“But it doesn’t make sense! Who’s controlling him?” Kryten asked, perplexed.
Cat shot the lock off the cupboard door and a figure tumbled out, with ripped fishnets and ruffled feathers. “You!” Lister’s eyes widened in alarm.
“Yes. Me.” Low Rimmer got to his feet and glared at his surroundings, still clutching Lister’s remote.
“What the smeg are you supposed to be?” Rimmer’s face was a picture of horrified disbelief, “A goth flamingo?”
“Never mind his dress sense! What is he DOING here?” Lister chimed in. Of all the Lows who could have stowed away on Starbug, Rimmer was the one he least wanted to see. His right hand reared up and slapped him and he yelped. “OW! Someone take that thing off him!”
Cat took aim with the bazookoid, “You heard the man. Hand it over.”
“Why would I do that?” Low Rimmer sneered.
“You never seen a gun before?”
“Have you never seen a hologram before? You can’t shoot me, little housecat. Your weapons are useless against me.” Cat glanced at Kryten for confirmation.
“He’s right, Sir. Unless, of course, you manage to hit his light bee.”
“Worth a try,” Cat shrugged, taking aim again. Low Rimmer quickly ducked behind his double, grabbing his hair and using him as a human shield. “Ha! Try and shoot me now!”
“Get the smeg off me, you loony kink-muppet!” Rimmer screeched, frantically trying to slap him away.
Cat eyed the pair of them for a moment, then shrugged. “Hey. Still worth a shot.” He raised the bazookoid again.
“Sir!” Kryten protested.
“Cat! Stop!” Lister ordered.
“You want your body back or not, bud?”
“Don’t worry, Sir,” Kryten waddled forward, “I’ll just take the implant out.” Lister punched him in the head, knocking him backwards. “Argh! Sorry, man!”
“No offence taken, Sir.”
“I think I broke my knuckles!” Lister wailed, “Will someone get that smegging remote!”
“You’ll have to kill me to get this remote control back!” Low Rimmer taunted, “He’s mine now and I’m not giving up the prettiest toy I’ve ever had that easily!”
His face suddenly drained of what little colour it had and he sank to his knees with a whining noise. Rimmer stepped away from him briskly, straightening his uniform. “I’ll take that,” he said, scooping the controller out of his double’s limp hand.
“You hit me in the balls, you lowlife piece of sewage-water scum!” Low Rimmer seethed, then grinned approvingly, “Nicely done.”
Kryten stepped forward and plucked the implant from Lister’s behind, without incident this time. Lister immediately raised his fist to his mouth to suck on his sore fingers. “Well,” he grumbled, “now what do we do? How is he even here? Why hasn’t he disappeared along with his ship?”
“Best guess is his lightbee synced with the nearest power supply, which happens to be ours. His projection must be piggybacking alongside Mr Rimmer’s.”
“Isn’t that a huge drain?”
“Maybe not. He is, after all, a far less complex simulation. He only has about fifty per cent of Mister Rimmer’s personality algorithms.”
“I’d say more like seventy,” Cat remarked, grinning.
“But what do we do with him?” Lister persisted, nervously eyeing the glowering figure on its knees across the room. “We can’t send him back to his ship. It’s gone.”
“What’s the big deal? Can’t we just shut him down?” Cat asked flippantly.
“It depends, Sir. His program may have become entwined with our Mister Rimmer’s. It will take some time to go through the files and make sure they haven’t merged.”
“I say we just kick him out the airlock and be done with it,” Rimmer said hotly.
“No.” Lister threw him a poisoned look. “Enough people have died today.” And I’ve still got the blood on my hands.
“And whose fault is that?” Rimmer glared at his double, “We’d all be goners if he’d got his way.”
“Not all of you,” Low Rimmer leered at Lister, “At least not yet.”
Lister squirmed uncomfortably and Rimmer looked back and forth between them, perturbed. “Why do you care what happens to him? He’s a murderer.”
“Maybe he is, but we’re not. That’s why I care. Whatever he’s done, we can’t just execute him.”
“Not even for crimes against fashion?” Cat interjected with a look of disdain.
“Look, he can’t hurt us,” Lister pointed out, and wondered if he was trying to reassure himself as much as the others. “Without that implant, he’s harmless. Although...” he edged forward cautiously and quickly swiped the holowhip away. Low Rimmer swung at him, but his hand swished through Lister impotently, “...we should probably confiscate this.”
“Curious,” Kryten ran the psi-scan over both the controller and the whip, “They seem to be made from the same compound. It must have been developed specifically for combined human/hologram use.”
“Why?” Lister asked.
“The remote was probably originally used to control some kind of mining equipment, to allow holograms to work seamlessly alongside their living colleagues. The Lows must have adapted it to use with the implant. Ingenious really. I’m not sure I’d want to speculate on the purpose of the whip.”
“None of you seem concerned about the fact that he can still hurt me, implant or no implant,” Rimmer protested.
“Well, you can hurt him back,” Lister pointed out, “But you can’t do any real harm to each other, you’re both dead already.”
“So, that’s alright then, is it?” Rimmer asked huffily.
“Look, if nothing else, we’ve got the holowhip now. We can keep him in check.”
“Interesting. If I hurt your whiny friend are you going to whip me, my pretty?” Low Rimmer crooned, with a wicked smile.
“My pretty?” Rimmer repeated incredulously.
“Ugh, right. I should have guessed you’d get off on that,” Lister grimaced.
“I’d rather do it to you,” Low Rimmer wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, “But I’m open to experimentation.”
Cat made a gagging noise and Rimmer looked traumatised. “Is he...is he flirting with you?”
“I don’t know if I’d call it flirting exactly,” Lister replied uneasily, “But trust me, man, it’s nothing on what he was saying earlier.”
“And you want to take him back to Red Dwarf with us???”
“You never know,” Lister said hopefully, “Perhaps with a little patience and guidance we can help him.”
“Help him? How?” Cat asked incredulously.
“I don’t know. Make him less...evil.”
“That seems ambitious, Sir.”
“Well, it’s worth a try,” Lister glanced over uncertainly. Low Rimmer was looking him over like he was tender lamb biryani. It was disconcerting to say the least. “At least until we think of something else,” he added quickly.
Back on Red Dwarf, they gathered in the drive room while Kryten ran a check on Rimmer’s hologram folders. “As I suspected, there seem to be a number of duplicate files in Mr Rimmer’s cache, obviously belonging to our friend here. I’ll set up a programme to try and weed them out into a separate folder.”
“How long will that take?” Lister asked anxiously.
“Let’s see,” Kryten tapped in the command code and hit the enter key. “It says.....three hours and fifteen minutes. No wait. Sixteen hours. Twenty-eight hours. Seven days. Sixty-five years. My, that seems extreme.”
“We are not putting up with this Rocky Horror reject for the next sixty-five years!” Rimmer insisted, then yelped. “Ow! He pinched me!”
“Hey! Stop that!” Lister scolded. “Behave yourself!” Low Rimmer stuck his tongue out defiantly.
“Don’t panic, it’s coming down again now. Eight years, four years, eighteen months. Three months. It seems to have settled on three months, sirs.”
“Still too long,” Rimmer grumbled. “Ow!”
“Oh, for smeg’s sake. Just pinch him back,” Lister snapped irritably.
“If we turn him off before the programme is finished running, Mr Rimmer, we risk losing some of your data files too.”
“So we have to live with him for three whole months?”
Lister huffed. This was not what he’d hoped for but it looked like they didn’t have much choice. He turned to square up to the scowling Low Rimmer, “Okay, listen up. I don’t think I need to tell you, you are not my favourite person right now. I have had a very, very bad day thanks to you and your nasty mates. I’m talking proper physical and emotional scars here. So unless you want to spend the next three months locked in quarantine with no food or entertainment, we’re going to need to set some ground rules. I’m going to need to see some serious commitment on your part to bettering yourself. Is that clear?”
“What’s in it for me?” Low Rimmer folded his arms, glowering.
“If you can prove to us that you can be good, and that you can be trusted, then maybe - MAYBE,” he raised a finger to hush the other Rimmer’s protests without even having to look at him, “...we won’t turn you off when your files are finally isolated. But you have to earn it.”
“How? What do you expect me to do?”
“Yeah, buddy. What do you expect him to do?” Cat asked, baffled.
“Yes, what do you expect him to do?” Rimmer demanded.
Lister raised an eyebrow.