Message from Beyond the Earth..
The low voice of the ship’s computer thundered through the intercom system of the almost totally deserted mining ship Red Dwarf, and into the worryingly tidy bedroom cabin belonging to Dave Lister and the recently deceased Arnold Rimmer.
“Dave!” Holly called, somehow managing to sound urgent and bored at the same time, “Dave. Wake up. I have an important message for you.”
David Lister rolled over, highly irritated by Holly’s rude awakening. He had just been having a very good dream about a blissful night spent alone in the darkness with his beloved Chrissie. He rubbed his sleep filled eyes, and sighed as he realised that a dream was all that this was likely to be. Chrissie had died in the radiation leak. The only humanoid entity that Lister had for company was the man who was even now waking up, muttering a stream of sullen exclamations about how Holly was quite possibly the biggest cock-up that had ever happened to the Red Dwarf, as if he hadn’t been present, or even at fault with what really was the biggest cock-up that had happened to the Red Dwarf.
Holly’s huge bald head appeared on the giant plasma wall screen above Rimmer’s worryingly tidy desk and looked around at the two men rising from their respective bunk beds. “Hurry up, Dave,” Holly’s voice drawled, again somehow managing to sound anxious and bored in equal measure, “come on. This is a very urgent message.”
Lister stood up and stretched, glaring at the image in front of him. “Aye, I know,” he grumbled, stumbling sleepily towards the cabin door, “whatever it is, I hope it’s a bloody important message. Someone had better be dead.”
As Dave Lister stormed out of the room, Holly had time to reflect the fact that Lister would most likely come to deeply regret that comment in due course. Someone was dead. A whole lot of people were dead. He disappeared from the screen, and reappeared moments later on the plasma screen on the bridge of the Red Dwarf.
Dave Lister lounged in the leather chair in front of the largest of the plasma screens and looked at Holly who’s large holographic eyes blinked at him.
“What is this about, Holly?” Lister asked again.
“I’ve just received an article from the sub-ether network, about the Earth. I think that this article will change our position. Would you like to see it?”
Lister nodded. He hadn’t seen planet Earth for years. It would indeed be lovely to see the blue-green planet once more. He had missed the rolling oceans, the sandy beeches and the high rise flats that had been slowly engulfing the cities when he had left.
Holly’s holographic image disappeared from the vision screen to be replaced by plain black text and a large picture of planet Earth. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes once more, David Lister leaned forward and began to read the article. As his sleepy eyes travelled further down the page, his sense of doomed horror deepened, a cold stone of dread sinking further and further into the pit of his stomach.
“Planet Earth destroyed to make way for hyper space bypass!” the headline screamed, the title standing out in Lister’s mind like the beautiful face of his x girl friend. The main body of the article was printed beneath and spoke of grimmer tidings than the title ever could.
“The planet Earth, situated in the centre of the Milky Way solar system was destroyed yesterday by a group of Vogon administrators who’s job it was to demolish the planet for clearence reasons. A spokes person for the Intergalactic news was speaking to a Vogon Clarke who stated that ‘we are aiming to build a bypass through the Milky Way, and the Earth was just in the way. That is all, although we do think that a few Earthmen escaped the demolition. We do not know who they are but our ships are looking for them.’ Our spokes person sent us a transcript of his interview with said Vogon Clarke right before he was flushed out of the airlock of one of their hyper space ships.”
David Lister sat back in undisguised horror as the reality of this article became properly rooted in his brain.
“The Intergalactic news states that we are deeply sorry for those who died in the demolition of the planet Earth and we hope that the remaining Earthmen left alive are able to find somewhere to make their home.”
‘Bit of a bloody understatement,’ Lister thought angrily.
“We apologise on behalf of the Vogons for the inconvenience caused by this unprecedented demolition, but only because we regret to say that the Vogons were unwilling to apologise themselves. We will give you more information when information becomes available.”
He could not believe it. The Earth, his home, had been destroyed in one second by a race of beings he had never heard of before. David Lister had never heard of anything quite so pointlessly stupid before in his life. He had heard of planets being demolished before. He had even heard of a planet that had been used as a ball in a game of intergalactic tennis and putted directly into a black hole, killing a population of sixteen billion. Somehow though, this particular story disgusted him all the more.
“I’m sorry about this news, Dave,” the computer told him quietly, reappearing on the vision screen.
Lister opened his mouth to speak but was not at all sure what to say. Eventually, he said, “won’t be going home now then, ay Holl?” He kicked himself mentally for the blaightent insensitivity in the face of the systematic annihilation of an entire species. He knew that his entire family had been wiped out, and that all of his old school and work mates were gone also, but the truth was too huge and too big in scale for his brain to properly handle.
“So,” Lister asked the huge image on the vision screen before him, “where do we go from here?”
Holly shook his holographic head in confusion. “I don’t know Dave,” he told him seriously. “I did have an inkling that the people of Earth couldn’t have survived but I hadn’t predicted the outcome. I guess we’ll just croos around the galaxy some more until we find another place for you and Arnold to settle.”
Lister nodded in dazed confusion. He wondered where indeed he and Rimmer would be able to make their home, now that the Earth was gone forever. He didn’t know about any other planets that had the same life support capability that the Earth had enjoyed. Lister felt deeply that there were likely never to be any other world like the Earth.
Standing slowly, David Lister prepared to leave the bridge and tell Rimmer the news. Though Arnold Rimmer was no longer alive as such, Lister was sure that he would feel the same way about the Earth as he did. As he made his way out of the room, Lister reflected that he, David Lister, a back street curry eating waste of space was very likely to be the last human who remained alive. Or had other people managed to survive? Had other humans made it off the planet before the Vogons or whatever they were called blew the planet into atoms? He wasn’t sure. He hoped so.
Where in the name of hell would he go from here? Would he really spend the rest of his life aimlessly croosing around the galaxy with no direction and no idea of where he was heading to? He snorted with derisive laughter. What a life for a young man to look forward to. ‘Kind of like the life that the planet had to look forward to,’ he said to himself with a bitter smile at the ground, ‘none what so ever. Absolutely none what so ever.’