The only time I managed to get myself married, it was to a huge she-gorilla-like creature on a backward planet.
Bodie woke up in a cold sweat, the images from his hellish youth as farm help plaguing him, even awake: the squealing of pigs bleeding to death, the fly-eaten cows moaning their lost calves, the beheaded chickens still running, too dumb to understand they were dead...
And Doyle is the health-freak, vegetarian one? wondered Bodie. If so, why do I dream about this, and he doesn't? There's no justice. And what does it have to do with the she-gorilla that poor guy married? Coming to it, who is he?
I'm your great-great-great-great-great-great-grand-son. And the last human alive in the whole universe.
"Eh?" said Bodie, very articulate at 6 a.m.
Ey, man, said the mind-voice, I'm not here on purpose! I'm stuck in your mind, and believe me, it's quite a heap of junk. I'd rather be back on the Red Dwarf.
"A heap of junk? Sonny, mind your language! I may be your great etc. grand-daddy, it doesn't allow you to be rude! Besides, how can you be my great-grand-child? I never had children, and don't plan on having any."
Remember that pretty black girl in Angola? Not the one who got her face blown off, the one you shagged mercilessly for 4 days and nights. And she liked it, too! But her family disowned her when they found she was pregnant. She tried the "Virgin Mary" bit, but it didn't work, it being the 20th century and all...
"Oh yes, I do remember her! A lovely girl. Are you saying she got pregnant with my child?
Whose do you think? She was a virgin, man! It wasn't easy to get one's rocks off in her culture, in her time! And it was "children" in fact, not "child".
"Children!" choked Bodie. "Twins?"
Triplets, said the mind-voice glumly.
"Here, I've always known I was quite a potent male!" gloated Bodie.
So, went on the voice, she left Africa, came to England and had your triplets in a discreet place. They were put up for adoption. Lovely kids with a coffee and milk skin and dark eyes. A few centuries later, one of their descendants became my mother. But our ancestor did leave a record of the true origins of her children, to be passed on from generation to generation. My mother told me about the 20th century goon... uh, security man, who was my great-great-
"kay, I get the gist of it!" grumbled Bodie. "It doesn't explain why you're talking to my mind. Unless I've *really* gone round the bend!"
I'm not an illusion, pouted the voice. (Pouted? Bodie thought. The chances of him really being my descendant are increasing exponentially.) I'm very real, only a few millennia away from you, and caught in this stupid dream-like state after reading my family tree. Which has been faithfully updated at each generation.
"Okay, said Bodie, I can buy that you're not a figment of my imagination. But please be kind enough not to accuse me of being a mere dream! I'm as real as you."
Nice move, Bodie, he thought wryly. You're telling a hallucination that it's real. Next you'll invite it for a drink.
I'd love to, said the voice. But I'm not physically here. My body is asleep in my cabin on the Red Dwarf. My mind wandered back in time. And don't ask me how. They never let me read the script to know how things happen. They happen, and that's it.
"Are you reading my mind?" howled Bodie. "Get out! And as I'm thinking about it, how did you know about the girl Krivas killed? I've told no one about her, except Doyle."
Ah, Doyle. Your partner, your friend, your brother... Although a somewhat incestuous brotherhood, on your part, at least…
"Stop this! I did not allow you to intrude in my private life!"
Man, I do wish I were not intruding. I'm here against my will, as I told you. Besides, I don't read your mind. I'm inside it, so I have access to all your memories, emotions and skills. Right now, I know how to take apart, clean and put back together a magnum .357. I also know how to kill a man with my bare hands, and believe me, it's more than I ever wanted to know about that. So, I know who Doyle is, and that you're secretly in love with him. You're mainly keeping it a secret because your partner is so dense he never understood the passes you are making all the time. When you grope his arse in the stairs, he thinks it's a brotherly kind of joke. I wonder who this bloke had for a brother...*
"Look, it's my interpretation of it you're eavesdropping on, not his! Sure, he'd never twigged on all the subtle hints I was throwing his way..."
Subtle! The disincarned voice was bubbling with laughter. Do you think it's subtle to roll your eyes at him like a cow in heat? Because that's what you do most of the time. Subtle doesn't enter into it.
"I don't roll my eyes like... Oh, shit, now I'm arguing with a hallucination!"
I'm not one. I'm real. When I eat too much chicken vindaloo, I fart very real, smelly farts. How more real can you get?
"How more disgusting can my subconscious get? Were you really my distant great-grand-etc.-son, I'd disown you!"
But I am. And your Doyle reminds me a bit of the Cat. Bloody self-centred little bastard, isn't he? And pretty. Like the Cat. And knowing his assets...
"Who's the Cat? I thought you said you were the last living human."
I am. The Cat is a cat. Well, during the millennia, his kind evolved into a creature looking somewhat like a human, but if you knew him, you'd see there's no possible confusion.
"So you're not alone on this... Red Dwarf. A spaceship, I guess? What kind of a name is this for a self-respecting vessel?"
A very good one! And you can't step on the wrong ship by mistake with that kind of name. I never heard of another one called "Red Dwarf".
"This I can understand," sighed Bodie.
And to answer your question, no, I'm not alone. There is the Cat, of course, and a robot with an obnoxious groinal attachment, and Rimmer.
"Who's Rimmer? I thought you said you were the last human in the universe."
The last human alive, corrected the voice. Rimmer is dead. He's an hologram. You do have this concept in your time, don't you? Well, the crew on board a starship is stored on a special light drive, and if something happens to the real person, like death, the ship's computer can summon them back in hologramatic form. Very tidy, too. They don't eat, don't fart, don't sweat... There's a drawback, though. They go right through everything they try to touch, and you can't touch them either.
Was there a hint of sadness in the mind-voice?
Bodie made a quantum leap.
"So you're in love with this... Rimmer?"
Do you have access to my mind? said the voice in alarm.
"Nope. My job just happens to require some powers of deduction. Judging from the way you speak, you love him. Does he love you?"
Does Doyle love you? How could I know? I've never asked, the same as you never did. Only in my case there's a very good reason. Two, in fact. First, he's not real. When it comes down to it, he's nothing but a small generator cube floating in mid-air. Second, he's a perfect pain-in-the-arse kind of guy. Would laugh himself off if I told him I was in love with him. Forget it. The mere idea doesn't bear thinking about!
"But you imply that I should tell Doyle? Let me say one thing: as far as pain-in-the-arse blokes go, he's a real prize!"
Tell him, don't tell him, man, it's your problem! Would just be nice to know my great-grand- etc.-daddy didn't go through life with a broken heart and a permanent unfulfilled hard-on. So what are you going to do about Doyle?
"What are you going to do about Rimmer?" countered Bodie.
What can I do? I can't touch him!*
"Ever heard of platonic love? smirked Bodie.
Ever heard of blue balls? Drat. Ey, wait a sec, man! I could always dig into what Holly said once about the possibility of hard light drive...
"Holly? There's another one of you? How many people can there be in the last-man-alive's life?"
Holly's not a person, he's the ship computer. A bit paranoid, I'll grant you. But he does know a lot of things. Maybe you've given me an idea. I had all but forgotten what he said about the hard light drive...
"Would it make him real?"
Not real real. But possible to touch, yes. If I remember correctly... There's something in this, man! I can't wait to go back and ask Holly. (Then the mental voice drooped like the ears of a tired rabbit.) But how am I going back? I don't know how I arrived in your mind, so how am I going to leave it?
"You did say you were asleep? So, maybe, when your body wakes up..."
That must be it! Man, you're a genius!
Compared to you, probably, thought Bodie, forgetting that the ethereal voice was firmly plugged into his mind.
Ey, that was not nice! moaned the voice.
The voice. He has a name, surely?
I have, answered the presence. Lister, your great-great-
"Yeah, I know! There never were any Listers in my family, to my knowledge."
There will be, assured Lister.
Suddenly a thought occurred to Bodie.
"If you're really from the distant future, and you've read your ancestors' biographies, you know what happened to me, if I ever got Doyle, how I died, and how old..."
Man, I didn't pay any attention to these details! There were hundreds of you, I mean my forefathers and mothers. How could I remember specifically about you? Until I found myself in your mind, you were nothing but an anonymous name.*
"Thanks a bunch," snarled Bodie.
Nothing personal. No offense intended. Look, at 3 a.m., I have difficulties remembering what I ate for breakfast. How could I memorise the names and life-stories of hundreds of ancestors?
"Forget it, sighed Bodie. I'm not that sure I'd like to know, anyway."
Once I had a glimpse of one of the futures-to-be. Believe me, I would have preferred to remain in the dark!
Suddenly, the voice became fainter. Bodie had to strain to "hear" it.
Oh man, I think you were really right! I feel my body stirring, back on the Red Dwarf. It's waking up, and it's taking my mind with it.
Or whatever passes for it,* added Bodie.
*You're a really nasty kind of bloke, do you know that?
"Thanks, grinned Bodie. It's my trademark."
The voice became more distant, as if it was receding in distance rather than in time.
'm really waking up now. Beddy-bye, man. Glad to have met you! It'll give me something to remember about my ancestors...
And the presence was gone.
Bodie shook his head to try and clear it.
"That was a very elaborate hallucination, wasn't it?" he asked to thin air. "Still, it could have a point... Why am I hiding my feelings for Doyle? Maybe he's just too dense to understand my hints. It's true that when I grope him or goose him, he never complains Is it his way to throw hints? Okay, here goes the plan: tomorrow, I invite him to a nice restaurant, then a coffee at home, and we'll go on from there... "
Lister yawned hugely, farted noisily and scratched his crotch. He wasn't even properly awake yet.
"Man, I had some real strange dream! Thought I'd gone back in time to meet my great-great-great-etc. grand-daddy. A nice looking bloke he was, too."
From the upper cot, where Rimmer was floating half an inch from the mattress, came a grumbling voice. "You ate too much chicken vindaloo yesterday. Lucky I don't have a sense of smell, or I would have fainted at that disgusting-sounding fart... And what's this about nice looking? Do you fancy men now? Well, let me tell you it's a bit too late."
"Ey, you're a man, Rimmer."
"A dead man. A hologram. See, I have to levitate over the mattress to make myself believe I'm sleeping like a normal person. Besides, holograms don't sleep. They get turned on and turned off - and before you smirk, no, I didn't meant it that way!"
Lister had stopped listening. He was remembering something interesting from the dream.
"Once, Holly mentioned the possibility of a hard-light drive for holograms. Then he said it would take time and a lot of energy... I wonder about the feasibility of his idea..."
"We could always check with him," agreed Rimmer, shaken out of his sour mood by the prospect of no longer having to float above things or go through them if he lost his concentration. “Being half-buried in the floor of the cabin wasn't a pleasant experience..."
"Let me have a bite of something before I die from hunger, and we'll ask him."
Rimmer turned away when Lister made the series of gurgling sounds normally accompanying his meals. When he was done, they called Holly on the monitor...
Bodie was pleasantly surprised when Doyle, instead of bashing him on the head, melted against his side and sighed: "Finally! With all the hints I've been throwing your way, I was beginning to despair of this ever happening. Kiss me again, Bodie. Then I will kiss you..."
It turned out that the hard-light drive was taxing the Red Dwarf power unit a bit, but was possible. Holly had not mentioned it to Rimmer, apart for his brief remark, because he had thought Rimmer liked to be an insubstantial hologram. Talk about misunderstandings between species...
The new, hard-light-cored Rimmer came beaming into the common room. He slapped Kryten on the back, feathered the Cat's hair and grinned hugely at Lister.
"It works!" exclaimed Lister, his mouth half-full of food.
"Yes, indeed," preened Rimmer. "No more floating for me, I can walk normally (he paraded around the room in a less-than-normal military stance, making a loud noise each time his feet hit the floor.) And I have more senses than before! (Won't be difficult, thought Lister.) Smell and touch and taste, not only hearing and sight! Holly even said I could simulate eating, and will differentiate the foods.
"Wonderful," said Lister, thinking of all the opportunities. "I hope you don't snore now, though!"
"Perfection doesn't snore," assured Rimmer haughtily. "Want to join me in my upper cot and find out tonight?"
Bodie blushed at some of the things Doyle did to him. "Inventive" didn't even begin to describe him. With a satisfied sigh, Bodie leant back on the sofa and enjoyed the company - and the scenery.
A bit later, Bodie made Doyle blush.