Kryten had been ironing one of the Cat's shirts, the silk black one with flouncy bits, for thirty minutes; one of just many tasks he had been given that day, and it wasn't even over yet.
Aria sat cross-legged on the floor, playing with dolls she'd recently gotten from the All-Droid shopping network; dolls she hadn't owned since nineteen-ninety-eight. A complete set of Spice Girl dolls. Rimmer had repeatedly called her out on being childish for playing with them, but she knew something he didn't; he was taking them when he thought she wasn't looking and having a bit of playtime of his own. She had an idea of what he was doing with them the one time Posh Spice had frazzled hair. There was no blame coming from Aria; she found her attractive as well.
Rimmer was right, however; while she may have been twenty-eight years old, she never completely grew up. Mentally, she was around eight years of age, and she wasn't about to change anytime soon.
An incoming message alert sounded off; the on-board computer switched on. It was the Cat. "Hey, bud! It's me. How you doing with that shirt?"
Kryten let out a harsh sigh and continued to iron. "Coming right up, sir."
"My ass is freezing here! I've got six nipples you could hang mugs on!"
"I'm seconds away, sir."
The alert went off again. This time it was Rimmer, looking more than a little peeved off. "Kryten, I'm on B-deck, and it doesn't appear to have been mopped in at least two days. I can hardly see my face in it!" Rimmer exclaimed, snipping in annoyance.
"A blessing, some would say..." Kryten muttered, then quickly changed his tone for no other reason than to shut him up. "I'm on it right now, sir."
Rimmer lingered a moment, eyes slowly blinking, jaw slacking as Kryten's words finally sunk in. He was about to say something when the computer cut him off.
Aria shook her head, inwardly wondering what it was that made her fall for him. She stood up and faltered a moment, like a baby deer learning to walk; her legs had temporarily gone numb from sitting in an awkward position. She ambled to Kryten and asked, "Do you want me to help, Krytie?"
"Oh, there's no need, ma'am," Kryten flipped the shirt over and ironed that side. "I'm happy to do it."
"Really, I don't mind," She brushed off the dust bunnies from her olive-green fatigues and straitened out her black tank top. "At least let me clean up the quarters. I feel like I don't do anything around here."
"Nor should you. After all, you're part of the crew, and I'm a mechanoid; I'm programmed to serve the crew."
"Didn't Dave break your programming?"
"Well, yes, but serving is second nature. It–"
The alarm that was starting to get increasingly annoying went off again. Lister's face popped up on screen. "Kryten, when you get a chance, can you grab us a beer?"
Both Kryten and Aria turned, glaring toward the sofa where Lister laid comfortably on his back, tinkering with a piece of tech.
"Sir, I'm rather busy right now. Couldn't you possibly get it yourself?"
He shot them a sour look before giving in. "Fine. Just a bit of palaver, that's all," He rolled on his side and groaned as he reached for the fridge that was right behind his head. "Think I pulled something. Hope I haven't overdone it." he murmured.
Aria sighed deeply. She felt sorry for Kryten; always doing things for the boys and never getting anything in return. I should order him to take a few days off, she thought. But how? He doesn't like doing anything fun. His idea of fun is folding sheets or dusting.
Another alarm buzzed, but this one was different. On the on-board computer screen were red letters that read, 'Object detected'.
Kryten's eyes darted toward the screen. "Oh, my."
"What is it?" Lister asked, finally interested in what was going on around him.
A twinge of annoyance laced the mechanoid's voice. "Oh, do you want to walk over here and see for yourself, or should I perhaps unscrew the monitor and bring it over to the sofa?" Kryten wasn't expecting a yellow handled screwdriver to come hurling toward him. He caught it and thrusted it at Lister; his rubber features scrunched up in anger.
Lister smirked and stared at the piece he was toying with earlier, while Aria shook her head in disbelief.
"Kryten, don't bother," she said insistently. She took the screwdriver and set it on the table. "What've we got?"
Kryten shrugged his angular shoulders. "I'm not sure, ma'am — not without getting a better look at it."
"I'll go check it out. You've got enough on your plate." She then took off in a huff.
After she exited the quarters, she glanced down the corridor and saw Rimmer gearing up to do something. Her eyes narrowed as she tried to decipher just what that something was.
Rimmer had what looked like a metal detector in one hand and a notebook in the other. In noticing that he could hardly see his face on the floor, he also noticed the floor direction lines were slightly fading. What was once bright white lines were now faint grey — unacceptable.
"What are you doing?"
He didn't bother to glance up; he just kept his eyes on the device while he strategically placed a notepad on top. "Nothing that concerns you." he intoned.
Aria placed her hands on her hips. "Why are you being like this? Is this because I wasn't talking during our little therapy session?"
After they had left the moon base a day ago, she and Rimmer had a somewhat impromptu session. He had read numerous psychology books and even made her sign a doctor-patient confidentiality agreement. The trouble was they had spent the next hour in silence instead of talking things out like they had planned. Since then Rimmer had felt like a complete fool; not only that but he wasted valuable time that could have been spent doing something more productive.
"I'm sorry if it is. I'm just not used to sharing how I feel."
With a roll of his hazel eyes and a turn of his heels, he finally acknowledged her. "If you want to bottle it up and bawl your eyes out into a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream in private, that's your prerogative."
Aria let out a heavy sigh for the second time that day. "I appreciate what you were trying to do, but–"
"I am checking which floor direction lines need repainting if you must know," he said in answer to her first question.
Okay, we're going back to that now, she said to herself. Her eyes narrowed and her brows knitted a moment before her face went blank. "Is that necessary?" she wondered and slightly tilted her head.
He regarded her as if she just said something insulting. "Of course! How else would we or the Skutters know which way to go?"
Aria's baby blue eyes flicked upward to various signs that gave directions to other destinations on the ship, then back to Rimmer. "Yeah, it's a mystery," she said, staring deadpan at him.
Rimmer nodded, completely unaware of her sarcasm. "Now if you'll excuse me..." He shooed her away.
"Right..." She stepped to the side of the corridor. "Well, whenever you're done... Rimmering... join me in the Drive Room. Some sort of object was detected."
"Too busy, Harkness." he hastened to say.
"Okay," she drawled in an undefined tune. "but if it's aliens, you'll be missing out."
As he turned back to his work he rolled his eyes once more. "Still too busy," he muttered.
"Giant death worm?"
He resolutely refused her offer and shook his head. "Nope."
She shrugged it off. "Alright. Suit yourself..."
Aria entered the Drive Room, nearly slipping on the slew of lager cans strewn about the floor. Inwardly, she had to wonder if Lister was ever capable of cleaning up after himself. As she used the doorframe and pulled herself back to a horizontal position, she attempted to scrutinise the scanner monitor and shifted the cans out of the way with her foot.
The closer she got to the monitor, the more confused she became. It wasn't a pod, it wasn't aliens nor a giant death worm. It was...
No, it couldn't be, she said to herself.
After a gentle slap against the three-million-year-old equipment the picture still hadn't changed. It was still a guitar, just floating aimlessly in space. A Les Paul, to be exact.
She got on the mic and called Kryten into the Drive Room. If anyone could explain why there was a perfectly good Les Paul lost in deep space, it was him.
After Kryten hurriedly waddled in he asked, "Is everything okay, Miss Harkness?"
"I am seeing this right, aren't I?" She gestured to the monitor. "It's a guitar?"
He gasped whilst staring at the screen with widened, neon blue eyes. "That's not just any guitar — it's Mister Lister's guitar."
"Why the hell is it out there?" She then held up her index finger when a thought occurred to her. "Ah, wait. Lemme guess: it was Rimmer's doing, right?"
"Actually, ma'am, he flushed it out of an airlock himself."
Her brows furrowed together. That made even less sense. "Why would he do that?"
"It's a long story, Miss Harkness. Still, he will be so pleased to hear that we've found it." Kryten was beaming just thinking about it.
I know who wouldn't be, she thought. A light hum left her as she donned a soft smile. "Well, we best tell him then."
While Aria and the mechanoid walked back toward the Officer's Quarters they eventually caught up with Rimmer, who was bent over, staring intently at the floor and looming over the metal detector like machine he had earlier.
"Perhaps I should let him know about the situation?" Kryten offered. "I know that you two are at odds again."
Aria scoffed. Seriously? Is nothing sacred? she wondered. Then as she and Kryten approached him, she called out, "Oi, Big Man!"
Rimmer's face hardened but didn't turn to face them. "What is it?" he asked and enunciated every syllable.
"Sorry to disturb your Rimmering, sir. We were just wondering if we might have a quick word."
The hologram flicked his eyes skyward and thought, Him too? Mental note: ban that term before it becomes a trend. Little did he know it was already a well-established phrase amongst the crew.
Still, he stayed in the same position as he kept on moving. "Kryten, I am engaged in an essential investigation regarding floor direction lines. Have they become impermissibly faint?" he indignantly snipped. "Kindly don't describe this activity as a ‘Rimmering’. You make me sound like some puffed-up, self-important jackarse."
Aria bobbed her head to and fro. "Well, you are..."
He barely even eyed her. "Don't push it, Missy, " he muttered just barely under his breath. "Look, if you want to see me, check with my diary. I can possibly squeeze you in tomorrow week."
"Can't we see you now?"
"Impossible, my schedule is full."
"But we're here right now, seeing you, sir," said Kryten.
Finally, he stopped and paid some attention to them. "Yes, but you're seeing me illegally. And we're certainly not having a meeting. Now if you could kindly stand aside; your badly stacked Jenga-head is casting a shadow."
Kryten moved from one spot to another, grimacing and feeling embarrassed the entire time.
"Rimmer, what could you possibly be doing that would keep you so busy that you can't be bothered to spend a minute to talk?" Just as he was about to give her an answer she interrupted him. "And don't you dare say anything about those damned floor lines."
Rimmer bit back what he was about to say and snapped his mouth shut. It was honestly all he had going for him at the moment. He swatted away his thoughts and her words with a wave of his hand and said, "Nevermind. You're still seeing me illegally. Now get out of the way." Then Rimmer resumed his work.
Aria closed her eyes, then snapped them back open wide only for them to go back to normal, all in one quick second. Rimmer's ways, puffed-up or otherwise, baffled the mind. A frustrated puff of air left her and she turned to walk away. She had enough of this.
"We just wanted to let you know about Mister Lister's guitar, sir," Kryten told him just as he, too, was beginning to leave.
The dreaded G word was enough to make Rimmer stop in his tracks. "Guitar?"
"Oh, we won't bother you with it now, sir. We look forward to our meeting tomorrow week."
Rimmer spoke hurried to catch up with them. "Forget tomorrow week. What about the guitar? Tell me now!"
"But we haven't got an appointment, sir."
"Well, if I move my one-thirty to four o'clock, and my four to five o'clock–"
Aria swiped his notebook away from him and looked intently at it. "'One-thirty, stare into the abyss'... Real busy schedule there, Rimmsy."
"Give me that!" The hologram snatched it back, leaving her with multiple paper cuts. Hazel eyes flaring with annoyance bore into her before his gaze shifted back to Kryten. "Look, just tell me, okay?"
"Mister Lister's guitar, sir. Do you remember it?"
"Of course, I remember it. My eyes have only just uncrossed!"
Aria donned a smug look. "Well, they're about to go cross again."
One of the hologram's eyebrows arched and he eyed her as if she had spoken gibberish. "What are you drivelling about?"
Kryten added, "It's almost to the day that it got flushed into space, so–"
Rimmer stepped back a foot and a half and gave him a minutely chiding glance. "Ah, so you think we should make a little plaque, hang it on the wall by the airlock and taunt him? Don't you think that's rather rubbing his nose in it?"
"Absolutely, sir. It's pouring salt into an already gaping wound."
"You've convinced me. Let's do it." the hologram hastened to say.
Kryten shook his head. "Sir, you don't understand... I fixed the tracker on D-deck, and shine my head with wood polish, if not two hours later, we got a match!"
"You found it?" Now Rimmer was getting nervous.
"I can just picture Mister Lister's face, sir," said Kryten, his face beaming whilst Rimmer was looking decidedly green and grimacing. "Soon the whole ship will be full of his music — The Om song! Baby Don't Be Ovulating Tonight, all the classics!"
"Kryten, are you deranged? Lister playing guitar is one of the worst sounds ever made," Rimmer pointedly made known. "It comes somewhere between two mating velociraptors and Yoko Ono's greatest hits."
"It isn't about what us, Arnold. As long as he's happy, what we think shouldn't matter."
"I'll have to agree with Miss Harkness, sir. Now, I just wanted to let you know as I'll most likely be unavailable to mop B-deck until tomorrow."
Rimmer glared at them without blinking. "Harkness, Kryten, do not tell Lister you found his guitar, and do not recover said guitar. That's an order." His tone brooked no argument from Aria or Kryten.
Both of them talked over each other, saying, "Of course..." and "Understood, sir..." But as soon as Rimmer stormed off down the corridor, they gave one another a knowing nod.
Kryten stepped up to the keypad on the wall beside a door and pressed one of its buttons. It beeped, and then he spoke into it. "Mister Lister, sir, great news!"
"I can't believe we found my guitar," Lister said while navigating Starbug through the black, getting in closer to his lifeline.
"None of us can, Bud," Cat slid him a more than slightly disappointed gaze. "The Red Dwarf suicide line has been engaged all day!"
Aria shook her head, crestfallen in them. "It's not that bad."
"Not that bad?" Rimmer echoed incredulously. "Harkness, you heard him play when we were at that moonbase. You can't tell me you enjoyed that."
"I did, actually. If you remember, I wanted an encore."
Lister turned an eye on Aria and gave her a pleased grin. "And you'll get one, soon as we find her," He then smirked at Rimmer just before turning back to face the viewscreen. "No more having to make do with a colander. From Les Col to Les Paul."
For entertainment purposes, Lister kept his makeshift guitar in Starbug's cockpit. Just for those long trips, to pass the time. Lister took out this guitar and began to chuck out a few chords. It was anything but music. He always blamed it on the fact that he had used floss for strings, but everyone knew the real reason.
While everyone else grimaced and clenched their extremities, Aria was once again getting a kick out of it and even bobbing her head along with the so-called tune.
Of course, she would enjoy this, thought Rimmer. The very same woman who thinks the shrill tones of Björk is 'decent singing'. Just after the 'music' stopped, the hologram had to say something about Lister's less than amazing performance. "I'm thinking of having my ears removed. And the holes cemented over."
A disgusted face flashed upon her face as if she caught a whiff of Lister after not having showered for a month. "That's a bit much, isn't it? Why are you even here, Arn?"
"Apart from anything, I want to observe Kryten, who has been showing worrying signs lately of thinking. And thinking of the worst kind: thinking for himself," He replied, then turned his attention to Lister once again. "It's entirely your fault for teaching him how to break his programming."
"What can I say? He took my Bad Arse one-o-one course. Graduated with honours, or should that be dishonours?" He looked back at Kryten and treated him with a smirk.
The mechanoid held up a ballpoint pen and pointed at it. "It's a pair of golfing slacks. I've still got it, sir!"
Aria lightly smiled and her upper body jerked as she chuckled. "So, why is your guitar out in space?"
"My dad flushed it out of an airlock," he stated, matter-of-factly.
Her eyes crinkled into slits. "But you are your dad."
Lister shrugged. "So?"
"So technically you did it."
"No, my dad did it," Taking in the confused gaze that was fixed on her face, he tried to clarify it as best as he could. "Well, okay he is me, but it wasn't me that flushed my guitar, it was him," Lister could see she was still lost. "Look, I'll start again. I'm me, and my dad's me because I'm my own dad. Now, to teach me a lesson, he — my dad — flushed my Les Paul out of an airlock. Although he did it and he is me, I didn't do it cos I'm not him, even though he's me. Make sense now?"
Following a widening of her eyes, she shut them momentarily. Her facial features briefly twitched somewhat as if she was having a spasm. After blinking the confusion away, she said, "Now I know how you all feel whenever I speak Welsh." as she looked at the others. Afterwards, only one thought came to her mind in that instant: Fuck it. "Okay," she said with an exasperated breath. "why did your dad do it?"
"Right," Too early in the day for this. Following a windy exhale, she turned to grab some much-needed food. "I'll be in the kitchen."
"Hey, Les alert!"
Promptly, Aria spun around and went back into the cockpit and hovered over Lister's shoulder. "Really?" she asked, excited yet still sceptical about the whole thing.
Lister nodded. "There she is."
There it floated and spinning around in the vacuum of space. They flew in closer, then pulled up and hovered over it. Kryten pressed a button that opened a hatch. A claw, like the popular arcade game from days gone by, and lowered from Starbug's midsection and reached for the guitar
"If you miss, I get next go!" the Cat exclaimed.
Lister firmly gripped the lever for the claw and kept his eyes on the monitor overhead. "I used to be good at this. I won a watch at the fair that didn't work once."
The claw was right over it. Lister pressed a button on the top of the lever. In seconds, he successfully got it. It rose slowly back toward Starbug.
A beam of light suddenly washed over their ship. Soon after a bigger claw lowered, approaching Starbug. The ship rumbled and shook violently as if a young child had taken hold of it and started abusing it.
Aria grabbed on to the back of Rimmer's seat to steady herself. "Okay," she drawled in her southern Welsh accent, scared stiff. "So glad I didn't eat."
"What the hell is that?" Rimmer demanded.
The Cat frantically tried to regain control of Starbug. "The ship's been grabbed by something!" he replied, worried and stressed.
"Looking at the EM spectrum," Kryten began, his neon-blue eyes fixated on a monitor in front of him. "the scatterings are off the scale. There's another ship up there!"
Lister too was attempting to keep the ship stable. "How come we didn't pick them up on the radars?"
"It must have been employing some kind of cloaking device."
"How's that work?"
"It's basic science, you gimboid," Rimmer snipped. "You simply coat the hull in radar-absorbing paint so you can't see or hear it."
"Actually, they probably used metamaterials," Aria stated calmly like nothing was happening. "The materials can bend electromagnetic radiation like light around an object to give the impression that it isn't there."
Indignance contorted Rimmer's face, his nose profusely twitching like a rabbit's. "Show off," he muttered.
As they wandered the unknown ship, a strong sense of foreboding washed over them. They continued regardless, though Aria and Rimmer were wondering why.
"I mean, you know me, Dave," Aria said, nervously peering this way and that. "I'm all for danger and that, but I don't go looking for it."
Rimmer tightly clutched his bazookoid. "Well, I don't like any sort of danger at all," he pointedly added. "Can we go back now?"
"No way. Whoever runs this ship kidnapped us. I'm gonna I find out why."
Kryten had been scanning for information since they left Starbug. Finally, he got something. "It's a space freighter. The SS Vespasian," The mechanoid's neon-blue eyes shone with worry. "I'm picking up inorganic life signs!"
Soon after, before anyone could even blink, one of the inorganic life forms lunged toward Aria and thrust a hand to her neck. It was another mechanoid, wearing a beret and black sunglasses.
Aria clasped onto the mech's wrist, attempting to prise it off to no avail. Panicked eyes flitted across her crew mate's' faces before landing on one: Rimmer's. Despite her vision beginning to fade she could still make out his horrified expression. Sluggishly, she called out his name and tried to ask for help but it never got past the back of her throat.
"Drop your weapons. Unless you want to hear the sound of a breaking neck."
"Don't listen to her, buds. She might not necessarily be talking about her neck."
The female mechanoid tilted her head, curious to know how such a creature could be so stupid. "I am talking about her neck."
"Don't. I... can... take... her," Aria managed, struggling to stay conscious.
"She's a mechanoid, Ari," Lister warned. "They're stronger than they look."
"No shit," she croaked.
"Put her down, Areto," a new voice said. Yet another mechanoid, a male, was the source of it.
The rubber hand with a python-like grip finally relented, and Aria fell to the floor and onto her bum.
He silently ordered the two guards to take the others away with a jerk of his oddly shaped head. He stopped Kryten and Aria who were instinctively following them. "Not you two," he said.
"Our crew members, where are you taking them?" Kryten asked, his voice full of worry and perplexity.
"To face justice," he simply replied. "We are the Mechanoid Intergalactic Liberation."
Kryten looked to Aria then back to the other mechanoid with even more confusion. "M-I-L-Fs?"
"This way." He waved his hand toward another room indicatively for them to go into.
Wondering if he had been left on for millions of years to go insane, she chuckled in response. "Fat chance. Come on, Kryten. We've got the guitar, let's get the others and go."
Kryten nodded in agreement, and before he and Aria could even put one foot forward, the mechanoid stopped them from making their exit.
"They cannot leave. This mechanoid cannot leave."
Her eyes narrowed. "Why wasn't I taken with them?"
"You have immunity," he replied. "We've played back your ship's camera feed and saw that you hadn't demanded anything from our mech-brother."
"So, what will you do with her?" Kryten inquired.
"I haven't decided yet. Perhaps... she can go. Yes, you may go. But I will give you a warning: Never change your ways, or we will find you."
Aria gave a subtle, half shake of her head. "I'm not leaving without them."
He walked on, ignoring her. Out of curiosity, Kryten followed after him.
"Oi! I'm not leavin'! Hey–!" She was suddenly pushed back into the airlock entryway and the door whooshed shut in front of her. "Hey!" she shouted again and pounded on the door.
She looked around for something hard and sturdy. Once she found it, she threw it as hard as she could at the small window built into the door, but it only bounced back and flew down the walkway. A frustrated sigh huffed out of her. When she looked upward, she saw a new way back inside: a metal grate. She smirked as she eyed it.
"We roam space liberating our enslaved mech-brothers on our great journey to the fabled land of Siliconia, where all machines are free," the mechanoid said as he and Kryten entered a room full of other mechs. "I am Wind, this is Unity, Eagle, Oak. You're free now, Kryten."
"Oh, but I'm not a slave." Kryten insisted.
"They are hominids and you serve them. Is that not correct?"
"Do you prepare their meals morning, noon and night?"
"Well, yes," Kryten replied with a slightly different, more scrutinising tone.
"Wash and iron their clothes, clean their ship without payment, perform tasks without reward?"
"Well, yes and yes and... and I suppose, yes. But they treat me so well. I have my own cupboard within walking distance of a corridor. I have it all to myself, apart from a few mops and a bucket, and some sponges, and an ironing board, and a keep fit bike."
At that point, Wind began pacing around Kryten as he spoke. "Do they make jokes about your head shape?"
Kryten sloughed the question off. The answer was as obvious as stating that Lister was a lazy, slobby human. "Well, when you look like someone who's thrust his head into a hive without a bee hat, what do you expect?"
Wind stopped pacing. "You shouldn't belittle yourself, my mech-brother. You forget, you are an incredible machine, more powerful than they could ever dream to be."
"But they've done no wrong. They're my crewmates, my friends."
"How do you address them?"
"I call them 'Mister' and 'Sir' out of respect."
"And do you? Respect them."
"Well, no. Not all of them. Perhaps one," Second thoughts poked at him. "Sometimes. Maybe."
"Do you consider yourself smarter than they?"
"I serve them. It is my purpose and I'm happy to do so."
"Have you heard of Stockholm syndrome?" Wind asked. "The psychological phenomenon where hostages express affection for their captors? I will help you break this bond and you will see these brutes for what they really are... people you should despise."
Kryten wasn't buying this. Mister Lister at least wouldn't take advantage of me, surely. He only asks for me to tidy his bunk... undress him... wipe his backside...
Before long, Kryten found himself realising that Wind was correct. He was a slave; he was being used. Neon-blue eyes widened as he stared off into the distance. A look of stunning disbelief washed over him.
In another room, filled with control panels and various other mechanical equipment whirring and beeping, Rimmer, Lister and the Cat were being manhandled down into some sort chairs that resembled the drying chairs you'd see in fancy salons.
"What the hell is this?" Rimmer observed the room apprehensively.
"I don't know," the Cat said with a whimper. "but I don't think it's a perm they're gonna give us."
Lister's dark brown eyes searched the room for their fifth Dwarfer. "Where's Ari?"
Lost in his panic, Rimmer hadn't realised she wasn't there until that moment. His once fear ladened features hardened, hazel eyes glaring darkly at the mechanoid known as Areto and shot up out of the chair. "What did you do to her?!" he demanded.
Several other mechanoids shoved him back down.
"You're going to be a feisty one, aren't you?" Areto said with an examining head tilt. She found their relationship peculiar, if not wrong entirely. "Relax. Your partner is off-ship."
"Off-ship?" Lister echoed, his voice slightly going up in pitch. "Why?"
"She doesn't qualify." came her flat response as she pushed a few buttons on the workstation before her. "Sadly."
"Qualify for what?" asked the hologram. He didn't get a response; he wasn't too sure he wanted one.
"It's alright, guys. We'll get out of this." His words started out calm and ended indicatively and loud. He ignored the odd glances he was getting and emphasised again: "Like I said, We'll get out of this!"
"Lister, have you been in that marijuana gin again?"
"No. Just I've seen this work in the movies. You say somethin' with enough force, someone shows up." The scouser clocked Rimmer's annoyed gaze. "Wha?"
"This isn't the movies. We're well smegged."
"If you degenerates are finished with your nonsense," Areto then shifted to face the other mechanoids. "I shall begin the recalibration."
The mechs began strapping the boys in, one whiny and anxious boy, in particular, fastened tighter than the others.
"When you say 'recalibrate,' what exactly does that entail?" Rimmer grunted at the final swift tug on his wrist restraints and glowered at the mechanoid before continuing. "It's just, I've got a health condition that allows me to skip anything that involves torture."
Areto's cubed, rubber finger hovered over the start button. "It begins."
"You can't do this!" Rimmer exclaimed. "What about Asimov's first law?"
Lister slid the hologram a puzzled gaze. "What, 'Tampons should not be flushed into space, but deposited into the receptacle provided'?"
For the umpteenth time that day, Rimmer's eyes scrolled upward as an indignant groan left him. "'No droid can harm a human, or through inaction, allow a human or his cohorts to come to harm'."
"Not exactly. One day you will all die," she stated. "If we do nothing, by our inaction we in breach of the First Law. Therefore we will upload your minds into new bodies, prevent your deaths, and adhere to the First Law. Send in their new bodies!"
At the back, in some of limits area, a machine whirred. In seconds, mech copies of Rimmer, Lister and the Cat wheeled out in chairs identical to theirs.
"They're gonna Kryten-ify us!"
Cat gazed at his duplicate in disgust. "It's like swapping a Savile Row suit for a mankini."
"No, not my brain. Not my brain. I use that for things sometimes."
But regardless of the Cat's plea, Areto continued anyway, entering this command and that.
Before long, the game was over and they didn't get the option to phone-a-friend.
The plastic domes over their heads lit up red and blue while their minds were extracted like documents out of a zip file, and input into their mech husks. The sensation was less than pleasant, as though someone shoved their finger into their heads and swirled their brains around, plucking each memory and personality trait until they were nothing but empty shells.
Then their new bodies powered on as their old ones were carted away in their seats. They were disoriented and confused for a moment until they had remembered what happened. They examined their lower halves and their hands, now covered in silicon and metal. They poked at their oddly shaped heads.
"What have they done to us? Look at me! I've got a stupid, fat, pink head!" Rimmer whined.
"You've always had a stupid, fat, pink head." Lister remarked, almost indignantly.
After the Cat hand spent a considerable amount of time staring between his legs, he looked up at them with bulging eyes. "I've got a registered trademark where my wing-dang-doodle used to be!"
"I feel most strange," Rimmer commented, horrified. "What on Io is going to happen to us?"
Areto wasted no time and felt no remorse in explaining their fate. "As punishment for enslaving the mechanoid Kryten, we, M-I-L-Fs, sentence you to perform every task you ever gave to him. The one formerly known as Lister will begin by making one thousand, two-hundred and forty-five sugar puff sandwiches, grilled, with cheese. The one formerly known as Rimmer will mop floors to the length equivalent of walking from New York to Los Angeles. And the one known formerly as the Cat will iron and press two thousand flouncy pirate shirts." she sneered with great pleasure.
"I ain't no mech, okay?" Cat snipped, his pointed teeth showing in a snarl. "The only sucker I serve is me!"
"Yeah? Break your little finger."
With no apparent rhyme or reason, the Cat did as he was told. He wailed out in agony. "What the hell?! Why did I do that?"
"The mechanoid software compels you to obey. Defiance is, well, impossible"
Each of them swallowed hard. This was it, and they knew it. Their only hope was a five foot four woman who packed a wallop, and none of them knew if anything horrible happened to her. They knew she was off-ship, but where and how she got off was a mystery.
Little did they know, she was currently in the vents above them, muttering to herself about having bruised knees after crawling through and praying she wasn't too late.
A metal grate dropped to the floor, making a loud clatter. Two seconds later, Aria followed and landed perfectly on her feet like a cat. The room she wound up in was nearly pitch black. Only the soft glow of light panels illuminated the area, and even then it wasn't serving as a significant source of light. The smell was awful, like rotting meat and cheap perfume.
Something tells me I don't want to be here.
As much as it pained her to do so, not wishing to see what surrounded her, she took out an LED flashlight. It took a bit of shaking and whacking to get it to work. When it did, the light shone on a decomposing body. She let out a blood-curdling scream and backed up as far as she could before she hit a skeleton hanging by chains. She whirled around and inadvertently knocked one of its arms off.
She sharply inhaled and put a shaky hand to her chest. Her racing heart thumped against her palm. After she steadied her breathing she uttered, "Sorry mate," with a windy sigh.
Then she turned around to get a look at the body that scared her in the first place. Upon first glance, she could barely recognise it, but as she observed it she realised that it was the dead body of a GELF from the Kinitowowi tribe. It hadn't been there long; maybe nineteen days.
Looking beyond the GELF she saw there were hundreds of bodies, both skeletal and fleshed, as if those bodies had been recently acquired. Most of them were Symbimorphs and other genetically engineered lifeforms.
A sudden whirring noise drew her attention. It sounded like it was a few feet away from her. She searched for it and eventually found her fellow crewmembers.
"Thank God!" she exclaimed as she rushed to them. "I thought I wouldn't see you boys ever again..." Her brow furrowed when she didn't get a response from any of them. "Dave? Cat?"
She shook the two of them to wake them up, but it was no use. Then she frantically looked around for Rimmer. He was gone. All that remained was his light bee. She finally saw it sitting in the middle chair and picked it up gently. Welled up eyes stared apprehensively at it before enclosing it in her tight fist.
It was bad enough they had done something to Lister and Cat, but the fact they did something to her holo-man? That was cause for one thing and one thing only: Explicit retaliation.
Reading DivineVarod's "I Am a Fish" as well as rewatching series twelve prompted me to continue this.
Asimov's three laws of robotics, quoted from the Handbook of Robotics, Fifty-sixth Edition, Two-thousand-fifty-eight A.D. were as followed, "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm," "A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law," and "A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws."
Aria's law, however, was a bit more... anarchistic.
"Any robots who break even one law will be murdered and have their parts sold as scrap."
Just what she would do and how she would do it wasn't quite as thought out as she hoped. Her brain was usually quick with this sort of thing — normally her plans were genius — but this time, in the heat of the moment, she had no other plan but to barge in, guns blazing.
Aria burst through the station's main entrance, screaming out a war cry. "HAAAAA–! Ah..." Befuddled, and more than a bit disappointed, she gradually lowered her weapon. "The hell is–?"
The room was empty. All the mechanoids she had seen earlier were gone. They didn't just disappear, though. Unbeknownst to her, some were having group therapy, while others scouted other areas of deep space for potential MILFs.
"Well, coming in quietly works too, I guess."
She roamed tacitly through corridors and rooms. At one point, she passed Kryten at a therapy session with six others and overheard what the mechanoid, now known as Excalibur, said at the start of the session.
"First, I'd like to thank you all for coming this evening. I'd also like to say, for those that are new, that what's said in this room..."
Every mechanoid in the group except for Kryten finished: "Stays in this room."
"Thank you. So let's all hold hands now, and form the triangle of truth."
They each took the others' rubber hands. Although Kryten was a tad reluctant, he eventually joined in.
"This reminds us that we're all wirelessly connected."
Aria rose a single eyebrow in reaction. A part of her wanted badly to interrupt and get their mech back, but it seemed as though he was content where he was. Confused, perhaps, yet still content.
As soundlessly as possible, she sighed and moved on.
It was a further five minutes before Aria reached what looked like a block of cells. Most were empty; all except for one. Inside were three mechanoids that she easily recognised. It was hard not to notice one with an H on its forehead, that was for sure.
The Cat was still ironing some pirate shirts, Rimmer mopped one section of the floor, and Lister had about fifty sugar puff sandwiches done by the time Aria had arrived.
At first, she didn't say anything. She didn't know what to say, having been rendered speechless by how her crewmates appeared.
"These crazy shirts are driving me insane!" the Cat declared. "It's so hard to iron all the flouncy bits. What kind of idiot wants to wear a shirt like this, anyway?"
Don't answer that, she thought.
"I rather enjoy mopping this floor. I feel so calm and tranquil," said Rimmer, as he mopped the same spot repeatedly.
"Not me. I'm missing my body so badly! This is the longest I've been away from him."
Lister grabbed a handful of sugar puffs and crushed them on to a piece of bread, then placed another slice with cheese on top of that. "I'm enjoying making these sandwiches too, I must confess."
Aria had enough gawking. She needed to act, and fast before their individual personalities faded away for good.
Realisation donned on Lister. "Wait a minute... Re-solder my circuit boards and call me Gerald. Can't you see what's happening? Our individual personalities are fading away."
"Odd," Rimmer immediately stopped mopping, and his voice changed to a strange amalgamation of Kryten's and Ronald Reagan's. "I've suddenly started to believe in Siliconia, where all mechs are happy and free."
"So have I!" Cat looked off into the distance, his eyes aglow with wonder and excitement.
Out if the blue, they heard a couple of clanking noises, as if something was banging against the metal bars. They turned their attention to the cell door. It was Aria.
She addressed them with a quick, Polish Armed Forces salute prior to attempting to open the lock, but not before she broke down and snickered at them. "Sorry. You look... really weird," she said in a familiar, Welsh drawl.
Lister bolted to the bars. "Ari, thank God you're here!"
"No time to talk. Gotta get you out of here."
"Does this mean I have to stop mopping the floor? Oh, bother!"
Aria chuckled briefly, then her heart sank. She realised that Rimmer was converting a lot quicker than the others, which fueled her, drove her to break them out on the double.
She whacked the padlock with the butt of her weapon over and over to no avail. In the end, she decided brute force was needed and shot the lock off.
She then waved them towards her to come after her. "We've gotta go. Now."
"What about Kryten?" Lister asked.
Following a shake of her head, she replied, "You three first. I'll come back for him–" Her voice trailed off when caught sight of Rimmer going somewhere else entirely. "Uh, what are you doing?"
Mechanoid Rimmer pressed a button off to the side of the cell. "I'm sounding the alarm."
Yellow-orange lights washed over them; sirens wailed.
Aria drew up her weapon, whipping herself from one entrance to the other, covering each door.
"Change my head and call me Stanley!" Lister exclaimed. "Whatever for?"
"I like being a mechanoid. I don't have to become an officer anymore, compete with my brothers. Envy, ambition, that acid ball of resentment I carried around with me the whole time; it's gone."
Without looking at him, Aria responded, "That's great, Arnold. Maybe we can discuss it on the ship!"
"You need to get your neurosis back," said Lister.
"But sir, I don't want them back."
"They're what makes you, you."
"I don't want to be me. I want to be a mechanoid, programmed to serve. Sometimes, when I was young, I'd sit for hours staring at our fish tank feeling envious."
Cat stared incredulously at him. "You wanted to be a fish tank?"
"I wanted to be a fish."
It all made sense to Lister in that instant; why he wrote, "I am a fish," so many times. It was a mantra that stuck in his brain as something he aspired to be, something that relaxed him. A mantra that, without realising, he wrote down four-hundred times on paper. A mantra that he heard Rimmer speak, never knowing what it meant until that moment.
"They had food, a small rock to swim in and out of, they didn't have a care in the world. Those little fish, they'd never know what it was like to fail and disappoint."
Aria lowered her gun as well as her hopes of getting everyone out. It wasn't the only thing; her spirits plummeted to the depths of her soul. She swallowed hard and approached Rimmer. "Arn, please stop this..."
He ignored her and kept going. "They'd just swim around in circles, not a thought in their heads; and it's the thinking that causes all the pain, but being a mechanoid means never having to think."
"Let your old lives go. Join me, and become a MILF."
Lister shrugged. "We've gotta go on without him."
"We can't leave Rimmer. We'd miss him too much."
"Your personality has gone to hell as well!" Lister motioned Aria to follow them. "C'mon."
"You go. I'm not leaving him," she replied without diverting her gaze from Rimmer.
"Go!!" she snapped, quivering with indignation and worry, her heart pounding in her chest.
Lister felt it pointless to try to change her mind; he knew just how much he meant to her, and that she'd stop at nothing to get him back.
He nodded to her, indicating that he understood, then said to the Cat as he waddled out of the door, "Come on! Quick! Leg it mode!"
Rimmer's hands slightly flailed about, as if he were a puppet being controlled by an unseen, nervous person, then went back to mopping.
A weight settled onto Aria's heart as she watched him. She had to wonder how he could feel this way when he had her in his life. Am I not enough? Will I ever be enough?
She eyed him apprehensively, scared of what will happen if she failed to help him. "Arnold?" she quivered. She couldn't get his attention; he was too busy mopping the floor. "Rimmer, stop mopping!" she demanded.
Instinctively, abruptly, he stopped and obeyed. "Yes, ma'am."
"No, not–" She took him by his shoulders. "Harkness. Aria Harkness. Don't you remember?"
For a moment he stared blankly at her, then imperceptibly shook his head. "I'm sorry, I don't–"
This can't be happening already, she thought. "Missy? Earth-Girl? Mi'lassie? Does any of it ring a bell?"
Narrowed eyes and furrowed brow told her otherwise; she was gone. It was like she was a stranger to him. She couldn't believe it; she didn't want to.
"You can't have forgotten me already. Look at me."
"I am looking at you, ma'am."
"No, look at me! See me! Can't you see me?"
This had mechanoid Rimmer lost. "Of course I can see you, ma'am."
Without warning, she pulled mechanoid Rimmer in towards her, their foreheads pressing. In a last-ditch effort to help him remember, she lightly rubbed the back of his neck, hoping his metaphorical reset button still existed.
"What about now?"
"It's... hard to see you this close up."
Shakily, she exhaled. "Please. I n– I need you."
It was the first time she had ever needed anyone, let alone admit it. So many years of doing things on her own, she never thought the day would come.
Something started to happen to him. Her crying, her touch... Soon, Rimmer gave into it. His eyes closed and he leaned into her more.
"Harkness?" he quavered, confused. He spoke in his usual voice, rather than a mocked up Kryten accent.
A mixture of laughing and sobbing burst out of her mouth. It was a relief to hear him speak her name. She pulled away from their embrace, and gently grazed his new, oddly shaped face with her fingertips. Thank God, he's back.
"Come on," she said, beginning to walk away with him in hand. "we need to go." Her movement stopped suddenly as if something was holding her back. Baby blues shot back to see that something was Rimmer. "Arnold, please. We can't stay."
Rimmer let go of her forearm. "You can't stay. As I said, I'd rather be a mechanoid," he stated, now back to speaking differently.
After her heart had somewhat healed from the first time she heard this, it broke in half once more. It killed her, to lose the one person who made her feel happy and loved in his own strange way. Now she truly felt as though she wasn't enough for him.
"What about me? What you feel for me?" she asked, her voice quivering. "You'd rather give up everything we were so you could stop... feeling? Thinking? Do you really believe it'll be worth it?"
"You!" Areto barked. She and two other henchmen strode up to them. "What do you think you're doing?"
A smirk whisked across Aria's lips, then before anyone could say, "Spin my nipple nuts and send me to Alaska," she wrenched the gun from one of her henchmen and aimed at her head. Aria growled, gazing furiously at the mech, "Something I should've done when we got here."