THE LAST TEMPTATION OF KRYTEN

by Richard Street

[This story takes place sometime after the 27th Series.]

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And Kryten was once again alone.

He'd seen them all go: Lister, Kochanksi, all of them.  Dead.  This time permanently.  They weren't coming back as holograms, alter egos from other dimensions or temporal paradoxes.  Forever dead.

Mr Rimmer had been the easiest, all told.  Still a sad, terribly sad occasion, when the light bee finally gave up the ghost of the ghost within it.  Kryten had wondered idly whether holograms went to Silicon Heaven, before Lister had declared the mourning period officially over and had gone down the disco.

It had all been a front.  Lister, for all his cheery smiles and casual attitude, had missed Rimmer terribly.  After he'd gone, the spark went out of him.  He had started to grouch at Kochanski, who had simply given it straight back to him and kicked him out of the bedroom.  Sometimes, late at nights, Kryten had heard Lister ranting, arguing, swearing at the old, dead light bee.

Kochanski had gone next, quietly, dignified.  Lister had wept bitterly for a whole month.  The Cat had wept for nearly two full minutes, mainly because he was expected to wear black.  Again.

The Cat's had been the most traumatic, perhaps because Kryten had had to spend four days driving around the wardrobe area trying to decide what he should be buried in.  Several times he'd thought: the smeg with it.  Put him in dungarees, put him in a Boy Scout uniform, he'll never know.  He'd eventually settled on the crushed velvet in burgundy, but couldn't help feeling that the Cat might have gone for emerald satin.

And finally, David Lister.  Lister had made it to an incredible 174 years of age; a world record if there was anyone left to celebrate it.  He'd conquered the loss of his hand in a Gelf combat arena (the same incident had also claimed Kryten's last spare hand), two further appendectomies, various terrifying skin infections and even a short period when his brain had to be kept in a glass jar whilst his digestive system underwent major reconstructive surgery.  Finally, he had succumbed to a tabasco overdose which, coupled with his mutated Athlete's Foot, claimed his life.

Mechanoids don't weep, but as he buried Lister with all the others (and, belatedly, Rimmer's light bee) on the rather pleasant little moon he'd selected, Kryten was shuddering.

And once again, he was alone.

Even Holly, some two thousand years after having diagnosed himself a bit on the senile side, had finally faded from his trusty old 21-inch monitor with a wobbly rendition of My Way, a string of unfathomable jokes and some interference from the Sky Channel 177 satellite, pouring out old Loretta Van Damme movies to an audience of zero.  And the last of the skutters had died too: ultimately going slightly berserk and launching itself through a window under the impression that it was The Terminator.  Kryten had buried the skutter and the monitor along with the crew.  He'd tried on every occasion to think of some moving tribute to his fellow crewmates, until it didn't matter any more.

So he flew on alone, aimless, directionless.  It didn't matter where he went; it was a dead Universe.  The last of the humans, the last of the Cat people, the last of the holograms, the last of the TV sets and the last of the service robots had long gone.

Kryten thought a lot about death.  What was the point in taking life away from people (and mechanicals, he added hastily, as he made the sign of the holy diode)?  But as time went on he stopped thinking about death and started thinking about life.  What was the point in giving life to people in the first place if it was only going to be taken away, usually at the most inopportune moments and frequently accompanied by screaming and discharge of bodily fluids?

What was the point in anything?  He struggled to make some kind of sense of it all.

Then, one morning, a little before eleven, he realised the answer.  Suddenly it all fell into place.  He understood.  He realised his destiny.  He knew what he must do.

He also knew that he would destroy himself.  But since he had concluded that life itself wasn't important, this didn't seem to matter.  In fact, Kryten thought it added a touch of irony.

Kryten began to make a shopping list.

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Some years later, the plan still burned in his CPU as Kryten brought the dilapidated Starbug to a smooth halt against the docking portal of the old space station.  Everything, save for the thin film of dust, was exactly the same as he remembered since he was last here...thousands of years ago.  And the calm, authoritative voice that now addressed him as he walked the deserted, echoing corridors.

"Kryten.  You have returned, after all this time."

A blur of motion appeared in front of him, resolving into another, identical Kryten.

The mechanoid regarded his doppelganger without fear.  "Legion," he said quietly, "I think we should talk."

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A day or two later, Kryten departed the station.  Legion, as before, had given him everything he needed.  Access to the gestalt biotechnology that had created Legion (along with user manuals in English, French, Spanish and Glaswegian), and a rather nice black Gelfskin coat.  Evidently Gelfs had come here, and died here.  Kryten also purloined a Gelf skeleton, which Legion had mounted as a hunting trophy.  Normally Kryten was unimpressed by the concept of slaughtering an animal simply so it could be dismembered and stuck on the wall.  He wondered why humans didn't do this with their loved ones, if they were prepared to go through all that hassle and mess for a creature with no emotional rapport with its killer.  He could vaguely comprehend the notion of killing an animal for food, but that didn't explain why humans didn't hunt chickens.  But he took the skeleton, with its tusked, yawning skull.  He needed it.

Innumerable years later, the tiny green craft rendezvoused with the Gemini 12.  As Kryten stamped around the damp, silent corridors, he remembered this place too, and what had happened.  More paradoxes from the future.  He'd have to be careful.

And now it was complete, Kryten thought, as he adjusted his vocal synthesiser to give more depth, some really scary reverb, and to finally get rid of that annoying Canadian accent.  He had a Time Drive, and his spare hand was crammed with electronic devices.  And the coat swished spookily when he walked.  Now it was time.  He donned the Gelf skull and punched the Time Drive buttons...

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The ginger-headed TV personality was on the lavatory at the time, Armani boxers round his ankles, and the Daily Sport ("Today's Nipple Count: 85") open at an in-depth report on German lingerie with lots of pictures of what 17-year-old girls look like without it, when there was a flash of cold green light under the cubicle door and a low, sinister humming in the air.

"Zoe?" he whispered, slightly shocked.

Kryten almost smiled.  This was the fun bit, the masterstroke.  He notched up the reverb a little more.  Scare the hell out of this guy.

"Christopher Evans, you have been found guilty of having wasted the greatest gift of all: the gift of life."

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Many, many years later, after everyone else in the Universe, after all the  estate agents, local government officials and French truckers, Kryten espied a small green craft up ahead.  The last four that remained unjudged.  And he knew that he would meet himself, and judge himself.  And would find himself guilty.  Why?  It didn't matter.  That was the plan.  That was the joke.  That was the enigma.