Warnings: flippant humor regarding alcohol use, brief mild violence
Categories: Ship, Het, Humor, amalgamation-style crossover
Characters: uber!Janeway (primary), Chakotay, girl!Rimmer, Cat
Spoilers: Of a sort, for Pathways by Jeri Taylor, Mosaic by Jeri Taylor, and Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor, as well as the Red Dwarf episode Waiting for God.
A/N: Written for Ripples in the Pond at Anne's Rose Garden. What if Kathryn Janeway was born not into the universe created by Gene Roddenberry, but instead into the universe created by Doug Naylor and Rob Grant?
Credits: Thank you to Shayenne and Anne Rose for the excellent beta jobs. Incidents leading to uber!Janeway's position on Red Dwarf strongly influenced by Infinity Loves Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor.
Disclaimer: Theft from Paramount definitely intended. Didn't mind playing with Grant Naylor's toys either.
Buy the Opabinia T-Shirt. (Yeah, it's an ad, but by a strange twist of fate, my google search for my own product led me to my own site, but the wrong page . . . guess this link means it'll keep doing it, huh?)
It had started with a Monopoly board. Her twenty-second birthday had been officially over for nearly two hours, but the celebration showed no signs of slowing. Kathryn Janeway left her friends in a pub on Oxford Street and set off to procure a Monopoly board, which proved no easy feat in London at two o'clock in the morning.
She woke up the next day in a McDonalds on Mimas, one of the less prosperous of Saturn's moons, dressed in yellow fishing waders and a tee shirt that read "Plumbers Do It With U Joints."
Kathryn didn't drink much, but when she bothered to get drunk, she took it very seriously.
She had spent the last three weeks on Mimas piloting a stolen hopper cab. Its shocks were gone, and she strongly suspected that its last driver had left it specifically to be stolen. Kathryn had to admit that she wouldn't be overly saddened if someone stole it from her in return. She planned on leaving it to its fate the moment she had enough cash to buy passage back to Earth.
Final exams were over by now, but her education and plans for a career in astrophysics could still be salvaged if she made it home in time for summer session. Life, however, didn't want to cooperate with her goals.
Kathryn had wanted to be a scientist since she had first learned to talk. Her earliest memory was of herself, crouched beneath her father's desk as he worked. He called her Goldenbird, and let her look at the pictures in his big, thick astronomy books.
Admiral Edward Janeway of the United States Air Force held a vital position at NASA. His daughter wanted to follow in his footsteps. But Admiral Edward Janeway would never have gotten so pissing drunk that a trip to Saturn would have sounded like a good idea.
Mimas was an even more unpleasant place to be on a Saturday night. Kathryn had been waiting for her latest fare to return for nearly an hour now. Claiming he merely wanted a bite to eat, the Space Corp officer had slipped past the only restaurant on the street and entered a building with the words Live Naked Girls emblazoned over the door in green neon.
She considered leaving the man to his fate, but a sense of duty instead sent her into the building to retrieve him, if she could. She slipped a cab driver's nightstick up her sleeve and set out on the mission.
A pair of former scientists huddled near the door of the illustrious gentlemen's club known as Madame Stinky's.
Denis, during a more distinguished period in his life, had once been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Quantum Mechanics. Now, as he crouched at the door of the strip club hoping for spare change, there was little reason to believe he could so much as spell Quantum Mechanics, or even his own name. He licked sadly at a long empty plastic baggie and held his palm out to the drunken Space Corp officers that stumbled past.
His lover Josie, an accomplished mathematician who probably could no longer count her own legs, continued to laugh maniacally, not even aware of the bitter wind that whipped her tangled hair into her face. She knew of no reality outside of the video game hard-wired into her cerebral cortex.
Kathryn avoided them both as she climbed the steps in search of her fare. Once inside, she met a pungent man with a bad toupee who offered, rather confusingly, to rent her a mechanical sheep, unless he could meet her needs personally, of course, in which case there would be no charge.
She declined both offers with as much politeness as she could muster, which pretty much just stopped her short of slapping him into orbit, and moved into the bar. The atmosphere couldn't have contained more smoke if the building had actually been on fire, and the floor was so sticky that twice she thought she'd be forced to abandon her footwear.
She found her fare in a room upstairs, badly losing a drunken brawl that had apparently sprung from a debate over the ownership of a bucket of fried chicken.
The young lady whose company he had hired for the evening lounged against the wall, looking bored, until Kathryn paid her to help separate the fighting men. Together, they managed to haul them apart. The young lady then tucked Kathryn's money into her brassiere, snagged the recently contested bucket of chicken, and wandered off to seek a new client.
It was when she was bundling her bleeding and drunken fare into the relative safety of the stolen hopper cab with the bad shocks that Kathryn's luck again took a turn for the worse. Burdened with the awkward task of helping the stumbling officer, Kathryn wasn't quick enough to defend herself against the sneak attack staged by Denis, former scientist and current homeless Bliss freak.
"I Am God," he declared loudly, and tackled her legs. She sprawled on the pavement, but still managed to get in a kick that only a truly dedicated Bliss addict could ignore. Oblivious to any pain not directly related to his craving for a chemically induced sense of omnipotence, Denis managed to relieve her of three weeks worth of cab fares and the passport of a certain David Lister that had somehow found its way into her yellow fishing waders three weeks prior.
The Space Corp was hiring. Kathryn did not want to join the Space Corp, but she also didn't want to chauffeur drunken Space Corp officers around Mimas in a hopper cab with bad shocks. Kathryn wanted to work for NASA. She had dreamed of working for NASA for as long as she could remember. NASA was about exploration and scientific research.
The Space Corp, on the other hand, was about mining and garbage disposal. Still, the city-sized mining ship Red Dwarf would return to Earth in nine months time. The moon Mimas wasn't going anywhere but in slow circles around Saturn, and the hopper cab with the bad shocks could barely get itself around the streets of Mimas.
So she suffered through one final bone jarring landing in the hopper cab and left it on the street outside the Space Corp recruitment office. With no means of proving her education, Kathryn was assigned as Technician, Third Class, the basic translation of which was Vending Machine Maintenance Person.
Her roommate was also her supervisor. Regina Barclay Rimmer took her job very seriously. To her, Space Corp was an elite and noble organization, of which she was a highly valued member.
Rimmer had invented her own salute. Every morning she spent fourteen minutes practicing it in front of the mirror. Every word she spoke to Kathryn was an order, after which she expected not only obedience, but also a salute. She liked to be called Sir, and yet Kathryn was the only member of the crew that she outranked.
Kathryn had to call Rimmer Sir quite frequently.
If a clogged nozzle on a chicken soup dispenser ever became critical to the safety of the ship, then Red Dwarf was doomed. Rimmer barked orders at Kathryn that were so technically inaccurate as to be utterly incomprehensible. The only time a repair got done correctly was when Rimmer's back was turned, which, fortunately for those who enjoyed watered down chicken soup, was most of the time.
The only thing that made life aboard Red Dwarf tolerable for Kathryn was the friendship of a handsome tattooed man who worked in the engine room. He had joined the Space Corp so he could save money for college. Like Kathryn, he wanted to be a scientist. His goal was a career in anthropology.
Unfortunately, Chakotay - the handsome man's name was Chakotay - worked a shift that perfectly opposed Kathryn's own duty hours. She saw very little of him. It was probably for the best, she reminded herself frequently. The very nanosecond Red Dwarf reached Earth, she would return to her proper life. Romance would only muddy things up; that's what romance did.
Still, his friendship made the voyage almost bearable. He always smiled at her when their paths crossed, and sometimes they had lunch together in the mess hall. Otherwise, Kathryn spent her free time in the cramped quarters she shared with Rimmer.
The only recreation readily available on Red Dwarf was the pub, and getting stinking drunk every night of the week was not her idea of a good time. Besides, she was painfully aware of the consequences of her last drinking binge.
Kathryn lay on her bunk, listlessly watching Rimmer study for the next day's exam. Rimmer had already failed the Space Corp Astrophysics Exam a total of eight times, once by fainting and seven times by hopeless ignorance.
On her second night aboard Red Dwarf, Kathryn had asked to borrow an astrophysics textbook from Rimmer. She had been refused in no uncertain terms. Now, as she watched Rimmer copy portions of the text onto her body with a felt-tip marker, Kathryn entertained a fantasy about stealing the book.
Under cover of darkness, she'd pinch it from the shelf at the end of Rimmer's bunk. Then she'd slip it into a mylar bag and tape it to the inside of the toilet tank, just like they did in the movies. Better yet, she'd tape it to the bottom of Rimmer's bunk. She'd take great satisfaction in hiding the booty right under Rimmer's upturned nose.
Rimmer's book was saved when Chakotay appeared at the door. Red Dwarf would be in orbit around Miranda, the smallest moon of Uranus, the following day. He had been granted shore leave, and would enjoy Kathryn's company.
"I'd be delighted," she said. A day off the ship and away from Rimmer was almost too good to be true.
"I'll see you in the morning, then." He smiled, and she felt the effects of his dimples all the way to her toes. Thoughts of larceny disappeared, and Kathryn barely noticed when Rimmer performed one hundred regulation jumping jacks while counting aloud in mangled Esperanto.
She had nothing to wear. It was either her Space Corp chicken-soup-nozzle-cleaning jumpsuit or the Plumbers Do It With U Joints tee shirt and yellow fishing waders. For a moment she entertained a notion of turning the drapes into a lovely gown reminiscent of Scarlet O'Hara, but then she looked at the small square of cracked grey vinyl that covered the tiny porthole and remembered that she couldn't sew anyhow.
Yet Kathryn had always been resourceful. With a nervous glance at the door, she staged an attack on Rimmer's wardrobe. Twelve identical regulation grey tee shirts; twelve identical regulation grey cotton turtlenecks; three Space Corp jumpsuits so well starched they could have stood on their own; a Space Corp dress uniform that only left the closet for its routine ironing, and - Eureka! - the dress Rimmer had worn as an extra in the Space Corp Theatre Guild production of Meet Me in St. Louis. She could work with that.
Dressed in a grey cotton tee shirt and a black button down skirt hastily adapted from Rimmer's costume, Kathryn fussed with her long auburn hair. Months had passed since she had worn it down, and she often wondered why she just didn't cut it short.
They had arranged to meet in the mess hall. Kathryn didn't know when Rimmer might return from the astrophysics exam, but she knew that was not something she wanted to witness. With any luck, Rimmer would get caught cheating and wind up in the brig, but she didn't dare get her hopes up.
Chakotay was already waiting when she arrived. He rose to greet her, a smile warming his features. "You look lovely, Kathryn."
She didn't recall having swallowed live bats for breakfast. "Thank you. You look nice as well."
"I hope you don't mind a simple picnic." He held up a basket. "There really isn't much to do on Miranda."
"A picnic sounds lovely." She smiled at him. "Just promise me that we won't have to take a hopper cab."
Their lunchtime conversations had included the sordid details of her brief interim career. "Okay, no hopper cabs, but I can't make any promises regarding the shocks on Starbug's landing struts."
The spaceport on Miranda may not have been the ideal vacation spot, but it was the Garden of Eden compared to the mining ship Red Dwarf. The domed park had shrubbery, a few small trees, and a wonderful spread of green grass.
Uranus dwarfed the other objects in the sky, especially the Sun, which barely seemed bigger than any of the other stars. Together, Kathryn and Chakotay located Earth and shared a pensive smile.
"Let's have lunch, shall we?" Chakotay spread a blanket out on the ground and began to unload an impossible number of delicacies from the basket. When he produced a flask of coffee, it was all Kathryn could do to keep from snatching it immediately.
He poured her a cup. She cradled it in both hands and breathed in the aroma greedily. "This is real coffee!"
"Brewed fresh this morning."
"You're laughing at me." In her happiness over the real coffee, Kathryn failed utterly at making a convincing accusation.
"I've never seen anyone enjoy coffee so much. I guess I should have known. You are the only person I know who will actually brave that sludge the mess hall calls coffee."
"That stuff is pretty awful," she said. "But this, this is heaven."
He grinned. "I hope you think as much of my cooking."
"You cooked all of this?"
"I wanted to make sure we had a variety."
The food was wonderful. Kathryn hadn't eaten anything that tasted good since leaving Earth. Actually, since she had been in England for three months prior to her unscheduled departure from the planet, it had been even longer.
As they ate, Chakotay told her about one of the family picnics from his childhood. They both collapsed with rather overenthusiastic laugher when he described his young cousin's first attempt at lemonade - sans sugar- and how the whole family was forced to drink it.
In return, she told him about the night she and her friends had picnicked in a supposedly haunted castle, only to find that its occupant was very much alive. "...so the door flies open, and this screaming woman in a Victorian gown attacks us with a lit candelabrum. The draperies caught fire."
"What did you do?"
"With all that wood and fabric, that place would have been an inferno within minutes. We pulled down the draperies and stomped out the fire. Then Cheb and the others took off, afraid to miss the transport, and left me alone to deal with the frightened old woman."
"So who was she?"
"She was a descendant of the couple who had originally paid to move the castle to Ohio. She had wandered away from her granddaughter's home and somehow found her way into the castle. Without her medication, she wasn't really capable of living alone, and the family was very grateful for her safe return."
"So you're a hero." He smiled. "Beautiful and brave."
A slow fire spread up her cheeks. "Not really a hero, but I couldn't just leave her there."
A small dog raced past them in pursuit of a tennis ball. Kathryn watched longingly.
"Did you have a dog?" Chakotay's hand landed gently on her arm.
She glanced at him, surprised he could read her thoughts so easily. "Yes. When I was growing up. His name was Bramble. He - . I was planning to get another dog, after I graduated. An Irish Setter, from a friend who raises them."
"Too bad you can't have a dog now."
Kathryn sighed. "A dog isn't very practical on a ship."
"What was that old television show, the one with the captain who brought his dog with him into space?"
"I remember that." She laughed. "A beagle, no less! Ridiculous choice of dog for a ship. I bet the incessant howling echoed very nicely."
"I'm surprised his crew didn't mutiny."
They were barely able to draw breath, what with the explosive laugher. Kathryn wiped tears from her eyes and clutched her side. "Maybe they did. I didn't watch long enough to find out."
"They must have," he managed. "How could they not?"
They conducted a thorough investigation of the shops on Miranda, none of which seemed to follow a particular theme. Kathryn thought the first one might have been a pharmacy, except they didn't have any aspirin. They seemed exceedingly well stocked in miniature zen rock gardens, stuffed animals with suction cups, and humorous oversized pencils. Chakotay told her it was a bookstore.
"But they don't have any books!" She protested.
"We can probably find some books at the grocery," he said.
The grocery store did indeed carry books, as well as stereo systems, jewelry, and, surprisingly enough, cats.
"Her name is Frankenstein," said the cat salesman. "Her mother was Best of Show three years running at the Triton Zoo Cat Festival. She's a bargain at only three thousand dollarpounds."
"We'll take her," Chakotay said.
"I want you to have something alive in your quarters." Those dimples appeared again. "Other than Regina Rimmer, that is. I don't like to see you lonely."
Rimmer was not immediately in a position to object to the cat. The astrophysics exam had not gone well. Unable to remember a single fact about astrophysics, or indeed her own name, she had wiped the exam across her profusely sweaty arm, apparently in an attempt to transfer the crib notes to the paper. Now, suffering from the hallucinatory effects of acute ink poisoning, she thrashed about on her bunk muttering about fish.
Kathryn ignored her, stroked the cat, and selected a book from the stack she had brought back from Miranda. Things were finally looking up.
Then Saunders died.
She hadn't really known Saunders. In fact, when she first heard the news, she wasn't sure if she even remembered Saunders. Although she wasn't callous to the loss of a life, it didn't really affect her situation. At least not immediately. But it was at Saunders' Welcome Back party that she heard about Red Dwarf's revised orders.
Saunders had perished when the outer door in cargo bay sixteen was accidentally cross-wired with the soda machine on deck twenty-seven. Navigation Officer Kristine Kochanski got thirsty just as the unfortunate Saunders happened to begin double-checking quota sheets. Both Saunders and six months worth of raw ore were ejected into space.
The soda machine had been repaired the day Kathryn had picnicked on Miranda, which was also the day that Rimmer had failed the Space Corp Astrophysics Exam for the ninth consecutive time, so the skutters took the blame for the error.
Red Dwarf's service skutters usually didn't do much in the way of work, since they had a better union than the technicians, but apparently several had been on duty on the day in question. There was a John Wayne film festival being held on a space station in orbit around Neptune the following month, and those who had not worked full shifts would not be eligible for shore leave, so no one questioned the sudden burst of initiative on the part of the ordinarily lazy little robots.
Kathryn had never even seen Captain Hollister prior to Saunders' party in the officer's mess. As the lowest ranking member of the crew, she hadn't had occasion to visit the officer's mess, either. She was replacing the black funeral balloons with a festively colored Welcome Back banner when she heard the captain and first officer speaking.
"We can't return to Earth without a full cargo hold, Captain."
"I know, but when this crew learns we'll be out here another year and a half they'll mutiny for sure."
"It can't be helped. By the time we've replaced that ore, Earth will be at the other side of the sun..."
Kathryn's heart turned to lead and sunk into the pit of her stomach. Another year and a half on board Red Dwarf; it was unthinkable.
A numbness spread through her body as Captain Hollister welcomed the Saunders hologram. She barely heard Saunders thanking everyone for all the lovely floral arrangements at his funeral. All she heard was another year and a half echoing dully inside her skull.
Frankenstein seemed to listen intently, so Kathryn sat on her bunk and described the entire situation to her. "By the time I get back to Earth, I might as well skip college and NASA and just head straight into retirement. I'll get a place on Fiji and sell donuts to tourists. I'll wear a little cardboard hat. I could even get one for you. You'd look cute in a little cardboard hat."
She looked up to find Chakotay standing in the doorway.
"So you heard."
Tears stung her eyes but she refused to let them fall. She nodded.
To his credit, he didn't try to tell her it would be okay. He just crossed to her bunk and pulled her into his warm embrace.
Rimmer wanted to paint the corridors a different shade of grey. She had been practicing a long winded proposal to that end all evening. Kathryn had peered at the paint chips, noted without surprise that the two colors appeared identical, and had retreated into a book.
"You aren't even listening, are you?" Rimmer managed a haughty glare. "That's the difference between you and I. I have ideas. I have ambition. I'm going to be an officer, and you will never amount to anything."
Kathryn slowly raised her head from her book. "What did you say?"
"You have no ambition; no goals. You are destined for mediocrity."
Ten. Kathryn put down the book. Nine. She stood up. Eight. She crossed the room to look Rimmer in the eye. Seven. Six. Five. "You don't know a single thing about me."
"I know that the other day, while I was taking the astrophysics exam, trying to better myself, you were off on Miranda tarting about with your boyfriend."
Kathryn continued her silent countdown. When she reached one she found that her desire to punch Rimmer in the mouth had not diminished one tiny bit. Still, there was nothing to gain from hitting Rimmer. Well, nothing except deep personal satisfaction. She turned and stalked out of the room.
For some inexplicable reason, Rimmer's proposal was accepted. Kathryn was assigned to begin painting at 0600. Given the size of the ship, the completion date was expected to be sometime in the following decade.
Rimmer, of course, did what she always did. She stood over Kathryn's shoulder, spewing orders, criticism, and long dissertations on how Napoleon would have painted a corridor wall. "Napoleon," said Rimmer, "was a man of honor. A man who got things done. Napoleon would have had these walls gleaming with military grey in no time."
"Would he?" Kathryn asked with interest. And she dumped an entire can of military grey over Rimmer's head.
"It was mutiny, Sir. Mutiny; mutiny...and treason!"
Captain Hollister rubbed his temples. "Treason, Rimmer?"
"Assault on a Superior Officer, disrupting the smooth operation of this vessel, thus mutiny. And treason! I demand that she serve a life sentence."
"A life sentence? For getting some paint on you?"
"It was an entire bucket of paint!"
"Hardly something that would interrupt the smooth operation of this vessel, Rimmer."
"Five years, then. That's mandatory for Assault on a Superior Officer."
The captain seemed reluctant. "I suppose it is."
Captain Hollister consulted his Space Corp Disciplinary Handbook. "Five years, then."
"Ha! Five years in the brig. That will teach you some respect for your superiors."
The door slid open and Chakotay entered. "It was all my fault, Sir. I take full responsibility. She was only following my orders."
"Orders, Lieutenant? You mean to tell me that you ordered this crewman to dump paint on Rimmer?"
"Yes, Sir. Specifically on Rimmer's head, Sir."
The captain eyed them each in turn. "Rimmer, you are dismissed."
"But - "
"Argue with me, Rimmer, and you'll be in the brig yourself." He watched Rimmer sputter her way out the door. "Now, as for the two of you. Five years. But not in the brig. The lieutenant here isn't a good enough liar to survive in the brig. Five years in stasis."
The door to the stasis booth slid closed. Kathryn and Chakotay ceased to exist. A moment later, it slid open again. The first thing they heard was the computer's voice.
"It is now safe for you to emerge from stasis."
The corridor was eerily silent. Kathryn exchanged a glance with Chakotay. "What do you mean safe?"
"Please report to the Drive Room for debriefing."
It was so quiet they could hear the air circulation system working. There was dust everywhere. White dust, piled in little mounds along the corridor, and in some of the seats in the Drive Room.
"Where is everyone?" Kathryn asked the computer.
Holly's digitalized face appeared on the Drive Room viewscreen. "They're all dead."
"Everyone," Holly answered softly. "They're all dead."
"Cadmium II radiation leak. It was quick. There was nothing I could do but head out of the solar system before the radiation spread."
"We've left the solar system?"
"I'm afraid so."
Kathryn took a moment to digest that. "How long have we been in stasis?"
"A tad past three million years."
"What? Three million years!" Kathryn felt the numbness spreading through her. Only Chakotay's hand resting against the small of her back kept her connected to reality.
"A tad past that," Holly said.
Chakotay spoke for the first time. "A tad?"
"Well, I'm not sure, really. I lost count."
"You lost count?"
"It seems so."
Something inside Kathryn snapped. "Lost count? But you're a smegging computer!"
The crew of the mining ship Red Dwarf was dead. Her parents were dead. Phoebe, her sister, was dead. In all likelihood the entire human race was dead. She and Chakotay were alone in the universe; the last human beings alive.
"Maybe Einstein was wrong," Kathryn said. She was slumped in a chair in the mess hall, staring at a cup of coffee that was far worse than any she had ever had before. It had gone a little stale in a tad over three million years.
"What?" Chakotay looked up from his equally questionable tea.
"About relativity. Maybe Einstein was wrong. If he got it backwards, we could still go home."
"Kathryn - "
"I know that suggestion's preposterous, but so is the fact that we're three million light years from Earth and the entire human race is extinct."
"Kathryn." He squeezed her hand.
She looked up into his dark, kind eyes.
"Don't give up hope," he said. "Einstein might not have been wrong, but I wouldn't put too much faith in Holly."
"You think the computer's wrong?"
"He lost count."
"I see your point."
Holly did not take kindly to the suggestion that he run a diagnostic on himself. "I have an IQ of six thousand. If I wasn't functioning properly, I would know about it."
"Holly," Kathryn said patiently. "Who discovered gravity?"
"Isaac Washington," Holly answered more or less promptly.
Kathryn sighed. "I'm pretty sure that was the bartender on The Love Boat, Holly. Now will you please run that diagnostic?"
"I'd really rather not."
"It's humiliating. Here I am, with an IQ of six thousand - "
"I don't know how."
"You don't know how?"
"It seems I've forgotten."
"Smeg." Kathryn put her head down on the table and seriously considered bursting into tears.
As a physics major, Kathryn had logged plenty of computer time. She had never attempted to design a diagnostic program, however, and designing one for a computer the size of Holly was especially challenging.
Holly seemed determined to thwart her efforts. He pestered her with suggestions that clearly weren't helpful and weren't meant to be, and tried to distract her with side projects, such as the exploration of the lower decks.
Chakotay methodically decontaminated section after section as he gave her time to adjust to the situation. Half way through the second week, he tried to lure her down to the cinema.
Buried in computer code, she declined. She slept less and less as she closed in on a solution to the Holly problem.
She knew that if she could restore the computer to his original intelligence, they could find a way back to Earth, even if that meant inventing previously unimagined ways to fold space-time itself.
"What have you done to my desk?" Rimmer demanded.
Kathryn nearly jumped out of her skin. Rimmer, complete with Space Corp Dress Uniform and a large H in the middle of her forehead, was indeed standing over her shoulder.
Holly had activated the Rimmer hologram for the benefit of Kathryn's mental health, or so he claimed.
"You need a variety of companionship," Holly told her. "You both do."
And so the holographic Rimmer took up residence in her former quarters. Kathryn once again had a roommate.
Rimmer's company did have the desired effect. It drove her out of her quarters and away from the mess of computer code.
She and Chakotay set off on an expedition to explore the city-sized mining ship. Chakotay shared with her all that he had done during her self imposed exile with the computer code.
"I spent the first day on a vision quest," he said. "My spirit guide was quite helpful in my search for acceptance. I'd be happy to help you do the same."
"A vision quest?"
"I used to scorn my people's traditional beliefs, much to the sorrow of my father, but I have come to appreciate the value of an inner journey."
Guilt washed over her. She had been so focused on her own losses that she hadn't taken the time to think of his grief. Chakotay had lost just as much as she had.
Never had anyone given her such a generous and thoughtful gift as Chakotay had that day on Miranda, when he had paid the exorbitant price for Frankenstein so that she wouldn't have to be lonely. She hadn't even been generous enough to notice his loneliness over the last week.
That changed now, she vowed. He wouldn't even be stranded out here if not for her.
"Kathryn!" Chakotay's voice cut through her thoughts. "Someone's been in here." He pointed to a styrofoam cup left abandoned on a table in the officer's mess.
"I guess they were right when they said that stuff would never decompose," she said.
"This wasn't here yesterday," he said. "Someone has been in this room."
She peered into the cup. "Chicken soup?"
"Looks like it." He sniffed at the liquid. "It smells vaguely like a chicken may have been involved."
"That would be Red Dwarf chicken soup," she agreed.
The exploration of the ship became a priority. Other survivors would prove that Holly hadn't the slightest idea what he was talking about.
On a ship the size of Red Dwarf, it certainly wasn't inconceivable that there were crew members who hadn't known anyone was in stasis. They could have survived the radiation leak if they had happened to be in the main hold, for example, which was insulated against radiation. If they were still alive and eating chicken soup, then how much time could really have passed?
After three days of careful hunting, they agreed that someone else was on the ship. Rimmer, now a hologram, couldn't touch anything, so she couldn't be responsible for moving things around. Neither could Holly. Kathryn flatly refused to believe in ghosts.
"Maybe it's the skutters," she said.
"Maybe, but what would they want with food?"
"What would they want with autographed photos of John Wayne?"
He laughed. "Point taken."
They got their first glimpse at their shipmate late that night. The day's search had been fruitless, and they had given up for the evening to sit in the officer's mess and talk.
Neither was in a hurry to leave. Kathryn didn't wait to return to her quarters and deal with Rimmer, and Chakotay didn't want to return to his quarters and be alone. So far, neither had dared cross the line and suggest other arrangements.
"You never told me why you did it."
"Why I did what?" he asked.
"Why you tried to take the blame when I dumped the paint on Rimmer."
"Ah, that." He tugged at his earlobe and studied his coffee cup. "I -"
They both heard it at once, and jumped up to investigate. As they ran into the corridor, a shape disappeared around a corner. It wasn't a skutter.
Whatever it was, they failed to catch it, but they continued their search with renewed vigor the following day.
The main hold took up an entire deck in the belly of the ship. It should have contained vast stores of food, a hydroponics garden, and building supplies meant for the colony on Europa.
What it did contain was amazing.
A civilization had arisen.
They strolled through the apparently abandoned streets and searched for the population that certainly had to exist.
Buildings that appeared to be shops lined one street. Flashy clothing was displayed in the windows, along with shoes, jewelry, and accessories of all descriptions.
"I think it's safe to say that whoever they are, they value fashion," Chakotay said.
"What else would we value?" A man in a deep purple tuxedo strutted out of one of the shops. His gleaming white teeth were pointed, as were his ears. He sniffed at them disdainfully. "You aren't cats."
The cat wasn't exactly a fountain of information. He was far too interested in preening to answer their questions in any meaningful way. If they wanted wardrobe tips, he was the man to ask. As for whether or not there were more cats on board, or how long Red Dwarf had been in space, he wasn't forthcoming. After about fifteen minutes, he wandered off to take a nap.
"That was different," Kathryn said.
"The art of the understatement." Chakotay grinned at her. "Imagine, an entire civilization evolving inside of a spaceship."
"You wanted to be an anthropologist. Looks like you have a chance to do some field work."
His eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. "Yes, but first, I think we should have some lunch."
As they ate, they exchanged initial theories on the origin of the cat people.
"I guess Frankenstein was pregnant," Kathryn said. "I'm very relieved to know that she survived the radiation leak. I was feeling really guilty about leaving her behind."
"That wasn't your fault, Kathryn. You couldn't have known, and Captain Hollister wouldn't have let you bring her into stasis anyhow."
"I wonder how long it takes a sentient species to evolve."
"This doesn't mean that Earth is beyond reach."
How had he known what she was thinking? "It does mean that it hasn't just been a few years, or even a few hundred years."
"Time travel is theoretically possible."
"Temporal mechanics always did give me a headache. Figures it would end up being my life's work."
Things aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf settled into a routine over the next few days. Each morning, Kathryn woke up just in time to watch the Rimmer hologram do one hundred regulation jumping jacks, despite the fact that she no longer had a body to keep fit. Rimmer also insisted on counting aloud in Esperanto, completely undaunted by the fact that she didn't know how to count in Esperanto.
Rimmer also continued her quest to become a Space Corp officer. The fact that the Space Corp, and indeed the entire human race, had ceased to exist didn't really seem to bother her. She continued her highly organized, yet completely ineffectual, approach to study, despite the fact that the skutters, recruited as page turners, were more likely to learn from the exercise than was Rimmer herself.
Most of Rimmer's studying didn't really involve reading textbooks. Most of Rimmer's studying involved making up elaborate scheduling charts which outlined exactly when she planned to study each chapter. Rimmer insisted that each tiny box on the chart be filled in with colored pencil. The skutters weren't especially skilled at the task, which meant chart after chart had to be completely scrapped and started again.
Each time a chart was ruined, that meant revising the entire schedule to accommodate the time taken to make the chart. Kathryn looked forward to the day when the poster board finally ran out.
Holly spent his time contemplating his next move in a chess game that had begun a tad over three million years ago. So far, his opponent had moved a pawn, and Holly was undecided as to the appropriate countermove.
Kathryn had quickly learned to be cautious in asking the computer any questions. He claimed to have an intelligence quotient of six thousand and yet couldn't seem to remember how the artificial gravity worked.
Whenever he did share information, it was usually something Kathryn would rather not have known.
"We're out of cow's milk," he had revealed one day at breakfast. "We're on the dog's milk now. Nothing wrong with dog's milk. Lasts longer than any other kind of milk, dog's milk."
"And why's that, Holly?"
"No bugger'll drink it."
Both Kathryn and Chakotay decided to skip the Cheerios and share a plate of artificial scrambled eggs instead.
On the third day of his research, Chakotay found a book that the cat identified as the Sacred Writings. Eager to at last learn something of their culture that did not directly relate to fashion, Chakotay opened it, only to discover that all the pages appeared blank.
"Don't you monkeys know how to read?" The cat snatched the book from his hand and ran his nose across the page. "Live virtuously, and ye shall be delivered into the promised land of Fushii. It goes on like that for a while. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for my early mid-morning nap."
Chakotay watched the cat saunter off. It was beyond anything he had ever imagined, in all his studies on linguistics, anthropology, and archeology. A written language comprised entirely of smells.
Kathryn, in the meantime, had raided the ship's library and spent the bulk of each day buried in theoretical physics texts. It seemed that any return to Earth would require at least some tampering with the timestream.
Each afternoon, Chakotay would arrive with lunch and they'd compare notes. One or the other of them would frequently be able to apply a new perspective to the other's work.
"But when Kaluza unified Maxwell's field theory with..."
"As Whittingham discovered in his study of Opabinia..."
"Schrödinger's work on quantum theory..."
"Ventris and Chadwick translated Linear B by..."
The cat might wander by to show off a new outfit, and Rimmer often interrupted with duty assignments that they both ignored, but otherwise they could go on like that, on either topic, for hours.
Chakotay painstakingly shaped a translation for the cat books. He could sometimes get the cat to help for almost four minutes at a time. Holly offered to create a universal translation program, but he got distracted by an Agatha Christie novel so nothing ever came of it.
The mysterious fate of the cat civilization was pretty much up to Chakotay to discover. Eventually, he found the answer and shared it with Kathryn.
"And Cat Ryn gave unto Frankenstein the holy promise. Live virtuously, and ye shall be delivered into the promised land of Fushii. There ye shall have savory donuts and wear cardboard hats of great majesty."
Kathryn gasped. "Chakotay, it can't say that."
"I was surprised myself, but the cat insists that the name is Frankenstein, and all of my research - "
"I meant the whole thing. That's almost exactly what I said to Frankenstein after I heard that Red Dwarf's return to Earth would be delayed."
"So you're Cat Ryn."
"It seems I am. It must have been recorded somehow, and the cats found it and based their religion on it."
Rimmer looked up from the game of checkers she was losing to one of the skutters. "So you're saying you're God then?"
"In a way - "
"Are you on Bliss? You'd better check yourself into sickbay until you get those illusions of grandeur under control."
"So where did they all go?" Kathryn asked, ignoring Rimmer.
"There were some religious differences between two factions. One group believed that the cardboard hats should be blue, and the others insisted that they should wear red."
"Wars have been fought over less." Chakotay shook his head sadly. "Each faction built a great ark, and they set off separately to search for Fushii. A few non-believers stayed behind. Our cat seems to be the last of them."
"So they might be out there, somewhere," Kathryn mused.
"Maybe we'll find them," Chakotay said.
"I'd rather find aliens," Rimmer said. "Aliens could give me a new body. How am I expected to become an officer if I can't even hold a pencil?"
Rimmer and a skutter in a cowboy hat glared at each other over the checkerboard in Kathryn's quarters. Although she had lost eleven games in a row over the last three weeks, Rimmer suspected that her luck was about to turn for the better. The skutter had a duty shift in just four minutes, and would be forced to forfeit, thus giving Rimmer the victory.
The cat, cricket bat in hand, was trying to convince an imagined mouse to emerge from beneath Rimmer's desk so that they might become friends. "I have cheese," the cat said, and gave a good thrashing to a sock that he was certain had moved.
Kathryn and Chakotay lounged on her bunk together, open books lying unread between them, and ignored all of this. Their theoretical physics discussion had reached the topic of parallel universes.
"I wonder what they would be like," Kathryn mused. "Have you ever thought about it? Wondered what one of those other versions of you might be doing right now?"
"One thing's for certain. I can't imagine any universe where I wouldn't be in love with you."
IT'S NEVER REALLY THE END, IS IT?
This story was based on the BBC television series Red Dwarf, written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.
In summary: Three million light years into deep space aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf, the crew - Dave Lister, the last human being alive, Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of his dead bunkmate, Cat, a creature who evolved over the eons from Lister's pet cat Frankenstein, and Holly, the senile on-board computer - are trying to get back to Earth and have a wash.
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. Red Dwarf™© belongs to Grant Naylor Productions. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, May 2003.