginatively titled games such as ‘stomp the toaster’ and their other favourite ‘toaster tennis’.  Also, though Kryten would never admit to this so he might have some electronic company if anything disastrous were to happen to the others or he was for some reason left on his own.

The thing was, that although Kryten hated the toaster with a passion, he hated the thought of being on his own again even more.

So Lister had finally decided that the best place to put the toaster would be Starbug’s waste disposal section.

The logic behind Lister’s decision was that it would probably take at least ten lifetimes to clean all of Red Dwarf’s waste disposal units, even with the help of the scutters. Then, if they ever got round to cleaning Starbug 1 they would probably all be a long time passed their live-by dates.  Not that anyone ever bothered to clean waste disposal, but this just made Lister’s argument that much stronger, or so he had thought at the time.

Kryten and the Doc were running over their carefully orchestrated ‘lets create a space-time portal and split it into chosen destiny routes’ plan for the twenty-sixth time when Rimmer finally decided to flash Kryten one of his 'yeah, but this is never gonna work is it?' looks.

Kryten ignored him and continued to address the rest of the crewmembers.

“So is everyone clear as to what they must do.  Don’t forget that we only have a single shot at this and if it fails we could all be stuck here for a very long time indeed.

“Or vaporised.” said Rimmer unhelpfully

“Well what are we all standing around here for, lets do it!” Lister shouted at them with his usual optimism.

Doc flicked a switch and they all gazed, mesmerised, as the electric silver-blue portal stood not two metres in front of them.

And sure enough as Kryten had predicted, from within the rising electrical storm of the room, they seemed to have created two rapidly expanding destiny lines, one for Doctor Brown and Einstein and another for themselves.

From within the first one they could just about make out two patrol cars and could hear the sound of sirens wailing softly in the distance.

“Well!” said the Doc, “time for us to go me thinks!”

“Those suckers won’t know what’s hit them when we suddenly materialise clean out of the sky without my automobile.  Oh well, been nice knowing you all.”

And with that the Doc threw himself forward through the gateway dragging a whimpering Einstein along behind him.

They could just make out that Doc was shouting something from within the vortex.

“So long smegheads!”

They could just make out an ironic chuckle followed by a joyous bark and then they were gone, and so was half of the gateway.

“Right, we haven’t got much time”, muttered Kryten.

The second gateway was now at maximum size, though unlike the first portal, it was still difficult to make out precisely what lay in wait for them on the other side of it.

Rimmer gestured to the others nervously, “Now I want all of you to realise that we’ll have to keep our wits about us at all times. Ok gentlemen?”

He continued, “We have absolutely no idea what could be lying in wait for us on the other side, so I'd appreciate any support that you could give me.

Lister attempted a pathetic shrug, “Yeah Rimmer, we’ll be right in front of you!”

Privately, though he would never reveal it to the others, Rimmer had concluded a theory and it ran something like this. Whatever lay in wait for them on the other side of the vortex would probably turn out to involve little creatures with suckers attached to their unsightly overgrown, hairy legs.

“On the count of three then”, shouted Lister in order that the others could hear him above the deafening winds of the circling portal, which now seemed to be in a frightening state of flux.

“One!”

They all looked at one another in a way that suggested a calm state of panic.

“Two!”

By this time, although none of them had realised it consciously; they had grabbed each other’s hand, forming a perfect pathetic looking semi-circle.

“Thr-eeee!”

They dived, one after the other; train-like into the swirling whirling mist that was the gateway.

*
Then blackness.

Although they couldn’t see anything, Kryten thought that he could just make out a faint rumbling sound in the distant recesses of the juddering void they were now passing through.

They emerged suddenly and the unlikely posse looked around them


To their horror, they found themselves floating aimlessly around in what seemed a to be a familiar surroundings.

“Any ideas Kryten?” Lister finally ventured after a long pause.

Kryten was already making some adjustments to a wall panel, “Ah, that’s it. I think I have it now sirs.”

“So now what?” The Cat was getting tired of all this swimming around in non-gravity, particularly the way it made his clothes hang all funny.

“Well sir, I suggest we brace ourselves.” Kryten said with as much calm as he could muster.

“Err, why?” enquired Rimmer

“Well sir, it should only take a few seconds before...”

They fell to the floor suddenly.

“...the gravity stabiliser begins to take effect.”

Rimmer pulled himself to his feet with a loathing facial expression, the one he only saved for special occasions.

“A well timed and conscientious warning!  Well done polygon head.”

They had emerged in the corridoor just outside of Red Dwarf’s Bay 47.

Lister took a scanner from off of the wall.

“Well so far so good.  It looks like we’re back on the Dwarf at least.”

“Yes, but in what state?” Rimmer asked.

“Wait a minute!” Lister was looking cautiously at one of the scanner read outs.

The familiar figure of a computer generated disembodied head appeared on a wall screen.

It spoke.

“How's it going, dudes?”

Lister relaxed slightly in the knowledge that the ship’s dingbat of a computer, Holly, was still and that he did not at first sight appear to have attained an even worse level of dingbatedness since they’d been away from the ship.

“Holly, what the hell’s going on, man?”

“Well basically, and just to fill you in like; Red Dwarf is in like well, exactly the same state as what you left it in right.”

“What about these readings though Hol?” asked Lister holding up the scanner.

“Wait a minute Dave.”

Holly’s image vanished for what seemed far longer than was necessary for processing such a relatively simple question.

When finally he did rematerialise, he explained that as far as he could make out something had followed them through the gateway, something that could threaten them and the ship.

“But that’s’ impossible!” explained Kryten. “There was nothing there to follow us through there in the first place.”

He thought for a moment, “Unless.”

“Unless what?” questioned Rimmer.

“The only other intelligence we left on that planet when we warped.”

“Of course!  The toaster!” Lister exclaimed.

“He must have resented the fact that we had to leave him behind, so he waited his chance and sneaked along behind us.  And now he’s, he’s..”

“Running a riot!” finished Kryten.

Lister looked at his hand scanner then turned to the others.

“Look!  Holly reckons that as long as we destroy the toaster within the next twenty four minutes then he won’t have time to do any real damage.”

The Cat had been listening for the usual time frame that his vanity would allow him.

“Look I see it this way!  If this toaster wants to mess with us, then he’s leaving in pieces!  And lots of pieces too!”
 
Without another word they made their way to a munitions cabinet and each grabbed a fully charged bazookoid.

They cautiously made their way along the ship’s corridoor.

Emerging last of all, Rimmer, who was desperately trying to think of any kind of strategy that they could adopt, not easy when taking into account the exceedingly small amount time that remained them.

He was just about to start proposing one of his desperately badly thought out ideas, when Lister interrupted him suddenly.

“Look! Something's coming from around that corner.”

“OK! Everyone set their bazookoids to blast and disassemble toaster.”

They switched their bazookoids onto the maximum setting.

“Oh my God, I've just had a thought.” Lister shouted above the increasing noise of the hurricane like wind that the still active portal was now emitting.

Rimmer struggled to respond, “Lister, this is hardly the time or place to announce such a mind shattering self achievement.”

“Everybody ready? Here it comes!” ranted Kryten.

They aimed their bazookoids towards the shadows at the far end of the walkway.

Ten seconds passed and a smell began to waft towards them.

The Cat looked puzzled for a second or two.

He began to sniff the air.

“Wait a minute! I think he’s trying to suffocate us with the aroma of some severely burnt out toast?”

“Oh my God!  This is more than I can handle”, screamed Rimmer, who had started coughing.

“Rimmer, you've got a longer yellow streak than a trail of rotting banana skins.” Lister ridiculed.

“Look!”

Talkie Taster made his way out of the shadows and started heading towards them.

“Oh my God, this nightmare just keeps getting worse.” Shouted the Cat, making sure his bazookoid was turned up to full power.

Kryten had noticed the toaster was making some familiar looking grill movements and felt that he could maybe save the situation

“Quiet everyone, I think he's trying to say something.”

It was too late, Lister had shot his fully tanked up bazookoid load.

“You missed, curry breath!” the Cat shrieked.

“Please sirs! If you could all just give me a second, I think I know how to resolve this situation in a way which will benefit everyone concerned.”  Kryten’s panic chip however was about to go into overload.

They lowered their weapons and waited in anticipation of what the mechanoid would do.

Kryten casually walked over to the now easily visible toaster and hit it’s ‘off’ button.

A millisecond later and from behind them they herd a sudden roar.  They turned round just in time to see the gateway vanish forever.

They all look at one another in a bewildered silence.

“I guessed that might happen.” Rimmer lied, breathing heavily.

“Yeah Rimmer, right!” aired Lister sarcily.

“Come on guys, let's get back, I could murder a vindaloo.”

Rimmer hadn’t forgiven Lister for his sarcasm, “I could murder you most of the time Lister, but I don't keep going on about it do I?” he said bitterly.

Later that night in the officers quarters things had more or less settled back to normal.  

If, that is, you could call the last human being alive ravenously gulping down a prawn vindaloo, who was sharing the same room as a felius-sapien munching on some Krispies; whilst both looked on disinterestedly as a dead man lost game after game of championship draughts to an almost burnt out, but independently-minded service droid.

Kryten leaned across the table and began to reset the board, “That's it, I make it sixteen games in a row for me now sir.”

“I told you Kryten, it takes me the first twenty games or so to get properly warmed up.  So stop gloating, you silver skinned eunuch and set them up for another one.”

“There's still one thing that puzzles me about all of this”, voiced the Cat as he lay back in his own customised easy-boy style chair.

“What's that?” Lister turned away from the Mugs Murphy comic he had been enjoying.

“Well!” continued the Cat, “No matter how many bowls of these Krispies I eat, I never seem to get bored with them man!”

Lister suddenly noticed that a warning light had started to flash on one of the laptop consoles and with his usual gusto looked over towards his shipmates.

“OK guys it’s probably nothing, but we’d better check it out anyways.”

“You never know we could get lucky.  What do you say then, you up for this barney then Arnie?”

“What an absolute total, total gitty-git-git you are” replied Rimmer.

THE END.