The man in black said his name was Brett Riverboat, but Christine was pretty sure it was an alias, on account of “Riverboat” not actually being a surname.
One of these days, Kochanski was going to work out how exactly she’d ended up on the run from rogue Simulants with a Liverpudlian netrunner, his enhanced cat, and a neurotic virtual ghost. And then she was going to make sure it never happened again. But for the moment, they just had to keep quiet until the Simulant patrol passed the alley they were hiding in.
“All right, dudes?” the AI in Lister’s smartwatch called out. “I’ve got that information you were asking about. Took a while, but I get there in the end, right?”
“Mr Lister, sir, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I was examining some security footage of Red Dwarf before the accident, and I’m reasonably certain that the Miss Kochanski currently on Starbug is some manner of polymorphic GELF.”
Lister sighed, “Don’t even smegging start, Kryten. You’ve been on Kochanski’s case since she got here.”
“I know how it sounds, sir, but the footage is clear. The real Kochanski’s hair was short and black, whereas this Kochanski has longer hair which is a sort of dark blondey colour.”
“Yeah, Kryten, that’s something human women do. It’s called ‘getting a new hairstyle’. Hell, that’s changed since she came on board!”
“Ah, so you’ve noticed her appearance altering as well?”
“It’s not just that, sir. Her face is also different. More … pointy.”
“Well, she’s from a parallel universe. There’s bound to be a couple of differences, right?”
“But, sir!” Kryten insisted, “She hasn’t even got a Scottish accent!”
Lister hesitated. “Yeah, that is a bit weird.”
Lady Christine found the message next to the bell, just as the legend had said:
“For, lo, should the country reach its hour of greatest need, thou mayst strike the bell thrice, and the Reluctant Hero shall awaken from his millennia of slumber.”
To her surprise there was more writing beneath it. In cruder script it read:
“Ring twice if you’re delivering a curry.”
. . . In SPACE!!
Princess Kristina Organa looked in disbelief at the bucket of bolts that was supposed to rescue her from the Death Star, and then in even further disbelief at the crew. She’d sent K-RY10 to find a Jedi Master, and instead she’d been greeted by a slovenly smuggler and his overgrown housecat.
“This … is your ship?” she asked, trying to keep the condescension out of her voice. And, she realised, failing.
“Yep,” Dav Lister replied, apparently oblivious. “The Millennium Bug. The ship that did the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”
Wonderful. She was on a ship piloted by someone who didn’t even know what a parsec was.
“Oh, smegging hell!” Lister gazed out at what Holly assured him was Earth. Not that he was inclined to take Holly’s word for something like that, but…
“It’s pretty horrific,” Kochanski agreed, “Three million years. I suppose it was too much to hope humanity had managed to survive.”
“You don’t understand!” Lister shouted, running back to Starbug. “This is bad. This is really smegging bad. We’ve got to get the smeg out of here!”
“Look, I know it’s unsettling, but there’s a civilisation … sort of. We can trade with them, possibly. At the very least there must be things we can salvage.”
Lister shook his head. “The ants have taken over! We need to take off before Rimmer learns he was smegging right about something!”
“And so, we can show that the variable in the equation is yes-Arnold-what-is-it?”
“Mr Hollister, sir,” said the boy who’d raised his hand in an unnecessarily showy way, with the smug excitement in his voice that certain children get when they see a chance to get other children into trouble, “David and Kristine are passing notes!”
Mr Hollister sighed, “Well?” he asked, turning to the two accused. Dave shrugged in a resigned “Yeah, you got me” sort of way, just as he’d done the time he brought his cat into class. Kristine, on the other hand, looked horrified by the accusation.
“I wasn’t passing notes! I was being passed a note! Which I had every intention of ignoring!”
Mr Hollister sighed. “You can both see me after class. And Kristine,” he added as she looked set to keep arguing, “I’ll bear what you’re saying in mind if you can refrain from saying it until then. Okay?” He turned back to the board, and while he could hear the whispered conversation behind him, he decided to avoid further disruptions.
“You know, I was never kept after class before I met you!”
“Well, I’m keeping life interesting for you then, aren’t I?”
The Deputy Station Officer at the Coastguard station shook her head as the Seabug chopper landed. “You risked your life to save the ship’s cat?” she asked incredulously, once the engine had gone silent.
Rescue Officer Lister shrugged. “Couldn’t let her drown, could I? Her name’s Frankenstein.”
[When I originally came up with this category, I was specifically thinking “evil twins”, but I wasn’t getting any inspiration for that here, and then I remembered there’s a canonical RD “mirror universe”…]
First Officer David Lister smoothed out his moustache. He was planning to invite Professor Cat’s secretary to dinner, and he wanted it to go swimmingly.
“Tonight, my dear, I was wondering if you would be my guest at the captain’s table,” he said, “The Squi… er, that is, Captain Rimmer informs me that the chef is preparing an excellent gazpacho.”
To his surprise, his upper-class charm bounced straight off Krissi’s attitude of studied boredom. “I don’t even know what that is,” she retorted, “I’m happy with a vindaloo from the vending machine on B Deck.”
It had occurred to Lister that it was unlikely a lady – even one who had been disowned by her family after abandoning Society to become an airship pilot – would have fallen in love with someone so far below her station as a stock boy tasked with nothing more than refilling the aerodrome’s dispensing machines with bars of Fry’s Chocolate Cream. Instead, it was more likely that she merely sought a match that would shock Society in the same manner as her profession.
It had also occurred to him that he was perfectly fine with that.