The Apocalypse, or lack thereof, was now just a distant memory. The events of that time, while at the time stressful and terrifying, were now looked back on fondly. The decades that followed were filled with relief, and friends, human friends, from whom they didn't have to hide their true nature. But as humans do they die. Even Adam, who lasted to exactly 111 years, eventually left them as well. They never found out where he went or what he did after, only that the fleeting rumors they still managed to pick up from their respective home offices had fallen strangely silent. If there was a war they never heard about it. Only silence.
The years after that were tumultuous to say the least, for the human race. Aziraphale and Crowley kept mostly to themselves, and each other. Some of the humans seemed to think that if God wasn't going to destroy the Earth then maybe they should get on with it themselves. Others were just keen to get on with destroying each other. The smart ones, then the rich ones then finally the lucky ones, took to the stars.
Alpha Centauri wasn't that bad, but after a few centuries Proxima was beginning to get a little too crowded for their taste so they moved on. And so on, and so on…
Still, they helped the humans as best they could, and other newer beings they came across. They learned along the way that evolution was as real as they were, something that hadn't been so apparent in the first 6000 short years. New sentient beings began popping up here and there. This brought about many drunken midnight arguments about the nature of their souls. Were these so-called Gelf beings, made by man, children of God? Weren't all things. Then there was the A.I. The idea of silicone heaven was laughed at between them, until they met an android who could cry, and did, over the loss of it's recently constructed, then suddenly decommissioned, progeny. Crowley resurrected the child. Aziraphale wasn't very good with electronics, especially those as complicated this. He tended to stick to more biological matters, like helping those lovely cat people. The felines hadn't been the smartest, and didn't like Crowley that much, but accepted their help in finding and settling a sandy little planet they called "Fushal".
These types of excursions were few and far between, and seemed to be getting even fewer lately. Humans were becoming very sparse. It had been thousands of years. Aziraphale was very good at sensing them, and what he felt now was disturbing. After three million years was the human race finally coming to and end? He had to know, they had to know.
The proximity alarm sounded, waking Lister with a start. He proceeded to the control room still in his skivvies, wiping sleep for his eyes. Rimmer, however, was wide awake and frantically pressing buttons that did who knows what. Cat was combing his hair, his hackles were up and he paced back and forth as he smoothed his coiffure. "What do we have Krytes?" He asked flopping down in his seat, squinting at the view screen.
Kryten enlarge the image. "It appears sir, to be a Bentley."
The front of the ship the boys saw was in fact the front end of a 1927 Bentley. It seemed almost as if the tail end of the car had grown in immense size. Not so much that it appeared to still be a car in the rear, but it was almost as if it had grown a massive, sleek, matching tumor of a spacecraft out its rear. It was completely unlike anything they had seen before, and the Dwarfers had seen a lot. The vehicle was odd, strangely beautiful, and highly unlikely.
It hadn't been Crowley's intention to turn the car into a spacecraft, it just sort of evolved along with everything else. When cars finally started flying Crowley had needed to do a few updates, mostly just for appearance sake. It wouldn't do to be seen flying about without the proper equipment. If Aziraphale thought Crowley drove too fast before, you should have seen his face when they first hit Mach 3… then 4… then 5… The next step would be the first time they decided to visit the moon. The reinforced vehicle just barely made it to Luna City, not very well equipped to handle the vacuum of space without divine intervention. Proper seals, and a retractable fire guard were added, then miraculously adjusted to keep the original look of the car. The biggest change, however, was during the move to Proxima. They had been forced to purchase a spaceship, not only for comfort purposes, but for the massive collections of books, art, and interesting artifacts they wished to take with them. Then they discovered than neither of them had any idea how to drive the thing. But Crowley could drive the car, or at least do what he called driving. Crowley hadn't wanted to leave the vehicle behind anyway. It took almost two years of trial and error to combine the two crafts in a way that would actually work for them. The melding of the two was a hideout mess and the demon feared he'd done irreparable damage to his beloved car. After looking upon the monstrosity they were considering just booking passage to Proxima and chucking the whole idea.
What they didn't count on was the power of the car itself. When they returned to the hangar, they found that the car had somehow absorbed the ship, shaping it and changing it to its own style and needs. It even took over the ship's computer. When they pulled up the view screen for the first time instead of being greeted by a series of numbers and navigation charts they were greeted by a mustached male face. "Bentley", the ship's computer, had the face, and personality, of Freddie Mercury. Aside from occasionally calling them pet names, or breaking out into song, Bentley was quite competent, though a bit sassy.
"I'm having trouble contacting the vessel's computer, darling, it appears to be out of commission. Given time I may be able to retrieve it, but for now it's a no go." Bentley frowned from his screen.
"What about the inhabitants? How many life signs?" Aziraphale asked eagerly.
Aziraphale sighed with relief, maybe they could be a new Adam and Eve.
"One human, one Felis Sapien."
"Damn!" The angel hit the dash.
The face on the screen looked about to tell off the angel for the abuse, but Aziraphale apologized immediately. He knew that he was tolerated only because Bentley's dedication to Crowley, and now wasn't the time for jealous bickering.
"Great…" Crowley ran his fingers through his hair, "another one of those cats."
"They're not that bad…"
"They tried to DROWN me! Said I was too "cool". Damned religious fanatics if you ask me. What the fuck is a "Cloister" anyway? Never heard of the guy. If there were new saints about we would know about it."
"Would we?" Aziraphale sighed, then bucked up. "They quite liked me." He grinned at the demon.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah…" Crowley waved a thin hand, "all creatures great and small. My angel, loved by all."
Aziraphale beamed at the little poem, and being called "my angel"
"I can get through to the inhabitants, when you two are ready." Bentley interrupted, smirking.
"By all means…" Crowley prompted.
A squarish head appeared on the screen. "This is the Mining ship, Red Dwarf, are you in need of assistance?"
I swear I will get on with the meeting, I just felt the need to introduce Bentley properly. Then the fun can begin.
Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome.
"What are you doing Kryten?" Rimmer inquired, interrupting any attempted answer from the other vessel.
"Why, hailing the other ship, sir."
"I have you know, as acting senior officer, I do the hailing around here. When will you get that through your thick skull? Does everything I say just bounce off that rubber tipped pencil you call a head and go spiraling out into space?"
"One could only hope…" the mechanoid muttered. "Oh! I'm sorry sir, there must be a short in my processors, I hadn't realized I said that out loud! I mean, damn!" He banged a clunky head on his forehead.
"Yes, Mr Rimmer?"
"Hey guys…" Lister interrupted the spat, "We've a open channel 'ere" Lister gave an embarrassed smile to the strangers watching them through the view screen. The shorter blonde man smiled sweetly, his eyes shining bright with surprise and a bit of disapproval that he hid mostly fairly well. If Lister hadn't considered himself a good read of people he probably wouldn't have noticed. The thinner man, who for some reason felt it necessary to wear dark glasses in deep space, was quite openly smirking at the exchange. "Sorry bout that, Rimmer can be a bit of a…" he trailed off. "I'm Lister, the Mech's Kryten, Cat…" he looked around to find the feline missing. "Is around here somewhere." He shrugged.
"It's, fine, I'm sure" Aziraphale smiled reassuringly. He introduced himself, "and this is my partner…"
"Crowley" he said himself, leaning forward into view for dramatic effect. Aziraphale rolled his eyes.
Lister heard a hiss from the open doorway behind him. It was a disturbing sound that ended in a growing mewl. He never knew Cat could even make a sound like that. He hoped that they hadn't heard it on the other end of the transmission. The whole situation seemed to be deteriorating on their end so he decided to just cut out the formalities. "Listen, the transmission is a little wonky on this end," he liked, "why don't you come over and we can meet face to face? Docking bay three, I'll send you the code." He flipped the switch before they could respond, hoping they'd think they just got cut off.
Of course they knew better. Their transmissions we're the crispest in all of the galaxy, they made sure of that. "Well that was rude." Crowley stated, more amused than offended.
"Quite," came the agreement, "but as far as we know he's the last living human so obviously he needs our help."
"Doing what, I might ask?"
"If he's going to be our new Adam, then he'll need an Eve."
"But you just said he was the last. Where, pray tell, do you think we'll be able to get an Eve. We can't just miracle one up out of thin air."
"I don't know." Aziraphale rubbed his temples.
"What was tha'?" Lister spun in his chart. "We meet the first people in ages and you two act like a couple of complete gits!"
"Coming from the man dressed in curry stained underwear."
"I'm wearing me hat!". He slumped back in the chair, "Cat! They're gone now, you can come out."
Cat poked his head out from the corridor. "Nah, monkey, they're coming closer. I can smell it! No.. I can't, it's not a smellin' thing. That one guy… he's…" Cat couldn't explain it. "He makes my skin crawl or something.". He smoothed his hair, spritzing it with a tiny bottle of hair spray.
"Do you want me to tell them to go away, Cat?" Lister ached for human company, but not at the expense of one of his closest friends.
"Yeah… No let em come. That other guy. The pasty one. He seemed alright. Kinda like you, monkey. Has a glowy kind of thing goin on."
"Aww, that's the sweetest thing you've even said to me." Lister grinned.
"Don't get used to it, you're still ugly."
"What a beautiful moment. Kryten, cue wistful music. I think I'm going to be sick. Free me from this tella novella!" Rimmer groused.
"We've guests coming, are you going to behave yourself?" Lister asked Rimmer, concerned, for some odd reason, of offending the little blond man.
"Me? I'm perfectly well behaved? It's you lot that can't be seen out in public. We've got an uppity android who doesn't know his place, a Cat who's going mad, and a man whose smell is beginning to set off smoke alarms. They'll be here in a minute, think you'll bother to put on pants this time, or are we going to give them the ol' commando hello?" He opened his mouth to continue, but Lister got up and brushed past him. "I was talking to you, where do you think you're going?"
"They'll be 'ere in a minute, gotta get dressed"
Kryten was at his heels. "Shall I run you a shower sir?" They trailed off down the hall back to the bunk room.
Cat took his place at the helm, and began filing his nails.
"Well?" Rimmer asked him, "are you not going to get dolled up for our random-strangers-become-guests?"
"I don't need to, I'm always on point."
"Then why are you doing your nails then?"
Cat gave him a look that sent a shiver down his simulated spine, "I'm sharpening my claws."
"I don't see why I have to go inside of that hunk of junk." Bentley complained, "can't you just, you know, pop, on over there."
"You know how Zira is, he doesn't want to scare them off." Crowley examined himself in row of mirrors that took up the entire wall of their bedroom. On most ship's this would be called sleeping quarters, but the design of The Bentley was a bit different. Okay a lot different. From the outside it was a sleek, although oddball spacecraft, but inside it resembled a rather quaint little cottage. In some rooms. The combined tastes of the odd couple could be seen in most rooms, but some were definitely more one than the other. The library, for instance, was one hundred percent Aziraphale. They had tried their best to replicate to feel of the bookshop and had been rather successful. The bedroom was mostly Crowley, with only a few light dashes here and there to show the use of the room by the angel.
The projection of the disembodied head frowned and flickered with frustration. "What if that thing explodes while I'm tucked away all cozy in its gullet. My scans tell me it's over 3 million years old!"
"You're older than that." Crowley pulled on a snakeskin boot.
"Yes but I have… divine intervention."
"Divine!?" Crowley snapped.
"You, know what I mean, love."
"Then you know that if it did explode you'd be fine, I'd make sure of it. We've been through worse."
"So!" Both heads turned to the doorway, "Are we ready then?" Aziraphale smoothed his waistcoat, evening out wrinkles that were never there.
Bentley sighed "beginning docking procedure… it's the long way round if you as me."
The hulking form of The Bentley stood more than half again the size of Starbug and gleamed impressingly in the light of the hangar.
Lister ran a finger along the hood of the car, the front end protruding out like it was poking halfway out of a garage, except the garage was somehow part of the car. He whistled.
"It is quite an impressive craft sir." Kryten agreed.
"Why, thank you darrrling!" Came a disembodied voice, causing the four Dwarfers to start and look around.
"Who was that!" Rimmer asked, looking about nervously. His already cowardly nature having been egged on by Cat's own uneasiness.
Music starts playing.
"I'm the invisible man
I'm the invisible man
Incredible how you can
See right through me."
"Knock it off, Bentley" Crowley said stepping out a door that had formed in the side of the craft.
Lister could hear the soft growl coming from Cat's throat when the lanky man stepped out. He was about to elbow him in the side, but he stopped on his own when the next figure appeared.
The first thing Aziraphale thought he saw the last living human in person for the first time was that he looked remarkably like a cherub… playing dress up as a demon. He would have thought the impression more strongly had the man not been beginning to show some signs of age. They'd have to act fast if they wanted to rebuild humanity. He only had about sixty years or so left. Less, if the human was living the lifestyle Aziraphale suspected he was. Still, he liked the look of the man, he could feel the goodness radiating off of him, very bright, and very human.
The hologram standing next to him was harder to read. When humans had started resurrecting one another through their technology it had sparked many debates between the angel and his demonic counterpart. He wondered what heaven's first reaction had been to humanity's apparent thwarting of death itself. He'd found it quite disturbing. Crowley, however, found it hilarious. On the whole they turned out to feel not so different from their living counterparts aura wise although maybe a little staticky there in the beginning. This particular hologram gave off waves of distrust and self loathing that almost made the angel want to cry out in sympathy and give the man a big hug. Instead he held out his hand.
Rimmer was surprised to be the first greeted. He felt almost as if he'd been first picked for kickball at recess. He couldn't help but smile. Someone had finally recognized his importance. He grasped the immaculately manicured hand and gave it a shake that was just a tad too vigorous. "Arnold J Rimmer," he'd deepened his voice just a tad, almost reminiscent of a certain spitfire pilot, "Second technician and acting senior officer, welcome aboard the Red Dwarf."
"A pleasure, I'm sure." Aziraphale smiled awkwardly and fought the urge to rub his now aching shoulder. He turned to Lister. "And what a pleasure it is to finally come across a human presence this far out into deep space."
Lister switched the can of lager he was holding to the other hand and wiped the condensation from his hand onto his shirt before shaking the little blond man's hand. His first impression of the man was that he was British, the second was that he was intelligent, and the third was that he was most definitely gay. Only the first was wrong, though over the years the angel had held onto the accent, I seemed to match his outfits. "Same here," Lister agreed, "mostly just Gelfs, simulants, and a whole lot of nothing… 'cept us."
"Except you…" Aziraphale stared at Lister almost long enough for him to become uncomfortable. "Well, then" he broke free from his momentary mourning of the human race, and brightened back up. "It is a rather impressive place you have here."
"Big.." Crawley added, leaning on Bentley's hood, almost splayed out to the point of looking uncomfortable without actually being so.
Cat let out a very audible, somewhat involuntary, hiss, almost as soon as Crowley had spoken.
"Cat!" Lister chided, shooting him a look tinged with worry. He didn't want the encounter to fall apart, though he was going to have to have a long talk with the feline. Cat said he'd be cool, Lister had even asked again before entering the hangar just to be sure, and now he's going off the deep end.
"Itsssssalright" Crowley lisped. He'd dealt with cat's before, though it had been a few hundred years. They made him edgy, but this one seemed too well dressed to be the religious type.
"Yes, well…" Aziraphale was getting flustered, and was starting to fidget. He didn't want the meeting to go south anymore than Lister (for some inexplicable reason) did. "Crowley's never been much of a cat person."
"More of a snake perssson, really." Crowley grinned at Cat, almost, but not quite, a challenge. "But I have no personal aversions to cats...in general."
"Just so you know" Cat stared hard at Crowley, not backing down. "That this..." He swept his arm in reference to the ship, Lister, Kryten, and even to his own surprise, Rimmer. "Is MINE"
"Sure thing, Puss"
It was Kryten who shattered the tension forming in the hangar. "Oh would you look at the time! I'd better be getting dinner started, will you gentlemen be joining us?"
"Oh, yes! If that's okay? Kryten was it? I brought a little something you may enjoy." The angel lifted a canvas shopping bag, "an offering of sorts, I've been saving it for quite some time."
Lister lifted a rather dusty bottle of wine from the bag a squinted trying to read the label. 2025 was all he could make out, the rest was in French. "Uhh thanks," ever the diplomat, Lister didn't want to tell the man he really couldn't tell the difference between the most expensive of vintages and cheap plonk. Either way at least they'd made an effort. Or not tried to kill them yet, that was a plus.
Kryten took the bottle, obviously I'm impressed. He began prattling off about hints of tobacco and berries and such. Aziraphale's smile widened when he started listing proper pairings he could come up with for the impending dinner. The little man seemed delighted with the idea. Lister smiled sheepishly as the two chatted, but it broke into a grin when the bloke with the dark glasses caught his eye. He was holding up two large containers of amber liquid. It was going to be a good night.
As for Cat, he stood ready to spring when Crowley brushed past him, but was caught off guard when he heard him mutter "cool jacket"
"Yeah, well…" came Cat's response… "nice boots."
Crowley smiled to himself. Yeah, he knew how to handle cats.
Rimmer and Aziraphale sat in the large corner booth idly watching the game of pool going on across the room. What had begun as a friendly game had turned competitive and now they were going best four out of seven. Crowley and Lister were fairly well matched, much to the demon's surprise. It was almost annoying how good the human was, and it took a great deal of self control to not use magical assistance. That would have taken a lot of the fun out of the whole thing. The shit talking they were doing along the way was half the fun. Crowley discovered early that his strategy of getting the scouse too drunk to play had backfired. He only seemed to get better the more inebriated he became. And Lister was quite drunk.
Dinner, as it often did with both parties, had turned into drinks. Lister hadn't eaten much. He'd toyed with the tidbits Kryten had produced much to the pudgy little blond man's delight. The mechanoid was floating on air with the compliments he was receiving over the fare. Lister wanted to ask for a curry, but didn't want to seem like a picky child asking for chicken nuggets in a high dollar restaurant. He did make use of the salt shaker full of curry powder that Kryten had surreptitiously produced. For the first time on the Dwarf, dinner came in courses. After dessert they switched to scotch. Copious amounts of the stuff. Lister had long lost count of how many he'd had, which was a good thing. If he'd been paying attention he'd noticed that the bottles never seemed to bottom out. Both staying almost half full most of the night.
"Well they seem to be getting on sw… swimmingly" Zira commented as he watched the game from afar.
"Looks it" Rimmer swished his ice cubes around.
"I do hope they don't start arguing over the game." Applause came from Kryten and Cat who were sitting at the bar. Lister had just sunk an incredible shot and was now doing a rather crude "in your face" dance at the demon who only laughed. He may or may not have invented that particular dance lifetimes ago.
"Doubtful, from the looks of things. Listy's good at making friends. Next thing you know they'll be having long discussions on the wear, tear, and proper care of leather pants." Rimmer groused.
Aziraphale had to laugh at this. Rimmer had to smile a bit. He wasn't used to people laughing at his jokes. Especially not so genuinely.
The angel leaned closer to the hologram, as if to tell a secret. "Cornstarch" he said.
"What?" Rimmer blinked.
"'s what he uses. They're so tight they won't slide on otherwise. So… cornstarch."
Rimmer's eyes widened and he threw his head back and started laughing. Aziraphale joined him.
The two playing pool looked over to the booth in surprise. "Why," Crowley asked Lister, "do I feel like that's at our expense?"
I like to think of that particular booth as the "bastard's table" now
That…" Crowley leaned heavily against the wall of the long hallway they were taking to get back to their ship, "wassss.. the mossst I've ever seen a human drink in all my yearsss."
"It really was quite impressive"
"I mean… ." He slid down the wall and leaned his head against a rather put off vending machine. "How is he sstill alive? I thought ahhh….. Ozzy, now that man could drink, but…" he had a point he was trying to make, but he couldn't quite find it in the haze of the spinning room.
"Perhaps, you should sober up." Suggested Aziraphale, who was none to steady on his own feet.
"Can't…" he pulled the angel down close, "we're being ssssssstalked"
"C'mon, get up… I'll carry you if I have to." Aziraphale offered his hand. Crowley managed to get back on his feet and leaned heavily on the angel.
"Ssosssweeet" he began to nuzzle at blond curls, pulling a giggle from the angel.
"Please dear, not here." He laughed, then lowered his voice. "we're-being-watched.."
"Ugh… fine." It didn't take much convincing, the liquor sloshing about his brain would have impeded their fun anyway. He grasped at Aziraphale, using him to keep from falling, but almost took him down with him.
"Sssssomethings not right!" Crowley stopped suddenly.
And Crowley did something he'd never done before, he vomited.
"Oh, dear!" Aziraphale watched in disgust and horror at the display and held out a miraculously damp handkerchief after he was done.
Crowley knelt on the floor "well… that happened." He groaned, and took the cloth.
"It certainly did. Should I?" He made a gesture like he was about to snap his fingers.
Crowley looked back down the long hall, not seeing who he knew was there.
"I…will have to take care of it later." Aziraphale hauled Crowley up, intent on continuing their journey.
A scutter came out of a nearby cupboard holding a can of saw dust. "Where did he come from?" Crowley asked, his head slightly clearer.
A nearby screen popped on, Bentley's face appeared. "I sent him… apparently his name is Bob."
"Well hello there, Bob." Aziraphale bent a little, thanking the scutter, almost dropping his drooping demon in the process.
Bob waved him off, annoyed at the interruption of his favorite John Wayne movie.
"Bentley, what… what are you doing? Out of your… here, what are you doing here?" Crowley slurred.
"Apparently cleaning up your mess, but I came to troubleshoot their systems. The mainframe is being held together by string and a prayer, no pun intended. The central computer is toast. I'm surprised they even have life support."
"Will it hold out til morning?"
"Then we'll discuss it then. I can't wrap...head around it now."
"No ssshit, what gave it away?"
Bentley harumpred and the screen went black.
Lister had thought Cat had gotten over whatever had been rubbing him the wrong way about the couple, especially the bloke with the sunglasses. He was annoyed to find that was very much not the case. He was awakened at the crack of noon by the sound of Cuban heels pacing up and down the bunk room.
"Cat… Man.. whaareyadooin?"
"I knew it! I knew it! They're up to no good. That slithery dude, the cool one with the hips. He's gonna steal the ship! And the shiny dude is in on it."
"Cat, it's too early in the morning. You were fine last night, why you gotta go all conspiracy theory now… I've got a hangover for God's sake."
"I'm not talking about God, I'm talking about their friend!"
"The one who is hacking into our computer as we speak and shooting trouble!"
Lister sat up at this. "What d'ya mean? Hacking in the computer?"
"I saw him, they were talking to him, on Holly's old screen. He has a mustache and he wants our ship!"
"You must be mistaken, you did have a lot to drink."
"Not so much monkey, I have to keep my senses keen when there's danger footing around"
"You mean "danger's afoot."
"The only dangerous feet around here are yours." Rimmer said from the doorway.
"Har, har, Rimmer"
"I have you know some people around here find me quite funny." Rimmer said down at the table, leaned back, folded his arms, and looked quite smug.
"Yeah" Cat said, "funny looking…" he spun back around to Lister. "but that's not what's important now. What's important now is we are in dangerous foot territory, buddy."
"Lister, what is that idiotic moggy going on about?"
"He thinks Aziraphale and Crowley are hacking the ship."
"Hacking the ship? Nonsense, Zira can barely wind a watch. He told me himself he's smeg all with technology."
"Not him, the other guy." Cat insisted.
"Crowley? I guess I could see that… he couldn't have. He was four sheets to the wind last night. The only thing he'd be hacking is his dinner all over his shoes."
"He thinks there's a third guy we haven't met. Some bloke with a mustache." Lister sighed.
"Preposterous." Rimmer laughed.
"Don't believe me? Ask Bob the scutter, or the Sprinkle Spangle bar machine on H deck, they saw!"
Rimmer and Lister looked at each other, uneasiness beginning to bloom. "I'll call Kryten."
Lister tried the comm. It didn't work.
Aziraphale was a bit annoyed when a pounding at the door interrupted his morning reading. "Really.." he huffed "who could it be at this hour?"
"Who could it be?" Crowley picked off the magazine he'd had resting on his face. He was stretched out across the angel's well worn, tan, tartan sofa while Aziraphale sat in a large, deep red, wing tipped armchair. "Who do you think? You've got a one in four shot. Really, angel?"
Aziraphale smiled to himself while Crowley extracted himself from the sofa and went to the door. He started to open it.
The demon turned, giving a somewhat annoyed smile. "Yes, angel?"
Aziraphale pointed to the little spectacles resting on his nose.
"Oh yeah" Crowley grabbed his sunglasses off the table and shoved them on his face. The pounding was getting insistent. "I think they're mad about something."
"What did you do?"
"Me!? What makes you think…? I've been with you the whole time."
"Oh yes, well. You'd better open the door."
He was greeted by four very cross Dwarfers, one holding a bazookiod. "Well, hello fellas. Is there something I can help you with?" He leaned casually across the doorway somehow managing to take up all of the space with his thin form.
"What have you done to our ship!?" Cat was trying to make himself look big, without actually letting anyone know that was what he was actually doing.
"Me? What makes you think I've done anything to your hunk of… your precious ship?"
"Except vomit all over it." Came Aziraphale's voice from within the craft.
"Well, that…." His eyes rolled behind dark glasses. "What's wrong with your ship?" The brightness within the Bentley had made it difficult to see that the hangar was almost completely dark, save for a few red emergency lights.
"There's no lights for one." Lister replied. "The comm's down, and emergency back ups are what's keeping us alive."
"Cat here…" Rimmer cleared his throat, suddenly aware of how frightening a man who never showed his eyes could be when he stared at you, "is under the impression that it's your fault."
"Yeah!" Cat agreed.
"Really?" Came a dark reply. Crowley was starting to get a little miffed at all the accusations.
Aziraphale was by his side in an instant. "I'm sure it's all just a misunderstanding… why don't you come in and we can discuss it?"
Lister led the way, not completely sure why he'd taken the suggestion so quickly. He knew better than to trust strangers. That's really what these were, weren't they? Strangers. And strangers had a strange way of trying to kill you… usually in an unusually strange manner. Maybe it was the open smile and bright eyes of the one who'd suggested it. He really could see at that moment why Cat had called the guy "shiny". Maybe it was because even after just one night of drinking he'd come to quite like them. In reality it was because he could feel the situation going south and a mental image of a feral cat fighting a snake had popped into his head for half a second and it scared the smeg out of him, and at that moment he knew that the only way to diffuse the situation was to step through that doorway.
It was much brighter in the Bentley, and it took a few seconds for Lister's eyes to adjust. What he saw when they did was completely unexpected. Judging by the exterior of the ship he'd expect a lot of black, chrome, and hard lines. What he saw instead was what appeared to be the sitting room old an old school English cottage. There was even a window that appeared to have bright morning light shining through it. Particles of dust could be seen floating in the air before settling on a very well behaved potted palm. The others, who piled in behind him, each looked around in different levels of shock and awe at the stark change of scenery.
"Well, gentlemen." Aziraphale clapped his hands together once, "welcome to our humble abode. Would you like to have a seat, them maybe we can work out what the," his eyes flickered down to the weapon Lister held, "problem is."
Lister suddenly felt very foolish. The baubles attached to his jacket jingled a bit as he sat down on the edge of the sofa. Rimmer, feeling pressure to both stand with the angry feline and miffed mech and to sit by Lister and Zira, perched on the sofas arm, no more comfortable than he was while standing. He jumped a little when he heard the tall dark man close the door to their escape. Cat wheeled, almost nose to nose with Crowley. "Hey! What do you think you're doing? Open that door, bud."
It was not the kind of "bud" reserved for his friends, it dripped with warning.
Crowley had the word "no" on his lips when Aziraphale interrupted. "Would you gentlemen like some tea?" All faces turned to him and he flushed.
"Yeah, sure." Lister answered, his head was still pounding and his mouth still had the flavor of his lingering hangover.
Aziraphale smiled, "Crowley…"
"What?" He glanced back and forth from the challenge standing before him and his partner.
Crowley's tense posture relaxed and he threw up his arms. "I'll put the kettle on." He slid past Cat. He wondered if he knew how lucky he was an angel had saved his ass.
The beverage was produced surprisingly fast, drawing a look of disapproval from the angel to the demon. Crowley thought he'd waited long enough to miracle it up, but apparently not. The mechanoid was eyeing him suspiciously. He'd not considered the fact that Kryten would know down to the second how long it would take to boil the water. He did notice that while the human and the hologram had each taken a cup, neither drank. He drank his down in one scalding gulp. "So…" he said putting his cup down with a clunk that made Zira cringe, "what's this all about then." A bit of steam escaped his mouth when he spoke. "What on Earth makes you think we've done anything to your ship?"
"You see, sir," Kryten explained, "we have been made aware that you do, in fact, have another passenger aboard. A man who is apparently hacking the Dwarf as I speak. Which I do find quite disturbing, we were getting on so well." Kryten's disappointment was apparent with the almost whine he put on his last few words.
"That's preposterous!" Aziraphale exclaimed. "There's only the two of us, has been for ages!"
"I saw him with my own two eyes!". Argued the Cat. "You were talking to him last night. Don't deny it. He-" cat jabbed a finger in Crowley's direction, "puked everywhere and mustache man came on the screen and told Bob to clean it up."
"Madge was quite upset" Kryten had spoken to her that morning, "he interrupted their midnight movie."
Crowley was pinching the bridge of his nose. "Bentley."
"Who?" Rimmer asked. "I thought that was the name of your ship."
"Bentley!" Crowley called a little louder.
Music faded in
"Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time, just give me a--"
"BENTLEY!" Crowley roared, stomping his foot for good measure. Everyone, save for Aziraphale, who was daintily sipping his tea, jumped with the impact.
The music cut out and the window grew dark. A face appeared in its place.
"That's him!" Cat pointed, jumping up and down.
"It's… Freddie bleedin' Mercury!" Lister exclaimed.
"Who?" Cat asked.
"A twentieth century composer," Rimmer answered smugly, "mosly Opera, I believe."
"No man, he was the front man for Queen. Only the best rock and roll singer of all time."
Bentley, who was still quite annoyed at being pulled from some very strenuous work, but smiled a toothy grin at this. "Ta, darling… call me Bentley"
"Bentley…" the face turned to Crowley. "What have you done?"
"Lots of things, you'll have to specify."
"Don't be smart. Have you been mucking about in their ship's computer?"
"Oh that! Yes, well, what was left of it. The system known as "Holly" seems to be offline, I was trying to reboot him, but I ran into some problems"
"What sort of problems"
"Well you see… I may have triggered a boobie trap. There was all kinds of crazy stuff this Holly set up to avoid people messing with his programs. Some were quite brilliant actually but I triggered one that may have… " he looked embarrassed and trailed off.
"May have what?"
"I… may have, just by accident you see. It was a boobie trap, really… deleted system 32."
A collective groan rose from the three in the room who knew what that meant. Kryten, of course, had lived in fear of that little trick all of his life, Rimmer, had learned about it from a nasty trick by his brother when he was twelve. Then there was Crowley, who invented the damn thing. He'd thought it an excellent joke at the time. He'd even set about spreading the word about how deleting said system would fix your computer. Oh, it "fixed" it alright. Fixed it the same way putting your mobile phone in the microwave to charge it worked. He hadn't thought of that one, but he bet whoever did got a nice commendation from hell for it.
"Whassat mean?" Lister asked. Whatever it was, from the looks of it, it wasn't good.
"It means…" Bentley explained, "that all the progress I've made over the last twenty four hours is out the proverbial window."
"And what about Hol'?"
"The files that make up the being that you call Holly are still there, dormant. It's the basic building blocks of the system that runs the super computer is down. I can continue to patch the files that are the essence of Holly, but without a way to re-install the essential systems it would be a useless endeavor."
"And the ship?"
"It's got it's emergency backups for things like life support and power conversion. With your permission I can bypass the navigation system and keep us from drifting into a black hole or what have you."
"You didn't seem to need our permission to go poking about in there in the first place." Rimmer took a sip from a cup that had finally stopped shaking. The tea was the perfect temperature.
"Mine neither," Crowley added.
"I took your silence as consent. I had spoken to you about it."
"Honestly, Bentley, some of the liberties you take can be quite infuriating." Aziraphale chided.
"Forgive me.. o, holy one." Bentley responded with sarcasm, "I was just trying to resurrect one of my fellows. No one wants to be dead."
"It's not so bad," Rimmer dipped a biscuit in his tea, "once you get used to it." He took a bite.
"Couldn't we just manually reinstall the system?" Crowley asked.
"Yes, if we had the proper drive, which according to my scans, doesn't seem to be seem to be aboard the ship."
"We could copy yours." Kryten was proud of the idea.
"Unfortunately," Bentley looked over to Crowley, "I run on a different sort of system."
"Smegging hell," Lister sank back into the sofa.
"Indeed" Bentley agreed.
"Well, he's got the lights going again at least." Rimmer was fussing with his hair in a mirror in the bunk room. "And Cat's got his wall sockets for all of his products, so he's happy." He turned to Lister, who was laid out in the bottom bunk. "I really did think that we were about to have a brawl right there in their living room, and that we were going to have to peel Cat off their ceiling."
"I rolled him a catnip joint, he should be cool for a few hours."
"Where'd you get catnip?"
"Crowley grows it. Got some really good indica too. Savin' it." He patted his jacket pocket.
"Do you think they would have actually fought?"
"I don't know, I've never seen Cat act so aggressively. I thought he was going to claw the guy's eyes out."
"He wouldn't. He would be too scared to break a nail on those silly glasses."
"Do you think he's got something wrong with his eyes?"
"Bet he's just trying to look cool… or maybe stoned all the time from all that marijuana he apparently grows and distributes to already useless hippie types who don't need anymore excuses to do nothing."
"I tried it when I was a kid."
"What, marijuana? I'd be surprised if you hadn't."
"Nah, wearing sunglasses all the time. I was ten."
"How long did that last?" Rimmer grinned and sat down at the round table, backwards in his chair, leaning on the back of it.
"About three days. Kept barkin' me shin on the coffee table. Gran got mad, said I was going to break it. The table, not me shin. I wonder why Zira lets him wander around their place like that? He seems the picky sort. They have a lot of nice things. He doesn't seem like the type to let his husband wander around knocking over antiques."
"Husband? They're.." Rimmer cleared his throat, "married?"
"Smeg, man. Where ya been? They scream old married couple."
"I guess the thought hadn't occurred to me. And they can't be all that much older than us…. Well, you at least."
"I forget sometimes you come from that ass backwards moon. How did you survive the lunacy?"
"I didn't, did I? But I didn't know that at the time. Normalcy is relative, isn't it? I thought it was normal to have a religious crackpot promiscuous lush of a mother until I joined up. It's not like there weren't other Seventh Day Hoppist's at boarding school, or that they ever really spoke to me."
"There's nothing wrong with religious freedoms. They just took it too far, didn't they?"
"Oh, you were free alright. Free to persecute anybody outside of your own brand of fundamentalist crazy. Or anybody different, or dead or.."
"I'm glad you're not put off by their… relationship."
Rimmer sat up straight. "What do you take me for? I may be a bastard, but I'm no bigot." He was quite offended.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything. It's just, well everybody knows how bad Io was… with the riots and all. And you've said some things in the past that were… well… insensitive. I just thought it was the way you were raised. Not something you actually felt."
"I guess I could see that. That's not me though. That was just… I don't know. I have grown a lot over the years… the centuries with my clones, my time as Ace."
Lister perked up at this. Rimmer never spoke of the years he'd spent as Ace Rimmer. Or the reasons he came back. He just said it wasn't for him. He didn't tell that to his living replacement though. He also said he felt uncomfortable thinking about the two sets of memories he carried for the same time period after he'd automatically updated after reboarding the Dwarf. He couldn't tell Holly not to do it, he was already gone. He'd considered erasing the false memories, but didn't like the idea of poking around in his memory. "Your time as Ace?"
"It was just more poncing about doing what others expect of me, wasn't it? Do this, save that. Wasn't me they liked, just the me they wanted me to be."
"I can see that. So when you were Ace did you ever…" Lister's question was cut off by heavy bass flooding the speaker system.
"Dum, dum, tsst..
Dum, dum, tsst.."
The music faded out and Bentley's voice replaced it. "Sorry to interrupt, gentlemen, but I've got good news. We've found the drive that reboots your computer."
"Brilliant!" Lister put his hat on and began to get up. "Where is it then?"
"It was jettisoned in a garbage pod about… six years ago. Someone must have thought they were tidying up the captain's office. Crash landed on a planet not far from here."
"So we go get it, then."
"That's going to be easier said than done. You haven't seen the planet."
"The problem is we can't fly down there." Kryten was saying. "Even if we could get the hangar doors open, Starbug would lose all systems as soon as it entered the atmosphere. The coronal mass ejections that destroyed the inhabitants and their electronics are still affecting the atmosphere. No electronics would survive. If myself or Mr Rimmer went down there we'd be instantly annihilated."
"Wouldn't the beacons on the pods blink out too?" Lister asked.
"We can track their descents and use that as a guide to retrieve them with the tractor beam. We may pick up some extra junk along the way, but I'm fairly certain they can be retrieved as long as they land on one of the top tiers of the structures. Once you enter the atmosphere you will have to deploy the wings and manually glide down. After that you will need to exit the vehicles and begin your search. We have pinpointed the scatter zone if the trash pod. The data on the drive should still be intact since it wasn't electronically activated. It will just be a matter of finding the actual disk."
"And not falling." Lister eyed the satellite style photograph of the crash zone.
The surface area of the planet wasn't much bigger than Earth's moon, and most of this was lava. No one had actually lived on the surface, no one could, but the gases that accumulated down there were rare, making them quite expensive. The desire to tap into this particular cash cow had caused the inevitable colonization. Large, flying saucer-like structures still floated dead in the air. Long thin spikes held them upright in the air. Large spheres attached to the bottom of these containing gyroscopes that used powerful magnets for stabilization. Without electronic assistance to run their hydraulic systems many had drifted together, their gyroscopes drawn together by powerful magnets, causing clumps of structures resembling giant bouquets of round steel flowers. Others stood alone. To Crowley, they reminded him of the time Aziraphale had taken up plate spinning… with disastrous results.
The garbage pod had crashed into one of the bouquets located in what was once a dense city center. Even though the roofs provided quite a bit of surface area there were many gaps in between, and it was a long way down. The fall would kill you long before the impact. Once below the cloud line the air becomes unbreathable. This is a good thing because oxygen deprivation is much more pleasant than being conscious while your skin was melted away by some very expensive gases.
Aziraphale thought it a fool's errand. Why couldn't they just fix the computer themselves? It would be a literal snap. Crowley had argued that since they were trying to keep their true nature unknown then it would be best to go with the mechanoid's cockamamie plan, just for looks, you see. He didn't want to tell him that he couldn't fix something when he didn't have the slightest how it really worked. He also knew how such magics, like lies, had a way of getting out of control to the point of no return.
Take the Bentley for example. He'd been seeping magic into the car from day one. He never used petrol, never changed a tire, and didn't even know HOW to check the oil. After a while the car was said to have "a mind of its own" what he didn't realize at the time how true that was. When it started changing tapes to Queen he'd just accepted it as one of its quirks. After Adam had resurrected the vehicle it had just become worse. It began picking its own songs, whether they were next on the tapes or not. The engine would rev itself sometimes in seeming frustration. One time it had even swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid a car on fire on the shoulder. A car that Crowley would have missed by more than a yard had he been in control. It had still felt pretty gradual until the face of Freddie Mercury had appeared on the screen in the dash. He'd never tell Zira, but he'd found it quite disturbing. Even more disturbing was Bentley's way of neither confirming or denying any connection to the actual singer. By now Crowley didn't know how much of the Car? Spacecraft? Entity? they called Bentley was powered by his own demonic miracles, computer parts that it absorbed, or something else entirely. Aside from fixing the occasional diode in some unfortunate android through laying on hands, he felt that fiddling around on something as complicated as Holly the supercomputer was well above his pay grade. He'd learned his lesson with the Bentley.
There were two two-man escape pods still left on the Red Dwarf after the escape of the unfortunately fated crew. Aziraphale had wanted to go so he could keep an eye on the human, keep him safe and all, but Crowley wouldn't let Aziraphale go unless he knew that he would be nearby in case something did happen. That would have put Crowley in with the Cat, something that all parties involved knew wouldn't work. So Aziraphale had to take the plunge with Cat at the helm, although the feline had made a few remarks about being seen in the company of a man who wears corduroy trousers. This left Lister with Crowley. Kryten, Rimmer, and Bentley watched their descent from above. Three completely unnecessary sighs of relief were let out when each pod managed to land safely.
Cat had landed the pod with ease and grace, floating down almost dead center of the crash zone. Lister and Crowley however, did not. The ride was bumpy from the get go. Neither one were the best pilot and they had flipped for the seat at the helm. Crowley had lost on purpose. He figured if he had to perform a minor miracle to get them down safely then it would be best if Lister was distracted by trying to fly. He had to, in fact, perform a few.
They came to a skittering halt on one of the single disks just on the edge of the crash site. The structure bobbed in the air, it's edge just a foot or two away from the main mass that the other pod had landed on. Crowley could just make out the other craft in the distance. Lister was prepared for strong winds to whip at him when he exited the pod, but it was surprisingly calm. The air was at least. The disk they stood on swayed like a ship on the ocean, but it was nothing they couldn't walk on.
They worked their way across the roof of the floating building, moving bits of rubbish with trash grabbers. "I feel like I'm doing community service here" Lister commented as he poked about. He swayed with the motion of the building, almost as if he were standing in a boat, "'cept I don't get an orange vest and there's no bin bags"
"Mmmhmm" Crowley kicked at a tin that once contained Vienna sausages. He was trying desperately not to open his mouth to keep the smell out. Lister seemed unbothered. He went on about the first three times he'd done community service and the things he'd done to get there. He was too engrossed in telling his stories to notice how the swaying was getting stronger. Crowley was busy concentrating on not breathing.
Cat was trying to shake Aziraphale. As far as he was concerned he'd done his job by landing the escape pod, he wasn't about to go digging about in a trash heap. He might scuff his shoes. He'd suggested splitting up, saying it would cover more ground, but every time he thought he'd managed to get far enough away to relax he'd look behind him and the pudgy little man would be right there with his garbage grabber and little bow tie, nonchalantly sifting through the trash. Cat, in his annoyance, decided on an experiment, he took off running. He looks behind him to see Aziraphale huffing and puffing toward him at a quick jog. "I say, we shouldn't lose sight of one another something might-" he tripped, falling flat on his face in a heap of what he hoped was kitchen trash. He peeled himself up into a sitting position, something cardboard stuck to the breast of his jacket. "Oh, no!" He groaned, wiping his face with a checked handkerchief, "my suit!"
"I'd say it's an improvement."
"Well I never!"
"Hey, blond bud, you got something…" Cat pointed to the bit of orange cardboard.
Aziraphale peeled the cardboard off of his jacket. "It's part of the box to the driver! That means it must be nearby." He dug around bare handed in the mess coming up with the rest of the box and the drive. He popped up waving it in the air. Cat was grinning, that is until the little blond bastard gave him a great big hug.
"Oh, thank… someone" Crowley exclaimed when he saw the flare go up signaling that they'd found the drive. "Finally we can get off this blasted…" a deep groan came from somewhere under their feet, followed by a very disturbing cracking sound. The surface below their feet started to slope dramatically. They watched helpless as the escape pod slid over the edge of the disc and began to plummet into oblivion. They didn't have time to mourn it, though, because just then the ground fell out from under their feet.
Both Lister and Crowley managed to get a handhold on the roof that now sloped almost ninety degrees. Trash pelted them both and a rather large piece hit Crowley in the face dislodging his glasses. Lister looked up just in time to see a set of yellow eyes glowing frantically at him. "What the sm--" he didn't get to finish his question, because at that moment Dave Lister fell.
It didn't feel like falling, Lister guessed it was because he could see no ground approaching. He did notice that the wind he'd missed before was now quite there. His eyes watered and stung as he squinted at the fast approaching cloud bank. He wondered if it would hurt, dying. He'd been in situations in the past where it was definitely an option, but for the first time ever he considered it inevitable. Even that time Rimmer said he'd seen him die didn't compare. Maybe it was because he was older now and more in touch with his own mortality. When you're young you never think anything really bad would happen to you, it was reserved for other people. Other people like the crew, or Rimmer. Rimmer said being dead wasn't that bad… he'd just have to get used to it. He'd gotten used to a lot of things over the years: Being alone in deep space; not ever being able to see the Green hills, or, let's face it, dirty streets of Earth again; tripping over Cat's preening products; Kryten's mothering; Rimmer's bitching about this or that… and the way he could get still get a rise out of him so easily after all these years… the way his nostrils flared when he got annoyed, or the way he'd…
Something gripped at his ankle, followed by a sudden whiplash something akin to having a parachute open without any warning. Lister hung by his foot. He strained to look up and caught only glimpses of great black feathers. Had he been caught by some giant bird? The thought of being eaten alive by a huge raptor seemed a horrible way to go, he tried to break free of the grasp, and he did for a second. The wings came closer and he felt something.. no someone hook their arms around his from behind. "Stay still, you bloody idiot!" A voice in his ear. He turned his head and caught a glimpse of yellow eyes and dark red hair.
"Don't have a coronary, I've got to find a place to land us. That whole structure is breaking apart."
"Cat… and Zira.. they'll…" Lister screamed over the rushing air.
"They got off it in time."
It took several minutes of searching to find a platform stable enough to hold their weight. The one they did find wasn't that large and had probably been a landing platform for some sort of vehicle. Lister dropped to his hands and knees and panted trying to control the adrenaline that was causing his heart to want to pound right out of his chest. Crowley touched down lightly nearby and cracked his neck and wings. It took a moment for Lister to clear his head enough to take in what he was seeing. He looked up at the demon with such awe it that Crowley thought it made the man look ten years younger, he had to bite his tongue to keep from smiling. "You alright then?" He asked the man, trying not to show any actual concern.
"What… are you?" Lister stood up, peering into Crowley's slitted eyes.
"A demon." He'd expected the human to recoil in fear.
"No way! Bitchin'" Lister strained his neck, "you got a tail?"
"No wonder you were so hard to beat at pool."
"I did not cheat! I would have won if I hadn't drank so much!"
"Excuses… so what, are you here for my soul or something?"
"You're not scared?"
"Scared? You just saved me life. I should probably thank you for that"
"Besides, it's all bollocks, isn't it? I don't know what you are, but all that God and the Bible stuff is just a bunch of pap designed to control people."
"Don't let Aziraphale hear you say that."
"What… is he a 'demon' too?"
"I would never let that happen!" Crowley snapped, and for the first time Lister did feel a bit of fear. "He's an angel."
"An angel… and a demon, and you're married?"
"It's a long story."
"How does your, err, bosses feel about that?"
"Who cares? Haven't heard from them since the Apocalypse."
Lister swallowed hard. "The Apocalypse? When was that?"
"Oh, long before you were born. 2018, 19… something like that."
"That doesn't make any sense…"
"Well it didn't really end the world, did it. The Antichrist decided he liked the world too much to destroy it."
"Awfully nice of him."
"We thought so too. Listen, I'd like to tell you the whole story, but I really should get you back to your ship before they start to worry."
"You can do that?"
"I'm an otherworldly being, remember. I can do what I want."
"If you can take me up there, could you take me other places?"
"Could you… take me to Earth?"
"Why would you want to go back to that old rock?" Crowley already knew the answer. Even though he knew that the planet was long dead he still longed for the days when it was lush and green.
"I just need to see… to know for sure."
"It won't be pleasant."
"Alright," Crowley held out his hand.
He was being torn apart, disintegrated into a trillion tiny little pieces, but it didn't hurt. He'd have to be able to feel for it to hurt. His nerve endings just.. weren't anymore. He was aware, aware of motion, the motion of rapid movement beyond his comprehension, the motion of himself, tumbling over, under, and through himself. He was also aware of a presence. It was dark, and a little cold, but not uncomfortable. He clung to it, knowing somehow that if let it go he would be lost. He needn't worry though, because the presence wrapped around him in an inescapable shield of power. What could have such power? Lister wondered, as his molecules began to reorganize themselves. Oh, yes, Crowley.
Something came into view before him, something round, familiar. They shot toward it, flames licked at leather but never singed, never felt hot. He was protected from that.
He was not protected from the vision of death that the planet before him radiated. They were headed toward a land mass, but veered off to the west. Something was vaguely familiar about the bare rocks and twisted remains of structures, but something was missing. They stopped, floating above the ocean.
Lister glanced over at the demon beside him, "why're we stopping here then?"
"I thought you would want to see it."
Crowley waved his arm at the expanse of dark ocean. "This was it… Britain. That," he pointed slightly north, ''was Liverpool" a few islands that were once mountain could be seen in the distance. "And this, he looked almost straight down, was… Soho" his voice wavered a bit with the last.
Crowley hadn't expected the rush of emotion he felt seeing his beloved world. Intellectually he knew it would be like this. He'd heard things over the years. He was aware of the state it was in the last time he and Aziraphale had visited the dying orb. They'd spent that last trip desperately trying to get their hands on whatever artifacts they could save before they were lost in the shuffle of time. That had been quite the caper, robbing museums had been a good distraction from the chaos and despair that held the Earth in its clenches. He and Lister both stared out ahead as they stood on nothing, both afraid of looking at the other for fear they would see the tears that threatened to break free from their respective eyes.
After a while Lister cleared his throat, about to say something. The demon took a pair of sunglasses out of his jacket and slipped them on his face. "C'mon, human" with a tug on Lister's arm they were flying.
It was much more pleasant this time, less of a mad dash to safety. They soared and dived through puffy clouds that, had Crowley not shielded them, would have left them dripping and greasy. It was an indulgence, a distraction from the depressing scenery. Lister couldn't help but laugh out loud from the experience, although his stomach wasn't entirely certain this was a good idea. They landed in a large expanse of sand littered with debris of the remnants of man.
"There's something else I need to see." Crowley explained. He leaned back taking a deep breath, more for show really, and blew. In the distance sand started being displaced. The wind grew and soon turned into an enormous sand storm. A cyclone appeared in the middle of it and soon boulders and large chunks of earth began flying through the air. As Lister watched in fascinated horror a car door flew toward them and bounced off an invisible wall a few feet away from his head. As the demon's extended breath subsided the storm cleared and dust began to settle. He had unearthed a great canyon. Along some of the edges of the canyon Lister could make out ancient stone bricks.
"What is it?" Lister asked as he and Crowley walked to the edge of the gorge.
"It was," Crowley said softly, "Eden."
"Eden? Like the garden of?"
"Yep." The 'p' sound popped and hung in the air between them.
"Gonna say you don't believe it? Gonna say it's all pap?"
"Well… the garden of Eden? I mean what about evolution, monkeys and all that? The cats evolved."
"Don't ask me. I just worked here."
"You were here? With Adam and Eve and that snake and…"
"That snake?" Crowley looked over his sunglasses at the man. A forked tongue flicked from his mouth.
Lister backed up a foot. "That was you!?"
Crowley bowed elegantly.
"I always thought that was Satan."
Crowley looked up from his bow, his smile turning into a frown. "Contrary to what some certain princes of hell would want you to believe, that asshat had nothing to do with it. Leave it to him to try to take credit for some of my best work."
"I don't see what the problem is with knowing the difference between right and wrong."
"Well if you put it like that.." Lister shrugged.
Crowley began picking his way down the slope and Lister was compelled to follow both out of curiosity and the gentle press of the shield the demon was using to keep Lister alive in the toxic atmosphere. "Where are we going?" Lister asked, starting to sweat and puff at the exertion.
"I want to see if it's still here."
Lister doubted it. There was no way. The canyon was quite desolate. Rocks jutted out here and there and some would start to slide back down into the canyon. Occasionally he had to step over the fossilized bones of some long dead creature. Just when Lister decided that Crowley should just sprout his damned wings again and fly them there, the demon stopped. He turned around a few times like he expected the tree to sprout out of the scree, but there was nothing… only more dust.
"I don't know what I was expecting." Crowley frowned, and sat down on a nearby boulder. "Man has moved on. Eve's children went to the stars. Talk about an empty nest." He laughed, a sound devoid of humor. "And you…" he pointed to Lister, "her last child. Do you realize that you are the first human to step foot in here since God kicked her and Adam out? Talk about going full circle. I'm surprised you weren't smited as soon as you set foot inside the walls. Just goes to show, doesn't it? All of that work, all of the growing, and building, evolving even, and look where it got us."
Lister wasn't sure what to say as Crowley ranted on, he just stood there with his hands in his pockets, pushing dust around with a worn out boot. He looked with interest as he began to uncover a symbol. He wasn't standing on hard ground after all, it was metal. It looked to be the side of a van. He stomped on the rusted panel, it sounded hollow.
"What are you doing now, human?" Crowley groaned, still throwing himself and mankind a pity party.
"It's just part of a car. Something's written on it, a wing maybe."
"What would that be doing down here? We are way below the level of any technological fossils." Crowley got up and walked around to stand beside Lister and blew the remaining dust away with a swish of his hand. "I know that symbol. By G- someone, it's the delivery van."
They were looking at a box. It was quite an ordinary box. It was rectangular, cardboard, and absolutely, positively not supposed to be there. It had taken little effort on Crowley's part to pry the faded side panel that once belonged to the van off of the box. Under the panel had been a hole, in the hole, a box.
"Should we," Lister glanced from the demon to the box, "open it, then?" Lister reached for the box, and before Crowley could vocalize the "NO" his brain was screaming, his finger made contact with the cardboard. It darkened at the point of contact and from there began to rapidly deteriorate. It rotted away before their eyes, eventually turning to dust. The contents of the box remained.
On top of three metal objects sat two crisp creme colored envelopes, each had a symbol of a snake on them. One matched the tattoo which Crowley had just below his sideburn, the other was an ouroboros. Crowley picked them both up and flipped them over. They were sealed in red wax stamped with two tiny scythes.
"Death." Crowley muttered, and opened his envelope.
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS
NOT WITH A BOY
BUT WITH A WHIMPER
Crowley frowned. Aziraphale would not approve of the misquoting of T.S. Elliott in such a manner. He turned the page over. It was blank, except for the quote. He began to open the other.
"Wait." Crowley looked up when Lister spoke, "I think that one is mine."
Crowley looked at the symbol then to the man skeptically, but handed the envelope over. Lister swallowed the lump in his throat and broke the seal.
EVERY NEW BEGINNING
SOME OTHER BEGINNING'S END
He read it aloud a second time. "I don't know if that's a comfort or a warning."
"There's something on the back."
Lister flipped the paper over. The quotes had been neatly written in neat calligraphy, this was scrawled in hard block letters.
TELL RIMMER DEATH NEVER FORGETS
"That was definitely a warning." Crowley said, "What did Rimmer do to piss off Death of all people."
"He kicked him in the bollocks."
"I don't know what I find more surprising, Rimmer's gall or the fact that death makes the effort."
"Makes the wha'?"
"Never mind." Crowley reached down into the hole and picked up what was once a set of scales. The chains were long broken and the fulcrum missing. Only two tarnished bowls remained. "Famine," he whispered, putting them on the boulder he had used as a seat. Next came a crown. It had been crushed flat and most of the points had broken off. "Pollution." It joined the scales. Last was the largest item. Crowley picked it up reverently. It was whole and it glinted in the afternoon sun. "Aziraphale's sword, or it was once. He gave it to Eve. It used to flame."
Lister couldn't imagine Aziraphale wielding a sword, let alone a flaming one. He thought the guy flamed enough without adding a sword into the mix. Of course you never could read a book by its cover. "Are you going to give it back to him?"
"It represents War now, though technically it belongs to man." Man. Crowley thought. He looked over at what was left of mankind. He'd always liked man, and he was beginning to grow fond of this one as of late. Light glinted off the chain that hung on the shoulder of his dust covered leather jacket. The patches, pins, and paint that held the garnet together gave him an idea.
Crowley held the word upright and ran his hand along the razor sharp edge of the blade. Lister winced when he got to the end and pressed his palm against the tip of the hilt. Instead of impaling his hand the sword began to grow smaller. It shrank in-between the demons hands until his palms closed around it. When Crowley opened his hands there sat in one a pin about the size of a half dollar. Down the center of it was the sword imprinted in miniature, yellow gold flames came from the silver sword, circling around the insignia the ouroboros ate its own tail. Crowley pinned it to Lister's lapel. Lister stared down at the pin feeling as though he'd just been given both a great gift and a great burden at the same time.
Next Crowley picked up the scales. He stacked the two disks together and pressed. Soon in his palm was another pin, a little silver fishbone with a shining diamond for the eye. Crowley found an empty spot for it on the jacket. It dangled near his stomach. Then came the crown. It was folded into itself until it made a bumpy octagonal shape. A tiny mop sat on it surrounded by right angles. This went on Lister's right shirt sleeve. Last Crowley gathered the notes. Envelopes and all were crumpled into a tight ball. The last pin was a stone set in gold. At some angles it looked blue, and at other times red. Carved into the smooth surface of the oval stone was the letter H. This went over Lister's left breast pocket.
A little while later two leather clad figures sat on what was left of the East wall with the legs dangling. It was an unspoken decision to watch the sun set over Eden one last (or first) time. Lister reached into his pocket and fished out one of the joints Crowley had given him. He stuck it in his mouth and began patting himself down for a lighter with no luck. The demon, upon seeing his problem, produced a finger topped with a little flame. After Lister lit up Crowley shook the flame away with a hiss.
"Aziraphale is going to be pissed I'm not back yet, not to mention everything else." Crowley breathed out smoke as he spoke.
"Yeah," Lister agreed. "Rimmer is probably beside himself by now, not to mention Kryten. He'll be just like a worried mother."
They sat together passing the smoke between them as the sun sank. "I almost forgot to ask you, human, why Death would label you with the ouroboros."
"That probably has something to do with the time I became me own dad."
Crowley choked on his smoke. "You did WHAT?"
Aziraphale watched the hologram pacing up and down the pseudo cottage sitting room aboard the Bentley. He frowned, wondering, rather selfishly, if Rimmer was going to wear a hole into one of his best rugs. "Oh, will you please sit down." He heard himself snap, regretting it almost immediately. "I mean, wearing yourself out isn't going to help. Come, have some cocoa."
"Have some cocoa?! How can you drink cocoa at a time like this? They're gone, Aziraphale, disappeared somewhere on that bloody gas ball. And for what? To get that hair brained excuse for a ship's computer back? How can you be so damned calm? Your husband is missing! And Lister, he-he could be…" Rimmer couldn't finish the thought. It was as though if he put words to it would become real. It had been hours.
Kryten was in another part of the Bentley frantically scanning the planet relentlessly for life signs. Aziraphale knew he would find none. He himself worried over whether or not Lister was still alive. He knew Crowley was, but the distance he felt between them was unnerving. Guilt filled him over not staying with the human, not protecting him. But Crowley wouldn't have let anything happen if he could help it. A voice I the back of his head wondered if the demon was off avoiding him because he'd let the human die. Aziraphale told that voice that was preposterous and to shut the hell up. It didn't work.
Rimmer did stop pacing though. He stood and stared out the window at the picturesque false view. Green hills rolled away into the distance beyond a slightly unkempt but quite lush hedgerow. Trees dotted the meadow and Arnold thought that if he strained hard enough he could hear the ocean in the distance. It was a view of the English countryside, a view that would have made the terraformers on Io green with envy. The cottage that the room itself mimicked would have fit right in on his home moon as well. Ionians were very proud of their heritage, sometimes to the point of obsession, but Rimmer did agree it could be quite beautiful. Even Aziraphale reminded him of home, with his waistcoats and bow ties. He would have fit right in on the moon. Style wise at least. He reminded Rimmer of a guidance counsellor he once had. A man who, besides a certain gardener, had been one of the only adults to actually listen to eight year old Arnold J. He didn't stay long, he was replaced after a few months with a seemingly sweet older woman who would say things like "Why are you so sad all the time, your brothers are always so nice!" Or "Of course she loves you, she's your mother!" Little Arnold had been devastated. He didn't understand at the time how such a seemingly sweet man would get fired. Looking over at Aziraphale now he understood why. Io could be as cruel as it was beautiful.
Aziraphale was watching him again. "It's not too bright is it? I can switch it to evening. I probably should have hours ago."
As soon as the word "hours" had left the angel's mouth he knew he'd said the wrong thing. The calm that had steeled over Rimmer's face melted away. It was replaced by an anguish that made Aziraphale's heart hurt for the man. "I'm sorry," he whispered as the hologram sat down beside him on the sofa.
"Why did he have to go down there?" Rimmer's muffled words came out from the hands his head rested in. "It's not fair. I've… I've lost my best friend."
The angel contemplated laying his hand on Rimmer's shoulder as he sat hunched beside him. Maybe he could pull some of his anxiety away. He reached out.
Two sets of boots clunked onto the floor at the same time. Aziraphale's eyes widened, stunned. Crowley had just miracled himself and the man back, not three feet away. "Crowley!" He yelped in relief as well as frustration at the blatant use of the miracle.
Rimmer looked up after hearing the outburst. "Listy?" He half whispered at seeing the man suddenly standing only a few feet away. He shot to his feet. "When did you-? I didn't hear you come in. Kryten didn't say he'd found you." Rimmer rounded the coffee table and put a hand on each shoulder of Lister's dusty jacket like he was about to pull him in for a hug.
Lister couldn't help but grin at the reaction his return had gotten from the hologram. Had he been crying? He was touched that the smeghead cared that much. It made him feel a little fuzzy inside, but that, he told himself, was probably the weed.
Rimmer suddenly stopped, sniffed, and peered into Lister's eyes. "Have you… been smoking reefer?"
Lister averted his eyes.
"You have! I can't believe you! We've been here losing our shit thinking you're both dead and you've been off smoking pot with this.. this". Rimmer gestured wildly at Crowley, at a loss. "This.." he tried to find a word.
"Demon" Crowley provided him with one.
"Crowley, you didn't!" Aziraphale said from behind Rimmer. Rimmer looked to the angel, confused.
"Well I had to save him, didn't I? If I let him die I'd be spending an eternity hearing you bitch about it."
"I do NOT bitch," Aziraphale huffed.
"Really, angel, what about the food processor?"
"That's different, you-"
"Can someone please tell me what the smeg is going on here!" Rimmer interrupted the spat.
"It's a long story." Aziraphale began, "see, there was this garden, and in that garden there was this tree… and Crowley here, he was a wiley-"
"Well I was just trying to explain things."
"Explain what things?" Rimmer felt as though he was on the outside of some elaborate inside joke. "Lister, what are these two going on about, and where on Earth have you been?"
"Funny you should say tha." Lister flopped down on the immaculately clean sofa, a cloud of dust puffed from his clothes.
"That's where we've been."
"Earth?" Rimmer's confusion was apparent.
"You went to Earth without me, Crowley?" Aziraphale looked hurt.
"It's wasn't a vacation, Aziraphale."
"Well, you could have told me you were going."
"It was a spur of the moment thing."
"I asked him to take me." Lister volunteered.
"See…" Crowley flourished a hand in Lister's direction, "he asked me to take him. I couldn't very well tell him no."
Rimmer threw up his hands, "Hold up, red card! Stop talking! Can someone please explain to me how in the hell you two apparently spent the afternoon on a planet over 3 million light years away?"
Crowley turned from facing the angel to the hologram, took off his glasses, and began to polish the lenses on the tail of his shirt. "Strange how," he said, making deliberate eye contact, "you would word it that way."
Some of you may have noticed that I've changed the rating and tags on this. The rating change is mostly because of the pot smoking, but you never know what can happen. Im not very good at descriptions and tags so any help with that would be welcome.
Also, I noticed that some of my chapters would work better if they were combined, but I don't want to hinder anyone's progress. I'm trying to put these out as they come to me so that they are fresh in my mind, so sorry about any mistakes.
In case your wondering, this takes place around Series 10 of Red Dwarf.
Love to you all!
Rimmer began backing up, his hands held out in front of him in a defensive wave. It was a similar stance he'd taken as a child when his brother's ganged up on him. "You, YOU!" He said, tripping backwards over the coffee table, if the table had belonged to anyone else it would have broken from the fall. He scrambled back across the table, ending up almost in the lap of a seated Lister.
"Crowley, you're scaring him!" Aziraphale looked frantic. "Arnold, it's okay…" he had to do something. He let his wings out in a loud fwump, almost knocking the horn off of the victrola. "Look, see, I'm…"
Rimmer saw this and switched his angle, this time scrambling straight over the scouser, trying to put as much of Lister between himself and the strange entities as possible.
Kryten burst into the room, "Mr Lister!" He sang out with joy. "Bentley told me you were ba-" Kryten stopped short and did a double take, then a triple. He was considering a fourth, or the pros and cons of shorting out, but Rimmer beat him to it.
An hour,three anxiety drains, two reboots, and 4 simulated martinis later Rimmer lay in his bunk. The rest of the Red Dwarf crew along with angel and the demon sat at the round table in the bunk room.
"So, you're telling me, that he," Cat pointed to Aziraphale, "is an angel, and he" he jerked his head towards Crowley, "is a demon."
"That's right" Lister said gently, as if he were trying to explain a scary notion to a child.
"Got ya!" Cat clapped his hands together and turned to Kryten. "Where's dinner?"
Rimmer sat up at this, the ice pack he had sitting on his face fell to the floor as he stared at Cat. "Where's dinner?" He asked. "They tell you that Aziraphale's an angel sent from God on high, and that Crowley slithered up from the pits of hell and all you've got to say is where's my dinner?"
"Well I'm hungry. Unlike some people around her I don't go all blinky with things get weird. Angel" he pointed at Aziraphale, "demon" he pointed at Crowley, "god" he pointed at Lister. "Let's eat!" He began to get up to go look for food.
Lister shrank down in his chair. Crowley and Aziraphale were both eyeballing him in a way that made him want to disappear. Crowley looked mildly amused. Aziraphale did not.
Rimmer threw his legs over the side of the bunk and leaned in, a shit eating grin spread over his face.
"Lister…" the angel asked, "why did he call you that?"
Lister mumbled something.
"What was that, I didn't quite catch it?"
"I-may-be-the-cat-people's-god." He spat out all at once.
"You may be?" Aziraphale frowned.
"I didn't know Frankenstein was going to have kittens when I brought her on board. I thought it was a tom!"
"Oh, Listy, Listy." Rimmer said with glee. "It's all coming down on you now isn't it? Now you've got to face up to some real celestial beings! Not so godly now, are you m'laddo?"
"It's not my fault their interpretation of events was off."
Aziraphale had many Cat books in his library, all of which were sealed away neatly to keep the smell down. He'd acquired them a few hundred years before when he and Crowley had helped the half starved crew of a certain ark find a suitable planet on which to settle. One of these, the prize of the collection, was a Cat Bible. "Frozen in time…" he said softly to himself.
Crowley, having picked up on what he said, developed a grin of his own, matching Rimmer's he continued the thought. "You're...Cloister the Stupid!"
"You guys know the story of the Holy Mother?" Cat asked as he poured milk on his crispies.
"Oh yes!" Aziraphale answered, "I have quite the collection of feline literature. I find the tales quite compelling. Though I have been known to hyperventilate if I attempt to read them too quickly."
Crowley wrinkled his nose. "Please don't go pulling them out now. You know I can't stand the smell. Do you know what they use to write those things?" He shuddered and scraped his tongue on his teeth. "I don't see how you could stand to be in tight quarters with them, Zira."
"It's not so bad after a while, and it was for a good cause."
"Imagine," Crowley turned dramatically to Lister, "being stuck on a ship with hundreds of cats who all insist on marking their territory."
"We weren't stuck there, dear, we came and went as we pleased."
There was a loud thunk of glass on glass. Cat had dropped the milk bottle in the bowl. Milk dripped off the table onto his meticulously looked after shoe. "Correct me if I'm wrong," his words were uncharacteristically soft, "did snake eyes here just say you were on a ship with other Cats?"
"Well yes." Aziraphale glanced down at the milk that was working its way toward him on the table. "The ship is a temple now I think. Fushal is-"
"Fushal!? They found Fushal?" Cat rounded the table in a flash, getting close enough to the angel's face that he could smell a slight fishiness to his breath when he spoke. "You know where they are!?"
Aziraphale leaned back from the frantic feline's breath, more put off by the sudden closeness than the odor. "I assumed you were from there. It's been over 300 years."
Cat stood up straight, fanning his arms out at the room. "I was born on this ship. They left my parents behind. I've known 2 cats my entire life. One I can't even remember. The other died…" he started counting on his fingers. "A long time ago. I've never even smelled a female."
"Dum, dum, tsst,
Dum, dum, tsst…"
Cat looked around, confused by the sudden beat.
"What is it now, Bentley?" Crowley asked.
The face came up on a nearby screen. "I thought you'd might like to know I'm ready revive Holly."
"Oh, yes," Kryten said while he mopped up milk with a tea towel, "while we were in the drive room tending to Mr Rimmer I went ahead and installed the disc for the ship's computer."
"Ready when you are Bent," Crowley waved his hand making a circle in the air.
"Standby" Bently's face didn't leave the screen. He began to sing.
"When the outside temperature rises
And the meaning is oh so clear
One thousand and one yellow daffodils
Begin to dance in front of you, oh dear
Are they trying to tell you something?
You're missing that one final screw
You're simply not in the pink my dear
To be honest you haven't got a clue
I'm going slightly mad"
The screen started to waver, the face began to morph. The hairline receded.
"I'm going slightly mad
It finally happened, happened
It finally happened, ooh woh"
The voice started to change, to go out of tune.
"It finally happened, I'm slightly mad
"Gordan Ramsey! I'm back!" Holly sang out. "Why is there a bunch of bananas on my head!" He shook them free.
"Hey, Hol', glad to have you back." Lister looked genuinely happy to see the batty computer again.
"Yeah," Rimmer agreed, "we've missed your particular brand of cock-up."
Holly looked around the room, "Cor, have you gotten old! Who's this lot then?"
"They're friends." Rimmer heard himself saying. An angel and a demon as friends. When did his life get so biblical?
"I'll fill you in, love." Came Bently's disembodied voice.
"That's alright then. Ummm hmm, got it." Holly responded to the apparent download of information. "Right then, now what?"
Lister looked over to the Cat who had still uncharacteristically not noticed the milk on his shoes. "Holly," Lister put his arm around Cats shoulders, "set a course for Fushal, The Cat's going home!"
Trying to decide if I end this as part one of the series or just keep adding chapter after chapter.