“It’s no smegging use! I can’t do it! Stupid smegging revision timetable! Stupid smegging exams! Stupid smegging…”
Lister sighed, he could hear Rimmer’s inane shouting from the corridor leading to their bunkroom and it didn’t sound good. He could picture it, papers upon papers of revision timetables, mock exams and textbooks littering the room around his hologramatic friend with his head on the table as the lights flickered due to the tantrum he was throwing.
He’d seen it countless times before. Every few months or so Rimmer’s neurosis would flare up and he’d attempt the astronavigation exam again, only to fail again like he always did. This would cause some extreme frustration which the indestructible man would usually take out on the bunkroom, leaving Kryten to pick up his mess once he’d finally calmed down.
Taking another deep breath, Lister walked into their shared room, being greeted by the same old scene.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself, man?”
Rimmer lifted his head from the table, a piece of loose paper stuck to his forehead. Waving it off with a huff, he turned to the scouser. “What?”
Lister slid into the chair opposite Rimmer, shuffling through the papers on the table to find a timetable and examining it, “You only make it worse for yourself. How many times have you attempted this?” At Rimmer’s loss for words he continued, “How many times have you busted your arse desperately trying to pass this exam only to get your lightbee in such a tizzwozz it needs to be recalibrated? It’s just not worth it, Rimmer”
“Yes it is!” The other man insisted, suddenly standing up and starting to pace wildly, papers flying around him like he was a famous pop star with a smoke machine, “All my life I’ve strived to become an officer, all of my death, too! It’s what I was born for, Listy, not that you would understand having a driving force in your life”
Here it goes, Lister thought. Whenever Rimmer got into one of his existential spirals the first thing he would do is take it out on him. While Lister took no notice of it, knowing it was simply the tantrum talking, it did grind his gears that he was being insulted when only trying to help.
“Look, man, you know this stuff. After decades in space with just the four of us you’ve learned first hand everything you need to pass the exam, you just weren’t made to pass them, just like I wasn’t made to eat vegetables, but get Kryten to mix them in with my curry so I can say I’m eating them”
Rimmer stopped pacing and turned to Lister with a frown, “What are you getting at, Lister?”
Lister groaned, “What I’m saying is that there must be another way to pass this exam without actually having to take the exam”
“That’s impossible. Believe me, I’ve checked, and there’s no other way to become an officer than to take this exam.” Rimmer sunk back down in his chair, head replanting itself on the table, “It’s impossible. I don’t know this stuff, I never have. I just can’t do it, Listy. I’m useless”
Lister was quiet for a moment, cogs squeaking themselves back to life in his brain as he thought of a plan. After 10 minutes or so he’d finally got it, and left Rimmer to his sulking to begin his engenius scheme.
When he was safely out of earshot and in the elevator shooting towards the drive room, Lister began his plan.
Lister smiled as the slightly aged face of the ship’s computer came onto the screen. Ever since they found the dimension skipper, Kryten managed to find a way to reroute Holly back on their own Red Dwarf from another exact one. Gone were the days of using the psyscanner, relying on Kryten to just assume things that, in all fairness, usually were bang on the head. Now they had back their old companion, space madness and all.
“I got a question for ya”
“Fire away, Dave”
“Do you actually have to sit the astronavigation exam to pass the astronavigation exam?”
“Well, if you don’t know that one, I think it’s fair to say you’ve already failed, dude”
“No, no, not for me” Lister exited the lift and plonked himself down in front of one of the monitors, bringing up the past questions from the exam, “It’s Rimmer. How many times has he tried and failed the exam?”
“Counting the blackout times?”
“Smeg” Lister muttered, scrolling through the endless dribble on the screen that constituted as the astronav exam.
“Why do you ask? He’s always going to fail it. You know it. I know it. Even he knows it.”
Lister shook his head, leaning back in the chair and grabbing a beer he’d saved from his last drive shift, cracking it open, “There has to be another way to pass. He knows this smeg, he just can’t do the exams”
Holly was silent for a while, a faint whirring around Lister indicated the computer was searching through his database for something.
“Well there is an oral option”
Lister scoffed, smirking to himself, “The only thing Rimmer is good at orally is slagging everyone off”
“A speaking exam, Dave”
“Oh, right! Yeah! That’s what I had hoped. But he’d go exam crazy if he knew he was being examined, though. Does he have to know?”
“I’m not following”
“Well...if I were to ask him the questions and he were to answer them, in our bunkroom or somethin’, and he gets them right, you could record the whole thing and he could pass the exam?”
“I don’t see why not. He’d have to get them right, though.”
“If you can do it without him finding out he’s being examined, I suppose we could try it out”
“Oh, don’t worry” Lister smiled to the computer, taking a swig of his lager, “I have a plan”
Later that evening, when the Cat had done his usual rounds, checking himself in every reflective surface, demanding food from Lister and bragging about how perfect he was, Lister and Rimmer were left alone in their quarters.
The scouser could hardly contain himself, but had to remind himself to stay calm. Holly had given him a subtle wink from behind the holograms head to indicate the room was being recorded, all he needed to do now was put his plan into action...secretly.
He’d taken up position on the now clean table, idly flicking through one of the old JMC’s magazines. Rimmer had calmed down from his meltdown earlier that day, and had slumped in his bunk, eyebrows furrowed and nostrils flaring at the ceiling.
“Hey, Arn, come have a look at this, man” Lister began, pretending to take great interest in an article, when in reality it was just an advertisement for a self-cleaning bog brush.
“What is it?” Came the uninterested and mildly annoyed reply to his side.
“This nutter here says he knows the answers to the universe after taking a holiday to Saturn for two weeks”
Rimmer scoffed, sitting up a bit in bed, “Two weeks? What did he do, create a time loop so he could relive those 2 weeks for 15 years? You can’t know the answers to space without being an officer, Lister”
“I know, man, but listen to this” Lister began to ‘read’ from the page. “In my many experiences in those two weeks, I found the energy given off by stars comes from quantum tunneling-”
“What?!” Rimmer sprung up from his bunk, crossing his arms, “How did they let this guy get an article published when I can’t?”
“Well, isn’t he right?”
Rimmer gawked at the shorter man, “Right? Right? The energy given off by stars obviously comes from nuclear fusion, Listy, everyone knows that”
Lister had to keep his smirk hidden behind the magazine. His plan was working. “He also says here that he was lucky enough to see the Koplar telescope which spotted more quasars than any other telescope”
Rimmer laughed, shaking his head, a poignant finger in the air, “First of all, it’s the Kepler telescope, and it doesn’t spot quasars it spots exoplanets. Honestly, was this guy high?”
Lister shrugged, “Dunno, man, I always thought it was Koplar”
“Oh, Listy, Listy, Listy, just how little your slobby little self knows” Nose now fully pointed in the air, Rimmer began to pace in his typical arrogance, getting into the groove of it, “Go on, give me another one, let’s see just how stupid this smegger is…”
“...No, no, no! Parallax with various objects is measured, and known distances are used to triangulate your position in 3 dimensions at two moments in time, there’s no such thing as 7 dimensions! And when you have both the space displacement and the time displacement, you just divide to calculate the speed, it’s not rocket science, Lister!”
Lister couldn’t have planned his plan any better, through Rimmer’s ever growing love to correct people, he’d managed to get through an hour and a half of needed astrophysical questions. He checked the clock on the wall, any time now…
“Honestly, this guy is hilarious! You must be reading a comedy article, Lister-”
“Time’s up, Dave” Holly’s grinning face appeared on the screen, stopping Rimmer in his tracks. The hologram frowned and whirled back to his friend, who was equally grinning.
“How’d he do, Hol?”
Holly’s smile widened, “He did it...98%”
“What’s going on?” Rimmer’s nostrils had flared to extremes as he advanced onto Lister, “What did you do? Are you playing a stupid game with me, Lister? One that only you and Holly are in on? Because it’s not very funny, I thought we had finally gotten to a place where we could respect each other but now I found out you’re plotting behind my bac-”
“Rimmer, Rimmer, relax, man!” Lister held his hands up, not able to stop the grin on his face. After decades, he’d finally done what Rimmer had failed to do, get the hologram something he deserved. Lister just wished Rimmer wouldn’t go all smeggy like he did the last time he was appointed officer. “I got a surprise for you, follow me”
“What do you mean, surprise? This isn’t funny, Lister. All these years where we lived together as pals, and this is what I get? A stupid, humiliating prank pulled on me when you know I should be studying for my exam….” Rimmer continued his ranting as he followed Lister up to the drive room, and even when they arrived there ten minutes later, he still hadn’t let up, “...unacceptable, just unacceptable”
“Rimmer, man, shut the smeg up for just one second, alright?” With Lister’s jip, Rimmer fell quiet, only then taking in that they were in the drive room.
“Why are we here?”
Holly fazed back on to the screen in front of him, a dickie bow tie animated crewdly underneath his face in an attempt to be smart. “Second Technician Arnold Rimmer, after thirty four attempts at the astronavigation exam…”
“But I’ve only taken it thirty three times.”
“I am happy to announce that you have passed. Congratulations, Navigation Officer Rimmer”
Silence. Lister frowned, expecting a whoop of joy or a curse to a deadbeat father, but nothing. He looked over to see Rimmer frozen in place.
“You alright, Arn?” No answer, “I thought you would be happy, you passed the astro exam, man! You’re an officer!”
“But how?” Came the small reply.
Lister shrugged, kicking his boots on the floor, “Dunno...Hol must have listened to all those correct answers you were givin’ back in the bunkroom and decided to promote you”
Rimmer turned to Lister, agonisingly slowly, “You”
“You did this”
“You set me up. You made me give you the correct answers to the article”
Lister gave his friend a sheepish smile, “There was never any article, man. They were just wrong answers to the exam questions, just got you to correct me, is all”
“Because!” Lister threw his hands up in the air, “You’ve been wanting this for so long, and I knew you knew everything, you just couldn’t cope with exam stress, is all, so I found a way around it.”
“So it’s not a joke”
“I’m really an officer?”
“Only if you promise not to be a dick to us ‘low lives’” No sooner did Lister finish his sentence was he bowled over with the force of a hologramatic hug. Rimmer buried his face in Lister’s neck, letting out a high pitched whine of excitement.
Lister chuckled, wrapping his arms around the slimmer man, “You deserve it, Arn.”
Rimmer pulled back, keeping his hands locked on Lister’s shoulders, “I can promote you, too” He muttered.
“Oh, no, Arn, that’s fine, I don’t-”
“Welcome to the team, second technician!”
Lister scoffed, giving Rimmer a lighthearted shove, “Is that all, you smegger? I just got you promoted to Navigation Officer!”
“Well, you have to work a bit harder around here if you want to become an officer, Listy, that’s what I had to do” Rimmer said, grinning from large ear to large ear.
“Smeg head” Lister muttered warmly, patting his friend on the back, “Come on, man, I got Kryte’s to set Shar’s bar up for a party, let’s celebrate!”