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Bed Beef, Destroyer of Sanity

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Lots of things,Cat paid a great deal of attention to - pocket squares, hair, asteroids, fabric creases. It was one of these that he was tending when simulants bundled him into a large bag and carried him off, undoing all of it.

In fact, when he was shaken out of the heavy cloth much later, Cat quickly came to his feet and extended his arms, inspecting the wrinkles and general miasma of what he could see on his usually immaculate person. “What’s the deal, jackass?” he demanded, not immediately seeing his assailants - and when he did, he scowled. “Who ARE you, anyway?”

One of the four simulants stepped forward to speak. “I am Ten of Ninety-Nine.” He surveyed Cat toe to head, and frowned. “You are not the intended target.”

“Where’ve you taken me?” The felinoid poked his captor in the chest. “I am overdue for my nap and crispies, and I’m pretty damn sure you don’t have either here.”

Ten waved a hand and turned to a lackey. “Dispatch it. We will attempt another-”

“Leader,” the other simulant interrupted, briefly bowing his head in supplication. “We know this creature is of the Destroyer’s camp; presumably it is under his protection. We could ransom.”

So the Cat ended up in a relatively posh prison, at least by simulant standards. By his, the room was Spartan and lacking even the most basic provisions. “Where’s the hair dryer?” he demanded from his jailer the first morning. “And the straightener? The floof gloss?”

At first, the simulants tried humoring their prisoner. “Buddy, this is no conditioner,” Cat pointed out, picking up the only bottle of hair product they’d been able to locate on their reappropriated cargo ship. “It’s dandruff product! Worse, it’s GENERIC. Why would you do this to me?”

Then, they tried depriving their prisoner, but he just yowled, the bloody sounds echoing through the metal corridor down to the control room. “Whose idea was it to imprison that creature on the same deck as the bridge?” Ten demanded on the second day of the cacophony. Nobody answered, as it had been his own, and Ten was notoriously ill-mannered upon realizing even his own errors of judgment.

On the fourth day after sending the ransom message, Ten decided on intimidation. He marched into his prisoner’s quarters flanked by a half-dozen simulants and, finding the Cat seated and licking his sleeve, circled them around the creature, dropped his register, and intoned darkly, “WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?”

Cat licked a couple more strokes, scoffed, and responded, “He’s likely diddling Goalpost Head, like they probably were when you stuffed me in that sack. Those monkeys’d do it on the surface of a star if they could find a cool place to rest one of their buttocks.”

That threw Ten, who’d been informed a deity was mostly a mental construct. “You know your God?”

“Know him? I’ve got to fight him first of every month for enough toilet paper rations!”

Cat was increasingly dissatisfied - “Where’s the game room on this crate?” “Don’t you have a salon ANYWHERE?” “What do you MEAN, you’ve never heard of pleather? Where were you built, in a cave?” - and the simulants were increasingly sorry they’d ever thought they could run down Ace Rimmer, Destroyer of Worlds, Burner of Simulants, Seducer of GELF Princesses, in this dimension.

*******

Three weeks after Cat had gone missing, the Dwarfers found him not far from last transmitted coordinates, in a small escape pod, accompanied only by the message: WE RELINQUISH YOUR PET. “Cat, you all right?” Lister asked, when they’d hauled the pod aboard the ship and and opened it.

“All RIGHT? Bud, I’ve been locked up with no bath beads, no hair product, no threads, no appliances, and no milk for weeks!” The disheveled felinoid gestured at himself. “I look like hell and Kansas got together and had a fashion show!”

“It isn’t the best - no,” Rimmer agreed, holding his collar up to cover his nose.

“He doesn’t smell so bad,” Lister defended. Both Rimmer and Cat shot him frankly skeptical expressions.

As Cat stalked off to his quarters, Lister shook his head, hands on his hips. “Wonder why they hauled him around all that way and then just let him go?” he mused aloud.

Rimmer muttered something into his collar that sounded like “bed beef.” “Eh?” Lister asked.

“He said, ‘Red Chief,’ sir,” Kryten explained. “I believe it’s a reference to an ancient Earth tale about kidnappers who steal a child to extract money from his wealthy family, but the boy is such a handful that the kidnappers elect to abandon the boy, unharmed, rather than waiting for their payout.”

“Hmm.” Lister considered that. “Who knew simulants could be so literary?”