Chapter 1: Artificial Insemination
This derelict was much cleaner and well lit than the usual fare they get stuck with, Rimmer noted, as he released his death-grip on the bazookoid just a tinge. The research station was vast and open with tall white ceilings, test tubes and machines with bright blinking lights as far as the eye could see, along with lots of shiny reflective surfaces to distract any nearby felines.
"This place is so bright I feel like I'm trapped in one of those ancient Apple stores," Rimmer said, slinging his bazookoid over his shoulder, content for the moment that there was no immediate danger.
The mechanoid glanced at the scanner in his hand and waved it around a bit.
"What is all this stuff?" Cat questioned as he glared at one of the larger tubes that appeared to contain a floating human heart. Only, it was occasionally flickering in and out of existence.
Lister walked down rows of bubbling cylinders holding various floating organs, hearts, lungs, kidneys, and others that he couldn't easily identify.
"Explain that then!" Rimmer gestured incredulously at the rows of flickering holo-innards.
Lister shrugged. Meanwhile, Cat started batting around a newfound shiny thing.
"I thought so," the hologram huffed.
"Hard light research? Like Legion?" Rimmer pondered.
Lister nodded, visibly impressed, as some understanding started to kick in.
"One result, as you saw earlier, are hard light organs, designed to replace a malfunctioning organ for a human in need of a transplant."
Rimmer sighed in relief, now content that he probably wasn't going to get dissected.
"Sirs, I suggest we collect as much data and materials as possible from this station. It could very well save Mr. Lister's life in the future if the need ever arose."
Rimmer rounded the corner cautiously, and Cat lagged behind, once again stopping to admire himself in a shiny surface. The hologram shivered as he spotted more holo-organs. Even against his complaints, Lister still insisted they split up to explore more of the station, and Rimmer was stuck with that gimboid of a Cat. Again.
"How am I looking?" Cat purred at his reflection.
Rimmer rolled his eyes and grumbled to himself, before something on a distant table caught his eye.
Rimmer glanced up from the table and spotted what appeared to be an entire bin full of light bees inside a room that was offset on its own.
He eyed the outside of the room skeptically. It was different than the rest of the open station. Its basic shape was a large gray cube with one side open to walk into. The inside and outside looked to be covered with various machine parts and blinking lights.
Against his better judgement, the hologram walked inside to fetch the light bees, and was immediately sealed in by an automatically activated force field.
If he stood at one corner of the force field and glanced down the hallway, Rimmer could just make out the feline playing with a colorful light panel.
"You smegging cat!"
The hologram froze as he heard a mechanical whirring behind him. One of the machine panels was opening.
Rimmer, wide-eyed, backed up into the corner as far as he could as a bright red light beam began to scan him.
"SUBJECT ACCEPTED." The voice stated right as the light turned to green, and the panel closed.
"Hey, goal post head, you sure make a lot of noise," Cat complained, suddenly appearing in front of the force field.
"Maybe these buttons will get you out!" The Cat pointed to some control panels on the sides of the force field.
Just then another panel opened behind the hologram, and Rimmer was zapped with a bolt of energy.
"Hey, bud, your outfit changed," the feline observed.
The hologram blinked and looked at himself. His red uniform. That energy blast had forcefully switched him to soft light.
"Get. Kryten." The hologram pleaded, rising panic in his voice, visions dancing in his head of his own lifeless light bee getting added to the pile in the bin.
Rimmer continued to mutter obscenities under his breathe as the feline disappeared into the distance and yet another panel opened up in the room.
The hologram squeaked in terror as a half dozen mechanical tendrils snaked out of the wall at breakneck speed, piercing his soft-light form and latching onto his light bee in several spots.
Rimmer squeezed his eyes shut as his form flickered. While he felt no pain from the tendrils attached to his bee, it was very disconcerting to feel something rummaging around your insides. The closest thing he could compare it to was when Legion had gotten his hands on him. He had to hold onto hope that whatever this device was doing would have a similar outcome to that situation opposed to say, turning him into spare parts.
"DNA PROFILE DOWNLOADING."
One of the tendrils disconnected for a moment before returning with a small unfamiliar chip which it then welded into Rimmer's bee.
The hologram turned his head to see Lister's concerned form pounding at the force field.
"Kryten, what is it doing to him? How do we get him out?"
"AWAITING SECONDARY PROFILE."
"My best guess, sir, is that this console here may help," Kryten said, pointing to a panel rising from the middle of the floor to the right of the room Rimmer was trapped in.
Lister looked over the colorful button-packed console, but didn't see any clear indication as to which button did what. As he heard the hologram call out again, he knew time was against them.
“Here goes nothin."
"Let me try, sir," Kryten said, stepping in.
"SECONDARY PROFILE ACCEPTED. PROCESSING."
"Any day now would be nice, Listy!" Rimmer yelled again.
At this point, all but one of the tendrils returned to the panel as a chair rose up from the middle of the room. The remaining tendril guided Rimmer over to sit in the chair and in one swoop, switched him back to hard light form and clicked restraints down on his arms.
Of course the hologram immediately tried to will himself back to soft light so that he could pass through the restraints, but found that he could not. Even though he was hard light again, something felt off. Even his uniform was the wrong color. It was blue again, sure, but more of a pastel.
Next he thought he could perhaps force the restraints off with sheer hard light strength, but that too didn't feel right. He moved against the restraints and felt only pain from the metal digging into his skin when he strained too hard.
"BEGIN FINAL PHASE."
Rimmer watched as a new device lowered from the ceiling. It was a set of large cylinders bubbling with several different unknown liquids. Tubes with pointy ends lowered and attached to his arms and neck. His regular hard light form was near impenetrable, but now these needles were able to easily pierce his skin. Rimmer cried out as he felt real fluids filling his hologramatic veins.
Lister watched on in horror, helpless, while Cat, who thought watching Rimmer squirm was very entertaining, simply grinned and pointed.
"PROCESSING COMPLETE. RELEASING SUBJECT."
Rimmer blinked as his manacles clicked open. He didn't have a chance to stand up before the chair suddenly disappeared back into the ground, leaving the hologram unceremoniously dropped to the floor. All of the other panels closed, the whirring winded down, and the force field disappeared.
"Pardon?" The hologram asked, looking himself over.
"Sir, it's likely the organic material you were injected with has a mild bioluminescence."
"Kryten, just what the smeg was that device trying to do to me when it went poking around in my light bee? And why can I still not switch back to soft light?"
The mechanoid poured over the information on the console as Rimmer tapped his foot impatiently.
"Ah, I think I found the file on the machine that processed you. Loading now."
There was a pause as Kryten read through the information.
"Oh. Oh my."
Lister and Rimmer exchanged worried glances.
"Oh dear. Oh."
Kryten fretted back and forth at two monitors while Rimmer sat on the scanner-table.
"Well?" The hologram asked.
"You remember when I mentioned that one result of the research here was holo-organs that could be transplanted into organics, specifically humans?"
They all nodded.
"Well, there was a second part of the project, to create organics that could be transplanted into a hologram, or to put it another way, holograms that could hold organic material."
"So it fiddled with my light bee so that I would be able to hold that smeg it injected into me?"
"In short, sir, yes."
"And it follows that's why its not allowing me to return to soft light currently."
Kryten fiddled absently with his fingers, eyes flitting about nervously.
"That bad, huh?" Lister questioned, glancing over Kryten's shoulder to take in the image on the monitor before making a choking sound at what he saw.
"You're smegged all right," Lister said, expression unreadable as he spun the monitor around so Rimmer could see.
The hologram pursed his lips as he examined the image scan of his abdomen, to see the outline of a uterus which was fairly certain he did not have the day before.
"Is that what I think it is?" Rimmer questioned, pointing at a tiny blip on the screen.
Kryten nodded slowly. Lister was fighting to keep a serious look on his face, but was slipping into a grin.
Lister and Cat shared a look.
"How'd ya mean?"
"The machine extrapolated DNA data from Mr. Rimmer to generate one half of the makeup, but the second came from you, sir, when the console took your blood sample."
"Genetically speaking, you are the father."
"WHAT?" Rimmer and Lister exclaimed simultaneously.
Chapter 2: Virtual Delivery
"Rimmer is carrying my child," Lister said, shaking his head in disbelief. "These are not words I thought would ever come out of my mouth."
"Is there an undo button?" Rimmer pleaded. "Please tell me there is an undo button, Kryten."
"Sir, " the mechanoid began slowly, "without understanding the full extent of how you have been altered, trying to actively undo any of it may cause further harm to you."
"And having a living human grow inside of me isn't going to harm me?" The hologram flailed about. "How would we even get it out of me?"
"Well, sir, it's entirely possible that the process has accounted for that and will allow you to deliver naturally in some way when the time comes."
"Let's back up a minute there, shall we Kryten? There is nothing natural about this. I am a dead man, impregnated against my will by a mad scientist's machine, and this git is the father of my baby!"
"Easy, Rimmer, easy," Lister comforted. "In the words of someone I know, I'm sure the skutters could do a simple cesarean."
The hologram frowned at his bunkmate. "Don't take the smeg."
"Come on, goal post head," the Cat added, "let us have a little bit of shade and Fred."
"It's schadenfreude, you imbecile." Rimmer said bitingly. "And it's not fair, you both deserved everything you got."
"Well," Lister replied, crossing his arms, "how'd you figure that?"
"You, Lister, jumped at the opportunity to make love to your parallel self," Rimmer chastised, "and this moron willingly let a polymorph stick its knobby bits down his gullet."
"Hey," Cat complained.
"Rimmer, I don't regret Jim and Bexly one bit. I still think of them almost every day. And Cat, well, he just didn't know any better."
The hologram grunted noncommittally.
"Seriously though man, I'm sorry," Lister offered. "We can't change what's happened, but we'll take good care of you."
"Really?" Rimmer asked meekly.
"Yeah, we're the boys from the dwarf, we got this."
Kryten nodded in agreement, while Cat only shrugged.
"Plus," Lister added jovially, "I promise to make an honest man out of you."
"Now you're taking the smeg."
"How're you feeling, man?" Lister asked, returning to the bunkroom to see the hologram sat at the table staring blankly at nothing.
"Hungry." Rimmer replied slowly, the word feeling foreign. "I've eaten on occasion ever since I acquired my hard light body, but this is the first time I've felt actual hunger since back when I was alive."
Lister glanced at the curry in his hands briefly before offering it to the hologram. "I know you don't usually go for this, but I know when I was pregnant I had weird cravings for things I didn't usually eat."
At first glance the hologram's nostrils flared in disgust at the thought, but once he caught a whiff he tentatively tested a bite.
Lister was mildly alarmed at the speed at which his bunkmate subsequently inhaled the entire curry. He hadn't seen Rimmer eat like that since that time ages ago when they briefly swapped bodies.
The hologram sheepishly handed the empty curry back to Lister who smiled.
"I'll bring ya another one."
Rimmer felt compelled to breathe.
Before, he would often breathe out of habit, to keep up the illusion that he was alive, but he didn't actually need to, of course, because he was a hologram. But now? The life growing inside him needs oxygen, and so he takes another breath.
He also noticed a strange urge to regulate his temperature. As a hard light hologram he could always sense hot and cold, but he didn't really feel hot or cold. Now he sometimes found himself snuggling into layers of blankets or escaping to one of the cooler areas of the ship and pressing his skin against the cold metal.
He closed his eyes at the sensation.
In some ways, for being dead, he had never felt so alive.
"Another good checkup with Kryten and the medi-bot?" Lister asked as the hologram returned to their room.
"Everything is normal, well, as much as it can be for such an abnormal situation." Rimmer replied, settling into his bunk.
"I know its probably selfish of me, but I'm excited to be dad. Even if it's with you." Lister added with a grin, glancing down at Rimmer from the top bunk.
The hologram snorted. "You're your own dad."
"It's hard to have quality family time with me-self."
"You had Jim and Bexly."
"I'll never see them again, though."
"Hm," the hologram hummed contemplatively.
"Rimmer, I can't remember if I ever asked you, did you ever want children?"
"When I was alive, it was just another mark of success," he replied, matter-of-factly. "Become an officer, marry well, father children. I honestly never thought of it much beyond that."
"And now?" Lister asked slowly, with an almost a hopeful tone.
"I don't know," the hologram replied plainly, absently poking at the barely noticeable bulge in his abdomen. "It still doesn't seem real."
"Thought of any names yet for goal post head junior?" The Cat asked, taking a seat at the table.
"No." The hologram glared at the feline, before resuming his lunch.
"You're only getting bigger, bud," the Cat said, leaning over and stealing a piece of fish off Rimmer's plate. "You gotta think up a name before the baby monkey splooshes out of you."
"Thank you for that pleasant visual." The hologram rolled his eyes.
Lister scooped some food off his own plate and onto the hologram's. "He's right though, Rimmer, we should go over some possibilities."
"We? Oh no. I know your game, Listy. I'm going to preemptively veto any suggestions that remotely resemble the names Jim, Bexley, Speed, or any combinations thereof. I wouldn't put it past you to be so trite even if the baby turns out to be a girl."
"Listy, are you knitting?" Rimmer asked incredulously, as he waddled into the bunkroom.
"Yeah," Lister replied with a grin, leaning further back into the sofa, his intense focus not leaving his knitting needles. "Need clothes for when the baby comes."
The hologram eyed the man curiously. At first he had thought it was just his imagination, but he had noticed Lister regarding him with even softer looks these days. Despite the fact that they had already shared their living quarters for decades, the situation had somehow grown even more domestic.
Lister was so focused in his work that he jumped when Rimmer suddenly yelped from behind.
"You okay, Arn?"
The hologram sat wide-eyed. "It- it moved," he said, pointing to his stomach, a mixture of amazement and alarm.
"Brutal!" Lister exclaimed, rushing to his side and pressing an ear to Rimmer's abdomen.
The hologram was flustered by the sudden unexpected touch as Lister listened against him and felt around his middle trying to catch a hint of movement.
"H-here," Rimmer offered, tentatively reaching for Listers hand, and guiding him to the right spot.
The human's face lit up as he looked back up at the hologram. "Oh hey, I feel it. That's brilliant!"
Rimmer still hadn't let go of Lister's hand.
"Listy?" Their eyes were still locked on each other.
Sensing the hologram's uncertainty, Lister gave his hand a comforting squeeze and leaned in closer.
"I'm here," he smiled. "I'm not going anywhere."
At that, Rimmer closed the distance, and their lips met.
Lister was awoken by Rimmer groaning in his sleep.
"Lights! Rimmer, wake up!"
"Ow," he grumbled, blinking at the brightness. "Listy, I think something's wrong."
"Come on, man," Lister said, gently helping the heavily pregnant hologram to his feet. "Let's get you down to the medi-bay."
Kryten ran a scanner over Rimmer as Lister helped him up onto the exam table.
"How are you feeling, sir?"
"Argh," the hologram winced, "like something is trying to squeeze out my insides."
"You'll have to try to stop wriggling so, sir," Kryten continued, "so I can get a proper scan."
Lister squeezed Rimmer's hand. "How's it looking, Krytes?"
"Ah," the mechanoid replied, as he poured over the data readout, "do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
"Oh, just get on with it you pitiful excuse for a florence nighting-droid!" Rimmer yelled.
"Well," Kryten blinked rapidly, "the good news is, it looks like you are having a healthy baby today."
The hologram gulped.
"The bad news is, I'm still not quite sure how we're going to get it out of you."
In the background the Cat grinned at Rimmer and mimed an alien bursting out of his chest.
"Cat!" Lister scolded sternly and sighed. "If you aren't going to help, you need to leave."
"You monkeys are no fun," the feline whined and left in a huff.
"Kryten! Get this thing out of me! That's an order!"
"It's best to remain calm, Mr. Rimmer, sir," the mechanoid replied as he typed away at the console. "I could fetch some Chinese worry balls."
"Kryten, if I could move right now, I would remove your stupid smegging head from your stupid smegging body and stick it straight up your stupid smegging arse."
Before anyone could say anything further, Rimmer yelped as he felt something jolt in his light bee.
Various fluids subsequently began pouring out of his lower extremities onto the table.
Lister's hand went straight through the hologram's leg. "Soft light?"
Rimmer immediately reached for Lister, and found that his hand was still solid.
"Kryten, what's happening to Rimmer?"
"Ah, this must be part of the process," the mechanoid threorized. "It has selectively set his lower body to soft light, so that organic material can simply pass through."
"And there it is now," Kryten stated matter-of-factly.
Rimmer watched in awe as a baby slowly phased through his groinal region.
"Congratulations, sirs, it's a girl!"
The hologram immediately passed out and went fully soft light, his form reverting to its old state in the red uniform.
"Rimmer!" Lister cried out with concern as his hand fell through his.
"Don't fret, Mr. Lister, sir," Kryten reassured, "it looks like his system is just rebooting itself. Should only be a moment."
Sure enough, the hologram's entire projection disappeared for a short time, before his light bee buzzed back to life and he reformed in his original blue hard light form.
He blinked awake, immediately reaching for his middle and finding it flat.
"Listy, I think I've just had the strangest dream," he said looking over at Lister and the bundle held in his arms. "Is that-"
"Your daughter," Lister smiled, handing her over to the hologram.
"Our daughter," Rimmer said slowly, the words so new. "She looks like you, you know."
"If you don't have a name in mind yet," Lister offered tentatively, "I was hoping I could name her after me gran."
"I think," the hologram said, smiling at the tiny figure snuggling into his chest, "that would be lovely."