“Lister, I've been up for nearly seven days, I've got half an hour for a lay down. Please, I BEG of you, don't disturb me.” Rimmer said as he strode into the bunkroom hastily.
With a sigh Lister glared up from his comic, the soggy half of the biscuit he was dunking into his lager flopping onto his shirt. In five seconds he had planned to scoff, rebel, make noise, keep Rimmer arguing until the thirty minutes were up. But then he looked up to see deadly pale, haggard features mixed with desperation and his plans died and shrivelled away just as soon.
He had been witness to Rimmer's four night in a row anguished all-nighter cramming sessions and heard about what had happened at the exams this time: crazy with exhaustion and stress Rimmer had mistaken the writing on the pages for ants and had kept wiping them away for half an hour before thinking the bugs had crawled onto him sending him into hysterics.
He had also been witness to what happened before those days, and was rather surprised that Rimmer was still standing, let alone functioning and talking. Well, barely.
It had all started calmly enough; in the weeks he'd expected Rimmer to prepare for the exams the man had been sitting quietly behind his desk with a smile on his face, painting. Painting a large chart, which he only later understood was supposed to be the exam revision schedule. It had looked rather pretty, once you took your mind of the fact that Rimmer had spent all his revision time creating this and was now creating a study schedule for days that did not exist any-more.
The second thing that struck Lister was the calm and happiness that exuded from the Second Technician when he was creating his schedule. All he'd seen up to this point was stressed out, bitter smeggy 'superior' Rimmer. Even Z-shift moved along more amiable. Lister found that the man was quite bearable like this.
Then suddenly a change, nine days before the exams Rimmer abruptly stopped working on his useless chart and started pacing the room. The Second Technician's entire body and spirit seemed to ooze so much panic it made Lister uncomfortable.
“What's up with you man?”
“Exams, only nine days away!!” Rimmer gasped as if he was being strangled.
“And?” Lister shrugged.
“How the smeg am I going to cram three months of study in seven days?”
“You've got nine …” Lister offered.
“I need to make a new timetable first!” Rimmer said with such conviction it made Lister agree with him without thinking, until the stupidity of it hit him.
So Rimmer wasted two whole days on another chart, which he then threw away as well, because he'd accidentally added two Wednesdays. Having done so he then took a few sleeping pills and went to bed – at four in the afternoon.
“What are you doing now?” Lister asked in confusion, wondering why Rimmer didn't just open one of his many study books so he could actually read up on the subject matter he'd be taking his exam on.
“From tomorrow on-wards I'll be at it all day and night. So I'll better catch some shut eye in advance.” With that he turned to face the wall and zonked out.
Lister shrugged and wondered if he should inform the Captain that his superior was mentally unstable. This worry only grew the next day when he had to wake Rimmer up for Z-shift – something that had never happened before.
“Leave me alone, I'm tired.” the Second Technician groaned.
“Don't be weird Rimmer, you've slept since yesterday afternoon.”
“Then why am I so tired? Why the smeg am I so tired? I'm going to fail, aren't I?”
“You have seven days to catch up, now come on Rimmer and let's get that stupid shift over with so you can get started.”
With a sigh Rimmer sat up. Lister couldn't repress a snigger; he'd never seen the Second Technician looking anything less than immaculate, but here he was in crumpled pyjamas, sleep face and his hair sticking out all over the place. Wrapping his blanket around his shivering frame as he got up from the bunk, Rimmer dragged himself to their tiny bathroom, the very picture of anxiety induced exhaustion.
The Arnold Rimmer that left the bathroom ten minutes later was a totally different person: wide eyed and cheerful he clapped his hand at Lister: “Come on Listy, chop, chop no use sitting around all day work to do and all that!!”
And with that he rushed out of the room, a stunned Lister following him.
Z shift that day was … different.
Instead of the usual matriculate examination of every machine – even the ones that were not even scheduled to be serviced – Rimmer was dashing through the halls at such a speed Lister lost him three times.
“Come along, a 4 b, faster Listy, come on! We need speed, speed speed, hurry hurry, chop chop!!” When Rimmer took over their trolley and ran off at breakneck speed with a “weeeeeeeeeee!!”, Lister knew something was off.
In the bunkroom Rimmer was just as manic, running through the room like a lunatic, opening all his books and scattering them round the room.
“Rimmer, what are you doing?”
“Studying, what does it look like?”
“No, oh, yes, I see. No, I'm strategic! I am doing all three months of study at once you see, if I walk past all books fast enough I can scan read them all in five minutes!”
“Rimmer, what …?”
“It makes sense.”
“No, no it doesn't!”
A little dizzy spell seemed to overtake Rimmer and he took a bottle from his pocket, popping a pill. Lister raised his eyebrows.
“Rimmer, what's that?”
“Oh, just a few energy pills. I'm gonna be up all week.”
“Go-Double-Plus caffeine tablets?!! You're only supposed to take one after your first all-nighter! Not pop em all on the first day you smeghead. How many have you had?”
“I don't know … ten, eleven, maybe twelve … Why are there bunnies in my book?”
“Weird pink bunnies … they're scowling at me! Ah, I bet they think I'll fail my exams again!! Well let me tell you this furry doubters; this time Arnold J Rimmer will succeed!!”
“After he's been to the medibay ...”
“Yes after … what?”
“Nothing … come along Rimmer …”
“Will the bunnies go away then?”
“Yes Arn, they will. Come along now.”
“I took too many, didn't I?”
“Yes, yes I think you did.”
The medibay gave Rimmer a sedative that sent him to sleep for a while. The next morning Lister woke to the bunkroom smelling like an ashtray and Rimmer standing in the middle of the room in his pyjamas. He was standing stiff and still, his hair manic, an insane grin on his face, three lit cigarettes between his fingers.
“What the smeg, now what?” Sitting up Lister found there were several empty cigarette packages scattered round the room. “Rimmer, what?”
“Can't … caaant ... ” Rimmer tried, with frozen lips, his voiced sounding slow and odd.
“List … List ...”
The Second technician tried to talk, forcing out words that felt odd and sounded sluggish.
“Ca ...nt … mo ...ve ...”
“You can't move?”
“Pa …. nic a … at … tack …”
With a sigh Lister got up and decided it might be best to remove the cigarettes from Rimmer's hand before the man burned himself. It was confusing: Rimmer wasn't a smoker, in fact he hated it, now he had burned though a small tobacco factory.
Coming closer to the man who claimed he was his superior he heard soft, strangled wheezes. He understood, the panic and anxiety were so severe his brain was now unable to control his body. Suddenly starting to smoke such a ridicules amount had probably upset his breathing even more.
Shaking his head Lister removed the cigarettes from Rimmer's cold frozen hand. After putting them in an ash tray he turned back to the second technician and placed his hand on Rimmer's chest.
“Doing?” Rimmer forced.
“Breath Rimmer!” Lister insisted.
Rimmer made a valiant attempt but only succeeded in upsetting his breathing even more. Lister then tried to get him to breath into a paper bag. This worked to get some movement in the man. When he was finally calm enough to sit down Lister, worried the man was close to hypothermia, wrapped him in a blanket and made him a cup of chamomile tea.