“Ace, your first mission is starting: A Gelf invasion on Planet B.” The computer said as kindly as she could.
A pale haggard face lifted itself from the toilet it was hunched over.
Euphoria and excitement long gone, Arnold Rimmer had nothing left but utter terror; and regret.
What had he done? It might not have been much, but Red Dwarf (and Starbug to a certain extend) had been his home. He had been relatively safe as, despite their differences, Lister had always made sure they were protected – that he was protected.
Now he was here, in a tiny ship he couldn't get the hang of. He was suddenly supposed to be a superhero, after three or four half baked lessons from his predecessor and a lucky fluke that had momentarily boosted his confidence.
What did he know? Nothing!
He had studied war strategies, but they were meant for armies. He had sort of saved Starbug once, firing a bazookoid but despite it doing it's job, the weapon had thrown him backwards and had nearly knocked him out. What was he going to do in a real battle on his own?!
On his own! The startling realisation that he had no-one to talk to except a computer, that there was no-one to help him or calm him suddenly hit him like a ton of bricks. He couldn't do it, he couldn't face all of this alone. His panic rising he crawled into the furthest corner of the ship where he curled into himself and started slowly rocking. Home, he just wanted to go home!!
“You are not alone, Rimmer, I will always be with you.” A very familiar voice suddenly said.
Scared he might be losing his mind Rimmer looked up to find … a projection of …
“L … Lister?” He whispered in surprise.
“I figured you'd be scared for your first mission so I asked the Wildfire to record this and play it when you needed it most.”
Rimmer wiped a tear from his eyes and sniffled as he nodded gratefully.
“I know you can do this man. You might not believe it now, but I do. I wouldn't have let you go if I didn't.”
Rimmer snorted, that was Lister all over: always so smegging positive!
“What if you're wrong?”
To his surprise the projection answered him.
“No, I'm not wrong Arnold. You might not be like the original Ace, you might not even like him, but that doesn't mean the smegging potential isn't there. You can be your own Ace man! Forget the smegging lessons, forget the legend: take what you've learned from our adventures over the years and follow your heart.”
“What I've learned …” Rimmer muttered. “What have I learned?”
He'd never learned anything worthwhile, had he? But the Lister projection insisted:
“Look back Ace, and … remember!”
His breath still shaking Rimmer closed his eyes, forcing his brain to focus on Lister, on Red Dwarf on … home!
He remembered: those nightly conversations about right and wrong, good and bad. Then he recalled soft, warm arms wrapped around him helping him positioning his first bazookoid. The Cheshire cat smile when he'd hit his first target. Learning to open up, learning to care, to love, to save. It had been Lister, always Lister: teaching him, saving him, healing him, preparing him, believing in him and ... Loving him?
Even though his eyes were still clouded with tears, a smile started to form on Arnold – Ace – Rimmer's face: He could do it! Lister might never see him be who he always knew he could be in real life, but he'd make him proud! At that moment he made a vow: he would think what Lister would do every time he went in to battle and see his smile in his heart -forever- every time he … won!!